Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Holiday Spirit is stronger than the Anger of War

The year is 1914 and World war I has been going on for 4 months, soldiers from Germany and Britain, living in mud filled trenches suffering from the cold weather, the chill of the icy rain pouring down on them, with the rain comes the constant shell bombardment from both sides, snipers picking off their targets death is everywhere hope is nowhere. Suddenly around 10pm after the guns had fallen silent, singing could be heard from the German trenches,

Stille Nacht!
Heil'ge Nacht!
Alles schläft;
einsam wachtNur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab' im lockigen Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

It was Christmas eve, with the fighting and dying going on all around them the British had forgotten what day it was and the German soldiers were singing carols, after a while the British joined in singing in English, for the first time in four months there was hope in the air. Not bullits, bombs and death.

Day light came on Christmas morning, the soldiers from both trenches lay down their weapons, got out of the trenches and walked into "no man's land", about half way between the trenches, they shook hands and exchanged cigarettes and chocolate whilst wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

A soccer ball was produced and both sides played soccer this went on for an hour or so, slowly both sides dispersed back to their own respective trenches. The men shaking hands and wishing each other a final "Merry Christmas".

The next day the shelling started again, the killing and death resumed. The war was back on. The miracle of "peace and goodwill to all men" never meant so much as it did on Christmas day in 1914. The war, death and killing would continue for three more years.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Odd Facts of Plymouth Rock

In 1741 a 94 year old man named Thomas Faunce Identified Plymouth Rock as the rock his father told him was the first solid land the pilgrims had set foot on. (not true the pilgrims first Landed on cape cod, Provincetown Today)

Theophilus Cotton and the town’s people of Plymouth decided to move Plymouth Rock in 1774 it split in two halves. When that happened they took the upper part of Plymouth rock and relocated it to Plymouth’s meeting house and then moved it again to Pilgrim Hall Museum in 1834. The bottom portion of the rock was left behind on the wharf.

It is estimated that the rock weighed 20,000 lb’s till tourist and souvenir hunters chipped away at it. Numerous pieces of the rock were taken and bought and sold. Today Approximately 1/3 of the top portion remains today.. No pieces noticeably have been removed since 1880. There is one more piece in Patent Building in Smithsonian.

Plymouth Rock has figured prominently in Native American History. Particularly as a symbol of the wars waged soon after the pilgrims landed. It has been ceremoniously buried twice by Native American rights activists, once in 1970 and again in 1995 as a part of the National Day of Mourning protests.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Houston Haunting

Located at Girard and Elder streets stands the old Jefferson Davis Hospital. A very haunted building. Spirits of nurses, doctors and patients still roam the halls of this hospital. Not to mention all the souls that are angry or lost from the covering over of their burial grounds. Feelings of being watched or hearing sounds within its halls is very common. Others have gotten photos of ghostly orbs inside and around the building. I have been in this building several times to take pictures. One experience I had in 2000 was on the second floor near the main entrance. I could hear something moving down the hall towards me. A moaning sound with sliding feet like you would make with hospital shoes shuffling across the floor. Whatever was coming towards me in the dark I could not say. I didn't stay to find out. There is such a depressing sadness you can feel when you enter this building. There had been a previous hospital on the site during the Civil War where Confederate soldiers were treated and many died. Jefferson Davis Hospital has now been restored and used for apartments or lofts. You could not pay me to live or even sleep there over night.

