The Murder Castle

Herman Mudgett is the worst man you have probably never heard of, unless you happen to be familiar with his alias, H. H. Holmes.

Holmes made an appearance on Timeless this week as the show gave us a peek into the history of the World’s Fair Hotel—or as it would later be known, the Murder Castle. No spoilers about the show here, but you can probably guess from the morbidly straightforward nickname that this story isn’t going to be pretty.
Murder CastleThe Murder Castle was originally just your usual impressive, 3-story hotel. It was built by Holmes in Chicago as lodging for visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair, scheduled to take place a handful of years after construction. But—and this is where things get weird—Holmes filled his hotel with stairs that went nowhere, soundproof and airtight bedrooms, and doors that opened onto walls, among other oddities. He was constantly firing the construction workers and hiring new ones so that no one would know the full scope of his bizarre plans. Once the hotel was built he did the same with his employees, making sure they were in constant rotation to prevent anyone learning about the alarms that tracked guests’ movements, the gas lines in the bedrooms, the sealed up brick room that was only accessible through a trapdoor in the ceiling, or what he called the “secret hanging chamber,” which needs no further explanation.

H. H. HolmesAs you might expect, Holmes used his nightmarish fun house to murder people through hanging, asphyxiation, or sometimes starvation or thirst. Unbelievably, the basement of the hotel was his own personal post-murder medical chamber complete with large furnaces, lime pits and acid baths. He sold his victim’s organs to medical professionals and disposed of the remains, and somehow managed to not get caught doing any of this, for years. The World’s Fair came and went, and still he was not discovered.

He was finally arrested in Boston for another murder that was unrelated to the hotel, and authorities followed his trail back to Chicago. They discovered the Murder Castle, with its horrific rooms and secret chutes, and found human and animal bones and bloody women’s clothes inside.
Holmes's Secrets Coming to LightHolmes was connected to nine murders and confessed to several others. He was hanged for these crimes in May 1896, but it’s possible that during his time as a con man and murderer he may have killed up to 200 people in total. We will never know for sure. Holmes was one of the first documented serial killers, before the term serial killer even existed. And he was entirely unapologetic about it, even until the end.

Holmes' words

Holmes's QuoteIf you’re interested in this bit of history, give it a closer look. The details only get more and more unbelievable. Search for Holmes or his murder hotel on Newspapers.com for contemporary or modern accounts.

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The Luckiest Day of the Month?

Happy Friday the 13th, everybody!

Today is perhaps the most unlucky of days, the bane of the superstitious. The number 13 is avidly avoided by many in the world, and when combined with a Friday? No thank you.

However, a search on Newspapers.com regarding the unluckiness of Friday the 13th brings up a surprising trend of results: people who insist it’s quite the opposite. Here are just a few:

13 Unlucky? Opposite For Some.
Friday the 13th a perfect day for Jerry Myrup
Nothing especially unlucky about Friday the 13th

So go forth and make today whatever you’d like it to be. And good luck!

Find more on Friday the 13th history, opinions and more on Newspapers.com.

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100 Years of Resolutions

It’s that time of year again when many people sit back and reflect on goals to accomplish and habits to change. The New Year’s Eve countdown has ended, the confetti and poppers have been cleaned up, and nothing remains but to make the traditional New Year’s resolutions.

This practice of resolving to improve oneself has been around for decades, and thanks to the existence of newspapers we have the thoughts on resolutions from people across time to look back on. Today’s blog takes a gander at discussions on the tradition from the last century.

