Archives For History

For last year’s 4th of July, I wrote Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as it might have been done by Dr. Seuss. This year, I’ve created a new poem à la Seuss—the Declaration of Independence, modeled on that great American classic, Green Eggs and Ham:

We don’t like you, no sirree
We do not like your tyranny

From Schoolhouse Rock, another American classic

Colonists are people too
We want our rights, you bet we do

To life and liberty, gracious, yes!
Pursuit of basic happiness!

And so we have to break our bond
With all our friends across the pond

Could we, should we, tell you why?
Before we say our last goodbye?

You taxed our tea, you taxed our crumpets
You even taxed our ploofs and flumpets!

We do not want to quarter troops
We do not like your army groups

We’re subject to your silly laws
And thrown in jail with no real cause

Why have you ignored our plea?
We simply want to be more free!
Would you, could you, let us be?

We ask you nicely, you don’t care
It isn’t right, it isn’t fair!

So with this fancy declaration
We’re separate now, a whole new nation

We’re free now from your tyranny
See you later, King George Three!

And given my recent chat with Abe, I decided an encore performance of last year’s post was in order:

‘Twas eighty and seven years past, so they say
That our founders created the US of A

With all of us equal! The Wuggles! The Fuzzins!
And even our naughty Confederate cousins!

Now there’s a war and it’s bad and it’s sad
But a time will soon come when we’ll all be quite glad

That our nation still stands and our country’s still here
And we’ll all drink a toast with a mug of Sneetch beer

These bravest of soldiers did not die for naught
We need a do-over to do what we ought

So let’s have no more of this Civil War folly
And remember our government’s purpose, by golly

Of people! By people! For people! Yes!
Right now this country’s one heckuva mess

I want for this country a sort of rebirth
So all these nice freedoms don’t perish from Earth.

Sorry, no raindrops on roses in this joint (but plenty of whiskers on kittens, thanks to the three Weeblettes).

I was looking around my house the other day and I thought, You have a lot of really weird shit, Weebs.

It’s true, I have a lot of really weird shit. Eclectic, you might say. A lot of strange objects that I’m rather fond of. Let’s take a tour, I’ll show you around.

First, we’ll visit the infirmary to see my beloved collection of smallpox-related antiques. I’ve been obsessed with smallpox for years. In fact, my doctoral dissertation (which I didn’t finish, otherwise I’d be Doctor Weebles) was on smallpox inoculations in 18th-century America. There are many mighty diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries: tuberculosis, bubonic plague, yellow fever, etc, but I find smallpox the most compelling. As pathogens go, this one is brutal as fuck. Kill rates during epidemics ranged from 30% to 50%. In many parts of the world, children weren’t even considered official members of the family until they had contracted and survived smallpox. That’s some sick shit, yo. And smallpox is the only disease to be completely eradicated (although polio is on its way to extinction as well). It exists only in the labs now (and hopefully will not return in weaponized format, or any other format).

Clockwise from top left: 20th-century smallpox vaccine vials, 19th-century fleams, 19th-century scarificator, 19th-century ivory folding lancet, 18th-century scalpel.

In case you’re wondering how lancets, fleams, and scalpels treated smallpox, these little beauties were used to create wounds through which the smallpox matter (or cowpox matter, later on) was introduced. The scarificator is a neat little device with several small blades on the bottom to create multiple wounds at once. All of these tools were used for bloodletting as well. It was thought that many illnesses were caused by an overabundance of blood, so doctors would bleed patients to drain the “excess.” Shockingly, this charming practice hurt many more people than it helped.

Let’s move on to the Teeny Tiny Chamber of Horrors. Please note that Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy are here only for scale, not for punishment. They learned their lesson after last time.

This is my guillotine. There are others like it but this one is mine.

Raggedy Andy now knows the penalty for geting fresh with Raggedy Ann...

Raggedy Andy now knows the penalty for getting fresh with Raggedy Ann…

We’re going to make a right turn here, onto Sesame Street:


One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Six Count von Count items! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Aside from Oscar the Grouch, The Count is my favorite Sesame Street character. What better way to honor him than to build a shrine that includes toys made in his likeness? Please take a moment for quiet reflection here if you like.

