Chewsday-August 26th-The Debunking Edition

Nice to put a spin on old concepts, so this week I’ll take a break from the facts and hit on some common misconceptions. Below are two that spring to mind as I write

1. Humans only use ten per cent of their brain

How this made it into mainstream thought at large, I do not know. I’m not here to go research on why people are wrong, just here to tell them that they are. At any one time, it is true that humans only use certain parts of their brain. This is perfectly fine. Our brains are divided up into lobes each of which has areas generally connected to certain functions, senses etc. Therefore, when going about your day-to-day life, your brain (the part we commonly consider the brain is the cerebral cortex) combines relevant areas with more primitive nerve tissue in the brainstem and the lower central nervous system, and as a result we have movement, sensation and so forth. The new movie Lucy and Limitless before that both touch on this subject and aim to show that pharmaceuticals could somehow enhance that and allow for all areas of the brain, or “hidden areas” if we really want to get the fake science out here, could be accessed, thus improving our ability to be charming like Bradley Cooper or be a role model like Scarlett Johannson.

Of course, under no circumstances would it be even feasible to be activating large areas of the brain to carry out most of the body’s function. Even higher thought and emotion have defined pathways and can be approximated to certain areas, showing that even our newly acquired functions (and when I say new that is obviously relative) don’t need us to turn on all the lights in the proverbial house at the same time. Activating large parts of the brain’s electrochemical circuitry does remind me of one REAL life phenomenon. We call it epilepsy, and it isn’t Bradley Cooper.

If people are really so fascinated as to “access those hidden areas”, then I’m sorry to say you’ll be disappointed. You can, however, make great use of what is there, and tweak it for your desires. Things like muscle memory, priming, conditioning and memory retrieval are all real life possibilities, and can have their proof traced to exact neural pathways. Using drugs to modulate the electrochemical side of the brain is as real as Chewsdays, but expanding that to say we could find a drug that could harmonise the entire central nervous system into performing not only in perfect tandem with other parts but also at some advanced level without basically killing you from the contradictory effects is only a dream, I’m afraid.

2. Loads of people out there just have “natural” or “inherited” intelligence

Nothing is worth shaming more than hearing “they get it all from their father” or “And their mother is a doctor”. Granted, as with almost everything based on proteins, intelligence does have some link back to our genes. Some research shows a figure of 50%. No, it doesn’t mean that half your intelligence is from your parents, but it does mean is that half of the differences in people’s intelligence could be genetically related. That being said, you have to wonder when we have this solid figure to work with, why is it we overlook the other portion so much, especially since it’s the only one we have any effect over. Of course, I’m talking about environment. Environment ranges from your relationship with your parents, to how your school runs, to well..the actual environment, Basically, if you know it’s not mapped out in the genetic code, it’s environment. In the modern world, we strive to find peculiarities. We aim to look for odd things, or things that don’t fit the norm. That is why the media and society as as whole is constantly obsessed with the concept of a genius. A genius, if played correctly by the media, can be a shining example that somewhere back the line the ole’ intelligence gene (actually had to write that term) fell into place. After that point, no matter what circumstances a child grows up in, they are destined for greatness.

Sound familiar. Well, plausibly, it can happen. Depending on which area of intelligence an inherited factor could pertain to, it is conceivable a person could show up on our radars if they followed the right path. From a biological point of view, however, the figures don’t add up. With only very small fractions of people having an IQ of even >130 (so ya know, take it easy with the amount of 170s out there), it is far more likely any perceived intelligence is based in environment and not in genetics. I once read a quote on cancer causing genes that went like “genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”. Perhaps it is poignant here also. After all, even with an inherited level of genius, things have to fall into place during childhood for this to emerge. The “naturally smart” quip fails to explain how people far down the dubious IQ ladder can outperform their counterparts higher up in social, academic, emotional or business settings in any shape or form. Commitment to education or determination in training easily outweighs most of the genetic abnormalities of intelligence people could be born with. And both these concepts are the roots of environment.

