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.

 

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.

 

 

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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