The Presidential Death Curse?

In 1811, General William Henry Harrison fought Tecumseh’s Confederacy to a draw at the Battle of Tippecanoe, thus putting an end to the Native American military movement. According to legend, Tecumseh responded by setting a curse upon Harrison and the office of the President of the United States. What was this mysterious Curse of Tecumseh?

The Curse of Tecumseh (aka The Curse of Tippecanoe or the Presidential Death Curse)?

The Curse of Tecumseh (also known as the Curse of Tippecanoe) is shrouded in mystery, its exact origin having been lost to time. Perhaps the most popular version of the story is that Tecumseh sent an oral message to General Harrison via released prisoners, stating that, “Harrison will not win this year to be the great chief. But he may win next year. If he does … he will not finish his term. He will die in office.” When informed that no President had ever died in office (the United States was only on its fourth President at the time), Tecumseh supposedly said:

“Harrison will die, I tell you. And when he dies you will remember the deaths of my people. You think that I have lost my powers: I who caused the sun to darken and red men to give up firewater. But I tell you Harrison will die. And after him, every great chief chosen every twenty years thereafter will die. And when each one dies, let everyone remember the death of our people.” ~ Tecumseh, 1811

Another version of the legend is that the Curse of Tecumseh was actually uttered by Tecumseh’s brother Tenskwatawa. Tenskwatawa was known as the Shawnee Prophet, in part for correctly predicting a solar eclipse in 1806. That prophecy humiliated General Harrison, who’d staked his reputation with other Native American leaders on Tenskwatawa being a fraud. Supposedly, Tenskwatawa uttered the Curse of Tecumseh in 1836, just months before his passing.

There is also a third version of the story. In this telling, Tecumseh realized that he would die at the 1813 Battle of Thames. Before he left to meet his fate, he gave away his things and stated one final prophecy to his brother:

“Brother, be of good cheer. Before one winter shall pass, the chance will yet come to build our nation and drive the Americans from our land. If this should fail, then a curse shall be upon the great chief of the Americans, if they shall ever pick Harrison to lead them.

His days in power shall be cut short. And for every twenty winters following, the days in power of the great chief which they shall select shall be cut short. Our people shall not be the instrument to shorten their time. Either the Great Spirit shall shorten their days or their own people shall shoot them.

This is not all. Each contest to select their great chief shall be marked by sharp divisions within their nation. Within seven winters of each contest, there shall be a war among their people, either within their nation or with other nations, I know not which. Our people shall prosper only if they can avoid these wars.” ~ Tecumseh, 1813

The Curse of Tecumseh…120 Years Later

Three decades later, William Henry Harrison won the 1840 U.S. Presidential election. One month later, he was dead, a victim of pneumonia. The Curse of Tecumseh had begun. And for the next 120 years, every U.S. President elected at the end of a 20-year cycle (and during a year ending in “0”) died tragically while still in office.

  • 1840: William Henry Harrison, Pneumonia (1841)
  • 1860: Abraham Lincoln, Assassination (1865)
  • 1880: James Garfield, Assassination (1881)
  • 1900: William McKinley, Assassination (1901)
  • 1920: Warren Harding, Heart Attack, Stroke, Possible Assassination (1923)
  • 1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cerebral Hemorrhage (1945)
  • 1960: John F. Kennedy, Assassination (1963)

In the 1980 U.S. Presidential election, Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter. 69 days later, on March 31, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. shot and wounded him, puncturing his lung. But unlike his predecessors, Reagan survived the attempt and lived out two full terms in office. Twenty years later, George Bush defeated Al Gore in the 2000 U.S. Presidential election. In 2005, he survived an assassination attempt of his own when Vladimir Arutyunian’s hand grenades failed to detonate.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Curse of Tecumseh is a modern-day example of dating mining and numerology. For centuries, people have attempted to create models linking up number sequences with real world events. But while such models look promising when backtesting old data, they tend to fall apart when subjected to new information.

In 1980, the Library of Congress supposedly researched the Curse of Tecumseh story and concluded that “although the story has been well-known for years, there are no documented sources and no published mentions of it.” (On a side note, I was unable to find any confirmation of this study so take it with a grain of salt).

In the unlikely event that the Curse of Tecumseh was something tangible, it appears that it was lifted with President Reagan’s term of office. But some observers believe differently. They claim that the Curse of Tecumseh encompasses both death as well as mere assassination attempts. Thus, they think that future presidents could very well suffer from the curse, either with deaths or near-death experiences.