By 1840, Founders Cemetery became full. A new cemetery was created on a 5 acre tract near White Oak Bayou.There were four sections. Potters field, black field, the rich, and all others.Victims of yellow fellow were burial here. By the 1870's the cemetery was almost full. The last burials occured around 1904. In the 1920's the City of Houston and Harris County constructed the county hospital named later as JEFFERSON DAVIS HOSPITAL. Theoma Smith,73, who was a construction worker stated "They are out there digging up peoples graves and just throwing the bones out!'' Joseph M., 80, remembers when they were building the hospital, there were putting bones in nail kegs or crates. Were they reburied?, no one knows for sure.In 1968, bones were discovered when the Fire Department maintenance facilities was built.These bones were reburied in the MAGNOLIA CEMETERY in Houston. On Sept. 6,1986 the City of Houston dug a 20 foot trench near Girard St. and uncovered 20 more graves from the 1840 City Cemetery. Bones were taken from graves by workers to be burried in other locations.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Famous Last Words

Many times people are remembered for what they did, wrote or said in their lives. Sometimes it is the last words spoken that reveal the most about the individual’s character. The following are a few “last words” spoken by famous individuals.

Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well--let 'em wait.
In response to an attending doctor who attempted to comfort him by saying, "General, I fear the angels are waiting for you."
~~ Ethan Allen, American Revolutionary general, d. 1789

~~ Napoleon Bonaparte, French Emperor, May 5, 1821

Friends applaud, the comedy is finished.
~~ Ludwig van Beethoven, composer, d. March 26, 1827

How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden today?
~~ P. T. Barnum, entrepreneur, d. 1891

Codeine . . . bourbon.
~~ Tallulah Bankhead, actress, d. December 12, 1968

Et tu, Brute?
~~ Gaius Julius Caesar, Roman Emperor, d. 44 BC

I'm bored with it all.
Before slipping into a coma. He died 9 days later.
~~ Winston Churchill, statesman, d. January 24, 1965

My God. What's happened?
~~ Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales, d. August 31, 1997

Their here!
Said screaming after waking up from sleeping.
~~ Elizabeth I, Queen of England, d. 1603

Get my swan costume ready.
~~ Anna Pavlova, ballerina, d. 1931

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Texas Declaration of Independence