 

 

Monday Mystery-Staten Island Disappearances

Last week on RTE I caught a documentary around twelve O’clock that provided the inspiration for this week’s mystery. The documentary itself was called Cropsey, and it comes highly acclaimed after receiving good reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Cropsey, the narrator explains, was a sort of boogeyman of Staten Island. For the kids in the neighborhood, Cropsey was the escaped mental patient who lived in the old abandoned Willowbrook Mental Institution, who would come out late at night and snatch children off the streets. Sometimes Cropsey had a hook for a hand, other times he wielded a bloody axe, but it didn’t matter, Cropsey was always out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to get them.

In a period of around twenty years spanning from the early 1970s to the late ’80s, five children went missing on Staten Island. It was only then that the world, the police, and the children themselves sat up and realised that Cropsey was real, and he was taking kids just liked the urban legend had said. The Willowbrook State School was a “school” for mentally retarded children back in the ’60s through the early ’80s.  In 1972, Geraldo Rivera got his big break by doing an exposé on the school, showing its deplorable conditions. Overcrowding, neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and illegal experiments were just some of the things that went on at Willowbrook.  It was finally closed in 1987.

But the disappearances had been happening for nearly two decades at that point. In 1972, 5-year-old Alice Perreira vanished after her brother had left her alone for a moment. They had been playing in the lobby of their apartment on Tysen’s lane. Reports also suggest she may have been spotted in one of the local parks sometime later. Whatever the truth is, she has never been seen again.

Holly Ann Hughes was last seen in the vicinity of Richmond Terrace and Park Avenue in Staten Island, New York at approximately 9:30 PM on July 15, 1981. Her mother sent her to purchase soap at a nearby deli at the time. She has never been seen again.Some statements say she was seen walking home from her babysitter’s house last. A month after her disappearance, Holly’s mother received an eerie phonecall from her apparent kidnapper. The man who called himself “Sal” said Holly would be returned safely if the mother came and performed sex acts on film with him. The mother, accompanied by detectives, went to Penn Station in New York City, but Holly’s captor never showed. She said she never really believed “Sal” had Holly, and thought at this point that her daughter was dead. Holly’s parents would later criticise the police for their handling of the investigation, where they supposedly discarded many key witnesses based on prior criminal records. The police have stated no misconduct occurred at the time. Holly’s mother stated her child was a streetwise girl who knew how to take care of herself.

In 1983, 11-year-old Tiahease Jackson was reported missing after her mother had sent her to purchase food and she did not return. She was last seen exiting the Mariner’s Harbor Motel in Staten Island on August 14. She lived in the hotel with her mother and three siblings. The family had moved there after being burned out of their apartment. Tiahese’s mother also described her daughter as streetwise and safe. She had frequently run errands in the city and was sometimes on her own. She had been warned about predators. Both Tiahese’s mother and uncle have been cleared by lie detectors and are not considered suspects.

In 1984, Staten Island resident Hank Gafforio was reported missing after he did not return home one night. Gafforio was described as being “slow” and had an I.Q. in the 70s. At the time of his disappearance he was 22. He went out drinking that night, but was denied service at Mugs Away. Instead, he spent the night at The Spa Lounge. Hank lived at 99 Heberton Ave with his parents and three brothers, and coincidentally lived just around the corner from Holly Ann Hughes’ house. In fact, in one chilling news report surrounding the disappearance of the girl, Hank can be seen in the background staring blankly into the camera.

Jennifer Schweiger, born with Down syndrome, was reported missing on July 9, 1987. She said that she was going on a short walk, only to never return. Residents banded together to form a search group and found her body after a 35-day search. While combing the area around Willowbrook State School, George Kramer, a retired NYC firefighter, had his attention caught by a particular spot. He returned with the police and a small foot was unearthed. With continuous digging, the entire body was unearthed from the shallow grave and the remains were positively identified as those of Jennifer. In the next few days, police would search the grounds for evidence, which is when the case took a chilling turn.

