Monday, June 27, 2011
He took the idea of "Fun City" a little too far.
Former New York Mayor John Lindsay proved a grosser politician than Anthony Weiner when he gave actress Florence Henderson a nasty case of crabs during a wild one-night stand in the 1960s, according to the "Brady Bunch" mom's skin-crawling new autobiography.
Former New York Mayor John Lindsay proved a grosser politician than Anthony Weiner when he gave actress Florence Henderson a nasty case of crabs during a wild one-night stand in the 1960s, according to the "Brady Bunch" mom's skin-crawling new autobiography.
Posted by Lou Boxer at 9:15 PM
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Amish Sexter Sought Buggy Sex With Girl, 12
When Amish children turn 16, the rules change. They're encouraged to experiment and explore. The idea is that teens will come back to the church after tasting the modern world. For most, this means a tentative foray — a trip to the local movie theater, or driving lessons. But for some, the experience, called rumspringa, is all about sex, parties and fast cars. Here is a story of rumspringa gone awry!
JUNE 21--An Amish man who sent hundreds of sexually charged text messages to a 12-year-old girl was arrested last week when he drove a horse and buggy to an Indiana restaurant where he had arranged a rendezvous with the child, according to police.
Nabbed in an undercover sting, Willard Yoder, 21, is facing four felony counts for allegedly soliciting sex from the minor. Yoder, pictured in the mug shot at right, is free on $20,000 bond.
In one text, Yoder told the girl that, “the proposed sex act would happen inside the buggy,” according to a Connersville Police Department report.
Yoder’s contact with the girl began with a random text sent to her phone. When the child’s parents learned of their daughter’s contact with Yoder, they took control of her phone and continued communicating with Yoder, who sent about 600 texts, as well as nude photos and explicit videos to the girl.
The parents then contacted the police, and officers took over the sting operation. After arranging the Wednesday night meeting, cops staking out the Takehome restaurant reported seeing “the outline of a carriage type buggy pulled by one horse and what appeared to be one occupant.”
Investigators noted that Yoder, who was busted outside the eatery, was cooperative and “walked his horse and buggy around the building and tied it to a post outside.” During questioning, cops reported, Yoder admitted contacting the girl’s cell phone “by chance” and “advised that he thought he was going to have sex with the girl,” whom he thought was 13.
Yoder also noted that he “realized that it was a bad decision and had never done anything like this before.”
Posted by Lou Boxer at 3:10 PM
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Thanks for visiting Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed. From 2006-2008, Clute and Edwards conducted 28 interviews with today's best crime writers—discussing the author's most recent novel in detail, and the writing life in general.
All 28 episodes are still available for free download. Scroll down this page to download podcasts featuring your favorite writers.
Though no longer conducting new author interviews for Behind the Black Mask, Clute and Edwards have been hard at work on several new hard-boiled projects. Just below this post you'll find information on their new book, The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism, and a link to visit their revised and enhanced main portal site, www.noircast.net, which includes information on their other podcasts on film noir and hard-boiled media.
Please take a moment to share this website via Facebook and Twitter by clicking the buttons just to the right.
Nearly all the authors interviewed by Clute and Edwards have released new books since their appearance on Behind the Black Mask. Please visit their author websites or your local bookseller, and grab copies of their latest works. This is one group of writers that will not disappoint you!
Thanks again for your interest in Behind the Black Mask: Mystery Writers Revealed.
--Shannon Clute and Richard Edwards
Posted by Lou Boxer at 5:47 PM
June 20th, 2011
Recomposing Life’s Details From Scraps
By DAVID STOUT
PHILADELPHIA — For decades, Frank Bender has stared at human skulls, handled them, even boiled scraps of flesh off them. He has done this to shape clay busts in the hope of giving names to rotting corpses and skeletons found in woods or alleys or abandoned houses.
He has also studied old photographs of fugitive killers, then sculptured busts embodying how they might look years later. His work has helped the authorities capture several notorious criminals who may have thought they were safe in their new lives.
Now Mr. Bender, one of the most respected of a small breed of forensic sculptors, is completing one more case — trying to help investigators identify a woman whose decomposed remains were found by a deer hunter in the woods of eastern Pennsylvania in December 2001.
