oil me up Scotty*

Back in ancient Greece, it was customary for the very rich to coat their hair with butter. It kept down vermin and helped preserve order in an elaborate hair-do. In many societies, including ancient Egypt and modern Ethiopia, a lump of fatty incense or perfumed butter was placed on the head at dinner parties and allowed to melt and drizzle voluptuously down one’s face and body.

learn about melting hair here

In Rome there were professional anointers who offered massage for a fee in the gymnasia and public baths. Every athlete who took his sport seriously had two trainers: a gymnastic master for physical training and an anointer who advised him about diet, gave him medical check ups and prescribed oil rubs.

Gymnasia y Esgrima found here

Before wrestling naked, one first did a few warm up exercises to open the pores, then poured on oil and rubbed it in. Next one sprinkled oneself from head to foot with sand or dust, which stuck to the oil and provided a kind of protective second skin. This prevented the body from being too slippery for one’s opponent to grasp; in addition the oil and sand were thought to keep the body temperature constant and ward off colds.

image found here

After exercise, one was rinsed and scraped with an iron tool called a strigil, with more oil to soften the instrument’s abrasiveness. After a bath in water and lye made from wood ash or lime, or a rubbing with Fuller’s Earth to remove any remaining sweat, sand and grease, one was ready for yet another generous application of oil.

The poet Martial, complaining about the young men of his day who refused to do any work, said they spent “most of their lives in oil” meaning that sport and luxurious massages were all they cared for.

Turkish Oil Wrestlers found here

*information found in Margaret Visser’s interesting book “Much Depends on Dinner – The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos of an Ordinary Meal”.

rancid cheese, nettle soup and whisky

Not so long ago, the oldest patient at the Gimcrack died. He was 104 at the time, still with all his faculties intact. When he was interviewed by a local paper the previous year, he put his longevity down to a glass of whisky a day and an overriding interest in horse racing. “Everyone needs a hobby” he said.

image found here

Thomas Parr arrived at his great age by a different regime

Parr was said to have been born in 1483 near Shrewsbury, possibly at Wollaston. He joined the army around 1500 and did not marry until he was 80 years old. He had two children, both of whom died in infancy. He existed and even thrived on a diet of “subrancid cheese and milk in every form, coarse and hard bread and small drink, generally sour whey

Milk Bottle Chandelier ($2112.50) found here

When he was about 100 years old, he supposedly had an affair and fathered a child born out of wedlock. After the death of his first wife, he married a second time at the alleged age of 122 to Catherine Milton who presented him with a child.

world’s oldest father (?) found here

As news of his purported age spread, ‘Old Parr’ became a national celebrity and was painted by Rubens and Van Dyck. In 1635, the Earl of Arundel brought him to London to meet Charles I. Charles asked what Parr had done that was greater than any other man, and the latter replied that he had performed penance (for his affair) at the age of 100.

image found here

A post-mortem was performed on Parr’s body. No apparent cause of death could be determined, and it was assumed that he had simply died of overexposure. A modern interpretation of the results of the autopsy suggest that Thomas Parr was probably under 70 years of age. It is possible that Parr’s records were confused with those of his grandfather. 

Henry Jenkins was said to have been 169 years old at his death

Jenkins’s age was investigated by Ann Saville, who lived near him in Bolton-on-Swale. Several of the other villagers were about a hundred, and they said he was an old man even when they were children. He could remember historical events from ancient times. And he was often consulted by lawyers about traditional land rights.

Jenkins’ Memorial found here

One of the lawyers told how he went to see Henry Jenkins in his cottage. Outside was an old man. The lawyer asked him a question, and the man said to go inside and see his father about it. In the cottage was an aged “wreck of humanity” nodding by the fire. He was too old to understand the question. “Ask my father”, he mumbled, pointing to the back door. Out in the yard was Old Jenkins, aged 166. He was busily chopping wood, and looked younger than his grandson. His mind was perfectly clear and he told the lawyer all he wanted to know.

