Hartley Violin Auctioned Off For $1.6 Million

Wallace Hartley's ViolinThe Associated Press is reporting the Hartley Violin sold for $1.6 million today at the auction held by Henry Aldridge & Son. The amount sold sets a record for a Titanic artifact. The name of the buyer, who bid over the phone, wished to remain anonymous according to Andrew Aldridge.

Source: Titanic Violin Sells For More Than $1.6M At Auction(19 Oct 2013,Associated Press)

Halloween Titanic: Is Titanic Attraction Haunted?

Ghost Stories
Photo: Public Domain

Pumpkins are starting to appear along with scary and sometimes funny Halloween décor. And to go along with the season we have a Titanic themed Halloween story. Now this is something we hear about regularly here at Titanic News Channel. Stories of Titanic ghosts have been around a long time. Sometimes connected to things once owned by Titanic victims, hauntings where they once lived. One person claimed that spectral voices would be heard out in the area where Titanic sank. Titanic exhibitions are also places where ghosts, possibly of Titanic victims, seem to hang out.

And one such place is Titanic:The Experience in Orlando, Florida. Using artifacts and storytellers in costume, it sets a wonderful stage for people to enjoy learning about Titanic. Now according to one news article, they are adding ghost tours in October for those wanting to find out about the supernatural aspects of the exhibit. On a few select days at 5 p.m. in October, people will be guided through the exhibit by actors who portray passengers. They will note areas where alleged supernatural events have occurred.

Jac LeDoux, floor manager and director of the exhibit, reports he has had many ghostly encounters. He does not call them spirits and does not believe they are evil or violent (good to know!). He says a little girl called Catherine haunts the attraction. A Raggedy Ann doll was even put on the shelves behind the register to amuse her by staff members. Most of the ghostly encounters occur in the grand staircase, engine room and outside deck areas of the exhibit. Kimberly Button, writing for Attractions Magazine, said there was a spooky feeling in some of the rooms though nothing was seen or heard by them. One person on the media tour did report feeling like moving on water while on the outside deck area.

Titanic: The Experience is promoting the ghost tours this way(taken from their website):



For the past few years staff members at Titanic The Experience have encountered some strange and unanswerable events within the Exhibition. Some say it is the spirits of passengers and crew of Titanic reaching out from “the other side,” while others speculate it’s their minds playing tricks on them.

To put the debate to rest and finally find answers to these unusual events, Titanic The Experience hosted a paranormal investigation which claimed to find conclusive evidence of paranormal activity generated by those who sailed on the legendary Ship on the evening she met her fate.

Experience these spirits and hear the stories yourself by taking a Titanic The Experience Ghost Tour on Oct. 17th, 24thand 31st at 5pm. Beware of wandering ghosts, whispers, howling winds, shadows and bizarre noises. Reservations are required as attendance is limited.

They are advertising their version of a haunted house, only that instead of manufactured scares, chills, and thrills they are offering the possibility of the real thing. Notice they do not actually promise you will see something supernatural, just that you might. They give a disclaimer of sorts by saying “some say it is the spirits of passengers and crew of Titanic reaching out from “the other side,” while others speculate it’s their minds playing tricks on them.” As for an investigation, one wonders who conducted it.They do not say but if history is any guide, it likely is one of those ghost teams armed with fancy looking devices that measure changes in temperature, fluctuations in energy nearby, infrared cameras to pick up spectral movements, and possibly digital voice recorders to pick up voices from beyond. Perhaps they were accompanied by psychic, who being sensitive to such things could tell them if their exhibit was haunted or not.

Of course some will wonder whether this is just something manufactured to draw in visitors.The article concludes with:

Guests and staff often see and hear weird occurrences during normally scheduled tours. The ghost tour is a chance, though, to learn about the staff’s long-time interactions with the spirits of passengers who sailed on the Titanic and seem to have never left.

If the goal is to learn about Titanic, I applaud the effort. But not with gimmick like this. I doubt they called up anyone like Joe Nickell* to come and examine the stories and determine if there really is any supernatural activity going on.

*Joe Nickell works with a skeptics society and often investigates paranormal claims. He has written books on his investigations and collaborated with Robert Baker on Missing Pieces: How To Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, & Other Mysteries (Prometheus Books, 1992)

Source: Is Titanic – The Experience Actually Haunted? Ghost Tours Offer A Chance To Hear Staff Tales(15 Oct 2013,attractionsmagazine.com)

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Premier Exhibitions Stock Downgraded To Sell By TheStreet

graph downAnalysts at TheStreet has downgraded its rating from hold to sell. According to the analysis, the reasons for the downgrade are:

  • The company has significantly underperformed in net income in the same quarter a year ago. Net income decreased by 102.3% compared to same quarter a year ago.
  • Operating cash flow has decreased.
  • Stock performance is bad. It tumbled 33.49% and company’s earnings per share are down.
  • Return on equity has only slightly improved from same quarter last year. While that is good, its return on equity trails that of others in the same industry.
  • Gross profit margin is still high at 51.21% but still shows a decrease from last year at the same period.

