Category: History

Who was the All-Time Most Evil Dracula?

Yesterday we looked at the best movie Dracula.  Today we’ll answer who is the most evil Dracula.  The answer is, of course, the real person Dracula was based on: Vlad III aka Vlad the Impaler, the Prince of Wallachia (now known as Romania).

Most folks know that the real-life Vlad III was infamous for killing his enemies by impaling them, but that’s just one of the many evil things he did.  Eli Nixon at Listverse details much more in 10 Fascinating Facts About The Real Dracula.  Normally, with posts like this, I list my three favorite facts, but here there were no favorites.  Vladd III was truly a horrible human being and much worse than any movie Dracula.

“Tread: Desperate Men Do Desperate Things”

Desperate men do desperate things.  What a great tag line!

On June 4th, 2004, a sixty-three-ton bulldozer, fortified with steel and concrete, systematically destroyed numerous businesses and homes in the small mountain town of Granby, Colorado. The rampage lasted over two hours and resulted in more than eight million dollars in damage. State and local police were incapable of even slowing the machine. Though it was armed with three high-powered firearms, no one but the driver was killed. His name was Marvin Heemeyer. TREAD explores the polarizing perspectives on this man, his motives, and what drove him to the breaking point.

I remember the event but didn’t realize that Heemeyer had fortified the bulldozer.

The Top 10 Unsolved Celebrity Mysteries

The photos above, of the beautiful young woman and the scary looking hag are sadly the same person.  Blanche Monnier was a wealthy aristocratic woman who was reported as dead by her family and then kept prisoner for 25 years.  The mystery isn’t why they did this, but who finally tipped off the police.

This is just one of the Top 10 Unsolved Mysteries Involving Celebrities you’ll read about if you check out Jamie Frater’s interesting post at Listverse.  Others include:

  • What happened to lost Heiress Dorothy Arnold?
  • Did very important people may have had a hand in the untimely demise of Princess Diana?
  • What caused the disappearance of  Beethoven star Joe Pichler?
  • Who killed Hogan’s Hero Star Bob Crane?
  • What happened during Agatha Christie’s Missing 11 Days?
  • Was Natalie Wood murdered?
  • Who killed Elizabeth Short?
  • What (Who) killed Brittany Murphy and her boyfriend?
  • What happened to Bambi Woods?

“The Irishman” / Z-View

The Irishman (2019)

Director: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay: Steve Zallian based on the book by Charles Brandt

Stars:  Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, and Jesse Plemons.

The Pitch: “Martin Scorsese wants to do a new gangster movie!”

Tagline: His story changed history.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

On his deathbed in 2003, Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a former bodyguard and alleged mob hitman confessed to a killing that if true would resolve a mystery that has remained unsolved for decades.  Sheeran’s confessions (of that murder and more) became the basis of I Heard You Paint Houses: The Inside Story of the Mobsters, the Teamsters & the Last Ride of Jimmy Hoffa by Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and Charles Brandt.  That book became the inspiration for The Irishman.

The Irishman re-teams Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci, then adds Pacino for good measure. De Niro plays Sheeran who accidentally meets and becomes friends with mobster, Russell Bufalino (Pesci). As the years pass Sheeran works his way into Bufalono’s inner circle because of his willingness to take care of business.  Sheeran’s choices take him down a road that leads inevitably to the loss of his family, friends and the betrayal of those he cares about.

The Irishman is getting almost universal praise.  It should. Scorsese is in top form and gets the best performances from De Niro and Pacino that we’ve seen in years.  Pesci gives his best performance ever.  Pesci deserves all of the awards he’ll receive for this role.  I was worried that Pacino would be too over the top for his role as Hoffa, but he reined it in and pulled it off.

Now to the two nits, many are picking: 1) The de-aging CGI and 2) the length of The Irishman.

I’ll admit that at first the CGI is distracting.  As the film went on it became less so.  Scorsese has said that a lot of attention was paid in the de-aging scenes to make sure the main actors (all 70+) moved age appropriately for their scenes.  (“Uh, Al, let’s do that again.  Remember when you’re getting out of the chair in this scene, you’re 45.”)  There were a couple of scenes where the faces look younger but the body movements don’t have the same snap as a younger man.  Minor distractions in my opinion, but some folks are complaining big time so your mileage may vary.

The second nit some are picking is the length of The Irishman which clocks in at 3 hours and 29 minutes making it the longest movie Scorsese has directed, and reportedly the longest mainstream film released in decades.  I thought the film moved at the right pace.  I was never bored.  I never checked my watch.  It didn’t feel like a three hour plus movie.  Again your mileage may vary.

I loved The Irishman.