Wood Chopper found here

Ann Saville asked him the secret of his long life, and again he was clear. Drink plenty of tar-water and nettle soup, he advised, wear flannel next to the skin and eat simply – bread and cheese, raw onion and cold meat. Old Jenkins could never read or write. Up to the age of 161 he worked every day in his garden or doing odd jobs. For some time he was butler in the house of a local lord. The date of his service there is recorded, giving proof* of his great age.

Nettle Soup with Seared Scallop & Candied Orange Peel found here

*Take with more than one grain of salt

eyeballing the balls

Paul Bindrim popularised nude psychotherapy in the 60s and 70s. Ian Nicholson explains further*

image found here

Bindrim was a licensed psychologist with academic qualifications from Columbia and Duke University and he was careful to package his therapeutic innovations in the language of scientific advancement.  He had spent most of his career on the edge of professional respectability and he was thus not especially troubled by the idea of being at odds with mainstream psychology.

this image has nothing to do with mainstream psychology, or has it?

Bindrim was convinced that the “natural state” of humanity had been lost and that disrobing would reestablish a healthy connection with one’s body and the true self. Where possible, the sessions were held at sites that contained just the right blend of modernist comfort and mystical possibility. Bindrim sought out locations that combined “abundant trees and wildlife” with the conveniences of a “high class resort hotel”

modernist comfort found here

Drawing on his experience as an encounter group leader, he carefully structured the sessions and alternated the pace. The sessions usually consisted of 15–25 participants who paid $100 per person for the weekend or $45 for a 24-hour marathon. Participants were invited to “eyeball” each other (stare into each other’s eyes at close range) and then to respond in some physical way (hugging, wrestling, etc.)

image found here

Bodies were exposed and scrutinized with a science-like rigor. Particular attention was paid to revealing the most private areas of the body and mind—all with a view to freeing the self from socially imposed constraints. “This,” Bindrim asserted gesturing to a participant’s genitalia and anus, “is where it’s at. 

Determined to squelch the “exaggerated sense of guilt” in the body, Bindrim devised an exercise called “crotch eyeballing” in which participants were instructed to look at each others genitals and disclose the sexual experiences they felt most guilty about while lying naked in a circle with their legs in the air. In this position, Bindrim insisted “you soon realize that the head end and the tail end are indispensable parts of the same person, and that one end is about as good as the other”

image found here

Although Bindrim worked hard to package his therapy as a legitimate science, reporters approached the topic with a combination of prurient fascination and skepticism. Information about the size, duration, and gender composition of the marathon was reported in detail as was the policy on sexual activity. At the same time, many reporters had difficulty taking the issue seriously. Bill Sluis, a reporter for the SantaBarbara News, concluded his story on nude therapy by asking facetiously whether Bindrim might have discovered the way to end the Vietnam War. “How about getting Ho Chi Minh and LBJ together?” Sluis asked. “I’d love to,” Bindrim said. “I would love to have them experience each other in a nude therapy session.”

LBJ found here

Sensing a trend, and undoubtedly anticipating a spike in newsstand sales, Psychology Today put nude therapy on its front page using a racy picture of a naked woman with large breasts and the caption “The Quest for the Authentic Self.” Feasting on a steady diet of zealous enthusiasm, Bindrim became increasingly enamored with his own therapeutic skill. “Frigid females, impotent males and sexual exhibitionists have become, at least temporarily symptom free. Arthritics have been relieved of pain. Long standing bachelors who could not commit themselves emotionally have married” he said.

image found here (NSFW)

Nude psychotherapy’s claim to professional legitimacy was damaged by a gradual shift in public attitudes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Although his work had once been greeted with enthusiastic endorsements and outraged denunciations, there was now silence. With no fresh ideas, and with therapeutic nudism now constructed as an “unethical” sexual act, Bindrim was soon forgotten by a field that he had formerly enthralled.

