Photo of the Day

Photo of the Day

The punishment pool in San Pedro Prison. Inmates’ children are pictured surrounding a pool inside San Pedro prison, the biggest in Bolivia’s main city, La Paz. The children play in the pool during the day, and at night it is used to drown inmates who do not respect the inmates who run the prison.

The City Within a City

Inside the prison where guards are too scared to enter

Located only meters away from the tranquil Plaza San Pedro, lies one of the word’s most notorious and corrupt institutions, San Pedro Prison. San Pedro Prison is one of the biggest in Bolivia and the common destination for people convicted of breaking the countries drug laws. It is found in the heart of the country’s administrative capital, La Paz.

Imagine a tough and dangerous men’s prison full of violence, drugs and corruption that is also home to families of women and children. A place where cells, some with cable television, kitchens and private bathrooms, are bought and sold, complete with title deeds, and the real estate market has bubbles, just like on the outside. A place where backpackers pay to go on tours, guided by inmates. A place where the police rarely venture, except to collect bribes. A place with its own strict set of rules and regulations, where prisoners elect their own leaders, who enforce the law in the only way they know how, violently. A society that lives and dies by the cocaine economy. A vibrant collection of small businesses flourishes – photographic studios, restaurants, messenger services, market stalls, copying shops, shoeshine boys, and grocery stores.

Originally built to accommodate 600 prisoners, San Pedro holds over 3000 inmates and their families at any one time. Entire families live in San Pedro men’s prison, as it’s often cheaper and safer on the inside.

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Photo of the Day

There once was a crazy man named Maurice Wilson who had a plan.. if you can call it that …a man who dared to follow his dream, an adventure which could have come straight from the pages of a ‘Boy’s Own’ annual.

Maurice Wilson’s Flight to the Top of the World

There once was a crazy man named Maurice Wilson who had a plan to crash a plane on Everest, then climb the rest of the way up… despite not being a pilot or a climber

One of the strangest attempts to climb Mount Everest was by Maurice Wilson (1898-1934), an eccentric Englishman, who tried to climb Everest after flying to the mountain–despite knowing nothing about mountaineering or flying. Wilson decided to climb Everest while recuperating from illness, forming a plan to fly to Tibet, crash the plane on the mountain’s upper slopes, and climb to the summit. He then learned to fly a Gipsy Moth plane, which he named Ever Wrest, and spent five weeks hiking around Britain for practice.

He flew to India in two weeks and spent the winter in Darjeeling planning his expedition. Wilson, with no climbing equipment, approached up the Rongbuk Glacier, getting lost and crossing difficult terrain. On May 22, 1934 he tried to climb to the North Col but failed at an ice wall. On May 31, his last diary entry read: “Off again, gorgeous day.” His body was found in 1935 in snow, surrounded by his blown-apart tent.

The last twist in the Wilson saga was that it appears he was a cross-dresser who had worked in a ladies dress shop in New Zealand. He was supposedly found wearing women’s underwear and had women’s clothes in his pack. A 1960 Chinese expedition added fuel to the story by finding a woman’s dress shoe at 21,000 feet. It seems Mr. Wilson wasn’t dressed properly for conditions.

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Photo of the Day

Richard Heene: Balloon Boy Hoax. “I’m really sorry I yelled at him,” Richard Heene said, “He scared the heck out of us.” The Colorado Army National Guard prepared to launch an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter to help in rescue, but the craft came down on its own. landed in a vacant field Thursday afternoon. Workers quickly tore it open, revealing there was no one inside. The empty craft suggested the child might have fallen from the runaway balloon as it sailed wildly for more than an hour — or that he never left the ground.

“Balloon Boy”

Only one family can claim “Balloon Boy” as their own.

That’s the moniker given to Falcon Heene in October 2009 when he was just 6 years old.

On October 15, 2009, 6-year-old Falcon Heene, aka the Balloon Boy, became the source of a wild goose chase that took Colorado authorities over both the land and air space of northern Colorado. After his parents, Richard and Mayumi, frantically alerted local police that their son was trapped in a balloon floating up to 7,000 feet above ground, the world watched in horror as the desperate search for the missing child dragged on for over four hours.

Even President Obama had got dumped from a live broadcast in New Orleans to track the supersized Jiffy Pop bag floating over Colorado.

The story immediately drew a swarm of media attention — after all, it isn’t every day that news crews cover a runaway UFO-like balloon potentially carrying a 6-year-old boy. But with the enormous influx of attention also came suspicions that the whole ordeal was nothing more than a hoax, one that Falcon’s parents hoped would simply garner them their 15 minutes of fame.

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Father Damien

and the Forgotten Leper Colony

The sandy beaches, tropical forests, and volcanic mountains of Hawaii provide a beautiful scene that often distracts from the darker periods of the island state’s history. The native population was ravaged by disease during its colonization, and among those illnesses was leprosy.

