Chewsday-July 29th

Today is World Tiger day. With the numbers of tigers across the world dwindling at a rapid rate, so much so that six of the eight recognised subspecies are now considered endangered, we take a look at one of the world’s most fascinating animals. One of the newest ways to study animals is to measure physiological attributes. Bite force has been researched across a large number of species, including the tiger. The Bengal tiger, which roams parts of India and Nepal, has a bite force of a staggering 1050 psi. While this pales in comparison to the agreed world record of circa 7700 for the Saltwater crocodile, this number represents the largest among big cats and the second for carnivorous mammals. For reference, it is suggested a human has a mere force of 150 psi, making it roughly seven times weaker than a tiger bite. Tigers have the largest canines at nearly three inches.

Tigers prefer to hunt large prey by ambush. If you look at a tiger, it is less likely to attack, as it has lost the element of surprise. In some locations in India, people traditionally wear a mask on the back of their head while walking through forests to prevent tigers from pouncing from behind. Some tigers develop a taste for human meat by chance and continue to hunt. One female tiger was infamously known as “Champawat tiger” and was responsible for over four hundred deaths in the early 1900s. The tiger began her attacks in a region of Nepal close to the Himalayas during the late 19th century, with people being ambushed by the dozen as they walked through the jungle. Hunters were sent in to kill the tiger, but she managed to evade them. Eventually, the Nepalese Army was called in. Despite failing to capture or kill the tiger, soldiers managed to force the tiger to abandon her territory and drive her across the border into India, where she continued her killing activities. She eventually grew bolder, and began killing people in broad daylight and prowling around villages. Life across the region grew paralyzed, with men often refusing to leave their huts for work after hearing the tiger’s roars from the forest.

In 1907, the tiger was killed by British hunter Jim Corbett The tiger had killed a 16-year-old girl in the town of Champawat, and left a trail of blood and limbs, which Corbett followed. Corbett found the tiger and shot her dead the next day, a dramatic feat confirmed by about 300 villagers. A postmortem on the tigress showed the upper and lower canine teeth on the right side of her mouth were broken, the upper one in half, the lower one right down to the bone. This injury, according to Corbett, probably prevented her from hunting her natural prey.

If that had been the only mass big cat killing, Corbett would have had an easy career. It seems as the time all hell was breaking loose in Asia, as several serial killer cats were active. I’ll provide the information below, which makes for a chilling but interesting read.

Champawat tiger as above http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champawat_Tiger

A pair of Bengal tigers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tigers_of_Chowgarh

A leopard that terrorized a pilgrim road http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopard_of_Rudraprayag

The Panar leopard and other stories http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panar_Leopard

The Thak man-eater http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thak_man-eater

Monday Mystery-Disappearance aboard the MV Joyita

Luxury yacht, war patrol and changing hands

MV Joyita was a merchant vessel from which 25 passengers and crew mysteriously disappeared in the South Pacific in 1955. It was found adrift in the ocean without its crew on board. The ship was in very poor condition, including corroded pipes and a radio which, while functional, only had a range of about 2 miles due to faulty wiring. Despite this, the extreme buoyancy of the ship made sinking nearly impossible. Why then was nobody on board? Enter the Mary Celeste of the Pacific.

The ship was originally constructed in 1931 as a luxury yacht for the wife or a Los Angeles based film director. “Joyita” translates to “little jewel”. Just prior to the attack at Pearl Harbour in 1941, the US navy acquired the ship for use in patrols. In 1943 the ship ran aground and needed new pipework to fulfill the demand for ships by the navy. Fatefully, the pipes laid were galvanised iron, and not the more tried and tested copper or brass. By 1948, the boat had changed hands again and was now carrying freight for the Louis Brothers firm.

The voyage

About 5:00 AM on October 3, 1955, the Joyita left Samoa’s Apia harbor bound for the Tokelau Islands, about 270 miles (430 km) away. The boat had been scheduled to leave on the noon tide the previous day but her departure was delayed because her port engine had issues. The Joyita eventually left Samoa on one engine. She was carrying 16 crew members and nine passengers, including a government official, a doctor and two children. The Joyita was scheduled to arrive in the Tokelau Islands on October 5.

The search

On October 6 a message from port reported that the ship was overdue. No distress signal had been picked up on land or by other ships at sea. Eventually a search and rescue mission was launched starting on October 6th. By October 12th, the Royal New Zealand air force had covered an area of nearly 100,000 square miles, but still no sign of the ship or its crew was found.

Five weeks later, on November 10, Gerald Douglas, captain of the merchant ship Tuvalu sighted the Joyita more than 600 miles (1,000 km) west from her scheduled route, drifting north. The ship was partially submerged and listing heavily (her port deck rail was awash) and there was no trace of any of the passengers or crew; four tons of cargo were also missing. The recovery party noted that the radio was discovered tuned to the international marine distress channel.

The mystery

A subsequent investigation of the ship turned up more questions than it did answers, and almost all of them were chilling. Some of the boat had been damaged, though by what it is not known. Many of the windows were broken, the flying bridge was smashed and the deck lights were not fully functional. A canvas awning had been erected on top of the deck house, though no signs of it being used as a shelter were found.

There were not enough life jackets for everybody on board, but the dinghy and life rafts the boat did carry were all missing. Eerily, the starboard engine was found completely covered by mattresses, while the remains of the still broken port engine lay still disassembled. A pump was mounted on a plank between the two engines, though nobody had ever connected it, and so investigators don’t know why it was there.