Around the corner from Sesame Street is the Museum of Wacky Old Items. These objects are late 18th century to early 19th century.


From top to bottom: Folding knife, bullet probe, blistering iron.

The folding knife, called a “penny knife” because that’s how much it cost, is the kind carried by soldiers during the American Revolution. This one is in pretty good shape but who knows, maybe it was used by a smokin’ hot guy in the Continental Army. It titillates me to contemplate this. The bullet probe determined the depth of a bullet wound. Fat load of good it did, though; it was a lot more common to die from nasty, infected bullet wounds than to be killed outright by bullets. The blistering iron did exactly what you’d expect: you held it over a fire to get it nice and hot, then seared the skin with it to cause a blister. You know that philosophy behind bloodletting? Yeah, well, blistering was another method of relieving people of the bad “humors” that caused disease. In theory, the blister would draw all the ick (that’s the official medical term for it, by the way) from the person, and when the blister drained, presto, disease all gone. But guess what? Yup. Didn’t work. In fact, you know who died after being severely weakened by copious bloodletting and blistering? George Washington. Poor bastard was already very sick, and the “medical” treatment finished him off.

And finally, let’s visit the farm and say hello to my stuffed animals. Not the taxidermy kind, either. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Weebs has stuffed animals???” Yes. Yes I do. Allow me to introduce you to some of my plush friends:


Ham and Peas. Yes, those are the peas from Toy Story 3, how kind of you to notice.


Top left to right: Whaley and Squeezy Shark. Bottom left to right: Owlie, Legs, and Narwally. What? I didn’t say I was good at naming them.


The cuddliest breakfast ever: Toast, Coffee, and Pancakes. If only I could find a real mug of coffee this big.

Mr. Weebles is concerned about my penchant for buying giant stuffed toys because they take up a lot of space. I tell him I can stop anytime I want to. (I just don’t want to.)

And this concludes our tour for today. Thank you for joining me, I hope you’ve all enjoyed it as much as I have. Please be sure to gather all your belongings, watch your step as you disembark, and get home safely.

You know about my experiences hearing dead people. I’ve even shared my psychic predictions from time to time. So I thought, hey, why not have a sit-down with some dead people and interview them, like Barbara Walters except interesting?

I turned off the lights and lit a candle for ambience. Except I didn’t realize the candle was some sort of cloying scented thing. It made my eyes water and I almost passed out from the fumes. I blew it out. Darkness is better for communing with spirit anyway.

Soon, I felt a presence. I called out, “Who’s there?”

I heard the sound of a coin dropping on the floor and rolling to a stop. From the street lamps outside, I had enough light to see that it was a penny, heads up. Hmm.


“Mr. Lincoln?? Is that you?”

“Yes it is. I’m so glad you figured that out. Do you know how many other people just say ‘Hey look, a penny!!!!’ and then grab it and run off and forget I’m here? It’s very annoying.”

We chatted for a while about this and that. But then I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to know.

