Rosalia Lombardo, the Sleeping Beauty of the Capuchin Catacombs…

by Frank E. Bittinger

 Rosaria 1

There are so many interesting true stories out in the world, stories which fascinate me to no end. One such story concerns Rosalia Lombardo, the Sleeping Beauty of the Capuchin Catacombs.

Born 13 December 1813, little Rosalia died from pneumonia on 6 December 1920. She was one of the last to be entombed in the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo in Sicily. Yes, those famous catacombs.

What makes Rosalia’s story so infamous is not her life or her death but what happened after she died. Technically, what didn’t happen after she died. You see, little Rosalia’s body was embalmed in such a way, using a formula and technique that was thought lost until only recently, that it didn’t decay. So good was the embalming that x-rays of her body have shown intact organs still inside.

The photo below is very nearly the same image I first saw of Rosalia when I read about her for the first time quite a number of years ago and it has stuck with me. It hasn’t haunted me, at least not in a bad way.

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The nickname the Sleeping Beauty comes from the very same reason for which Rosalia is famous: for almost a century, little Rosalia looked as if she was a sleeping child instead of an embalmed corpse.

Such was the love her father had for her that he sought out the best embalmer of the time. Yes, the formula and technique used by Alfredo Salafia, a famous embalmer of of his time, preserved Rosalia in such a manner that the first signs of decomposition, mainly a discoloration, did not begin to show until about 2009.

Steps have been taken to help keep Rosalia out of the grips of decomposition. Originally, she reposed in her glass-topped coffin in a small chapel at the end of the catacombs. Now, she and her coffin have been moved and placed in an hermetically sealed glass enclosure filled with nitrogen gas to stave off decay.

I’ve always found myself fascinated with this story. The scientific aspect of the near-perfect embalming technique/formula aside, wouldn’t it be nice to imagine the love her father had for her kept her in such life-like condition for nearly a century?

The Sleeping Beauty is beautifully creepy.

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The Dollhouse of Nadine Earles

by Frank E. Bittinger

I remember being entranced many years ago by an article I was reading about a dollhouse built by a loving father for his little girl. In fact, the article had such a profound effect on me I cut it out and kept it pressed between the pages of a big, thick book for safe-keeping, taking it out to reread every so often. The article remained pressed between the pages of that book for nigh unto twenty years.

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Image of Nadine Dollhouse grave, Lanett, Alabama via Flikr

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After I’d bought my home in my late twenties, I eventually got around to doing what I’d always wanted to do–frame the article to hang in my office/library in my house. The picture hung on the wall from then up until 28 May 2008 when an arson fire destroyed my home along with my possessions.

Miraculously, after all the debris had been cleared away and contractors had worked on the house enough for me to move back home, I started finding some things around the house I knew had been destroyed in fire, finding them in places such as in the new upper cabinets in the kitchen, under the cushions on the new sofa, in the new bathroom medicine cabinet. I still to this day believe the ghosts tried to save things they knew held great sentimental value to me and brought them back to me, but that’s a whole different story for another day.

One of the items that made its way back to me was the framed article about little Nadine Earles and her dollhouse that had hung on the wall of a room that had been completely gutted by fire. The frame and glass were somehow intact. The article itself had a few water stains on it and it’s yellowed, but other than that it was in perfect condition. This is the framed article. It is doubly valuable to me because it is something from my childhood and because it somehow managed to find its way back to me after the fire.

Like Rosalia Lombardo, I also wrote a little bit about Nadine Earles in my book Angels of the Mourning Light.

The place is Lanett, Alabama. The year is 1933. Four year-old Nadine Earles has been hinting she wants a dollhouse for Christmas. In November, she was diagnosed with diphtheria. Her parents, Julian Comer Earles and Alma Earles, hoping to make her feel better, gave her early Christmas gifts of a doll and a tea set. But what Nadine really wanted was her dollhouse, which, unbeknownst to her, her father had already begun to build on the property.

Her father told her she would have to wait until Christmas, to which Nadine replied, in the true fashion of an expectant child, “Me want it now.”

Unfortunately, little Nadine would never get to play in her dollhouse. Weakened from the respiratory tract infection, she contracted pneumonia and died the week before Christmas, on 18 December.

Nadine Earles was laid to rest on Christmas Eve 1933.