The radio on board was tuned to the international distress channel, but when the equipment was inspected, a break was found in the cable between the set and the aerial. The cable had been painted over, obscuring the break. This would have severely limited the range of the radio to about 2 miles (3.2 km). Whether the captain knew about this or not is unknown, and it is unclear whether the radio had been tampered with.

All the clocks on board were stopped at 10.25pm. Investigators found that downstairs switches for the cabin lights were on, implying that whatever had occurred happened at night. The ships’ logbook and other navigational equipment, as well as the firearms Miller kept in the boat, were missing.

The doctor’s bag was found on the deck, with most of the equipment missing. Four lengths of blood-stained bandages were found inside. Looking at the amount of fuel left in the tanks, it looked as though the boat had made it within fifty miles of port before disaster had struck. When the investigators studied the vessel, they found out exactly what that disaster was.

When she was moored back in harbour at Suva, they heard the sound of water entering the vessel. It was found that a pipe in the raw-water circuit of the engine’s had failed, allowing water into the bilges. The first the crew would have known about the leak was when the water rose above the engine room floorboards, by which time it would have been nearly impossible to locate the leak. Also, the bilge pumps were not fitted with strainers, and had become clogged with debris, meaning that even when the crew knew about the leak it was too late to pump out the water.

Even so, investigators were puzzled. Fitted out for carrying refrigerated cargo, the Joyita had 640 cubic feet cork lining her holds, making her virtually unsinkable. In addition, further buoyancy was provided by a cargo of empty fuel drums. Why had the captain and crew left? It would have been far safer to wait for rescue aboard the sturdy wreck than to risk their lives out in the open water. To the investigators, things didn’t add up.

The theories

One of the first theories put forward was that of the injured captain.

Captain Miller was well aware of the vessel’s ability to stay afloat, leading some to speculate that Miller had died or become incapacitated for some reason. Without him to reassure the other people on board, they had panicked when the Joyita began to flood and had taken to the liferafts. However, this in itself would not account for the missing cargo and equipment, unless the vessel had been found abandoned and had her cargo removed.

A friend of Miller’s, Captain S. B. Brown, was convinced that Miller would never have left the Joyita alive, given his knowledge of her construction. He was aware of tension between Miller and his American first mate, Chuck Simpson. Brown felt that Miller and Simpson’s dislike of each other came to blows and both men fell overboard or were severely injured in a struggle. This left the vessel without an experienced seaman and would explain why those remaining on board would panic when the ship began to flood.

A second theory put forward was far more infamous. Many newspapers at the time clamied that the Joyita had passed through a fleet of Japanese fishing boats during its trip and “had observed something the Japanese did not want them to see.”One paper theorized that some active Japanese forces from World War II were to blame for the disappearances, operating from an isolated island base. There was still strong anti-Japanese feeling in parts of the Pacific, and in Fiji there was specific resentment of Japan being allowed to operate fishing fleets in local waters. Such theories suddenly gained credence when men clearing the Joyita found knives stamped ‘Made in Japan’. However, tests on the knives proved negative and it turned out the knives were old and broken- quite possibly left on board from when the Joyita was used for fishing in the late 1940s. Others theorize that modern pirates attacked the vessel, killed the 25 passengers and crew (and cast their bodies into the ocean), and stole the missing four tons of cargo.

The final theory claimed the head strong captain had tried to reach his destination despite the heavy damage, and the crew had simply mutinied to ensure their own safety. Taking the life rafts and the injured captain with them, they succumbed to heavy winds and were lost.

No signs of the crew or passengers of the MV Joyita were ever found.

 

 

From Hell-Jack the Ripper graphic novel review

From hell, a graphic novel authored by Alan Moore and designed by Eddie Campbell, details the identity, motives and actions of the infamous Jack The Ripper killer of the late Victorian era. At first glance, the rather hefty book (which I later learned was published in separate volumes comic-esque style) didn’t grab my attention, but Waterstones had set aside their own section so all the same I gave it a flick through. The most obvious thing that strikes you is the fact that it is, indeed, a graphic novel (with pages cut up into illustrated tiles complete with speech bubbles etc). I sheepishly brought it to the counter, and wondered all the while was I just after buying a sicko’s version of a childhood Beano or Dandy comic. After finally closing the book on that awful Dean Koontz novel 77 Shadow street, the review *cough* rant *cough* of which you may find https://kyle8414.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/a-very-frightful-read-for-all-the-wrong-reasons/; I opened this on a bus and started my way through it.

A couple of pages in it was clear, very clear actually, that this was not some half-ass comic a wash-up writer had conjured up in a couple of weeks. Almost immediately you can feel the research bringing the pictures to life, and rather admirably you seem to forget after a while it’s all speech bubbles and short narration.

The premise of the novel is fascinating. Starting just before the Ripper murders that happened in autumn 1888, the book gives us a whole host of characters to play with. Some are the future detectives of our case. Others play the part of the victim. Even from the start, we are exposed to the man who will become the killer; a notion that at first I thought would take from the mystery but later on only seems to fuel the drama. Over a hundred years after the Whitechapel murders occurred, today we have over a hundred and fifty well recognised suspects ranging from Alice in Wonderland writer Lewis Carroll to Jill the Ripper-a woman the police might have investigated at the time. Alan Moore, however, chose to go with a suspect who first surfaced in the 1970s and has remained a favourite among conspiracy theorists ever since. Though the author admits himself evidence for the theory is limited, he nonetheless seems to convince you it is the only solution.

