Teddy Roosevelt vs. Bigfoot?

In 1893, Teddy Roosevelt published The Wilderness Hunter. In that tome, he told a strange story about an encounter with an “unknown beast creature” that walked on two legs. Did Teddy Roosevelt do battle with the mysterious Bigfoot?

Did Teddy Roosevelt Battle Bigfoot?

First, thanks to Sean McLachlan over at Civil War Horror for providing the idea for this piece. Second, sadly, the answer is no. Teddy Roosevelt never battled Bigfoot. But his account (reproduced below) is intriguing all the same. Many of you know we’re pretty skeptical about Bigfoot here at Guerrilla Explorer. If megafauna cryptids exist, they’re far more likely to be in the ocean than on land.

Still, Teddy’s story is one of the earliest accounts of a Bigfoot-like creature recorded by a non-Native American. It was told to Teddy Roosevelt by a mountain hunter named Bauman decades before the famous discovery of large footprints at Bluff Creek, which for all intensive purposes launched Bigfoot into the public eye. According to Bauman, he and a companion were trapping game when they ran into the strange creature. Things got progressively worse until…well, let’s let Teddy Roosevelt tell you in his own words.

Frontiersmen are not, as a rule, apt to be very superstitious. They lead lives too hard and practical, and they have too little imagination in things spiritual and supernatural. I have heard but few ghost stories while living on the frontier, and these few were of a perfectly commonplace and conventional type.

But I once listened to a goblin story which rather impressed me. It was told by a grizzled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman, who was bom and had passed all his life on the frontier. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tale; but he was of German ancestry, and in childhood had doubtless been saturated with all kinds of ghost and goblin lore, so that many fearsome superstitions were latent in his mind; besides, he knew well the stories told by the Indian medicine men in their winter camps, of the snow-walkers, and the spectres, and the formless evil beings that haunt the forest depths, and dog and waylay the lonely wanderer who after nightfall passes through the regions where they lurk; and it may be that when overcome by the horror of the fate that befell his friend, and when oppressed by the awful dread of the unknown, he grew to attribute, both at the time and still more in remembrance, weird and elfin traits to what was merely some abnormally wicked and cunning wild beast; but whether this was so or not, no man can say.

When the event occurred Bauman was still a young man, and was trapping with a partner among the mountains dividing the forks of the Salmon from the head of Wisdom River. Not having had much luck, he and his partner determined to go up into a particularly wild and lonely pass through which ran a small stream said to contain many beaver. The pass had an evil reputation because the year before a solitary hunter who had wandered into it was there slain, seemingly by a wild beast, the half-eaten remains being afterwards found by some mining prospectors who had passed his camp only the night before.

The memory of this event, however, weighed very lightly with the two trappers, who were as adventurous and hardy as others of their kind. They took their two lean mountain ponies to the foot of the pass, where they left them in an open beaver meadow, the rocky timber-clad ground being from thence onwards impracticable for horses. They then struck out on foot through the vast, gloomy forest, and in about four hours reached a little open glade where they concluded to camp, as signs of game were plenty.

There was still an hour or two of daylight left, and after building a brush lean-to and throwing down and opening their packs, they started up stream. The country was very dense and hard to travel through, as there was much down timber, although here and there the sombre woodland was broken by small glades of mountain grass.

At dusk they again reached camp. The glade in which it was pitched was not many yards wide, the tall, close-set pines and firs rising round it like a wall. On one side was a little stream, beyond which rose the steep mountain-slopes, covered with the unbroken growth of the evergreen forest.

They were surprised to find that during their short absence something, apparently a bear, had visited camp, and had rummaged about among their things, scattering the contents of their packs, and in sheer wantonness destroying their lean-to. The footprints of the beast were quite plain, but at first they paid no particular heed to them, busying themselves with rebuilding the lean-to, laying out their beds and stores, and lighting the fire.

While Bauman was making ready supper, it being already dark, his companion began to examine the tracks more closely, and soon took a brand from the fire to follow them up, where the intruder had walked along a game trail after leaving the camp. When the brand flickered out, he returned and took another, repeating his inspection of the footprints very closely. Coming back to the fire, he stood by it a minute or two, peering out into the darkness, and suddenly remarked: “Bauman, that bear has been walking on two legs.” Bauman laughed at this, but his partner insisted that he was right, and upon again examining the tracks with a torch, they certainly did seem to be made by but two paws, or feet. However, it was too dark to make sure. After discussing whether the footprints could possibly be those of a human being, and coming to the conclusion that they could not be, the two men rolled up in their blankets, and went to sleep under the lean-to.

At midnight Bauman was awakened by some noise, and sat up in his blankets. As he did so his nostrils were struck by a strong, wild-beast odor, and he caught the loom of a great body in the darkness at the mouth of the lean-to. Grasping his rifle, he fired at the vague, threatening shadow, but must have missed, for immediately afterwards he heard the smashing of the underwood as the thing, whatever it was, rushed off into the impenetrable blackness of the forest and the night.

After this the two men slept but little, sitting up by the rekindled fire, but they heard nothing more. In the morning they started out to look at the few traps they had set the previous evening and to put out new ones. By an unspoken agreement they kept together all day, and returned to camp towards evening.