Her favorite wanted to fulfill his promise to his little girl. He had the partially-built dollhouse moved to the cemetery. By the Spring of 1934 little Nadine finally had her dollhouse. Nadine’s dollhouse was built over her grave so she would always have it. And each year on birthdays and holidays her parents would place gifts they’d bought for their daughter inside the dollhouse. They even held Nadine’s fifth birthday there, celebrating with cake and ice cream.
Inscribed on the headstone inside:
“Our Darling Little Girl, Sweetest In The World
April 3rd, 1929 – December 18th, 1933
Little Nadine Earles
In Heaven We Hope To Meet”

Along with Nadine’s demand:

“Me want it now”

Visitors can still visit the cemetery and see it for themselves. Over the years different people and organizations have taken it upon themselves to see to the upkeep on Nadine’s dollhouse, cleaning, painting, fixing, and even decorating for holidays and occasions. Visitors come by, some stop to talk to Nadine, others leave notes and cards in the dollhouse’s mailbox.

Her mother and father are now buried in the little yard that surrounds the dollhouse, not far at all from their beloved little girl. Instead of a macabre tale, it’s a demonstration of the profound love a parent possesses for their child.

I have always wanted to visit Rosalia Lombardo in Palermo, Sicily, and Nadine Earles in Lanett, Alabama. Perhaps one day I will have the opportunity to do just that.

 

A Window Cleaner’s Curse

by Michael Keyton

mike's blog

I had a window cleaner once. A real window cleaner who carried his own ladder and bucket, and climbed said ladder at what ever the angle or height of the house. He also whistled so you could choose not to be in or draw the curtains hurriedly depending on circumstances. In every sense, this man was a paragon, and more – a bibliophile.

One summer’s day, as I was pruning roses, he accosted me like an ancient mariner in search of an albatross:

“Tell me your favourite book of all time.”

“I don’t have a favourite book of all time.”

“Well then, tell me one you’d recommend to me – one I would like to read.”

“It depends on what kind of books you enjoy.” I was floundering, and still holding the bucket of fresh water he’d initially requested. He ignored my outstretched arm, the water dripping strategically over his shoes.

“Complex fantasy with a Victorian feel,” he said.

This was no ordinary window cleaner – but my answer was swift. “Gormenghast,” I said, “by Mervyn Peake.” He made me spell it, but didn’t write

it down. He took the bucket from me and placed it on the floor.

“Now I’ll recommend a book to you.” His finger touched me on the chest with conviction and zeal. He could have been saving my soul.

I smiled, caught in a book-trap I hadn’t seen coming.

“You must read Barnaby Rudge.” His eyes burned into mine. “You must read Barnaby Rudge.”

“Dickens, eh,” I said, as one bibliophile to another. “So, what’s so good about Barnaby Rudge?”

“Ah, and there you have it, sir, there you have it.”

This alarmed me. The man spoke Dickensian and without a Newport accent.

“It’s a wonderfully baggy novel, cavernous and windblown with all manner of characters, all manner of characters.”

I raised an eyebrow, wondering when my windows were going to get done.

“Listen to this, sir, hark to what he says about the Secretary Gashford:

This gentleman had an overhanging brow, great hands and feet and ears, and a pair eyes that seemed to have made an unnatural retreat into his head and to have dug themselves a cave to hide in. Ain’t that good, sir. Tell me it’s good.”

“It’s very good, sir, capital in fact.” I was beginning to speak like him.

“Or this…”

“No. The windows. I get it. Barnaby Rudge.”

There were noises coming from the other side of the garden fence.  I thought I heard giggling.

I’ll end on this, sir – just so you know this is a book you must read. He’s talking about Mrs Miggs:

With an expression of face in which a great number of opposite ingredients such as mischief, cunning, malice, triumph and patient expectation, were all mixed up together in a kind of physiognomical punch…

“Physiognomical punch, isn’t that wonderful? Can you see it… Physiognomical punch.”

I told him I could, and that I would read the book, and that the water was cold; would he like more?

The strange thing is that I did read Barnaby Rudge and lost myself in its vast, sprawling, chaotic and evocative world. The bugger was right. But I’ll leave it there in case any of you fears the ancient mariner’s curse is infectious, and the window cleaner will one day knock on your door.