“Every time I work on one, it’s my favorite,” Mr. Bender said recently in his Philadelphia studio, a converted butcher shop. But this one is special.
It will be his last, and his 70th birthday, last Thursday, was almost surely his last. Mr. Bender entered hospice care this month for pleural mesothelioma, a terminal cancer of the chest cavity.
There is no indication how or when the woman died. Thomas A. Crist, an anthropologist who examined the badly decomposed remains for the Northampton County coroner’s office in 2001, says she was 25 to 40 years old (most likely 30 to 35) and of European descent, though subtle characteristics of her molars also suggested an African background.
Nationwide computer searches based on dental records and the woman’s DNA failed to turn up a match. A search of missing-reports also went nowhere.
“This case has perplexed me for years,” said the county coroner, Zachary Lysek, who was a local police officer for eight years before becoming coroner in 1992. So this spring Pennsylvania investigators turned to Mr. Bender.
Dr. Crist, who teaches at Utica College in New York and has been a consultant for the Philadelphia medical examiner’s office, said he greatly respects Mr. Bender’s work and is fascinated by “his insights into the detailed characteristics that make each person’s face unique.”
When Mr. Bender measures a forehead and the distance from, say, eye socket to nostril hole, he starts to see a face. From statistics and experience, he surmises how thick the tissue must have been, the shape of the nose, the fullness of the lips.
But there is more to it, as this case demonstrates.
Perhaps, a visitor suggested, the woman was a drug addict or prostitute who had dropped out of conventional society. The fact that she has been unidentified all these years pointed to such a background. Right?
Wrong, Mr. Bender said. The extensive dental work, including a root canal and crowns, suggested that she’d had resources, sophistication, self-esteem. Maybe, he said, “she got a divorce, was feeling her oats, wanted to start a new life — and met the wrong guy.”
Mr. Bender’s bust has her head tilted slightly upward, as if in aspiration, her eyes seeming to gaze at the horizon. Why, he was asked, did he leave a tiny opening between the lips, as though she was about to say something?
“I don’t know,” Mr. Bender said with a shrug. “It just works.”
Mr. Bender trusts his intuition. In 1987, the Philadelphia police asked him to help identify the remains of a young woman found in a field behind a high school. In his mind’s eye, Mr. Bender saw her yearning for a better life. “The girl looking up for hope,” he called her, and shaped her face accordingly, with her head tilted up.
The police had no luck showing the bust while canvassing the neighborhood. They gave it back to Mr. Bender, who donated it to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The organization, founded in 1787 and believed to be the oldest professional medical organization in the country, put the bust on display.
A few weeks later, a woman viewed the bust and recognized her grandniece Rosella Atkinson. Remarkably, a photograph of the girl shows her head tilted up, as Mr. Bender had imagined her. (The conscience-stricken killer eventually confessed.)
Mr. Bender, who paints and has worked as a photographer, got his start in forensics by accident. In 1977, while taking evening classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, he went to the medical examiner’s office for his anatomy studies.
He saw the decomposed body of a woman who had been found near the Philadelphia airport. After studying her shattered skull, he started to get a sense of what she must have looked like. So he did a bust of her.
After the bust was publicized, the woman was identified as Anna Duvall, 62, of Phoenix. Not long afterward, John Martini, a mob hit man, was convicted of shooting her in the head after she flew to Philadelphia to confront him for defrauding her in a real estate deal. (Mr. Martini, who was implicated in three other murders, died in prison in 2009.)
The case that made Mr. Bender famous was that of John List, a struggling accountant who shot his mother, wife and three children to death in their Westfield, N.J., home in the fall of 1971, then vanished.
In 1989, Mr. Bender was asked by the producers of “America’s Most Wanted” to sculpture an older John List. After studying photographs of the younger man, Mr. Bender used the clay to show a face sagging with age.
A woman watching television in Richmond, Va., recognized her churchgoing neighbor, who called himself Robert Clark, wearing just the type of thick-rimmed glasses Mr. Bender had put on the bust. The police arrested the man, who proved to be Mr. List; he was convicted of the murders in 1990 and died in prison in 2008.
