The “Wow!” Signal?

On August 15, 1977, Dr. Jerry Ehman detected a strange radio signal while working with Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope. The signal lasted for 72 seconds and appeared to be of non-terrestrial origin. Dr. Ehman quickly circled the signal’s markings on a piece of paper and wrote “Wow!” next to it. What was the “Wow!” Signal?

What was the “Wow!” Signal?

Well, the jury is still out on this question. The “Wow!” signal appeared to originate from the constellation Sagittarius, close to the Chi Sagittarii star group. However, despite multiple attempts over the last three decades, no one has been able to re-detect it. Even Dr. Ehman came to doubt the “Wow!” signal was of extraterrestrial origin.

“Even if it were intelligent beings sending a signal, they’d do it far more than once. We should have seen it again when we looked for it 50 times. Something suggests it was an Earth-bound signal that simply got reflected off a piece of space debris.” ~ Dr. Jerry Ehman, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, September 18, 1994

It should be noted Dr. Ehman later qualified this statement. However, he remains skeptical the “Wow!” signal originated from an extraterrestrial source. While we are no closer to solving the mystery of the “Wow!” Signal, plenty of dedicated researchers are still trying to understand it. Here’s an excerpt from an interesting interview on the “Wow!” signal from The Atlantic with one of those researchers, Robert Gray:

Is it possible that the “Wow!” signal is somehow a computer glitch, or a signal from earth that was reflected off of space debris of some sort?

Gray: Of course it’s possible. It could have been any number of things. However, it almost certainly wasn’t a computer glitch, because it showed this rise and fall of intensity that’s just exactly what a radio source from the sky would look like. Also, the Ohio State radio telescope was cleverly rigged to filter out local stuff.

The only thing that conceivably could have made that special signature is a satellite of some sort at just the right distance, going just the right speed, in order to mimic a celestial object traversing the sky. So that’s a possibility, but it seems pretty unlikely for a number of reasons. First, it would have been seen by a lot of people. Ohio State would have seen it repeatedly, because satellites broadcast repeatedly. Secondly, if it was a secret satellite it would have been pretty stupid to broadcast at a frequency that radio astronomers across the world listen to.

For a long time, Jerry Ehman, who actually scribbled “Wow!” on the original computer printout, considered the possibility that it was a piece of space debris reflecting a signal from the earth back down into the antenna. But he no longer believes that to be the case. And I’m not saying that it definitely was an extraterrestrial broadcast; there’s no proof of that. The best way I can think to analogize this thing is to say that it was a tug on the cosmic fishing line. It doesn’t prove that you have a fish on the line, but it does suggest that you keep your line in the water at that spot…

(See The ‘Wow!’ Signal: One Man’s Search for SETI’s Most Tantalizing Trace of Alien Life for the rest)

Charlie Chapin’s Secret Identity?

Charlie Chaplin is one of the most well-known comedic actors of all time. But was his name really Charlie Chaplin? And where did he come from?

The Mysterious Charlie Chaplin?

Back in 1952, during the height of McCarthyism, the U.S. government was convinced Charlie Chaplin was a communist. They asked the British Secret Service, MI5, to investigate his background. After sixty years, that MI5 file has finally been released to the public. By the way, that’s an impressive length of time to keep such a secret although in pales in comparison to the CIA’s epic protection of invisible ink secrets.

Anyway, it turns out there is no official record of Charlie Chaplin for the first 31 years of his life. As a result, the CIA believed he was really a Frenchman named Israel Thornstein. More recent evidence suggests another reason for the lack of records: Charlie Chaplin might’ve been born into a British gypsy family. Here’s more on Charlie Chaplin’s secret identity from The Telegraph:

MI5 investigated whether Charlie Chaplin was actually a Frenchman called Israel Thornstein, previously secret files on the Hollywood film star have revealed. Intelligence officers could find no trace of the actor’s birth in Britain despite Chaplin always claiming he was born in London in 1889.

The mystery surrounding his origins emerged when the US authorities asked MI5 to look into the comic actor’s background after he left America in 1952 under a cloud of suspicion over his communist links…

…British intelligence rejected American claims that Chaplin was a high-risk communist, concluding that while he may have been a “sympathiser” he was no more than a “progressive or radical”.