Sometimes I wonder whether he ever did read Gormenghast and what he thought of Prunesquallor and Nanny Slagg:

Do you like babies my dear Mrs Slagg?’ asked the doctor, shifting the poor woman on to his other acutely bended knee-joint and stretching out his former leg as though to ease it.  ‘Are you fond of the little creatures, taken by and large?’

‘Babies?’ said Mrs Slagg in the most animated tone that she had so far used.  ‘I could eat the little darlings, sir, I could eat them up!’

I never found out. I asked him on his next visit and he just tapped his nose and winked, like window cleaners do. And then soon after that we moved from Newport to Monmouth and never saw him again. I still live in hope that one day he might accost another householder with the same artfully designed trap, but this time proclaiming the merits of Gormenghast and Titus Groan.

Reading Habits

by C.M. Saunders

 

Like a good little writer, I read a lot. You might say obsessively. All things considered, I guess I read between 2-4 hours a day. I read widely, across a lot of platforms and topics, but mostly in the sport, lifestyle, travel and paranormal areas. These are the areas I usually work in, so being knowledgeable helps me follow trends and keep my finger on the pulse.

Newspapers

Yeah, I know they are going out of style, but I’m keeping the dream alive. For me, The Times is the best newspaper out there. I don’t agree with all their politics. In fact, I usually skip those sections. But they have excellent writers and the articles are usually not only newsworthy but informative and often a bit quirky. There’s something quintessentially British about The Times, and I love how it treads the line between broadsheet and tabloid. My ‘happy place’ is a quiet pub on a rainy afternoon, with a pint of craft ale and a copy of The Times.

If I can’t get a copy of The Times, the Guardian will do, or the Observer on a Sunday. I never get The Sunday times because it’s like a metre-squared fucking Argos catalogue. My tabloid of choice is The Sun. It gets a lot of bad press (ho ho!) but it serves a purpose and the sports pages are outstanding. Wales on Sunday and the Western Mail are my regional newspapers when I’m in Wales but I rarely buy them these days. The quality of local journalism has nosedived. It’s largely due to less people reading newspapers and consequently their resources taking a hit, but you could argue that one reason less people are reading newspapers is because the quality of the product isn’t what it used to be. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. My most hated newspapers would be the Metro, because it reads like it was written by a bunch of 6-year old’s, and the Daily Mail, because that’s why.

Magazines

Ten years ago, there were eight or more different magazines I bought religiously every week or month, depending on their frequency. Sadly, most of them are gone now. Of the few that remain, the only one I subscribe to (and I have done for twenty years or so) is Fortean Times. I like the crazy. I also buy Classic Rock almost every month, and either GQ or Esquire. Both are slightly pretentious, but they are the closest thing remaining to FHM and Loaded, and they make decent toilet reading. I also like going to large newsagents and impulse buying whatever catches my eye. I grab Kerrang! Empire, Fighters Only and Mojo semi-regularly, along with the occasional travel title or hobbyist writing magazine. One day I woke up hungover, fully-clothed in my bed, covered in about £35 worth of mags. What a glorious day that was. When in London, I make sure I pick up whichever free mag is being distributed that day, Sport and Shortlist being pick of the bunch, with Escapism and Red Bulletin third and fourth.

Websites

I spend a lot of time surfing the net, but there aren’t many websites I use on a regular basis apart from Facebook and WordPress. Does Wiki count? How about Bet 365? Otherwise, MMA Fighting, Louder Than War a and BBC News are probably my most visited. I habitually used Wales Online a lot until recently. But this outlet is suffering in much the same way as the print products Media Wales oversees is. In an effort to maximise profits, the quality of reporting has declined to laughable levels and the site is literally clogged up with advertising. It often takes several minutes to load, and when it finally does you are inundated with pop-ups. Sometimes you have to participate in a survey before you can even read the article you clicked on. I understand they have to (try and) make a profit, but that’s just intrusive. Life’s too short.

Books

I try to read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. I love sports autobiographies, travelogues, and rock memoirs, along with a healthy dose of true crime and the occasional tale of survival-against-the-odds.