The Time Harry Houdini Tricked Theodore Roosevelt

Ellen Gutoskey posted the true story of The Time Harry Houdini Tricked Theodore Roosevelt.  If you check out Gutoskey’s article, you’ll learn how Houdini laid the groundwork to lure Roosevelt into asking Houdini to perform a seance (Roosevelt thinking it was HIS idea), and how Houdini pulled off the trick.

Well done Houdini and well written Gutoskey.

The “Hell on the Border” Poster and Trailer are Here! 

The Hell on the Border poster and trailer are here!  With this cast, I wish it looked better.  Maybe it will surprise me.

This epic, action-packed Western tells the incredible true story Bass Reeves (David Gyasi), the first black marshal in the Wild West. Having escaped from slavery after the Civil War, he arrives in Arkansas seeking a job with the law. To prove himself, he must hunt down a deadly outlaw (Frank Grillo) with the help of a grizzled journeyman (Ron Pearlman). As he chases the criminal deeper into the Cherokee Nation, Reeves must not only dodge bullets, but severe discrimination in hopes of earning his star—and cement his place as a cowboy legend.

10 Reasons We Know Aaron Kosminski Was Jack the Ripper!

Shannon Quinn says, Meet Aaron Kosminski—AKA Jack The Ripper; 10 Reasons We Know It Was Him, in her post at Listverse.  Here are my choices for her three strongests arguments that Kosminski was the Ripper…

The DNA Evidence
A shawl that belonged to Jack the Ripper’s fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, was purchased by a man named Russell Edwards in 2007. He was so determined to figure out the identity of the killer, that he had the shawl tested for DNA in 2014. This genetic material was traced back to one of Aaron Kosminski’s living relatives. Edwards was also the author of a book called Naming Jack the Ripper, where he lays out his analysis of the case over decades of research.

However, there were claims that the scientist who analyzed the DNA, Jari Louhelainen, made a mistake in his analysis. Critics refused to recognize the DNA evidence until it was scrutinized in a peer-reviewed journal by other scientists who had nothing to gain from the results. In 2019, the data had, in fact, been published in The Journal of Forensic Sciences. It was confirmed that the DNA did, in fact, belong to Kosminski. However, critics still refuse to believe that accurate DNA evidence could exist on the shawl without contamination for over 100 years.[1]

He Had a Deep Hatred Towards Women
In modern studies of serial killers, one of the common threads is a deep-seated hatred towards women. This comes from a percieved notion that women are withholding sex from them after a string of female rejections throughout their life. They also may have had a terrible relationship with their mother. Jack the Ripper chose sex workers as his victims, and he removed the organs of these women. One of his victim’s faces was brutally savaged, showing that he was full of an irrational rage against this woman who he did not know.

Aaron Kosminski was 23 years old at the time of the first murder. He never married, and had very bad luck socializing with ladies. According to Meville Macnaghten, the chief constable of Scotland Yard, Kosminski was known for having a deep hatred towards women. Macnaghten wrote, “This man became insane owing to many years indulgence in solitary vices. He had a great hatred of women, especially of the prostitute class, & had strong homicidal tendencies.”[4]

Kosminski Was Put Into An Insane Asylum
In 1891, Aaron Kosminski was confined to the Colney Hatch Asylum. The 5 “canonical murders” which have been officially credited to Jack the Ripper stopped soon after. Cambridge University has copies of Aaron Kosminski’s psychiatric records from the time he spent in the facility. According to the records, he heard auditory hallucinations that told him to do things. “He declares that he is guided and his movements altogether controlled by an instinct that informs his mind.” The documents also state that Kosminski grabbed a knife and threatened to slit his sister’s throat. It was clear to everyone, even his doctors, that he hated all women.

Modern doctors have diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. Some people have tried to claim that Aaron Kosminski was not a violent person, and that he was more inclined to act out in self-harm. He also refused to eat, for fear of being poisoned. So he would pick scraps of food out of the gutter, instead. However, according to Cambridge University, the references to “self-harm” were actually talking about frequent masterbation. And while he may not have been violent towards the other men in the asylum, he still has a record of violence towards women.[8]

Kosminski is just one of several suspected of being Jack the Ripper.  It’s hard to argue with DNA evidence… but then again, Patricia Cornwell’s theory that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper also had DNA evidence!

Click over to Quinn’s post, read the rest of the evidence and let me know in the comments your thoughts!

A Newly Edited Version of Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club” is Coming!

I saw The Cotton Club on it’s initial theatrical release and at least once again several years later — both times I felt like the movie was good, but not as good as expected.  Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and featuring an all-star cast that included Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Fred Gwynnne and Nicholas Cage, The Cotton Club should have been much better than it was.