* this is an excerpt from a scholarly look at nude psychotherapy. I admit to having extracted the most salacious bits for their comedic value

shark or seagull for dinner dear?

A 25 year old Chinese steward on a British ship during World War 2 spent a remarkable 133 days adrift on a life raft

image found here

Poon Lim shipped out as a second steward on the British merchant ship Ben Lomond. The ill fated vessel was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat on November 23 1942. The ship was sinking rapidly, so Poon Lim leaped over the side. His first concern was simply to stay alive. After struggling for two hours he saw a life raft several hundred feet away. He swam to it and climbed aboard.

sub image found here

The timber raft was 8 ft. square. Tied to it were some tins of British biscuits, a large water jug, some flares, and an electric torch. By allowing himself a few swallows of water and two biscuits in the morning and in the evening, he estimated that he should be able to stay alive for at least a month.

To keep his body in shape, he swam routinely twice a day when the sea was quiet. He used the ocean swimmer’s looping stroke as he circled the raft, always keeping his head above water, his eyes open for sharks.

Australian Whale Shark found here

He took apart the electric torch to get a wire, which he made into a fishhook then spent days shaping the metal, using the water jug as a hammer. The tough hemp rope that held down his almost exhausted supplies of food and water served as a fishing line.

He used a piece of biscuit for bait. After finally catching a fish, he cut it in half with the edge of the biscuit tin and ate the raw flesh, using the remains as bait to catch his next meal. 

More British Biscuit Tins to be found here

About the end of the second month on the raft, he spotted sea gulls. Hoping to catch one, he gathered seaweed from the bottom of the raft, matted it in bunches and moulded it into a form that resembled a bird’s nest. By this time he had caught several fish, which he baked in the sun to improve their taste. Some he ate and some he left next to the nest, so that they would rot and the stench would attract the gulls.

seagull chick found here

When he finally saw a gull flying towards him, he lay still so it would land. As the gull attacked the fish, Poon Lim grabbed it by its neck. A fight ensued, which he won, but only after he was the victim of deep cuts from the bird’s beak and claws.

Next he set out to catch a shark. He used the remnants of the next bird he caught as bait. The first shark to pick up the taste was only a few feet long. He gulped the bait and hit the line with full force, but in preparation Poon Lim had braided the line so it would have double thickness. He also had wrapped his hands in canvas to enable him to make the catch. But the shark attacked him after he brought it aboard the raft. He used the water jug half-filled with seawater as a weapon. After his victory, Pooh Lim cut open the shark and sucked its blood from its liver. Since it hadn’t rained, he was out of water and this quenched his thirst. 

Basking Shark found here

On the morning of the 133rd day, April 5 1943, he saw a small sail on the horizon. He had no flares left, so he waved his shirt and jumped up end down in an effort to attract the crew’s attention. The craft changed direction and headed for him.

The three men in the boat, who spoke Portuguese, took him aboard. They gave him water and dried beans before starting up their motor to head west to Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. He had crossed the Atlantic.

Activists in Belem found here

Poon Lim was able to walk unaided. His total weight loss during the drift was 20 lb. He received numerous honours. King George VI presented him personally with the British Empire Medal, the highest civilian award.

Kylie’s got one too

creeping scoutmaster

Paul Lynde was an actor, comedian and regular guest on Hollywood Squares.

image found here

He served as Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, opposite Agnes Moorehead’s Endora, a woman he referred to on more than one occasion as “one of the all-time Hollywood dykes”. Lynde himself is among the gayest celebrities the world has ever known. Chronically cranky, sarcastic and mincing, his career was defined by his voice work as Templeton the rat in Charlotte’s Web, and as the wisecracking centerpiece on television’s Hollywood Squares.