Mr. Bender’s bust of the woman found in the woods of eastern Pennsylvania in 2001 was unveiled on April 19 at the fine arts academy in Philadelphia. It has been publicized in the area, so far without results. (A Web site, www.solvethiscoldcase.com, is dedicated to the case, which is still officially classified as “suspicious.”)
Mr. Bender says he has done several dozen sculptures for law-enforcement agencies over the years, and that most led to an identification, an arrest or both. Each bust takes him about a month, and he charges an average of about $1,700 a work.
He does not use a computer, he says emphatically; a computer cannot capture personality.
Mr. Bender’s final days are being chronicled in a documentary by Karen Mintz, a filmmaker based in Lambertville, N.J. The title is taken from Mr. Bender’s own description of himself: “The Recomposer of the Decomposed.”
Despite his disdain for computers, they can recreate people in three dimensions as well as two, and they are here to stay. So is there any real need for Mr. Bender’s blend of science and art?
Douglas H. Ubelaker, president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, says there is.
Computers can do many things, Dr. Ubelaker said, like giving a sculptor a better idea where to place the “depth markers,” which resemble cigarette filters or pencil erasers and help him in shaping a face.
“But there will always be a need for a skilled artist to bring it home,” said Dr. Ubelaker, a senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He called Mr. Bender’s reputation “sterling.”
Mr. Bender blames his stint in the engine room of a Navy destroyer decades ago for his cancer, which typically shows up many years after exposure to asbestos.
He still enjoys the company of his friends, including people from the Vidocq Society, a Philadelphia-based volunteer organization founded in 1990 that investigates unsolved crimes. (Mr. Bender was a co-founder.)
“I have no fear of dying,” he said, adding that he was sure his wife, Jan, who died of non-smokers’ lung cancer last year, was waiting for him in the afterlife.
After all, he said, “we’re not just flesh and bone.”
Frank Bender and Bill Fleisher, NoirCon 2008
Posted by Lou Boxer at 4:58 PM
Sunday, June 19, 2011
When he was a cash-strapped college student 20 years ago, Todd Whitehurst didn't think too deeply on the consequences of donating sperm.
Then, when he was 41, he got an e-mail from a girl named Virginia. "She said, basically, 'I'm 14, and I think I'm your daughter,' " explained Whitehurst, now a 45-year-old medical engineer.Shortly after, he found a son, Tyler, now 14. And another, Gavin, now 16. That led to another child, and another, and yet another.
"It was definitely overwhelming," Whitehurst said.
"I'm not even sure how many children there are."So far he has found nine kids sired by his sperm. Statistically speaking, said one biogeneticist, Whitehurst could be the father of 42 to 60 children.
Thanks to a lack of industry regulation, high totals are all too probable, especially for prolific college kids like Whitehurst -- who donated weekly for about three years, for $50 a pop, at a clinic on the Stanford University campus in the 1980s and '90s.
A Web site set up for the children of sperm donors has discovered a number of "superdads" who have fathered dozens, sometimes hundreds, of children.
One top seed in Virginia has sired an astounding 129 kids and counting, according to the Donor Sibling Registry, a nonprofit that helps connect families with biological fathers and siblings. Another donor, in the Boston area, has been traced to 72 kids, said Wendy Kramer, a mother to a sperm-donor child who started the online registry when her son began asking questions about his pop.
The registry has found 92 groups of 10 or more offspring, and 336 groups that have up to nine siblings, said Kramer.There's no limit on how many banks a donor can sell his sperm to -- about 21 percent of donor dads have given to more than one, according to Kramer.
In theory, said Albert Anouna, director of Biogenetics and Sperm Bank of New York, cryo clinics should destroy a donor's sperm after it has produced about 10 live births. Birth numbers are self-reported by pregnant moms -- an incomplete and inconsistent system, Anouna acknowledged.
Compounding the problem, donors are screened so that the most fertile get selected, because high sperm count and good motility are most likely to produce a pregnancy, said Anouna. High-performers who rack up many pregnancies are among the most popular donors selected by women."Up until 1999, physicians could order a pool of vials for their patients. They'd come in and the doctor would say, 'This one works fine -- it's already gotten three women pregnant. Why don't you try it?' " said Anouna.
