Halloween Titanic News

The Grand Staircase of the RMS Olympic
Photo:Public Domain (Wikipedia)

Titanic Exhibition at Guildhall Is Rare and Fascinating
Malvern Gazette, 29 Oct. 2023

The sell-out Titanic Exhibition, which runs until November 4, drew in large crowds at Worcester Guildhall on the city’s High Street where they had a chance to get close to unusual objects from survivors and from the wreck itself. Crowds have been left spellbound by the haunting photographs and artefacts at the exhibition, which opened on Wednesday, telling her story from her beginning to her tragic end.


S.S. Keewatin 2007
Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Titanic-era Steamship Arrives at New Home in Kingston
CBC, 29 Oct. 2023

One of the world’s largest remaining Edwardian steamships, the S.S. Keewatin, has arrived at its new home at a museum in Kingston, Ont., after sailing through the Great Lakes from Georgian Bay near Barrie. The vessel is older than the Titanic. It had been docked at Port McNicoll in Georgian Bay, which was once a vital stop along a Canadian Pacific Railway shipping route. The museum secured a heritage designation for the Keewatin and will fund about $2 million in major repairs. Later on, Keewatin will open as a museum exhibit in a dry dock.

Titanic Related Ghost Story

Michael Imperioli relates in Celebrity Ghost Stories of encountering a ghost in an old New York hotel. The ghost was of a woman who lost her fiancé on the Titanic. You can watch it and other ghost stories on  on YouTube below.





HALLOWEEN-What It Originally Meant

Halloween Decoration in Fall
Vera Kratochvil

(Note:This has been edited and rewritten in some parts for the 2023 edition. ]

October 31st is set aside as Halloween. It is not an official holiday (meaning government shuts down, banks closed, and many professional offices closed) but is celebrated nearly as one these days. There are really two separate Halloweens, one is secular and the other religious. The secular one most people easily understand. Kids dress up in silly or scary masks and go to homes asking for candy by yelling “trick or treat” to those who open their doors. Pumpkins have become associated with the day along with all kinds of scary decorations as well. Horror movies get shown during this time. Halloween has a religious meaning to that goes back to how the Catholic Church set the day up.

The original meaning of Halloween was All Hallows Eve that got contracted over time to Halloween. All Hallows Eve is the vigil of All Saints Day, a solemnity (meaning a major feast in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar). All Saints Day honors all the saints we know by name and any saint in heaven whose name is unknown to us. Originally this feast was celebrated on 13 May, but Pope Gregory III (731-741 AD) moved it to 1 November as that was the day the foundation of a new chapel (St. Peter’s Basilica) was being laid. He wanted to dedicate the new chapel to All Saints. Halloween then became part of a three-day period called ‘Days of the Dead” which it is the first day of (the vigil), then followed by All Saints and then by All Souls (those in purgatory).

All Souls’ Day by Jakub Schikaneder(1855-1924)
National Gallery Prague
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

During the reign of Pope Gregory IV (827-844 AD), he decided to make the feast of All Saints (just celebrated in Rome at that point) universal meaning all dioceses had to observe it. This meant that people with their own cultures would celebrate in their own ways. Since it was customary to have vigils before a major feast day, there was nothing unusual in this. In celebrating these particular holy days, we are reminded of heaven and hell. It reminds us that we have choices to make in this life that can lead to one of two outcomes: heaven or hell. By striving to live good lives by following God’s teachings, we want to go to heaven rather than the other place.

The roots of Halloween thus are not founded in any pagan celebration (such as Samhain or Druid festivals), and it is just coincidence that it occurs during the same time frame. If you study what those festivals were about, they had nothing to do with Christianity and followed a different belief system. Samhain, perhaps the best known, was a harvest festival in Scotland to celebrate the end of the harvest and to prepare for the coming of winter. It was a common belief (and not limited to Scotland, Ireland, or England) that this particular time of year where the transition from light to dark occurred meant also when evil spirits would abound to cause trouble. So they would offer them food at their tables for these invisible guests. Mischief Night grew out of this as well where you would do pranks on your neighbors.

Communal eating during this time meant lots of shared foods given out. The Scottish Halloween Cake was popular was hidden inside was a special prize of three trinkets. Later others celebrating All Souls Day would hand out pastries to those who came to console them on family who had passed away and that to would also add to the idea of handing out food during this time. Many wore masks to cover their faces so evil spirits would not see them. As the celebration of Samhain and others like it faded with the conversion to Christianity, some of the old rituals of having harvest festivals, wearing masks, and asking for food would continue. Creating lanterns too out of turnips and other things would continue. The Irish tradition of the Jack O’ Lantern was imported to the US and, thanks to the wonderful availability of pumpkins (and easier to carve than turnips) became a symbol for Halloween that many adopted as well.

Protestants had a different take on Halloween and All Saint’s and All Soul’s Day. The argument (and there are several different ones, but this is the most basic) is that the Catholic church merely taken over these pagan festivals and incorporated them into the church by renaming them. More zealous Protestant denominations like the Puritans banned Halloween (along with Christmas and Easter) saying they were pagan. In places where such views were strongly held (such as in the northeast of the U.S. or in England when the Puritans were in charge), it had the full power of the state to impose the restrictions. As time went out, and without many Catholics around to push back (in countries like England they were forbidden to practice and adherents who failed to submit to the new Protestant order imprisoned or executed), this became a dominant view of what Halloween was.