The Texas Declaration of Independence was produced, literally, overnight. Its urgency was paramount, because while it was being prepared, the Alamo in San Antonio was under siege by Santa Anna's army of Mexico.
Immediately upon the assemblage of the Convention of 1836 on March 1, a committee of five of its delegates were appointed to draft the document. The committee, consisting of George C. Childress, Edward Conrad, James Gaines, Bailey Hardeman, and Collin McKinney, prepared the declaration in record time. It was briefly reviewed, then adopted by the delegates of the convention the following day.
As seen from the transcription below, the document parallels somewhat that of the United States, signed almost sixty years earlier. It contains statements on the function and responsibility of government, followed by a list of grievances. Finally, it concludes by declaring Texas a free and independent republic.
The full text of the document is as follows:
The Unanimous
Declaration of Independence
made by the
Delegates of the People of Texas
in General Convention
at the town of Washington
on the 2nd day of March 1836.
When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression.
When the Federal Republican Constitution of their country, which they have sworn to support, no longer has a substantial existence, and the whole nature of their government has been forcibly changed, without their consent, from a restricted federative republic, composed of sovereign states, to a consolidated central military despotism, in which every interest is disregarded but that of the army and the priesthood, both the eternal enemies of civil liberty, the everready minions of power, and the usual instruments of tyrants.
When, long after the spirit of the constitution has departed, moderation is at length so far lost by those in power, that even the semblance of freedom is removed, and the forms themselves of the constitution discontinued, and so far from their petitions and remonstrances being regarded, the agents who bear them are thrown into dungeons, and mercenary armies sent forth to force a new government upon them at the point of the bayonet.
When, in consequence of such acts of malfeasance and abdication on the part of the government, anarchy prevails, and civil society is dissolved into its original elements. In such a crisis, the first law of nature, the right of self-preservation, the inherent and inalienable rights of the people to appeal to first principles, and take their political affairs into their own hands in extreme cases, enjoins it as a right towards themselves, and a sacred obligation to their posterity, to abolish such government, and create another in its stead, calculated to rescue them from impending dangers, and to secure their future welfare and happiness.
Nations, as well as individuals, are amenable for their acts to the public opinion of mankind. A statement of a part of our grievances is therefore submitted to an impartial world, in justification of the hazardous but unavoidable step now taken, of severing our political connection with the Mexican people, and assuming an independent attitude among the nations of the earth.
The Mexican government, by its colonization laws, invited and induced the Anglo-American population of Texas to colonize its wilderness under the pledged faith of a written constitution, that they should continue to enjoy that constitutional liberty and republican government to which they had been habituated in the land of their birth, the United States of America.
In this expectation they have been cruelly disappointed, inasmuch as the Mexican nation has acquiesced in the late changes made in the government by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers us the cruel alternative, either to abandon our homes, acquired by so many privations, or submit to the most intolerable of all tyranny, the combined despotism of the sword and the priesthood.
It has sacrificed our welfare to the state of Coahuila, by which our interests have been continually depressed through a jealous and partial course of legislation, carried on at a far distant seat of government, by a hostile majority, in an unknown tongue, and this too, notwithstanding we have petitioned in the humblest terms for the establishment of a separate state government, and have, in accordance with the provisions of the national constitution, presented to the general Congress a republican constitution, which was, without just cause, contemptuously rejected.
It incarcerated in a dungeon, for a long time, one of our citizens, for no other cause but a zealous endeavor to procure the acceptance of our constitution, and the establishment of a state government.
It has failed and refused to secure, on a firm basis, the right of trial by jury, that palladium of civil liberty, and only safe guarantee for the life, liberty, and property of the citizen.
It has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources, (the public domain,) and although it is an axiom in political science, that unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.
It has suffered the military commandants, stationed among us, to exercise arbitrary acts of oppression and tyrrany, thus trampling upon the most sacred rights of the citizens, and rendering the military superior to the civil power.
It has dissolved, by force of arms, the state Congress of Coahuila and Texas, and obliged our representatives to fly for their lives from the seat of government, thus depriving us of the fundamental political right of representation.
It has demanded the surrender of a number of our citizens, and ordered military detachments to seize and carry them into the Interior for trial, in contempt of the civil authorities, and in defiance of the laws and the constitution.
It has made piratical attacks upon our commerce, by commissioning foreign desperadoes, and authorizing them to seize our vessels, and convey the property of our citizens to far distant ports for confiscation.
It denies us the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience, by the support of a national religion, calculated to promote the temporal interest of its human functionaries, rather than the glory of the true and living God.
It has demanded us to deliver up our arms, which are essential to our defense, the rightful property of freemen, and formidable only to tyrannical governments.
It has invaded our country both by sea and by land, with intent to lay waste our territory, and drive us from our homes; and has now a large mercenary army advancing, to carry on against us a war of extermination.
It has, through its emissaries, incited the merciless savage, with the tomahawk and scalping knife, to massacre the inhabitants of our defenseless frontiers.
It hath been, during the whole time of our connection with it, the contemptible sport and victim of successive military revolutions, and hath continually exhibited every characteristic of a weak, corrupt, and tyrannical government.
These, and other grievances, were patiently borne by the people of Texas, untill they reached that point at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue. We then took up arms in defence of the national constitution. We appealed to our Mexican brethren for assistance. Our appeal has been made in vain. Though months have elapsed, no sympathetic response has yet been heard from the Interior. We are, therefore, forced to the melancholy conclusion, that the Mexican people have acquiesced in the destruction of their liberty, and the substitution therfor of a military government; that they are unfit to be free, and incapable of self government.
The necessity of self-preservation, therefore, now decrees our eternal political separation.
We, therefore, the delegates with plenary powers of the people of Texas, in solemn convention assembled, appealing to a candid world for the necessities of our condition, do hereby resolve and declare, that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, Sovereign, and independent republic, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Haunted Tower of London