Whitehurst is one of a handful of donor dads to step forward and connect with his kids."It was pretty wild," he said of receiving his initial e-mail from Virginia. "She had my donor number, which I hadn't ever given anybody, and she sent a picture. She looked a lot like me.
"He e-mailed her back, and Virginia encouraged him to go to the Donor Sibling Registry. His donor number immediately turned up two other families, and later, three more. One of his donor moms actually has three kids from his semen.
A few years ago, Whitehurst, who has two kids from a prior marriage, traveled to meet Virginia, Tyler and Gavin.
Now Tyler and Gavin frequently share e-mails and phone calls with him, and Virginia, about to set off to his alma mater in the fall, seeks dating advice.
Whitehurst can't help but regard his progeny like a typical proud papa -- especially on this day, when the cards and phone calls roll in.
"I love Father's Day," he said. "I don't usually think about the other children that may be out there on this day, as I like to focus on the children who I already know. It's been a wonderful and enriching experience, and I am very happy that I have met them."email@example.com
Beyond Incest: The True Story of Johnny Appleseed and Hard Cider
The definitive biography was written by Robert Price (see resources at the end of this article), based on writings by people who knew him.
Apples were brought to the New World by the earliest immigrants. Trees grown from seedlings, called "pippins," [Great Expectations leasing protagonist - Pip] prospered in New England, especially after the colonists imported honeybees to improve pollination.
Soil, climate, and sunlight hours in America were different from those in Europe, but the apple was able to adapt to the New World in a remarkably short time. Pollan says, "Every time an apple failed to germinate or thrive in American soil, every time an American winter killed a tree or a freeze in May nipped its buds, an evolutionary vote was cast, and the apples that survived this great winnowing became ever so slightly more American. A somewhat different kind of vote was then cast by the discriminating orchardist.
Whenever a tree somehow distinguished itself for the hardiness of its constitution, the redness of its skin, the excellence of its flavor – it would promptly be named, grafted, publicized, and multiplied." The adaptation of the apple to America was thus the result of a "simultaneous process of natural and cultural selection."
Here's something else you probably didn't know. In the 1700s and 1800s, most apples were grown not for eating but for making hard cider. Johnny Appleseed didn't just bring fresh fruit to the frontier, he brought the alcoholic drink of choice.
Cider was safer, tastier, and easier to make than corn liquor. You pressed the apples to produce juice, let the juice ferment in a barrel for a few weeks, and presto! you had a mildly alcoholic beverage, about half the strength of wine. For something stronger, the cider could be distilled into brandy or frozen into applejack (about 66 proof). In rural areas, cider took the place not only of wine and beer but also of coffee, juice, even water.
We stopped drinking apples and started eating them in the early 1900s.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union publicized the evils of alcohol, the movement towards Prohibition was gaining momentum, and the apple industry saw the need to re-position the apple.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" was an old adage, dating from the late 1800s, that was updated into an advertising slogan, promoted by apple growers fearful that prohibition would cut sales. We can thank prohibition for shifting the image of the apple to the healthy, wholesome, American-as-apple-pie fruit that it is today.
Back to Johnny Appleseed. John Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, on September 26, 1774, the son of Nathaniel Chapman, a farmer and carpenter and later one of the "Minute Men" who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and elsewhere. His mother died in 1776. His father remarried and the family moved to Longmeadow, Massachusetts, along the Connecticut River. He had a half-sister, but there is no authenticated account of his childhood.
He went west around November 1797 and wintered in western Pennsylvania. In the spring of 1798, he found a spot along a tributary of the Allegheny River, near what is now Warren, Pennsylvania, and planted his first apple nursery.
It was a business, albeit an unusual one. He tried to predict where the pioneers were likely to settle, in the early days mainly along the tributaries of the Muskingum River in north central Ohio. He would get there first with a canoe loaded with apple seeds. He looked for an attractive piece of land, planted apple seeds, and waited. By the time the settlers arrived, he would have two- to three-year old apple trees ready to sell, at five or six cents apiece.
He developed a routine. In the autumn, he returned to his orchards in Allegheny county to gather apple seeds. In the spring, he would scout for sites, plant nurseries and fence them in. In the summer, he would repair fences in nurseries he'd established earlier and find a local agent to tend the trees. He would then be ready to move on and start the whole process over again.