The religious origins of Halloween were overtaken and completely secularized as a result.

What the Protestants who hated Halloween didn’t count on was the many peoples who still practiced forms of Halloween immigrating to the U.S. While they had strict controls in New England, many simply landed in other areas where it was allowed and even embraced. The old English and Scottish custom of knocking on doors for Soul Cakes and promising to pray for the departed resumed along with wearing costumes. Likewise, the old customs of holding harvest festivals where people would gather, eat food, and share stories of old would resurrect. Kids would bob for apples, there would be spooky tales told, but most of all it was just a fun time. Halloween, far from being made extinct by like the Puritans, came back. And when the Puritans and those that shared their views fell out of favor and power in England, it came back (though sadly some traditions would remain more secular as a result).

Halloween then became a time of festivity, trick or treating, and putting on funny or sometimes scary outfits. The idea of Halloween parades would come about as a result of trying to curtail some of them more unpleasant sides of Halloween, namely Mischief Night pranks that sometimes got out of hand. Using toilet paper to cover trees, eggs to pelt cars and people, and sometimes more dangerous ones (like a flaming bag of dog poop on a porch) led to the creation of more ways to channel that energy.

Halloween candy, once a small, became national as did pumpkins. No longer were pumpkins just for pumpkin pie but many wanted them for decoration as well. And competition would emerge as to who could grow the biggest one of all. And of course, the selling of costumes and holiday decorations would explode as well. From costumes to candy, pumpkins to Halloween cakes, Halloween became an unofficial but nationally practice holiday that included kids as well as adults. And let us not forget the various Haunted Houses, haunted hayrides, and people decorating their houses in a wide variety of decorations that no doubt future people will ask “what the heck?”

There is a darker side to Halloween practiced by those who want to glorify violence, horror, and sexuality. Some use the time to dabble in such things as fortune telling, seances, using Ouija boards, or even ghost hunting. All of those things most pagans wanted to avoid during their ancient festivals during this time. At best they wanted to placate spirits and avoid the evil ones as much as they could. Yet now many decide to do these things thinking they are harmless, but many find out it is not at all like they thought it would be. This is why people now are trying to reclaim Halloween to make it less dark and more family-friendly rather than just people dressed up as zombies or worse dressed up in some sexually explicit costumes.

Today you see more families doing more things together such as going to haunted hayrides or holding Halloween parties where kids can get treats and have fun as well. During Covid lockdowns, such celebrations were limited but coming back as is trick or treating. Many though are opting to also take the time to revisit what the original Halloween was all about. This is perhaps a natural outgrowth of the overhyping and commercialism of Halloween. The higher costs of many items such as candy as made people revisit some classics from the past such as popcorn, roasted pumpkin seeds, baking cookies, and even making your own candy. It is not as hard as you might think.

While the original meaning of Halloween has been secularized for a long time (like Christmas was before it got its resurgence in the 19th century), it is starting to move away from some of the more excessive parts. And for some, the day does include just a few prayers for the two days of the dead that are to come.

Suggested Reading

Rossetti, Msgr Stephen. Diary of an American Exorcist: Demons, Possession, and the Modern-Day Battle Against Ancient Evil. Sophia, 2021.

Van Den Aardweg, Gerard J. M. Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings From Purgatory. Tan Books, 2009.

Baker, Robert Allen and Joe Nickell. Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFO’s Psychics, & Other Mysteries. Prometheus Books, 1992

Thigpen, Paul. Saints and Hell, and Other Catholic Witnesses to the Fate of the Damned. Tan Books, 2019


Dracula (1931)

1931 theatrical release poster. This is one of several styles used to promote the movie.
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Todd Browning’s Dracula is considered a classic movie and is praised for its acting and the atmosphere it connotes. It was not the first movie adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. Nosferatu was the first but since it was made without permission, was yanked from the theaters, and disappeared for a long time. That movie altered the story in keyways hoping to make it just different enough to pass muster. The 1931 movie borrowed from the stage version, a bit from the book, and a bit from the Nosferatu movie. While the story differs from the book, it makes up for it with great acting and made Bela Lugosi (who had played Dracula on stage) a household name.

For its time, Dracula was quite scary. Unlike today where blood and guts are shown in horror movies (and television or streaming ones as well), it was all about atmosphere to relay the horror of Dracula. The story opens with Renfield (not Jonathan Harker) on his way to meet with Count Dracula. He is warned by people to wait until the next day but says he must go. He is told about how they believe vampires live in that castle, which he scoffs at. He is given a crucifix to protect him. At Borgo Pass he is quickly tossed out with his baggage and the carriage speeds away. A carriage awaits him to take him to Castle Dracula. On the way he leans out and sees a large bat flying where the driver ought to be. When he gets to the castle, the door opens, and we see Dracula walking down the stairs to greet him. The entry is pretty much in ruin, unlike the book, and there is no greeting like the book where he is welcomed. An interesting spooky part is a large spider web that covers one part of the stairs. Dracula passes through it with no issue, but Renfield has to cut through it, and we see a large spider nearby. Dracula makes a comment about the spider living off blood and notes blood is life. The interesting scene (not the in book either) conveys that Dracula is a supernatural being.