(See MI5 files: Was Chaplin really a Frenchman and called Thornstein? for the rest on Charlie Chaplin’s secret identity)

Cyborg Spy Cats?

In the 1960s, the CIA embarked on all sorts of strange espionage projects to spy on the Soviet Union. Perhaps there was none stranger than America’s first cyborg spy cat…the Acoustic Kitty.

The Acoustic Kitty Project?

The Acoustic Kitty project, which cost a whopping $25 million, wasn’t for the squeamish. Agents literally sliced open a cat, stuck batteries into him, and wired him up using the tail as an antenna. Then they dropped off the Acoustic Kitty in front of a facility believed to be used by Soviets. Unfortunately, the cat never got close enough for a proper test – it was wiped out by  a taxi driver almost as soon as it hit the ground. Here’s more on the bizarre Acoustic Kitty project from TBD:

As if the D.C. Taxicab Commission wasn’t already receiving enough heat from the Uber mess, let’s turn to a sadder piece of local taxi history — the tale of how our country’s multimillion-dollar CIA-trained cat spy died at the wheels of a D.C. taxicab. Today I’ve already talked about dogs (and about cabs and technology), so it’s only fair I bring up felines as well.

…Accounts of the CIA’s $25-million Acoustic Kitty project are available throughout the Internet, but one of the more detailed and fun couple pages come from Alan Bellows’ book Alien Hand Syndrome in a section called “Cyborg Spy Kitties.” He recounts a former CIA agent’s description: “They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity.”

(Thanks to The Birdman & see Metro history: A D.C. taxicab killed America’s premier CIA-trained cat spy for more on the Acoustic Kitty project)

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

On February, 14, 1929, seven gangsters were lined up inside a garage on Chicago’s North Side. Seconds later, they were brutally slaughtered in a display of violence that shocked the city to its core. Who was behind the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

83 years ago, Chicago was aflame. Prohibition had been a dreadful failure, leading to an enormous and highly profitable black market in illegal alcohol. In turn, this caused violent crime to skyrocket.

On February 14, five members and two associates of Bugs Moran’s North Side Gang showed up at Chicago’s SMC Cartage warehouse, possibly to buy stolen booze. Moran was running a little late that day and as he approached the garage, he noticed a police car pulling into the area. Moran and several others fled the area, saving their lives in the process.

Two “police officers” and two other men entered the garage, carrying Tommy Guns and shotguns. They swiftly lined Moran’s gang up against the rear wall and filled them with bullets. Then the officers led the other men out of the garage at gunpoint, presumably as a ruse to keep neighbors from notifying the real police. It didn’t work and the locals quickly called in the police. One of the victims, Frank Gusenberg, took fourteen bullets yet managed to hold on for three hours. However, he refused to identify the shooters before dying.

Who was behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

On December 14, 1929, Michigan police raided Burke’s bungalow on an unrelated murder charge. Although they didn’t find him, they did locate a wealth of evidence, including two Tommy Guns. Using the brand-new science of ballistics, the guns were connected to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Burke was later captured in Missouri but was never formally tried for his role in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Eight days later, police discovered a partially burned 1927 Cadillac Sedan which they were able to trace to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The ensuing investigation initially pointed to Fred “Killer” Burke and James Ray. Both men, who belonged to a gang called Egan’s Rats, were known for disguising themselves as police officers during robberies. Police also found circumstantial ties to members of Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit, which was Moran’s biggest competition in Chicago’s bootlegging business.

Others would be accused and investigated over the next few years. A low-ranking criminal named Byron Bolton claimed to have been involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre along with Burke, Fred Goetz, and several others. Supposedly, they were members of the American Boys, a special gang-within-the-gang employed by Al Capone and paid handsomely to perform high-risk jobs. However, the FBI wasn’t interested in pursuing the case and the actual role of the American Boys – or whether they even existed in the the first place – remains uncertain.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

On December 5, 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment. Thus, Prohibition finally came to an end. The cost of this social experiment in terms of blood and treasure had been steep. Ordinary folks who wished to engage in mutually beneficial exchanges suddenly found themselves criminals. Black market alcohol proved far more dangerous to drink. Crime and corruption increased dramatically. Government spending increased as well in order to combat these rising problems.

