28 March 2014

Crime Cruise-Cartagena

by R.T. Lawton

Harbor with skyline of new Cartagena
Cartagena was the second port of call for our cruise ship. Even though I came as a tourist, I left the badge I usually carry in my billfold at home. Probably wouldn't do to inadvertently become involved in a situation and have that gold shield come to light. Back when the Medellin and Cali cartels were in full swing, some of our guys got kidnapped and shot in Colombia. Plus South America likes tourist money, but they are wary of U.S. citizens in-country who could appear to be there in an unofficial capacity. So why take the risk? I'm on vacation.

The Tour

These days, Cartagena is a large commercial shipping port, a carryover from the early years when it was a Spanish stronghold during their conquest of South America. Founded in 1533 on the site of an Indian village by the name of Calamar, the conquistadors used this port to gather much of their gold looted from the natives and then shipped this treasure to Spain.
Casa de Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Our tour bus met us at the pier and drove through some of the poorer parts of the city en route to our first destination. All of the side-by-side, squeezed together residences and small businesses had metal grill work over their doors and windows. It's not there just for decoration. At one spot, a large open gate provided a quick glimpse of an old man in shorts, no shirt, working on a dilapidated car, but then most commercial port areas are life in reality, not scenic attractions.

At some point, our route also took us past the Casa de Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Marquez is a famous South American author of several novels, some of which are in the mystery genre. Though not a mystery, one of the novels he was famous for in North America was Love in the Time of Cholera.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas
First stop is the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, built from blocks of stone and blocks of faded red coral. This is one impressive fortress constructed on a hill overlooking the harbor and the old city. With its long sloping ramps, drawbridge, high walls, multiple levels, dark and winding interior tunnels dug out of solid rock, multitude of cannons and crisscrossing fields of fire, this fort was a formidable obstacle to any Old World enemy assaulting from land or by sea. And the view from the top is breath taking, even if you aren't already winded by all the stairs or other climbing to get there.

Walls around old city
Next, the bus takes us to the old walled city where we walk on the ancient walls that once guarded this part of the city from pirates. Here, the walls are much lower than the fort, but have lots of cannon ports to repel an enemy. From the walls, we descend a ramp into the old city streets and enter the calle where parts of Romancing the Stone were filmed. Second story balconies, much like the ones in the French Quarter of New Orleans, are covered with bright Bougainvillaea hanging from wooden boxes. The tour guide says these house owners get a break on their property taxes for maintaining the decorative flowers. On the narrow street below the balconies, vendors with limited English abilities besiege us with offers to sell bottled pop, water or beer from tubs of ice. Others hawk t-shirts and trinkets.

Romancing the Stone street as seen from old city walls
Our walking tour leads us through a naval museum with models of the harbor, forts and walled city as they were centuries ago, a beautiful cathedral and the Palacio de la Inquisicion. A gallows and several instuments of torture are displayed in the palace's courtyard. Didn't do to be other than a faithful Catholic in those days.

On the way back to the ship, our bus stops at a small, two-level, open air shopping mall where one can buy emeralds, Colombian coffee or souvenirs. If you take a photo of one of the colorfully dressed, female fruit vendors, be sure to give her a couple of dollars, else she will track you down and make loud demands for money. There are signs on the street requiring those two dollars for any photo taken of her.

Fruit vendor
The Crime

All the gold plunder coming overland from Peru to Cartagena soon came to the attention of Caribbean pirates and privateers. French pirate Robert Baal was the first to attack the city in 1544. In 1559, Martin Cote (French) followed suit. Twenty-four years later, the English buccaneer John Hawkins decided it was his turn, but Cartagena's new cannons drove him off. In 1572, Francis Drake (English) sacked the city and pillaged its treasure, to include the city's bells. Baron de Pontis (French) occupied the city for two months in 1697, and English admiral Edward Vernon tried his luck in 1741, but didn't succeed. Seems pirates were a plague on the population back then.

In more recent years, home grown drug cartels brought money, violence and corruption to the country. Mother ships out of Cartagena sailed north with their holds packed with drugs for the U.S. market, but then everyone is familiar with Pablo Escobar and his kind. Our tour guide spoke of him and the cartels as not being a problem to Cartagena anymore. Maybe so, in which case we can talk of smaller crimes.

Old cathedral with crypt in foreground
Glen David Short, a freelance writer based in Cartagena wrote an article concerning advice for the tourist, 25 things you should be wary of in Cartagena. Here's a few.

1) Never, ever change money on the streets. Unlike other South American countries, there is no black market, and it is not safe or recommended. Getting short-changed or handed fake bills, or having your wallet snatched from your hands in broad daylight are common scams. Cartagena has plenty of banks and casa de cambios. Many large hotels and emerald shops will change dollars, and most businesses accept US dollar bills.

3. Don't walk on the wall at night. Despite the romantic vistas and the fact that scores of locals and lovers do, it is a known haunt of thieves and assaults on women have been reported.

7. It might sound obvious, but don't walk around flashing expensive cameras, jewelry, wads of money, etc. Places like beaches, outside banks and the area around the clock tower are favored pickpocket haunts. Thieves have been known to follow people from banks for up to half a day before they strike. Remember there are tens of thousands of desplazados, or displaced people in Cartagena who have fled the problems in the interior of Colombia. Many of these people work for a salary of $2 a day. Be wary of pushy street vendors who wave t-shirts and other objects in your face: often it is a foil or distraction so an accomplice can relieve you of your handbag or camera. Leave your "fanny pack" or zippered money pouch at home-they are sure to attract a thief.

Fort looking at new Cartagena over harbor
10. Swat up on emeralds before you buy. There are many very good dealers, but caveat emptor. You probably won't get green glass, but you might pay more than you should. When ordering custom pieces, make sure that it is the full price you are handing over, not a deposit. Many shops use the word "bono" instead of the word "deposito" to confuse tourists. When the customer returns to pick up the piece they are then told they have only paid for materials, and the full price including labor is usually double.

11. The same goes for Cuban cigars. The ones sold on the street are of dubious origin and freshness. If in doubt, buy from one of the stores. You'll pay more, but you will be getting the real thing.

Old Clock Tower (left), Cathedral (center) & large plaza (right)
19. Carry a photocopy of your passport on your person, but not your actual passport. It is actually illegal to walk the streets in Colombia without I.D., but a photocopy will suffice in 90% of situations. Don't give your passport to anyone who doesn't produce convincing I.D. themselves.

All in all, we enjoyed Cartagena for its historical value, beautiful cathedrals and panoramic views from the fort. Other than being swamped by vendors, we had no problems. In our minds, this is not a sun and water vacation destination, but we would gladly return in order to tour other places in Cartagena that we didn't have time for on this trip.

See you in two weeks in the Panama Canal. Did you know that big ditch actually runs north and south rather than east and west?