The fiction I read is almost exclusively in the horror genre (as broad as that is). If there are no ghosts or zombies, or at least a demented serial killer on the rampage, I get real bored real fast. I’ve never been the kind of person to read one book at a time, but only when I wrote this post did I realize how bad things have got. I really should show some more composure, but there are just so many books and so little time. At the moment, I have no less than seven on the go. For the interested, these are:

Physical copies:

Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen

Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, Neil Strauss

PDF’s on the PC:

DOA 3, various authors

Wild Talents, Charles Fort

And on the Kindle:

Sinister Scribblings, Matt Hickman

Unit 731, Craig Saunders

Battlefield, Amy Cross

 

 

 

 

The Swearing Corner: Dicks

by Steve Wetherell

 

When Stephen Colbert suggested that Trump’s mouth was only useful as a holster for Vladimir Putin’s dick, there was a backlash suggesting this comment was homophobic. I am here to argue that it wasn’t.

For a start, I have a feeling this accusation is disingenuous. There’s a culture war going on right now that exist whether you acknowledge it or not, and this backlash whiffs of “Oh the left think they’re so progressive, but here they are making gay jokes!” Sadly, though, political correctness is at present such hot territory that a lot of leftists (most of them likely straight) are considering that perhaps there’s some truth to it. This is because, in this culture war, either side is united by the theory that tactics are irrelevant and targets are all that matter.

So, is telling someone to go eat a big hot dick homophobic? I’m going to say no.

To put it in context, there once was an Irish king who, when subjects swore fealty to him, would demand they suck his nipples. Now, this wasn’t because the King happened to be in a loving consensual relationship with his subjects, it was about power. He was subjugating them. When Colbert says Trump sucks Putin’s dick he isn’t implying they are two men engaging in a  completely normal sex act for their mutual pleasure, he is implying that Trump is willingly subjugating himself to Putin in a graphic and obvious way.

There’s a similar backstory to fag. In English private school history there was a tradition of older boys forcing younger boys to be their dogs bodies. This was called fagging for someone, or being their fag. No sex involved (although, being an English private school, there was bound to be at least some sodomy). It’s all about power.

Now, this theory doesn’t give carte blanche to start dishing out the gay insults, of course. There’s a distinctive difference between demanding someone choke on a dick salad, and merely showing disgust in the fact they like sucking cock. Statistically, a great deal of people must at least be tolerable of sucking cock, or agree with the act on principle, so merely saying “I bet you like sucking dick!” is a lot different from saying “I’m not surprised all you can talk is bollocks considering so and so’s dick is so far down your throat.”

It’s all about context.

But what about the casual “Eat a dick dumb shit!”? It would seem to suggest that the act of dick sucking is indeed bad, so let me try and grasp it another way (as the nun said to the vicar.) Like so much in life, it’s all about give and take, and there’s something emasculating about taking it. The process of emasculation comes with its own baggage (“Oh, so being anything other than a man is BAD somehow?”) but for the sake of practicality, I’ll focus on what is actually being said, rather than the uncharitable ocean of implication. Emasculation is a big part of social leveling in men- you can’t have someone getting too big for their boots, or taking themselves too seriously. Every bully and thug is a guy who was too big and tough to be mocked, who let all that raw testosterone go unchecked, so the process of “busting someone’s balls” is, metaphorically, exactly that. It’s a process of humiliation, and going down on someone else, whether you are gay or straight, is an act of humility and subservience. So, that’s the mechanics sorted, but down to the nitty gritty. Is it homophobic? Nah. Conversely, if I tell another guy to suck my dick, it’s not about being gay, it’s not even about sex. It’s just a gorilla thumping its chest. It’s about power.

However, you don’t get to choose who takes offence, so do I force a future where telling someone to go and eat a dick is a progressive no no? Yeah, it’s possible. So what I intend to do is what I do in most situations- destroy any serious implication with ridiculous hyperbole. With this in mind, here’s a few examples that can’t possibly be interpreted as homophobic by anyone who actually understands what a gay is. Enjoy!

“Drown in a tsunami of dicks.”

“I hope you are slapped a million times in a hurricane of dicks.”

“I hope that when you die the ghosts of every dick you thought about sucking but didn’t because you’re a fucking coward is waiting for you with your mom.”

“Dine out on a dick salad. An over priced, low-calorie dick salad.”

“I hope they throw you out of the all you can eat dick buffet before you’re even full.”