On nearing it they saw, to their astonishment, that the lean-to had been again torn down. The visitor of the preceding day had returned, and in wanton malice had tossed about their camp kit and bedding, and destroyed the shanty. The ground was marked up by its tracks, and on leaving the camp it had gone along the soft earth by the brook, where the footprints were as plain as if on snow, and, after a careful scrutiny of the trail, it certainly did seem as if, whatever the thing was, it had walked off on but two legs.

The men, thoroughly uneasy, gathered a great heap of dead logs, and kept up a roaring fire throughout the night, one or the other sitting on guard most of the time. About midnight the thing came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed there on the hillside for nearly an hour. They could hear the branches crackle as it moved about, and several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it did not venture near the fire.

In the morning the two trappers, after discussing the strange events of the last thirty-six hours, decided that they would shoulder their packs and leave the valley that afternoon. They were the more ready to do this because in spite of seeing a good deal of game sign they had caught very little fur. However, it was necessary first to go along the line of their traps and gather them, and this they started out to do.

All the morning they kept together, picking up trap after trap, each one empty. On first leaving camp they had the disagreeable sensation of being followed. In the dense spruce thickets they occasionally heard a branch snap after they had passed ; and now and then there were slight rustling noises among the small pines to one side of them.

At noon they were back within a couple of miles of camp. In the high, bright sunlight their fears seemed absurd to the two armed men, accustomed as they were, through long years of lonely wandering in the wilderness, to face every kind of danger from man, brute, or element. There were still three beaver traps to collect from a little pond in a wide ravine near by. Bauman volunteered to gather these and bring them in, while his companion went ahead to camp and made ready the packs.

On reaching the pond Bauman found three beaver in the traps, one of which had been pulled loose and carried into a beaver house. He took several hours in securing and preparing the beaver, and when he started homewards he marked with some uneasiness how low the sun was getting. As he hurried towards camp, under the tall trees, the silence and desolation of the forest weighed on him. His feet made no sound on the pine-needles, and the slanting sun-rays, striking through among the straight trunks, made a gray twilight in which objects at a distance glimmered indistinctly. There was nothing to break the ghostly stillness which, when there is no breeze, always broods over these sombre primeval forests.

At last he came to the edge of the little glade where the camp lay, and shouted as he approached it, but got no answer. The camp-fire had gone out, though the thin blue smoke was still curling upwards. Near it lay the packs, wrapped and arranged. At first Bauman could see nobody; nor did he receive an answer to his call. Stepping forward he again shouted, and as he did so his eye fell on the body of his friend, stretched beside the trunk of a great fallen spruce. Rushing towards it the horrified trapper found that the body was still warm, but that the neck was broken, while there were four great fang-marks in the throat.

The footprints of the unknown beast-creature, printed deep in the soft soil, told the whole story.

The unfortunate man, having finished his packing, had sat down on the spruce log with his face to the fire, and his back to the dense woods, to wait for his companion. While thus waiting, his monstrous assailant, which must have been lurking nearby in the woods, waiting for a chance to catch one of the adventurers unprepared, came silently up from behind, walking with long, noiseless steps, and seemingly still on two legs. Evidently un- heard, it reached the man, and broke his neck by wrenching his head back with its fore paws, while it buried its teeth in his throat. It had not eaten the body, but apparently had romped and gambolled round it in uncouth, ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it; and had then fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.

Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature with which he had to deal was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, abandoned everything but his rifle and struck off at speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night, until far beyond the reach of pursuit.

The Mystery of Glamis Castle?

In the 1840s, strange stories began to emerge about Scotland’s Glamis Castle. Supposedly, the castle contained a secret room which was used to imprison a “monster.”

The Monster of Glamis Castle?

Although the story varies a bit, one particularly popular version is that the monster was in fact the rightful owner of Glamis Castle. However, his hideous appearance caused someone else to lock him away where no one could see him. Who was this mysterious monster? Here’s more on the answer to the mystery of Glamis Castle from Past Imperfect:

“If you could even guess the nature of this castle’s secret,” said Claude Bowes-Lyon, 13th Earl of Strathmore, “you would get down on your knees and thank God it was not yours.”

That awful secret was once the talk of Europe. From perhaps the 1840s until 1905, the Earl’s ancestral seat at Glamis Castle, in the Scottish lowlands, was home to a “mystery of mysteries”—an enigma that involved a hidden room, a secret passage, solemn initiations, scandal, and shadowy figures glimpsed by night on castle battlements.

The conundrum engaged two generations of high society until, soon after 1900, the secret itself was lost. One version of the story holds that it was so terrible that the 13th Earl’s heir flatly refused to have it revealed to him. Yet the mystery of Glamis (pronounced “Glarms”) remains, kept alive by its association with royalty (the heir was grandfather to Elizabeth II) and by the fact that at least some members of the Bowes-Lyon family insisted it was real.

(See The Monster of Glamis for the rest on the mystery of Glamis Castle)

Does Bigfoot Exist?

Does Bigfoot exist? The jury is still out on that question although recent evidence hasn’t proven particularly promising. However, even if Bigfoot doesn’t exist, that doesn’t mean that giant apes never co-existed with humans (or at least with hominids). The Gigantopithecus, for example, went extinct about 300,000 years ago.