Agnes Moorehead found here

In 1965, Lynde was vacationing in San Francisco with his 24-year-old companion Jim Davidson. As a prank, up in their hotel room Davidson made frantic flapping gestures as if to suggest he could jump from the balcony — and while doing so, he slipped and fell to his death. Two police officers standing on the street below saw the whole thing. They comforted Lynde, who remembers: “They said, ‘Don’t worry, Paul, we saw it all. If you need us, we’ll be here. We’re not going to let them wipe you out with this.’ They knew it looked strange: he was younger than I was, he was good-looking, and why was he there with me? Why did he jump? Why did he fall?”

image found here

After Bewitched was cancelled, Lynde was selected as a game show panelist. He didn’t offer “dirty” answers on The Hollywood Squares, he delivered kinky, bitchy responses. He was a regular during its second week in 1966 and joined full time in the fall of 1968. Less than a decade later, he left the show after the National Enquirer claimed an “insider” revealed Lynde was fired because of his drinking problem. The source revealed documentation of Lynde’s nastiness and implied that his alcoholism created a problem for costars. Even though these facts were common knowledge, Lynde sued the Enquirer for ten million dollars, chiefly to find out who the insider was. The case was summarily dismissed, but it ushered in a new era of tabloid litigation. Some of Lynde’s famous quips during Hollywood Squares include:

image found here

Q: According to the old song, “At night, when you’re asleep, into your tent I’ll creep.” Who am I?

A: The scoutmaster.

image found here

Q. Do female frogs croak?

A: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q: Paul, can you get an elephant drunk?

A: Yes, but he still won’t go up to your apartment.

Q: Prometheus was tied to the top of a mountain by the gods because he had given something to man. What did he give us?

A: I don’t know what you got, but I got a sports shirt.

image found here

Q: Is Billy Graham considered a good dresser?

A: No, but he’s a terrific end table.

Q: When is it a good idea to put your pantyhose in the microwave oven for two minutes?

A: When your house is surrounded by the police.

Mantyhose found here

Q: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail. What will a goose do?

A: Make him bark.

Q: It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics. What is the other?

A: Tape measures.

Q: Paul, why do Hell’s Angels wear leather?

A: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q: Paul, in ancient Rome, bakers were required by law to bake something into each loaf of bread. What?

A: A Christian.

image found here

Q: What is a pullet?

A: A little show of affection.

Q: According to the French Chef, Julia Child, how much is a pinch?

A: Just enough to turn her on.

Q: Who are more likely to be romantically responsive. Women under thirty or women over thirty?

A: I don’t have a third choice?

Supposedly Paul Lynde was the inspiration for a gag which made its way into the movie Groundhog Day. After a drunken high speed chase through the San Fernando Valley one night, Lynde crashed his car into a mailbox. When the cops rushed the scene with their guns drawn, Lynde lowered his window and ordered a cheeseburger with no onions and a large Sprite.

One night in January of 1982, Paul missed a dinner appointment with a group of long-time friends. Concerned, they rushed to his home on North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills. He was found naked and dead, surrounded by amyl-nitrate poppers, an inhalant used primarily by gay men to enhance sex. His death was ruled a heart attack.

image found here

sash boys are safe

Elsa Maxwell* was an American gossip columnist known as the Hostess with the Mostess. She wrote several books including the memoir this excerpt is from

Elsa and Maria Callas found here

“Much as I dislike to mention a distasteful subject I cannot gloss over the shocking increase in homosexuality that is apparent today. Thirty years ago, lesbians and sash boys were almost unknown to the majority of people. I call them ‘sash boys’, because they always go about as though waving a sash in their hands and because I prefer that euphemism to the commoner terms I do not care to use. Perhaps I was more naive at the time, but I never saw a woman who was an obvious Lesbian until I went to Europe. Of course there were homosexuals in theatrical and artistic circles, but outside that one rarely, if ever, encountered one. Now it is like a contagious disease, spreading here, there and everywhere.

image found here

The incidence of homosexuality always has been greater in some countries than others. It varies in time and place. I believe in England it can be attributed in some measure to the general custom of sending boys to boarding-schools at an early age and confining them in this unnatural environment during adolescence. But there are so many confusing and contributing factors to the disease that it is difficult to isolate one particular cause. I have seen scores of thoroughly normal men and women turn to perversion in their forties or fifties simply through boredom, or idleness, or dissatisfaction.