To start things off, a look at the first ten years of the 1900s.
Argument against New Year's resolutions discussed, 1908
The 1910s saw a surge in appeals to the dignity and honor of humankind (though the jokers were still around, of course):
Advice on Resolutions, 1910

The 1920s came around with a bit more cynicism for the custom::
Resolutions Debated Again, 1926
Writer Fannie Hurst on Resolutions, 1926
On to the 1930s:
Nina Wilcox Putnam on Resolutions, 1933
By now a common thread is shown—each decade had its fair share of people who thought New Year’s resolutions were basically useless. The 1940s were no exception:

Not much changed in the 50s. Other than a few articles here and there on the silly nature of women and wives, the arguments remained the same: either resolutions were good and noble of intent, or they were unnecessary and didn’t work.
Dr. John Nurnberger has seen little evidence of the effectiveness of resolutions, 1957
Argument for the New Year resolution as opposed to any day, 1957
Let’s move on to the 60s, where indifference and optimism do battle once again.
Resolutions display good intentions, Bill Marr, 1968
Make resolutions throughout the year, says Ray Cristine. 1969
The resolution to not make resolutions makes another big comeback in the 70s.
Rona Barrett delivers harsh opinion on New Year's Resolutions, 1971
Dorothy Propp one of many to doubt the lasting power of New Year's resolutions, 1979And what did people think in the 80s?
Morris West doesn't participate, but admires those who make resolutions. 1987
Resolutions do nothing more than make you feel a little better, says Jim Jupp. 1987
Thoughts on resolutions were much the same in the 1990s, with one noticeable difference: helpful articles on keeping resolutions became a lot more frequent:
A
90s brings about more advice on keeping resolutions. 1991And lastly, some resolutions and thoughts on the practice from the 2000s:
Resolving Not To Fail. 2003
Doesn't really matter much when you start,As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Seems New Year’s resolutions—and their naysayers—are likely to stick around for decades to come.

Find more like these with a search or browse on Newspapers.com. And let us know in the comments—what do you think of New Year’s resolutions?

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Annie Edson Taylor

On first glance, Annie Edson Taylor seems like your typical matronly schoolteacher. But if you know her name or her history, you’ll know why that isn’t entirely true.

Over Niagara Falls AliveTaylor was, in fact, a schoolteacher. She kept this profession until her infant son died, followed soon after by her husband. Widowed and worried, she moved from job to job in an attempt to secure money for her future with very little luck. With the threat of the poor house hanging over her head she decided to make money another way—by becoming the first person to survive a trip in a barrel over Niagara Falls.

Decision to go over the FallsOctober 24, 1901, saw a calmer river than previous days. It was Taylor’s 63rd birthday. She climbed into the barrel in an “abbreviated skirt,” having instructed the men helping her to stand far off for the sake of decency, and was shortly packed in with pillows. The barrel was closed and observers watched as it bobbed its way to the crest of the Falls and then disappeared.

After the plungeUnfortunately for Taylor, the fame she received after her death-defying stunt did not bring the wealth she hoped for with it. Despite a few tours, posing for photos at booths, an attempt at a book, and a brief mention of a second attempt, she died in 1921 in much the same monetary situation that she’d been in before the stunt. Still, she will always hold the honor of being the first person to tumble down Niagara Falls.

Annie Edson TaylorFind more on Annie Edson Taylor in the pages of Newspapers.com, or search or browse for other topics of interest to you.

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The Christmas Truce

In December of 1914, thousands of soldiers across the front lines of WWI took part in quite the unexpected event. And unexpected it really was—in early December Pope Benedict XV asked all sides for an official Christmas Truce. The world held their breath, waiting for responses from the major powers.

Pope proposes truceBut the suggested truce was rejected. Not everyone agreed to the cessation of fighting, and the violence was expected to be intense.

truce failsWhich makes it all the more miraculous that on Christmas Eve many of the soldiers spontaneously created their own truces. In some regions German soldiers decorated trees and began singing Christmas songs. When the British troops responded in kind, the unofficial cease-fire began.

Christmas truce in the trenchesGreetings were shared, and soon enough men began to venture out of the safety of their trenches. In some cases there were even gifts, games, and souvenirs. Time was given to bury the dead on each side, common services were held, and most noticeable of all, guns fell silent all around.

One man's report of the Christmas TruceThe truce was not universal. In many places the fighting continued, and for some the hate was too much to overcome. But from all across the Western front came reports of moments like the one mentioned in the article above—silence, smiles, peace.

The most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable

Truce

No such truce was seen again in WWI, despite hopes and attempts to repeat it. But those few moments of peace on Christmas Day 1914 have since gone down in legend, a historical monument to the humanity found in the madness of war.