Gigantopithecus: An Ancient Bigfoot?

According to the few fossils that have been found, Gigantopithecus was the largest ape of all time, standing close to ten feet tall and weighting over 1,200 pounds. Here’s more on the Gigantopithecus and a theory on why it went extinct from the Smithsonian:

Bigfoot. Sasquatch. Yeti. The Abominable Snowman. Whatever you want to call it, such a giant, mythical ape is not real—at least, not anymore. But more than a million years ago, an ape as big as a polar bear lived in South Asia, until going extinct 300,000 years ago.

Scientists first learned of Gigantopithecus in 1935, when Ralph von Koenigswald, a German paleoanthropologist, walked into a pharmacy in Hong Kong and found an unusually large primate molar for sale. Since then, researchers have collected hundreds of Gigantopithecus teeth and several jaws in China, Vietnam and India. Based on these fossils, it appears Gigantopithecus was closely related to modern orangutans and Sivapithecus, an ape that lived in Asia about 12 to 8 million years ago. With only dentition to go on, it’s hard to piece together what this animal was like. But based on comparisons with gorillas and other modern apes, researchers estimate Gigantopithecus stood more than 10 feet tall and weighed 1,200 pounds (at most, gorillas only weigh 400 pounds). Given their size, they probably lived on the ground, walking on their fists like modern orangutans

(See the rest on the Gigantopithecus at the Smithsonian)

Thomas Edison…Kills an Elephant?

One of our favorite topics here at Guerrilla Explorer is what we like to call “Dark History,” or the ugly bits of the past that get papered over by modern scholars eager to tell hero’s tales. Case in point…the man who killed Topsy the elephant via electrocution…none other than Thomas Edison himself.

Thomas Edison: Inventer or Patent Abuser?

According to the history books, Edison, aka The Wizard of Menlo Park, was a prolific inventor responsible for creating many wonderful things, including the light bulb. Except Edison didn’t create the light bulb. He just took Sir Joseph Swan’s working design and made a few small modifications. Then he patented it in America and proceeded to publicize himself as the true inventor. Indeed, Edison’s abuse of the patent system is reason he’s credited as the 4th most prolific inventor in history.

The Electrocution of Topsy the Elephant?

But today we’re focusing on something else, namely the War of Currents. The War of Currents was a long-pitched ferocious battle to determine the future of electric power distribution in the United States. It pitted Edison’s direct current (DC) against the alternating current (AC) promoted by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. By January 4, 1903, Edison had essentially lost the war. But he refused to give up. Instead, he resorted to fear-mongering and attempted to show the dangers of AC. How? By electrocuting an elephant named Topsy.

Of course, standards were different back then. Still, the death of Topsy showed the lengths the desperate Edison was willing to go to win the War of Currents. It was a brutal demonstration.

Here’s more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy from Wired:

Edison’s aggressive campaign to discredit the new current took the macabre form of a series of animal electrocutions using AC (a killing process he referred to snidely as getting “Westinghoused”). Stray dogs and cats were the most easily obtained, but he also zapped a few cattle and horses.

Edison got his big chance, though, when the Luna Park Zoo at Coney Island decided that Topsy, a cranky female elephant who had squashed three handlers in three years (including one idiot who tried feeding her a lighted cigarette), had to go.

Park officials originally considered hanging Topsy but the SPCA objected on humanitarian grounds, so someone suggesting having the pachyderm “ride the lightning,” a practice that had been used in the American penal system since 1890 to dispatch the condemned. Edison was happy to oblige…

(See Wired.com for more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy)

Guest Post: Did Jesse James fake his own Death?

This morning, we have a special treat for you…a guest post on the mysterious death of Jesse James written by esteemed author and friend Sean McLachlan. Sean is a travel blogger for Gadling.com as well as the author of several works on Civil War history. His newest book, A Fine Likeness, is a Civil War horror novel.

When the news broke on April 3, 1882 that Jesse James had been shot from behind by fellow gang member Robert Ford, many people didn’t believe it. There had been false reports that Jesse had been killed before and it took some time for the public to accept that America’s greatest outlaw was really dead.

Did Jesse James Fake his Death?

Or was he? Decades after his supposed death, several men came forward claiming to be Jesse James.

One was an odd fellow named John James, who in 1931 appeared in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, telling everyone he was Jesse James. He had been away a long time, he said, and now wanted to return to his home state to visit family and friends. In fact he did his best to avoid Jesse’s family and friends. Instead he talked with everyone else, especially reporters, and showed a good knowledge of the outlaw’s exploits. He claimed the body at the James farm was actually that of Charlie Bigelow, who looked like Jesse and had been killed to fake Jesse’s death.

It wasn’t long before the real James family got wind of the news and Stella James, wife of Jesse James Jr., the outlaw’s only son, publically grilled “Jesse”. She asked for details about the Pinkerton bombing of the James farm in 1875, which left Jesse’s half-brother Archie dead and his mother’s arm mutilated. John James couldn’t remember Archie’s middle name or which arm his mother had lost. To put the final nail in the coffin, Stella produced one of Jesse’s boots. Jesse James had unusually small feet and wore a size 6 1/2 boot. John James couldn’t get it on and was laughed out of town. He didn’t give up, though. Instead he went to that land of showbiz and opportunity, California, to give speeches and radio interviews.