Mr Sulu became bored

In a large measure, women are greatly to blame for the increase in homosexuality. They are unconscious carriers of the germ. For older women, particularly those who are rich and manless, whose husbands have died or who have never married, the homosexual is the complete answer. 

image found here

A further carrier of the germ is the mother caught up by an almost incestuous love for an only son, whom she constantly keeps beside her, pampering him and denying him the normal friendship of other women. Little do such mothers realise the perverted prison to which they condemn their beloved sons.

nursemyra’s eldest son

A number may say, ‘How can you take up this attitude when you know very well a number of these men are among your friends and acquaintances?’ It is quite true. I am guilty of contradiction here. But I just cannot apply the same rules to genius. It may be morally indefensible but I feel there must be one law for the especially rich in mind and another for the remainder.

image found here

Until last year dressmakers and interior decorators were holding their position on the social roost in Paris. Now I see a change; there are signs that their prestige is on the wane, in a word that they are slipping from their favoured niche. People are growing a little bored with them. And something of the same thing is happening, in Paris at least, with the sash boys. At my last party out of four hundred there were only nine present.

To my mind, it is in the power of women to stop the spread of homosexuality, to set up a barrier to their effete, lavender decadence by no longer courting and coddling their presence in their homes and at their parties. A dearth of hospitality will achieve a quicker death to homosexuality than any act of Parliament.

Most chroniclers of Elsa Maxwell’s life claim she was a lesbian. She lived with Dickie Gordon-Fellowes for nearly fifty years.

image found here

*from a review by Brooks Peters found here

smell my belly button

Recently I read Joshua Davis’ charming book “The Underdog” which details his dream of being best in the world at something. He competes in arm wrestling, bullfighting, sumo, backwards running and the Sauna World Championship

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“Would-be contestants had to submit a doctor’s letter months in advance.  The doctor’s letter was required because the competition sauna was hot enough to kill you. No American doctor in his right mind would have authorised us to essentially cook ourselves so we needed to find another way of getting the letter.

image found here

John obtained letters for all of us from a Dr Ed Point (R.P.) of the Point Medical Clinic. The R.P. after Ed Point’s name signified that he was a board certified “Renaissance Physician”.The clinic’s other staff included a urologist named Peter Stickler, a dermatologist named Mark Wartly and a gynecologist named Seymour Lips.

image found here

I picked up a copy of “Saunas: A Collection of Works” which contained an essay about “löyly“, the essential principle or essence of the sauna. The author, Giles Ekola, informed his readers that löyly could not be translated into any language and absolutely must not be translated as steam. He called it vaporized moisture that is in a process of drying which sounded a lot like steam to me. 

image found here

However, he did help his readers to pronounce the word. He coached me to say “ler” and then “lew”. This exercise “makes it possible for the non-Finnish-speaking persons to lose their fear of the word, to accept it as a gentle friend and to pronounce and possess it as their own easily and readily.” It sounded like he wanted to have sex with the word.

image found here

At dinner that night we went over the Finnish words we knew. John only remembered three phrases, one of which he warned us never to use.  “Smell my belly button” was, according to John, the single worst thing you could say to a Finnish person.

image found here

From an interview Joshua did with Failure Magazine:

Of the five different competitions you recount in the book, which one was most frightening?

There’s the frightening you know and the frightening you don’t. Bullfighting was the frightening that you know. You can imagine a bull. You know it has horns and you have a sense that it’s very dangerous. That was scary because I had all sorts of assumptions and pre-established fears of what it was going to be like. But once I was in the ring I felt relatively comfortable. The process of dancing with a bull came to me intuitively.

image found here

In terms of the fear I didn’t know it was definitely the sauna contest in Finland. I knew it was going to be hot but when I got in there I felt like I was going to die. If I stayed in that sauna another 30 seconds I would have passed out, and if they didn’t drag me out I would have expired. I had steam burns all over my body. When I was sitting in the sauna I was thinking, “This is really, really stupid.” The burns took two weeks to heal.