Find more on the Christmas Truce with a search on Newspapers.com.

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The Mystery Mansion of Los Feliz

Los Feliz Murder-SuicideOn the night of December 7th, 1959, Dr. Harold Perelson murdered his wife. He moved to the next room to do the same to his 18-year-old daughter, Judye, when another of his children walked onto the scene to see what was going on. Judy used the distraction to escape to a neighbor, and by the time police arrived on the scene Perelson was also dead, apparently having poisoned himself. Judye was injured but alive. The two younger siblings were shocked but otherwise unscathed. Harold Perelson and his wife Lillian were gone.
Dr. Harold Perelson murders wife, beats daughterIt’s a strange and grim story, and to this day no one is fully certain of why the doctor did it. A note found in Judye’s car suggests family financial troubles may have been the cause. What we do know is that the rest of the family left the house, a mansion in Los Feliz, and it was sold the following year to a couple from Lincoln Heights, Emily and Julian Enriquez.

To add to the strangeness of the whole scenario, the house then laid in near abandonment—for over 50 years. The Enriquez family may have rented the house for a few months but on the whole it lay empty except for a few cats (cared for by the Enriquez’s son) and the belongings of the Perelson family, still sitting where they’d been left on that horrible night.

Los Feliz MansionAccounts from visitors and trespassers have said that a Christmas tree and still-wrapped presents could still be seen through the grimy windows (though that may have been from renters, as the Perelsons were reportedly Jewish). An 50s-era TV set still sat against one wall, and other original belongings huddled beneath layers of dust throughout the home. More than one person who knows the tale is convinced the place is haunted.

If that’s true, though, it’s for the new owner to figure out. Just this year the house was finally cleared out of its dusty contents and sold again, though whether it’s in good enough condition to be salvaged remains to be seen. The residents of the neighborhood will have to watch out for what happens with the mysterious Los Feliz mansion.

Find more on this story from contemporary and modern articles with a search on Newspapers.com.

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It’s Death for Bonnie and Clyde

Fans of Timeless will recognize today’s topic as the subject of last week’s episode. The young, outlawed duo of Bonnie and Clyde were famous in their day for their criminal antics—robbing banks, stealing cars, and killing those who got in their way. The lawless lovers eventually met their end in a relentless hail of bullets, ambushed by the police they’d managed to evade for four years.Bonnie and Clyde killedIn reality, neither Bonnie or Clyde was quite as rough-and-tumble as the news reels made them out to be. Clyde was an aspiring musician whose shady friends drew him into a life of crime. Bonnie was a thoughtful poet who dreamed of being an actress. She hoped Clyde would change his ways and straighten out, but instead she dove with him into the life of an outlaw. They both hated killing and released people whenever possible, but Clyde did not hesitate to shoot when cornered.

The string of police deaths they left in their wake eventually turned the public against them. Alive or dead, the people wanted to see Bonnie and Clyde taken down. In the end it was one of their gang, Henry Methvin, who brought about their end, though it’s unclear whether he meant to. He told his father, Ivan Methvin, about a rendezvous with Bonnie and Clyde, and his father passed that information on to police. Ivan then pretended to have car trouble on the highway near the meeting spot. When Bonnie and Clyde stopped to help, officers pumped approximately 150 rounds into their vehicle. The young couple had no chance of survival.
Bonnie and Clyde's friend gave up their positionNeither Bonnie nor Clyde had any disillusions about the fate that eventually awaited them. They’d survived enough close calls to know that one day they’d get caught, and it wouldn’t be pretty. One of Bonnie’s poems, written not long before that fateful day on the highway, shows just how well she understood what would soon happen. The rhyme served as the couples epitaph.
Last stanza of Bonnie's poemSadly for Bonnie, their side by side burial was the one part of that stanza that wasn’t true. Bonnie and Clyde’s mothers both objected to the idea, and their graves remain in separate cemeteries in Dallas.

Bonnie and Clyde made many appearances in newspapers over the years. Find more of their history (true and exaggerated) with a search on Newspapers.com.