After having his meal and showing Dracula the paperwork on Carfax Abbey, he retires to his room but not before cutting his finger and Dracula looking at him in a terrible way. In his room after opening the window, he falls to the ground. Dracula’s brides are there but are sent away by Dracula. The scene shifts to the Demeter where a crazed Renfield is serving his master and is found after the ship is boarded to find the crew dead. He is sent to a sanitarium run by Dr. Seward. We see Dracula attack a young girl before going to the theatre where he meets Dr. Seward, Jonathan Harker and his fiancée Mina Murray, and Lucy Westenra. That night he attacks Lucy while she is sleeping. We shift to what appears to be a medical examination of Lucy by Van Helsing noting that despite transfusions she dies. And the curious marks on her neck get his attention as well.

Meanwhile Renfield’s fascination with consuming flies and then spiders get Van Helsing’s attention. Renfeld wants to be sent away so his cries will not affect Mina. When Van Helsing shows him wolfsbane and how he fears it, he notes it is used to ward off vampires. Van Helsing in a meeting with Seward and others believes a vampire is at work. Meanwhile Dracula starts feeding on Mina causing her to relate strange dreams and her being fatigued. Dracula, who met them at the theatre, shows up. And it is here that Van Helsing’s suspicion that a vampire is about is confirmed. Dracula casts no reflection in the mirror of the cigarette box. Later when Van Helsing opens it in from of him, Dracula quickly tosses it away and for a moment we see his true face. After he regains control, he asks for pardon and departs. Renfield later relates he allowed Dracula to enter the sanitarium as he promised him lots of rats. Dracula returns later to confront Van Helsing by saying Mina is now his and for Van Helsing to return to his own country. Dracula tries to hypnotize him but fails. And Van Helsing uses a crucifix to force Dracula to retreat.

By now Mina knows about Dracula’ biting her and realizes her fate. She tells Jonathan that their love is finished. A vampire bat looms overhead, and she tries attacking Jonathan, but fails. Mina is being protected by wolfsbane around her neck and other protections, but Dracula uses hypnotism to get the maid to remove then and takes Mina. Van Helsing and Harker see Renfield escape and heading towards Carfax Abbey. Dracula believes he led them there and kills him. Van Helsing and Harker search the abbey and Harker finds Mina. Meanwhile Van Helsing finds Dracula in his coffin and kills him (offscreen). Mina then returns to normal, and the movie ends with Dracula dead and Mina free of his control.

The movie is now considered a classic and with good reason. While the story deviated substantially from the source material, it makes up for it with great acting and atmosphere that modern day horror movies fail to convey. And it became a template for vampire movies that would come after it (either made by Universal or by others later). Most vampire movies (with few exceptions) hue to the dusk to dawn nature of the vampire though, in the actual book, Dracula is free to move about during the day. However, the sun limits his abilities, and he has to stay in whatever form he is until sunset. Reviewers were shocked when Francis Ford Coppola had Dracula walking around by day in London in his movie. Had they read the book, they would not have been.

There were subsequent sequels to Dracula by Universal but none of them (except one- Abbott & Costello Meets Frankenstein 1948) had Bela Lugosi in them. After the movie, Lugosi sought to distance himself from the role believing he would be typecast. He did star in many movies with Boris Karloff but failed to grow beyond mad scientist type roles due his thick Hungarian accent. He was diagnosed with sciatic neuritis and became addicted to the prescribed drugs morphine and methadone. The drug dependence and his alcoholism contributed to him not getting major acting roles after 1948 relegating him to low-budget movies like Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space (1957) which he died before it came out.

Bela Lugosi died of a heart attack on 16 August 1956 which occurred when he took a nap. His wife and daughter decided to bury him with his Dracula cape and cloak. Some later said he didn’t want that, but his son confirmed it was a decision that both he and his mother made consistent with his wishes. He was nearly broke at the time and his family could not afford his funeral. Frank Sinatra quietly paid the expenses for it. He is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.


Ebert, Roger. “Dracula Movie Review &Amp; Film Summary (1931) | Roger Ebert.” Roger Ebert, 19 Sept. 1999, www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-dracula-1931.

Pfeiffer, Lee. “Dracula | Tod Browning’s Horror Film Classic, Bela Lugosi [1931].” Encyclopedia Britannica, 29 Sept. 2023, www.britannica.com/topic/Dracula-film.

Fear: The Home Of Horror. “Dracula (1931) Original Trailer | Classic Monsters.” YouTube, 31 Oct. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSPNLK1wWaU.


Wednesday Titanic News

Titanic Lunch Menu 14 April 1912
Photo: AP

Titanic, the Luxury on the Plate Breaking Latest News, 25 Oct. 2023

What did Jack and Rose and all the other guests on the Titanic eat and drink? Get ready to replicate some of the sophisticated recipes that were served to passengers of the legendary ocean liner. Amaze everyone by organizing parties in perfect Edwardian style and relive the magic of one of the most loved films of all time.” This is the chosen approach which is carried forward to the end.



