Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day

Cynthia Ann Parker After Being Returned to the Parker Family. Portrait of Cynthia Ann Parker, 1861. Sixth plate tintype photograph, hand colored. Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library.

Cynthia Ann Parker After Being Returned to the Parker Family. Portrait of Cynthia Ann Parker, 1861. Sixth plate tintype photograph, hand colored. Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library.

Nocona’s Raid and Cynthia Ann Parker’s Recapture

Cynthia Ann Parker is the most famous Indian captive in American history. She was a member of one of Texas’s most prominent families, which included Texas Ranger captains, politicians, and Baptists who’d founded the state’s first Protestant church.

In August of 1833, Cynthia Ann Parker’s father, Silas M. Parker, took his family on a road trip.  He loaded his wife, five children and all their belongings into the wagons and headed south from Illinois to central Texas.

The wagon train consisted of 31 families including Parker’s grandparents, uncles and aunts.  It was a long journey and not without incident.  Parker’s brother James was killed when one wagon lost a wheel, and he was hit in the chest by a piece of wood.

The purpose of the trip was the great American Dream: to apply for a land grant.  Each head of household was awarded a “headright league” of over 4,000 acres, and the Parkers started calling Anderson County, Texas home.

The newly arrived settlers were well aware of the potential threat of the local Indians.  In 1834, Cynthia’s uncle, Daniel Parker, led the effort to build Fort Parker in Mexia, Texas, between Dallas and Houston.  Treaties were signed by the homesteaders and many neighboring chiefs leading to a peaceful coexistence, for a while.

In 1836, when Parker was nine years old, several hundred members of the Caddo, Comanche and Kiowa tribes attacked the fort.  One Indian approached with a white flag accompanied by enough others to indicate that this was a ruse.  Parker’s uncle, Benjamin, tried to negotiate with the attackers to buy time for the women and children to escape.  Those five minutes of diplomacy allowed most of them to flee into the wilderness.  But Uncle Benjamin, Parker’s father, grandfather and two other men were killed.  Parker, her younger brother, a baby and two women were captured by Comanche.

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Photo of the Day

Dr. Sam and Marilyn Sheppard on their wedding day.

Dr. Sam and Marilyn Sheppard on their wedding day.

Who Killed Marilyn?

The Sam Sheppard Case

In every decade of the twentieth century, there was one sensational murder trial that riveted public attention and at the time was called “the trial of the century.”

More than 40 years before the O.J. Simpson trial there was the Dr. Sam Sheppard murder case.

The victim at its centre was Marilyn Sheppard, the doctor’s wife, and the crime itself was so heinous and shocking, combining so perfectly extra-marital sex and violence, that it seized the country’s imagination and became an international media sensation. The trial was so polarizing it nearly tore apart the small community of Bay Village, Ohio, where the murder was committed, and its eventual verdict was so controversial that the appeals went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The repercussions of its conduct ultimately changed how juries and press-coverage of trials were handled in America, and the case itself was so compelling that it was thought to inspire the television show The Fugitive, as well as a movie, a docu-drama, a NOVA documentary, and numerous books.

At the same time, the case contained seeds of not only the dawning sexual revolution’s ecstatic explorations and moral hazards, but also the conflicts and ambivalences inherent in the nascent feminist movement: the competing roles women faced as professionals, spouses, and mothers in the second half of the twentieth century, seismic shifts in the changing expectations of both men and women that were already reverberating in movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Yet in spite of competing verdicts in three separate trials over the course of nearly fifty years, the Dr. Sam Sheppard murder case remains unsolved at worst, unsatisfactorily resolved at best. More immediately, to peer into it is to gaze on the darkest places of conjugal intimacy, to wonder at the limits and saving possibilities of matrimony, to question assumptions about a man’s capacity for fidelity as well as a woman’s tolerance of its lack, to ponder the degree to which, if at all, people are capable of change.

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Pickering Trail Google MapsThe Ghosts of Pickering Trail

When Frank Milliken died in his home, his wife Janet and their two children couldn’t bear to live among reminders of him. They left their home in California and moved to Pennsylvania to start over in new surroundings. The house they bought, an airy colonial on a quiet street, seemed idyllic. But once they moved in, things started to go wrong. Odd sounds, strange sensations, whispers from the neighbours; the Millikens began to suspect that their ghosts had followed them across the country. When they discovered that their house had a dark history, they went to court to battle the sellers, and found themselves entangled in a drawn-out legal battle. At its core lay an issue more suited to priests than to lawyers: how to define our relationship to the dead. “The Ghosts of Pickering Trail” is an intimate chronicle of the Millikens’ harrowing attempt to escape the memories of a home, and how we put a price on death and loss.