MW: So, Mr. President, I hate to bring up bad memories, and I don’t want to seem tacky, but I have to ask: what did you think of the play before you were so rudely interrupted?
AL: You know, I was really enjoying it. But Booth shot me right during the funniest line—he did that on purpose, you know. At first he said he did it so the laughter of the crowd would drown out the gunshot. But he admitted to me later that he did it just for spite so that I’d miss the best part.
MW: What an ass. Did you ever see John Wilkes Booth act? Was he any good?
AL: Eh. He was okay. I might have been more generous with my opinion about his acting ability if he hadn’t been a president-murdering son of a bitch.
MW: That’s fair. I assume when he died he didn’t go upstairs, am I right?
AL: That’s correct, he’s down below. Last I heard, he was being moved to different quarters. The Night Stalker—he just arrived down there—got dibs on being his bunkmate. You have no idea how happy that makes me.
MW: But Mr. President, in your second inaugural address, you spoke so eloquently of a time when the war was over, and welcoming the Confederates back to the country with “malice toward none.” You don’t sound like the man who wrote of such forgiveness.
AL: I know. I lied. It made for good press. Don’t look at me like that, it’s not like I’m the only president who ever lied.
MW: You have a point there. Anyway, what have you been doing since your assassination?
AL: You mean in these past seven score and eight years? Well, I recently took up yoga. And I learned Thai cooking. In fact, just the other night I gave a dinner party—the food turned out really well but the guests were a bit rambunctious. Cleopatra drank all the wine as fast as Jesus could make it. And I have to remember never to leave Queen Victoria alone with Marco Polo…they disappeared for a few hours and when they came back, the Queen’s gown was all disheveled and wrinkled and Marco high-fived everyone.
MW: Wow. I had no idea they were such party animals.
AL: Remind me to tell you about the time I had drinks with Florence Nightingale. She might have been a bit of a prig when she was alive, but now, once you get a few apple martinis in her, she lets her hair down and starts slipping the tongue to the barmaids.
MW: Is that right?? I would have thought she’d be more of a teetotaling sort.
AL: Let’s just say the “Lady With the Lamp” becomes the “Lady Wearing the Lampshade” pretty quickly when alcohol is involved.
MW: You’re starting to fade, Mr. Lincoln. Is there anything else you want to say before you leave?
AL: There is, as a matter of fact. Why is everyone so fascinated by Kim Kardashian? Am I missing something? She has a great behind—I don’t think she’d even need a bustle to fill out her dress. But other than that, she seems as useless as George McClellan.
MW: A lot has changed since you were here, sir.
AL: Not really. Next time I’ll tell you about the time Edwin Stanton and I put on some of Mrs. Lincoln’s dresses and paraded in front of the Capitol Building. We acquired the calling cards of quite a few senators and congressmen.

Stay tuned for my next chat with the spirit world…who knows who will come through next??

Submitted for your approval is a new batch of Hot Dead Goodness. Today we have three Hot Dead Guys and three Hot Dead Chicks—a little something for everyone.


Aldous Huxley

We begin with Aldous Huxley…über-intellect, philosopher, and author. Best known for his anti-Utopian novel Brave New World. Also well known for his prodigious and copious drug use. Less well known for his 1940 screenplay for Pride and Prejudice, starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Should be known best for his brooding good looks, penetrating gaze, and general hotness.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

Next up we have Sir Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh, as it was originally spelled). Well known for his dalliance with Queen Elizabeth I (“Virgin Queen” my ass). Also known for his ill-fated expedition to settle Roanoke Colony in North Carolina (what kind of dipstick sends people to set up shop on the North Carolina coast during hurricane season, anyway???). Should be best known as Hot Elizabethan Studmuffin.

Our third Hot Dead Guy was chosen with Leo in mind, because I know of his fondness for hot prisoners and ex-cons.

John O'Reilly

John Boyle O’Reilly

John Boyle O’Reilly was a Fenian who was imprisoned in 1866 for his role in an Irish plot to rebel against British troops. This didn’t exactly endear him to the British, and for his troubles he got a prison sentence and subsequent transportation to Australia as a political criminal. O’Reilly escaped from prison in 1869 and made his way to the United States, where he continued to advocate for Irish independence. Now tell me you wouldn’t have enjoyed solitary confinement with this fine felon.

And now, the ladies…


Alice Roosevelt

First, Alice Roosevelt…she was the oldest child of Teddy Roosevelt, and man, was she a piece of work. She had a throw pillow that was embroidered with “If you can’t say something nice, then sit next to me.” I mean, look at this haughty broad. You just know she’d rip you to shreds. Her forked tongue often got her in trouble and she was embroiled in multiple scandals throughout her life, but she didn’t care. Alice lived without restrictions. And she was hot.

Next, may I present Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood legend and science geek. During World War II, she devised a method of preventing radio-guided torpedoes from being jammed by the enemy: a device that would constantly change the radio frequency so that enemy equipment couldn’t get a fix on it.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

She received a patent for her “frequency hopping” system. It was never used by the United States Navy, but many modern communications devices use a system very similar to it today. Hottie Hedy had beauty AND brains.