Carnival Radiance
Carnival Radiance is pictured docked in Ensenada, Mexico on 29 January 2023.
Photo: Tunestoons via Wikiamedia Commons

Titanic Experience’: Terrifying Moment Water Gushes From Carnival Cruise Ship Ceiling
NZ Herald, 25 Oct. 2023

A passenger on board a luxury cruise has captured the moment the ship began to flood through the ceilings in what one has described as “absolutely terrifying”. Carnival Radiance passenger Amber was staying on the seventh floor when she noticed a torrent of water come flooding through her room at 2am. On the first night of their cruise starting from California, Amber was woken suddenly to “water gushing into our room from the ceiling”. She then opened her door and stepped outside, only to find more rivers of water running down the walkways inside the ship.

According to the news report, it was a burst line that caused the water damage. The line was fixed all the water cleaned up in the hallway and rooms affected.

Additional news source:
Cruise Ship Floods as Gallons of Water Leak From Ceiling in Alarming Video: ‘Absolutely Terrifying.
New York Post, 25 Oct. 2023


Fascinating History: Charge of the Light Brigade (25 October 1854)

Charge of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville Jr.
The Charge of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville Jr, 1894
Public Domain (Wikimedia)

Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

The Charge of the Light Brigade occurred in a now mostly forgotten war between Britain and France against Russia in 1854. 600 calvary armed only with swords and not supported by infantry or artillery were sent to take a Russian artillery position at the end of a valley. Only 490 would come back with descriptions of a battle that horrified the public. So what happened and why did a light brigade be sent in against a Russian artillery position by itself? Let’s find out

From 1853-1856, Britain and France were at war with Russia. Russia had sought to pressure Turkey in supporting its goals but sent troops to take control. This threatened British commercial and strategic assets in the Middle East (and to a smaller extent France). France used the tension to bolster an alliance with Britain and to bolster its military power. The allies landed in the Crimea in September 1854 to destroy both Sevastopol and the Russian fleet. The Allies, after taking two weeks to set things up, started bombarding Sevastopol on 17 October. The Russians were well prepared but tried to break the siege attacking the British supply base in the fishing village of Balaclava.

The Russians were repelled but occupied the Causeway Heights outside of the town. Lord Raglan, the British Commander-In-Chief, wanted to send in both Heavy and Light Calvary supported by infantry to get to the Russians and get back any British artillery they may have taken. Raglan wanted them to move immediately (meaning send in the calvary with the infantry to follow later). However the calvary commander George Bingham, the earl of Lucan, thought the order meant both calvary and infantry together. This caused a delay as they had to wait for infantry to arrive. Raglan issued a new order to advance rapidly to stop the Russians from taking any guns away. Bingham did not see this happening. He asked Raglan’s aide where to attack, and he pointed in the general direction of the Russian artillery at the far end of the valley. Lord Lucan conferred with his brother-in-law, James Brudenell, the earl of Cardigan who commanded the light brigade. Neither liked each other and apparently they were not respected by those under them. Both decided to follow Lucan’s order without checking first to confirm it. 670 members of the light brigade drew their sabers and lances and began the infamous mile and a quarter charge into the valley.

The Russians began shooting at them from three different angles (not at the same time though). Onward they rode though they took severe casualties. Descriptions of survivors reported horrors of horses covered in blood, arms and heads being carried off by gunfire or artillery, and human brains on the ground. The area was so thick with smoke from Russian gunfire that some said it resembled a volcano. Amazingly the Light Brigade reached its destination crashing the enemy lines and holding it for a brief time. They were forced back, and Russian artillery fired from Causeway Heights. The Heavy Brigade had been turned around before it went further into the valley. When it was all over, 110 were dead and 160 injured and 375 horses were lost. 60 were taken captive. Reaction from many was to admire the bravery and honor of the calvary who were in the charge, but not so much their commanders that had ordered the attack. It took three weeks for it to be reported in Britain and recriminations would fly.

Raglan blamed Lucan and Lucan was angry at being made a scapegoat. Raglan would argue that Lucan should have used his discretion while Lucan argued he was obeying orders. Cardigan blamed Lucan for giving the orders. Cardigan returned home a hero and was promoted. Lucan continued to defend himself in public and parliament and escaped blame as well. However, he never saw active duty again though promoted to general and later field marshal. In short recalled, promoted, and sent to the rear where he could do the least harm. The charge is still studied today of what happens when military intelligence is lacking, and orders unclear. The Russians would claim victory despite never taking Balaclava and paraded the captured weapons in Sevastopol. However, the Allies in 1855 were able to cut Russian logistics and force them out of Sevastopol when it fell between 8-9 Sept 1855.

Other battles in the Baltic in 1854 and 1855 had not gone well for the Russians either. The British appeared to be ready to destroy both Kronstradt and St. Petersburg in 1856 using naval forces. The Russians accepted defeat and sought peace in early 1856. Russia had lost 500,000 troops in the war (not from battle but apparently from diseases and malnutrition amongst other things) and its economy was ruined. They also lacked the industrial infrastructure to build modern weapons. The Peace of Paris on 30 March 1856 formally ended the Crimean War. Britain got what it wanted: the independence of Ottoman Turkey. The Black Sea was made a neutral zone (no warships allowed to enter), and the Danube opened to all commercial shipping. Bessarabia became part of Moldavia along with Walachia to become autonomous states (later Romania). Russia in 1870 would repudiate the Black Sea neutrality to rebuild its naval fleet.

The Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote an evocative poem called The Charge of the Light Brigade which was published on 9 December 1854. He praises the brigade while mourning the futility of the charge.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!” Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew Someone had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die. Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,Cannon to left of them, Cannon in front of them Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare, Flashed as they turned in air, Sabring the gunners there,Charging an army, while All the world wondered. Plunged in the battery-smoke Right through the line they broke;Cossack and Russian Reeled from the sabre stroke Shattered and sundered. Then they rode back, but not Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them, Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell. They that had fought so well. Came through the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of hell, All that was left of them,Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!


Bunting, Tony. “Charge of the Light Brigade | Crimean War, Balaclava, Battle.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 9 Mar. 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Charge-of-the-Light-Brigade.

“Treaty of Paris | End of Crimean War, Peace Negotiations, Great Powers.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 20 July 1998, www.britannica.com/event/Treaty-of-Paris-1856.

“Charge of the Light Brigade.” HISTORY, 21 July 2010, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/charge-of-the-light-brigade.

 Greenspan, Jesse. “The Charge of the Light Brigade, 160 Years Ago.” HISTORY, Oct. 2019, www.history.com/news/the-charge-of-the-light-brigade-160-years-ago.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Headless Horseman pursuing Ichabod Crane
The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane, 1858
John Quidor (1801–1881)
Public Domain
Smithsonian American Art Museum artwork ID 34285

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannonball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk, hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. (Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a unique American story written by Washington Irving in 1820 and remains popular to this day. The story takes place in a small village in New York called Sleepy Hollow. There in this idyllic location that seems full of enchantment and magic is where the action takes place. And it is here that a wandering teacher arrives to teach the children of the farmers the basics they need to know. Ichabod Crane is a figure of some amusement to the people. He is exceedingly lanky with long arms that came out of sleeves and feet that could be shovels reminding one of a scarecrow, only this one walked. To cap it off he had a small head with large ears with a long nose to boot.

“…tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew.” (The Legend of Sleepy Hallow)

Teaching paid just barely enough for him and as was the custom of the time, he was boarded and lodged with the parents of the children for a week at a time. He wants most desperately to advance and get well situated so he will not starve or be poor again. And he sees in Sleepy Hollow just such a chance in perhaps currying favor with locals and marrying into a family of means. He also considered himself expert on the supernatural having read the important books of his day. He would share is knowledge of it when attending dinners or other events relating interesting anecdotes along the way. And he would hear the story of the Headless Horseman, a Hessian soldier who lost his head in a nameless battle during the Revolution, who rides to and fro at night in search of it and perhaps to collect one from the living.

Crane becomes attracted to Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of Baltus Van Tassel. He begins courting her in the hopes of marrying her and enjoying the life of a gentleman farmer. He has images in his head of his future life with her and seems confident he will win her heart. Alas there is one wrinkle in the form of Abraham “Bram Bones” Van Brunt, the town rowdy, who wants to marry her. Despite his efforts to humiliate or punish him, Ichabod is undaunted. It is at a harvest festival where things come to a head. He apparently asks her to marry him but alas, it did not go as planned. He leaves the harvest festival “with the air of one who had been sacking a enroots, rather than a fair lady’s heart.” Ouch. It turns out that Katrina was courting him to increase Brom’s desire for her. So, Ichabod leaves feeling quite desolate and not in any hurry to get home.

“Gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! But his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle!” (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

It is on his way home that Ichabod encounters the Headless Horseman, who gives him chase as Crane pushes the old stead Gunpowder to move fast. He gets to the bridge where it is said the ghost cannot cross but alas Ichabod does not make it. The Horseman throws his head at him knocking Ichabod off the horse. The horse is found the next day and backtracking they find his hat near the old bridge along with a shattered pumpkin. He is never seen again but many believe he was carried off by the Headless Horseman. However, the account also indicates that Ichabod, frightened by his encounter and not wanting to face his angry landlord (and probably not wanting to see Katrina much again), left that night for parts unknown. It is related he may have become a judge. Meanwhile Katrina marries Brom. And whenever the subject comes up about Ichabod Crane, seems to be “exceedingly knowing” and laughs. Whether he just upped and left or was taken by the Headless Horseman remains a mystery. And makes the tale, now internationally popular, wonderful to read each Autumn and on Halloween.

Screen Adaptations (Selected List)

There is a 1992 silent film called The Headless Horseman and has a young Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane. It was filmed on location in New York’s Hudson Valley. I saw this on Amazon Prime and it was pretty good. It was mostly faithful to the story and well done considering the limitations of the time.

Disney did an adaptation of in its 1949 the Adventures of Ichabod ad Mr. Toad. This light-hearted version has Bing Crosby as the narrator and singing most of the songs. It tones down the story to make it family friendly. The famous chase scene at the end is very well done and longer than the book. And in this adaptation, there really is a ghost Headless Horseman rather than Bram Bones dressed up as the ghost. So, it leaves you in the end with the possibility he was indeed spirited away although rumor may suggest otherwise.