It wasn’t to last. John James was old and declining. He was eventually consigned to a mental hospital, where he died in 1947.

J. Frank Dalton: Jesse James…or Not?

The other main imposter was J. Frank Dalton, first promoted by Ray Palmer, editor of Amazing Stories and famous for the Deros Hoax. Dalton repeated the Charlie Bigelow story and told an epic tale of how he had all sorts of adventures after his supposed death, including being an air force pilot in WWI at the age of 69. Dalton went on the road in 1948 with a cast of other bogus Wild West survivals including Billy the Kid and Cole Younger. His tales were disproved time and again, but that didn’t stop him. He eventually found a home in Meramec Caverns, Missouri, where as Jesse James he celebrated his 103rd birthday on September 5, 1950. The Meramec Cavern gift shop still sells Dalton’s fake biography.

Like John James, Dalton’s was a sad tale. Little is known for certain about his real life, although several people claim to have known him as a carnival barker and oil worker in Texas in the early twentieth century. Dalton was a longtime student of the James legend and even wrote two pamphlets on the subject, which tellingly state that Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford. This was before the Information Age, however, and the embarrassing inconsistency wasn’t discovered until much later. Dalton claimed to be a veteran of Quantrill’s Confederate guerrilla band and applied for a pension. Since he had no proof of this claim, his application was rejected. After a few years in the limelight, he was ditched by his promoter and died in poverty in Texas in 1951. His gravestone reads, “Jesse Woodson James, Sept. 5, 1847-Aug. 15 1951, supposedly killed in 1882.”

Civil War Horror’s Analysis

Besides these two, several others claimed to be Jesse, and at least three who claimed to be Frank James, one of whom peddled his tale in 1914 while the real Frank James was still very much alive. The Washington Post got duped by that story and had to print a shamefaced retraction.

Jesse James was a legend, and like all legends they cannot die. Many other famous people—Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Hitler—have all spawned tales of their survival. It seems we can’t let go of these larger-than-life figures.

(Sean McLachlan’s Civil War novel A Fine Likeness includes Jesse James as a minor character. Sean is also the author of The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang, Jesse James and the Northfield Raid 1876, to be released by Osprey Publishing in 2012.)

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

How Wild was the Wild West?

The “Wild West” is an expression used to refer to life in the western United States during the late 1800s. For decades, films and books have depicted the Wild West as a place of gunfights, outlaws, and mass disorder. But recent scholarship shows otherwise. It turns out that the Wild West may not have been so wild after all.

Was the Wild West a Powder Keg waiting to Explode?

The Wild West has long been a staple of American culture. Immortalized in dime novels and Hollywood movies, it has long been depicted as lawless, violent, and chaotic. And a cursory look at trends taking place in the American west during the 1800s would seem to confirm that image.

The Wild West was populated with strangers from various backgrounds, countries, and nationalities who wanted to get their hands on gold. For the most part, they didn’t intend to stay in the area – they wanted to get rich and get back home. Most individuals carried guns. And to top things off, there wasn’t much in the way of official government to keep the peace. At first glance, the Wild West appears to be a power keg filled with a toxic mixture of greed, racism, and unregulated firearms. To top it off, the area exhibited little in the way of long-term community or government law enforcement.

How Wild was the Wild West?

One might expect such a situation to lead to violence and daily gunfights. But a growing body of research suggests the opposite – that the Wild West may have actually been quite peaceful and prosperous. Let’s take a look at some of the strange truths we now know about the Wild West.

  • Bank robberies were rare: According to historian Larry Schweikart, bank robberies were almost non-existent in the Wild West. From 1859-1900, there were only about a dozen or so robberies. In fact, such crimes only became a problem during the 1920s when automobiles allowed for easy escapes and physical security became less important to a bank’s success due to the Federal Reserve assuming responsibility for the system.
  • Private agencies provided law and order: According to Terry Anderson and P.J. Hill’s book, An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West, “private agencies provided the necessary basis for an orderly society in which property was protected and conflicts were resolved.” Such agencies included land clubs, cattlemen’s associations, mining camps, and wagon trains.
  • Homicides were also relatively rare: In his book Cattle Towns, Robert Dykstra examined five major cattle towns between 1870 and 1885. He found that only forty-five murders took place over the fifteen years.

All this is not to say that hatred, violence, and murder didn’t exist during the Wild West but merely to say that the amounts of it that occurred were far less than has been portrayed in the popular media.

Why was the Wild West relatively Tame?

This can be partly credited to the establishment of private organizations. According to historian Tom Woods, private land clubs created their own laws to “define and protect property rights in land.” Wagon trains that transported people to the west had their own constitutions and judicial systems. Mining camps formed contracts to restrain their own behavior and developed their own legal systems. Those who didn’t approve were free to leave and mine elsewhere. Cattlemen’s associations also wrote constitutions and “hired private ‘protection agencies’ to deter cattle rustling.”

The result was peace…a peace that only began to deteriorate once formal government was introduced into the region…a peace that astounded observers of the time:

“Appeals were taken from one to the other, papers certified up or down and over, and recognized, criminals delivered and judgments accepted from one court by another, with a happy informality which it is pleasant to read of. And here we are confronted by an awkward fact: there was undoubtedly much less crime in the two years this arrangement lasted than in the two which followed the territorial organization and regular government.” ~ J.H. Beadle, Western Wilds (1860)

What about Violence toward the Plains Indians?