27 March 2014


by Eve Fisher

File:Number 12.JPG
"Number 12 Looks Just Like You"
One of the things about living in a small rural town is that pretty much everyone looks alike.  When I first moved up here, I wrote to my friends back east and said, "There are two ethnic types in this town, and I'm one of them."  Exaggerated, but close.  In a town of 90% Norwegian/German/Dutch/Swedish/Danish with blond hair and blue eyes, let's just say that I stand out a bit.  But you know, I think I'd rather stand out that look like everyone else.  There was an old Twilight Zone show called "Number 12 Looks Just Like You", where everyone picks one of a handful of faces...  well, I have sat many times in groups where there are three or four people who looked so much alike it was hard to say who was who.  Between large families, intermarriage among cousins, etc., it happens. I don't know what they think about it - but I'm not sure I'd like it.

But perhaps I feel a little uneasy because they're all in the same town.  I've run into look-alikes before: there's a cousin who looks just like Bob Bainborough (Dalton on The Red Green Show).  There's a guy here in town who looks like Kenny Rogers used to before his plastic surgery.  I ran into a guy at the pen recently who looked remarkably like Axl Rose.  Years ago I was working at a 7-11 in Georgia, and a guy who looked like Lee Majors (6 Million Dollar Man) tried to pick me up.

Of course, there's more to it than looks.  Or is there?  If someone looks like someone else, do you expect them to behave like that person?  Sometimes, yes.   And if they act like someone else...  well.  Miss Marple was always watching people, and thinking how so-and-so had a weak chin, or a direct stare, or a nervous twitch, and from there reminisce about someone back in St. Mary Meade who did something bad, or were on the receiving end of the same...  and history would repeat itself.  And I think she was (largely) right.

I do this all the time.  I know a meth twitch when I see one.  (Along with the skin sores and bad teeth.)  And there's also the liar's look:  Agatha Christie nailed it, the person who looks you straight in the eye without wavering. But if you look at their neck/chin/shoulders, they're braced and ready for someone to ask them questions...

We've all heard the person who tells you the story of his/her life at such speed and length that it takes you a while to put together the complexity of it and realize that it never could have happened.  They're lying about at least half of it, if not all of it, which would indicate that they are untrustworthy about other things as well.

There's the guy (sorry to be sexist, but these are mostly young men) who's always bragging about how tough he is, and you know, know, know that down deep he is scared s--tless.  Which also means, he is very dangerous, but mostly because when he is pushed up against a wall, he will either (1) run at the wrong time, leaving whoever's around in danger or (2) react violently, but in such an inexpert way that whoever's around is more apt to be injured than the source of danger.  I get away from these guys as quickly as I can. Thankfully, these days I usually only run into them in controlled environments.

The super-complimentary, women or men, sloshing sugar all over the place, are always, always, always up to something.  If nothing else, they're trying to be your friend without giving anything but compliments.

And, of course, the classic predator:  attentive, adhesive, encircling, gradually eliminating anyone and anything else but themselves, until they and they alone are the only person in their victim's life.

They might not all look alike, but they act alike...  Every time...

26 March 2014

The Man Who Kept The Secrets

by David Edgerley Gates

Richard Helms was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973, which makes him the longest-serving DCI in CIA history. He was also the first DCI to be appointed from the ranks, a career intelligence professional. Previous DCI's had been, in effect, political appointees, recruited from outside the Agency. Helms was DCI for Viet Nam, the Six-Day War, the overthrow of Salvador Allende, and Watergate---which is just the highlight reel. In other words, he knew where the bodies were buried.

He joined OSS during the war, and when CIA was established, in 1947, Helms came on board, one of the generation that included Larry Houston and James Angleton. These three guys, over the next twenty-five years, might be said to be CIA's institutional memory. They certainly shepherded, and shaped, the Agency and its legacy.

Helms is the only one who wrote a memoir, though, published after his death. It's too bad Houston and Angleton chose not to, it would have been interesting to contrast and compare, but keeping confidences was a habit of mind. They were secret men.

Memoirs of the spy community are a peculiar genre, and not always to be trusted. The most famous example is Kim Philby's MY SILENT WAR, written under KGB discipline, if not actually dictated by them. Philby settles a lot of scores, and spreads active disinformation. His book might best be seen as one last deception. Then, for instance, there's former CIA director William Colby's HONORABLE MEN, which is self-serving in the extreme, if not outright fabrication. The thing about the Helms book is that although he leaves much unsaid, what he does say is frank and transparent. (It helps, of course, to know the background, to fill in the blanks.) Helms doesn't give up operational details, or sources and methods, but he gives a solid flavor to the life, and his sense of duty.

One of the more disputed tangles in CIA's archive is the Golitsin-Nosenko controversy, which embroiled James Angleton's shop, the office of
Counterintelligence, in the hunt for a double agent---shades of Kim Philby. The best explanation of this very convoluted story is Thomas Powers' excellent book, THE MAN WHO KEPT THE SECRETS. It's also the subject of Edward Jay Epstein's LEGEND, and David Martin's WILDERNESS OF MIRRORS (an expression attributed to Angleton). Helms covers Operation FOXTROT, the codename for Nosenko's defection, in just under seven pages, and doesn't assign it that much importance, his main point being that FOXTROT didn't tear the Agency apart, which is the premise of the Martin book. Helms goes out of his way to rehabilitate Angleton, whose forced resignation by Colby created a few lifetimes of bad blood.

It's a good demonstration of Helms' method. Don't gossip. Don't show off at somebody else's expense. Basically, be a gent. He obviously doesn't respect Colby much, but he stops of actually calling him a liar. The same is true of Nixon, even though Helms acknowledges Nixon's paranoia, and Nixon more or less stabbed Helms in the back, but Helms doesn't grudge Nixon his successes. This is, however, a place in the story where it turns dark. Nixon instructs Helms, in no uncertain terms, to get rid of Allende in Chile, and keep a lid on it. This leads to big trouble for Helms, later on, because his testimony in front of the Senate, touching on Allende and Chile, is clearly shown to be untrue. He was keeping the president's confidence, but under pressure, Helms pled to a misdemeanor charge in federal court, of being careless with the facts.

This speaks to one of the major themes in both the Powers and in Helms' own story, silence and duty, namely that the DCI only has one consumer, the
president, and you only serve one president at a time. Helms isn't circumspect about this at all, and makes no apology for it. He has no reason to. We can argue about the function of the intelligence community, and whether or not the national security apparatus had overreached itself, but Larry Houston once remarked, in private conversation, that he never thought their intentions were dishonest. Helms was a principled guy. He kept faith. It cost him.

25 March 2014

My First Farewell Post

This post ends my year and my career as a regular contributor to the SleuthSayers blog, though I'll be available to pinch-hit whenever one of the group needs a break.  I'd like to thank Leigh Lundin and Robert Lopresti for giving me this opportunity and for their patience while I learned (but never mastered) the software.  I'd also like to thank the other writers on the blog for their encouragement and comments, especially Dale C. Andrews, with whom I've shared Tuesdays (and the daunting job of preparing the retrospective posts for SleuthSayers' second anniversary).  I hope to actually meet Dale someday, maybe at a baseball game. 
In place of blogging, I'm going to be devoting more time to promoting a new book, The Quiet Woman, which will be published by Five Star in June.  It's quite a departure for me, as it's my first stand-alone mystery and my first comic/romantic/supernatural one, at least in book form.  (I now see some of my Alfred Hitchcock stories as baby steps in that direction.) I'll write more about The Quiet Woman closer to its release, if my replacement will relinquish a Tuesday.  That replacement, incidentally, is David Dean, a man who needs no introduction to regular SleuthSayers readers, since he's the writer I replaced one year ago.  He's spent that year working on a new book, about which I hope he'll write in this space.