In chapter one, we are introduced to ‘Eddie Sickert’, who is actually the Prince of England at the time and only posing as an upper class gentlemen after the Queen and his family entrusted his education to one Walter Sickert (overall he is the grandson of Queen Victoria and second in line to the throne). He quickly becomes involved with an East End girl who becomes pregnant with his child. When the child is born, the royal family hear and quickly seize the mother to cover up the scandal. Mary Kelly, whose name is forever remembered as the last of the Ripper victims, was friend to the mother at the time and knew of the Prince’s identity. Now stuck for money, her and her other ‘working-girl’ friends attempt to blackmail the throne through Walter Sickert. When word of this reaches Victoria, she quickly orders her then trusted doctor Sir William Gull to take care of the problem, and so the killings begin.

While, as I have mentioned, only scraps of evidence link the royal family to the killings, Alan Moore manages to create a whole world around it, with various twists and turns that ensure even someone with a knowledge of the killings (which I actually could claim somewhat after visiting London a few times) is kept on their toes. His attention to detail is wonderful, as he focuses in on Victorian vocabulary and thoroughly creates the area of Whitechapel alongside artist Eddie Campbell. What struck me very early on was how academic the piece actually was, as surprisingly a large amount of imagery, themes and symbolism seem to crop up. Luckily, this does not drag from the story and only seems to be put in to satisfy the more thorough readers, like an adult returning to an episode of The Simpsons and relishing new jokes.

Each of the five murders play out very dramatically, with Moore managing to stick to the historical facts as best he could including witnesses, times of death and the movements of the victims. The obvious black and white of a comic strip here becomes haunting. Whereas most Ripper lore (if I can coin such a term), seems to focus on the killer, this is undoubtedly a story of the victims. Never before have I seen literature on the topic painstakingly show how one by one the next girl feared for her life as the fruit of their blackmail attempt turned sour.

While the whole plot revolves around a very edgy theory, it is rather comforting to see Alan Moore helps debunk a couple of his own mysteries while he moves through it. These include some of the supposed letters from the killer, which in modern culture remain such a point of fascination for crime enthusiasts and may have even been the catalyst behind some of the zodiac letters, who killed in the 20th century. Something that sticks out as a theme is how the murder of five prostitutes in such a gruesome manner does serve as a base for the horrors of the twentieth century, where we endured two World Wars and were at the mercy of horrific serial killers.

Later on in the piece it moves very much towards the story of Fred Abberline, who actually was the lead detective on the case. While many of the details for obvious reasons are fictional, it once again moves away from the limelight of the killer and shows a more human side to the murders we miss in Hollywood interpretations. The idea of police cover-ups also comes to the fore which adds another layer of complexity to a gripping tale. I would doubt I could find another comic strip out there that can manage to tell such a horrifying story yet at the same time conjure up questions about things such as the role of women, and the view of the poorer part of society. The East End was seen at the time as violent and unmanageable, with most of the employment listed as prostitution. In a time before finger prints or criminal profiling, the foggy streets of Whitechapel were like a murderer’s playground. It was a part of the job for the five victims to be trusting of men, and unfortunately this led them straight to their doom.

Hollywood films such as Saw or Hostel may have succeeded in numbing our minds to the effects of violence, but even so this was terror on a whole other scale. Somebody stalked the streets of the East End for three months, and hunted women there. He was never found. We will never know his name. All we have left of him is pictures of his destruction, and here or there a vague description from a passerby. Long dead, even in his own time he was a ghost.

 

I would definitely recommend From Hell to anybody with an interest in graphic novels, which I cannot even claim to have. For lovers of crime and horror, it would also be very suitable. Very explicit in its imagery but I suppose that’s part of the genre.A film adaptation starring Johnny Depp also exists, though I’ve read the two differ broadly.

Soon on Monday Mysteries, I’ll take a very detailed look at Jack the Ripper, starting when he did in late August. I promise you it will be word the read. Until then, it’s on to Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind for me.

 

 

A very frightful read (for all the wrong reasons)

Over the past few weeks my reading attention has been turned to Dean Koontz’s 77 Shadow Street, which was a novel I picked up on a whim when about to take a lengthy bus journey without a book for company. At the time I was just finishing up Stella Gemmells wonderful fantasy debut The City, the review of which is available https://kyle8414.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/the-city-by-stella-gemmell-game-of-thrones-meets-roman-history/.

Somebody once told me I had a knack for storytelling. Somebody also once told me I was always up for a good rant. Here, to either your joy or dismay (neither of which particularly influences my writing style of course), I will be employing the rant, because damn it is justified.

If I could use an analogy of what reading this book feels like, it would probably be something like ‘that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you have been well and truly duped by some conman’. We’ve all been there, whether it was holiday souvenirs or online shopping; everyone one of us has had that gut punch to our ego when we realise someone has got the best of us. Over the last few weeks, Dean Koontz put that feeling in my stomach. He didn’t literally put it there of course. He was probably back in his mansion somewhere counting all the money he garnered off this sad excuse for a novel.

In retrospect, I should have had some inkling all was not well when I read Mr. Koontz has had over sixty novels published in his career (although looking at his website’s bibliography this figure could actually be much bigger). “What the hell?- you might say. Surely a writer with such an illustrious career couldn’t possibly turn out a bad novel. Yes and No. Koontz’s success must be the result of some talent, which I won’t deny, as I have not read his more recommended works. But it doesn’t take an avid reader to know someone churning out that many books must surely be writing some amount of awful stories along with the good stuff. I, of course, went and bought one of the poorer ones.