He wasn't the first to plant orchards in the area, but his scheme of moving with the frontier was unique, as far as we know. Pollan says, "One could describe him as a shrewd real estate developer. It was not a bad little business."
One consequence of his approach was that he was constantly on the move and had no fixed residence for his entire adult life. In the 1820s he did spend some time with his half-sister and her family, which is about as close as he ever came to settling down.
In addition to the apples, he brought the seeds of medicinal plants. He was generous to people in need, and always ready to lend a hand with chores. He soon became a familiar figure in the region, and a welcomed one.
By 1806, John Chapman had been nicknamed "Johnny Appleseed" and legends about him began to spread locally. We have first-hand accounts left by the many settlers who welcomed him into their cabins. They gave him a meal and a place to sleep in exchange for apples, apple trees, and news including stories of his own exploits, real and fantastic.
Myth and reality became hopelessly intertwined. For the settlers, there was enormous entertainment value in having a guest who was literally a legend in his own time.
He must have been a sight. He was of medium height, sinewy and large-boned, with dark hair down to his shoulders and bright blue eyes. He wore a coffee sack with holes for his arms and legs. Tradition has it that he had a tin kettle that served as both hat and cooking pot, but Price says that's not authenticated. Contrary to Walt Disney's 1948 cartoon, he carried a woodsman's usual equipment, including rifle, tomahawk, knife, etc.
Pollan describes an engraving by a woman who knew him: "Scraggly and barefoot, he's wearing a sackcloth cinched at the waist like a dress and a tin pot on his head. The man looks completely insane."
Despite his peculiar attire and personal habits, no contemporary described him as repulsive. To the contrary, people were happy to have him as a guest. But the term "eccentric" seems an understatement.
His lifestyle and preferences were completely opposite the norms of frontier life.
He was a vegetarian. He preferred to sleep outdoors and avoided towns and settlements. He thought it cruel to ride a horse, chop down a tree, or kill a rattlesnake. The stories go on. The settlers viewed these attitudes as preposterous and outrageous but amusing as hell.
He went barefoot in any weather, even snow and ice. He would entertain boys by pressing hot coals or needles into the soles of his feet, which had grown tough and leathery. He thawed ice using his bare feet.
He was friendly with the Indians, bringing them medicinal plants. In turn, they treated him kindly and helped him on his way. He blamed much frontier violence on mistreatment of the Indians by white settlers.
During the War of 1812, the Indians were allied with the British, partly to avenge themselves for atrocities that the settlers committed against them. Johnny Appleseed raced 30 miles through the forest from Mansfield to Mount Vernon, Ohio, to warn of impending Indian massacres and to obtain reinforcements, saving the lives of many settlers. The earliest account says he went on horseback, which Price says is likely, but running "barefooted and bareheaded" is the more favored tale.
When he stayed with a family, he preached news "right fresh from Heaven," often the Sermon on the Mount, but many times adding his own ideas based on the writings of the Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).
Chapman saw himself as planting not only seeds but the word of God.
Swedenborg's doctrine is appreciative of humane values. Everything on earth corresponds directly to something in the afterlife, so the natural world and the spiritual (or mystic) world are intimately interwoven. The key to righteous living is to do good without looking for recompense. To study and love nature promotes one's spiritual growth. An apple tree in bloom is both a natural process and a "living sermon from God." We might call this nature worship in the guise of Christianity. To understand and preach this theology took intellect.
Chapman may have been eccentric, but he was no dummy.
Pollan suggests that this theology helps explain Chapman's attitude towards nature. "The same landscape his countrymen treated as hostile and heathen, to be conquered, Chapman saw as beneficent. In his eyes, even the lowliest worm glowed with divine purpose."
In 1817, the Swedenborg Society in Manchester, England, published an account of Chapman's career, our first printed account of him.
The myth of Johnny Appleseed grew partly from the sense that Chapman's relationship with nature transcended the man-vs.-nature ethos prevailing in his time.
Going barefoot symbolized that. Shoes were part of civilized life, a protective layer between your feet and the earth, for which Chapman had no need: His feet were in touch with another realm, a spiritual realm. In contrast to the typical pioneer, who saw the wilderness as something to be conquered, he was in harmony with nature.