I'm sorry that so few of my twenty-odd posts had to do with mystery writing and that so many were about old movies and forgotten actors and authors, though many of my favorite posts by other contributors have also wandered far in the subject matter field.  Many of these favorites have been magazine quality, in my opinion, both in terms of writing and word count.  The latter I attribute to good time management, something at which I've never excelled, as the following account of my approach to blog writing, inspired by Eve Fisher's recent Robert Benchley post, will demonstrate.

As near as I can reconstruct, my two-week blog-writing cycle has gone something like this.

Through the miracle of Blogger.com, my column appears on a Tuesday.  All is right with the world.  I can hold my head up in any gathering of productive human beings, though I can't remember the last time I attended such a gathering.  This happy glow stays with me until Thursday, when it's eclipsed by the bright rays of the approaching weekend.

Sometime during that weekend, I panic, until a quick check of my desk calendar confirms that the looming Tuesday belongs to Dale Andrews.  Sure enough, Dale's column appears as if by magic on the appointed day.  It might even give me an idea for a post of my own.  If it doesn't, no problem.  I have a week to work one out.

A week being much more time than I need, I don't actually use the whole thing.  That would be wasteful.  In fact, I spend so much of my week not being wasteful that, before I know it, another weekend arrives.  Sometime late on Sunday, I wonder, idly, what Dale will write about this week.  Maybe he's traveling down south again.  He seems to travel more than John Kerry.  That's the life, escaping the cold snow for the warm sand and trading juncos for sanderlings.  I can almost hear the waves. . .

I awake in a cold sweat with the realization that the approaching Tuesday, whose skirmishers are even now topping the nearest hill, is my Tuesday.  To arms!  To arms! 

Okay, maybe that isn't exactly how my average fortnight has gone, but it's close enough that just recounting it has caused my heart to race.  When it settles down, I'll get to work on a new book, following Mr. Dean's example.  In the meantime, thanks very much for visiting.

24 March 2014

That Bobble-Head

by Fran Rizer

Aeden, now fourteen
Recently Aeden, my fourteen-year-old grandson, discovered Edgar Allan Poe.  When I picked him up from school, he immediately began telling me about this "cool" story he'd read about a man who walled up his nemesis. 

When I asked, "The Cask of Amontillado?" he informed me that I'd pronounced "Amontillado" incorrectly as it was "an Italian word with the the 'l' sound silent." (Leigh, does the fourteen-year-old in your life right now just love to "correct" you?)

I informed him, "Edgar Allan Poe grew up in the South– Richmond, Virginia– and probably pronounced the 'l' just as I did."  Then I recommended that he read "The Tell-Tale Heart," and teased him he could pronounce those "l"s however he liked. Since the story is long out of copyright, it was possible to pull up the entire text on the computer.  We went from there to BaM, where I bought him the almost 2,000-page Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe.  I drew stars by the titles of stories and poems I think best.  An avid reader when he was young (self-taught at age three), Aeden has been into other hobbies for the past couple of years.  I'm pleased to say he's back to reading for pleasure and has asked, "Who else of those old people wrote such good stuff?

Virginia Clemm Poe
Poe's first wife was only 13 and he was
27, but the marriage was happy until her'
death from tuberculosis.
Aeden is not the first young person I've known who became interested in literature because of Edgar Allan Poe. Years ago, I taught a fifth-grader who had no interest in much of anything.  Not yet twelve-years-old, he was with a gang and in school only because Youthful Offenders required him to be there.  One morning he met me with a tattered copy of an old book.  After explaining that he'd found it while helping clean out his recently deceased grandmother's house, he said, "I want you to read this poem."
It was "The Raven."  Then he asked, "Do you have any more poems by this man?"  He later asked me if it were true that Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin, which he did.

I won't bore you with a long report on Poe, his life, and his works.
If you want to know more than you do, check out the life section of the Poe Museum webpage.  https:www.poemuseum.org/life.php

Remembered for his lyrical poems and short stories, he also wrote numerous critiques and newspaper articles as well as one novel. MWA uses bobble-heads of Poe are most likely because he is credited with inventing the modern detective story, but he also was an innovator of the science fiction tale.  What might he have done if he'd lived past forty?

As some of you know, I love jokes and cartoons.  I can't move forward without sharing these with you:
From what I've read, Poe received his fair share of
rejections except when he edited the publication. 
Sadly, Poe probably felt like this much of the time as
he had financial problems his entire adult llife.

Poe isn't my real topic for today. I'm sharing my goals in writing.

Recently, I've been running in circles so far as what I want to write. I'm still tweaking my horror novel; I'm half through a thriller; and I'm sixty pages into a new cozy series.  For the first time in about twenty years, I wrote a poem last week.  I've been doing some soul-searching, and I don't know what the heck I want to do.  No, I have no illusions that any of my writings will ever become as well-known or as lasting as Poe's. 

But--I've determined what my writing goal is.  I'd like to write something that would have that kind of impact on a reader.  It doesn't have to sell for a lot of money nor be remembered over a hundred years. I'd just like to have a reader want to read more after reading one of my efforts.

Perhaps I already have that with Callie's repeat readers, but I need to do something new and worthwhile, not necessarily children's literature, but good enough to inspire a young person to read more.

What's your writing goal?

Until we meet again, take care of… you.

23 March 2014

How Writers Write

by Leigh Lundin

More than one author admits to writing in bed, flat on one's back, some in pajamas, others stark naked. While admitting nothing, my thanks goes to a loyal reader who sent me the following by Australian filmmaker and cartoonist, Ethan Waghorn, who uses the internet name 'Atrumentis'.

Time for Bed © Ethan Waghorn
© Ethan Waghorn

Atrumentis' work appears on 9gag.com and his web site, ChewingFat.co. (Images are the property of the artist and are therein internally hotlinked.)

22 March 2014

Folk Music and Murder Ballads

by Elizabeth Zelvin

Folk music is not exactly trendy nowadays. There's not much call for it on the club circuit and fewer and fewer radio stations give it more than an hour a week, if that. But in some circles, there’s still interest in traditional music and nostalgia for the heyday of its popularization in America in the 1960s. Of particular interest to mystery lovers is the subgenre of murder ballads, which began centuries ago in England and Scotland, was brought to America and preserved in the Appalachians, added to by modern songwriters, and still sung with great relish by today’s aficionados of traditional music.