The Tower of London. Grim, grey and awe-inspiring, the Tower has dominated the London landscape and the pages of history, since its construction by William the Conqueror in 1078 and today it is, perhaps, the most haunted building in England.
The Wakefield Tower is haunted by that most tragic of English monarchs, Henry V1, whose weak and ineffectual reign ended here with his murder “in the hour before midnight” on 21st May 1471, as he knelt at prayer. Tradition asserts that the knife with which he was “stikk’d full of deadly holes” was wielded by the Duke of Gloucester (later the infamous Richard 111). On the anniversary of his murder, Henry’s mournful wraith is said to appear as the clock ticks towards midnight, and pace fitfully around the interior of the Wakefield Tower until, upon the last stroke of midnight, he fades slowly into the stone and rests peacefully for another year.
The massive White Tower is the oldest and most forbidding of all the Tower of London’s buildings and its winding stone corridors are the eerie haunt of a “White Lady” who once stood at a window waving to a group of children in the building opposite. It may well be her “cheap perfume” that impregnates the air around the entrance to St John’s Chapel, and which has caused many a Guard to retch upon inhaling its pungent aroma. In the gallery where Henry V111’s impressive and exaggerating suit of armor is exhibited, several Guards have spoken of a terrible crushing sensation that suddenly descends upon them as they enter but which lifts, the moment they stagger, shaking from the room. A guard patrolling through here one stormy night got the sudden and unnerving sensation that someone had thrown a heavy cloak over him. As he struggled to free himself, the garment was seized from behind and pulled tight around his throat by his phantom attacker. Managing to break free from its sinister grasp, he rushed back to the guardroom where the marks upon his neck bore vivid testimony to his brush with the unseen assailant.
A memorial on Tower Green remembers all those unfortunate souls who have been executed here over the centuries. Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey are both said to return to the vicinity, whilst the ghost of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury returns here in a dramatic and alarming fashion. At the age of seventy-two she became an unwitting and undeserving target for Henry V111’s petty vengeance. Her son, Cardinal Pole had vilified the King’s claim as head of the Church in England. But he was safely ensconced in France and so Henry had his mother brought to the block on 27th May 1541. When told by the executioner to kneel, the spirited old lady refused. “So should traitors do and I am none” she sneered. The executioner raised his axe, took a swing at her and then chased the screaming Countess around the scaffold where he, literally, hacked her to death. The shameful spectacle has been repeated several times on the anniversary of her death, as her screaming phantom continues to be chased throughout eternity by a ghostly executioner.
The Bloody Tower, the very name of which conjures up all manner of gruesome images, is home to the most poignant shades that drift through this dreadful fortress. When Edward 1V died suddenly in April 1483, his twelve year old son was destined to succeed him as Edward V. However, before his coronation could take place, both he and his younger brother, Richard, had been declared illegitimate by Parliament and it was their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester who ascended the throne as Richard 111. The boys, meanwhile, had been sent to the Tower of London, ostensibly in preparation for Edward’s Coronation, and were often seen playing happily around the grounds. But then, around June 1483, they mysteriously vanished, and were never seen alive again. It was always assumed, that they had been murdered on Richard’s instructions and their bodies buried, somewhere within the grounds of The Tower. When two skeletons were uncovered beneath a staircase of the White Tower in 1674, they were presumed to be the remains of the two little princes and afforded Royal burial in Westminster Abbey. The whimpering wraiths of the two children, dressed in white nightgowns, and clutching each other in terror have frequently been seen in the dimly lit rooms of their imprisonment. Witnesses are moved to pity and long to reach out and console the pathetic spectress. But, should they do so, the trembling revenants back slowly against the wall and fade into the fabric.
Returning to the White Tower, and the fearless Custody Guards who wander its interior in the dead of night, there is the eerie occasion when Mr Arthur Crick, decided to rest as he made his rounds. Sitting on a ledge, he slipped off his right shoe and was in the process of massaging his foot, when a voice behind him whispered, “There’s only you and I here”. This elicited from Arthur the very earthly response “Just let me get this bloody shoe on and there’ll only be you”!