His kindness to animals was well known, even notorious, and often contrary to frontier custom. He often used his profits to purchase lame horses to save them from slaughter. He once freed a wolf he found snared in a trap, nursing it to health and then keeping it as a pet. There is an endless stream of amusing stories about Johnny Appleseed showing mercy to animals such as rattlesnakes or yellow-jackets.
He enjoyed the company of Indians and children. Pollan says, "He moved easily between the societies of the settlers and the Native Americans, even when the two were at war. His ability to freely cross borders that other people believed to be fixed and unbreachable between the red world and the white, between wilderness and civilization, even between this world and the next was one of the hallmarks of his character and probably the thing that most confounded people about the man, both then and now."
When asked why he had never married, he said that he would "not marry in this world, but have a pure wife in Heaven."
In one account, Chapman went west because a woman stood him up at the altar back in Massachusetts.
Another story has Chapman claiming that he would only marry a girl 8 or 10 years old, so that she was a pure and beautiful virgin.
In another version, Chapman made an arrangement with a frontier family in 1833 to raise their ten-year-old daughter to be his bride. He paid several visits to the girl, and contributed to her upkeep, until he chanced to witness her flirting with some boys her own age. He abruptly broke off the relationship. We'll probably never know the truth, but the notion of a child-bride definitely implies a seedy side to his character.
By the 1830s he was operating a chain of nurseries that reached from western Pennsylvania through central Ohio and into Indiana.
He died in Fort Wayne, Indiana in March 1845 at age 70. He showed up on the doorstep of a friend, William Worth, ate his evening meal of bread and milk, read aloud from the Bible, stretched out on the floor to sleep, and didn't wake up. He left an estate that included some 1,200 acres of prime real estate. Says Pollan, "The barefoot crank died a wealthy man."
His legend grew after his death. In April 1846, a brief essay about Johnny Appleseed and his peculiar career as a pioneer horticulturalist was published. The author didn't know that Chapman had died a year earlier and didn't even know his real name.
Other literary publications picked up the tale. In November 1871 a story in Harper's New Monthly Magazine elevated him to national prominence, and the literary Johnny Appleseed was born. His image evolved from that of a pioneer planter of apple seeds into a "patron saint of horticulture," a folk hero to this day.
What are we to make of this strange mixture of a man? As I say, he was a paradox, both a frontiersman and a humanitarian. He was deeply religious – sometimes insufferably so – but he drank and took snuff and told jokes. He brought both religion and hard drink to people living in harsh frontier conditions – "two very different kinds of consolation," says Pollan.
He was an agent of civilization, working to domesticate the wilderness with his apple trees and herbs and religion. At the same time, he shunned civilization and was at home in the wild. He was friendly with the Indians, but he was part of the movement that would destroy their lives and take their lands. Quoting Pollan again:
Imagine how riveting such a figure must have appeared on the American frontier, this gentle wild man who arrived at your door as if straight from the bosom of nature bearing ecstatic news from other worlds and, with his apple trees and cider, promising a measure of sweetness in this one. To a pioneer laboring under the brute facts of frontier life, confronting daily the indifferent face of nature, Johnny Appleseed's words and seeds offered release from the long sentence of ordinariness, held out a hope of transcendence.I imagine that pioneers struggling to get by in the wilderness regarded Appleseed as a welcome contrast. However straitened your frontier existence might be, you couldn't gaze on John Chapman without counting your blessings: at least you had leather shoes and a warm hearth, a sociable table and a roof over your head. Your guest's tales of subsisting one winter on butternuts alone, or sharing a bed of leaves with a wolf, would have warmed the draftiest cabin, deepened the savor of the most meager meal. Sometimes the cause of civilization is best served by a hard stare into the soul of its opposite.
Johnny Appleseed: A Voice in the Wilderness, edited by William E. Jones (2000). A collection of contemporary accounts
Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire (2001). Subtitled "A Plant's-Eye View of the World," this marvelous book focuses on the apple, the tulip, the potato, and marijuana.
Robert Price, Johnny Appleseed: Man and Myth (1967).
Posted by Lou Boxer at 8:35 AM