Archive for the ‘Interesting History’ Category

The earliest guess for the beginnings of the catacombs in the Ukraine is about the 1600’s. It could be earlier than that but it’s hard to date back as they were also widened later on. They became the giant labyrinth of today when in the early 1800’s the limestone was used from them to build much of the city.

The myriad of tunnels led to it being popular for hideouts, rebels and criminals could use them and during WWII they Soviets were forced out, but were able to leave Soviet-organised Ukranian’s hidden down there. They were able to listen in to the Nazi forces above and set up a situation where they managed to blow up German facilities. It wasn’t all good news as malaria and malnutrition affected those men and women.

The Facist German and Romanians chose random exits, sealing them off and and dropping poisonous gasses down them. When the war was over the criminals claimed the tunnels and created new ones of their own. In 1961 a group was formed, they wanted to map and document the geography and history of the place.

It is common for groups of explorers to go into the area, occasionally people do go missing and if they are in the area the explorers will rally to help. A number of children have been rescued this way but sadly it hasn’t always turned out positive. Old weapon caches and grenades are sometimes found, every five years or so a body is found and on rare occasions they have been naturally mummified there too. Many are old bodies but sometimes more recent accidents have turned up a corpse as well.

A sad example of this occurred 15th January 2005, the local teens were partying in the tunnels. A girl called Masha was separated and lost during the drunken celebrations. For 3 days she walked around in the pitch black and freezing conditions, where she then expired due to dehydration. It was two years later the police located her body and could retrieve it.

There is an official area that can be visited and perhaps given the warnings of lost people and random body finds, I’d recommend going there before being too bold.

Odessa kat 01.jpg
By Полищук Денис Анатольевич – Own work, CC BY 2.5, Link

 

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It’s a famous media broadcast now, it’s also a very gripping thing to listen to as well. The original book is a work by H G Wells that started life as a serialisation by the English author.

The Martians have been plotting an invasion to Earth that’s to their own diminishing resources. In the book the events of the invasion are set in motion in Woking, Surrey but Orson Welles transfers them to America. Wells no doubt picked his location as it was local and he knew how to describe things with familiarity and if you pop over to Woking at any point you can locate a 23 feet high sculpture of a tripod fighting machine, ‘The Martian’ near the local railway station.

I’m not going into the plot, the reviews or such like but it is worthy of note because of films and of course the above-mentioned broadcast. That’s the bit I am going to look at it here for now.

George Orson Welles, 6th May 1915 to 10th October 1985 was involved in the business of entertainment and is famous for the film Citizen Kane, 1941 amongst other things but this is a blog for weird and interesting things, and I’ve picked out the 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds which, supposedly, sent thousands of American people into a mass panic about the alien invasions in their home states…

CBS radio invited Orson Welles to create a summer show that would last 13 weeks, the series began 11th July 1938 and the adaptation for H G Wells book aired 30th October 1938. It brought Orson Welles instant fame, the broadcast itself really is worth a listen to and you can sit back and appreciate it yourself if you wish.

There was supposedly a mass panic from people convinced of its validity, that aliens truly landed and it’s this bit I am looking at, were people really panicking so much that they would run from their homes in masses?

1.7 million listened to the broadcast and polls calculated that 1.2 million ‘were excited’ and mostly the reports seem to have been anecdotal. Cantril interviewed 135 people who cited some colourful claims about grabbing guns or packing up in a panic. It would hardly have been unusual for a busy area to have fast moving traffic and other rambunctious behaviours at the time so this was not entirely unexpected. Grovers Mill, New Jersey was not blasted by alien lasers or any such thing but the media took the story of the panic and without looking at data it might even be assumed claims of heart attacks and suicides were another effect but again, there was not noticeable shows in the data to support this. Miller countered Cantril’s claims and just did not seem to match up to the 1 million plus listeners.

American Telephone Company figures suggested a 40% rise in calls, again however, they did not lead to anything specific and it was just a higher record in some parts of New Jersey.

He also mentions that there is a notable other broadcast with the results of frightening some listeners, 31st October 1974 at Rhode Island, and one in Northern Portugal 1988 but they were not reported to on the same level. The same sort of thing appears in a 2010 publication by W Joseph Campbell and Slate.com, they in turn also look at media myths or fake news and include the press reports of the panic-stricken US citizens.