So, has the Curse of Tecumseh been extinguished? Or will more lives feel its wrath?

Only time will tell.

The Great Moon Hoax…of 1835?

On August 25, 1835, a strange article appeared in the New York Sun. The piece, attributed to famed astronomer Sir John Herschel, announced a startling discovery…the moon was inhabited by intelligent creatures. The Sun’s circulation increased dramatically and within a couple of days, was the most popular newspaper on the planet. What was the Great Moon Hoax of 1835?

What was the Great Moon Hoax?

In 1835, the moon was a source of great mystery. So, when the New York Sun’s headline blared, “Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel, L.L.D. F.R.S. &c. At the Cape of Good Hope,” citizens turned their heads.

In total, six articles were published by the Sun, claiming to be supplements to the (non-existent) Edinburgh Journal of Science. Supposedly written by Herschel’s assistant, (the fictitious) Dr. Andrew Grant, the pieces described how Herschel had created a new telescope at his Cape of Good Hope observatory. This miracle of science was capable of 42,000x magnification, more than enough to see small objects in space. The resulting images were then reflected onto the observatory’s walls where they were sketched and described.

The Great Moon Hoax…Life on the Moon?

The articles insisted that Herschel had “discovered planets in other solar systems…firmly established a new theory of cometary phenomena…and…solved or corrected nearly every leading problem of mathematical astronomy.” Despite this impressive list of accomplishments, all of it paled in comparison to the shocking news that Herschel had spotted life on the moon.

After viewing rock, a poppy field, vast forests of yew trees, inland seas, and beaches, Herschel turned his attention to an oval-shaped lunar valley. He reported seeing bison herds and blue unicorns. But the most amazing animals were yet to come. On August 27, readers learned that Herschel had observed signs of intelligent life on the moon. More specifically, he saw a primitive tribe of biped beavers who lived in huts, used fires, and carried their young in their arms. The next day, he reported something even more spectacular…a population of winged humanoids who appeared to live near a golden temple. Herschel and Grant labeled these humanoids “Vespertilio-Homo,” or man-bat.

The man-bats appeared to be engaged in conversations, complete with gestures. While the initial creatures were somewhat primitive, more elaborate man-bats would soon make an appearance. Herschel would later report the existence of a beautiful race of angel-like creatures and a mostly human population of middle class citizens.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The story is now known, of course, as the Great Moon Hoax. Not only had Herschel failed to see any of the sights claimed by the article, he wasn’t even aware of the articles until well after they were published. From all accounts, he was initially amused by the incident but soon grew weary fielding questions about it.

The New York Sun reaped strong benefits from the Great Moon Hoax. Its circulation quickly rose from 15,000 before the series to 19,360 after its conclusion, making the Sun the most popular newspaper in the world at the time. Other newspapers followed suit and soon, the Great Moon Hoax was worldwide.

To this day, it remains unclear whether average citizens were aware of the Great Moon Hoax. At that time, newspapers were known for making up outrageous stories in order to drive sales. Also, it’s important to note that subscribers didn’t cancel their subscriptions once the truth began to emerge. Indeed, the Great Moon Hoax of 1835 became somewhat of a cultural icon for the time, leading to a play at the Bowery Theater among other things. Still, eyewitness accounts from the time make it clear that large numbers of people were fooled by the Great Moon Hoax. For example…

“Yale College was alive with staunch supporters. The literati—students and professors, doctors in divinity and law—and all the rest of the reading community, looked daily for the arrival of the New York mail with unexampled avidity and implicit faith. Have you seen the accounts of Sir John Herschel’s wonderful discoveries? Have you read the Sun? Have you heard the news of the man in the Moon? These were the questions that met you every where. It was the absorbing topic of the day. Nobody expressed or entertained a doubt as to the truth of the story.” ~ Yale Reporter, 1853

So, that leads us to our final question: who was behind the Great Moon Hoax? A reporter named Richard Adams Locke is usually given credit for the articles. However, Locke never admitted his involvement in the Great Moon Hoax and some researchers believe that the French astronomer Jean-Nicolas Nicollet, or Lewis Gaylord Clark, editor of the Knickerbocker Magazine, may have perpetrated it. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know for certain. And unless new evidence comes to light, we may never know the hoaxer’s true identity.

The Tallest Giant to roam the Earth?