Tim Burton went a very different route in his 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow. He decided to change the story entirely making Ichabod Crane a police constable from New York sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the murders of several people who had been beheaded. The Horseman is a real ghost raised from the dead and being used to kill those who are claimants for the Van Tassel property. Like the book, Ichabod falls for Katrina (who practices some white magic) and Bram Bones is more sympathetic and gets brutally killed by the Horseman. An excellent movie and has all the usual touches of a Tim Burton movie-whimsy mixed with horror. Note: this movie is not for young children and is very violent at times.

Check out the Halloween Store for deals, candy, and spooky items.

Decisive Battles: Battle of Trafalgar (21 Oct 1805)

Battle Of Trafalgar (1805) by William Lionel Wyllie(1851-1931)
Image: Public Domain

The Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) saw many battles on land but the most pivotal naval one was on 21 Oct 1805. It was the naval battle that established British naval supremacy for 100 years. It was fought west of Cape Trafalgar, Spain putting it between Cadiz and the Strait of Gibraltar. 18 French and 15 Spanish ships would fight a British fleet of 27 ships. Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve commanded the combined French/Spanish fleet while Admiral Horatio Nelson commanded the British fleet. Villeneuve had hoped to avoid battle with the British when he slipped the fleet out of Cadiz on 19-20 October heading for the Mediterranean Sea. Unfortunately, Nelson caught him off of Cape Trafalgar on 21 October. Villeneuve ordered his ships to form a single line heading north. Nelson order his fleet into two squadrons and to attack from the west at right angles.

He signaled his famous message at 11:50 am from his ship Victory: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” Nelson’s squadron attacked the van and center in Villeneuve’s line.*  Nelson’s squadron broke through ignoring six leading French and Spanish ships in the first attack. Those six ships under Admiral Pierre Dumanoir did turn around to help but were driven off. The rear of Villeneuve’s fleet was destroyed, and Villeneuve was himself captured. The battle ended around 5:00 pm with 19 or 20 French & Spanish ships surrendering with crews and prisoners of war around 14,000 men. Admiral Nelson died during the battle but knew before he died of British victory. The British lost no ships but 1,500 crewmen were either killed or injured. The Battle of Trafalgar ended forever any dreams Napoleon had to invade England.


The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812
Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825)
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon did not learn of the defeat for many weeks due to being involved in military battles on land. He censored news of the defeat in Paris for a month. And then in a brazen propaganda move had the French newspapers portray it as a great victory over the British. Villeneuve would return to France in 1806 but was found dead in an inn room with six stab wounds from a knife. It was ruled a suicide, but some suspect he was killed. The battle made it clear Britain was master of the seas, but it did not slow Napoleon down on his strategy to conquer and defeat the Third Coalition and Austria. Napoleon buttoned up the continent to deprive British trade. French and Spanish armies would occupy Portugal in 1807. In 1808, Napoleon uneasy with his Spanish allies, invaded and took control of Spain. French troops and their supporters were disliked by many Spanish who took up arms. The British, after liberating Portugal, would drive out the French and used the Spanish guerrillas to harass the French. British forces under General Wellington would drive the Spanish out after the Battle of Salamanca in 1812. The French forces in Madrid would surrender ending the Peninsular War but starting the final campaign to drive Napoleon from power. *During the age of sail, fleets were divided into van, center, or rear squadrons and named after each squadrons place in the line of battle. ” You can read about how this was developed here.


“Battle of Trafalgar | Summary, Facts, and Significance.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 14 Oct. 2023, www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Trafalgar-European-history.

“Battle of Trafalgar.” HISTORY, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/european-history/battle-of-trafalgar.

Wiki, Contributors to Military. “Line of Battle.” Military Wiki, military.wikia.org/wiki/Line_of_battle.

“Battle of Trafalgar” www.britishbattles.com/napoleonic-wars/battle-of-trafalgar.

Fascinating History: Seward’s Folly: The Purchase of Alaska (18 Oct 1867)

Check issued to pay Russia for Alaska purchase.
This treasury warrant was issued to Russia on 1 Aug 1868 for the purchase of Alaska. This transferred $7.2 million to the Russian Minister to the U.S. Edouard de Stoeckl.
Public Domain

In 1867 the announcement that the United States had purchased Alaska from Russia caused many to scratch their heads and wonder if someone had gone mad in President Andrew Johnson’s administration. Secretary of State William Henry Seward had championed the purchase of the remote land, and it became known as “Seward’s Folly.” The 586,412 square miles were purchased for $7.2 million, a relative bargain of about 2 cents per acre at the time. While many opposed it, others saw it as a positive move in expanding the territory of the United States.

Alaska was remote and few, except explorers mapping the coastline, visited there. The Russians, desiring to expand their fur business in Siberia, first landed in 1732 and by 1739 had established an official presence with the creation of the Russia-American Company (RAC). There was no formal colony, but the Russian Orthodox Church sent missionaries to convert the native population living there. The land itself was twice the size of Texas and ended up being controlled by 700 Russians. Worried about both Britain and the United States trying to lay a claim, Tsar Alexander I in 1821 issued an edict declaring Russian sovereignty over the territory. The edict also forbade foreign ships to approach their territory which resulted in the US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams protesting it. The tensions were soothed by the Russo-American Treaty of 1824 where Russia limited its claim to lands north of parallel 54 and opened Russian ports to U.S. ships.