The Hermione Factor: Why I’m Bored of Strong Female Characters

by Steve Wetherell

I stopped looking for myself in Hollywood movies a long time ago. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I entertained the leading man fantasy. I recall as a boy watching Young Guns and trying to jut out my jaw like Emilio Estevez, hoping that with enough stretching my ball-like face might become a little narrower. I trained myself as a teen to raise a single eyebrow like Bruce Campbell, as though the rest of my body might get its act together and follow suit.

It didn’t, of course. There is no Hollywood representation of me, because even Paul Blart had a full head of hair.

But it’s undeniable there’s no shortage of straight white men on screen, in far more variations than their non-straight, non-white and (least forgivably perhaps, seeing as they’re half the world,) non-male counterparts. This is not to say that men aren’t dumbed down into boxes by Hollywood. Of course. That is what Hollywood does. But there are far less boxes for women, it seems. Maybe only three, in fact. Love interest, Mother and Unflappable Bad Ass who Knows Everything and is Always Right Bar A Few Instances of Watery Eyed Vulnerability. Otherwise known as The Strong Female Character.

These three boxes, to me, are each exactly as boring and predictable as the other. The Strong Female Character is a damned yawn fest and I’m sick of it. I have been for a long time, and I’ll set the scene for when I first noticed;

Years ago I was working on a self-financed short film and talking to my assistant producer about casting. I needed a guy to play the lead; a soldier in a post-apocalyptic zombie infested wasteland. I can’t remember why I wrote the soldier as a guy, I just did. I get the impression it was a mixture of pragmatism (I knew more guys than girls who might be interested in running around in a field for no pay while I shouted at them,) and unconscious wish fulfilment (like many young men, I secretly believed that I could only truly be happy when everyone else was dead.)

Anyway, as it turned out, my assistant producer didn’t know any men, but did know an interested woman. “Why don’t we turn the stereotype on its head?” she suggested. I agreed. But the phrase bothered me.

At this point, wasn’t a badass, undead-fighting woman already the stereotype? Had she not heard of Buffy? Underworld? Resident Evil? Countless B-movies where slight blonde women used the power of kung-fu to beat down men and monsters twice their size? Had she, by all that’s holy, forgotten about Xena?

Anyway, as the years went by the ‘turned on its head’ stereotype became the plain old mainstream stereotype. Was I surprised when watching Shrek that Princess Fiona, for no real reason, had an entire scene dedicated to her exceptional kung-fu skills, which are then never mentioned again? Nah. That’s just girl power. Just another trope, a shortcut to remind you that, while she may not be the leading man, she can kick his ass anytime she wants. She just doesn’t feel like it at the moment.

Flash forward to present day and I’m watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2. There’s an opening scene where the Guardians are all getting their asses handed to them by a giant space beast. Well, almost all of them. While every male Guardian takes his lumps, Gamora, the Unflappable Bad Ass who Knows Everything and is Always Right Bar A Few Instances of Watery Eyed Vulnerability, never has a shot landed on her.

Why not? Why can’t she be part of the fun? Peter Quill, the leading man, endures all kinds of physical and emotional humiliation, and we love him for it. Gamora’s entire emotional journey apexes with her admitting she might have emotions. Do I have a problem with that? No, not really. Differing characters make for a fun movie, and GoTG2 is all about very different personalities finding a sense of family with one another.

But here’s the thing- more and more people are starting to realise “Hey, wait, if Gamora is stronger, smarter, more capable and more mature than Peter Quill, why isn’t she the leading character?”

It’s a fair point, and to answer it I’d like to introduce you to a trope I call The Hermione Factor.

Harry Potter is a story about a young orphan boy destined to be the saviour of the wizarding world. He has two key allies- Ron Weasley, who is good hearted but bad everything else, and Hermione, a girl so smart her teachers force her to break the laws of physics just so she can over-achieve to her full potential. Hermione’s only weakness is that she’s so much smarter than everybody else that she finds it difficult to make friends, and this weakness is all but obliterated as soon as she grows tits. (She may have developed as a character beyond this. I’ll confess- I couldn’t force myself to read beyond Goblet of Fire. Still, if it’s true for four books, please do indulge me.)

There’s a lot of joking (and serious) memes that Hermione should have been the one to take on Voldemort, as she is vastly, vastly more capable than Harry, and so far ahead of Ron that he may as well be a sentient ginger turd. Remember, in the wizarding world, knowledge is power. Literal shooting-lightning-at-a-motherfucker power. And Hermione is more knowledgeable than everyone else. And so we have the Hermione Factor- a supporting character, almost certainly female, who is best qualified to be the hero but somehow isn’t.