I sincerely hope this story is the worst he has published. If he actually can stoop lower than this and still get it to market, I’ll have lost faith in literature altogether. The most glaring thing wrong in the first few pages is the sheer volume of words on the page. Not that the font is small-au contraire. No, here I refer to Dean’s seeming obsession with using every large word he can shake out of a dictionary. For about ten pages I wasn’t actually sure what the book was about, because I was trying to wade through all the mess he had put in front of me. The worst thing is I really wanted to like this story; I really did. I love the idea of a horror house/mansion/hotel, with all sorts of ghosts and goings-on. In fact I’m sure most horror writers would testify that this is the easiest plot to work with.

Step 1: new person goes to the house

Step 2:Weird shit happens

Step 3: Some kind of resolution

THAT’S ALL YOU HAD TO DO DEAN

It was a ‘in and out’ job, with no need for mucking about. The first character we encounter, some senator figure who returns drunk to the hotel, is dead in ten pages (oops spoiler). Nobody minds a character dying, but it’s the fact that this character literally has nothing to do with the rest of the whole book. Zilch. His literal purpose was just to show that ‘ooh house is spooky’. I think one other character noticed he was missing, and he was the security guard so ya, doesn’t count.

The rest of the next hundred pages uses a character by character approach, which I actually don’t mind, as we get a good feel for the whole house. The problem is literally all these characters suck. Besides Bailey Hawkes, and some other fella who I’m sure dies anyway, I really hated everybody in this book.

“Oh, Oh but I’m sure he meant for you to hate them”

No. He didn’t. He meant for us to hate like two or three and love the rest. Sorry Dean, I hate them all. What Koontz thought would be a good way to make us like his characters was to give them all problems. Seems smart right? Only issue, I can’t sympathise with any of their shit. I really don’t care about some singer we just met telling us she got divorced, and I couldn’t care less about a pair of old sisters who are in retirement and bored. At this point of the book (page 100 of 400), I knew I already hated this book, and I just wanted to see how bad it could get. Readers instincts paid off it seemed; it got far worse.

What apparently is happening in the house, which has a dubious history with previous owners for murders etc, is that every 38 years the Pendleton (which is what it is called now as a hotel) will transition to the future, where all the characters will be hunted in some post-human world. Coming up to this event, loads of stuff will go wrong in the existing time, such as strange moulds growing everywhere, or characters from the past showing up only to disappear. Dean’s description of fungi got very annoying. There were no ghosts in this entire novel really, but there was a fuck load of fungus. Nobody in the world finds mould frightening. I mean yes it’s ugly but it’s not creepy is it. The real terror then is this strange creature that will kill all the inhabitants.

Thumbs up to Dean for somehow making his villains even worse, by making this otherworldly creature that is made up of millions/billions of nanobots. You see readers? It was science all along. Fuck you Dean Koontz. The last thing a horror reader wants is a plausible explanation. This isn’t Scooby Doo. I remember the original episodes incidentally. Now those were scary.

Meanwhile back in the house of scary plants and zero ghosts, our characters have to contend with problems such as rooms looking different, and TVs saying ‘exterminate’ but not actually doing anything. In order to survive, our group of barely tolerable freaks band together in one room, only to do the one thing decades of low budget horror movies have informed them you do not do-split up. Cue loads of deaths that are completely the characters fault. Maybe Dean koontz wants me to support the villains, and if so, he is a genius. At this stage, I am cheering them on as they kill our heroes.

I forgot to mention that at several points throughout the book, some dope called “the one” interludes for a page or two. Apparently he is the master behind all this future-present and the whole fungi-creature-environment is all part of one world organism. Ya, I know, it’s fucking stupid. These pages were perhaps the worst. Lines upon lines of ‘the one’ spewing so much shit about how he is a legend so that you seriously question whether Harry Potter going on about being the chosen one was actually even annoying at all.

As for handling the whole ‘oh look it was science all along’, Dean is way out of his depth.

“Hey, I have a BA in English, that means I know how technology and science works”

Reading it was painful, trying to nod along to shit you knew were just pure guesses. I doubt he could stop for a bit of research like. I mean, if he took twenty minutes out of his day, he’d probably not have published another book.

I’m sure nobody has made it this far, but OH WAIT, I forgot my favourite worst part: Dean’s sentence length. The odd time in a book, you’ll come across some whopper of a thirty or forty word sentence and wonder what the author was thinking. Try that every two minutes in this book. I’m sure a good few actually hit the 50+ word mark, and at that length you actually cannot keep track of whatever the fuck the writer is trying to say. Not fifty short words either. At least half will be straight out of the thesaurus, who as a happenstance, sounds like a far scarier dinosaur villain than the mute beats we have to read about here.

In the end, all the characters don’t die. Boohoo. I’m telling you the ending because it will save you four hundred pages of life you don’t get back.

Seriously, the scariest thing about this novel is the writing.

Chewsday-July 22nd

Today will be an “On this day” version of Chewsday, with our facts coming specifically from the many July 22nds gone before us.

On this date in the year 1298, the most infamous battle for Scottish independence took place. Having won a decisive victory at the Battle of Stirling, Wallace and his men had caused enough of a disturbance to sway King Edward I away from his campaigns in Europe and back to England. The king assembled a force of about 15,000 (2,500 of which were cavalry), which at the time would have been considered colossal. Wallace chose to allow this army to advance into Scotland, adopting tactics to lower their morale and waste their supplies. When they turned for home, the Scottish would harass them all along the route.

Today’s our fact centers around Scotland’s tactical formation; this was to use four schiltrons. A schiltron was a group of two thousand or so spearman, each armed with a pike up to fourteen feet in length. Between the gaps then were placed archers, so that overall the formation gave formidable defense against the then standard cavalry attack that was seen in medieval warfare. In fact, for the first portion of the battle, the Schiltron actually held firm and won some losses against the English. Sadly for Wallace though, Welshmen equipped with longbows brought an end to his tight-knitted units and to his rebellion. In the movie Braveheart, the use of schiltrons is best scene paradoxically at the Battle of Stirling scene.