The stock(PRXI) closed down today (14 Oct 2013) at $1.36.

Source: Premiere Exbitions Inc Stock Downgraded (13 Oct 2013, TheStreet)

Sunday Titanic Newswrap

1. The Belfast Telegraph reports that the former headquarters of Harland & Wolff has secured funding from Heritage Lottery Fund. The former drawing offices will made open for public use while the majority of the structure will become a Titanic-themed hotel. According to Telegraph: “In the old Harland and Wolff building the most historically important rooms such as the drawing offices, board room, telephony room and entrance lobby will be developed as spaces for public use, telling the story of Belfast’s industrial heritage. Nicky Dunn, chairwoman of Titanic Foundation Limited, which is behind the project, welcomed the investment in what she described as a national icon.”
Source: Titanic Offices To Be Re-Opened(11 Oct 2013,Belfast Telegraph)

2. CBC News reports that Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia is going to refurbish the monuments and headstones and pathway of the historic cemetery where many Titanic victims were laid to rest. Work is scheduled to begin in Spring 2014.
Source: Titanic Graves To Get Needed Facelift In Halifax Cemetery(11 Oct 2013,CBC News)

3. Possible Titanic Lifeboat? Turley McShane recently acquired an old lifeboat that had been resting in a hedgerow for years and thinks it might be from Titanic. “When he travelled across the Irish Sea to have a look at it, he found the boat had been languishing in a hedgerow. It had been bought in Liverpool where effects off all the White Star Line ships were disposed of” reports Belfast Telegraph. [Editors note-If I recall correctly, the lifeboats were all repainted with new names so and no one knows the final disposition of them. It will be easier to prove it was a White Star lifeboat but harder to prove it was aboard Titanic.]
Source: White Star Lifeboat Rescued From Hedge(11 Oct 2013,Belfast Telegraph)

MasterChef Junior: Whipping It Good

Photo: Wikipedia

There is an old Devo song called Whip It that comes to mind when you see this episode. The best way to understand this episode is that part 1 is vaudeville and part 2 is the actual competition. In part 1, the winners last week face off to make whipped cream the old fashioned way-by hand. Then we have the top 10 broken up into teams of two to cook Gordon Ramsay’s famous beef wellington. Yes, this is the same dish that bedevils many on Hell’s Kitchen (risotto being the other).

Vaudeville Act
Step up to see three Masterchef Junior winners attempt to make whipped cream. You just pour the cream into the bowl and whip it, whip it good. Nothing else to do but that. All right, ready, set go! Watch those arms go around and around those bowls. Look at all that cream going all over the place! What a mess. Little Sarah is yelling on the sidelines “C’mon Gavin! Whip it, whip it like a man!” The crowd is really getting into this as Alexander, Gavin, and Kaylen frantically stir.

Oh there is Alexander raising his whip and saying “Whipped!” The other two sadly must stop. But hold on folks, there is more to come. Yes, we are not just going to have the judges spoon up the whipped cream. The bowls will be turned upside down on the heads of the judges themselves. Here is the opportunity for you, America, to see these MasterChef judges possibly get drenched in underdone whipped cream. Alexander bravely steps up behind Graham, who has suddenly become a praying man. The bowl turns! Alexander did it right, no splatter on Graham Elliot’s head.

Gavin now raises his bowl above Joe “The Stare” Bastianich. Oh no folks, it looks like a Gavin did not get it right. My goodness,look at all that cream on Joe’s face and clothes. Joe looks very unhappy. Meanwhile Gordon awaits his fate. Will Kaylen’s whipped cream stay put or go all over the foul mouthed Brit. The bowl turns over and….

Oh dear. It seems Kaylen did not do very well at all. It is nearly all cream coming out covering Gordon causing him to utter a very rude word! Fortunately he recovers with saying sugar repeatedly. Alexander, possibly on cue from the director, taps his bowl on Graham’s head. Food fight! When it is all over, the judges retire to clean themselves up and a clean up crew must come in to remove the mess and set up for the next challenge.

Beef Wellington
Photo: Wikipedia

The Great Beef Wellington Challenge
Having won the challenge, Alexander gets to pick the 5 teams that will cook in the next challenge. And that challenge is to recreate Gordon Ramsay’s signature dish: Beef Wellington. Dispense with the easy stuff and go right to the toughest thing to do. So many things to be done right, so many ingredients. Done well, a work of culinary art. Done badly it is a disaster. The ghost of Lord Wellington (hero of the Peninsular War against Napoleon) is probably watching to see if his namesake food can be done right.