Think about it- Harry Potter as a hero character is pure, balls-out wish fulfilment. Sure his parents are dead, but their love of him echoes through the ages. He’s a fish out of water, but he garners instant wealth, celebrity, sporting heroism, an enigmatic benefactor and the favouritism of the most beloved teacher. The guy’s made. But still, Hermione consistently one-ups him. And yet she’s not the hero.

Is this patriarchal injustice? Or is it bad story telling?

Neither, it’s just an over correction. Women have been denied a fair share of leading roles, so to make up for it we subconsciously make them invincible, the same way movies will make up for the lack of black leads by making the police chief/president/wisest character black. We forget to treat them like fallible human beings, so they become just another box. A positive one, sure, but boxed in none-the-less.

This, to me, becomes very boring. I don’t want an invincible character in the lead. That’s dull. I want a John McClane. Sure, he’s technically invincible (all action heroes are,) but he does a very good job of convincing you he’s not. Remember when action heroes used to sweat? Used to get beat down? Rebuffed? Remember when they used to show fear? Genuine comical fear? Indiana Jones was the ultimate macho leading man, but he spent a good portion of his screen time being a sweaty, beat-down, desperate punchline.

When’s the last time you saw a female action star do any of that? We’re so busy putting the ‘strong’ In Strong Female Character we forget to make them fun.

And that’s the ultimate flaw of the Hermione factor. For all her strengths, she’s just not that interesting a character. If we read the adventures of Hermione, it’d be a very short book about how there was a problem and how she instantly solved it because she’s never wrong. Gamora’s the least popular character in GOTG2 precisely because she is the least fun. When you’re far more sensible than everyone else, you almost always default to wet-blanket.

The danger of the Hermione factor is that it has stifled the way Hollywood writes women, and so further boxed our expectations as an audience. To site Guardians 2 again (yeah, I really enjoyed that movie) a new female character they introduced was Mantis. I was speaking on a marvel movie panel at a convention recently, and a fellow panellist could not disguise his contempt for the movie character. She wasn’t the badass she was in the comics. She was submissive. She was weak. She perpetuated negative Asian woman stereotypes. All of those things are true, from a certain perspective, but here’s the thing; she was fun. She was a funny, likeable, warm character. And you know what? She took her lumps! She was made fun of! She was physically hurt in amusing ways! Just like the guys! She was by no means a Strong Female Character, she wasn’t icy and no-nonsense, but she made me laugh more in one scene than Gamora and Nebula had over two movies. She endeared me to her in the same way that Rocket, Groot, Drax and Quill had. She was flawed, and silly, but still brave and capable and true when it counted.

As of writing, I’ve yet to see Wonder Woman. I will, I’m just waiting for my daughter to pester me about it (she hasn’t, yet. Much like me at that age, her idea of a strong character is based on how many anvils they can take to the face.) But I have to say, I’m genuinely surprised by the emotion surrounding the release of the movie. I read a lot of posts about people genuinely crying to see a woman triumphing in an action scene (I read similar about Holtzmann’s action scene in the Ghostbusters remake*.) And if the posts are anything to go by, seeing a female lead directed by a woman director is literally going to explode my head.

Am I little cynical? Yeah, probably. I am, after all, a prick, and to be fair I did watch the Ghostbuster’s remake. But I’m also a little hopeful, because maybe Wonder Woman is what I’ve been waiting for- maybe she’s not just another Strong Female Character. Maybe she’s just a great heroine.

 

(*As an aside, I recognise that the Ghostbuster’s remake was cast with character that were silly, funny and non-sexualised, yet also capable and brave. It just goes to show that good female characters aren’t in and of themselves enough to save a bad movie.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is There An Alien Buried In Aurora, Texas?

by Frank E. Bittinger

 

Do you believe? (Cue The X-Files whistling theme music now.) Do you want to believe?

In what? you might ask.

In life on other planets, of course. With scientists estimating 8.8 billion (that’s billion with a B) Earth-like habitable planets in our galaxy the Milky Way alone, Vegas would give you great odds on there being life on at least one of those planets. That’s just possible habitable planets; there are many billions more not estimated to be habitable–by our standards, at least. Who’s to say our standards for habitation are the only possible standards anyway?