I was introduced to folk music in the late 1940s, when Oscar Brand, the “shoeless troubadour,” had a radio show on WNYC and Appalachian ballad singer Jean Ritchie was his frequent guest. (I saw them perform, both in their eighties and still singing up a storm, as recently as 2003.)
In the early 1950s, I went to a “progressive” summer camp, where I heard the legendary Pete Seeger, already a hero in those circles as the successor to Woody Guthrie, long before the Weavers burst onto the scene. In high school, I was already one of those kids who partied by sitting on the floor with our guitars rather than going to dances or drinking in cars.

I was a college freshman the year Joan Baez’s first album came out. She sang the true crime song, “Mary Hamilton,” in that one—well, maybe an apocryphal true crime song, in which one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting gets pregnant by the king (one of the Stuarts, reign unspecified), gets rid of the newborn by sending it out to sea in a little boat, and gets hanged for it.
The second album included “The Silkie,” a ballad from the Orkneys of which I already knew and sang a more traditional version: the legend of the seal turned human (to which I added a serial killer twist in a short story many years later), and “Banks of the Ohio,” one of many in which a man kills his pregnant girlfriend so he won’t have to marry her. (Others are “Pretty Polly” and “Down in a Willow Garden.”) On the third album was “Pretty Boy Floyd,” a true-crime song about a bank robber who may or may not have had Robin Hood-like ideals. (The song says yes: “As through this world I’ve wandered, I’ve met many kinds of men/Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.” The 2009 movie Public Enemies showed a different side of Floyd.) On the same album was “Matty Groves,” about a man who sleeps with a lord’s wife and gets killed when the husband catches them in bed together. The Irish group Planxty had a version I like even better, in which the doomed lover is “Little Musgrave.”

Somebody is always dying in folk music and its contemporary counterparts as modern songwriters continue the tradition. One of my favorites is “Long Black Veil,” written in 1959 and performed by everybody from Johnny Cash to the Chieftains. That one’s a paranormal murder mystery with a twist: the first person protagonist tells the story from beyond the grave, having been hanged for a crime he didn’t commit with an alibi he couldn’t use: he was “in the bed of my best friend’s wife.” In the 2000 film, The Songcatcher, a collector of Appalachian ballads in 1907 finds the local folks playing out the themes of true love betrayed and two-timing husbands murdered as well as singing the ballads brought over from England and Scotland two hundred years before. In my folksinging days, my mother always used to say, “Can’t you sing something cheerful?” She didn’t live to see me a published mystery writer (she’d have been 105 when the first book came out), but if she had, no doubt she would have asked, “Why does somebody have to be murdered?”

21 March 2014

How the Horses Have It

Here on SleuthSayers, we’ve often discussed the impact of crime on the lives of victims and their families. This article deals directly with that impact—in this case, the impact childhood sexual assault has on its victims years after they reach adulthood, at which point these adults choose to be called what they now truly are: Survivors of childhood sexual assault.

I have chosen to write, this week, about Itahoba Horse, an upcoming program designed to facilitate and foster personal healing for these survivors.

In the interests of full disclosure, I want to make it clear that the founder of Tapestry Institute—the non-profit organization partnering with the WINGS Foundation to present the Itahoba Horse program—is my sister, Dawn Adams Ph.D. But, the reader should also be aware that my sister and I do not always agree on things.

While I spent ten years working for military intelligence and Special Forces, for instance, she earned her doctorate at the University of California Berkley. Consequently, politics is just one area in which our views are worlds apart. It has also been my experience, however, that her views and ideas for assisting people, in manners consistent with those planned-for in the upcoming Itahoba Horse program, have proven remarkably astute and effective in the past. And, further, the approach used in the program is probably of great interest to both readers and writers.

Itahoba Horse Program

The Lone Ranger whistles and his horse, Silver, comes galloping up so the masked man can jump on horseback and get away.

Is this sort of behavior natural to a horse? Is it natural for a person?

Perhaps more germane: If Silver was busily interacting with several other equine friends at the moment the Lone Ranger whistled, would he still be so quick to respond? Or would Silver behave differently when he was part of a de facto herd?

What does this have to do with adults faced with the ongoing trauma resulting from sexual assault they suffered during childhood?

Quite a bit, perhaps. (And, no I’m not accusing the Lone Ranger or his horse of anything. They’re just a couple of handy examples.)

This spring and summer in Fort Lupton, Colorado, adult survivors of Childhood Sexual Assault (CSA) will examine remarkably similar, but much more personal questions as they participate in the Itahoba Horse program.

“Itahoba” is a Choctaw word meaning “connected,” and the program is designed to provide an exploration and strengthening of significant connections—of many kinds—as participants engage with horses in a very special way.

This idea of connection can be extremely important in the lives of CSA survivors, many of whom feel a sense of social or personal isolation due to the stigma inflicted by trauma suffered at a young age. This sense of isolation can be further aggravated if trusted adults were involved in the abuse, or if they failed to believe the child was actually victimized—particularly in those instances in which children were mistakenly (or dishonestly) told that what they reported to a trusted adult never actually happened.

Itahoba Horse is a product of cooperation between two non-profit organizations—WINGS Foundation, which provides counseling and support for adult survivors of childhood sexual assault; and Tapestry Institute, which integrates different ways of knowing, learning about, and responding to the natural world.

Stacy Sheridan, MA, LPC; Program Director & Clinical Supervisor of WINGS Foundation, Inc. says: "I am thrilled to announce WINGS' partnership with Tapestry Institute! As a clinician and program director for WINGS, I consider equine work to be one of the most effective and transformational approaches to healing. I have seen firsthand the power of a horse's presence as they invite a level of vulnerability, intuition, and trust that many of our survivors simply cannot experience with another human at this point in their healing journey. It is for these reasons and many more that I am thrilled to begin referring our survivors to Tapestry and look forward to the transformational healing they will experience through this partnership."

Tapestry Institute’s main focus is the examination and integration of different ways of knowing, learning about, and responding to the natural world. The institute’s objective is to understand how we, as individuals, construct a certain view of the world, including the factors that influence us to create and maintain deeply held beliefs. This, in turn, allows a constructive rearrangement and integration of these factors, permitting people to realize a deeper understanding of the world around us and our place in it.

To illustrate how this plays out in programs such as Itahoba Horse, I’d point to a difference in viewpoints between my wife and myself. We see colors and cars differently.

My wife can name somewhere between five and fifty colors, all of which—to me—go simply by the single name “purple.”

Conversely, when I say, “Wow! Check out that Corvette!” her reply usually runs along the lines of, “You mean the blue car?”

I love classic cars. For instance, I love old Mustangs, the older Corvettes with the tubular headlights, and the early Stingrays (which I prefer). To my wife, however, all cars boil down to: redcar, bluecar, whitecar, etc. She sees no difference between a blue 1963 Stingray, and a blue 2014 Mazda—except that the Mazda is newer.

When we first met, I owned a white 1964½ Mustang. On our first date, I asked, “So, what do you think of the car?”

She shrugged. “It’s okay.”

“OKAY? It’s a ‘64½ Mustang!”

“Well. Yeah. I guess it is kind of old. Isn’t it?”

“OLD!?! It’s a Mustang.”