 

 

Andre Rand was born on March 11, 1944 as Frank Rushan. The origins of the name “Andre Rand” are unknown. In the mid 1960s, Rand worked as a custodian Willowbrook. The hospital is located on Staten Island, New York and is surrounded by a forest called the Greenbelt. On May 25, 1969, Rand was arrested for the attempted sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl. He was caught during that attempt and was charged with kidnapping and attempted sexual assault, and served 16 months in prison.After his time was served, he was accused of raping a young woman as well as a 15-year-old girl.On a separate occasion, Rand picked up a group of 11 children from the YMCA located in Staten Island NY in a school bus, purchased a meal for them without the consent from any of their parents, and took them a New Jersey airport. None of the children were harmed in this encounter, but Rand was apprehended and served 10 months in jail for unlawful imprisonment.

Andre Rand was first suspected in the case of Jennifer Schweiger when one of his makeshift camps was found near the site of her body. In 1988, Rand was charged with the kidnapping and first-degree murder of Jennifer Schweiger. The Staten Island jury could not reach a verdict on the murder charge, but convicted Rand of the first-degree kidnapping charge. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He would have been eligible for parole in 2008 if not convicted of a 2nd kidnapping. In 2004 Rand was again brought to trial, this time charged with the kidnapping of Holly Ann Hughes 23 years earlier. A jury convicted Rand of the kidnapping in October 2004, and he was sentenced to another consecutive 25 years to life in prison. He will become eligible for parole in 2037, when he is 93 years old.

In 1981, Rand’s aunt had lived in the same building as Holly Ann Hughes. Holly’s mother also identified him as the voice she heard on the other end of the phone one month after her child’s disappearance. Witnesses claim to have seen Rand’s green car circling the block at the time of the girl’s kidnapping, and a few have even gone so far to say they saw Holly in the car itself. Rand also has some circumstantial evidence to the case of Alice Perreira. At the time she went missing, he was working as a painter in her apartment. In the case of Tiahese, Rand was known to have had a campsite in the vicinity of her hotel, and was even seen loitering in the car park on occasion. Gafforio also lived on the same block as Rand.

To this day, Rand maintains his innocence in relation to the disappearances. He has remained the prime suspect in each case due to his claims of being excited by children, and his self proclamation as a new Ted Bundy. Whether Rand actually murdered the five children above, the majority of which could be linked by having mental disabilities, we do not know. The real kidnapper, or Cropsey, could still be out there. The Willowbrook area remains a centre for supposed hauntings and mysteries to this day……

NEXT WEEK on Monday Mysteries, we take a look at part one in a series of posts surrounding one of the most famous mysteries in human history. The post will go up on August 31st, exactly matching the date the most chilling serial killer ever started his grisly murders.

Fog falls down over London’s East End. The year is 1888, and on a cold autumn night the last of the tavern lights are snuffed out, plunging Whitechapel into darkness. The streets are empty, only here or there littered with prostitutes who can’t afford to avoid the cold. Sitting alone in a black world, the ladies of the night are seldom stirred. Something stalks out of a street alley, and sees young Polly Ann Nichols stumbling along the pavement; drunk and humming to herself. That night Polly, and the world, come face to face with something horrid. On August 31st we meet Jack the Ripper…..

jack1

Chewsday-August 19th

One thing that always makes for a good fact is weird stories surrounding those in the public eye. This week, I went digging to find out which celebrities/stars have made a weird name for themselves. The following two are only some of my results.

It’s hardly surprising that footballers make it on the list as people who leave us pondering just what on earth were they thinking. In today’s world, with finances just as crucial as three points on a Saturday, contract signings can become a source of amusement.When footballer Stefan Schwarz signed for Sunderland in a record transfer for the club in 1999, it was explicitly written into his contract that he was forbidden from travelling into space.

Sunderland were worried that Schwarz, a well known space entusiast, would be tempted to accompany one of his advisers, who had tickets for one of the planned upcoming commercial tourist flights into space that were then scheduled for 2002. In the end, by the time Schwarz ended his playing career with Sunderland in 2003, only two paying tourists had actually flown in space, and regular tourist flights into space are yet to become a reality.