Ah but there is of course a catch. They are cooking in teams but it is a tag-team cooking challenge. One person cooking, the other standing outside yelling tips or getting upset. So many ways it can can go wrong. They get to taste a proper Beef Wellington so they know the flavor profile. The question is can these kids accomplish what so many find hard to do and get right (especially on Hell’s Kitchen)? All the ingredients needed are provided for so they do not need to spend any time in the pantry. With that, the clock starts ticking down and the kids all start working feverishly.

Alexander & Troy produced a Wellington worthy of Gordon Ramsay.  A home run.
Sarah & Dara produce one just as good, possibly better than Alexander and Troy. Sarah had a frightening moment when taking the pan out of the oven when she dropped the pan on the floor. Fortunately it did not effect the Beef Wellington. A home run as well. Joe did make a comment about back of the house that people do not see. The health inspectors probably are on their way to his restaurant after what he said (in jest, we assume).
Kaylen & Jack had some problems with the puffed pastry. The broccolini overcooked and the beef did as well since the mushrooms were not there to provide moisture. A foul ball but just short of a complete out.
Sofia & Gavin did a good job, though not quite as good as the top two. The puff pastry could have been thinner but the flavors are all correct. A double.
Jewels & Roen have serious problems with the dish. While Jewels says she went light on the salt, it turns out to be very salty due to the mustard not being put on right after searing the steak. It ends up making it more salty. Gordon is very disappointed. A strikeout to be sure.

So the bottom two are Kaylen & Jack, Jewels & Roen. There is a rule on these food shows (see my rules here) that if you over salt the dish, odds are you are going home. And that is what happened to Jewels & Roen.

My thoughts
Not a bad episode. I did think they overdid it on the whipped cream part. They ought to have let the other two finish before they tested the results. Having them do the testing on the judge’s heads was interesting but went a bit too far in my book. The Beef Wellington task really showed both strengths and weaknesses. It also has raised questions on the Internet was to whether these kids are actors, being coached, or the real thing. We know on Hell’s Kitchen they put people on just to fill space and to cause friction. Did that happen here? There is no evidence of that but it is right to ask how these kids can produce pretty good renditions of a difficult dish they have (we presume) never done before. So I have to keep the skeptic hat on. I am not totally convinced these kids are true amateurs but they are not pros either since they do make mistakes.

The most recent numbers provided by TV By The Numbers show this last episode(11 Oct 2013) got just enough winners to beat out ABC’s Last Man Standing and CBS Undercover Boss. It was actually close in terms of ratings points:

FOX     MasterChef Jr         1.4     5     3.78
CBS     Undercover Boss     1.3     5     7.82
ABC     Last Man Standing    1.2     5     5.86

That last number on the right shows how many millions watched live and watched the same day on their Tivo or other dvrs. Which means, if the numbers are right, more people watched MasterChef Junior live than the others. I happen to be one of those people. I record Last Man Standing and watch it usually after MasterChef (I actually record both but watch MasterChef live). Undercover Boss had more viewers when you include in those who recorded and watched later but loses when you remove that factor and only include those who watched live.

A Sad Note About Josh Marks
As I finished writing this, news came that Josh Marks of MasterChef season 3 (who left and then came back ending up facing Christine Ha in the finale) had been found dead. And it appears he took his own life. This is a very sad outcome of someone so talented and destined, I think, for a long career in the food business. He apparently suffered from a bi-polar disorder which likely caused an incident that led to his arrest over the summer. He was undergoing required medical evaluations. This sad outcome is no doubt devastating to his family and friends. My heart, condolences, and prayers are with them in this time of sorrow. He was a good fellow who had a good heart. RIP Josh Marks.

Halloween Musings: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod CraneThe 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 cannon-ball, 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)

Washington Irving wrote many short stories (some of which deal with ghosts and other supernatural occurrences)but it is this one he is most remembered for. We have the character of Ichabod Crane, an itinerant school teacher who comes to Sleepy Hollow. He is a man with interesting contradictions. Tough when teaching with a strict moral code but outside has few morals. He tries to ingratiate himself to the locals, in particular the women and eventually settles on trying to woo Katrina Van Tassel. He is also a superstitious man, believing in ghosts, demons, and witches. A very nervous fellow because of those beliefs.

His wooing of Katrina earns him the dislike of Abraham Van Brunt, locally known for his many daring feats of strength and known by his nickname Bram Bones. Since Ichabod will not fight him, he resorts to a myriad of pranks but they seem to have no effect. But at the end of the harvest festival party, he approaches Katrina to propose but obviously he was rejected by her. So he leaves the party quite dismayed and in the night gloom all of those ghost stories he has heard make him fearful. And then he encounters the Headless Horseman.