Now The Cotton Club will get another chance at greatness when The Cotton Club Encore is released.  This newly edited version will contain…

… an extended Gregory Hines & Maurice Hines tap performance, Lonette McKee’s brilliant rendition of “Stormy Weather,” the originally envisioned ending, and more…

Here’s the trailer below.  You can catch The Cotton Club Encore in limited theatrical release in October or when it comes to Blu-Ray and DVD.  One piece of trivia before the video: Did you know that Sly Stallone was originally up for the Richard Gere role, but turned it down?  He was. It’s an interesting story that I’ll save for another post.

Source: First Showing.

Where Zombies Come From – a Video History

These days zombies are the most popular of all monsters.

There was a time however when zombies were only in movies and zombie movies weren’t ever seen on tv, except for a late night showing on pay cable movie channels. Back then, NO ONE would have considered a tv show (let’s make that multiple tv shows) featuring zombies.

All of that changed with The Walking Dead.  But before The Walking Dead, there was George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  Romero forever changed the concept of zombies.

Surprisingly, zombies have only been around in popular culture for less than 100 years.  Check out the video below and you’ll see how they entered popular culture, how Romero accidentally changed the concept of zombies and more.

Do No Harm (A Nate Heller Thriller) by Max Allan Collins is Coming!

Max Allan Collins returns with a new Nate Heller novel, Do No Harm, in March!

Heller is Collins’ fictional detective who finds himself involved with famous murder cases.  Heller has been in the mix on everything from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping/murder to the suspicious death of Marilyn Monroe and so much more.  Along the way, Heller meets, fights and sometimes gets involved with famous and infamous celebrities.  As the years go by Heller ages, creating a unique reading experience.  Here’s an impressive timeline of Heller’s life and cases thus far.

Ah, but I digress; back to Do No Harm.  Here’s the synopsis…

Do No Harm is the latest mystery in the Nathan Heller series by New York Times bestselling author Max Allan Collins.

It’s 1954 and Heller takes on the Sam Sheppard case―a young doctor is startled from sleep and discovers his wife brutally murdered. He claims that a mysterious intruder killed his wife. But all the evidence points to a disturbed husband who has grown tired of married life and yearned to be free at all costs. Sheppard is swiftly convicted and sent to rot in prison.

Just how firm was the evidence…and was it tampered with to fit a convenient narrative to settle scores and push political agendas? Nathan’s old friend Elliot Ness calls in a favor and as Nathan digs into the case he becomes convinced of Sheppard’s innocence. But Nate can’t prove it and has to let the case drop.

The road to justice is sometimes a long one. Heller’s given another chance years later and this time he’s determined to free the man…even if it brings his own death a bit closer.

Each new Nate Heller is like a visit with an old friend who takes me behind the scenes on real life murder mysteries.  At the end of each Heller tale, Collins provides a detailed bibliography and explains where his novel deviated from the facts (if at all).  I can’t wait for our next visit.

The “D-Day” Trailer is Here!

The D-Day trailer is here!

Some people called it a suicide, but for the Rangers of the 2nd Battalion, that’s another word for #mission. When an elite group of American #soldiers are ordered to take out a series of German machine gun nests, they find themselves blindly venturing into hostile territory. Outnumbered and outgunned they must risk life and limb as they cross treacherous terrain, never knowing where the enemy might be hiding.

Area 51 Trivia

Claudia Dimuro and Mental Floss present 10 Out of This World Facts About Area 51.  Here are three of my favorites…

Given the intense nature of its secrecy, it comes as no surprise that Area 51 is heavily guarded. Pilots who purposefully fly into the restricted air zone can face court-martial, dishonorable discharge, and a stint in the can. The land is patrolled by “cammo dudes,” men wearing camouflage that have been seen driving around the area keeping an eye out for pesky civilians looking to break into the area. But truth-seekers, beware: Signs placed outside the area warn that Area 51 security is authorized to use deadly force on anyone looking to sneak onto the property.

Some former employees who were once sworn to secrecy about what happened at Area 51 are now free to share their stories. One Area 51 veteran, James Noce, recalled handling various mishaps that were accidentally exposed to the public eye—for example, the crash of a secret aircraft that was witnessed by a police officer and a vacationing family. The family had taken photos; Noce confiscated the film from their camera and told the family and the deputy not to mention the crash to anyone.

Noce recounted how there was no official documentation stating he worked at Area 51, and that his salary was paid in cash. He also confirmed that he never saw any alien activity at the site.

Although it was chosen as a site to test aircraft in 1955, the government did not acknowledge that Area 51 even existed until 2013. According to CNN, maps and other documents created by the CIA were released thanks to Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow at the National Security Archives, who was granted access to the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Unfortunately, the papers made no mention of little green men running around the facility.