Cut off from the rest of the world by 1600-foot cliffs on one side and ocean on the other, Kalaupapa, Molokai, is a naturally beautiful prison. When Hansen’s Disease, historically known as leprosy, struck Hawaii in the mid-1800s along with other trade-borne eastern diseases, the government of Hawaii followed what was then common practice: they formed an isolated quarantine and moved the affected population there.

When Father Damien first arrived at the Kalawao leper settlement on the isolated Hawaiian island of Molokai in 1873, he caught the attention of the press almost immediately. As the first western religious missionary, Catholic or Protestant, to live within the leper settlement despite being free of the disease himself, Damien was something of a sensation. He was praised for his Catholic sense of self-sacrifice and even dubbed a “martyr,” particularly towards the end of his life when it became clear that he had contracted a severe and ultimately fatal form of Hansen’s disease.

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By far one the most bizarre events at the Olympics that year was the marathon. Ultimately, English-born Tom Hicks was named the winner. However, Hicks didn’t have the exciting victory that one might dream of. Hicks had such a horrible race he never raced again after the event. Like the other runners, he was deeply affected by the heat and dust, but his two-man support team wouldn’t give him any water. Instead, they gave him a shot of egg whites and strychnine, which was a popular performance supplement at the time.

In 1904, St. Louis Hosted the First Olympics on American Soil

 It was Kind of a Mess…

We know strychnine as a poison, but in the right dose, it can act as a stimulant, too. It was so popular in the Victorian era that athletes would dope up using strychnine or coca leaves before events. The first US Olympics had their marathon won by a man who made it across the finish line driven by brandy, strychnine, and egg whites (and another who was just driven), and it was also common practice in a strange sport called “the wobbles.”

The 1904 Olympics, the first to be held on U.S. soil — in St. Louis, Missouri, and they were a mess. Doping, shameful “Anthropology Days” competitions among “savages” and minimal international participation were a recipe for a games that the Wall Street Journal once dubbed “Comedic, Disgraceful And ‘Best Forgotten.’”

You can’t really fault the multiple instances of cheating during the 1904 St. Louis Olympics marathon since it was basically a 26-mile Benny Hill skit that included one top contender being chased off the course by wild dogs, and another running in wingtips and trousers. The original winner of the race was Fred Lorz, a future Boston Marathon winner who led for nine miles before dropping out due to cramps, and then, after accepting a ride to the stadium, figured he’d play a joke on the crowd and jog triumphantly to the winner’s circle.

He even received the champion’s wreath from President Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter before admitting to his hitchhiking. So instead, American Thomas Hicks, who was kept upright for ten miles by regular doses of strychnine and brandy, and who was effectively carried across the finish line by his coaches, won the gold because no one wanted to see the French second place finisher walk away with the victory.

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Hiroo Onoda. College student Norio Suzuki, went to Japan and found Major Taniguchi, who was retired from military service and working in a book store. Suzuki took Taniguchi to the island and led him into the jungle, straight to Onoda. Taniguchi told Onoda that Japan lost the war, and ordered him to give up his weapons and surrender to the Filipinos.

No Surrender

Japan engaged in many guerrilla tactics during World War II, sending groups of soldiers deep into remote island locations where they could harass Allied forces. And when the war ended in the 1945, not all of them came out of their hiding spots.

His home was a dense area of rainforest and he lived on the wild coconuts that grew in abundance. His principal enemy was the army of mosquitoes that arrived with each new shower of rain. But for Hiroo Onoda, there was another enemy, one that remained elusive. Unaware that the Second World War had ended 29 years earlier, he was still fighting a lonely guerrilla war in the jungles of the Philippines.

Imagine having to stay in a jungle in enemy territory during the biggest war in human history and your mission is to sabotage their operations. Tough enough? Now imagine also being ordered not to surrender or kill yourself even if you are about to be captured. Now that narrows your odds a lot more, doesn’t it?

Here comes another twist: what if your country loses or surrenders and you are still behind enemy lines?

It was August 9, 1945. An atomic bomb was detonated by the USA over Nagasaki, 3 days after one was dropped over Hiroshima. Two cities & millions of lives reduced to rubble. Japan surrendered a week later, on August 15. World War II had ended.

Hiroo and three others were the only Japanese soldiers left on Lubang Island who hadn’t died or surrendered. They found a leaflet in October saying:

“The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!”

But Hiroo and his companions thought it was propaganda by the allies and continued fighting using guerrilla tactics.

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Maura Murray

And Then She was Gone…

Maura Murray was just 21 years old when she vanished without a trace in 2004. The University of Massachusetts student was driving through rural New Hampshire at night when she lost control of her vehicle and ploughed into a snow bank. Her vehicle had slid, spun, and then came to a stop facing the wrong way on the opposite side of the road. By the time the police arrived on scene, Maura was gone. And ever since that night thousands of people on the internet has been obsessed with her disappearance.

