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Showing posts from May, 2018

The Ghost of Matthew Vassar

The namesake of Poughkeepsie's Vassar College is Matthew Vassar, who made regular ghostly appearances to several different families occupying his farmhouse in New York in the years following his death. The following story appeared in the Washington Post on Jan. 31, 1914.

The Playboy's Folly: The Unexplained Death of John R. Fell

When it was reported that John R. Fell had died on the evening of February 22, 1933, inside his hotel room on the island of Java at the age of 43, the news sent shockwaves throughout Philadelphia. Fell was one of the best known jet-setters of the day, a noted sportsman, clubman, playboy and son of the obscenely wealthy Alexander Van Rensselaer and his equally wealthy wife Sarah Drexel Fell.

Because Fell's parents never had to work a day in their lives, neither did John. As a young man he devoted his life to the pursuit of leisure and the "sporting life". He was an excellent polo player, golfer, yachtsman and horseman, and in 1913 entered a horse in the Grand National Steeplechase at Liverpool. He sold his horses in 1916 at the height of the First World War and enlisted in the quartermaster corps.

After the war he ventured into the world of finance, and became a banker in Paris. This foray into the world of banking must have been done purely out of boredom; John had alread…

The Untold Story of Cannibalism in Haiti

From voodoo to zombies, Haiti is a land steeped in mystery and superstition. The outside world knew very little about this island nation until the days of the Second Empire, which began in 1849 after the Haitian military, led by former slave Faustin Soulouque, launched an attack against the neighboring Dominican Republic, which was being bolstered by the French. By the end of the century, Great Britain, Germany and the United States would all stick their noses into the affairs of the Haitian people, and it was the soldiers from these countries who brought back hair-raising tales of human sacrifice, occult rituals and cannibalism.

In July of 1891 a Hungarian mechanic, Maurice Feldmann, was working in the machine shops at a settlement called O'Gorman, about eight miles from Port-au-Prince. At the time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a world leader in machine manufacturing, thanks in part to Haitian slave labor. He learned that there was to be a child sacrifice near his home, sched…

The Travisite Whigs and the Downfall of Linoleumville

When the city of Topeka unofficially changed its name to Google for a month in 2010, it was a publicity stunt that made headlines all across the world. Though most people view this sort of affair as a cheap gimmick intended to boost retail sales or tourism, it hasn't prevented other towns and cities across America from following suit. But while the majority of these name changes are temporary, unofficial measures, there are some towns whose names reflected the influence of corporate overlords for decades.

Linoleumville, New York, is one such example.

Located on the western shore of Staten Island, the town known as Travisville was selected in 1872 to be the site of the American Linoleum Manufacturing Company factory and headquarters. As this was the nation's first linoleum factory, many jumped at the chance to get in on the ground floor of what was then a high-tech industry. Although linoleum had been invented by Frederick Walton in England in 1855, the process for its manufac…