On September 17, 2009, Guinness World Records announced that Sultan Kösen, a part-time farmer in Turkey, was the tallest man in the world. Thanks to a tumor affecting his pituitary gland, he now stands in at a whopping 8 foot, 3 inches tall. But is Kösen the tallest man in history? Or have other even larger giants roamed the Earth?

Who is the Tallest Man in Recorded History?

According to Guinness, there are only ten “confirmed or reliable cases in history of humans reaching 8 feet or more.” Nine of these people are men and one is a woman.

The tallest woman in known history, as well as the tallest overall person in the history of China, was Zeng Jinlian. She was born in 1964 and died in 1982. Believe it or not, she did most of her growing as a toddler, reaching the extraordinary height of 5 feet, 1.5 inches by the age of 4. Her tallest recorded height was 8 feet, 1.75 inches, which was taken shortly before her death.

Amazingly, the tallest man in known history isn’t Sultan Kösen. Instead, that honor belongs to Robert “The Alton Giant” Wadlow. For several years, he was a well-known American celebrity, thanks in part to a stint he did with the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1936. Wadlow was born in 1918 and passed away in 1940. Less than three weeks before his death, he was measured at 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall. Similar to Kösen, Wadlow suffered from a problem with his pituitary gland and it’s believed he may have still been growing right up until his passing.

Who is the Tallest Man in History?

While Wadlow is the tallest man in confirmed history, there are other disputed claims to his title.

  • John Aasen (1890-1938): American silent film actor. His skeleton measures 7 feet, 2.4 inches. However, he lost some height toward the end of his life and some people believe he may have measured 8 feet, 11.5 inches earlier in his life.
  • John Middleton (1578-1623): Also known as the Childe of Hale. Although his true history is somewhat muddled by folklore, it’s believed he might have been taller than 9 feet. His gravestone is marked with the words, “Here lyeth the bodie of John Middleton the Childe of Hale. Nine feet three.”
  • Feodor Machnow (1878-1912): Also known as the Russian Giant. His tallest official measurement of 7 feet, 10 inches was taken at the age of 16. However, his wife claimed that he added height afterward, and eventually reached a towering 9 feet, 3 inches. Skeptics point out that Machnow was known for wearing a gigantic Russian Cossack fur hat and tall boots, which might account for the discrepancy.
  • The Giant of Castelnau (9500 BC?): In 1890, anthropologist Georges Vacher de Lapouge discovered the bones of the Giant at a French cemetery (pictured above). While the bones themselves have since disappeared, de Lapouge described them in La Nature as being appropriate for a person who stood about 11 feet, 6 inches. This discovery was followed up with other discoveries of gigantic bones in another French cemetery, which were sent to the Paris Academy for examination. Unfortunately, these bones appear to have vanished as well although it’s believed they may have “belonged to a race of men between ten and fifteen feet in height.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Interestingly enough, many ancient myths and folklore describes strange “giant-like” humans. So, the idea of a man standing at 11 feet, 6 inches might not be as crazy as it first sounds. Still, until the original bones are located or more bones are found, the titleholder for tallest man in history will continue to belong to the enormous Robert Wadlow.

Was Charles Dickens a Plagiarist?

In 1861, Charles Dickens published a work entitled, “Four Ghost Stories” in his magazine All the Year Round. While not remembered well today, it caused somewhat of an uproar at the time when an author named Thomas Heaphy emerged to make a startling accusation. Was Charles Dickens a plagiarist?

Charles Dickens versus Thomas Heaphy?

Charles Dickens is one of the most famous authors in modern history. His astounding portfolio of works includes: A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations. But a new British Library exhibition entitled, “A Hankering after Ghosts: Charles Dickens and the Supernatural,” has ginned up bad memories of one of his lesser works.

In 1861, Charles Dickens published a short story collection called “Four Ghost Stories.” The first story “featured a beautiful young woman asking a portrait painter if he could remember her face well enough to paint it from memory months later.” It turns out that (SPOILER ALERT) the woman is already dead and she wants to use the portrait to console her father.

Upon learning of the story, painter and artist Thomas Heaphy was furious. He wrote an angry letter to Charles Dickens, “claiming that not only had he written up an identical story, ready for publication in the Christmas issue of a rival magazine, but that it had really happened to him – and on 13 September too, the very date Dickens had added in pencil in the margin of his own version.”

Was Charles Dickens a Plagiarist?