Are these unusual contests more commonplace in America or foreign countries?

In “The Underdog” I make the argument that these contests are idiosyncratic to America, but I’ve changed my mind. Since the book was released I’ve been getting email from people all over the world telling me about unusual competitions. At underdognation.com I have 50 or so contests listed and I am adding more every week. The Finns are particularly crazy. They have the Sauna World Championship, the cell phone chucking contest, bog soccer and ice swimming.

image found here

Published in: on June 13, 2011 at 4:07 am  Comments (42)  
Tags: , , , ,

“Mighty Mannequins, Batman!”

Joan Rhodes had a difficult start in life but that didn’t stop her making a name for herself in the circus

Joan Rhodes found here

Billed as “The Mighty Mannequin”, 5ft 7in tall, gorgeous and spectacularly costumed, she was known as “The Strong Lady of Variety”. During her 15-minute act she would bend steel bars, break 6in nails and, most famously, rip copies of the 1,000-page London telephone directory in half and sometimes quarters. At the age of 15 she could lift a baby elephant, and the highlight of her act was getting a crowd of men up on stage with her to have a tug of war. The men always lost.

baby elephant found here

She was born Joan Taylor in London in 1920. She was abandoned by her parents when she was 3 and put into a workhouse after the police were called to find the neglected children — she had two sisters and a brother — drinking drainwater. Rescued by her grandparents, she was eventually sent to board at a convent in South London but was expelled for pulling off a nun’s veil.

image found here

Lying about her age, she began to develop her considerable powers of physical strength and started performing feats on Tower Hill and Villiers Street, passing a hat among the spectators for her wages. By her late teens she was a familiar figure in the Soho district where she mixed easily with a bohemian set. She began a lifelong friendship with Quentin Crisp, and in later life she was his weekly Scrabble partner.

Quentin Crisp found here

In 1949 she answered an advertisment in The Stage which read “Freaks wanted”. The advertisment was for the famous Pete Collins’ Would You Believe It? show, a production noted for its performing odditiesShe got the job and, changing her name, became Joan Rhodes “the Mighty Mannequin”.

Joan Rhodes found here

“One of the dates we played was the Hackney Empire,” she later recalled, “On the bill with me was Elroy the Armless Wonder, Mushie the Lion (who ate steak off a lady’s chest) and Johnny Vree, whose idea of fun was throwing a golliwog around on stage.”

With her personality and looks Rhodes attracted attention wherever she appeared. King Farouk of Egypt sent her tiger lilies every night and asked her if she would like to break one of his beds. Nothing, however, could have been more bizarre than her meeting with James Battersby, the notorious British Fascist and supporter of Hitler. “He was a fan of mine,” she said, “and one day he invited me to tea after a matinée at Stockport. I had no idea of his views, and he suddenly blurted out, ‘You will marry me and be the mother of the strongest Aryan child in the world.’ I dropped my teacup and fled.”

King Farouk found here

Asked the secret of her success as a strongwoman she said: “I always made a point of being dainty. It’s like getting into a temper. If you are furious enough, you can tell yourself you will do something and then you can.

After retiring from the circus she still performed verses, one of which pre-dated Jenny Joseph’s poem about being an outrageous old woman: “I shall wear green and gold! When I am old! And paint my nails and colour my hair! And not notice when people stare”.