“Well … I mean, it’s older than I am.”

“Oh, my God! How old are you?”

To me, I was driving a classic—a Mustang from the first production year. A car to be truly proud of. To her, I was driving an old white car.

I have no interest in learning about fifty shades of purple; my wife has no interest in learning about classic cars. The truth, however, is that we’d both probably benefit by learning what the other knows. I’d gain a better understanding of color nuance, while my wife might come to understand why I love to run my hands along the fender of a classic car, to pop the hood and work on the engine in order to more fully “grock” what I see as a living, breathing, metal sculpture of energy in motion.

It reminds me of how my appreciation for Jackson Pollock’s work was planted and grew within my heart and mind in a single hour. Upon first viewing a Jackson Pollock, I thought: “Hmmm. I suspect this artist downed a lot of beer, then somebody pulled a fast one and started swapping mugs of brightly-colored paint in on him. When he got bed spins, he barfed the paint all over the canvas.”

I was seeing only the static, physical presentation of dead paint on stretched canvas. One hour in my college Modern Art class changed all that. I saw a short film of the man painting on glass, another of him dueling with the canvas, saw how he attacked it. Saw the concentration on his face as he worked to impart energy to the work.

Today, I love a good Jackson Pollock. To me, he’s accomplished a nearly impossible feat: He’s captured energy in motion via a two-dimensional static media. He’s taken what I loved about my ‘64½ Mustang, and fastened it into canvas and paint.

When looking at a Jackson Pollock, I sometimes think of the way physicists shoot electrons and other sub-atomic particles at a screen, watching for the way the screen “lights up” to map the particle’s path. A Jackson Pollock looks, to me, like a snap-shot of the electron screen being struck by thousands of sub-atomic particles, some of which shoot through leaving just a speck or spot, while others shatter on impact, splashing themselves across the screen. It’s beautiful, terrifying, and filled with trapped frenetic energy.

Because of what I learned in that art class, I've now come to know Jackson Pollock’s work in a much deeper and far more fulfilling way. I’m sure my wife and I would both experience similar fulfillment if we decided to learn about color and cars. At Tapestry, however, the manner of learning and knowing is not so much about color vs. cars—though their approach is applicable in that arena—as it is about “Western World View” and “Indigenous World View.”

People naturally learn in many different ways. Everyone uses intuition sometimes, or information gained from insight. People learn from story, whether in books or movies or even visual art. They also learn by thinking and analyzing and reflecting on information. They learn from spiritual experiences, too, whether in a church service or a powerful moment spent in a forest, alone. And they learn through experience, “proprioceptively”—You can’t just EXPLAIN how to shoot a firearm properly, for instance; a person has to actually DO it to learn the skill. Someone may understand exactly how a rifle works, but s/he cannot learn to shoot it well, without loading ammo and firing rounds down-range. People need the physical experience to learn.

I believe that, if you think about it, you’ll agree: people really do learn in all these different ways. I’m reminded, in fact, of some recent reading I've done, in which law enforcement personnel stated that many victims seemed to intuitively “know” that they were about to be preyed upon. The idea is that nature has endowed us with ancient predator-prey receptors that signal red flags when we have unknowingly walked into a dangerous situation. As one of the law enforcement writers put it: “Anyone who has ever felt the hairs standing up on the back of his neck knows what I’m talking about here.” 

Contemporary Western culture tends to recognize and validate only the analytical and mental methods of learning and knowing. We've all felt the hairs go up on the backs of our necks, however, so we know the other methods are out there.

These methods, though, tend to be devalued by contemporary education. Our schools are full of how to learn through reading, writing, and analysis. Yet, there is little to no instruction on how to access, assess, or evaluate and use information acquired through art, story, intuition, spiritual insight, proprioception, and so on. Tapestry’s goal is to help people learn to do just that.

To do so, Tapestry taps into a non-Western world view—specifically, that of “Indigenous World View.”

My sister has embraced her Choctaw heritage much more deeply than I have. Through that embrace she has come to understand the contemporary world view of Choctaw Indians and other indigenous peoples, as well as the ancient beliefs that informed this world view. Tapestry then integrates the ways of knowing inherent in BOTH Western World View AND Indigenous World View to access more ways of learning and knowing. They then teach others how to access, assess and evaluate the information gleaned from these additional ways of knowing and learning, in order to give students a deeper knowledge of the world around them and their places in it.

This plays a large role in the Itahoba Horse project, and in helping adult survivors of CSA to realize new ways to connect not only with the natural world, but also with loved ones.

Program leaders are quick to point out that Itahoba Horse is not standard equine-assisted therapy. “We’re providing people with a different method to connect in a natural way—one that is both ancient and modern,” said Dr. Dawn Adams of Tapestry. “As a paleontologist who has taught biology at major universities, I know that all living things are quite literally connected to one another and to their physical environment. But our connection to nature runs more deeply than the genetic and ecological connections science recognizes. The word itahoba expresses this level of connection, which includes aspects that are not accessible through a strictly materialistic view of reality, as well as the biological and physical connections between ourselves and the world around us. Our program is designed to help people open the doors to both kinds of connection, using horses as facilitators who help mentor the process. Our experience has been: once this door is opened, the person who has made that connection with nature suddenly discovers she is also connected more fully with her own self as well as with coworkers, family members, and society as a whole.”

Itahoba Horse leaders are hesitant to provide too many program details, concerned that participants may read about certain objectives before having experienced the work that would help them come to a full and deep understanding of those objectives.

Program leaders did, however, consent to share that the first step in the program is to institute an understanding of “mindfulness” in each participant. In this context, “mindfulness” means: “Having a mindset focused in the present moment, not considering the past or future, which helps participants examine their actions in the present without judgment.”

This is important because, for a CSA survivor, examining him/herself without judgment may not be an easy thing to do.

As with many Itahoba activities, the first session appears deceptively simple on the surface. Participants will be broken into groups of four, and each group will be assigned a horse, which comes with a volunteer who is well-versed in both the concept of mindfulness and requisite horsemanship skills (some are also CSA survivors). After basic instruction and practice in mindfulness, participants will be given brushes, and asked to brush their horses “mindfully.” Afterward, they will be quizzed about what thoughts and feelings arose as they brushed their horses’ coats.

According to Jo Belasco, Itahoba Horse Program Leader, who has a degree in Psychology, and conducts national seminars and clinics for fearful horseback riders: “The common thoughts people share often include: ‘I am probably not doing this right. I’m always inept.’ ‘This horse is too skinny. I wonder if someone harmed it in the past.’ ‘Stupid horse! Why do you keep doing that; it makes it hard to brush you.’ Or even something as innocuous as, ‘I wonder what’s going on at work. I hope things don’t go to hell today, leaving me with a nightmare in the office tomorrow.’

“They are not in the present moment,” Belasco points out. “Consequently, they’re often making judgments of themselves and others—sometimes even judging the horses. Emotions often accompany these thoughts: despair, fear, anxiety, things like that. So, we do it again after looking at what they tell us they thought and felt. We practice until their minds begin to still. Once they experience being wholly in the moment, without judgment—even for a few minutes—they begin to understand the freeing power of this practice. Believe me: people who have experienced despair, fear or anxiety for years or even decades find it very refreshing to experience even a few minutes without those feelings.” 