In the spring of 2006, following a long illness, Frank Milliken died in his home. His family—his wife, Janet, and their two children, Ryan and Kendra—took the death hard. For three years, they’d watched Frank slowly waste away from pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable disease that causes the lungs to thicken and scar, blocking the flow of oxygen to the blood. In the last months of his life, the illness had confined him to his bedroom. After his death, the character of the Milliken house seemed to change. Physically, it was the same: a big, comfortable rambler in Concord, California, with a red-tile roof and a copse of fruit trees in the backyard. But the house felt different. After Frank passed away, the memory of his death lingered. Janet took the kids to a hotel for a few days, but when they returned it was no better.

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Betty Williams. Photo: Odessa High School Yearbook, 1960.

Betty Williams. Photo: Odessa High School Yearbook, 1960.

A Kiss before Dying

The time was 1961, and the place was Odessa, Texas.  High school football was king, and still is today. In the ‘60s, teenagers lived for their weekly pep-rallies and frequent trips to Tommy’s Drive-In for their ice-cold cherry cokes. Teens also spared no expense in driving up and down the strip, or cruisin’ as it was called.  After all, gas was cheap back then. Teenage girls appeared innocent with their ponytails, bobby-socks, and penny-loafer shoes.

Not seventeen year old Elizabeth J. Williams.

Elizabeth J. Williams (Betty) lived with devout Christian parents.  Her father prohibited her from normal teenage activities such as dating and seeing movies, especially anything with Elvis Presley.

What sometimes happens with overly protective parents? Betty defied the rules.

She was flirtatious, and sometimes aggressive with the boys.  She mocked teachers and other girls, and didn’t shy away from making inappropriate comments.  She would wear tight clothing revealing more than she should, and she just didn’t care – outwardly, anyway.

Betty dreamed of leaving Odessa and becoming an actress, but her reputation stood in the way of her dreams.  She was overlooked during the casting of Our Town as“Emily” because she wasn’t innocent enough, but not being cast in Winterset really upset Betty.

Mack Herring was cast in Winterset, as “Garth” – the killer.  Mack played football at Odessa High School, and was Betty’s ex-boyfriend, many times removed.

The two teens had a tumultuous relationship.  They fought constantly, but couldn’t stay away from each other.  Publicly though, Mack refused to be seen with Betty.

After losing Mack and the play, Betty did the unthinkable.  She asked to die.  According to friends, she asked quite a few girls in class to kill her.  The girls of course didn’t take her seriously; Betty was an actress.

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Photo of the Day

Grasshopper-Larger Than Life

 Have You

Ever had  Dreams Like These ?

Giant grasshoppers were popular subjects for tall-tale postcards, particularly in the Great Plains during the 1930s where grasshoppers were a common pest.

Thankfully, the image on the above doesn’t show a real grasshopper. Pre-Photoshop fakes showing impossibly large food and animals were incredibly popular on postcards and tongue-in-cheek promotional materials in the early 20th century. But alas, Montana doesn’t have grasshoppers that big.

Clearly manipulated and collaged to create oversized insects, animals and vegetables, these photographic postcards were most popular in the United States. Americans have a history of using tall-tales, like “Johnny Appleseed” and “Babe and the Big Blue Ox” to reinforce ideas that Americans are independent, strong-willed, and can tame any landscape.

Combining ideas associated with tall-tales making giant grasshoppers and oversized food was one way of easing the farming and economic concerns associated with the Dust Bowl and Depression eras. Some of these exaggeration postcards were used as advertisements, and some were just plain silly.

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Researchers from the University of South Florida found some of the remains of 55 people in a graveyard at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. USF Anthropology Team/AP

Researchers from the University of South Florida found some of the remains of 55 people in a graveyard at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. USF Anthropology Team/AP

Florida’s Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was a Horror Tale come to Life

“There’s just too many stories,” Roger Kiser, who was at the school in the 1950s, has said. “I know of one [boy] that I personally saw die in the bathtub that had been beaten half to death. I thought he’d been mauled by the dogs because I thought he had ran. I never did find out the true story on that. There was the boy I saw who was dead who came out of the dryer. They put him in one of those large dryers.”

For more than a century, boys were sent to the Florida School for Boys reformatory in the north Florida town of Marianna. Many were beaten brutally and bear the physical and psychological scars to this day. Many boys, though, never came home. They died, some under mysterious circumstances. They were buried in unmarked graves and they were forgotten.

Children, some as young as five or six, who ran away from physically, sexually or verbally abusive homes; yet were labelled as incorrigible children by the juvenile court system of Florida. Under court order these children were sent away too physically work on state owned farms located at The Florida School for Boys at Marianna. In addition these same children were used by the local Marianna, Jackson County community working on ranches and unloading railroad cars for as long as twelve hours a day without any pay whatsoever. That in itself was terrible but nothing compared to what was happening behind closed doors at the institution. Many boys disappeared during the night and were never heard from again.