Now of course, this just covers the settlers themselves. Treatment of the Plains Indians was marked with violence right? Well, according to Woods, the first half of the 19th century was notable for relatively peaceful trading between the Indians and the settlers. It wasn’t until the second half of the century that violence became the norm. And much of that violence “sprang from…U.S. government policies” rather than civil society. More specifically, at the end of the Civil War, “white settlers and railroad corporations were able to socialize the costs of stealing Indian lands by using violence supplied by the U.S. Army.” In other words, rather than paying for land, politicians beginning with Abraham Lincoln were determined to seize it on behalf of the Union Pacific Railroad. In the process, they enriched themselves as well as numerous prominent American families.

Unfortunately, that seizure came at a high cost…the vicious and deliberate extermination of the Plains Indians by forces led by former Civil War generals. General William Sherman sometimes referred to the affair as “the final solution of the Indian problem.” As many as 45,000 Indians, including women and children, died between 1862-1890 as a result of this government-initiated campaign.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, it would appear that civil society in the Wild West was actually rather tame. The “wild” was supplied by the U.S. government’s so-called Indian Wars, which served to permanently alter the settlers’ once-friendly trading relationships with the Plains Indians.

But why does popular culture continue to portray the typical Wild West city as being full of death and violence? It turns out that the problem begins at the academic level.

“The ‘frontier-was-violent’ authors are not, for the most part, attempting to prove that the frontier was violent. Rather, they assume that it was violent and then proffer explanations for that alleged violence.” ~ Roger McGrath, Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier

Anarcho-capitalists often use the Wild West as an example of how individuals can foster a peaceful existence in the absence of government. Essentially, settlers created their own institutions in order to deal with the very specific problems they faced. Violence was relatively minimal in civil society. But the arrival of formal government brought with it a culture of violence as well as a wave of violent genocide that haunts us to this day.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

The Curse of Tutankhamun?

On November 26, 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter breached the tomb of Tutankhamun, an ancient Egyptian pharaoh. Almost immediately, whispers of a curse began spreading throughout the region. And then the deaths began. Was the curse of Tutankhamun real? Or just a myth?

The Curse of King Tut?

Soon after entering the tomb, Carter sent a messenger to his house. The messenger discovered that a cobra had killed Carter’s pet canary. Since the Royal Cobra was seen as a symbol of the ancient Egyptian government, the canary’s death was interpreted by the locals as evidence of a curse.

“The pharaoh’s serpent ate the bird because it led us to the hidden tomb! You must not disturb the tomb!” ~ Servant to Howard Carter

A few months later, on April 5, 1923, Lord Carnarvon died from an infected mosquito bite. Since Carnarvon had provided the financial backing for Carter’s excavation, his death was seen as part of the curse. The media reported extensively on the story and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, gave an interview in which he stated his opinion that the death might have been caused by “elementals” or “curses.” Hence, the curse of Tutankhamun was born.

A series of strange deaths followed over the next few years. Captain Richard Bethell (Carter’s personal secretary) died under suspicious circumstances while sleeping at a Mayfair Club. Bethell’s father committed suicide by jumping from his seventh floor apartment. Edgar Steele, who handled the artifacts from London’s British Museum, passed away during a minor operation. All in all, a grand total of eleven people connected to the tomb’s discovery and excavation died seemingly unnatural deaths by 1929. By 1935, this number was up to twenty-one.

Was the Curse of Tutankhamun caused by Murder?

So, what caused these deaths? A true curse of Tutankhamun? Coincidence? An ancient plague? Well, in his new book, London’s Curse: Murder, Black Magic and Tutankhamun in the 1920s West End, author Mark Beynon speculates that the various murders were indeed connected…but not by a supernatural force. Instead, he believes that the murders were “ritualistic killings” masterminded by the infamous Aleister Crowley…aka, “the wickedest man in the world.”

Crowley was a well-known occultist, mystic, astrologist, and magician. He was also a prolific writer, leaving behind an impressive collection of diaries, books, and essays. After reviewing these works, along with various inquest reports, Beynon believes we should add another occupation to Crowley’s long resume…murderer.

Beynon believes that Crowley was motivated by revenge. Specifically, Crowley might’ve considered Carter’s excavation “sacrilegious” since he’d used ancient Egypt’s gods and goddesses to help formulate his own religion, known as Thelema. Also, many of the deceased individuals considered to have been “cursed” died in ways that suggested murder. For example, Captain Bethell’s symptoms matched that of one who’d been smothered to death. And the ability of Bethell’s father to climb out onto the window ledge and commit suicide seems questionable, indicating that he might’ve had help.

Beynon speculates that Crowley, who supposedly “murdered his servants in India,” was obsessed with Jack the Ripper and may have used Jack as an inspiration for his own murders of Carter’s excavation team. However, Beynon’s evidence seems pretty skimpy. Crowley’s connections to the various victims is tenuous at best. Also, he was absent from London for at least two of these deaths. Finally, the fact that Howard Carter – the primary man behind the excavation – survived 17 years after opening the tomb is damning. If Crowley really wished to punish Carter’s team, it seems that he would’ve wanted to do the same to Carter himself. Instead, Carter lived until 1939 before finally succumbing to lymphoma at the age of 65.