Jennie Jerome

Jennie Jerome

Last but by no means least, we have Jennie Jerome. Who??? Well, Brooklyn-born Jennie was from a well-to-do family, and being a fine specimen of female pulchritude, she had a variety of suitors. In 1874, she met Lord Randolph Churchill—the man who would soon become her husband. They soon had a son, Winston. You may have heard of him. (By the way, smart money says that Winston was conceived BEFORE the wedding of his parents…) Jennie was notorious for her sexual appetites as well as for her impossibly tiny waist (thanks to some seriously impressive corsetry). Her second and third husbands were both 20 years her junior, and she was once described as having “more of the panther than of the woman in her look.” Who knew Winston’s mom was such a live wire?  And so hot??

In honor of Bloggers for Movember, I bring you a selection of Hot Dead Mustachioed Guys for your consideration.  (Special thanks to Joe Hoover for the suggestion.)

In the Classic Hollywood Dreamboat category:

Errol Flynn, Montgomery Clift, and Clark Gable (especially for you, Sandee!)

In the Handsome Presidential Assassin category:

John Wilkes Booth

In the Ultimate Sweetness category:

Walter “Sweetness” Payton (special thanks to Mr. Weebles for suggesting this one, I forgot he had a mustache)

In the I Was a Badass Until I Got All My Men Slaughtered at Little Big Horn category:

George Armstrong Custer

In the President Most Likely to Kick Your Head In category:

Theodore Roosevelt

In the Yet Another Smokin’ Hot WWII Flyboy category:

Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.—he gets extra badass points because he was commander of the first all-black fighter squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen

In the What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes My Mustache Bushier category:

Friedrich Nietzsche

In the Cloud City Cool category:

In the I Was So Good in Bed That Queen Victoria Never Stopped Mourning My Death category:

Prince Albert

In the My Father Was One of the Most Handsome Men Ever to Walk the Earth but I Was Okay Looking Too category:

John Cornelius and his father, Robert Cornelius (inset), the Greatest of All DILFs

All of these guys would have made sure to get regular prostate exams if they existed back in their day.  Even John Wilkes Booth—he was a fanatic but he wasn’t stupid.  And you just know Sweetness got himself checked out.

So gentlemen, get yourselves screened.  I know it’s not fun but it’s no worse than anything women subject themselves to during ob/gyn exams.  Please, take care of yourselves physically—and mentally, too.  And ladies, make sure the men in your life look after their health.

For more information on Movember, please click here, here, or here.

Folks, as you know, I’ve written at length about some of the serious issues that plague America today.  Specifically, them and them.  They’re a big part of why people think we’re all fucking idiots.

And as a nation, we’re at a crossroads; we’re still a superpower but our place on the global stage has changed.  The rest of the world perceives us as the big bully in the playground.  We no longer have the street cred we once had.  Our economy is in the toilet and shows no signs of recovery.  There is much reason for Americans to be concerned about their future.

But buck up, little campers!  I want to remind you about some of the things that still make us the Greatest Country in the World.  Writing this post cheered me immensely and I know it will make your hearts swell with patriotic pride:

  • We are the world’s leading producers, consumers, and exporters of pornography.  FUCK YEAH!
  • Coca-Cola has reached more people worldwide than Jesus.  Now you think about that.  There are literally more Coke drinkers than Christians in the world.  What other country in history can claim THAT kind of power?
  • There are more UFO sightings reported in the United States each year than in any other country.  We may not be popular with the other Earthlings, but ET knows what’s up.
  • Say what you want about America, we still make a damn fine cigarette.  And as a bonus, our cancer sticks have more carcinogens than cigarettes from any other country!  That’s some serious potency.
  • Americans have more plastic surgery than anyone else.  Sure, the Brazilians are catching up with us, but I’m not worried.  I have faith that my people will continue to lead the world in body dysmorphia for many years to come.
  • Our ongoing commitment to making the world safe.  We kill for peace, bitches.

On a slightly less sardonic note:  With all due respect to our brethren in Canada and the UK, where satire is a national sport, Americans can skewer people like nobody’s business.  Sites like The Onion and The Oatmeal, shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, and a lot of you guys, especially our very own Promethean Times…   I salute you, my sarcastic brothers and sisters!

So go forth, wear those American flag pins, and be proud.  We’re still number one.