31st October, 1938 Daily News of New York’s front page encapsulates the news with the title “FAKE RADIO ‘WAR’ STIRS TERROR THROUGH U.S’. The New York Times gave us ‘Radio Listeners in Panic, Taking War Drama as Fact.’  The Detroit News went with ‘War Skit on Radio Terrifies Nation’ and The Boston Daily Globes ran with ‘RADIO PLAY TERRIFIES NATION’.

But was all of this remotely correct or fake news? Well in short, no, CE Hopper Company did the 2% response to people listening to it because most people were listening to NBC. The poll was conducted for 5000 people, so 100 people of 5000 were listening? Frank Stanton of CBS also said they were never censored for it because most people hadn’t even heard the show.

6 weeks after the broadcast it was admitted to, the figures were largely skewed and descriptions like disturbed or excited were inflated to ‘panic’. It did get enough hype that Adolf Hitler cited the panic as ‘evidence of the decadence and corrupt condition of democracy’.

So why?

Well in short radio was being seen as a threat to newspapers, they could use a few isolated cases as a way to make it sounds like these types of shows were an example of this terrible new media being irresponsible and untrustworthy. The Telegraph (UK paper) says that a woman tried to sue CBS for $50,000 thank to nervous shock but it was dismissed and a man tried to claim for shows as he’d spent that money on a train ticket, Welles was said to have paid for those.

There was indeed action taken that night, the police came to the station and one minute from the end of the show they were trying to shut it down. It played out and as a result Paul White, the head of CBS News, was summoned over. Welles found out later and was convinced it would end his career, but it didn’t.

Some listeners had turned in part way through and this seems to be where the reports started. Again, though it was very much a case of over-exaggeration and it does also seem that the repeated broadcasts about it being fictional could have fallen to few ears, a case of a small audience from the previous show affecting it too.

Let’s also put this into context, at the time a German Invasion was a possibility, rumblings of the inevitable war were a reality and was it so hard to imagine those who were affected and lured in part way through might have thought it was something to do with that?

Hadley Cantril calculated a 6 million strong audience, but it was then 1.7 million later on and yet this calculation seems flawed. He had doubled the usual audience and had tried to work on the idea not ever listener had a phone too. He summarised many reactions into panicked and yet quite a number had thought it was more of a prank than a reality.

No admissions for shock were made at Newark Hospital at that time, and there were no spikes in admission at New York either. Washington Post claimed a man died from a heart attack but the claim was not verified and Snopes also places this as mostly false.

So here is my summary – firstly its put Grovers Mill on the map for tourists like me who enjoy a bit of quirky history, radio hasn’t been stopped by the papers and vice-versa. I am quite sure we can safely say the average U.S citizen would have noticed laser space blasting Martians at the time and I, for one, love the broadcast. Thank you, H G Wells and Orson Welles, you gave me a great piece of history to look back on (and no I don’t rate the latest War of the Worlds film if you were wondering.)

Refs:

Robert E Bartholomew, Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns and Head-Hunting Panics

Snopes

Wikipedia

Telegraph.co.uk

Google Books

Project Gutenburg

Slate.com

A minor island of Naples, Italy, that sits in a protected region of the Gaiola Underwater Park, the island consists of two islets with one that has a solitary villa and the other is uninhabited. There is a small narrow bridge connecting the two.

It was originally known as Euplea and had a small temple to Venus on it. There do seem to be other ruins and under the water beneath there are more that are now the homes for various marine creatures. Some people believe that the poet Virgil taught at the ruins too. In the 19th Century a hermit, known as the Wizard, resided there and soon after there came the construction of the villa. It was at one point owned by an author, Norman Douglas. It is a serene place and a getaway island for someone but is currently abandoned and here are some tales about it.

In the 1920’s a Swiss named Hans Braun owned the island, he was found murdered and wrapped up in a rug. Not long after his wife drowned in the sea. The next owner was German Otto Grunback, he died of a heart attack on the island, (really not unusual for someone to go that way). Another owner, German, Baron Karl Paul Langheim then dragged himself into economic ruin by his ‘wild living’ and another owner was the head of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli. His only son committed suicide.

