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  • Beachcombed 32 February 1, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Beachcombed , trackback

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    Dear Reader, Beach should start by thanking the trusty Raoul for rearranging the site and making the home page more readable. He also wants to thank Adrian for helping him with the collation of the best bizarre history stories from this month. These two have proved life savers in a very difficult period work-wise: I got up at 3.00 am this morning to finish off a paper… Thanks too for all the friendly emails and sorry if answers are taking a while. Beach has only just have time to write posts as it is and February doesn’t look like it will be much better: perhaps in 2013 they’ll invent the 25 hour day. Before getting on to the 10,000 most important words from this month, offworld highlights including: Flying over Venus, a sceptical look at ghosts, evil cats, drunk at NATO and  Larry on Metti. Then there is too the round up of bizarre historical news. Prosper. Beach

    BH News Stories

    I’ve Been In That House Before…:  Chris from Haunted Ohio Books writes in: Your post on “I’ve Been in this House Before” reminded me of two stories I collected for Haunted Ohio III. Here they are: DREAM HOUSES One of the oldest chestnuts in 19th-century ghost literature is the story about the woman who dreams nightly of a beautiful house.  One day, out in the country, she sees the same house and finds that it is for sale.  On making inquiries, she finds that the house is haunted—by her, says the caretaker.  Here are two similar stories; only these happen to be true… Pat had a recurring dream about a house since she was ten. In her dream, she was showing people around the house.  She would walk up a stairway into a turret and, looking to the left, she would see a stained glass window.  Upstairs, there were four-poster beds in all the rooms.  But one of the doors terrified her.  She could never open that door.  During the summer of 1993 Pat found a picture of her Hancock County dream house for sale.  “A friend, her daughter, and I went to look at the house.  When I saw it, I was filled with an overwhelming sadness.  A lot of the things in the house were just as I had seen them in my dream: the layout was the same; a railroad track ran out back; upstairs in the attic hall was a copper-lined cistern.  The bedrooms even had four-poster beds.  But just as I got to one of the bedroom doors, I felt electricity and I couldn’t open the door.  My friend had to do it.  I felt like I was going to scream.  I was shaking.  Behind that door was the attic where we found a four-poster bed. There was an electric feeling in the attic. I was terrified, but I felt I had to explore the room.”  Pat wonders if she maybe lived—or died—there before. Rosi Mackey, my ghost-hunting friend, had a recurring dream from her earliest years: “I’m going upstairs in an old house.  In my dream, I know I’ve been here before.  I see old-fashioned poster beds, antique dressers, old pictures.  I know nobody lives here, but there is no dust.  Somebody is taking care of the place, but I don’t know why.  At the end of the hall on a table is a turn-of-the-century wedding picture in a frame. “I talked about this dream over the years to many people, including my husband Steve before we got married. After 12 years of marriage, Steve’s father moved to West Lafayette, a town I’d never visited, with his new wife, who took us to visit her father’s house.  “It came to me as I was rounding the bend of the stair: This was the house.  There were the bedrooms, the furniture, the wedding photo.  The house had not been occupied for about a year, since her father was ill and staying with her sister.  But someone came in to take care of it.  I finally understood why my dream house was empty, although cared for.  But I still don’t know why I dreamed of it for so many years….” Cory remembers this: I can’t add to your latest “haunted house” post — but I was fascinated to see it. When I was perhaps nine or ten, I heard a version of the “to let” form of the story being read over the radio.  It ended with a more dramatic presentation of the last line, where the dreamer asks, “How could this lovely house be haunted?” and the response is, “You should know — you’re the ghost!” For some reason, that totally freaked me out.  Perhaps whoever read it on the radio was playing up the spookiness of the situation.  Or perhaps it was the comedown when what seemed like it would be a story of a dream fulfilled turned out to be more like Alice being told by Tweedledum that she’s only a “sort of thing” in the Red King’s dream.  It makes you wonder, “Am I myself real, or am I just an unwelcome ghost haunting someone else’s house?” And now I’m wondering whether that creepier final line comes directly from the Andre Maurois version, is from another source, or was simply distorted by the imagination of an overly-sensitive ten year old. Judith writes in with this experience: There have been several experiences like that in my own life – the most relevant (edifice-related) one involves my once having opened a heavy book in a second-hand bookshop, right to the page showing a photo of an ancient Chinese “chess pavilion” high in the mountains.  This pavilion corresponded exactly to recurring visions I’d had at that point in my life, of walking both inside and the along the portico of this building, looking out over those same mountains.  I was so excited I almost dropped the book; I Xeroxed that page (the book was far too expensive) and actually knew where that Xerox copy was for a while. Another striking but slightly off-base experience involves my meeting and recognizing an extraordinary Ecuadorian woman whose job it is to take us tourists to Ecuador’s historic sites as well as to the rainforest.  I had envisioned precisely this same woman years earlier, and I enclose my painting of this vision (I admit to having added the Condor, Jaguar, and Anaconda, though; and embellishing her bodice with certain favorite mystical symbols) [beautiful painting!! Beach] which is now a portrait of a living woman, but the setting and period costume are as in my vision, and odd conclusions may be drawn.  When I mentioned my recognition to her she was not in the least surprised, as she lives in a world of visions and shamanism, herself.  As we know — magic and alternative realities are alive in South America. And here is GOPartisan: I don’t know if these were his actual words, but in the movie “Patton” the general speaks of having been, in a previous life, at the Battle of Zama: http://www.reversespins.com/patton.html He speaks of ‘Arab women’.  Oops! the populace of Tunisia were not Arab until the Arab conquest a millennium later.’ Thanks Judith, GOPartisan, Chris and Cory

