Category: History

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.

Source: Geek Tyrant.

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.

Behind the Scenes and On the Rails with Buster Keaton!

Today we have a couple of rare videos that are interrelated.  The first is The Railrodder starring Buster Keaton.

This short film from director Gerald Potterton (Heavy Metal) stars Buster Keaton in one of the last films of his long career. As “the railrodder”, Keaton crosses Canada from east to west on a railway track speeder. True to Keaton’s genre, the film is full of sight gags as our protagonist putt-putts his way to British Columbia. Not a word is spoken throughout, and Keaton is as spry and ingenious at fetching laughs as he was in the old days of the silent slapsticks.

The video below, Buster Keaton Rides Again takes us behind the scenes as Keaton makes The Railrodder. We get not only a behind-the-scenes look but also some great Keaton anecdotes and excerpts from his silent slapstick classics.

Source: First Showing.

“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” / Z-View

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Timothy Olyphant, Julia Butters, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Mike Moh, Luke Perry and Al Pacino.

The Pitch: “Quentin Tarantino’s 9th Film!”

Tagline: The 9th Film from Quentin Tarantino.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is an interesting film that isn’t easily summarized because it doesn’t follow the traditional three act format of most films.  Instead Tarantino focuses on three main characters, fading movie/tv star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), his best friend and stunt double, Cliff Booth (Pitt) and Dalton’s next door neighbor and rising star, Sharon Tate (Robbie).  Dalton and Booth are fictional characters interacting with fictionalized versions of real Hollywood celebrities of the era.  And since this is a fairy tale (Once Upon a Time), liberties are taken.

Dalton is a mash-up of Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood with a bit of Steve McQueen thrown in.  A former tv star of a popular western bounty hunter series from a decade earlier, Dalton now makes his living guest starring as the bad guy on other folks’ tv shows.  He knows his star is fading and worries that his career is over.

Booth is Dalton’s best friend and stunt double.  He’s a mash-up of stuntman Hal Needham and Robert Wagner (due to the rumors that he killed his wife on a boat).

Robbie is Sharon Tate, the beautiful young starlet who was just gaining fame when she (along with several of her friends) were brutally murdered by members of the Manson family.

As we follow Dalton & Booth and Robbie, we know that they’re on a trajectory that in the real world leads to brutal murders.  The journey Tarantino takes us on is a fun one.  The world looks, feels and sounds like 1969.  The real joy of the movie is the journey but be advised there are moments of suspense and shocking brutality.  As expected, the movie doesn’t have the expected real-world outcome. (How’s that for an oxymoron?)

DiCaprio is excellent in his role as Rick Dalton displaying perhaps his best acting ever which is ironic considering he’s an actor worrying about his career.  Pitt is perfect in his role as the best bud, cool sidekick. Margaret Qualley and  Julia Butters were especially good in the roles.  And it’s always cool to see Kurt Russell and Timothy Olyphant.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a movie that I think I’m going to grow to like more and more as time goes on.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I left the theater yesterday.  I really liked it.  Below the trailer and my rating I’m going to speak about a couple of scenes that give away major plot points.  Don’t read on if you don’t like major spoilers.


The first scene that I want to discuss is the fight between Bruce Lee and Cliff Booth.  In the scene Lee comes off as arrogant and Booth appears to be beating or at the very least holding his own against Lee.  Bruce Lee’s daughter has taken offense at the scene saying it puts her dad in a bad light.  Initially I one hundred percent agreed with her.  Thinking more about the scene I realize that Tarantino set the scene up so we’re seeing it by how Booth remembers it.  From Booth’s viewpoint Lee was arrogant and even in this remembered version Booth isn’t beating Lee.  From this perspective I don’t have a problem with the scene.

The scenes where Dalton screws up his lines in a scene, goes to his trailer and has a meltdown and then goes up for the next scene and nails it, is some of DiCaprio’s best acting.  The payoff is set up in an earlier scene with Julia Butters and it’s a great one.

The most suspenseful scenes occur when Booth goes to the Spahn ranch, then decides to check on old man Spahn and later when Dalton unknowingly confronts members of the Manson family who are ready to kill.  Both of these scenes had me fearing that Booth and Dalton were about to die.  

I thought that when the Manson followers go in to kill Booth and Dalton’s wife it was excessively brutal and over the top.  Looking back, that’s exactly what the Manson murders were — excessively brutal and over the top.

I liked the final scene where Dalton is invited in to meet Sharon Tate.  Following the trajectory of the real-life characters I believe that Dalton will go on to become a major movie star and Booth will get a shot directing action movies.

I felt certain going in to the movie that Dalton and Booth would somehow save Sharon Tate and her friends from being murdered.  I was surprised when the Manson family members ended up going into Dalton’s house.  As the movie progressed I thought maybe Bruce Lee would be at Sharon’s house and he and Booth would have additional words.  Dalton would attempt to calm them down when the killers show up.  Lee and Booth would save the day and of course Dalton would also get credit and that would get him back  into the star light.  Kudos to Tarantino for surprising me (and the audience).

I look forward to future viewings of Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.