Two events would cause Russia problems for Alaska. One was that the hunting of sea otters had resulted in the near extinction of the species reducing drastically Russia’s income from it. Down in California the discovery of gold brought thousands of Americans in such numbers that they took it from Mexico. With a dwindled treasury after losing the Crimea War to Britain and France, Alaska being remote was hard to defend. And they were concerned the British might try and seize it at some point as well. When the Czar’s own brother began to note it was too remote to protect, it was decided to negotiate with the U.S. about purchasing it from them. Talks began in the 1850’s, but as the American Civil War began, talks stopped. Seward, who acted as Secretary of State in both the Lincoln and Johnson administrations, was all in favor of getting Alaska.

The conclusion of the Civil War saw talks resume in secret. Czar Alexander II gave his authorization to negotiate the sale. Negotiations started in early March 1867 and were concluded on March 30. The agreement called for $7.2 million to be paid in gold. Aside from the remoteness of Alaska, Russia struck the deal to get back at Britain. With the U.S. at the 49th parallel and in Alaska, it hemmed them in and prevented them from using Alaska as an outpost to be used against them. Seward had to hold numerous dinners to sway members of the U.S. Senate, which had final say on any treaty, as to the merits of the deal. Many were swayed that it opened new opportunities to expand the country and exploit the resources it had (except the snow of course). Others lampooned the purchase and called it “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s icebox.” The name Seward’s Folly still exists to this day though its original meaning turned out to be unfounded.

Those who studied the accounts of explorers (like Senator Charles Sumner) realized that Alaska had a lot of untapped resources that would be valuable for the country. Others saw Alaska as important in the growing Asian trade. The population of Alaska was divided perhaps into two categories-Russians who lived in the trading posts and the native peoples-with around a total population of 10,000 (about 2,500 Russians and the rest the native peoples). There were also many of mixed Russian and Native Alaskan blood as well.

Some earlier histories report that most American were not in support of the purchase, but that turns out to be mostly inaccurate. The sensational accounts written in newspapers decrying the purchase probably stuck in people’s memory and got passed on. And if you just looked at certain newspapers, you might come away with the view that the purchase was very unpopular indeed. However, that was not the case. In many cases it was both cautiousness and skepticism that was at play. While some U.S. senators were unsure, most came around and it passed the senate on a 37-2 vote ratifying the treaty and the purchase of the land. Russia had called it Alyaska but American chose to call it Alaska from an Aleutword alashka meaning great land or mainland.

President Johnson appointed General Lovell H. Rousseau to oversee the transfer of power. He left New York on 31 August 1867, crossed by land over Panama and then up to San Francisco (remember the transcontinental railroad was not completed till 1869). There with ships loaded with troops and supplies, he headed up to Alaska on a slow voyage to Sitka. Sitka waw the only sizeable Russian town in Alaska. He arrived on 18 October. The transfer went smoothly from all accounts. The Russian flag came down with American and Russian troops present along with representatives of the native peoples. Russian troops then departed and any Russians who decided to stay could become American citizens.

Back later in Washington though, a firestorm was taking place. President Johnson had been impeached in 1868 (but survived being removed in the senate by one vote) and Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to allocate the money to pay Russia. Finally in July 1868, after Johnson lost the Democratic party nomination for president, the money was allocated. However, it would be learned through a congressional investigation of corruption in the allocation of the $7.2 million in gold. Edouard de Stoeckl, the Russian minister to the United States, had bribed lobbyists and journalists to push for the allocation. A much later review of notes from President Johnson and Seward indicated that they were also aware money had been used to bribe members of Congress as well. The scandal tainted the whole process, but the sale had been done. And Seward headed to Alaska after leaving government in 1869 touring Sitka, meeting the inhabitants, and even being briefed the land was destined to become a state and a tourist attraction.


Most Russians would head back home as they found living there was not for them. The U.S. Army was officially in charge (and would be till 1877) and it was more like a frontier town than a settlement. Many did come and open up businesses in Alaska. Alas many who came with big dreams realized it would require a lot of capital since all your needed supplies would likely have to be shipped in meaning long delays in getting started. So many who came left back for home where they could start a similar business far cheaply. However, when gold was discovered, it spawned the Klondike Rush of 1896 as thousands came to Alaska to find the precious mineral. It was then Alaska was seen as something important to the whole U.S. and would spark a lot of people developing the resources of Alaska to its fullest. The influx of people meant big money was going to be invested in all kinds of businesses, namely mining at first, and Alaska became a popular place to be.

Alaska would become a territory and later a district (though it would formally be called a territory of the United States). A civilian government replaced both the Army and various other federal departments that for a time ruled Alaska. It would remain a territory until admitted as a state on 3 January 1959. Alaska Day, a day to commemorate the official transfer from Russia to the United States, is a state holiday on 18 October. The folly, it seems, became golden in the end and today is considered an important state rather than the icebox once some that it would be.