July 22nd was also the date that the world’s most famed bank robber was shot dead. John Dillinger was head of the Dillinger gang, who were a successful group of bank robbers that at times featured names like Baby faced Nelson. On Sunday, July 22, 1934, at 5 p.m., Anna Sage, a woman who was aware of Dillinger’s true identity and working in a brothel, told FBI agents that she and Dillinger were planning to go to the movies, and were planning to either go to the Biograph or to the Marboro theater. Purvis, a detective on the case and member of the ever-growing ‘Dillinger squad’, decided to stake out the Biograph himself. Two other agents were posted at the Marboro. Purvis was standing just a few feet away from the theater entrance when the movie let out. As Dillinger passed, he looked Purvis directly in the eyes, but made no indication of recognition of suspicion. Following the pre-arranged signal, Purvis lit a cigar. As Dillinger and the two women walked down the street, Purvis quickly pulled out his gun, and yelled, “Stick’em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded!” Dillinger began to run, reaching into his pants pocket to draw a gun. He entered an alley just as a volley of gunfire greeted him. Four bullets hit Dillinger’s body, three from the rear and one from the front. Two bullets grazed his face just next to his left eye. A third, the fatal shot, entered the base of his neck and traveled upward, hitting the second vertebra before exiting below his right eye. Dillinger died instantly and a crowd gathered around him. It had taken the newly formed FBI years to take out ‘Public enemy number no.1″, but on July 22nd, they got ’em.

Monday Mystery-Laureen Ann Rahn

Laureen resided with her mother, Judith Rahn, in an apartment on Merrimack Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. She was a student at Parkside Junior High School and made good grades. She was last seen at her home during the evening hours of April 26, 1980. Two of Laureen’s friends saw her approximately one hour before her disappearance and reported that nothing was amiss at the time. She has never been heard from again. Judith’s then boyfriend was a professional tennis player and both he and Judith had been out of town at a tournament the night the incident occurred. Normally Laureen accompanied them but being on spring break from school she asked to stay home on this occasion to which her mother agreed.

That evening Laureen and two friends-one male and one female, spent the evening drinking beer and wine in the Rahn’s apartment. Only fourteen at the time, the trio were afraid of getting caught by Laureen’s mother. This caused the boy to leave through the back door when he heard voices in the hall that he assumed were Laureen’s mother returning. He stated that he heard the door being locked behind him. When Judith arrived home at midnight, she discovered that the lightbulbs on each of the three floors of the apartment building’s corridors had been unscrewed, leaving the floor her apartment was on in an eerie darkness. Her front door was unlocked, but Judith checked in Laureen’s bedroom and thought she saw her daughter asleep there. In the morning however, she discovered this was in fact Laureen’s friend, and Laureen was missing. Her friend said she’d last seen her asleep on the couch. Judith’s mother found the back door unlocked, but her daughter’s brand new trainers were still in the living room. Initially the police suspected the daughter had run off, but her own mother dismissed this theory, as Laureen had left her purse and clothes behind her. The authorities then changed their story to one that assumed the girl had left willingly, but aimed to return.

Judith discovered that she had been charged for three California phone calls on October 1, 1980, three months after Laureen disappeared. Judith did not have any friends or relatives in California at the time. Two of the calls had been placed from a motel in Santa Monica to another motel in Santa Ana. The third call was placed to a teen sexual assistance hotline. Authorities attempted to question the physician who maintained the hotline, but they were unable to ascertain if he knew any details about Laureen’s case. An investigator followed up on the hotline tip in 1985. A man identifying himself as a plastic surgeon answered the call. He said that numerous runaway girls occasionally visited his wife at their home. He also told the investigator that one of the young women may have been from New Hampshire. The individual claimed that Annie Sprinkle, a woman who allegedly worked with his wife in the fashion industry, may have had information concerning several runaways. Authorities learned that Sprinkle was involved in the pornography industry and scanned several of her films in an attempt to locate Laureen. No evidence linking Sprinkle to Laureen’s disappearance was discovered and she has never been implicated in her case.

An investigator visited California on Judith’s behalf in 1986 and located the two motels involved in the October 1980 phone calls. Authorities said that one of the establishments may have been used by a child pornographer named “Dr. Z.” Investigators were unable to link “Dr. Z” to the teen hotline and it is not known if pornography was involved in Laureen’s disappearance.

Roger Maurais, Laureen’s childhood friend in Manchester, received a call from a woman identifying herself as “Laurie” or “Laureen” in 1986. Maurais’s mother answered the call and said that the person claimed to be her son’s former girlfriend. The caller’s identity remains unknown.

One of Laureen’s family members reported seeing a girl matching her description in a Boston, Massachusetts bus terminal in 1981. Judith received phone calls around the Christmas holidays for several years from an unknown individual. She said that the person listened silently when Laureen’s sister answered the phone, then terminated the call shortly afterwards. The calls stopped after Judith changed her phone number several years after Laureen vanished.

A witness reported that a prostitute in Anchorage, Alaska matched Laureen’s description. The unconfirmed sighting occurred in 1988 and authorities said that the witness based his recollections on her 1980 photo. The woman was not believed to have been Laureen as a result of the time lapse.

In April 2005, a Nevada investigator contacted Judith and said Laureen bore a resemblance to a murdered young woman whose body was found off a dirt road in Henderson, Nevada in October 1980. Judith goes not believe the Nevada woman is her daughter, but officials are investigating that possibility.