Now just attempt to imagine, if there are an estimated 8.8 billion habitable planets in our galaxy alone, how many there could possibly be in the entire never ending universe. (I don’t think I can say entire in the same description as never ending.) Try this one for size: scientists can only seem to agree on an acceptable range of estimation and it is at least 100 billion to 200 billion or more galaxies in the observable universe.

That is awesome in the true definition of the word.

And why am I bringing this up?

The answer is simple: I believe there is intelligent life out there somewhere in the universe and I would like to share an incident with you that happened over a century ago in a small town, well before the infamous Roswell, NM, incident. What surprised me is it doesn’t seem as though a whole lot of people seem to know about it.

17 April 1897. Aurora, Texas. What is known as the Aurora Airship.

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This picture is of the original newspaper article that appeared following the incident in the Dallas Morning News.

As with the Kecksburg, PA, incident, there were a multitude of witnesses to what they referred to as an “airship” as it streaked across the sky early that morning. The opening of the article seems to reference the fact that this airship wasn’t a whole big surprise, stating “the airship which has been sailing across the country.”

This statement leads me to believe there had been sightings of it before the date of the crash on Judge Proctor’s farm, where the airship struck the tower of the windmill and exploded. Indeed, the author of the article, Mr. Haydon, writes of the airship’s flight trajectory and states it sailed directly over the town’s public square, basically in full view of the people, as it flew over Aurora. And not at a high altitude, either. The airship is described as flying low.

Why would this sight of an airship in the sky in 1897 startle and astound people?

This incident occurred easily over six years before the Wright brothers took their historic first controlled, sustained flight on 17 December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, so there could not have been any flying vessels cruising through the skies in 1897 because we hadn’t invented them yet. Or should I say there couldn’t have been any Earthly flying vessels cruising over Aurora, Texas, early that April morning?

Several documentaries have been made about the Aurora, Texas, airship as well as a 1986 television movie called The Aurora Encounter. The film has only the most tenuous connection with the facts as we know them concerning this incident.

There are those who claim it was debunked as a hoax, that the article was written as a joke, but the proof of that is as scarce as the evidence of a real spaceman crashing in Aurora. Mr. Haydon is long dead so we can’t ask him about his motives. And permission to excavate the grave site has been repeatedly denied. One potential explanation I’ve come across concerns an epidemic of cholera during the time period causing deaths and since these victims are buried in the cemetery, the town is loathe to stir up the soil. From my research, it seems the outbreak was spotted fever, a tick-borne infection with Rocky Mountain spotted fever being the most lethal, and not cholera. I don’t know which spotted fever caused the outbreak, but I can understand the desire to not stir up the burial ground after the outbreak victims were buried, even if it is over a century later.

So who is to say who is buried beneath the bent limb of that old tree in the Aurora Cemetery? I’d still like to visit, just because I want to do so.

After the crash of the airship, in the twisted wreckage, the townspeople claim to have discovered the diminutive body of the lone passenger, presumably the pilot. He, assuming it was a he, did not survive the crash.

The townspeople, in a display of Christian kindness, took it upon themselves to hold a funeral service for the pilot and bury him in the Aurora Cemetery, as is noted on the picture of the official plaque to the right.

Once upon a time, the child-size grave under the tree was allegedly marked by a small headstone. When people began to show too much attention or come to visit, it was apparently removed so the grave site remained unknown to outsiders. Another version says the small grave marker was stolen in the mid-1970s.

While watching several documentaries, I find it striking how the few people who remember where the headstone was located can lead researchers to the spot and GPR (Ground-Penetrating Radar) shows what appears to be a small grave in that precise location.

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Now, I’m not trying to change your beliefs. Either you believe life exists elsewhere in the universe or you don’t, and nothing I can present to you will sway you one way or the other. I simply want to make you think, and if you’re going to think it might as well be about something as interesting as this.

 

Five Thoughts with C.M. Saunders

By C.M. Saunders

1: I Have no Faith in Politicians

And neither should you. No matter what party they represent, or what country they come from, all politicians have one thing in common. They are all lying, scheming, manipulative, self-serving assholes. You think any of them really want what’s best for you? Nope. They want what’s best for them. They want the power, the prestige, and the expense accounts. Whoever they claim to represent, the first sign of trouble they’re going to bail and leave you drowning in the sea of excrement they leave behind while they launch a new career doing after-dinner speeches for £6,000 a time. And it will be your own fault for voting for the cunts.