So, was Dickens a plagiarist? Or was Heaphy trying to cash in on Dickens’ good name? Well, in 1882, Heaphy published his own version of the story, which he called A Wonderful Ghost Story; Being Mr. H.’s Own Narrative; A Recital of Facts with Unpublished Letters from Charles Dickens Respecting It. In that work, Heaphy included a letter from Dickens in which the esteemed author admitted the origin of his own story.

“I received the story published in that journal first among the “Four Ghost Stories,” from a gentleman of distinguished position, both literary and social, who, I do not doubt, is well known to you by reputation. He did not send it to me as his own, but as the work of a young writer in whom he feels an interest, and who previously contributed (all through him) another ghost story.” ~ Charles Dickens, September 15, 1861

Later letters would identify this “gentleman” as Sir Edward Lytton who claimed to have received the story from someone named Edward Ward. Indeed, Charles Dickens eventually admitted that the story belonged to Heaphy and offered to call it “the authentic story given at first hand.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, it would appear that Dickens was probably innocent of plagiarism. However, the same can’t be said for Sir Edward Lytton and Edward Ward. It seems unlikely that these two men passed on the story to Dickens in order to aid a struggling young writer, especially since Heaphy received no credit in the magazine. Instead, it seems far more possible that they conspired to steal the work and sell it to Dickens.

But there’s a bright side to the story. Until recently, Thomas Heaphy has been virtually forgotten by modern scholars. Now, his strange connection to Charles Dickens has led to a reexamination of his work. It doesn’t quite make up for the theft of his story, but it’s better than nothing.

The Rumble in the Jungle?

On October 30, 1974 World Heavyweight Boxing Champion George Foreman faced off against challenger Muhammad Ali. The undefeated Foreman was heavily favored. Yet, eight rounds later Ali raised his gloves in victory. How did Ali win “The Rumble in the Jungle?”

What was the Rumble in the Jungle?

By 1974, Muhammad Ali seemed by many to be past his prime. He barely beat Ken Norton in a split-decision in 1973. And although he defeated Frazier in early 1974, it took him twelve rounds to get the decision. By contrast, the devastating George Foreman took just two rounds apiece to knock out Norton and Frazier.

On October 30, Ali and Foreman met in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for the Rumble in the Jungle. The mental games had started weeks earlier. While Foreman kept to himself, Ali toured the country, ginning up support.

The Rumble in the Jungle: Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman

Prior to the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali spent a considerable amount of time bragging about how he was too fast for Frazier. Still, it came as a bit of a surprise when Ali roared out of the gate, sending a flurry of right-hand leads in Foreman’s direction. Although caught off guard, Foreman adjusted and began to fire back a few shots of his own.

Foreman probably expected Ali to continue a speed-based strategy. But everything changed during the second round. Halfway through Round 2 of the Rumble in the Jungle, Ali began covering up his face and leaning back against the ropes. His reasons were simple: he’d been slowed by the soft ring surface and Foreman was doing a good job cutting off the ring. There was a third reason as well…strategy.

Ali’s “rope-a-dope” strategy forced Foreman to focus on Ali’s midsection. However, loose ropes (some say they were loosened by Ali’s trainers) allowed Ali to better absorb the punches. Although Ali threw fewer punches, he timed them well and managed to land a few fast shots to George Foreman’s face. And while all this was going on, Muhammad Ali kept a non-stop verbal attack, “telling Foreman to throw more and harder punches.”

By Round 7 of the Rumble in the Jungle, Foreman had punched himself out. He was still throwing shots, but they were fewer in number and lacked strength. Toward the end of Round 8, Ali unleashed a quick barrage, catching a visibly-exhausted Foreman off guard. Foreman fell to the mat. He managed to regain his footing but it was too late.

The fight was over.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Muhammad Ali liked to call himself “The Greatest” and after the Rumble in the Jungle, it was hard to argue with him. So, how did he win?

George Foreman was considered too powerful to “out-box.” And this was probably the case. But Ali didn’t box him.

“Ali didn’t beat Foreman because he was a great boxer and had more speed of hand and foot. The biggest myth in boxing is the one where it’s believed Foreman was unable to beat a good boxer, and that’s why he lost his title to Muhammad Ali.” ~ Frank Lotierzo

Instead, Ali won through strategy, toughness, and durability. He literally let the ferocious Foreman attack him for seven full rounds. He took the best Foreman had to offer. And then he sent Foreman to the mat.