Judith moved to Fort Myers, Florida during the years after Laureen’s disappearance. She believes that her daughter placed the three California phone calls in October 1980. Laureen enjoyed singing and dancing at the time of her disappearance and dreamed of becoming an actress. Investigators continue to suspect that foul play was involved in her case, which remains unsolved.

While there is no evidence that the two cases are connected, it is worth noting that Rachael Garden, another petite brunette about the same age as Laureen, disappeared from a nearby town just a month before Laureen did. Garden’s case remains unsolved as well and is also classified as a non-family abduction.

Is this a case of serial abduction, or were the police correct at first in suggesting Laureen had simply walked off? Who did the raised voices in the hallway belong to, and did Laureen indeed lock the door after her friend had left? Why was her friend not taken? Perhaps the perpetrator did not know Laureen had guests. Most mysteriously, why were the corridor lights unscrewed in a building without CCTV, and why has no trace of Laureen ever been found?

Chewsday-July 15th

This chewsday is the day preceding my 21st birthday. As a result, today I’ll give two facts on birthdays.

The song “Happy birthday to you”, which is widely popular in western culture as a feature at every party, originated from a different song composed by two American siblings. This song was “Good morning to all”. The melody and lyrics were written by two sisters – Mildred J. Hill (born 1859) and Patty Smith Hill (born 1868). Patty was a schoolteacher who developed the “Patty Hill blocks” and was a faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College. Mildred was also an educator who later on became a composer, organist and pianist. The melody was composed by Mildred and the lyrics were written by Patty, but it was originally for a classroom greeting song titled “Good Morning to All.” The song “Good Morning to All” was part of the book Song Stories for the Kindergarten which the sisters co-wrote and published in 1893.

From then on the lyrics were changed from its original form to “Good Morning to You” and then to “Happy Birthday to You.” It is still unclear who changed the lyrics that turned it into a birthday song, but it was first published in 1924 on a book edited by Robert H. Coleman. It is widely hypothesised that the children of the original class changed the lyrics themselves, so much so that the tune was picked up by the eventual (and probably unwitting) publisher. Since then, the song became popular and in 1934, Jessica Hill, another Hill sister, filed a lawsuit because of the unauthorized use of the “Happy Birthday to You” melody which clearly resembles the melody of “Good Morning to All,” the song her sisters originally wrote. Now, the Hill foundation reaps about two million dollars every year in royalties for the use of the song.

Of course, birthdays are quite special, but not uncommon. With over seven billion of us crawling all over this rock and only near four hundred days to separate us, overlap is inevitable. But what are the odds we share a birthday with a friend? Better yet, what are the odds we share the date with anybody at all? This is the underlying premise behind what is dubbed ‘the birthday problem’. By simple probability (and just sheer logic) we know that for every 367 people two of them have to share the same birthday (not leaving out our leap year babies). But what if we don’t want 100%? What if just shy of 100% would do. It turns out that when we reach seventy people the odds are 99.99%. Sounds crazy, I know. Worse again, if you assemble just 23 people, your odds are a staggering 50%! If you can cast your minds at all back to Leaving Cert (or SATs or A levels) you will remember that we must calculate 23 choose two, which actually extrapolates out to 253 combinations, which seems far more reasonable to work with. We won’t get into the nitty gritty of the numbers here, but if you like, you’re free to try your hand over http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_problem.

Indeed the numbers do speak for themselves, although I’m sure gathering a random group of people would be a much funner experiment. Based on the theory above, we could share our birthday with anyone, even famous people. A quick google search told me I will be celebrating tomorrow with comedian Will Ferrell and Champions League winner Gareth Bale. Comment below if you find anybody interesting you will be sharing your date of birth with?

Monday Mystery-Disappearance on the Flannan Islands

The Flannan Isles or Seven Hunters are a small island group near Scotland, approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) west of the Isle of Lewis. They may take their name from St Flannan, the 7th-century Irish preacher. The islands have been devoid of permanent residents since the automation in 1971.They are the location of an enduring mystery which occurred in December 1900, when all three lighthouse keepers vanished without a trace.

The first hint of anything untoward on the Flannan Isles came on 15 December 1900. The steamer Archtor on passage from Philadelphia passed the islands in poor weather and noted that the light was not operational, something highly unusual for a operating lighthouse.This was reported on arrival although no immediate action seems to have been taken. The island lighthouse was manned by a three-man team (Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald Macarthur), with a rotating fourth man spending time on shore. The relief vessel, the lighthouse tender Hesperus, did not arrive on the rock until December 26th. On arrival, the crew and relief keeper found that the flagstaff was bare of its flag, none of the usual provision boxes had been left on the landing stage for re-stocking and, more ominously, none of the lighthouse keepers were there to welcome them ashore. Jim Harvie, captain of the Hesperus, gave a strident blast on his whistle and set off a distress flare, but no reply came.

A boat was launched and Joseph Moore, the relief keeper, was put ashore alone. He found the entrance gate to the compound and main door both closed. When he crept inside, he saw the beds unmade and the clock stopped. Returning to the landing stage with this grim news, he then went back up to the lighthouse with the Hesperus’s second-mate and a seaman. A further search revealed that the lamps were cleaned and refilled. A set of oilskins was found, suggesting that one of the keepers had left the lighthouse without them, which was surprising considering the severity of the weather. The only sign of anything amiss in the lighthouse was an overturned chair by the kitchen table. Of the keepers there was no sign, either inside the lighthouse or anywhere on the island.