Jockey Frank Hayes holds the dubious distinction of being the only jockey to have won a race while dead. In 1923, he suffered a heart attack mid-race while riding at Belmont Park in New York. By the time the horse, Sweet Kiss (a 20 to 1 long shot) crossed the line in unexpected triumph, Hayes was dead – although he managed to stay in the saddle. Hayes’ death was not discovered until Miss Frayling and race officials came to congratulate him shortly after the race. It was theorised that the fatal heart attack was probably brought on by Hayes’ extreme efforts to meet the weight requirements, possibly followed by the excitement of riding to the front of the pack. After the discovery of Hayes’ death, all further post-race regulations were waived by the Jockey Club, the result being declared official without the customary formality of weighing in. Hayes, dressed in his colorful racing silks, was buried three days later.

Monday Mystery-Disappearance of Judy Smith

In 1997, Judy Smith was a 50-year-old mother of two from Newton, Massachusetts. She had recently gotten married to her attorney husband, Jeffrey, and decided to fly to Philadelphia to join him on a business trip.

When she forgot her ID at Boston’s Logan International Airport on April 9, 1997, the couple then decided to travel separately and meet later that night. When they met up, they went to their hotel room and made plans for the next day. On April 10, Judy went sightseeing while Jeff went to the conference, and that morning was the last time that he saw his wife alive.

At 5:30pm, Jeff came back to their hotel when he discovered that Judy was nowhere to be found. When she didn’t come back that night, he began searching the route that Judy had taken that day while sightseeing. He soon notified the Philadelphia police and Judy’s children and they all began searching for her, but to no avail. Then, on September 7, 1997, a man and his son hiking in the woods near Asheville, North Carolina discovered the skeletal remains of a woman who had been stabbed to death. The remains were soon identified as Judy’s, but a pair of Bolle’s sunglasses and a blue backpack found with her body was not hers. At first, nobody could not understand how Judy ended up in North Carolina, but some began to suggest that Judy may have left Philadelphia voluntarily and went to North Carolina. What makes this story truly baffling is that Judy’s remains were found 600 miles away from her hotel.

Authorities found that the clothing Judy was wearing suggested that she was hiking in the area at the time, not that she had been dumped there. Several shop owners reported talking to a “Judy from Boston” in Asheville after she vanished and a hotel clerk even remembered her staying at the hotel from April 10-12. Since she still had her wedding ring and $167 in her possession, robbery did not seem to be a motive. Even though she normally carried her belongings in a red backpack, a blue backpack was found at the scene. Police do not suspect Jeff Smith in the disappearance and death of his wife, but despite his insistence that he and his wife were in good terms with their marriage and that his wife met with foul play in Philadelphia, police believe that Judy may have planned her disappearance, and met with foul play while hiking neat Asheville. Investigators believe that the killer is not native to North Carolina, but may have ties to the area. Judy’s killer has never been identified and the case remains unsolved.

Authorities believe that the owner of the Bolle’s sunglasses and blue backpack found with Judy’s backpack is her killer, and that he has ties to the area where she was found.

mountain-range

Among the theories Philadelphia police pursued were that Judith Smith ran off to establish a new life – or that she was murdered. It now looks possible that both may have happened. Smith, a nurse, was a hiker and lover of the outdoors, so the area where she was found – national forest land in Buncombe County, about 18 miles from Asheville – would seem like just the sort of place she might go if she had run away. Smith’s decomposed body was found Sept. 7, but only positively identified Monday through dental records. Authorities in North Carolina requested the records after a doctor spotted a story in a local newspaper about an unidentified body being found – and remembered that he had seen a flier about Judith Smith.

Buncombe County Sheriff Bob Medford said Smith had been dead since the spring, probably not long after she was reported missing. She was dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, but had warmer clothes with her. The clothes were in a blue backpack – not the red backpack that was her signature – indicating that at some point after April 10 she bought a new backpack. She had $80 in a pocket of her jeans and $87 in the pocket of a winter jacket. About 20 feet from her body was a paperback she apparently had been reading, a medical murder mystery, Flashback by Michael Palmer.