    Columbus Knew: Thanks to Larry for getting these further thoughts on the Columbus question:  PJP writes ‘There is a further theory that Columbus had maps of the New World to take with him on his trips West.  These maps were Chinese ones made by the Zheng He (and perhaps other Chinese expeditions) flotilla.  This theory, which has only parts verified currently, and in which many scholars and historians dispute, is proffered by Gavin Menzies.  He has been writing a series of books about this trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific travel before Columbus. These books include 1421, and 1434.  And more recently, Atlantis (about the theory that the Minoan civilization had been mining copper in the Great Lakes region).  1434 is Menzies’ view that when the Chinese visited Italy in 1434 and visited the Pope, they brought along with them a full “Encyclopedia of the World” with them (about all the Chinese knowledge accumulated up to that time) that they provided the Pope, and also brought with them “maps of the entire world”-and there are some extant European maps from that time frame that show a great deal more than what Europeans are believed to have explored at that time frame.  Menzies puts forth the theory that these maps are copies of Chinese ones that were provided to the Pope.  Menzies’ theory is that the Chinese data contribution ignited the Renaissance. He has a website you can visit, and search the evidence (each book has the chapter listing on a separate webpage that you can click on) he has used to bolster his viewpoints. David Portree replies: By way of linking this to spaceflight, we already have plenty of myths of space travel. Nazi bases on the far side of the moon, the Face on Mars, Apollo 18, faked moon landings, etc., etc. Menzies’ stuff reminds me an awful lot of Eric von Daniken. It has been similarly demolished by serious scholars, though it still has a fan following. I see it as alternate history. There is no evidence that anyone serious would point to that the Chinese visited the Americas. Never mind Minoans in the Great Lakes, which is just silly. There are many explanations for maps that appear to show more than they should for their time. These include assigning incorrect dates to maps, interpreting mythical lands medieval cartographers routinely inserted into their maps as real places, and promulgation on maps of the ancient view that the Old World continents should be “balanced” by other continents as yet undiscovered. There is also ample evidence of early fabrications: for example, Amerigo Vespucci, who wrote of journeying to America and for whom North America and South America are named, never actually traveled to the New World.  Incidentally, I’m not one who believes that the Norse explored deep into the interior of North America or even very far south along the east coast. I’ll change my mind when we locate physical evidence. David S. F. Portree. Thanks David, PJP and Larry! Beach is strongly of the opinion that Menzies is unconvincing. He suffered a great deal at that man’s hands….

    King of Albania: JKMol has this to add: First: the man’s name is Herbert [corrected above from Herbet, doh!]. I recall he was related to Evelyn Waughs second wife. You probably know about ” The man who was Greenmantle”  by Margeret Fitzherherbert, Which I have (unread) and which will now be promoted to the must read pile. Second: The unhappy rule of William of Wied also saw the first attempt at peacekeeping in the Balkans. And the first Dutch casualty in failing.  One wonders how someone who’d been involved in the bloody conquest of Atjeh could be so naively drawn into the Balkan quagmire. Third: There are still supposed to be some Albanian speakers in southern Italy. Thanks! JKMol!!!!

    Dr Who: Tacitus from Detritus writes: Alas Beach, we have no surety that the missing Dr. Who episodes will ever turn up.  But neither are we without hope. In 1978 a bulldozer uncovered a cache of fragile but restoreable nitrate film reels of the silent movie era.  The place was Dawson City, Yukon.  Marvelously described as “the end of the distribution line” it was the place where, once the movies were shown there….they stayed there. The local library had quite the hoard until they were tossed out to help fill in an abandoned swimming pool. Preserved beneath the permafrost they live on.  Leaving us with the question….who has a swimming pool in the Yukon? A more comprehensive list of re-discovered films  Then the Count: You thought the loss of some old Doctor Who episodes (many of which were probably dreadful) was bad? Do you realize that the BBC actually wiped its coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon landings?!? Because obviously nobody was ever going to watch that rubbish again, were they? Here’s a comprehensive list of stuff destroyed by the Beeb but still hopefully sought. And we haven’t even mentioned radio – notably a huge proportion of the early episodes of The Goon Show.Not sufficiently depressed yet? How about this list of lost movies, which I rather think is woefully incomplete… Then finally not a possessor but an eye-witness: And oh boy I happen to remember watching that particular episode of Doctor Who [in b/w if course] on a titchy little TV with a wire tied to a coat hanger for an aerial you had to move round the room whenever the picture began to drift.  I found the regeneration scene [a lot of flashing lights and agonised writhing if I recall correctly] somehow deeply unnerving and Troughton at first deeply disappointing but quite quickly his flute tooting manic depressive persona grew on me until I realised just how drab and dowdy William Hartnell’d been.  Oddly I never found the Daleks that frightening but the Cybermen and their little cybermats spooked the living crap out me so much so at times it was all I could do to maintain my affected nonchalance and not join my younger brother and sister hiding behind the couch.  The dandified Doctor Pertwee grew on me much quicker than Troughton but my all time favourite was fellow Scouser Tom Baker because he seemed as strange mysterious and quixotic as a real life Time Lord but also subversively humorous. Thanks Tacitus, AB and the Count!

    Wicca and Fairy Folk: KR writes in: Your statements regarding the unlikely relationship of Wicca to old known forms of “European witchcraft” may be true, though I must say I disagree with mooting an idea altogether based on the opinions of today’s experts. After all, it was yesterday’s experts who decided witches existed and must be hunted down and destroyed, and it was yesterday’s experts that decided that witches did not exist after all!  Here, I think, one needs to make a few distinctions. “Wicca” as it is known today is a religion begun in the 20th century, perhaps informed in some aspects by what could be gleaned of earlier practices in some few cases, perhaps not. But “Wiccan” and “witch” are not synonyms. Witching was more a folk-practice than a religion, although it might have had traces of very old religious beliefs in it. “Witchcraft” as defined and prosecuted by 16th-17th century church and legal authorities certainly did NOT die out. Their definition was really rather broad. It covered most anything that the church disapproved regarding beliefs and practices of the (mostly) common folk, and labeled any disapproved practice as “the Devil’s work.” Note that I did not say “superstitions of the common folk,” because those who caused the most death and damage through superstitious belief in magical diabolical practices were not the prosecuted, but the prosecutors: the belief in diabolical magic were shared by the educated and uneducated alike. What ended in the eighteenth century was not the “witchcraft” practices amongst common folk, but their prosecutions by the elites. Educated people became embarrassed to admit to any superstitious belief that witches existed at all, to the point that accusations of witching by peasants were ignored. Eventually accusers of witchcraft were more likely to be prosecuted than accused. So the remaining “cunning women,” “cunning men,” “magical healers,” “water witchers” and rural herbalists kept right on doing what they did. Neighbors still blamed a run of bad luck on some neighbor they did not like or trust. Poor people still payed for good herbal remedies that helped, and also for magical ones that probably did not. I say “probably” because a cunning woman’s magical-cure placebo-effect would have been a better and safer treatment for a minor illness than the then-accepted quackery of the 19th to early 20th century educated physician! (Indeed, it would likely still have a better long-term treatment outcome than can be had with many dangerous modern prescriptions even today!) And any person, made angry enough, still might have given “the evil eye” to his or her neighbor, or  muttered a curse under his or her breath. As the article you mention about Welsh witches indicates, the old practices that were known, and for which many were accused as witches, are still extant. Mentioned were poppet-pinning and evil-eye. So in deciding whether witches still exist, or “died out in the eighteenth century” one must look  at what “a witch” actually did, not what they imagined she did, in order to be accused.  Let us see whether “witch behaviors” are still extant in our modern world: Are any people still nervous about walking under ladders, and black cat path-crossings; and if so, does superstition still exist? Yes. Are there any today who might use herbal medicines rather than go to a physician? Yes. Do people still use forked branches to find water? Yes. Is anyone ever suspicious of a weird character in the neighborhood? Yes. Does anyone ever curse another person in our modern society? Yes. Nowadays curses are yelled out loud, over the most minor aggravations: traffic, ball games, you-name-it. Perhaps no longer taken seriously, but “go to hell,” a “finger wave,” pointing a finger at another in anger, saying “damn”  are certainly forms of old curses that would have been taken quite seriously in the days of condemning witches! Ask yourself: Has no one ever given you a “dirty look?” Have you ever “shot daggers from your eyes” at someone who made you furious?  (Well, that’s the “evil eye,” you know.) Ever danced under a romantic moon? Ever been with friends to a bonfire party? What about Guy Fawkes’ celebrations: ever participated in an effigy-burning? Throwing darts at a target at the pub whilst thinking of an enemy is not so much different than sticking pins in a poppet, now is it? So we may say conclusively that witches and their witchy behaviors still exist! Indeed, their numbers have greatly increased!  Anyone, male or female, who self-identifies with any of my examples above need only look in the mirror to see one!’ Thanks, KR. I’m reminded of a comment of Keith Thomas, the great British historian where Thomas says that there is a fundamental difference between the cunning men and women of the sixteenth and the nineteenth century. I suspect he is right but neither he nor I could hope to prove this. B.