The end of Prohibition was also the end of an era. And as time rolled on, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was all but forgotten. It seems fairly likely Al Capone was involved, especially since he and Moran were at each other’s throats for control of Chicago’s bootlegging industry. However, physical evidence is practically nonexistent. Perhaps researchers will uncover more pieces of evidence or shed new light on old ones in the not-so-distant future. But until then, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre remains an unsolved crime.

Mutiny during World War II?

In 1942, U.S. Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson conducted a secret visit of a U.S. military base in Australia. For seventy years, the reason for his visit has remained a mystery. But new evidence suggests a horrific event that led to the death of one soldier and serious injuries to many others. Did members of the 96th Battalion, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commit mutiny?

The Townsville Mutiny?

According to historian Ray Holyoak, the answer is yes. It turns out that African-American members of the unit were subjected to ongoing discrimination and violence from their white counterparts. In retaliation, some of them seized control of machine guns and anti-aircraft guns and proceeded to rake their aggressors with more than 700 rounds. Here’s more from the Australian Broadcasting Company on the Townsville Mutiny:

An Australian historian has uncovered hidden documents which reveal that African American troops used machine guns to attack their white officers in a siege on a US base in north Queensland in 1942…

“For 70 years there’s been a rumour in Townsville that there was a mutiny among African-American servicemen. In the last year and a half I’ve found the primary documentation evidence that that did occur in 1942,” Mr Holyoak told AM.

During World War II, Townsville was a crucial base for campaigns into the Pacific, including the Battle of the Coral Sea…About 600 African-American troops were brought to the city to help build airfields…This was the site for a large-scale siege lasting eight hours, which was sparked by racial taunts and violence…

(See Secret documents lift lid on WWII mutiny by US troops in north Queensland for more on the Townsville Mutiny)

Who was the Richest President?

Mitt Romney’s net worth is estimated at $190 to $250 million. If he ends up defeating Barack Obama in the 2012 Presidential election, how would his wealth rank against other presidents? Would he be the richest president of all time?

Who was the Richest President of all Time?

It turns out that Romney’s wealth falls well short of the richest president of all time. Adjusted for inflation, George Washington was worth a whopping $500 million! JFK would’ve beaten that record but he didn’t live long enough to inherit his father’s massive $1 billion fortune. The figures were compiled by 24/7 Wall Street so I can’t verify them. And frankly, the article’s commentary sheds some light on the author’s stunning historical and economic ignorance.

“(For the first 75 years after Washington’s election)…because there was no central banking system and no commodities regulatory framework, markets were subject to panics.”

Clearly, this writer has never heard of the Bank of North America or the First Bank of the United States or the Second Bank of the United States. And even more clearly, the writer has no understanding of the lessons taught by the Austrian Business Cycle. With that said, here’s more on the richest presidents of all time from 24/7 Wall Street:

The net worth of the presidents varies widely. George Washington was worth over half a billion in today’s dollars. Several presidents went bankrupt.

The fortunes of American presidents are tied to the economy in the eras in which they lived. For the first 75 years after Washington’s election, presidents generally made money on land, crops, and commodity speculation. A president who owned hundreds or thousands of acres could lose most or all of his property after a few years of poor crop yields. Wealthy Americans occasionally lost all of their money through land speculation—leveraging the value of one piece of land to buy additional property. Since there was no reliable national banking system and almost no liquidity in the value of private companies, land was the asset likely to provide the greatest yield, if the property yielded enough to support the costs of operating the farm or plantation…

(See the rest on the richest presidents at 24/7 Wall Street)

George Washington: General, President…Zombie?

On December 14, 1799, George Washington died. A few days later, William Thornton – the architect who designed the U.S. Capitol – visited the widow Martha Washington. Did Thornton offer to turn President Washington into a zombie?

Did President George Washington almost become a Zombie?