Ali went on to hold the World Heavyweight Championship for four more years. He lost the title to Leon Spinks in 1978, regained it later that year, and then retired. He later made an ill-advised comeback and accumulated two more losses before retiring with a 56-5 record. Foreman, on the other hand, was devastated by the loss. He retired in 1977 before making an incredible comeback. In 1994, he knocked out Michael Moorer and at forty-five years of age, became the oldest Heavyweight Champion in boxing history. It took twenty long years after the Rumble in the Jungle but at last, Foreman had regained his title.

The U.S. Postal War?

In 1844, Lysander Spooner launched the American Letter Mail Company, a private alternative to the government-owned U.S. Postal Service. His young firm took the country by storm, leading to dramatic improvements in delivery time and vast decreases in postage costs. But the U.S. Postal Service didn’t appreciate the competition and fought to regain its monopoly. What was the U.S. Postal War?

The U.S. Post Office Monopoly?

Until 1844, the U.S. Post Office held a monopoly on mail delivery. Service was slow and rates were high.

“It cost 18 3/4 cents to send a letter from Boston to New York and 25 cents to send one all the way to Washington DC. A letter sent from Boston to Albany, NY written on a 1/4-ounce sheet of paper and carried by the Western Railroad, cost 2/3 as much as the freight charge for carrying a barrel of flour the same distance.” ~ Lucille J. Goodyear, Spooner vs. U.S. Postal System

Lysander Spooner Launches the U.S. Postal War

Lysander Spooner knew an opportunity when he saw one. Spooner was an individualist anarchist hailing from Massachusetts. Although partly motivated by profit, his true purpose was to “challenge the constitutionality of the postal monopoly.”

While the Articles of Confederation had empowered Congress with “the sole and exclusive right and power” of “establishing or regulating post offices,” the Constitution was far more vague on the matter. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution empowered Congress “To establish Post Offices and postal roads.” But the document was silent on the matter of private competition. With this loophole in mind, Spooner organized his own company, which he called The American Letter Mail Company. And he wasted no time in advertising his new venture, which attacked the idea of a governmental postal monopoly head-on. In effect, he launched the U.S. Postal War.

“The American Letter Mail Company has established post offices in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston, and will deliver letter daily from each city to the others – twice a day between New York and Philadelphia. Postage 6 1/4 cents per each half-ounce, payable in advance always. Stamps 20 for a dollar. Their purpose is to carry letters by the most rapid conveyances, and at the cheapest rates and to extend their operations (as fast as patronage will justify) over the principal routes of the country, so as to give the public the most extensive facilities for correspondence that can be afforded at a uniform rate.

The Company design also (if sustained by the public) is to thoroughly agitate the questions, and test the Constitutional right of the competition in the business of carrying letters – the ground on which they assert this right are published and for sale at the post offices in pamphlet form.” ~ New York Daily Tribune Advertisement

Spooner’s company and the U.S. Postal War caused considerable angst among politicians. The U.S. Post Office earned gigantic profits, but often reported losses. That was because the profits were distributed by politicians via patronage to politically connected groups, namely: “(1) coach contractors, (2) rail and steamboat companies, (3) postmasters, (4) publishers of printed matter, (5) officials with the franking privilege, and (6) rural voters.

The U.S. government fought back in the U.S. Postal War, initiating lawsuits against Spooner. They threatened to jail him and pressured railroad operators to stop delivering his mail. But this proved unsuccessful and by 1845, the Post Office found itself rapidly losing business. The Postmaster General appealed to Congress and received permission to lower postage rates. Undeterred, Spooner lowered his own rates even further, causing even greater distress for politicians.

Alas, Spooner’s efforts and those of others like him (most notably James W. Hale), were in vain. In 1851, Congress lowered the postal rate to three cents per half-ounce letter and enacted laws giving the U.S. Post Office an effective monopoly over mail distribution. The U.S. Postal War was over. Spooner’s company was forced out of business and by 1860, private mail delivery was virtually eliminated in the United States.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

On December 5, 2011, the U.S. Postal Service announced “major budget and service cuts.” First-Class mail will take a day or two longer to deliver and stamps will rise one cent to $0.45. Despite those changes, the U.S. Post Office is expected to rack up a loss of $14.1 billion next year.

While the rise of email is certainly a factor here, a bigger problem is the postal monopoly itself. Government-enforced monopolies have little reason to cut costs, lower prices, or improve service. Perhaps it’s time we take a page from history and allow true private competition in the mail industry. Between 1845 and 1851, the U.S. Postal War launched by fromSpooner, Hale, and others forced the U.S. Postal Service to cut postage rates by 79%. At the same time, the U.S. Postal War led to service innovations, such as stamp prepayment and small-town intracity delivery. Is there another Lysander Spooner out there, waiting to reignite the U.S. Postal War? We can only hope.