Published in: on June 11, 2011 at 12:58 am  Comments (36)  
Tags: , , , ,

frigid safe powder

Ever wondered what a funeral director’s convention would be like? Ashlea Halpern can tell you

image found here

On the whole, the morticians here are pale and heavily mustached, with white hair and liver spots, big gold watches and chunky class rings, hangdog jowls and the occasional cane wobbling underfoot.

hangdog jowls found here

In the decomp department, there’s Eckels Arrest for Tissue Gas (“destroys maggots, lice and vermin and eliminates tissue ‘crunching‘”), Frigid Safe Powder (“the economical choice for external embalming over gangrene, cancer sores, mutilation and autopsy cases”) and Aron Alpha instant adhesive (“seals lips, eyelids and incisions and dries clear in 45 seconds”).

image found here

“Do you like perfume?” asks one embalmer/salesman. I nod, and he spritzes me with a cadaver-friendly odor neutralizer. “You can use it on the skin, in the mouth, in the nose or for other… problem orifices.” It smells like orange-scented toilet bowl cleaner.

The goal of embalming is not permanent preservation, but to make the body “acceptable” and “identifiable” to interested parties. Like a designer supergluing the hem of a dress minutes before a runway show, embalmers pin bodies together just long enough to make it through a wake and funeral. A PowerPoint presentation shows us how to do this in cases of severe head-crushing trauma or soft tissue damage.

It starts with the before-and-after photos of a decomp. In the top photo, Mr. X’s mangled face resembles a bowl of black, oozy spaghetti, the ashen skin peeled away like leather on a baseball. His facial features are indistinguishable from one another. In the bottom photo, he’s waxy white and rather sticky looking, but at least you can tell his nose from his mouth. He’s not winning any beauty awards, but the kids’ll recognize him.

Black spaghetti found here

One prominent US citizen who was not embalmed was wealthy Alexander T Stewart (1803-1876). Some time after his burial at St Mark’s Church in the Bowery, Stewart’s body was stolen and the remains held for ransom.

image found here

Inspector Dilks, acting Police Commissioner, exuded confidence in a speedy resolution of the mystery. He sent out a directive describing the body’s removal from the broken casket and then noted: “The decomposition of the remains is so offensive that this cannot be concealed.

Each day brought positive statements from either Inspector Dilks or Captain Byrnes, chief of detectives. On November 13, for instance, under a headline “PRIVATE DETECTIVES ON THE SCENT,” readers learned that all was going well and that some “forty-odd experienced detectives” were now on the case. On Friday, November 15, under the glowing banner, “A. T. STEWART’S BODY FOUND! THE GUILTY PERSONS ALL KNOWN,” the New York Times proudly announced: “Nearly complete evidence has been secured, and an officer of the law holds every man in his grasp, only awaiting the signal to drag him to prison.” 

image found here

On the 16th Captain Byrnes announced the arrest of two of the “ghouls,” William Burke and Henry Vreeland, but though “swarms of detectives” were ready to pounce, the paper further noted that the “complete swoop” had not yet been made “because of the continued incompleteness of the proof against some of the guilty parties”

image found here

But these were only “indications,” and from here on it was all downhill, although confident announcements of imminent success continued daily for another week and the reward was raised to $50,000. Clue after clue, lead after lead petered out. It soon became apparent that Burke and Vreeland had had nothing to do with the crime.

Another prime suspect, Kelly the Hackman, alias “Bull” Kelly, was also eliminated, though not until after two New York detectives on his trail had  spent the evening with him in a bar but failed to recognize him.

Eventually a ransom was paid, and remains were returned, although never verified as his. A local legend states that the mausoleum holding his remains is rigged with security devices which will cause the bells of the Cathedral to ring if ever again disturbed.

Cathedral of the Incarnation found here

fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a bumpy night

Alfred Loewenstein (1877-1928) was, at one stage in the 1920s, called the richest man in the world.

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Admittedly a brilliant financial mind, Loewenstein was devoid of either financial or personal ethics, with a reputation as a serial adulterer.

His first big break came when he joined the Belgian armed forces during the First World War and was sent to London, England where he was placed in charge of military supplies. Zeroing in on the incredible profits to be made contracting to the British Army, by the end of the war Loewenstein was a pound sterling millionaire. How he managed to accomplish this on the salary of a lowly captain was never explained.