As the sessions progress, participants will be asked to perform tasks of increasing difficulty with their assigned horses, always encouraged to practice mindfulness while they do so. Of course, as the problems mount, this can be a difficult mindset to maintain. Itahoba Horse volunteers, however, are there to assist and encourage, helping participants remain fully in the present without judging themselves, their horses, or other people. One goal, over time, is to enable participants to control their focus, leading them to connect more deeply with the horses they’re working with, and with the people around them.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to the writers among us that the institute has identified “story” —whether mythological, religious, or simply entertaining in nature—as a major factor in creating deeply held personal and cultural beliefs. In other words: we learn from the stories we read, hear, or see acted-out.

Story has also informed the lives of CSA survivors, often in negative ways. Some survivors, as children, were told stories such as: “This is our special secret; you must never tell anyone, or bad things will happen to you.” “She couldn’t have done that to you; you must be wrong!” “If he did that to you, you must have done something to make him act that way. What did you do?” These are stories, when repeatedly told to a young child, undoubtedly erect a strong infrastructure informing his/her deeply-held system of adult beliefs—about the world, and about themselves.

As Itahoba Horse participants connect with horses and people during the program, they will also be challenged to examine stories that inform beliefs we, as individuals and as a society, hold about the nature and behavior of horses, people, and victims of sexual assault. To say more might be to endanger the success of the program in some survivors’ lives, so I’ll stop here—though I will hint that this is where the Lone Ranger and Silver ride into the equation.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so the first session of Itahoba Horse is scheduled to be held April 12th. Subsequent sessions will be held on May 17th, and June 28th.

For those wishing to learn more about WINGS Foundation , or Tapestry Institute , I made their names clickable in this paragraph.

Tapestry is in search of further funding to underwrite Itahoba Horse and possibly expand the program. Those wishing to donate, may do so by following this link. HERE See you in two weeks! --Dixon

20 March 2014

The Man Who Sold the Papacy: Pope Benedict IX

A few years back I wrote a couple of books about "bastards": (in)famous people with a mean streak- including some that many today continue to consider "heroes," or at least "good people"- admittedly many of these historical figures have overall positive public images, but in order to show that most everyone has a bit of the "bastard" in them, I included discussions of George Washington putting the moves on his best friend's wife, Jefferson siring children with one of his slaves, and so on.
More fun to write were the accounts we have of many historical personages who have all but disappeared from the pages of history, and getting the opportunity to lay out just exactly why these characters ought to still be considered "bastards" even today. This is one of those "neglected" personages. The account below is an expanded version of the one that ended up in The Book of Ancient Bastards, and lends more detail than I was given within the constraints of the book itself. I hope you enjoy it.
This entry and the one to follow both deal with medieval popes. One who put the throne of St. Peter up for auction, the other who put the corpse of his predecessor on trial. First, Benedict IX: the man who sold the Papacy.

“That wretch, from the beginning of his pontificate to the end of his life, feasted on immorality.”

                                                                                                 – St. Peter Damian, Liber Gomorrhianus

This week’s bastard is another of those wacky medieval popes who so scandalized contemporary and
Pope Benedict IX
later church writers.  As was the case with one of our previous weekly bastards (Elagabalus), Pope Benedict IX came to his position very young (the sources disagree on this point, but he was definitely no older than twenty) because he was the scion of an extremely well-connected family.

Think about it: who gives the sort of wealth and power that went with being pope to a twenty year-old and doesn’t expect it to go straight to the kid’s head?  Who doesn’t expect someone living the medieval equivalent of a rock-star life to go a bit nuts once thrust into the limelight?

In Benedict’s case that’s precisely what happened.

Born a younger son of Theophylact, the powerful Count of Tusculum, Benedict was “elected” pope in 1032.  In becoming pope he succeeded not one, but two of his uncles, who between them had spent the previous twenty years keeping the papacy “in the family.”  It is a virtual certainty that Benedict’s father spread a fair amount of money around among the papal electors in order to ensure that it stayed there.

Daddy’s purchase of the papacy had a profound effect on young Benedict.  Cynical and capricious from the moment he took the Shoes of the Fisherman, Benedict’s rule was quickly marked by episodes that illustrated not only his complete disregard for either tradition or propriety, but his taste for wretched excess as well.  In the disapproving words of one chronicler, Benedict was a “demon from Hell in the disguise of a priest.”

Pope Benedict VIII, and...
He earned this sort of scorn by working his way through
...Pope John XIX, both uncles of Benedict IX

as many of the Seven Deadly Sins as he could, as quickly and as often as he could.  This pope was apparently on a first-name basis with most of the whores in central Italy, sold church offices for hefty bribes (a sin known as “simony.”), hosted frequent bisexual orgies, sodomized animals, and even went so far as to curse God and toast the Devil at every meal!  Dante Alighieri, author of The Inferno, proclaimed Benedict’s reign the low ebb of the history of the papacy.

Desiderius of Monte Cassino
As was the case with so many medieval popes (including our next bastard, Stephen VII ) before him, Benedict owed his position to the Roman aristocracy, which meant that most of his critics came from among the many German clergymen holding positions in the church.  Most of his opponents considered their reigning head of the church something of a bogeyman; perpetrator of “many vile adulteries and murders.”  Desiderius of Monte Cassino who was a contemporary of Benedict IX and later reigned as Pope Victor III, wrote that Benedict committed “rapes, murders, and other unspeakable acts.”  Benedict’s reign, wrote Desiderius, was “so vile, so foul, so execrable that I shudder to think of it.”

For his part Benedict doesn’t seem to have given a damn what his critics thought.  His power base was among the members of the Roman aristocracy, and as long as they backed him he felt free to do as he pleased.  Turned out he reckoned without the powerful (and fickle) Roman mob, who rioted in 1036 and ran Il Papa right out of the Eternal City.  The uprising was quickly put down and Benedict returned to power there, but his hold on his throne was tenuous at best after that.

By the time Benedict’s opponents within the church had succeeded in driving him from Rome a second time in 1045, Benedict had tired of being pope.  So he consulted his godfather, a well-respected priest named Johannes Gratianus (“John Gratian”) about whether he could legally resign this most holy of offices.  When the “Godfather” assured him that such a thing, although unprecedented, was wholly acceptable according to church doctrine, Benedict offered to sell it to him for a ridiculous sum that would apparently be used to fund the former pope’s “lifestyle change.”

The older man accepted and took the papal name of Gregory VI.  The bribe he gave Benedict so completely bankrupted the papal treasury that for months afterward the church was unable to pay its bills.  To further complicate matters Benedict’s foes among the clergy had refused to recognize Gregory’s right to the succession, electing one of their number pope as Sylvester III.