Yes, in a manner of speaking. Richard Thornton did offer to reanimate the deceased President, in effect turning him into a zombie. Specifically, he proposed to thaw Washington’s frozen body and then warm it up by rubbing it with blankets. Next, he wanted to perform a tracheotomy on the neck of George Washington and insert a fire bellows into it. This would, he believed, allow him to pump air back into Washington’s lungs. Finally, he would give George Washington a blood transfusion. But not just any transfusion. He wanted to use lamb’s blood which at the time was considered to have special healing properties. The procedure was never performed however, as Washington’s friends and family declined.

Here’s more on George Washington almost becoming a zombie from io9:

George Washington may have been America’s first president, but was he nearly America’s first zombie-in-chief? If William Thornton, physician and designer of the US Capitol, had had his way, Washington’s body would have been subjected a scientific experiment designed to bring the deceased former president back to life.

…But Washington’s body was not buried immediately after his death. The president may not have feared death, but he did fear being buried alive. Before he died, he commanded his secretary, Tobias Lear, to make sure that he would not be entombed less than three days after he died. In accordance with Washington’s wishes, his body was put on ice until it could be moved to the family vault.

That’s where the story gets a little strange.

(See the rest on George Washington almost becoming a zombie at io9)

President John Tyler and Ron Paul?

In 1841, John Tyler became the tenth President of the United States. Now, more than 170 years later, his grandson has stepped into the political limelight. So, what does the Tyler family think of today’s politicians?

John Tyler Reenters the Public Eye?

The fact that John Tyler still has living grandsons is amazing in its own right. In 1853, at the age of 63, John Tyler gave birth to Lyon Gardiner Tyler. Lyon, in turn, gave birth to Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr. in 1924 and Harrison Tyler in 1928 (Lyon was 71 and 75, respectively, when they were born!).

So, the other day, Harrison Tyler was interviewed by the media. Although he considers himself a conservative, he doesn’t think much of the current crop of Republican candidates. In particular, he singled out Newt Gingrich for criticism, calling the former Speaker, “a big jerk.”

John Tyler…the Original Ron Paul?

One candidate Harrison Tyler might find interesting is Dr. Ron Paul, who espouses a political philosophy quite similar to that of his grandfather. Although mainstream historians like to rank John Tyler as one of the worst Presidents of all time, he’s recently gotten a lot of attention for something else…being the most libertarian President of all time. Here’s more on John Tyler from us at Guerrilla Explorer:

Eland takes a unique approach to evaluating presidents. Instead of ranking them on the usual stuff, he ranks them on how well they achieved peace, prosperity, and liberty. Presidents earn points for avoiding “wars of choice,” pursuing economic freedom, and respecting individual freedoms as well as limits on presidential powers.

His analysis leads to some interesting conclusions that differ wildly from most polls. George Washington is still fairly high at #7. But he ranks Abraham Lincoln (#29) and FDR (#31) far lower than any historian I’ve ever read. His top five are John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur. These presidents are barely remembered by most Americans today which, in a way, is the point. Their terms were boring, thanks to their decisions to avoid wars and pursue policies that led to economic success as well as personal freedom.

So what about John Tyler? Well, he ended the Second Seminole War and exhibited restrained responses to an internal rebellion and a border dispute with Canada. He also vetoed his own party’s wishes to enact high tariffs and create a national bank, which ultimately cost him a second term. His record on preserving individual liberty is considered “very good.”

(See more on John Tyler right here at Guerrilla Explorer)

Thomas Jefferson’s Secret Bible?

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson put the finishing touches on a strange modified Bible entitled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. The work, which took him over a decade to complete, was not published until 1895, 69 years after Jefferson’s death. What was the purpose of the Jefferson Bible?

Thomas Jefferson & the Jefferson Bible?