The Pearl Harbor Code?

Seventy years ago, the Japanese Navy launched an attack on Pearl Harbor. The vicious assault killed over 2,000 people, damaged some 300 planes, and crippled 18 vessels. In the aftermath, FBI Agents conducted a secret raid on the New Yorker magazine’s offices. They were searching for clues related to a code…a code which may have been used to alert Japanese spies to the attack. What was the Pearl Harbor Code?

The Deadly Double & Pearl Harbor?

Sixteen days before the Pearl Harbor attack, a “teaser advertisement” appeared in the New Yorker. The text read “Achtung! Warning! Alerte!” Underneath, readers were encouraged to “See Advertisement Page 86.” The ad also contained two dice and was apparently placed by a company named Monarch Publishing Co. A second advertisement ran on page 86. It contained a strange picture of people playing dice in an air-raid shelter, repeated the “Achtung! Warning! Alerte!” text, and referred to a game called “The Deadly Double.”

After Pearl Harbor, American civilians became extra-vigilant about foreign spies and saboteurs. Thousands of rumors and tips flooded into FBI Headquarters. One of the most prominent tips was in regard to “The Deadly Double” advertisement. Hundreds of readers suspected it was a coded message, designed to alert Japanese and Nazi spies about the upcoming attack.

Was the Deadly Double a Coded Message about the Pearl Harbor Attack?

According to John Costello’s The Pacific War: 1941-1945, the numbers on the dice might have meant “0” hour for a “double cross” on “12”/”7″ at “5” out of “24” hours. Another interpretation comes from the 1982 Reader’s Digest book, Mysteries of the Unexplained. That work concluded that the numbers 12 and 7 refer to December 7. 5 and 0 were suspected to be the planned time of the attack. XX, or 20 in Roman Numerals, was the approximate latitude for Pearl Harbor. The purpose of the number 24 was unknown (although possibly some sort of code designation).

On the Page 86 ad, the top part of the drawing was viewed as a depiction of three airplanes flying over Pearl Harbor, complete with searchlight beams, antiaircraft shells, and even an exploding bomb on the surface of the water. “The Deadly Double” was believed to stand for two of the Axis Powers, namely Germany and Japan. And finally, the double-headed eagle at the bottom of the ad appeared to be a combination of the two versions of the Nazi’s Iron Eagles.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, was the Pearl Harbor Code a real attempt to warn Japanese and Nazi spies about Pearl Harbor? Or was it just a coincidence? According to Reader’s Digest, the advertisement turned out to be legitimate. The ads were supposedly placed by a Mr. and Mrs. Roger Craig. The investigation of the Craig family was kept under wraps until 1967 when Ladislas Farago broke the story prior to the release of his book, The Broken Seal. At the time, Craig’s widow was said to have stated that any connection between the ad and the attack was nothing more than a coincidence.

However, that’s just one side of the story. According to William F. Breuer’s book Unexplained Mysteries of World War II

“FBI agents discovered that the advertisement had been placed by the Monarch Trading Company (a dummy corporation). A white male, who had not given his name, had brought the plates for the ad to the New Yorker offices and had paid in cash. He had not given his address. Curiously, the man the FBI would identify as the suspect apparently met a sudden, violent death a few weeks later.”

Which story is correct? Did the FBI truly get to the bottom of the incident? If so, was the Code just a big coincidence? Or was it something more? Unfortunately, the available evidence is contradictory. So, until more information comes to light, the Pearl Harbor Code will remain one of the great unsolved mysteries of World War II.

Did Game Theory Save Mankind?

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union wielded enormous arsenals of nuclear weapons. Citizens of the world lived in fear that the conflict would someday heat up, resulting in a devastating nuclear war that would destroy the world. Into this confusion and terror stepped the RAND Corporation and a team of Game Theory experts. Did Game Theory stop Mutually Assured Destruction and save mankind?

Game Theory: The Prisoner’s Dilemma?