“It didn’t appear she was dragged out there,” Medford said. “The indications are she wanted to be there.”

North Carolina authorities have classified the case a murder mainly because because the body was buried. There are also indications Smith’s body may have been dragged a short distance to the grave. Medford said animals may have dug Smith’s body up, but could not have buried it.

All indications pointed to Judy being in a good mood, and a witness who spoke with her said she mentioned her husband was an attorney. If the woman that witness spoke to was indeed Judy Smith, no one knows why she felt compelled to run off without telling her family. And if Judy chose to disappear on her own, how did she wind up dead on a remote mountain?

Chewsday-August 12th

On this day in 1860 Klara Polzl was born in the Austrian village of Spital. Less than thirty years later, she would give birth to Adolf Hitler.

Klara Polzl had several children during her life, but only Adolf and his sister Paula would survive into adulthood. Klara Hitler first discovered a lump in her breast in 1905, two years after her husband’s death, but initially ignored it. After experiencing chest pains that were keeping her awake at night, Klara finally consulted the family doctor, Eduard Bloch (a Jew), in January 1907. Dr. Bloch told Adolf that Klara had a small chance of surviving and recommended that she undergo a radical surgery. The Hitlers were devastated by the news. Klara underwent the mastectomy at Sisters of St. Mercy in Linz whereupon the surgeon, Dr. Karl Urban, discovered that the cancer had already moved to her chest. Dr. Bloch informed Klara’s children that her condition was terminal.

For the next 46 days (from November to early December), Dr. Bloch performed daily treatments of experimental chemotherapy. Klara’s mastectomy incisions were reopened and massive doses of iodoform soaked gauze was applied directly to the tissue to “burn” the cancer cells. The treatments proved to be futile and Klara died at home in Linz from the toxic medical side effects. Despite her death, Adolf pledged his gratitude forever to their family doctor. Even as late as 1937, he inquired about his well-being. During the start of World War II, Bloch asked Hitler for help, and was allowed emigrate to the United States after being protected from the Gestapo. Klara Hitler may have gave birth to Adolf Hitler, but her death caused the life of one Jew to be saved.

On this day in 30BC, Cleopatra died. Regarded as one of the most influential leaders in history, the Pharoah met her end under debated circumstances. Some argue she used a cobra known as an asp to bite her, putting her body into a paralysed state which eventually led to death. Others suggest after her capture she was murdered. Most historians agree Cleopatra killed herself, rather than face public humiliation in Rome for her defeat. Her husband, Marc Anthony, had killed himself with his own sword after hearing she was dead. Realising this wasn’t true, he was brought to her, where he died. Cleopatra’s son by Caesar was killed shortly after.

Monday Mystery….I’ll leave it to you Robin

Honestly don’t have the heart to write about murders or disappearances tonight. Every couple of months, somebody famous passes away. The circumstances are always different, but the results are always the same-people queue up on Twitter and Facebook to offer their condolences, like some drunk guy at a bar telling you he’s sorry you lost somebody that mattered. Somewhere deep down, it always seems like an injustice. Whether it’s Palestine or Mandela, it always seems the same people take to the news feed. Every time, I look on in disdain. Not because the person didn’t matter to them. No. Anyone is free to choose who matters in their life. Anybody is free to say what they feel inside of them, and maybe, in fact hopefully; it’s the truth.

I look on in disappointment because in two hours of tweets the person’s memory is cheapened. People write how they are up crying or nearly fainted when they read the news. These people can faint for any cause, it seems. Somewhere out there, the family of that deceased celebrity is suffering. They are going through hell, and most of us don’t know what it feels like to be in that position given it is all in the public eye. Their grief is splashed across the front of newspapers, with the entire content of their hearts chopped down into a punchy headline so you the reader can learn all about their private lives. And for a week you act like you give a damn and maybe buy their book or watch all their films. After that, it’s over. Then you go back to your life and maybe search for a new tragedy. For the families, there is no life to go back to.