So technically Benedict left not one, but two popes (well, really a “pope” and a pretender, or “antipope”) behind in Rome when he retired to one of his country estates later that same year.
Benedict didn’t waste any time, immediately proposing to a cousin (a common custom in his day).  When she refused him the ex-pope got it into his head that it wasn’t such a bad thing being pope after all.  Within weeks he’d headed back to Rome trying to get his old job back.

This time his allies among the Roman aristocracy deserted him, and Benedict got booted from the city a third time for his trouble.  So now there were three “popes” running around claiming to be the infallible head of the Holy Catholic Church!

The cool-headed emperor Henry
At this point clearer heads prevailed, and a group of bishops sent an appeal directly to Emperor Henry III in Germany, asking him to intervene.  The emperor convened a special church council in 1047, and by 1048 Antipope Sylvester had been convinced to re-take his position as bishop of Sabina, Gregory VI had been convinced to retire, and “Pope” Benedict IX had been officially removed from office.

A year later he was charged with simony (a charge of which he was clearly guilty).  When he refused to appear before the church court that indicted him, Benedict was excommunicated.

How he responded to this latest reversal is unrecorded.  But at some point during the next decade Benedict had a change of heart and as the story goes, presented himself at the abbey of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata, and asked for God’s forgiveness.

He spent the remainder of his days as a monk in that abbey, dying there in 1065.

Repentant bastard.

19 March 2014

Paddy v. Puzo, et.al.

by Robert Lopresti

I was watching the local Saint Patrick's Day parade (lots of horses, bicyclists, and bagpipers, all drenched in green), and suddenly an old memory popped into my head.  So I thought I would share this anecdote discussing the profound influence crime fiction has had on popular culture.  Or possibly it's just a silly story.  But to the best of my knowledge and memory, it's true.

I went to high school in New Jersey.  Every March 17 people at my school celebrated Saint Patrick's Day in the usual way.  Wear green or get pinched.  KISS ME I'M IRISH buttons.  Shamrock jewelry.  Nothing unusual there.

But there were some people of Italian ancestry who got irritated. Why did the Irish get all the attention?  And so they announced, completely inaccurately, that the day after Saint Patrick's Day was Saint Luigi's Day, a celebration of Italian-American heritage.  And they came in, dressed appropriately.

Now, this was just after Mario Puzo's classic novel The Godfather was published, so that was how they chose to dress.  Like 1940s gangsters.

Do I need to say I'm not making this up?  I should probably say that while I am half-Italian and one-eighth Irish, I was not part of this group.

Every year it got more and more elaborate.  By the time I was a senior some of the celebrants were arriving on March 18th in  a rented limousine with violin cases containing toy machine guns.

(And let's ponder that for a moment.  What would happen nowadays to a high school kid who even suggested bringing a toy machine gun to school?  He'd be on a plane to Guantanamo before gym class.)

So at long last we graduated and went off to jobs or academe.  One friend of mine, Tim, went to college in Baltimore where he shared a house with several other students.  One day a housemate was strolling through an alley (and what he was doing in a Baltimore alley alone is probably a good story in itself, but I don't know it.)  There, lying on top of a trash can, was a dry cleaner's bag. 

He peeked inside and saw a suit.  Not just any suit, but the kind of suit you would expect to see in the movie version of The Godfather.  Apparently someone had taken this gangster-style outfit to the dry cleaners, picked it up, and then threw it out.  Why?  Who knows?

Tim's friend took it home, check it for bloodstains and bullet holes, and tried it on.  Alas, it was too slim for him.  (Maybe that was the original owner's problem too, come to think of it.)  It turned out to be a perfect fit for Tim, so he graciously passed it on.  Now all Tim needed was an occasion to wear it to.

Now it happened that Tim's university. like many others, had an event called Casino Night, where students could gamble with tokens.  Perfect!  And Tim had a friend who made his pocket money betting on this or the other, and sometimes wore an outfit Tim referred to as "racetrack tout."  So picture the two of them strolling around Casino Night, catching the eye of more conventionally dressed college students.

The friend was sitting at the poker table while Tim stood behind him, standing somberly in his
gangster outfit, both of them looking like they had just strolled out of a noir picture.

And then a female college student,  unknown to Tim, marched up and demanded to know:  "Why are you dressed like that?"

Tim replied with his best Brooklyn accent (which is how people think those from the Garden State talk).  "I'm from New Joisey.  Everyone in New Joisey dresses like this."

"No!  They only dress like that on Saint Luigi's Day!"

And Tim said "WHAT?"

Turns out she had gone to our high school, a couple of years behind us.  They had never met. 

I hope you had a pleasant holiday, and if you didn't wear green, I hope you didn't get pinched.  And kids, if you bring a toy machine gun to school, you will definitely  get pinched.

18 March 2014


Rule 59. One run shall be scored every time a base-runner, after having legally touched the first three bases, shall legally touch the home base before three men are put out. Provided, however, that if he reach home on or during a play in which the third man be forced out or be put out, before reaching [a required] base, a run shall not count. . . .
                                   Rule 59 Reach Official American League Base Ball Guide (1908) 

Washington Nationals' Spring Training, Viera, Florida
     It’s that time again. At least once a year my fortnightly spot here on SleuthSayers is devoted to the national pastime. Luckily my wife likes baseball as much as I do. We generally watch every one of the 162 games played by the Nationals in the regular season each year, and this week finds us on our annual one week visit to Florida to watch the Nationals in Spring Training in Viera. If we were not each such devotees it is hard to imagine the marriage surviving. 

       During the winter, when baseball retreats with the sun, I try to fill the void with the next best thing. There are others out there like me, and this usually inspires an annual crop of baseball books, generally published during the winter of our discontent. I have highlighted such books in past March columns here and here, and this year the best of the annual lot may be Where Nobody Knows Your Name by John Feinstein. Feinstein’s book is a non-fiction account of what it is like to play in the minor leagues -- far from the chartered jets and mega-salaries. The book is populated by has-beens and wannabees, and, as a result, in its telling it imparts a wistful sadness that can be found at times in baseball stories. 

       This year I also sought solace watching Ken Burns excellent Baseball documentary, originally released on PBS in nine episodes in 1994 and subsequently updated and expanded to ten episodes (innings) in 2010. The full series, available on-line from NetFlix, and elsewhere in DVD format, is highly recommended. Burns is a master, and his homage to the national pastime regales the viewer with the stories behind the sport. And like John Feinstein’s new book, Burns, too, offers some poignant stories amidst the heroics. A good example is the story of Fred “Bonehead” Merkle, which goes back over one hundred years. 

       In 1908 Merkle was a 19 year old backup first baseman on the New York Giants, a team that that year was in a neck-and-neck race with the Chicago Cubs for the pennant. Merkle had received high praise as an up and coming backup player when in late September the fates interceded. What started the ball rolling (or flying) could have been a big break for Merkle, but, as described by the Sports Encyclopedia in 2001, it didn’t turn out that way. 
Fred Tenney [the Giants’ regular first baseman] woke upon September 23rd (1908) in the throes of a lumbago attack, and 19-year-old substitute Fred Merkle was sent in to take his place at first base. As events turned out, fate would treat Merkle unkindly that day.
       Merkle took his position at first base and all went well until the bottom of the ninth inning when Merkle stepped up to the plate. The score was tied, one to one, and there were two outs. Merkle’s teammate Moose McCormick (what a great baseball name!) was on first base. Merkle singled and McCormick advanced to third. The next batter, Al Bridwell, also singled. Moose McCormick trotted home and the stadium erupted, fans storming the field in celebration of the Giants’ apparent win. 