The last in a series of owners who had tragedy in their midst was Gianpasquale Grappore, he was placed in jail when his insurance company failed. The rumours are that the island is cursed. It could just be that it is a series of high profile people who’s lives have had a lot of media attention bringing fuel to the tales. What do you think?

Isoletta della Gaiola (Napoli) 02.jpg
By Gianfranco Vitolo – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gianfrancovitolo/38093974021/, CC BY 2.0, Link

 

The title related to a local Pittsburgh legend, a man called Charlie-No-Face. The story is that he was the employee of a power company and a downed power line disfigured him to the point that he would hide in an abandoned house. The story elaborates that he has a hole in his cheek and green skin. This ghostly tale of his sightings actually had a more natural and somewhat sadder explanation.

Raymond Robinson was born 29th October 1910, he died 11th June 1985. When Ray was 8 years old he was injured by an electrical line, on the Morado Bridge, when he tried to view a birds nest. The bridge carried a trolley and the electrical lines were 1,200 and 22,000 volts worth. The lines had killed another boy less than a year before.

The poor child was not expected to survive but he did, he suffered terrible scarring, lost his eyes, nose and one ear and one of his arms. He lived with his family in Koppel and made doormats, belts and wallets. His appearance meant that he would rarely venture outside during the day but he did go for walks along the quiet stretch of State Route 51, using a walking stick.

Locals would regularly gather up and search for him along the road, he would quite often hide from them but on occasion he would engage in conversation. Some of these people were inevitably cruel but that didn’t stop him from taking his walks. He had been struck by cars on more than one occasion and yet only stopped his walks in the later years of his life. He retired to the Beaver Country Geriatric Centre, at aged 74 years-old.

Raymond_Robinson_(Green_Man)

Pic courtesty of Wikipedia – creative commons.

It is a cemetery in the Gorbal’s district, Glasgow, Scotland and was opened in 1840 to provide more affordable burials; there are over 250,000 burials there on various layers of the place. The Old Gorbals cemetery was vastly overcrowded, this is not unusual for the time period, London and many major cities around the UK were opening more graveyards to compensate for the lack of space in those already established.

The proposals for a new cemetery started in 1839 and the following year the land was purchased and the first burial commenced. The first soul laid to rest there was 16-month old and occurred 21st July 1840. The three sections opened as follows: Central in 1840, Eastern in 1846 and Western in 1850. In 1954 the cemetery suffered from a large group of children who were committed to hunting down a vampire that they believed was buried in the cemetery. The incident sparked it’s own urban legend, a vampire had killed two children. The influence for this was blamed on American horror comics like Tales from the Crypt, despite no evidence for the reason being the comics the moral outrage led to an increased comic censorship.

23rd September 1954 PC Alex Deeprose was called out and expected to deal with a case of vandalism, instead he was met with hundreds of children from around 4 years old up to 14. They were armed with sticks and knives and were patrolling around inside the cemetery. They told the constable that they were looking for a 7 foot tall vampire, with iron teeth and had that he had kidnapped and eaten two local boys.

The rumours started in the playground, and there was a Chinese whisper emerging that they were going to head out there after school. At three o’clock that day the school emptied and children headed to the graveyard, gathering around the walls. Some were too scared to go in and stayed outside. There were no records of missing children at the time and the only blame they could come up with – comics.

Newspapers at the time took the tale and ran with it, the children turned up a second evening running and the headmaster of a local school had told them it was a ridiculous tale and eventually had the crowd dispersed.

Some of the other people in the area pointed out that they had got little reason to blame comics, after all the children were taught the bible. Daniel 7.7 specifically mentions a monster with iron teeth in it. The political frenzy however meant blaming comics was far more convenient. A local man explained that they would threaten the local children with the Iron Man before then, it was meant to be a sort of bogeyman affair but the political agenda against the comics made a better fit for the reason.

The cemetery is now operated by Glasgow City Council and is protected as a listed Category B building with the entrance listed as Category A. The cemetery also has 11 Commonwealth burials.

Glasgow. Southern Necropolis. Thomas Lipton's grave