The chart above represents the “Prisoner’s Dilemma.” In this game, two men are arrested for various crimes. However, the police lack enough information to make the main crime stick. So, the police separate the men and offer them both the same deal. If one prisoner confesses while the other one doesn’t, the confessor will go free while the other prisoner will serve a full 20 year sentence. If both prisoners confess, they will each receive a ten year term. However, if both prisoners keep quiet, they will each be charged with a lesser crime and receive a one year term. This is a one-time situation and the prisoners are not told of each other’s decision. What should they do?

Game Theory: Solving the Prisoner’s Dilemma?

If Prisoner B confesses, Prisoner A’s best strategy is to confess as well since 10 years is a shorter term than 20 years. If Prisoner B doesn’t confess, Prisoner A’s best strategy is still to confess since being free is better than a year in prison. Thus, Prisoner A’s best choice is to confess. Knowing this, Prisoner B will do the same thing and they will both go to jail for 10 years. What makes this game interesting is that the prisoners would be better off if they both kept quiet. And yet, logic dictates that they both confess instead.

Game Theory & Mutually Assured Destruction?

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a nuclear stand-off. So, the RAND Corporation hired some of the world’s top game theorists to study the situation. At the time, both nations had the same policy: “If one side launched a first strike, the other threatened to answer with a devastating counter-strike.”

This became known as Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD for short. And indeed, the idea of this happening was “mad” since it could’ve brought about a nuclear winter. However, game theorists were worried about Mutually Assured Destruction. They thought the two countries had boxed themselves into a prisoner’s dilemma that could threaten mankind’s very existence. Here’s how it worked:

“Suppose the USSR launches a first strike against the USA. At that point, the American President finds his country already destroyed. He doesn’t bring it back to life by now blowing up the world, so he has no incentive to carry out his original threat to retaliate, which has now manifestly failed to achieve its point. Since the Russians can anticipate this, they should ignore the threat to retaliate and strike first. Of course, the Americans are in an exactly symmetric position, so they too should strike first. Each power will recognize this incentive on the part of the other, and so will anticipate an attack if they don’t rush to preempt it. What we should therefore expect…is a race between the two powers to be the first to attack.” ~ Don Ross

Strategies to Deter Mutually Assured Destruction

This analysis led the RAND Corporation to recommend the United States taking actions designed to show their commitment to Mutually Assured Destruction. One strategy was to ensure that “second-strike capability” existed. A second strategy was to make leaders appear irrational. The CIA portrayed President Nixon as insane and/or a drunk. The KGB, which appears to have come to the same conclusion as RAND, responded by fabricating medical records to show that General Secretary Brezhnev was senile.

Another strategy was to introduce uncertainty at stopping Stop Mutually Assured Destruction. For example, by building more nuclear missiles and storing them in numerous locations, it was less likely that the President could stop all of them from being launched in the event of a Russian attack. A third strategy was to ensure Mutually Assured Destruction. Russia went so far as to create Perimeter, or Dead Head, which was the closest thing this world’s ever seen to a doomsday machine.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, did the game theorists save the world from Mutually Assured Destruction? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know for certain. But advancements in game theory have shown that the Cold War models weren’t really accurate. Nuclear war was usually modeled as a one-time game. But as long as one preserved second strike capabilities, the “game” would’ve been played over and over again with both sides exchanging repeated waves of missiles.

The outcome of nuclear war is the same whether one initiates an attack or responds to it. And since this outcome is worse than “no nuclear war,” the optimal move is to not launch missiles. Of course, this depends on a number of assumptions. Second-strike capabilities must be available and known to the other side. Both sides must have perfection detection equipment since a false positive like the one recognized by the heroic Stanislav Petrov could lead to nuclear war. Perfectly rational leaders must be in place. And finally, both sides must be unable to defend an incoming attack.

Still, one could argue that the game theorists were on the right track. By making it clear that retaliation was more likely than not, both nations managed to discourage each other from ever launching a single missile. Then again, it was never clear that the maximum payoff for either side was to destroy its enemy while avoiding its own destruction. Indeed, maybe the games being played weren’t just between nations but rather, within them as well.

“A wise cynic might suggest that the operations researchers on both sides were playing a cunning strategy in a game over funding, one that involved them cooperating with one another in order to convince their politicians to allocate more resources to weapons.” ~ Don Ross

The New York Gold Conspiracy?

On September 24, 1869, the price of gold on the New York Gold Exchange hit $162 an ounce. Shortly after, it plunged to $133 an ounce, ruining scores of investors in the process. What was the Black Friday New York Gold Conspiracy?

Jay Gould & James Fisk: The Plot to Corner the Gold Market?