Moore and three volunteer seamen were left to attend the light and the Hesperus returned to the shore. Captain Harvie sent a telegram to the Northern Lighthouse board dated 26 December 1900, stating:

A dreadful accident has happened at the Flannans. The three keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the Occasional have disappeared from the Island… The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must have been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane or something like that.

The men remaining on the island scoured every corner for clues as to the fate of the keepers. At the east landing everything was intact, but the west landing provided considerable evidence of damage caused by recent storms. A box at 33 metres (108 ft) above sea level had been broken and its contents strewn about; iron railings were bent over, the iron railway by the path was wrenched out of its concrete, and a rock weighing over a ton had been displaced above that. On top of the cliff at over 60 metres (200 ft) above sea level, turf had been ripped away over 10 metres (33 ft) from the cliff edge. However, the keepers had kept their log until 9 a.m. on 15 December and this made it clear that the damage had occurred before the writers’ disappearance.

Did one of the keepers kill the others and then drown in the storm? Who wrote the last entries in the diary, and were they alone? Even with no evidence of foul play, were the lighthouse keepers taken unawares. Did they simply succumb to a freak wave, as is generally accepted. Indeed it seems one of the keepers must have ran to the aid of the others, leaving the chair on the floor and the his gear unused. Yet why then was the door securely closed, and the gate also?

Some light has been shed on the contents of the log that the lighthouse kept, though whether this was a real account is unknown;

“December 12. Gale north by northwest. Sea lashed to fury. Never seen such a storm. Waves very high. Tearing at lighthouse. Everything shipshape. James Ducat irritable”.

Later that day: “Storm still raging, wind steady. Stormbound. Cannot go out. Ship passing sounding foghorn. Could see lights of cabins. Ducat quiet. Donald McArthur crying”.

“December 13. Storm continued through night. Wind shifted west by north. Ducat quiet. McArthur praying”. Later: “Noon, grey daylight. Me, Ducat and McArthur prayed”.

On 14 December there was no entry in the log.

The final entry was made on a slate, which (under normal circumstances) would have been transferred to the logbook proper later on:

“December 15. 1pm. Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all”.

 

Who knows if this account is real,as the emotional nature of it seems to suggest it is a forgery. Even so, it appears one of the keepers did rush out of the lighthouse to the aid of his companions. Did he meet the same fate?

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We’ll leave it there so-The World Cup 2014

It’s time for that end of holiday feeling. Your bags are packed, the hotel room is clean, the taxi is outside and only now you realise it is all over. Nobody ever expects a holiday to end, and it’s fair to say it really felt like this World Cup was going to live on forever. Perhaps it will. After the disappointment in South Africa four years ago, these finals firmly put football back on the map as a beautiful game. All it took was a few big game shocks, a whole host of goals, and a healthy dollop of vanishing spray, and we had our World Cup 2014.

The Champions

No football fan could deny the World Cup deserved to go the Germans. Having smashed group rivals Portugal 4-0, they went on to play out a 2-2 draw against a feisty Ghanaian side in what was easily one of the games of the tournament. They rounded off their table topping performance with a tough win over the US, who at this point were standing out among their two other opponents who were touted to dump them out at the group stages. Next up for Germany was Algeria, who smashed former hosts South Korea in a 4-2 thriller nobody saw coming. It took extra time in a pulsating clash but Germany won through; Andre Schurrle grabbing the first before Ozil added the second in the dying moments. Germany had then perhaps the toughest quarter final draw for those teams that made it through to the semis, as they took on a French side who had eased through the group matches and then braved a Nigerian storm to come through 2-0 winners. Hummels proved the difference on this occasion, but all round the Germans had the beating of their neighbours.

Then came the moment to remember from a memorable World Cup. Hosts Brazil were missing poster boy Neymar, and had stumbled and staggered past Chile and Columbia to reach the semi final stage. Without their talisman, and also missing Thiago Silva through suspension, the Germans came in as the pundits pick. The atmosphere was lauded as a possible deal breaker, with a enigmatic David Luiz also being tipped by some to lead the Brazilians on to their destiny. What happened next shook the footballing world. In just over ninety minutes, the Europeans rushed seven past a helpless Julio Cesar, and with their forward line tearing open Luiz’s rag-tag defence time and time again, it could have been more. In a first half that saw five goals in a mere twenty-nine minutes, or four in roughly seven minutes, Brazil’s World Cup dream, and their world as a whole, crashed to the ground. The Germans then were set for Argentina, so a repeat of the 1986 or 1990 final was on the cards. Now destiny turned its gaze to Lionel Messi, who was in the position of Diego Maradonna not thirty years before. But fortune favours the brave, and so out came Germany in full force.

In what was in my opinion easily the best final of the modern era, Germany and Argentina traded blow after blow in a heart-stopping first period, with Argentina’s tricky maestros looking to sneak in behind a high German defensive line. Meanwhile the Germans ran a passing game through Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, so that Klose, Muller and substitute Schurrle were free to parade into the South American box. Germany hit the post in the closing minute of the half, with the game’s golden chance before that falling to hit and miss Higuain, who spurned his opportunity to become the hero by drawing wide of the mark. Messi also found the the corner elusive with his effort. In the second half it was much the same. After a brief Argentinian shock and awe display, the Germans settled in to their football, eating up the possession stats like nobodies business. Chance after chance flew by, with Kroos not seeming to recover from his early mishaps as he wasted two good looks at goal. Neuer raced from the goal line two or three times to deny Higuain and the introduced Ageuro.