Thomas Jefferson was a great admirer of the “Christian System.” However, although he had tremendous appreciation for Jesus’ moral philosophy, he had little patience for stories about miracles, the virgin birth, or the resurrection. So, using a razor, he cut out selected sections of the books of Matthew, Mark Luke, and John. Then he arranged them in chronological order and pasted them to sheets of paper. By the end, he had created his own unique and private account of the life of Jesus Christ, sans supernatural elements.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Afraid of what other people might think, Jefferson never published the book and in fact, only mentioned it to a few people. It was finally brought to market in 1895 and then again by order of Congress in 1904. For many years afterward, “it was presented to all newly elected members of that body.” Jefferson’s secret Bible is not well known today. However, it would appear that his desire to craft his own unique faith informed his views on why religion needs to be protected from intrusion by the state.

“…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, 1802

Here’s more on the Jefferson Bible from Mitch Horowitz at CNN:

Imagine the following scenario: A U.S. president is discovered to be spending his spare time taking a razor to the New Testament, cutting up and re-pasting those passages of the Gospels that he considered authentic and morally true and discarding all the rest.

Gone are the virgin birth, divine healings, exorcisms and the resurrection of the dead, all of which the chief executive dismissed as “superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications.”

Such an episode occurred, although the revised version of Scripture remained unseen for nearly seven decades after its abridger’s death. Thomas Jefferson intended it that way…

(See the rest on the Jefferson Bible at CNN)

Eddie Slovik: Execution of an American Deserter

On January 31, 1945, twelve soldiers raised their rifles, pointed them, and fired. Fifteen minutes later, private Eddie Slovik was dead. He remains the only U.S. soldier executed solely for desertion since the Civil War, when it was a disturbingly common punishment. Why did Slovik suffer this fate?

Desertion during World War II?

“The person that is not willing to fight and die, if need be, for his country has no right to life.” ~ Colonel James E. Rudder

While armchair historians often tout World War II as “the Last Good War,” not every combatant agreed. Back in those days, service in the U.S. military wasn’t voluntary…it was mandatory. Even worse, those who went AWOL from a war they’d been forced into fighting risked the maximum punishment…death. Although exact AWOL numbers remain unknown, more than 21,000 people were sentenced for desertion during World War II. 49 of those individuals were given the death sentence. Out of those 49 people, a single person was executed…Eddie Slovik.

The Execution of Private Eddie Slovik?

Prior to the war, Slovik was “a small-time thief and ex-convict who was originally classified as unfit for military service.” But he was drafted anyway and in August 1944, found himself in France. During the horrific Battle of Hürtgen Forest, the U.S. Army suffered 33,000 casualties. Eddie Slovik barely managed to survive and afterward, decided he “wasn’t cut out for combat.” He requested a reassignment away from the front lines. His request was denied so he deserted, along with hundreds if not thousands of other Americans. After being caught, he refused to return to his unit. Summarily, he was convicted of desertion and sentenced to death. Shocked by the severity of the punishment, he appealed to General Eisenhower for clemency. But Eisenhower refused and on January 31, 1945, Eddie Slovik was executed via firing squad.

“They’re not shooting me for deserting the United States Army, thousands of guys have done that. They just need to make an example out of somebody and I’m it because I’m an ex-con. I used to steal things when I was a kid, and that’s what they are shooting me for. They’re shooting me for the bread and chewing gum I stole when I was 12 years old.” ~ Eddie Slovik

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

35 American soldiers were executed during World War I, all for the crimes of rape and/or murder. 102 American soldiers were executed for the same reasons during World War II. But Eddie Slovik remains the only soldier in either war (or in any military engagement since the Civil War) to be executed for the sole crime of desertion. But why?

Clearly, General Eisenhower and other military leaders decided to make an example out of Slovik. American soldiers were dying in terrifying numbers in hotly-contested France. As such, mass desertions had become a major problem. Eisenhower apparently believed the execution of Eddie Slovik would be enough to make soldiers think twice before deserting their units. Of course, the execution had little to no impact and desertions continued for the duration of the war. Incidentally, desertions continue today as well with roughly 40,000 members of the U.S. military going AWOL between 2000 and 2006).

In the end, Slovik’s offer to serve in a noncombatant capacity was denied. Thus, he was murdered for refusing to fight in a war that he’d never wanted any part of in the first place. As Bernard Calka said in 1987 when bringing Slovik’s remains home from France, “The man didn’t refuse to serve, he refused to kill.”