Welcome to my first music post.  Let’s dive right in, shall we?

You may have heard of the song “Gloomy Sunday,” which has the dubious distinction of also being known as “The Hungarian Suicide Song.”  It was said that the song was so depressing that it drove people to kill themselves.  Fortunately this is just another urban legend—I will not expose you to any dangerous music here.

I learned of this haunting song only recently, but I quickly became obsessed with it.  This is the original instrumental version.  Hungarian composer Rezső Seress wrote it in 1932.  If the melody alone didn’t evoke feelings of sadness, then the lyrics, added later, probably helped:

Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless
Dearest, the shadows I live with are numberless
Little white flowers will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thoughts of ever returning you
Wouldn’t they be angry if I thought of joining you?
Gloomy Sunday

Gloomy is Sunday, with shadows I spend it all
My heart and I have decided to end it all
Soon there’ll be candles and prayers that are said I know
But let them not weep, let them know that I’m glad to go
Death is no dream, for in death I’m caressing you
With the last breath of my soul, I’ll be blessing you
Gloomy Sunday

Dreaming, I was only dreaming
I wake and I find you asleep in the deep of my heart dear
Darling I hope that my dream never haunted you
My heart is telling you how much I wanted you
Gloomy Sunday

Right??  The only thing that would have made it more heartbreaking is if it had been written in D minor.  Because as we all know, D minor is the saddest of all keys.

This song has been covered by many, most notably the legendary Billie Holliday.  Bless her heart, Lady Day could have taken a TV jingle and turned it into a gin-soaked dirge of despair.

More recent entries include versions by Björk, Sinéad O’Connor, and Portishead.  I like all three.  I’m fascinated by the differences in musical arrangement and vocal interpretation.  (Sarah McLachlan recorded a version too but I’m not going to link to it; we all know her songs can make you miserable so let’s just move along.)

Then I saw that Elvis Costello also covered this song.  I have no idea how I missed that.  I love love love Elvis Costello.  Always have.  I lost count of how many times I saw him in concert.  I had a copy of the poster at left—it was with me through high school, college, grad school, and beyond.  Finally I retired it only because it got too torn and ratty looking.

So when I listened to his rendition, I expected to be blown away.  But I was underwhelmed.  It was nothing special.  It was perfunctory.  It could have been—and should have been—an emo masterpiece.  I thought it would sting and ache with the kind of emotion he packed into “I Want You” and “Riot Act.”  Alas, it did not.

My beloved Declan Patrick MacManus evidently didn’t quite grasp how he and this song were custom-made for each other.  And this was back when he was still AWESOME—before Diana Krall ruined him (you can go ahead and add Diana Krall to the list of Canadian Musicians Who Have Ruined the World, by the way).  I’m not sure how he managed such an epic fail.

So I was ecstatic to discover a cover that’s much better.  To me, it’s what Elvis Costello’s version should have been.  Massive props to Pat DiNizio and the Smithereens for nailing it.  I’ve played this so many times over the past several weeks that it will probably become a permanent soundtrack in my brain.

And without further ado, I present for your consideration this gloriously gloomy song:   The Smithereens – Gloomy Sunday

[Disclaimer: This is not aimed at my Republican buddies here, who are intelligent, thoughtful human beings.  This is for the members of the GOP who are hell-bent on fomenting hatred and encouraging discrimination, among other things.  Anyone who is offended by this, however, is exactly the type of person I’m referring to below and should be offended.]

[Note: I’m not generally a politics person.  I will probably never write another political post, so I wanted to make this one count.  I’m coming out swinging.  I might lose some readers, and that’s okay.]

Hey, wingnuts.  You don’t know me but you hate me.

I’m from New York City.  To you guys, that’s just another name for Sodom.  Y’all hate us city slickers because we’re not honest, hard-workin’, church-goin’, “real” Amuricans.  Yet my city, along with 3,000 people, took a big hit for you 11 years ago.  Fuck you.

I believe that a person’s race, religion, or sexual orientation has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  You, on the other hand, cloak yourselves in your “Christian faith” and use it to justify your perverse views on humanity.  And you’re fine with people enjoying freedom—as long as they’re white, Christian, and heterosexual, and as long as they think exactly as you do.  You’re fucking hypocrites.