Was the Curse of Tutankhamun caused by Disease?

So, what caused “The Curse of Tutankhamun?” One possibility is an ancient disease. In 1962, Dr. Ezzeddin Taha announced that many of the archaeologists and museum employees who worked with ancient Egyptian artifacts suffered from exposure to Aspergillus niger, a fungus that causes skins rashes and respiratory problems. He believed that this fungus might’ve been sealed in Egyptian tombs many centuries ago only to rear it’s ugly head when the tombs were reopened. Another possibility is mold spores. Intriguingly, a 1999 study conducted by microbiologist Gotthard Kramer showed that as many as 40 recovered Egyptian mummies were covered with bits of mold spores. Some mold spores, which can survive for long periods of time, are extremely deadly.

“When spores enter the body through the nose, mouth or eye mucous membranes they can lead to organ failure or even death, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems.” ~ Gotthard Kramer

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Personally, I think ancient fungal spores may have caused some of the deaths associated with the curse, particularly that of Lord Carnarvon. However, I also believe there was a conspiracy afoot. But not the type of conspiracy brought about by a murderous mystic. No, I think we’re dealing with an entirely different type of conspiracy…a media conspiracy.

The reality of the matter is that many of the curse’s so-called victims played only incidental roles in the discovery and opening of the tomb. According to an analysis prepared by Herbert Winlock, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, 54 total people were present for the opening of the tomb (1922), the opening of the sarcophagus (1924), and the unveiling of King Tut’s mummy (1925). Out of those 54 people, only 8 had died by 1934 (6 from the opening of the tomb and 2 from the opening of the sarcophagus).

The truth is that much of the hype surrounding the curse was overblown. Many of the so-called victims were only vaguely connected to King Tut’s tomb. In reality, it wasn’t much of a curse at all.

But it sure made one hell of a story.

Die Glocke & Nazi Wonder Weapons?

During World War II, Nazi Germany worked on an astounding array of futuristic weapons including heat-seeking missiles, a gigantic 1,000 pound tank, a stealth fighter, and an acoustic cannon. But perhaps the most spectacular and mysterious Nazi super weapon of all was known as die Glocke.

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 11 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. Thanks to those of you who’ve bought the novel already. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Die Glocke?

Die Glocke is German for “The Bell.” The original die Glocke was constructed from metal, shaped like a bell, and measured 9-12 feet wide and 12-15 feet tall. The Bell contained two counter-rotating drums and an internal stationary shaft. Prior to operation, a liquid substance codenamed “Xerum 525” was placed into the shaft. Then the entire structure was cryogenically cooled and fueled with high-voltage electricity.

When in operation, die Glocke gave off lethal field effects and supposedly killed five scientists during its initial tests. According to Joseph P. Farrell‘s book, The Philosophers’ Stone: Alchemy and the Secret Research for Exotic Matter, survivors reported strange recurring symptoms such as “the sensation of ‘pins and needles’ on their skin, of sleeplessness, and a persisting metallic taste in the mouth.”

Die Glocke was supposedly tested at “The Henge,” an outdoor metal framework located near the Wenceslas mine in Poland. But these tests would prove tragic as well…

“Approximately sixty of the scientists and technicians connected with the project were murdered by the SS prior to the end of the war, and the device, and all its project documentation, along with General Kammler and a massive six-engine Junkers 390 heavy lift ultra-long-range aircraft went missing at the end of the war.” ~ Joseph P. Farrell, The Philosophers’ Stone

Now, before I get into what the Bell’s purpose was, I should point out that its very existence remains up for debate. To the best of my knowledge, there is no primacy source documentation that discusses it. Die Glocke was first described by Igor Witkowski in his 2000 book Prawda O Wunderwaffe. Witkowski claims that he learned about the Bell from classified transcripts detailing an interrogation of a former Nazi SS officer. Supposedly, he was only allowed to transcribe the documents. Thus, it remains impossible to verify Witkowski’s story.

Die Glocke has since taken on a life of its own, inspiring books by Nick Cook and Joseph P. Farrell, among others. Still, most mainstream scientists doubt the Bell ever existed. They consider it a fabrication and believe that the sole surviving piece of physical evidence, the Henge, is nothing more than the remnants of an industrial cooling tower.

Die Glocke in Chaos

Assuming it existed, what was die Glocke? Other than the fact that it was some kind of Nazi wonder weapon, no one knows for certain. A wide variety of answers have been put forth over the years including an antigravity device, a device to create “free energy,” a time traveling machine, and even a machine capable of viewing the past.

Die Glocke, or at least a version of it, plays a very important role in Chaos. It certainly exists but its true purpose will surprise you…

The seats were punctured with small holes and splattered with bloodstains. Closing my eyes, I could almost picture the gunfight between the Rictors and the Sand Demons.

I turned my attention to the back half of the subway car. A wide thick blanket hung from the ceiling, cutting off my view into the rear portion.

I knew Beverly was behind me, but I could no longer feel her presence. The blanket dominated my attention. While unremarkable on its own, it carried heavy symbolism for me.