When the newspapers stop printing their dead husband’s/mother’s/son’s name, they still have to go on. Their grief isn’t temporary. The hole is permanent. It can’t be fixed by a movie marathon or a Maeve Binchy book collection. They have to endure without that person in their life forever. They will never hear their voice again behind them or listen to them busying about the room next door. We don’t get new movies. Who’s the real loser?

That is why Twitter cheapens our grief. If in the morning you lost someone, can you imagine a hundred million strangers telling you that they meant the world to them? No. You cannot. But try to, even if just for a while. Somewhere in amongst the tweets, the human gets lost. With favourites and retweets in abundance, we lose track of just how monumental an event we are commenting on is. Somebody literally died. They are gone from us, and cannot return. All their hopes, dreams, troubles and prayers are wiped in one second. Everyone they knew on a personal level is torn from the inside out. Some people will never be the same again when they lose somebody.

Tonight, I received news that Robin Williams had passed away. Robin Williams is not my favourite actor. That honour goes to Leonardo DiCaprio. I also love Denzel Washington. Robin would probably be in my top five. I have never met Robin Williams. I did not know Robin Williams. Robin Williams might have liked omelets like I do. He might not have. He may have loved to listen to music. I’d prefer to read or write. Myself and Robin might have been hugely different people. We might have been roughly the same. In another life, we might even have been friends or something.

When I arrived home, I opened my Twitter account to see a storm of tweets were already gathered in front of me, each a slightly different version of the others. For a split-second I stopped to think. I wasn’t angry. Sure I wasn’t happy, but there wasn’t any feeling of disapproval or contempt. I wasn’t cynical about tweets about Robin William’s death. That made me a hypocrite, and I didn’t want to be that, but I was.

It’s impossible to watch a Robin Williams movie and not get caught up in the man that’s there. It doesn’t matter what age you catch him at; he always seems to be wise, funny, helpful, etc. I’d like to think that’s the man Robin Williams was. I’d like to think he was a good man, with a great attitude to life and a message that could inspire us all. Like I said, I didn’t know the man, but I’d wager a bet or two.

For the first time ever the public out-pour of grief doesn’t seem disrespectful. Williams hasn’t been cheapened tonight. He has been elevated. A part of me thinks he would have been cool with our sentiments. He would have smiled and said “thank you”. Tonight feels different to every other celebrity death. It seems to be more important to the world. Robin Williams may be one of the last great actors of our time, and I’m glad he will be remembered so fondly.

I hope my verse is as good as his was….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS1esgRV4Rc

 

Chewsday-August 5th

On this day in 1944 possibly one of the greatest escape attempts by POWs occurred near Cowra, News South Wales, Australia. It was the largest prison escape of World War II, as well as one of the bloodiest. During the ensuing manhunt, four Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers were killed. The remaining escapees were captured and sent back to prison.

By August 1944, there were 2,223 Japanese POWs in Australia, including 544 merchant seamen. There were also 14,720 Italian prisoners, who had been captured mostly in the North African Campaign, and 1,585 Germans, mostly naval or merchant seamen. Although the POWs were treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions, relations between the Japanese POWs and the guards were poor, due largely to significant cultural differences. A riot by Japanese POWs in New Zealand, in February 1943, led to security being tightened at Cowra. Eventually several machine guns were installed to augment the rifles carried by the guards, which was composed mostly of old or disabled veterans or young men considered physically unfit for frontline service.