Vote for Captain Kangaroo here

On the morning of July 4, 1928 a Fokker tri-motor aircraft took off from Croydon airfield just outside London, bound for Brussels. On board were the plane’s owner, 51 year-old Alfred Loewenstein, the pilot, former WWI ace Donald Drew, as well as mechanic Robert F. Little, a valet, a male secretary; and two female stenographers who had just been hired from a temp agency that day, making a total of seven people.

image found here

According to the four people in the passenger compartment, soon after the plane crossed the English coast off Dover, flying at 4,000 feet, Loewenstein, who had been reading a book, laid it down after carefully marking the place, took off his collar and tie, went to the washroom.

Onboard lavatories were a new development in aviation comfort, this particular model of Fokker being one of the first ever equipped with such an amenity. It was in a small compartment at the back of the plane. After passing through the compartment door, Loewenstein went to the left and entered the bathroom. On the right was another door, which led out of the plane. There was also a door in a bulkhead separating the head from the rest of the aircraft, so anyone coming and going into rest room was not visible from the main compartment.

aircraft toilet in its case found here

After about ten minutes they noticed he had not returned and his valet went to check on him and found…nothing. The ‘richest man in the world’ had vanished. 

After circling for a short time in an unsuccessful search for Loewenstein, at about 6:30 pm the plane landed on a deserted beach on the Normandy coast for half an hour, and no clear account was ever obtainable as to what the passengers and crew did there. The plane took off again and made a three or four-minute flight, landing a second time at a French military airfield nearby, where the crew told authorities that their boss Loewenstein was missing.

Omaha Beach, Normandy found here

Speculation surrounded the possibility that Lowenstein may have become confused when leaving the lavatory and opened the wrong door, plunging several thousand feet to his death in the English Channel.

 Officials of the Fokker Aircraft Corporation said indignantly that their doors were intentionally designed so that the blast of air would make it absolutely impossible for them to be opened in flight, except by the united efforts of two very strong men. 

image found here

Among the rumors surrounding his disappearance, some suspected a criminal conspiracy in which his employees murdered him, others speculated that a growing absent mindedness, noted by many of Lowenstein’s acquaintances, may have caused him to walk out the wrong door of the plane.

Because he had left behind a tangled web of business ventures, others theorized that his business empire was on the verge of collapse. Some even asserted that corrupt business practices were about to be exposed and that Lowenstein, therefore, committed suicide.

 Then there were those who believed he was an early model for D.B. Cooper, having originated the idea of parachuting out of the aircraft to be picked up by a waiting yacht and spirited off to an unknown destination in order to escape his collapsing empire. 

image found here

Immediately following Loewenstein’s disappearance an air and sea search came up empty-handed, but two weeks later his body was found, wearing only underpants and socks, floating in mid-channel by a fishing trawler.

An autopsy was carried out by Belgian authorities and it was discovered that Loewenstein did not die of drowning, but apparently of the pulverizing internal injuries which occurred when his body slammed into the ocean after falling for about four thousand feet.

Which makes Vesna Vulovic’s survival all the more amazing:

Vesna found here

There was really nothing special about this lady, except for the fact that she fell 33,000 feet and lived to tell the tale.

On January 26, 1972 she was working an extra shift due to a clerical error. She took the shift anyway to earn a little extra scratch, probably to supplement her bear-wrestling hobby or something. Anyway, some terrorists decided to blow up her plane and succeeded in doing so at the worst possible time, when the plane was really high up in the air.

image found here

Not only did she survive the explosion that blew the plane to pieces, but she was the only person to live after hitting the side of the mountain. It was winter so the mountain was also frozen 

She did in fact break a bunch of bones and fell into a coma, but when she woke up she looked around and asked for a cigarette. She was left paralyzed … but then regained her ability to walk through sheer force of will. She also didn’t suffer any of those New Age, sissy boy “psychological effects” and continued to fly like nothing happened. As a bonus she collected a Guinness World Record for her troubles.

Vesna receiving her award found here