It was the last remaining barrier between the Bell and me.

I walked over to it. As I grasped its coarse edge, I wondered what secrets I’d find on the other side. Would the Bell look the same as I’d imagined it? Could we destroy it?

I pulled the blanket out of the way. My beam lifted, casting into the space.

I froze.

The flashlight fell from my fingertips. It bounced on the floor and rolled. I felt a sudden reverence as if I stood before the Almighty Himself.

“Oh my God,” Beverly whispered. “Is it…?” ~ David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David MeyerCome on now, you didn’t expect me to give away the secret that easily did you? Suffice it to say die Glocke is at the source of a mystery that extends back to the Second World War. Some people will kill to have it, others will kill to keep it hidden. And my hero Cy Reed, well, he’s got his own plans for the Bell.

That’s all for today’s entry in the Chao book club. Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the history of a very strange urban sport…buildering, or the practice of free-climbing skyscrapers. I hope to see you there…it’s going to be exciting!

 

Chaos Book Club

Do Alligators Live in New York Sewers?

On February 10, 1935, a 16 year old boy named Salvatore Condulucci was shoveling snow into an open manhole. Suddenly, he saw movement and shouted, “Honest, it’s an alligator!” But are sewer alligators real things? Or is this just an urban myth?

The Chaos Book Club

Today is Day 9 of the Chaos book club. Chaos is an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Sewer Alligators

I actually mention the 1935 sighting in my book. It’s perhaps the most famous account of a sewer alligator living in New York City. According to the original newspaper article, Condulucci and his friends fashioned a slipknot and hauled the gator to the surface. It was surprisingly big, measuring almost eight feet long and weighing 125 pounds. Upon reaching street level, the creature, starved and cold, snapped at the boys with its powerful jaws. They proceeded to beat it to death with their shovels.

Afterward, the neighbors speculated on the sewer alligator’s origin. They finally decided that it must’ve somehow taken refuge on a steamer in the “mysterious Everglades.” Then it sailed to New York where it fell into the water. It swam into a sewer conduit which led to its eventual discovery. After being killed, it was taken away by a sanitation truck to be incinerated.

After a brief spurt of alligator sightings in New York during the 1930s, it would be almost seven decades before the next alligator was reported. In the summer of 2001, a small gator was caught swimming in Central Park’s Harlem Meer. But other than that, there’s not much to report…that is, unless we consider the stories of Teddy May.

A Sewer Safari?

In his fascinating 1959 work, The World Beneath the City, Robert Daley recounts conversations he had with Teddy May, who is somewhat of a “sewer legend” in New York. May’s exact job title is uncertain although it’s believed he might have held the position of Foreman or District Foreman.

According to May, he once discovered a colony of two-foot long sewer alligators. He believed that they had been sold by unscrupulous pet dealers to satisfy a Depression era fad for painted turtles. How did May handle this menace to his beloved sewers?

“Within a day or two of admitting that there really were alligators in his sewers, Teddy May was able to face the problem of eliminating them. A few months later they were gone. Some succumbed to rat poison. Others were harassed by sewer inspectors into swimming into the trunk mains, where the Niagara-like current washed them out to sea. Some were drowned when blockages filled their secluded pipes with backwash–to the very top. And a few were hunted down by inspectors with .22 rifles and pistols–not as part of the job, but as sport–possibly the most unusual hunting on earth, a veritable sewer safari.” ~ Robert Daley, The World Beneath the City

May was known to be a yarn-spinner and most historians are doubtful that this “sewer safari” ever took place. In fact, these same historians usually doubt the veracity of the 1935 account as well. Back then, newspapers were known to print outrageous stories in order to sell papers. And the fact that the sewer alligator was incinerated before it could be photographed does merit some suspicion.

But could an alligator survive in the sewer? The answer seems to be yes. While New York’s above-ground climate isn’t conducive to gators, its sewers are an entirely different matter. Sewers are actually quite warm, due in part to decomposing waste, and a gigantic rodent population is readily available as a source of food.

“As noted from alligator growers and authorities…the darkness in the sewers is not a problem for gators and actually increases growth in these animals. Also, the temperature is routinely high (easily 95-97 degrees F with +60% humidity). Food, breeding materials, and access to other environments are not in short supply in the NY and other urban sewers. Alligators are also able to resist infections in lots of nasty conditions…I stand behind my sense that alligators could and may have already bred in the sewers.” ~ Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman

A Sewer Alligator…in Chaos?

Of course, all this is not to say that sewer alligators do live in New York – only that it’s possible. Since much of Chaos takes place in the tunnels and sewers deep under New York, it was only natural that my hero Cy Reed would come face-to-face with one of these fabled creatures. And unfortunately for him…well, I’ll let you read it for yourself…

Suddenly, the alligator reared upward. The movement was so fast I didn’t have time to react.

Its head turned toward me and I saw its eyes. They were red as blood, yet dark as night. As I stared into them, I felt like I was looking into the soul of the devil himself.

The gator lunged at me. My instincts took over and I dove to the south. As I rolled through the water, I seized the machete from my waist with my free hand.

I rose to my feet. The gigantic alligator was just a few feet away. I backed up, trying to get some breathing room.

It followed me.