    Scary Madonna: Invisible writes “notorious, terrifying Madonna”… “this is NOT a Madonna you would want to run into on a cold dark night in an alley where the kids have smashed the street lights; or at least you’d be scrambling for your mace if you did bump into her.” Don’t sugar-coat it, Dr B., tell us how you really feel…. But I will say that I’ve always found her shaved forehead to be completely alien-creepy. You mention the red demon-angels. They are actually cherubim. The blue ones are seraphim. You’ll find these tinted angels in other late medieval artworks, like this one:  No sinister intent. And the very bejeweled throne may (in addition to the Queen of Heaven/Royal mistress themes) be a reference to Thrones (as in Thrones, Powers, and Dominions). I’m not that worried about the “pincer” hand–the pose indicates that she is presenting the Christ Child to Etienne Chevalier and his patron St. Stephen, in the other panel of the diptych. One oddity is that aristocratic ladies at this time relied on wet-nurses so you’ve got an interesting play of “well, the Virgin nursed the baby Jesus” vs “the Virgin is actually the King’s mistress and she is too refined to nurse her own babies” Another French King’s mistress–Diane de Poitiers, in her bath, looking virginal, while a wet-nurse suckles her child.  Then AB “The resemblance between the dress and modern S&M gear is coincidental”. Is it? “is she even staring at her child?” Forgive me if I’m teaching you to suck eggs Beach but she’s staring I suggest at the baby’s finger an artistic device pointing out the Bible with a rock atop it [which in turn may allude to 'stuff']. And speaking as an artist the key to the diptych [on so many levels] seems to be precisely the rock/Bible leitmotif which’s seemingly corresponds to 1) boob/Mary’s body 2) baby/sheet [the folds of which I suggest alludes to the mother's genitalia as well as Jesus' death shroud] 3) Etienne Chevalier/Saint Stephen and 4) Agnes Sorel/Etienne Chevalier. The rock [shaped like the Pontiff's 'fish head' crown which in turn appears identical to the 'fish head' crown worn by the Sumerian high priests of Oannes/Jonah] alludes to the means by which Saul [prior to becoming Paul] had Stephen put to death but it also apparently alludes to the stone placed before Jesus’ tomb. In short rock and Bible = stone and cave. [Cutting out the esoteric stuff apparently going on in there other than pointing out the triple aspected totem pole of i) baby surmounted by ii) angel looking at us surmounted by iii) angel looking downward and noting the curious synchronicity the angels're red and blue much like their equivalents in Tibetan Buddhism (almost as if they're a universal experience) etc] my reading of one of Fouquet’s more mundane and disapproving messages with regard to Etienne Chevalier [and his symbolically gated hands] is he was a kind of human chastity belt imposed on Agnes Sorel who Fouquet seems to believe never had the audacity to get her to put him on. Thanks Invisible and AB!!!!!!!

    Irish-speaking Indians: 22 Jan 2013: Kate writes: I’m sure others with more knowledge have commented but, there are old traditions of the famous lost colony of Roanoke having been semi-assimilated into local tribes of interior Virginia. Supposedly, these people had blue eyes, prayed before meals and had a large bell that was rung to gather the community. These stories became part of the Melungeon culture of the area. Bill Bryson mentions them in his book The Lost Continent. Not maryland, but not too far away, either. Thanks Kate!

    Sub-Saharan Caliphate: Dr Andrew Wilson writes in: Just found your blog entry on “Roman Empire vs Caliphate in Sub-Saharan Africa” – interesting question; I think Vile B. is largely correct. The Romans traded with Saharan communities, and less directly with sub-Saharan communities, but were not interested in controlling or dominating the Sahara directly; the costs were too large. Some further detail on the structure and nature of Roman period Saharan trade in my recent article: A. I. Wilson (2012) Saharan trade in the Roman period: short-, medium- and long-distance trade networks, Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 47.4: 409-449. doi: 10.1080/0067270X.2012.727614 Thanks Andrew!

    Tanfield Valley: Leif, an old friend of this blog writes in: Patricia Sutherland has apparently not submitted her findings for peer review, but instead has promoted her discoveries in the popular press [Armstrong]. In archaeology, this is a major breech of protocol, and it raises an eyebrow. She is not the only archaeologist to make questionable claims about Viking sites in the region. ‘Serious attention in recent years has been given to two archaeological projects in Canada… The first was undertaken by Thomas E. Lee in northern Quebec along the western shore of Ungava Bay at two sites (Payne Bay and Deception Bay). It would not appear unreasonable that Norse Greenlanders would have sailed south of Baffin Island through the Hudson Strait into Ungava Bay. Mr. Lee Discovered at these sites a number of longhouses as well as stone implements, a piece of bone, and an iron axe-head, which was apparently laminated. The material objects can be dated to the Viking age, and, although some opinion held them to be Norse, a scholarly consensus considers them not Norse buy Dorset Eskimo, having parallels with known Dorset-type materials found elsewhere in the Canadian Arctic.’ [Logan]  Sources: Armstrong, Jean. Vikings in Canada? 20 November 2012. http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/11/20/a-twist-in-time/(your post links to his article) Logan, Donald F. The Vikings in history.  London: Routledge, 1991. pp 99. (on Thomas Lee’s discoveries). Thanks Leif!

