|Hollywoodland||Oct 30 2009|
Today in 1938, Orson Welles vaulted into stardom by narrating his famous radio presentation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. In adapting the novel, which concerns an invasion by malevolent Martians bent on the total destruction of humanity, Welles decided to use fictional news bulletins to describe the action. These were presented without commercial breaks, leaving listeners to decide whether the familiar sounding news flashes were truthful. Since a radio show had never used the news flash for dramatic purposes, many people were confused. The public reaction was described at the time as a panic, but historians now dispute that claim, suggesting that newspapers embellished the stories to make radio look bad. At the time print media feared radio would put them out of business, so they took advantage of an opportunity to deride radio broadcasters as irresponsible.
Newspaper embellishments notwithstanding, there is no doubt the broadcast caused widespread anxiety. Only the first forty minutes of the show were in bulletin format—after that it would have been clear to listeners they were hearing a dramatization. But not everyone listened to the full hour. In the tense atmosphere that had been created by the lead-up to World War II, many people assumed they were listening to a broadcast about attacking Germans, rather than Martians. Some people left their homes, either to confirm events with neighbors, or to try and see the invaders for themselves. A crowd gathered in Grover’s Mills, New Jersey, where the attack was reported have begun. If there was indeed a panic, it subsided quickly when it became clear there were no invaders. In the end there was only one long-lasting effect from the broadcast—Orson Welles, who had been just another radio personality, became the most famous man in America.
|Sportswire||Jul 27 2009|
|Intl. Notebook||May 6 2009|
Below is a sequence of the German airship LZ-129 Hindenburg bursting into flames and crashing at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, Manchester, New Jersey. The entire zeppelin burned up in less than a minute, leaving thirty-six passengers, crew, and bystanders dead. Commercial zeppelin travel died that morning too, today, 1937.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Apr 30 2009|
You learn something new every day. For one, we never knew police height identification charts went as low as two feet six, but even Tom Thumb is probably capable of murder. We got curious today whether the cases referred to on the covers of these true crime magazines we like to post are factual. After a little deep background we found sources confirming two of the three cover blurbs from this issue of Police Files. Reading the stories was informative, and also made us question whether the past was indeed gentler, as is widely believed. We agree there is more crime now, which follows from the simple fact that there are more people. And we also agree we hear bloodier details about crimes than in the past, mainly because journalists and editors stretch the envelope a little more every year to shock people. But have we really gotten more brutal? We’re not so sure about that. Jaded, we agree. Brutal? Ultimately, to kill you have to spill enough blood, and we think it takes just as much brutality now as it did in the past. But don’t take our word for it—read on.
“Nude Nurse in the Seabag” refers to the case of Virginia Covel, who was beaten to death in Los Angeles by her ex-boyfriend Hilding Fridell on July 4th, 1957. Upon realizing he had killed her, Fridell took an overdose of sixty sleeping pills, but did not shuffle off this mortal coil. Instead he awoke July 5th next to her stiff corpse, whereupon he opted for plan B, which involved wedging her in a canvas bag along with rocks and barbell weights, hauling her out to berth 233 in San Pedro, and consigning her to the deep blue sea. We don’t know if she sank temporarily and was buoyed up later by decompositional gases, or if she never sank in the first place, but in any case, the bag was spotted on July 12th floating right where Fridell had dumped it. A Los Angeles Times article from the next day tells us the corpse had a cord tied so tightly around its neck and beneath its knees the body was folded in half. Virginia Covel became known as the Sea Bag Victim, and Fridell the Sea Bag Murderer.
Meanwhile across the U.S. that same summer in Vineland, New Jersey, the story referred to by the header “Voodoo Love Kill” was reaching a climax. It had begun the previous autumn, when a farmhand named Juan Aponte fell in love with his boss’s fifteen year-old daughter. Aponte was a believer in the Caribbean religion of santería—voodoo to us squares—and decided he needed supernatural help to make the girl reciprocate his feelings. He located a love spell that required multiple ingredients. Bat wings—check. Lizard entrails—checkeroo. Powdered skull of an innocent boy—um. While sane men might have abandoned the gory enterprise, Aponte went ahead with his plan, so consuming was his lust for the teen girl. The boy he picked to kill was 13 year-old Roger Carletto, who was chosen not so much for his innocence, which was a given, but because he was Italian and Aponte had a thing about fascists. Aponte snatched the boy up as he returned from a movie. It was October, and nobody had a clue what happened to Roger Carletto until the next summer.
Aponte was a simple man, a farmer. He didn’t know much, but he knew the trick to powdering bone was it needed to be dry first. So he buried Roger Carletto under a hen house and waited. Finally, on July 1st he dug up the body and took most of the skull, along with a few other pieces. But he was drunk, and consumed with horror over his actions. In the final stages of manufacturing his love potion, he simply cracked. He became catatonic, and when police were called, he admitted to them that he had killed someone. He led police to the hen house of horror, where they found Roger Carletto, minus a hand, a foot, and most of his skull. Aponte never completed the spell, so it’s impossible to say whether it would have worked. But he believed it until the end. He told a cellmate, just before being transferred to state prison, “I know that it would have worked. I would have had the power to have any woman I wanted.”