In the first week of August 1944, a tip-off from an informer at Cowra led authorities to plan a move of all Japanese POWs at Cowra some 400 km to the west. The Japanese were notified of the move on 4 August. At about 2 a.m. the following night a Japanese ran to the camp gates and shouted what seemed to be a warning to the sentries. Then a Japanese bugle sounded. A sentry fired a warning shot. More sentries fired as three mobs of prisoners began breaking through the wire, one mob on the northern side, one on the western and one on the southern. They flung themselves across the wire with the help of blankets. They were armed with knives, bats, clubs studded with nails and hooks, etc.  Within minutes of the start of the breakout attempt Privates Hardy and Ralph Jones manned the No. 2 Vickers machine-gun and were firing into the first wave of escapees, but they were soon overwhelmed by the sheer weight of numbers and killed. However, Private Jones managed to remove and hide the gun’s bolt before he died. This rendered the gun useless, thereby preventing the prisoners from turning it against the guards. 359 POWs escaped. Some prisoners, rather than escaping, attempted or committed suicide, or were killed by their countrymen. Some of those who did escape committed suicide, or were killed, to avoid recapture. All those still alive were recaptured within 10 days of the breakout.

On this day Harry Houdini, world famous escape artist, also performed a rather commendable escape. Houdini’s second variation on Buried Alive tests was an endurance test designed to expose mystical Egyptian performer Rahman Bey, who had claimed to use supernatural powers to remain in a sealed casket for an hour. Houdini bettered Bey on August 5, 1926, by remaining in a sealed casket, or coffin, submerged in the swimming pool of New York’s Hotel Shelton for one hour and a half. Houdini claimed he did not use any trickery or supernatural powers to accomplish this feat, just controlled breathing. He repeated the feat at the YMCA in Worcester, Massachusetts on September 28, 1926, this time remaining sealed for one hour and eleven minutes. Houdini believed that his experiment could serve as an example for miners who were trapped in shafts with limited oxygen. He said that it was important not be overwhelmed when faced with a lack of oxygen.

“The important thing is to believe that you are safe, don’t breathe deeply and don’t make any unnecessary movements,” he remarked.

The underwater coffin experiment would be Houdini’s last great escape. The famed magician died two months later, on Halloween, from peritonitis due to a rupture in his appendix. He suffered the injury when a McGill University student named J. Gordon Whitehead punched him in the stomach to test his abdominal muscles.

Cowrapowcamp.jpg

Monday Mystery (myth version)-Angikuni lake disappearance

Angikuni lake is a lake in Nunavut, Canada. In the 1930s, it was the site of a supposed mass disappearance of Inuit (or Eskimo) people. Though full evidence of the story does not exist, police reports from Mounted Canadian Police (or mounties) suggest at least some truth in the tale.

Joe Labelle, who was a fur trapper by trade, had often visited the Inuit village that sprang up around Angikuni lake. No official numbers exist, but stories have claimed up to two thousand people lived there, though the real figure is likely at most two hundred. The village had always welcomed those of Labelle’s profession who passed through on occasion. But in 1930 Joe Labelle found that all the villagers had gone.

Coming into the village, he called out to the Eskimos, who would normally be busying themselves about their huts. He got no answer. Slowly walking through the village, he saw no signs of anybody at work, and the silence was heavy around him. Near the end of the village he came across a fire that was smouldering to its embers/gone out depending on the source. Over it hung a pot of stew that had blackened from overcooking. One by one he inspected the huts, expecting to find something terrible inside. Instead, he found nothing. There was no laughter of children, or barks of sled dogs. Nobody was left in the village.

In one hut, he found a piece of cloth that was being worked over. The needle and thread were still in place, as though somebody had abruptly quit the task and left. Labelle found no signs of evacuation. All of the guns were still in place, whereas in reality the Eskimos almost always kept them by their sides. Boats were still stacked by the lake-unused.

Labelle immediately made contact with the mounted police, who came for further investigation. If what they found is to be believed, the story gets far weirder.

At once end of the camp, tied to a tree, they found the snowed over corpses of several sled dogs. The dogs had died of starvation. Anyone leaving the village would have needed them far too much to leave them to die. Next they found a dug up grave (or an empty graveyard by some accounts). It was far too neatly arranged for it to have been an animal, but in Inuit culture it was hugely forbidden to interfere with burial sites. None of the findings added up.

No sign of the Eskimos or their footprints were ever found. They had just disappeared.