In fact, having gone to extra time it was this feature of the golden glove winner’s game that denied Palacio, who shot in ahead of the defence only to see his effort fly harmlessly wide. Gotze had come as a substitute late on, and now took up an advanced position with supply coming through Schurrle and quick passing from midfield. Sixty years ago, a relatively young Helmut Rahn stepped out of the shadow of his near omission from the squad to score the winning goal against Hungary. In 2014, Gotze skipped between starter, sub and ‘can’t fit in the team’ again and again. In the second half of extra time, the game still tied, Germany needed a Helmut Rahn. Step forward Mario Gotze.

 

 

Tournament shocks

Luckily the 2014 World Cup was swimming in these, whether it was Italy’s untimely demise or Brazil suffering a thumping by the future champions. Here are a couple hardly any of us saw coming.

 

 

 

 

 

Game of the Tournament

Undoubtedly this one goes to Belgium and the US, who played out an 120 minute thriller that nearly saw the US crush hopes of the dark horse of Rio.

Belgium and USA MNT fight it out

In close second I’d say Ghana and Germany played a great tie, with games like Germany vs Argentina and France vs Switzerland also deserved of a mention.

The best goals

James Rodriguez surely deserves top marks, but we had other spectacles as well. The flying Dutchman Robin Van Persie gave us something world class against defending champions Spain, Messi gave us a wonder against Nigeria, and even World Cup flop David Luiz smashed home a world beater vs Columbia. Here are ten selections

 

 

 

 

 

You bet on what?

Last night dreams came true. That’s right, one lucky SkyBet customer won 83,000 pounds as he finally saw his bet come off that had Manchester city winning the league, Madrid the champions league, Wolves in League One Placing first, QPR promoted and at last Germany lifting the World Cup. This comes after last week we heard a lucky man claimed 49,000 grand on a single bet which had Sami Khedira to score anytime and Germany to win 7-1 over Brazil.

Happier again are those smug 167 betting customers who successfully predicted Luis Suarez was going to bite somebody at this year’s finals. That’s a creative one, but not as crazy as what one Lincoln Bookmakers man wanted in on. The staff at the Lincoln branch had to ring the Stan James office to confirm the odds, after the customer insisted on the following scenario:

“The man entered the Lincoln branch to stake £5 on a scenario where Germany lead at half-time, and in the second half Argentina’s Javier Mascherano fouls and injures Muller in the box, leaving him unable to take the resulting penalty – which is then missed by Klose!”
But of course not all betters can win. This was a fact highlighted by Singapore government officials before the game, when they made their ad programme against betting use the following image
Not like they could have picked a less likely team than Germany, who previous to the games had featured in the last three semi-finals at least. But the Singaporean government aren’t so easily defeated, as they then updated the ad to this.
Saying goodbye to Rio 2014
It won’t be easy to wait another four years for a World Cup. Despite all the controversy around Brazilian preparation and match officials, Rio has been a phenomenal success for the sport. Out of the ashes have risen Germany, the now super power of both European club and World football (if we are honest about what the club situation is). In the fallout, Louis Van Gaal says his goodbyes to a wonderful World Cup for Holland, with Arjen Robben theatrically playing himself into history, and Robin Van Persie keeping the doubters quiet for another year. Columbia, Chile, Belgium, USA and Costa Rica will all hope to push on from here for a big display in 2018 in Russia. As for Italy, Portugal, Spain and England, it’s back to the drawing board for Europe’s elite. Portugal are waiting for a couple of top class players to take the heat off Ronaldo. Italy will look at their midfield and wonder where the spark will come from now. Spain have seen their passing game eliminated as fast it came, and with the squad aging it might be a sign Del Bosque needs a new vision. And England? Another disappointing tournament in their eyes. To everybody else, Roy Keane especially, it was something we saw coming. Too much of the English game contradicts the norm of International football, with the percentage of World Cup finalists playing in the EPL shockingly low. Whereas Italy are the ghost of a 2006 victory, England might yet have at least a spring on the horizon.
It was not be Brazil’s destiny after all, with Neymar carried off into the night to wait for his calling. Messi may have seen his last chance slip by, and with it, the possible glory of immortality among the greats. He will go back to Barcelona now, and set the golden ball somewhere quiet, an ill-begotten title on a lonely night for the Argentinian. Rio gave us goals, all record equaling 171 of them. It gave us tears, joy, shocks and wonder. It gave us fresh faces and infamous acts. It gave us good football and a changing world for the players of our time. Most of all, it gave a fitting farewell to Bill O’Herlihy; one of the great sports broadcasters of his time. May we make it to 2018.
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Chewsday-July 8th

It’s World Cup semi-final day, so today it’s a fact for each of Germany and Brazil.

Germany, in this World Cup, became the first team to reach 100 World Cup matches, which arrived emphatically when they mangled the Portuguese 4-0. Although one would think, but haven’t Italy won four World Cups and Brazil are better again with five, this does not come into play. This is because Germany have reached a record 12 semi-finals (touting Brazil’s 10). Although not always coming out on top, a place in the semi-final automatically guarantees a further match, which comes in the form of the third place play-off (which in 2010 Germany won). The Germans have only failed to reach the quarters once, back in 1938, but also didn’t participate in 1930 or 1950. Brazil have now reached their 100th match also, but credit to the Germans who were first to get there.

As for Brazil, much of the talk around the World Cup has focused on the extreme poverty of Brazilian cities. That being said, Brazil are actually the most expensive team in the competition, if we run on current market value. Their total player cost cashes in at around 508 million, which narrowly slips in over Spain who are 2 or 3 million lower. So with that it’s the clash of the competition’s most expensive team, versus the team with the most World Cup matches.

We will have to see whether Klose fires home his record beating goal against Ronaldo’s own Brazil tonight.