During the Civil War, the U.S. government began issuing “greenbacks” in order to raise money. Greenbacks were a fiat currency (similar to that used today) and thus, were not backed by gold or anything else. After the war ended, the government began to withdraw the greenbacks from circulation. This was accomplished by buying greenbacks with gold. This allowed the price of gold, which had reached $300 an ounce, to return to a more normal level of $130 an ounce by early 1869.

Around that time, a group of investors, led by Jay Gould and James Fisk, saw an opportunity to generate enormous profits. They wanted to, in effect, “corner the gold market.” But they feared the U.S. government’s tendency to stabilize gold prices. They needed to find a way to temporarily take the government out of the game. And in order to do that, they needed to seize control of its monetary policy.

Gould and Fisk recruited Abel Corbin, President Ulysses S. Grant’s brother-in-law, to their cause. Together, the three men badgered Grant to stop selling government gold, arguing that it would make farmers more competitive in overseas markets and thus, raise farm prices.

Black Friday!

By September 1869, Gould and Fisk were convinced that their plan had worked. They began buying large amounts of gold with very little money, thanks to small margin requirements. As they accumulated a large position, they were able to manipulate the market price higher and higher, making plans to unload it before the inevitable fall. Prices rose and stocks fell. President Grant immediately grew suspicious of his brother-in-law and told his wife to add a note in a letter written to her sister:

“Tell your husband that the President is very much distressed by your speculations, and you must close them as quick as you can.”

On September 23, gold reached $142 an ounce. Gould, who’d learned that Grant was on to the scheme, began secretly unloading his position. Fisk, completely unaware of what was about to happen, did not. The next day, Black Friday, the price of gold ran all the way up to $162 an ounce (the actual blackboard is shown above). Then word reached the New York Gold Exchange that the Treasury was selling $4 million of gold. Abruptly, prices collapsed, sending gold reeling back to the mid $130s.

Many investors, who’d bought gold on margin, were ruined. Gould “was rumored to have cleared $10 or $11 million” although this remains in question. Fisk is believed to have escaped harm by repudiating his trades.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Black Friday caused a brief financial panic. But for the most part, no one paid a price for the scandal. Gould and Fisk escaped punishment, thanks to sympathetic Tammany Hall judges. President Grant was accused of being involved in the Black Friday scheme. However, it didn’t stop him from being reelected in 1872.

Over the years, others have tried to corner various types of financial markets. But Gould’s and Fisk’s Black Friday attempt might just be the most audacious of them all. By enlisting the gigantic hand of government to aid their cause, they took corporatism to a whole new level. On a relative basis, one could make the claim that Gould and Fisk caused the biggest one-day crash of gold in U.S. history on Black Friday, maybe even of all time, and got away with it.

Who was the First Superhero?

In 1938, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster unleashed Superman upon the world. With a secret identity, strange powers, and a costume, Superman is perhaps the quintessential superhero. But was he the first of his kind?

Who was the First Superhero?

Superman was certainly not the first fictional character to exhibit powers. Long ago, ancient civilizations told stories about gods and goddesses who exhibited “superpowers.” For example, Zeus from Greek mythology liked to toss the occasional thunderbolt at his enemies. He also resided in a palace on Mount Olympus with the other deities, in what could rightly be called a predecessor to the Justice League’s Watchtower or the Avengers Mansion.

Superman wasn’t even the first comic book character to have superpowers. Popeye, for example, was showing spinach-derived super-strength as early as 1932. Going back in time to the pulp magazines, Doc Savage and the Shadow displayed some of the traits that we currently identify with superheroes.

Superman also wasn’t the first hero to don a secret identity. That honor may belong to Robin Hood or the masked adventurer The Scarlet Pimpernel. As for costume, well, Superman wasn’t the first in that department either. So-called penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and radio programs featured costumed heros such as Zorro and Spring Heeled Jack long before Superman. And one could easily argue that this tradition extends far back in time. Hercules, for example, wore the hide of a lion. Heck, Superman wasn’t even the first comic book hero to wear a costume. That honor, according to the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, belongs to the Clock.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Although he wasn’t the first fictional character to have super powers, a secret identity, or a costume, one could make the case that Superman was the first one to combine all of these elements. So, maybe Superman was the first Superhero.

Or maybe not.

Still, Superman’s stories launched the superhero genre and popularized the comic book as a form of storytelling. He may or may not have been the first superhero. But he might just be the most important one of our time, if not of all time.