    Limits of Placebo: The great KR writes in with this: You asked about other discoveries in medicine that were not accepted at first. Dr. Barry Marshall of Australia discovered that Helicobacter pylori bacteria were causative for stomach cancer and also stomach ulcers. His work was not taken seriously, especially by gastroenterologists who were making a good portion of their living looking into stomachs and prescribing drugs and diets, and telling patients that stress was the major cause. Also Big Pharma had medicines they were selling to “reduce acid” and others to “reduce stress.” (In addition, he was an Australian instead of European, British or American.)  Dr. Marshall then himself a guinea pig. He did this by having a stomach biopsy done to prove that he did not have H.pylori in his stomach, then by drinking a culture of H.pylori and then having himself cultured when he had symptoms: H. Pylori grew in his culture. Antibiotics cured his gastritis. Eventually his work was taken seriously, and years later he received a Nobel prize.  The story is longer than my brief synopsis, and it included Pathologist Robert Warren, who began the whole theory from his findings in post-mortem examinations.  The link here is a bit long, but it is in his own words, so it is the link I am sending. Then AB with some more general thoughts.’Presumably you’re aware of the Fauja Singh saga the turbanned centenarian [+] Asian guy who ran the marathon.At the time I found myself on a medical forum full of all these doctors from all over the world discussing him and they all kept repeating mantras to the effect he was a freak or a one off or the exception that proved the rule or a hoax etc etc but this one particular Brit doc kept rabidly calling for a stop to be put to him and for the people exploiting him to be arrested or for some sort of ban to be enforced in the interests of preserving any last vestige of health which might remain to him at which point some of the others started backtracking and saying it clearly gave him a reason to live and forcing him to stop might actually harm him especially since the reason he took up the activity in his seventies or eighties in the first place was as a way of coping with depression resulting from his wife and kid dying.Besides others added he was an inspiration to the rest of us young whippersnappers to get off our arses. It was at this point the Brit doc said all he knew was he was suddenly being snowed under by a huge increase in his workload of agitated patients in their forties and fifties all demanding to know why they weren’t able to run the marathon and wanting to come off their medication and demanding he provide them with exercise regimes to get them fit again at which point he added he then had to calm them down and convince them all over again to accept the fact they’re getting on in years and face a bleak future of permanent terminal decline from which there’s no possible recovery. It reminded me of one of the first things I read when I first went on the internet circa the Millennium which was this old American jewish doctor telling how he’d attend medical conferences only to have other much younger doctors literally lift him up by his lapels and slam him against the wall for threatening their ability to earn sufficient funds to raise a family and send their kids to college all because he was writing books which claimed rather than curing or healing people much of what doctors do is actually train them how to be sick so for instance you go in with a odd pain in your finger and from then on they’ll spend years filling you with a sequence of ever more powerful meds for arthritis all the time coaching you to exhibit the expected signs of fingers stiffening and curling up until finally theyll be reduced to calcined cudgels at the ends of your wrists [the nocebo effect of course].The new one of course’s senility and people like me in my teens and my teenage daughter now aren’t merely scatty but incipient vegetable dribblers to-be even though much of the symptology associated with blackouts and scattinesses’re explained by various mystical systems as a misunderstood attempts by our original true minds to get out from under the unbearable welter of conceptual existence we mistake for life.’ Thanks KR and AB!!!!