I care about the earth.  I know global warming is real.  I oppose drilling in the Arctic, fracking, and everything else that messes with our fragile environment.  I support the Kyoto Protocol and I’m ashamed that we are one of the few nations not to ratify it.  You hate that hippie shit.  As long as you make more money, who cares what happens to the planet, right?   You clueless fucking idiots.

I’m a woman.  I’m everything you dislike in a woman, too.  I am child-free by choice.  I didn’t take my husband’s last name.  I have my own career.  I believe all women should be able to live without the government dictating what we can and cannot do with our bodies.  You think we should be smacked around and put back in our place.  A lot of you don’t even seem to believe rape is a real crime.  That’s how much you hate us.  Fuck you, you sick misogynist bastards.

I say women should have equality in the workplace and get equal pay for doing the same work as men.  You hate that idea with a passion.  Let me tell you something, wingnuts.  The first women in my family to work outside the home were my grandmothers.  They were working their asses off when Lilly Ledbetter was still just a gleam in her daddy’s eye.  My grandmothers worked because they had to.  One of my grandmothers was an immigrant from Sicily.  You would have hated her just for that.  The other was a Rosie the Riveter—she worked at Fairchild Camera, manufacturing bomb sights and reconnaissance camera equipment for the war effort. (You’re welcome.)  They had difficult lives and few options.  Today, American women have opportunities that my grandmothers couldn’t even have dreamed about.  And you can’t handle the fact that women are now outclassing you and challenging your authority, can you?  Fuck you, you deserve it.

One of our greatest Republican presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, was a champion of women’s rights.  He also spoke out against racism.  His unorthodox views didn’t endear him to a lot of people, but he was a very forward-thinking guy.  I suspect that if he were alive today, he would have been just as open-minded on the subject of gay rights.  Meanwhile you halfwits are trying to drag us back to much darker times.  You’re a disgrace—not just to the Republican party, but to the whole country.  TR would kick your sorry asses back to the Stone Age.  Fuck you.

You disgust me.  You’re vile, arrogant, and pathetic.   I hate how you’ve given my country and my people such an awful reputation around the world.  Because the Americans I know—immigrant, American-born, gay, transgender, hetero, black, white, Latino, Asian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, whatever—are decent, kind, open-hearted souls.  They’re better Americans and human beings than you will ever be.

You’ve rewritten history to suit your agendas.  You’ve twisted the truth to such an extreme that it’s not even recognizable anymore.  Some people say you’re insane.  I disagree.  You’re not insane, you’re just evil.

The only good thing is that the more you talk, the more you reveal yourselves as hate-filled, ignorant troglodytes.  And the more that happens, the more people will want to stop you.  Because you need to be stopped.  You need to go back to your caves and pick bugs off each other, and leave my country alone.

Fuck you.  Fuck you all.

I’ve saved the spookiest tale for last.  This one is straight-up creepy.  I’m not kidding.  The experience gave me the serious heebie-jeebies.

So let’s make sure we have all of our supplies: Marshmallows, marshmallow toasting sticks, Hershey bars, graham crackers, campfire, and flashlights to shine under our chins to make scary faces at each other.  Are we all set?  Excellent.This one happened about 15 years ago.  I was visiting the battlefields in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Gettysburg was the site of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War: more than 50,000 casualties (Union and Confederate combined) in just three days.

If you’ve ever been to Gettysburg, you know what a weird place it is.  For those of you who have never visited, it’s a bizarre experience.  The town is charming and the battlefields are beautiful land now.  But even on the sunniest spring day, a sad pall hangs over the area.  It’s palpable.  Even if you had no idea where you were, you’d still know something terrible happened there.

I was with some friends for a ghost-hunting weekend.  (Don’t mock, we were doing this stuff way before Ghost Hunters et al ruined it.)  We stopped at an area called Cemetery Ridge, which was reputed to have a lot of unexplained activity.