“U.S. Takes Possession of Alaska.” HISTORY, 24 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-takes-possession-of-alaska

“Why the Purchase of Alaska Was Far From ‘Folly’” HISTORY, Mar. 2020, www.history.com/news/why-the-purchase-of-alaska-was-far-from-folly

“Alaska Purchase | History, Cost, and Significance.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 Sept. 2023, www.britannica.com/event/Alaska-Purchase

Fascinating History: Infamous Gangster Al Capone Goes to jail (17 October 1931)

Al Capone Mug Shot 1939
Al Capone mug shot, May 16 1929, Chicago, Illinois
Source: FBI

On 17 October 1931, Alphonse Gabriel Capone (commonly known as Al Capone or Scarface), an American gangster who had achieved notoriety as the boss of the Chicago Outfit, was convicted of tax evasion. It ended the reign of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.

The son of Italian immigrants and originally from Brooklyn, New York he went to Chicago in 1920 where he was helping crime boss Johnny Torrio run his illegal enterprises. The 18th Amendment, commonly called Prohibition, had come into effect in January 1920. Under this law (called the Volstead Act), the manufacture, transportation, and transportation of alcohol was banned. Passed as means to end the terrible effects of alcohol intoxication and addiction, it instead allowed the rise of criminal enterprises that dominated the 1920’s. From illegal production or importation of alcohol to operating places to drink (speakeasies), it poured millions into criminal enterprises.

While other criminal activity still went on (smuggling, gambling and prostitution), alcohol was the biggest income producer for gangs such as Torrio ran. When Torrio retired in 1925, Capone took over control. Capone had to deal also with rival gangs such as Bugs Moran. Violence between gangs was often in public and bloody culminating in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. Bugs Moran would have been there but saw a police car and left thinking it was a raid. In fact, it is believed that the men, dressed as policemen and associated with the Capone gang, shot the seven men associated with the Moran gang. It officially remains unsolved, but most believe Capone responsible for the murders.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre became national news and with Capone’s alleged association to it, his notoriety increased. Capone had relied on bribing city officials, intimidation and various hideouts to avoid arrest. He did spend 10 months in Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia for carrying a concealed handgun but ran his operation from jail. The effect though of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was to bring the federal government into the situation. From corrupt city officials, police, and magistrates, the case was made the city was under the control of gangsters like Capone. President Hoover directed federal agencies concentrate on Capone and his allies.

Using a multi-agency approach, the Treasury and Justice Departments came up with plans on that attacked from two sides. First was to attack the gangsters for income tax evasion and then second to use small elite squads of Prohibition Bureau agents (this included the famous Eliot Ness) to be used against the bootleggers. William A. Strong, publisher of the Chicago Daily News (and who had urged Hoover to act), used his newspapers resources to gather intelligence to aid the investigations. The famous Untouchables in Chicago led by Eliot Ness were responsible for trying to inflict economic damage on his organization. Unlike what was shown in the movie The Untouchables, it was a large unit and the income tax angle was done elsewhere.

As the treasury bore down on him, Capone tried get his tax records into shape to prevent going to jail. He offered to pay for certain years in hopes of a reduced sentence and fine. A letter from his lawyer conceding large taxable income was a great gift to the prosecution. With a ledger and his accountant, the government position was to imply his control. Capone’s spending was presented to paint a vivid picture of someone who lived quite large having access to large sums of money to spend. It worked. He was convicted of evading $215,000 in taxes with an income of $1,038,654 during a five-year period.  Judge Wilkerson gave him the maximum penalty for the five counts: 11 years. He was also fined $50,000, $7,692 in court costs, and interest on the $215,000 that had not been paid.

His career as head of the Chicago Outfit would be at an end. He was sent to the Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in May 1932. However, Judge Wilkerson became concerned when he got reports of special treatment. Capone was suffering from both syphilis and gonorrhea. He had taken cocaine and suffered withdrawal symptoms as well. He was transferred to Alcatraz in August 1934. Due to neurosyphilis that eroded his mental faculties, he would spend most of his time in the hospital section. After completing his term in January 1939, he was sent to another facility to serve out his contempt of court sentence. He would be paroled in November 1939 and received treatment at Union Memorial Hospital.

After treatments, he would go to Palm Island Florida where he remained for the rest of his life. He got treatments with the newest mass-produced drug called penicillin. It could not reverse his disease but helped him lived longer. He would die from heart failure on 25 January 1947. He was originally buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago. His remains were later removed (along with his family’s) to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillsdale, Illinois.


With the repeal of the 18th Amendment with the adoption of the 21st Amendment in December 1933, Prohibition had come to an end. Only a few states choose to remain dry (that would change much later) ending the income for illicit alcohol that had given rise to gangs like the Chicago Outfit. Organizations like Chicago Outfit would take a quieter approach and avoid public violence to avoid either local or federal police investigations. These organizations focused on prostitution, union racketeering, and gambling after the Capone years. In later years, much to the chagrin of J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, it would be found these criminal organizations had become very powerful and worked together.


Al Capone

Al Capone | Biography, Life, Death, Alcatraz, Syphilis, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 17 Oct. 2023, www.britannica.com/biography/Al-Capone

“Al Capone Goes to Prison.” HISTORY, 24 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/this-day-in-history/capone-goes-to-prison]

Wikipedia contributors. “Al Capone.” Wikipedia, Oct. 2023, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Capone

St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

“St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – Victims, Evidence and Suspects.” HISTORY, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/crime/saint-valentines-day-massacre

“Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre | Victims, Al Capone, Bugs Moran, and Prohibition.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 Sept. 2023, www.britannica.com/event/Saint-Valentines-Day-Massacre