    Douglas: Nathaniel writes ‘The disappearance of Congressman Hale Boggs was big news, and remains unsolved. Of course it was a small plane and Alaska is a big place:  The below was initially a disappearance, but the crash site was discovered after a year. Again, a small plane and a big place (slightly better traveled):  Note that the crash site was outside of the search area, and if a hiker had not found it might have remained unknown. John G writes: The aircraft in the 1972 Andes aircrash (Alive) was a similar size to the Douglas C-54-D   and probably had a smaller “viable” search area but the searchers never saw it, it was only when two of the survivors to a human settlement that the others were rescued. PJ writes: ‘This story rather reminds me of the British South American Airlines (BSAA) Star Dust accident of 1947. It disappeared in the Argentine Andes on a flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile and not a trace of it was ever spotted.  That is, until the pieces of the plane and bodies started to emerge from the glacier on Mount Tupungato in the 1990s. As the glacier progressed down the mountain the wreckage moved with it and the subsequent melting revealed things.  I have no idea if the Douglas C-54-D was near a glacier, but it probably disappeared through some other natural, perhaps similar, process. Slim comfort, as you say, to those who lost someone on the flight. Not sure this is a relevant response, but I’ve been fascinated by the Star Dust incident for years. Bruce gives this detail: A Trans-Canada Airlines Lockheed Lodestar with 15 people on board vanished on April 28, 1947 while flying from Lethbridge, Alberta to Vancouver. Despite being within 10 miles of its destination it wasn’t found until 1994.  Marvin quotes Missing Aircraft Appeal: Missing Aircraft Appeal is posted in an effort to focus renewed attention on two important unresolved cases involving United States Military aircraft that have disappeared in the last century. The purpose of this letter and suggestion, albeit out of the ordinary, is to request a renewed search effort concerning a missing U.S. Navy C-47 Aircraft, BUNR 17254, which is presumed to have crashed and was lost on August 4, 1969 in Chile, South America.  It has Never been located. The loss of this aircraft is an unsolved mystery even to this day.  This incident hardly received any newsworthy attention in 1969 and during the subsequent years that passed.  There are very few archived news releases about this incident which has practically become a forgotten occurrence.  It is something that I have often wondered about over the years that have passed, because at the time of the disappearance I was a young dependent child of a U.S. Air Force service member stationed in Chile. U.S. Military investigative documentation regarding the disappearance of the U.S. Navy C-47 is available at the following webpage for the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps, JAG Manual Investigations:  Once at this webpage you can access the rather lengthy investigative documentation by clicking on “Download” for the following description: 1969  04 AUG   MISSING AIRCRAFT BUNO 17254 According to the investigative report, the U.S. Navy aircraft was on a scheduled maintenance flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina and on board were 16 passengers comprised of U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force service members along with several spouses.  Radio contact with the U.S. Navy aircraft was lost after the aircraft was approximately 27 miles south of the capital city of Santiago (some 20 minutes after departure) somewhere between Rancagua, Chile and Angostura, Chile according to the report findings. The flight path appears initially to have been one that flew along the Chilean side of the Andes mountain range until it was to reach a more southern point at Curico, Chile and then take a flight path East through an approved mountain pass through the Andes mountains towards Buenos Aires.  The lost radio contact happened at least 15 minutes before the aircraft was even scheduled to reach the southern beacon point at Curico, Chile to access the southern mountain pass. The August timeframe is during the winter season in Chile and Argentina (essentially the reverse of our seasons here in the U.S.) and the weather conditions were apparently very poor.  Although a somewhat intensive search was conducted at the time by Chilean military and civilian personnel along with some American military aircraft support, severe weather was a factor and the search ended on August 14, 1969.  References were made to continuing the search later during their warmer season but I have not been able to confirm that this ever really took place. This unresolved and mysterious tragedy was overshadowed and subsequently forgotten due in part to the extreme weather conditions at the time and quite possibly because on July 24, 1969 the Apollo 11 Astronauts had just returned from the first successful moon landing. As I mentioned earlier, this incident strikes a personal note for me because at the time my father was in the U.S Air Force stationed in Chile along with my mother and siblings and we knew some of those on board.  This tragedy is also one which has never really had closure for the surviving family members (especially the dependent children given the time that has elapsed).  Realistically, I understand that the chances are remote that any evidence of wreckage will ever be located, but then again, technology has advanced since then, and there is always a chance that a renewed search might turn up something.  Surely, high resolution satellite imagery and digital analysis could play a big part in discovering the wreckage of the aircraft.  In order for there to be any attention given to this unsolved tragedy, it needs to be brought to the attention of our government, the Chilean government and anyone else that might have expertise in finding and recovering lost and missing aircraft.  My hope is that this lost aircraft mystery is of interest to you and that you might consider helping with a renewed effort to help locate the wreckage. I believe what prompted me to finally express this request is my having come across a blog site addressing aircraft crashes.  On this Blog site there are posts from at least two individuals whose parents were passengers on the ill-fated aircraft.  They are still hoping that the wreckage site will be found one day. Sincerely, Bradley G. Burris.’ As to Operation Mike itself Bast sent this in: Some great links here: some great links here:  From there, I found this facebook page for operation Mike:  They’re apparently trying to reopen the search. KR has more of the same: Here is a link from a family member of one of the victims who still hopes the plane might be found.  and an obituary from one of the missing. A 22 year old Sioux serving his country. Here, meanwhile, is the military report KR has also found a site with photos of downed planes in the Yukon or Alaskan wilderness. CJE writes in: As a resident of the Chicago area, and a descendant of Lake Michigan area pioneers,  I have long been fascinated by a major aviation crash that has never been explained.  Northwest Flight # 2501, disappeared on Friday June 23, 1950.  While an oil slick, and some wreckage was found, No significant traces of the aircraft, much less a reason to crash, have never been determined. The plane was a Douglas DC-4, which had taken off from LaGuardia Airport, in New York City, on a routine scheduled flight to Seattle Washington, with stops at Minneapolis, and Spokane.  A crew of three, pilot, co-pilot, and stewardess, were in charge of fifty-five passengers, men, woman, and children.  Air traffic control maintained contact with the aircraft with radar tracking, until a time at which the aircraft crossed over Lake Michigan.  Following some routine instructions, the aircraft had acknowledged air traffic control, and then no further contact could be made. There had been reports of thunderstorms in the area, but no other aircraft had reported them as reaching a level of being severe.  Searchers found an oil slick the next morning but other than small pieces of floating trash, no major debris was ever located.  Speculation as the the accident ranged from pilot error, instrument failure, to a supposed “Great Lakes Triangle.”   A reasonable guess would be that the pilot had endeavored to avoid the storms, and simultaneously descending to avoid other aircraft, he had flown directly into the lake.  Over sixty years later no trace of the fuselage, or engines, has ever been found……. Links…… 1, 2, 3.  Wikipedia has a segment that claims the bodies had been found and were buried in a secret mass grave.   Finally, a link to Wikipedia which covers the “Lake Michigan Triangle.”   I never put any stock in this tale but followers do have a way of collecting stories of missing ships, planes, and people. Chris Notanyonesdottir writes: Thoroughly enjoy your stories, and the most recent regarding aircraft disappearances brought back an unforgettable childhood memory from the early 1970s. Growing up in Canada, our neighbours were, like my family, British immigrants who came to the country in the 1950s. We would often get together with them on summer nights to share a bonfire under the stars (we lived in the rugged bush country a few hours drive north of Toronto) and often the talk would turn to ghosts, mysteries and the unexplained. At the time I had a copy of Charles Berlitz’ just-released book on the Bermuda Triangle. Being a precocious young lad I began to talk about the ‘Devil’s Triangle’ and the disappearance of the two BSAA aircraft Star Ariel and Star Tiger. Our neighbour was intrigued by the book’s account, but soon said ‘no mystery there, old boy’ (which was what he often called me). When I asked him what he knew, he quietly, and sadly, admitted his brother was Radio Officer Tuck of the Star Tiger! ‘Chills’ all round (and deep sympathy, of course) is the only way to describe our reaction. The Air Ministry had told him that, in all likelihood, bad weather was the true cause, or possibly a sudden and catastrophic structural failure of the aircraft brought about by the flying conditions at the time. While this loss didn’t occur over land, your article brought back the lasting memory of a dark night by the campfire and a single-degree of separation from what has remained an enduring mystery of early transatlantic aviation. Thanks Chris, CJE, KR, Bast, Marvin Bruce, Nathaniel, PJ and John!!!!