I backed up farther. It continued to follow me, gnashing its teeth in the process. Looking down, I studied the small puny objects in my hands.

I’m going to need some bigger weapons.David Meyer, Chaos

Chaos by David Meyer

That alligator, as you’ll find out, is far more mysterious and deadly than even Cy realizes. Well, that’s it for today’s entry in the Chao book club. Tomorrow, we’ll be leaving New York City and traveling to Japan in order to peel back the layers of the mysterious Minamata disease that plagued that country during the 1950s. I hope to see you then!

 

Chaos Book Club

Did Protestors Spit on Vietnam Veterans?

It’s a well-known story. After serving in the Vietnam War, a veteran returned home to America only to find himself viciously attacked at the airport by anti-war protestors. He was called “Baby killer” among other names. And then someone invariably stepped forward and spat directly into his face. There’s just one problem with that story. According to sociologist Jerry Lembcke, it’s nothing more than a myth…a modern stab in the back legend.

Chaos!

Before we get started here, I wanted you to know that I released my first novel, Chaos, on Monday. It’s an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy of Chaos at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Did Protestors Spit on Vietnam Veterans?

Back in 1998, Lembcke wrote The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam. In it, he made the rather extraordinary claim that the shabby treatment of Vietnam veterans as they deboarded their planes was nothing more than a “stab in the back legend,” concocted to discredit the anti-war movement. He followed that up in 2005 with a widely-read opinion piece in the Boston Globe.

To make a long story short, Lembcke researched news reports from the late 1960s and early 1970s. He failed to find a single story about protestors spitting on veterans. However, he did find a substantial increase in claims during the 1980s. He examined these claims and found them largely lacking in credibility for two reasons.

  1. Lack of Means: “GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops.”
  2. Lack of Proof: “A 1971 Harris poll conducted for the Veterans Administration found over 90 percent of Vietnam veterans reporting a friendly homecoming. Far from spitting on veterans, the antiwar movement welcomed them into its ranks and thousands of veterans joined the opposition to the war.”

Lembcke speculates that the reason for the persisting image is that pro-war Hawks wished to blame the loss of the Vietnam War on the anti-war protestors. This would make it a variation of the “Stab in the Back legend.”

A Modern Stab in the Back Legend?

But Lembcke takes it one step further. He observed that many of the stories cast girls in the role of spitters. As such, he states his opinion that the stories were mythical projections in the Freudian sense. In other words, soldiers created these stab in the back stories as manifestations of fears that they had lost their masculinity by fighting in a losing effort.

Interestingly enough, there is some historical precedent that could back up this stab in the back theory. Apparently, many German soldiers after World War I and French soldiers after the defeat at Dien Bien Phu shared stories of being rejected by women and being ashamed of their military service.

Rebuttal to the Stab in the Back Legend Theory?

His book caused a firestorm in 2007 when Jack Shafer published an article for Slate Magazine entitled, “Newsweek Throws the Spitter.” Several conservative-oriented blogs noticed the story and began to attack Lembcke’s research on this modern Stab in the Back legend. Most notably, Jim Lindgren wrote several pieces for The Volokh Conspiracy, one of which contained numerous newspaper articles from the 1960s and 1970s that discussed veterans who’d been spat upon.

The rising debate brought to prominence a book written by Bob Greene in 1989 entitled Homecoming: When the Soldiers Returned from Vietnam. Greene, who’d worked at the Chicago Tribune, compiled the book from letters he’d solicited from veterans. His research included 63 stories that involved a veteran being spat upon and 69 stories from veterans who believed that no veteran had ever been spat upon. Greene ended up questioning many of the accounts of spitting but ultimately decided “there were simply too many letters, going into too fine detail, to deny the fact.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, what are we to make of all this information? First, it’s impossible to prove the negative. Thus, we can never definitively proof that no Vietnam veteran was ever spat upon. Second, there is no physical evidence of a spitting attack. No pictures, no video, nothing. It’s all eyewitness accounts.

It seems probable that it must’ve happened somewhere, sometime. I find it hard to imagine that no soldier was ever spat upon by an anti-war protestor. The real question is whether it occurred with any degree of frequency. Did it happen all the time? Or was it just isolated examples?

Personally, I would guess it happened infrequently. True, Lindgren has unearthed stories of spitting from the period and thus, seemingly upended part of Lembcke’s thesis. But these are a drop in the bucket compared to the over 500,000 American soldiers that fought in some capacity during that war.

The issue of spitting during the Vietnam War may seem small, even irrelevant today. However, it’s important to remember the role that the spitting imagery has played in America’s current military conflicts. In many ways, this stab in the back legend has led to the current “Support the Troops” slogan, which is based on the idea that we don’t what to treat today’s soldiers like we treated the Vietnam Veterans. And some would argue that “Support the Troops” is really nothing more than a slogan used by pro-war Hawks to intimidate anti-war Doves and maintain support for wars that would otherwise be increasingly unpopular.

“With no more context than that, one of my students said she was undecided about the war, but as long as the troops were fighting it was really important to ‘support the troops and we have to support the mission…’ Now is not the time to be critical of the war, it was, in her mind…all mixed together.” ~ Jerry Lembcke, How the Myth of Spat on Vets Holds Back the Anti-War Movement