Over the past decade, hundreds of men have come forward to tell gruesome stories of abuse and terrible beatings they suffered at Florida’s Dozier School for Boys, a notorious, state-run institution.

Nicknamed the “White House Boys” after a small but infamous building on school property, called the White House, where violent punishments were meted out, the men have described vicious beatings and mistreatment at the hands of school administrators.

Closed since 2011, the reform school was located in the small panhandle town of Marianna, Fla., and served as a bleak destination for troublemakers, rule breakers and delinquents. In the 1900s, hundreds of boys were sent to the school — some never left.

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Photo of the Day

Just Married: Miyakejima Island Wedding. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. But some people are just too adamant to leave. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island. It may surprise you, but people residing there wear gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity.

Just Married: Miyakejima Island Wedding. Over 3,600 people evacuated the island in 2000 because of the toxic gases which could harm their lungs. But some people are just too adamant to leave. They have adopted ways to suit the living conditions in the island. It may surprise you, but people residing there wear gas masks to protect themselves from the toxicity.

Miyake-jima ‘Gas Mask Island’

The age old adage home is where the heart is, finds its true meaning in Miyakejima, a small island located in southeast Japan. Despite the high level of volcanic activity that causes poisonous gas to leak from the earth that forced the 3,600 island residents to evacuate in 2000, the citizens just won’t stay away. Thus, the self-appointed gas mask town rose from the, very literal, ashes.

Off the coast of mainland Japan, a chain of islands called the Izu Islands sits beneath a cloud of sulphur. For the gasmask-wearing residents, every day is a challenge of survival.

Japan’s Izu Islands exist somewhere on the scale between ‘endlessly fascinating’ and ‘utterly terrifying’. Formed from the raised tops of an underwater volcanic chain, the islands are lush, beautiful and exceedingly deadly. Infrequent eruptions devastate whole islands. Earthquakes shake the entire archipelago. But deadliest of all are the clouds of sulphur which hang like a fog across the island of Miyakejima, trailing chaos in their wake. It’s the sort of place you’d have to be exceedingly mad or exceedingly dead to call ‘home’ – yet nearly 3,000 people choose to live there, at the fringes of human endurance.

Most of their lives are spent hidden behind gasmasks. On the few occasions when the sulphur levels drop low enough for normal breathing, they’re legally required to have a mask within arm’s reach. At least a third of the island is still uninhabitable following a 2000 eruption that forced all three thousand residents to flee for five years. Even in those areas where things are almost back to normal, an air-raid siren can sound at any time, warning of approaching gas-cloud-death. Yet most islanders don’t want to leave. In fact, the opposite occurs: every year, a whole bunch of tourists show up, hoping to play out their apocalyptic fantasies.

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Photo of the Day

The Chavez home. A small address plaque can still be seen on the corner of Vicente’s house. It says: “5824 Rosita Road. God Bless Our Home.” // Manuel Saenz // El Diar

The Chavez home. A small address plaque can still be seen on the corner of Vicente’s house. It says: “5824 Rosita Road. God Bless Our Home.” // Manuel Saenz // El Diar

Life and Death in Juárez

The Story of Vicente

Who Murdered His Mother, His Father, His Sister

What’s one more crime in the murder capital of the world?

A warning: the excerpt below contains graphic violence.

What can possibly drive a human being to such an unstable state of mind to want to terminate another person’s life? Even worse, your parents’ life?

16-year-old student, Vicente—was intelligent, rebellious, and indifferent to any sort of authoritative figure. He had an insatiable desire for three members of his immediate family to disappear: his mother, father, and sister. With the assistance of his two friends, the assassination of the León Chávez clan is carried out close to perfection prior to dawn on May 21, 2004. Only little C.E.—his three-year-old brother whom is only described as “the only person in the world for whom he felt true affection”—is pardoned from his murderous thoughts.

In  2004, the discovery of a burnt-out truck in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, just south of the U.S. border with Mexico, was found, it contained three corpses. High school student Vicente Leon Chavez, angry with his parents for their preferential treatment of his younger sister and their adverse attitude toward him, convinced two friends to help him to murder his family. Vicente’s inept efforts to conceal the killings, including an obviously false story about a ransom demand for his missing family members, quickly led to his arrest. Vicente’s crimes were motivated in part by his belief that there would be no genuine investigation by corrupt police forces who were themselves responsible for multiple murders.

Vicente had joined Artistas Asesinos, a gang that became the armed wing of the Sinaloa drug cartel in its war with the Juarez cartel and its allies, La Linea and Los Aztecas.

By 2004, there were an estimated 300 gangs crawling city streets, the majority located in south east Juárez where the band known as Los Artistas Asesinos only grew in numbers—young individuals who were silently coerced into a life of crime.