Blogs, Reddit threads, a podcast, and a book, have all been dedicated to the search for answers in the disappearance of Maura Murray.

Some have referred to Maura as the gone girl before Gone Girl. She was the original all-American girl, who was hiding dark secrets and a troubling past, behind her perfect grades and track star exterior.

There are many conflicting theories about what happened to Maura. Did she run off into the woods and die from exposure? Was she driving into the White Mountains to commit suicide? Did she successfully evade the police and start a new life in Canada? Was she abducted by an opportunistic serial killer? Is she still living in New Hampshire under a different name? Was she murdered by a group of locals and did the police cover it up?

Maura’s remains have never been found and she hasn’t accessed her bank accounts or reached out to her family or friends since.

There was only about a 3-5 minute gap in between the time Butch Atwood, a local school bus driver, last saw Maura and when she vanished.

So where did Maura go?

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People came from near and far to watch as police investigated these horrific crimes.

Black Widow

Belle Sorenson Gunness was a six-foot-tall Norwegian-American woman who killed between 25- 40 people in her lifetime, some say many more. Nicknamed “Lady Bluebeard,” Gunness allegedly killed several of her suitors, boyfriends, husbands, and children. But why? She committed these murders to collect large sums of money in life insurance (as well as other valuables), then killed her witnesses—

A series of suspicious fires and deaths (mostly resulting in insurance awards) followed. Belle also began posting notices in lovelorn columns to entice wealthy men to her farm, after which they were never seen again. Authorities eventually found the remains of over 40 victims on her property, but Belle disappeared without a trace.

Children in La Porte, Indiana, grew up listening to graphic horror stories about the gruesome murders committed by Belle Gunness on her farm at the end of McClung Road. The most disturbing part about these grisly stories is that the gory parts are not fiction. Belle Gunness (also known as Lady Bluebeard, The LaPorte Black Widow, The Mistress of Murder Farm, and Hell’s Belle) was probably one of America’s most prolific serial killers.

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Baader-Meinhof bomb builder, Dierk Hoff’s most infamous creation: The Baby Bomb. In 1972, Hoff built the so-called “baby bomb”. The construction consisted of a steel container, which a woman could strap on. The container looked like the belly of a pregnant woman. After the supposedly pregnant woman had placed the bomb, she could inflate a balloon, which in turn simulated a fat belly. 

Baader-Meinhof: In Love with Terror 

In October 1977, the leadership of the German left wing terrorist group Baader-Meinhof, died in a German high-security prison. Their apparent suicides hailed the end of a long and bloody struggle to start a revolution in one of the world’s richest democracies.

During the years of 1968-1977 Germany lived in fear. Three terrorist groups – the Red Army Faction (RAF), Movement 2 June, and the Revolutionary Cells (RZ) – gathered about a hundred Germans as their members.

The Baader-Meinhof Gang, who called themselves the Red Army Faction, and two other terrorist groups went killing dozens of people. In 1968 the prominent German journalist Ulrike Meinhof joined the former juvenile delinquent Andreas Baader and his girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin in launching the most terrifying era in German postwar history.

It was the 1967 killing by police of a young activist during a demonstration in Berlin against a visit by the Shah of Iran that apparently persuaded Andreas Baader that the post-war authorities were little better than that which they had replaced.

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Billionaire brewery owner Freddy Heineken was kidnapped in 1983.  Policemen raided an unguarded warehouse and freed the kidnapped brewery chairman, Alfred H. Heineken, and his chauffeur from unheated concrete cells in which they had been chained for 21 days.

The Kidnapping of Freddy Heineken

The Kidnapping of Freddy Heineken is often referred to as ‘the almost perfect crime’. The gang came unstuck in farcical fashion, however, when one of the kidnappers phoned for a Chinese takeaway and unwittingly alerted police to the hostages’ location.

One autumn evening in 1983, Cor van Hout, Jan Boellaard, Frans Meijer, and Willem Holleeder kindly showed Freddy Heineken the way to their car by pointing at him with their sub-machine guns. Carefully following these directions, Heineken and his driver Ad Doderer spend the next three weeks stuck in improvised prison cells in a warehouse in Amsterdam. Communicating via codified adverts in newspapers, the kidnappers managed to extort 35 million guilders (about sixteen million euros, adjusted for inflation) from the Heineken family. Since it’s pretty difficult to run away when your pile of paper money weighs over 400 kilos, the kidnappers were either arrested or turned themselves in shortly after Freddy Heineken was freed by police officials following an anonymous tip.

It all starts on a rainy evening in 1983. Beer tycoon Alfred (Freddy) Heineken leaves his office building with two female assistants. At about 40 feet away, his driver Ab Doderer awaits him in an armoured Cadillac Fleetwood.

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