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Rosa Parks Day

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus and took a seat in the “colored” section, just behind the seats reserved for white passengers. When more white passengers boarded and filled up the front section of the bus, driver James F. Blake told Parks and three other black passengers to give up their seats. Parks refused.

Rosa Parks DayRosa Parks was not the first to resist the demeaning bus segregation rules; she was not even the first woman to be arrested for refusing to give up her seat. But she became the face of a movement, an icon remembered to this day for standing up against injustice by remaining seated.

Her arrest prompted the Montgomery bus boycott, a protest against the segregation laws.

Bus Dispute

Bus BoycottDuring the boycott, the black community carpooled, took cabs, or—most frequently—walked, to get to their jobs and schools. The campaign to change the laws went on for over a year, with some buses sitting idle for months with no passengers. Finally, on December 20, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled bus segregation laws unconstitutional.

Of her own part in the events, Rosa Parks said this:

Tired of giving in
Rosa Parks in the front of a bus Dec 21, 1956Find more articles like these with a search on Newspapers.com.

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It’s Turkey Day—But Why Turkey?

Turkey drawingIt’s Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A., and that means one thing—pumpkin pie. A nice big helping of rich, squashy pie topped with whipped cream. What’s more “Thanksgiving” than that?

Oh, and there’s turkey too.

So what’s with turkey anyway? How did the festive fowl come to be associated with holiday dining, and Thanksgiving Day in particular? Newspaper clippings from years past give varied views on the origin of this bird’s big break. The explanation that came up the most was that, hey—there were just tons of turkeys all over the place.

Turkeys were common
First thing they spotted
Turkey, Turkey, EverywhereYou couldn’t step into your backyard without nearly running into a turkey—or so the articles say. In reality, they probably weren’t as common as the stories make it seem.

Another explanation is (very briefly) offered in this 1928 ad. Turkey was just the thing for Governor Bradford:

It's what the pilgrim fathers directedWilliam Bradford was an early colonist often associated with the first Thanksgiving. His journals do mention turkeys being hunted throughout the fall of 1621, but no specific mention of Thanksgiving turkey is made by him or any other contemporary accounts.

This clipping is another brief explanation, offered by an American to a German tourist who wondered about the bird’s sudden significance on Thanksgiving Day:
Represents prosperityIt may not be the actual reason…but it rings true enough, don’t you think?

A good argument for the use of turkey as Thanksgiving’s central dish is simply that turkey wasn’t had every day; it was saved for special occasions, it took time and effort to prepare, and it was usually more pricey than your typical dinner fare.

Turkey used to be specialAnd Kim here has another great reason: turkeys are larger birds than ducks or chickens and are therefore perfect for stuffing and overindulging.
We can stuff it with stuffingYou can find Thanksgiving recipes, stories, poems and more with a search on Newspapers.com. Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Sourest Soprano

If you’ve seen the recent movie starring Meryl Streep, then you’ll know the gist on famous soprano Florence Foster Jenkins. Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster JenkinsFlorence Foster Jenkins was one of the most famous singers of her time, but not thanks to an abundance of talent—as you might have guessed from the bluntly honest article above. The clipping below sums it up nicely as well:

The differenceJenkins’ musical career began long before her singing. She was a talented pianist from a young age—legitimately—and even performed in the White House. An arm injury cut that future short, but Jenkins’ love of music only continued to grow. In her early forties she began regular singing performances, primarily at the Verdi Club, an organization she founded and hosted herself. The recitals were always fairly exclusive, invite-only affairs, and it wasn’t until she was 76 years old that she finally went public—in a big way.

Carnegie HallShe passed away only a month after her Carnegie Hall performance, leaving behind the mystery of whether or not she really knew the true basis of her fame. Her second husband, St. Clair Bayfield, supported her throughout her singing career with genuine adoration and tried to keep the criticisms away from the eyes of his dynamic wife.

St. Clair shielded Florence from criticismBut did Lady Florence know the true depth of her lack of talent? Or was she playing the audience all along?

Was Jenkins Serious?Find more about Florence Foster Jenkins and her impressive career on Newspapers.com.

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