Crane flees but eventually knocked off his horse by the pumpkin thrown by the horseman. Later nothing is found of him except his hat and the pumpkin. His horse is found but nothing else. Was he spirited away by the Headless Horseman or did quickly exit Sleepy Hollow for a better place to live? His belongings were found and destroyed by Hans Van Ripper. So all he had with him was his recent pay, clothes, and nothing else. Stories of him being seen elsewhere are mentioned, that he taught school and studied law enough to become a judge. Bram Bones always seemed to know something about what happened that night.

The story ends with the following:

The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe, and that may be the reason why the road has been altered if later years, so as to approach the church by the border of the millpond. The school-house,being deserted,soon fell into decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue;and the plough-boy,loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm-tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.

So Irving leaves it open as to his final fate. Either might be true but there is no proof. If he was spirited away, it would explain why everything he had in the world was left behind. On the other hand, after being rejected by Katrina and knocked off his horse later by the Horseman, he may have decided to just leave and totally start over elsewhere not caring what others thought. He knew he would be the subject of ridicule over Katrina’s refusal to marry him and likely would find it harder to find another women to marry in that area.

There have been several movie adaptations, some faithful and some not to the story. A recent one on the SyFy had the horseman as part of a devil worshiping cult. The Tim Burton adaptation (Sleepy Hollow, 1999) starring Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci turned Crane into a detective trying to solve a series of murders in Sleepy Hollow. The Headless Horseman (played by Christopher Walken) has been brought back by the wife of Baltus Van Tassel (his second wife and Katrina’s step mother) to exact revenge on those that forced them out of her home when kids and get the Van Tassel properties and wealth. It is actually a good movie. The Disney animated version (1949) with Bing Crosby singing the songs and telling the tale is pretty good as well. Kolchak:The Night Stalker did a homage to the story with its own version about a dead motorcycle gang leader wanting his head back. Fox now has a series based on the characters but a wholly different retelling involving Headless Horseman being one of the Apocalypse Horseman.

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Premiere Exhibitions:It’s Official-Deal To Sell Artifacts Terminated

For Sale by Owner Sign

In its most recent financial report, Premiere Exhibitions announced the following:

While both parties have worked diligently to finalize a transaction to transfer the Titanic assets, the Company terminated the non-binding LOI with the Hampton Roads consortium effective today. Mr. Weiser stated, “We always believed that Hampton Roads was an ideal location for the permanent home of the collection and the proposed transaction met our criteria of price, court satisfaction and tax efficiency. However, this group has failed to secure sufficient financing so we believe the Company needs to focus on pursuing alternatives to effect a sale of these assets for the benefit of shareholders. From the Company’s perspective, we view the termination of the LOI not as the end but as a new beginning for the process; one that will get us closer towards finalizing this in a manner that fulfills our shareholders’ expectations and satisfies the requirements of the court.”

The actual names behind this consortium has never been reported but the Virginian-Pilot reports that at one time The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News had been negotiating but could not raise the money.

Premiere also announced its second-quarter revenue was done by 42% from the same period last year. Gross profit dropped by half to $4 million compared to $8.2 million a year ago. Hurricane Sandy hurt when it forced closure of Manhattan Titanic along with more money being spent elsewhere on the 100th anniversary of Titanic sinking.

1. Deal For Titanic Artifacts Terminated(10 Oct 2013,Virginian-Pilot)
2.Premier Exhibitions Reports Second Quarter Fiscal 2014 Results(9 Oct 2013,Global Newswire-press release)

Hartley Violin Update: Daily Mail Declares Violin Authentic

Wallace Hartley's ViolinSarah Griffiths, writing for the UK Daily Mail, examines the history of the Hartley violin and the scientific tests taken to determine its authenticity. The various tests–a CT scan, forensic testing of the metal plate, examination of the wood–along with documentary evidence leads to the conclusion the violin is authentic. Additionally corrosion tests match submersion in seawater. Although the violin was not listed in his personal effects when his body was recovered, it is believed that it was regarded as luggage rather than a personal effect.

Henry Aldridge & Son claims it invested thousands in getting the violin authenticated. And when it goes on the auction block on 19 Oct, they expect to make it all back (and quite a bit more as well). The violin will likely set a new record if it sells for the estimated £4000,000. I suspect it will sell for a lot more than that.

Source: Violin That Was Played To Calm Passengers As Titanic Sank Undergoes CT Scan To Prove Authenticity Before Going To Auction(9Oct 2013,Daily Mail)