    Edwin Drood: KMH gets this theme going: Two major examples of spirit writing are connected with the names of Rosemary Brown,(1916-2001) responsible for many musical compositions supposedly from great composers, and Pearl Lenore Curran ( 1883-1937) who received the literary works of ‘Patience Worth”, communicated across the veil, some of which seemed of literary merit. Then comes Chris from Haunted Ohio Books: I have just been reading several issues of the British Spiritual Telegraph from the 1850s; it is, alas, full of dreary material received from Spirits on the Other Side. Death, it appears, does not inspire excellence in literary creation. I suppose everyone is too busy frolicking in the Eternal Light of the Summerland to polish their work. A specimen, “Spiritually dictated to the writer, after having looked on her sleeping children.” The FARIES’ LULLABY [sic] Daylight’s beauty now is past,–children dear—Evening shades are falling fast—night is near. Clos’d your eyes in slumber deep; Eyes that have not learned to weep. Nought of ill shall you molest—we are nigh; Hark! We sing you into rest – lullaby. Fairy guardians, true are we, Watching o’er ye brothers three. Etc. From the same edition [British Spiritual Telegraph, vol. 3-4, 1859] a story illustrating the common Spiritualist theme about the uneducated or the female miraculously being able to write and preach. Still Extending. A highly esteemed friend of ours, residing in Birmingham, who has taken some pains to investigate Spiritual phenomena, writes thus:— “There is a woman here who is a medium for tipping, writing, and speaking. She had never learned to write, and could not write, nor read writing; and now she writes under Spirit-influence, a very legible hand, and reads her own writing. She also speaks several unknown or foreign tongues, and translates them into English; she also preaches in English. 1 have been present at one sitting. She spoke very fast for half an hour or more, in an unknown tongue, and then chanted a translation in English. It appeared to be a sort of anthem in praise of Deity. She and her husband appear to have been worthy people many years among the Primitive Methodists. They appear to be sincere, and I do not like to doubt them. Some say it is all sham and humbug. We know what that is worth, as Spiritualists have had plenty of it.”  Probably the most famous case of post-mortem composition (as opposed to decomposition) is that of “Patience Worth,” a “spirit” claiming to be a 17th century woman killed at Nantucket in an Indian attack, who wrote reams of faux-Elizabethan poetry and novels that sent some critics into raptures. Her poems in particular attracted much praise and were widely published. She “wrote” through a Missouri housewife with a limited education, Pearl Curran. As with Shakespeare, critics said that Mrs. Curran was not educated enough to write such masterful prose and poetry. Some linguistics experts said that no words known beyond the 17th century were used by Patience. To me most of Curran’s material reads like a cross between a Biblical pastiche and the dialect poems of James Whitcomb Riley. A couple of sites with a more balanced view:  http://www.skepdic.com/patienceworth.html Here is one of her most famous creations, A Sorry Tale, A Story of the Time of Christ  Others: Helene Smith, channeling the Martians, James Merrill, The Changing Light at Sandover, a 500+ page epic written with his partner David Jackson and a Ouija board, supposedly channeling the voice of W.H. Auden and other dead poets. Alison Lurie wrote about the men and their adventures in Familiar Spirits. The massive OAHSPE, dictated to an Ohio man by the spirit of a dead Jewish teacher of the time of Jesus  Or just see Wiki’s list of channeled texts if you want to lose heart. Strange, too, how the modern interest in EVP has produced no lengthy texts. There are also artists who claim that they are taken over by dead artists and do “automatic drawing” Matthew Manning (The Link) springs to mind.  Also Peter Teekamp. Rosemary Brown (Unfinished Symphonies) still claims that the spirits of great composers dictate music to her. Given the advent of PET scans, this sort of thing shouldn’t be a mystery, but the channeling continues.  Sword&Beast writes in: Your last Post deserves a comment from down south: In many latin american countries, the doctrine of spiritism – created by Alain Kardec in France – has a wide following. Brazil has the largest number, almost by default. Probably the most famous Brazilian “medium” was Chico Xavier, who passed away in 2002. He was known for his “psycographed” books. Always attributing them to spirts, he wrote more than 400 books, besides – of course – thousands of letters from dead relatives to their loved ones. Some books, attributed to a dead Brazilian poet, Humberto de Campos, rendered him a lawsuit in which the poet´s widow claimed copyrights or the declaration of fraud. The court avoided the difficult ethereal question and dismissed the case based on freedom of religion, for some ruling in favour of the spirit… Finally, Ozzie in Honolulu has a real classic: Actually such compositions are fairly common.  So common that the US Library of Congress rules for cataloging has explicit instructions on how to handle such productions: “If the spirit is supposed to be that of a real person, establish the heading for the person (unless he or she is already established) and add the word “(Spirit)” to the complete heading for the person.[e.g.] Parker, Theodore, 1810-1860 (Spirit) Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827 (Spirit)”  (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, rule 22.14). Thanks KMH, Invisible, Ozzie and S&B

    Exotic Blood: LTM writes in: The discoverer of Beethoven’s black blood has died:   And don’t forget Pushkin’s family. JLB read the post too late. Regrettably, your blog post came just this afternoon when we had already returned from the Walter’s Art Museum on the last day of their special exhibit on Africans in European Art.  Besides Allesandro, there was his daughter, but also a couple of artists whose names escape me but were suggested as possibly of African descent based partially on their self-depictions; I believe one was known as “Il Morro” (sp?), “the black” [il moro, I suspect, Alessandro himself?], and other such names.  There was also a jester of African extraction in the Portuguese court who was freed and eventually ennobled, according to the exhibit.  Alas I did not have a notepad and photos were forbidden or I would have more than these crumbs. EC instead has a warning: Regarding your statement in your most recent post regarding strange DNA that “the Islamic world was a far pleasanter place to debate race relations through almost all this period.” I’d caution against romanticising Islamic race relations, as they held large numbers of African slaves centuries before the idea had even occurred to Europeans. Indeed what is probably the largest rebellion of African slaves in history, barring perhaps Haiti, took place in southern Iraq  in the ninth century AD.   ALE writes in with: Alexandre Dumas was black; and what about Thomas Jefferson’s Middle-Eastern DNA?  Why the cut-off at 1000 AD? How can one tell whether “exotic blood” in Europe antedates that period or not? North African auxiliaries allegedly manned Hadrian’s wall, and this must have left a few genetic traces, if true. And here’s an article on the BBC website: “Native American DNA found in UK/6621319.stm Here’s another one from the BBC: “Yorkshire clan linked to Africa”  Then we have Stephen D on a more skeptical note: Re non-European ancestry: it may be unkind to mention the imaginative site  which includes George III’s Queen Charlotte as black (on account of one of her ancestors was the Moorish mistress of a king of Portugal: but Moroccans and Algerians are not black); also Queen Phillipa of Hainault as black, on account of her son was known as the Black Prince.  More realistically, there are reports (I’ve not yet seen the data) that about 1% of Scottish Y chromosomes are Berber in origin. And of course Brittany was invaded by Sarmatian Alans, Iranian-speaking horsemen from the steppes: hence the popularity of “Alan” as a name. Don’t know about their DNA, though. WW, meanwhile, has memories: My recollection of facts, sources, arguments, etc.,  picked up on an early 80s Black Studies course is now sketchy. However, I do recall specific references to famous Europeans with known African and/or Black Caribbean ancestry – people like Pushkin, Alexandre Dumas, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, William Darby (Pablo Fanque) and William Cuffay to name but a few. Peter Fryer’s Staying Power, a history of black people in Britain was essential reading and provided significant stimulus to eager young minds – there are other tomes such as Prof E. Scobie’s Black Britannia and I believe that CLR James had a comment or two on the subject as well.  Finally, I also recall reading a reference to Elizabeth 1st complaining about the number of black people in England – presumably she was referring to those in London rather than Halifax! Thanks Stephen, ALE, JLB, LTM, EC and WW!