At this location, on the evening of July 2, 1863, the 1st Minnesota Regiment was ordered to defend a U.S. Army artillery battery and hold off the advancing Confederates until reinforcements could arrive.  The trouble was, there were only 262 Minnesotans on Cemetery Ridge that night, and they faced three Alabama regiments numbering about 11,000 men.  In what was essentially a suicide mission, the 1st Minnesota charged.  The fight lasted less than 15 minutes but it stalled the Confederates long enough for additional Union forces to arrive and hold the line.  The Minnesotans suffered 215 casualties, including 40 dead.

You can see why such a place might be haunted.

We were in a wooded area with a clearing.  One of my friends wanted to see if he could get anything on tape.  So he took out a brand-new tape cassette (remember those?), removed the cellophane, and put the cassette in the recorder.  He turned the recorder on and left it running on a large rock.  We wandered around in the trees for a while and met back at the area near the rock.  We talked about how eerie the place was—it was almost dark and the winds were whipping everything around.  It was unsettling.  One of my friends even joked, “I wonder how many ghost soldiers are here with us right now.”  After hanging around for about 10 more minutes, we decided to call it a night.

Back in the car, we played the tape.  Nothing interesting.  A lot of ambient noise—wind, people walking around, the snapping of twigs.  Every so often it would pick up one of us talking, but that was about it.

When we got to the part where we were standing near the tape recorder, we heard our friend’s comment: “I wonder how many ghosts soldiers are here with us right now.”

About five seconds later on the tape, a hoarse, sad-sounding male voice said, “So many.”  Just those two words.  They were so distinct that it sounded as if the man had been talking directly into the microphone.

We all looked at each other.  Everyone had that WTF expression.  We must have played that section of the tape at least ten times.  There was no mistaking the voice or what it said.

Nobody else had been with us in that clearing.  No one had been close enough to speak into the recorder like that.  Not to mention the fact that the voice on the tape didn’t match any of ours.

The rest of the tape didn’t have anything interesting on it.  We never did figure out where the voice came from.  I can only assume it was one of the men from Minnesota letting us know that he—and a lot of his comrades—were still there…

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to

Adolph “Sailor” Malan

That’s right, another flyboy.  And another fighter ace just like our friend Pierce McKennon.  Sailor Malan was a South African pilot with the Royal Air Force during World War II.

Malan began his military career as a teenager at the South African Merchant Navy Academy, which is where he got the nickname “Sailor.”  But in his 20s he learned how to fly a plane, and shortly afterwards he enlisted in the RAF.

Throughout the war Malan and his Spitfire kicked some serious Luftwaffe ass.  As part of 74 Squadron he provided air support during the evacuation at Dunkirk and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery.  During the Battle of Britain, Malan led 74 Squadron to an unprecedented 38 downed enemy aircraft in just one day.

A fearless and unorthodox pilot, Malan compiled a list that he called “My Ten Rules for Air Fighting”—which may as well have been called “My Ten Rules for Pilot Badassery.”

  1. Wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Fire short bursts of one to two seconds only when your sights are definitely “ON.”
  2. Whilst shooting think of nothing else, brace the whole of your body: have both hands on the stick: concentrate on your ring sight.
  3. Always keep a sharp lookout. “Keep your finger out.”
  4. Height gives you the initiative.
  5. Always turn and face the attack.
  6. Make your decisions promptly. It is better to act quickly even though your tactics are not the best.
  7. Never fly straight and level for more than 30 seconds in the combat area.
  8. When diving to attack always leave a proportion of your formation above to act as a top guard.
  9. INITIATIVE, AGGRESSION, AIR DISCIPLINE, and TEAM WORK are words that MEAN something in Air Fighting.
  10. Go in quickly – Punch hard – Get out!

I believe I’m getting a touch of The Vapors just reading this.  Is it hot in here or is it just him??

Malan retired from the RAF as a top fighter ace with 32 confirmed kills.  He went home to South Africa and founded an anti-Apartheid group called the Torch Commandos, in order to “oppose the police state, abuse of state power, censorship, racism, the removal of the Coloured vote and other oppressive manifestations of the creeping fascism of the National Party regime.”  The Torch Commandos were in existence for only a short time.  But Malan remained an outspoken opponent of Apartheid government until his death in 1963.

If he had been any hotter he would have burst into flames.