The field just after Moose trotted home
       Concluding that the game was over, and perhaps a little terrified by the stampeding crowd, Fred Merkle lit out for the Giants clubhouse. But, unfortunately for him and for the Giants, he did this without first tagging second base. The Cubs second baseman, Johnny Evers, noticed this and, with Rule 59 (quoted above) buzzing around in the back of his brain, Evers had an Epiphany moment. He started jumping up and down, frantically screaming for his teammates to throw him the baseball, which he realized was still technically in play. In response a ball was retrieved by the Cubs, thrown to Evers, and Evers tagged second, while continuing to jump up and down to attract the attention of the umpires. 

       It took the umpires and the review process two days to sort out the mess, and they eventually ruled that because Fred Merkle had not tagged second Rule 59 dictated that that when the ball was thrown to second base Merkle was out and that, under Rule 59, the otherwise winning run was negated. This left the game a tie. A makeup game was therefore scheduled for October 8. The Cubs won that game, and as a result the pennant, by a score of four to two. 

       The Giants manager, John McGraw, was furious at the decision, and later handed out gold medals to all of the members of the Giants team proclaiming them the true champions, despite the fact that the Cubs went on to win the 1908 World Series. Were the Giants “robbed” of the pennant? Well, it all depends on exactly what happened to that baseball between the time that Al Bidwell hit it and the moment some minutes later when Evers was seen jumping up and down on second base with a baseball in his hand. 

       The story, as told in the Ken Burns series, went like this: When Johnny Evers realized that Merkle had returned to the dugout without tagging second he frantically signaled his teammates to retrieve the ball. Seeing what was going on Giants coach Joe McGinnity tried to prevent the play at second. As the Cubs players raced toward him he scooped up the ball and tossed it into the stands where it was caught by a fan wearing a bowler hat. Two Cubs players then sprinted into the stands, wrestled the ball from the hands of the fan, and relayed it to Johnny Evers at second base for the out. 

       If Burns got it right the play was pretty spooky but it is hard to say how the Giants were “robbed” -- the out was made consistent with the requirements of Rule 59. However the previous sentence begins with a mighty big “if”. The accounts of what happened that day vary radically and, rather strangely, it is almost impossible to find the account that Burns tells in his documentary. By contrast, here is the eyewitness account of what transpired as recorded by Mr. O. C. Schwartz in a diary that was discovered over 70 years later among Mr. Schwartz’s effects at an estate sale. 
       So much has been said about what is commonly called "The Merkle Boner" that, being an eyewitness to the account, I should set the matter straight once and for all.
       It was a Wednesday, Sept. 23 in 1908, my Dad took me to the game , letting me miss school that day. I was only eight-years old at the time, and it was the first chance I ever had to watch a professional baseball game in person.
       I may be 75 years old, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.
       The controversy is all about what happened in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Polo Grounds was crowded that day. The fans were all getting ready to rush the field at game's end.
       The score was tied 1-1 with two outs. A fellow by the name of McCormick was on first base at the time. Fred Merkle came to bat and wasted no time getting a base hit and advancing the runner to third base.
       The crowd was absolutely hysterical as Al Bridwell came to the plate. Bridwell singled to the outfield and McCormick scored what was the apparent winning run. The fans all rushed onto the field to celebrate the win as pandemonium filled the ballpark.
       It is a funny thing, but instead of watching all the people or the players, I kept my eye on the ball. It came to center fielder Solly Hofman on the second bounce. Realizing that the winning run was scoring as he fielded the ball, Hofman lobbed a rainbow into the infield. The third base coach Joe McGinnity, pitcher Christy Mathewson and a fan were all in a battle with second baseman Johnny Evers to catch the ball. After a brief skirmish, the fan came away with the ball and heaved it into the stands along the third base line.
       Meanwhile Merkle, who was so excited by his team apparently winning the game, jogged halfway to second base and then starting running towards the Giant's dugout. Mathewson or one of the other Giants in the dugout had yelled to Merkle and he began scurrying towards second base.
       Evers had somehow retrieved yet another ball from somewhere and touched second base ahead of Merkle and the umpire, at Evers admonishing, saw the event and ruled Merkle out, thus negating the winning run.
       So much has been said and talked about over the decades, about whether Evers had the ball that was hit by Bridwell. I saw it with my own eyes, Evers forced Merkle out at second with a ball which was thrown to him from the New York dugout.
       The chaos that ensued was one of the wildest things I have ever seen. The umpires were arguing with Cubs manager Frank Chance and Giants manager John McGraw in the infield. After being swarmed by fans and reporters, the umpires decided to assemble in the umpires quarters which was located behind home plate beneath the grandstand.
       After deliberating what seemed like an eternity, they came back to the field and advised everyone of their decision. They had decided that the force-out at second base negated the run scored, therefore the game ended in a tie, and would have to be replayed, pending a review by the National League President.
       If I forget everything else in my life, I shall never forget the look of sadness and helplessness in the face of young Fred Merkle right then.
       If Mr. Schwartz got it right, it was, indeed, robbery that sent Chicago on the road to the pennant and world series in 1908. After winning the World Series in 1908 the Cubs never again reached that prize, and now hold the dubious distinction of being the team with the longest World Series drought in the history of the sport. Some say this Cubbies curse began in 1945, when owner P.K. Wrigley ejected Billy Sianis, a Chicago tavern owner who had come to Game 4 with two box seat tickets, one for him and one for his goat. But others count that curse as having begun the day that the Cubs, through what may well have been sleight of hand, manufactured an out at the expense of Fred Merkle and the New York Giants. 

A cartoon depiction with its
own boner -- Fred in a Cubs cap!
       But fair or not, there is no two ways about it -- the whole mess would have never occurred if Fred had just tagged second. The Giants manager, McGraw, was steadfast in not blaming Merkle. Most everyone else, however, was not that charitable. Merkle played with a succession of teams through 1920, but always under the spectre of that blunder he committed when he was nineteen. By all accounts the blunder stalked him the rest of his life. The following is by Keith Olbermann, writing in Sports Illustrated: 
       It was nearly 30 years after the game—that game—and, Marianne Merkle remembered, even church wasn't a safe haven. One Sunday morning in the 1930s, Merkle and her family were attending services in Florida, when a visiting minister introduced himself. "You don't know me," he piped, "but you know where I'm from! Toledo, Ohio! The hometown of Bonehead Fred Merkle!"
       Little Marianne knew what would happen next. "The kindness drained from [my father's] face," she told me five decades later. Then Fred Merkle rose and wearily told his wife and daughters, "Let's go."