    Hambledon Hill: Aldous Huxley writes: What you talk about is very similar to the suppositions put down in Stonehenge: Where Atlantis Died by Harry Harrison and Leon Stover.The plot tied together suppositions of Myceneans mining tin in Cornwall in their struggle with Atlantis which sourced its tin from the Black Sea area….but the majority  of the action takes place around Stonehenge and the culture there. Harrison and Stover posited that the henges were gathering places for Autumn feasting, politics and burying the dead, and posited a culture around personal combat and herding and dairying.  They do state that they used a lot of the particulars from Irish hero tales, but they do support the conclusions on the archeology of the time (1970′s) I recommend it as a fun read. Harrison makes it readable, Stover makes it plausible…well, up to the eruption of Santorini, but even that made a pretty good plot element. Thanks Aldous!

    Family Memories: This great entry in the family memory catalogue comes from Terry. My family hails from Bohemia by way of Bavaria. Family lore has it that the original Stybls (what was supposedly the spelling back in the day) was a cavalry mercenary in the service of the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Year’s War, serving under either Tilly or Wallenstein (which is like saying that your grandfather served under Patton, if you will). There were no real winners or losers of the Thirty Year’s War, but the original Stybl came out on the bottom end, being driven from a Lutheran principality over to then-largely Catholic Bavaria. (There is legend that his under-cuirass doublet was still in the family as late as 1918 – no photos of it, however.) Once there, family memory gets a bit hazy until the early 1800s, when the by–then von Stybls were part of Bavaria’s efforts on both sides during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars. It was at this point that there is the first “certain” mention of my ancestors’ cavalry pretensions – I think that the cavalry allusion during the Thirty Year’s War might have been a bit of extrapolation by distant relatives. Fast forward through the German consolidation (with a relative, another horse soldier, was commended by Kaiser Friederich III (he of the Ninety-Nine Day Rule), according to family lore – he commanded the Bavarian troops during the Franco-Prussian conflict), and on to World War I. By that point, the name was von Stibal, and my grandfather was a field grade officer commanding the engineering troops in the division in which young Adolph Hitler was serving as a lance corporal. (Grandpa Wilhelm had started with the cavalry, but moved over to engineering for some reason that remains unknown to this day.) Grandpa made it out of the Great War with a minor shell splinter wound (he spent most of his time well behind the front) and one light dose of gas. (Ironically, this was the same wound history suffered by Hitler, although Hitler’s splinter wound is widely believed to have crushed one of his testicles. Not so for Grandpa Will – his was in the back of his hand.) He and my paternal grandmother (who was quite the looker in her day, although I never saw a photo of the young her until she was quite old and dowdy) escaped from post-war Germany in the nick of time, arriving here in 1919 with some money and his musical instruments. He worked as a fireman and musician in the Midwest until his death the year before I was born. (My mother’s side came out of Kaiser Bill’s navy, where Grandpa Fred (a Prussian, through and through) was a junior (captain) engineering officer, first on the big ships but later with the end of the war U boats. Despite this resume, he was never once under fire by the enemy, missing both the early war surface actions and any operational U boat deployment. (He did see Kaiser Bill once, or so I am told.) They made it over in 1922 or so, with literally nothing but the clothes on their back. He started working as a masonry foreman in a steel foundry, but soon left to become a mason contractor, making money hand over fist during the boom 1920s. He died in the 1960s, still hating the German royal family, the Irish, and the regular officers in the Kaiser’s fleet.) My mother met my father in the mid 1930s, shortly before Father went into the US Army, where he served as a non-horse cavalryman in the divisional recon unit with an infantry division assigned to mop up on Guadalcanal. He never saw a live Japanese soldier or sailor. Later on, he was yanked from his unit and sent stateside to be retrained as a Eagle radar operator for the late war B29 units. He flew a few missions, but (again) never saw any opposition of any kind. Fast forward to the 1960s, when I was the only non-draft dodging male in the family. I managed to get an assignment (through a warrant officer in personnel who was an old family friend) to my division’s armored cavalry squadron. No horses, but the same amount of mounted fun (and maintenance headaches – horses were easy to feed and care for compared to our 1950s vintage tanks). Anyway, the only reason that I knew of all of this was that one of my aged aunts (they all seemed to be named Louise Something Or Other: Louise Ann, Louise Marie, and so forth – my father had two brothers and eight sisters) told me at a family wake for my father that he was proud that I had carried on the “family tradition” of being in the cavalry. It was only then that I learned of his early World War II escapades (I thought that he had just been in the USAAF), and of the horse background of my earlier ancestors. So, my family’s cavalry associations extended back as far as the Napoleonic era, and quite possible a century and a half or more beyond that. Not thousands of years, but give us some time… Thanks Terry!