Killing in Juárez is a way of life. And in its footsteps follow a pack of ill-nurtured teenagers who are subjected to a violent upbringing, as the lack of educational funds, recreational areas, job opportunities, and appropriate citizen input during their formative years raise them to be the future pawns of a war on México’s own people.

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cameoMother, Stranger

Author Cris Beam left her mother’s home at age 14, driven out by a suburban household of hidden chaos and mental illness. Her mother, told neighbours, and family that her daughter had died. The two never saw each other again. Nearly twenty-five years later, after building her own family and happy home life, a lawyer called to say her mother was dead. In this story about the fragility of memory and the complexity of family, Beam decides to look back at her own dark history, and for the secret to her mother’s madness.

Three years ago I got the phone call. I had always wondered about her death, how long it would take to find out about it and who would track her children down to tell them. Now I knew. Fifty-three days, and a lawyer.

I had left my mother’s house when I was 14 years old, and I never saw her again. I was 36 when I found out she was dead. In the early years of my separation from her, I tried not to think about her. For high school I moved into my father’s house, where my mother’s name had always been a bad and angry word. Then I went to college and got jobs and lovers like everyone else I knew. After the rise of the Web, I tried to spy on her from afar, but I never turned up much aside from memories that came kicking up at me like startled bats.

Ours was a family of two realities: the one we lived through and the one that had formed in my mother’s mind. She was often convinced that we were going to starve because we didn’t have enough money for food. When I was growing up, she talked endlessly about not being able to cover the mortgage on the house and how we could end up homeless and living in a box. It took me years to realize that these were fantasies. As a child, I tallied the cans in the cupboard and ticked off the days until Daddy’s check would come. But despite what my mother said, there was always enough. Sometimes we ate at the restaurant in the strip mall that smelled more like carpet than like meals or filled the car with greasy bags from Taco Bell. Still, my mother’s whispery laments were like chalk on a window: They didn’t leave a mark, but the sound stayed with me for days.

“We’re going to die in here,” she said, darting her eyes around our living room walls. “We just don’t have enough to make it.”

She always claimed to be working five jobs, though I only counted one, sometimes two. She said she was a prostitute.

When the air would become electric and I knew I should run and hide, my mother told me that her grandfather raped her every night. “Every night,” she seethed, and I was probably 10, the walls seeming to melt away. Her shoulders squared, and her eyes blazed with cruelty. “And you think you’re better than me?”

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Florencio Avalos, one of the 33 miners trapped in the San Jose collapsed mine, is seen on a television set near the mine in Copiapo, Chile, Aug. 26, 2010. Natacha Pisarenko, AP.

Florencio Avalos, one of the 33 miners trapped in the San Jose collapsed mine, is seen on a television set near the mine in Copiapo, Chile, Aug. 26, 2010. Natacha Pisarenko, AP.

33 Miners, Buried Alive for 69 Days

Almost half a mile underground, a group of Chilean miners hang on to hope. After 69 days, the longest period recorded for humans underground, the rescue capsule was ready. It took almost 24 hours but at 9.56pm on October 13 the last miner emerged. The rescue had cost about £14million but as a banner at the site said, it was “Mission accomplished, Chile.”

This is Their Story…

The ramp, the main tunnel in the San José Mine in Chile’s Atacama Desert, begins about a mile above sea level near the top of a round, rocky mountain. From the 16-by-16-foot entrance, the Ramp corkscrews into the mountain through a series of gradually narrowing switchbacks. Men driving dump trucks, front loaders, and pickup trucks use the winding path to gather minerals collected by the workers who mine small passageways for ore-bearing rock.

On the morning of August 5, 2010, some men are working almost 2,500 feet below the surface, loading freshly blasted ore into a dump truck. Another group works about a hundred feet above them, fortifying a passageway, while still others are resting in the Refuge, a room carved out of the rock some 2,300 feet down. The Refuge, with its cinder block walls and heavy metal door, was supposed to be a shelter in the event of an emergency, but it also serves as a break room; fresh air is pumped in from the surface to offer respite from the heat.

A little after 1:00 p.m., Franklin Lobos is driving a pickup truck down to the Refuge, where a group of miners waits for a ride up to the surface for lunch. Another miner, Jorge Galleguillos, is riding with Lobos when, at about 2,000 feet below the surface, he suddenly says, “Did you see that? A butterfly.”

“What? A butterfly? No, it wasn’t,” Lobos answers. “It was a white rock.”

“It was a butterfly,” Galleguillos insists.

Lobos can’t believe a butterfly would flutter this far down in the dark. But he doesn’t argue. Suddenly, the two men hear a massive explosion. The passageway fills with dust as the Ramp collapses behind them, hitting the men as a roar of sound, as if a massive skyscraper is crashing.

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