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2: Music is Getting Progressively Worse

As I get older, I find myself experiencing some weird kind of musical regression. Another sign that modern life is rubbish. I just can’t stomach any chart music these days, apart from a bit of Taylor Swift. My music taste stalled in around 1995, and in recent years I’ve transcended even that embarrassment by discovering a penchant for 70’s and 80’s rock. Deep Purple, Bob Seger, Night Ranger, Cheap Trick, Survivor, you’ll find them all in prominent positions on my playlist. Did you know Survivor had an entire alternate career untainted by Rocky films? Me neither! Less happily, I also discovered that Jimi Jamison, the lead singer who featured on Burning Heart (Rocky IV), the Moment of Truth (Karate Kid) and, most famously, the Baywatch theme, died in 2014 as a result of methamphetamine intoxication.

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3: And While we’re on the Subject…

The recording industry has never shied away from ripping people off, ever since the sixties when labels would release albums by their most popular artists, then put out singles that weren’t on it so fans would have to buy both. But what’s with these ‘Deluxe Versions’ of albums? They have to be the ultimate rip-off. A band puts out a nice, solid 12-track album. It sells well, and the fans love it. In fact, it does so well that six months later, the record label tags on two bonus tracks, either leftovers from the recording sessions or different versions of tracks already on the album, and re-releases it. Except this one costs more money. They might even pull the same trick further down the line and call it a ‘Super Deluxe Version,’ or a ‘Tour Edition.’ These days, some artists license exclusive editions, with subtle changes to the track listing, to large retailers like Target or Walmart, knowing that their hardcore fans, the ones they should be looking after rather than exploiting, will be eager to get everything they put out. Some things change, but record company execs being money-grabbing cunts is one thing that always stays the same.

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4: Technology is Scary

When I was a kid, the height of technological advancement was the Betamax VCR. And that, my friends, was a fucking revelation. You can watch horror movies, with the gory bits still in, whenever you want? Get the fuck outta here!

Now you can make your own movies. On your phone. And then share them with millions of people at the touch of a button. What the actual fuck? Of course, technology comes at a price, and like most people my age, I’m very glad the Internet didn’t exist when I was young and stupid, because there’s no way I’m living that shit down.

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5: Aliens Exist

I believe in ’em. What’s up? When I admit this to people, they very often laugh in my face. But what’s so hard to believe? It’s incredibly arrogant and naïve to go around thinking that in all the infinite vastness of space, the only intelligent life exists right here on this one little floating speck of dust. We don’t even know what lives at the bottom of the ocean for fuck’s sake. Take the blinkers off. The truth is out there.

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PS: The latest release from C.M. Saunders, Apartment 14F: An Oriental Ghost Story, is out now.

 

Never Will We Ever…

We’re open to a lot, but even Deviant Dolls have their limitations. So, we all sat down and discussed the one thing we’d never, ever write. Interesting results.

 

Hanna: One of those Christian romance books. Bleh.

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Liam: Yeah, well, I used to say I would never write erotica… look where that got me, I ain’t about to curse myself again, so I’m keeping my damn mouth shut.

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Michael: chick lit – if you excuse the term.

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(Sputters… how dare you.)

Katrina: I’d never write genre romance. I can barely write a decent love interest in what I do write without gagging.

(You will. We’ve seen your future and it’s got heaving bosoms and glorious shafts in it.)

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Christian: I’ll never write romance, or erotica, unless someone gets murdered.

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(Just walk away.)

Renee: I said I’d never write romance, and then I did. Said I’d never write erotica, and then I did. Said I’d never write sci-fi, and you know how that went. So, like Liam, I’m careful not to say I’ll “never” do something at this point when it comes to genre.

However, there is one thing. My only “no-no” in writing is the harming of animals. I’ve written about them already being dead, I think, but I can’t bring myself to describe someone harming them. Or babies, because obviously. That’s the only thing I think I’d never write.

Also, you guys and your romance/sex phobia… (Shaking head while staring at you with eyes of judgment)

Just kidding. How about you guys? Anything you’d never read or write about?