    End of Western Settlement: Celeste Culpepper writes: the folks that the Greenland settlers first met were of the Dorset culture and, so far as we can tell, everyone got along. (There used to be references to “blue-eyed Eskimos” who presumably were products of friendly interaction. These references have faded and I don’t know how Norse DNA could be differentiated from that of modern Scandinavians, but…) But the Dorset were wiped out by the Thule people who arose somewhere around the Aleutians and who rampaged east right across the Arctic for half a millennium or so, taking out everyone who got in their way. They reached Greenland in the 13th Century and are named after the first archaeological notice of their remains in Thule, western Greenland. The Thule were ancestral to the Inuit, but drawing comparisons between these two sets of people is like drawing comparisons between,say, ancient Romans and modern Italians. Which is to say, the DNA may be there but the culture is very different. Anyhow, the Thule were aggressive, warlike, and quite capable of taking out the small Western Settlement. Count follows the same argument and goes into more detail: I don’t really see that there’s any mystery here at all. You say there were between 500 and 1,000 people in the Western Settlement. Since the effects of the Black Death on them are unknown, and since it never reached Iceland, let’s assume it didn’t affect them at all, so there were maybe 750 settlers, including women. children, and the elderly. So let’s be generous and say that they could probably muster about 250 adult males who truly competent warriors. History records that, thanks to the “Little Ice Age”, conditions had been worsening in the Norse settlements, to the point where they suffered famines so severe that the sick and elderly were thrown off cliffs! And the skeletons unearthed from these hard times reveal that, despite such desperate measures, the entire population were severely malnourished. This was partly due to Norse farming and woodcutting, which respectively overtaxed the already poor soil, and made matters worse by causing loss of topsoil. Meanwhile, the Inuit, who had previously occupied territories too far North to be a problem, were forced by the worsening climate to move South. They are known to have been having a lean time of it as well. However, since their culture was far better suited to that type of environment, they may have been hunting less successfully than before, but they were almost certainly doing better at this than the Viking were at farming. So, the Inuit were hungry, but the Norsemen were positively ill. Inuit cultural history is very bloody. Inter-tribal raiding was going on constantly, usually on a small scale. However, if two tribes really hated each other, the stronger tribe would go all-out and, if possible, utterly wipe out their rivals in a genocidal massacre. Also, it wasn’t unheard of for tribes who normally merely tolerated each other to form temporary confederacies for the purpose of defeating a mutual enemy. We also know that, as the account you quote clearly states, the chap who discovered that the Western Settlement had vanished went there with the specific intention of defeating the local Inuit population, something the settlers couldn’t manage to do by themselves. So they were struggling to survive in the first place, plus they had to fight a war of attrition against natives better adapted to the climate than they were, with nowhere to re-supply themselves from except one other settlement that wasn’t doing too well either, and places a very long way away indeed. And they’d already admitted that they didn’t have the manpower to decisively defeat their foes without outside help. So presumably they had little hope of standing up to a full-scale Inuit attack by all the warriors they could muster, as opposed to petty but constant skirmishes and raids. You claim that it’s absurd to imagine that however many Inuit there happened to be in Greenland, they could possibly have put together an army capable of routing a few hundred Vikings who weren’t very well, and who had already begged for help because the best they could do was to hold the Inuit off from day to day. I think it’s absurd to imagine that the solution is anything other than obvious one. The Inuit caught on that the Vikings weren’t all that strong, and if a few tribes pooled their resources, they could crush them once and for all. The Vikings wouldn’t have expected an attack on that scale from despised primitives who had thus far only shown the ability to organise small raiding-parties, so it would have come as a total surprise, especially as the entire Inuit army would have consisted of hunters who were pretty good at being stealthy. How big a force of Inuit would it have taken to overwhelm maybe at best 300 very surprised Norsemen who were in terrible physical condition, and may not even have had time to put on their armour? I rest my case! Southern Man adds to this: there are Inuit tales, orally transmitted, that describe fights with the Norse in Greenland. I’d believe them. GOPartisan writes in: DB, this may be of interest:  My guess is a visiting ship took the last survivors, with no time for them to pack, to Iceland or wherever was the next port of call. KR wonders about an Indian solution: I was reading about Scandinavian mythology online in regard to proposed Norman origins, (Danes and Norwegians have differing opinions) which indirectly led me to stumble upon a recent article about the lost colony of Greenland [nb east settlement], here:  Which had an interesting response from the person “Myron David,” who is working with others in translations of the Lenape (Native American/Norse?) history, here:  I am linking a page describing the translation of a part of Lenape history that mentions Norse, and shows an interesting comparison of the Lenape language, in the history, to Old Norse.  This being the first I have seen of it myself, and not having researched credentials herein mentioned, I can offer no opinion on its veracity. But, I suggest that you keep in mind that the Native American people are proud of their own heritage/s, and would have no need nor desire to arbitrarily link their ancestors with any white men. I see no reason that they would try to “fake” some link to Norsemen. So, I do believe that Mr. Myron David is sincere’ Thanks KR, Count, GOPartisan and Celeste!

    Feast to End all Feasts: First up Stephen D on cow physiognomy: Pedantic points, though: I know things can be very odd up north and long ago, but I suspect that even late Neolithic Orkney cattle had only two tibia apiece, just like you and me. And the tibiae are the big bone in shank of beef: the shins have radii and ulnae, fused together (unlike in you and me). You can, of course, cook shank and shin much alike. MW has, instead, a point about cow transport: I’m not sure of the range of swimming cows, but in Scotland you don’t put the cow on the boat but rather make them swim behind:  Next up is Ruth the Unstoppably Curious: I wonder if one even needed a curragh at that time to take Bessie and Daisy to the feast.   If this speculative map is close to what the shorelines were back then, the site would overlook what appears to be a major strait and a rather large harbor. Maybe there’s hope for the silly hats… Seems to me it would be colder than today, though.  Maybe not.  The article says it started out as tundra, then turned into a very fertile plain.  So there you have both colder AND warmer. I have long been fascinated with what the fishermen and marine archaeologists have been finding, especially lately. Colin Richards suggests that different stones in the great circles come from different parts of the islands. If he really did say “islands”, that implies that the neolithic Orcadians had boats capable of carrying great lumps of stone weighing a good few tons (the average Avebury stone is about 40 tons). If they could carry those between the islands – and it would need unusual magical powers to have the stones swimming behind the boats  – there would have been no difficulty at all in moving cattle. Cattle of course are more lively than stones, and so perhaps a more troublesome cargo: but if they are being taken to a great feast, there is no need for them to be alive. Thanks Stephen, MW and Ruth!

    Lion’s Mouth: The Count writes in ‘Rudolph Hess seems to have thought that by personally arriving in a country his side were already at war with, he could somehow change everything just by being a really cool guy. That’s not bravery, that’s clinical insanity! The British government seem to have thought so too, since they neither hanged him nor tried to use him as a negotiating tool, but simply locked him up and pretty much forgot about him. Also, it’s not really that brave. If he was mad enough to believe that the British government would automatically see his point of view if only he was there in person, he wouldn’t have felt that he was in any real danger, since Britain could be relied upon to keep to the articles of war and not casually shoot a solitary unarmed enemy who arrived under a flag of truce without trying him first, which he clear;y didn’t think was going to happen… Your “lion’s mouth” selection is missing a very illustrious candidate, who, despite my complete lack of belief in this area, is, I think, more worthy of a place in that trilogy than Rudolph Hess. I refer of course to Jesus Christ. It’s often forgotten that this fellow was in fact Jewish, therefore the Messiah he claimed to be wasn’t the later Christian version, but the original Jewish model, who was (or, if you’re Jewish, will be) basically King Arthur. That is to say, a political and military leader who would, with the help of God, deliver his country from its enemies, no matter how overwhelming the odds seemed to be. But first, he had quite a few oddly specific prophecies to fulfill, such as riding into Jerusalem on an ass. By doing that amidst the maximum possible fanfare, Jesus was essentially saying: “Hello Romans! Those of you who have bothered to study Jewish culture will know that I am hereby announcing both my intention of leading a massive revolt against you, and my literally God-given ability to do so! But of course it doesn’t matter that you know who I am, because you can’t possibly stop me…” As history tells us, things didn’t quite go according to plan. Indeed, even the Christian Bible contains a passage making it screamingly obvious that Jesus was genuinely surprised to find himself helplessly nailed to a cross, and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong.’ Thanks Count!