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The Mad Monk: Rasputin

The Mad Monk:Rasputin

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In this chapter we are going to discuss a Holy man and supposed healer from Russia, yea I know it sounds boring, but hear me out. This holy man is not your average praying type, lying prostrate at the foot of a cross or something, this holy man is a drunk womanizer who, quite literally, caused one of the largest political overthrows in world history.

For roughly 400 years from 1600 to the early 1900s, Russia was ruled by one dynasty, the Romanovs. The lineage of Czars had many impressive leaders and forgettable ones, but everyone remembers the last Czar of Russia, Czar Nicholas II. Nicholas and his wife Alexandria were happily married and had four daughters and one son, the heir to the Russian Throne, Alexei. Alexei was a sickly boy and spent much of his childhood seriously ill from hemophilia which is a disorder where the blood does not clot properly, meaning the smallest injury can lead to massive blood loss. Throughout his young life, Alexei had many scrapes with death that left his mother and father in constant fear for their son and the fate of the Romanov dynasty.

Czarina Alexandria was always looking for people to help with her son’s condition, and in 1906, she had a chance meeting with a Holy Man from Siberia, Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin was an intimidating figure, tall, with dark piercing eyes, Rasputin was a renown healer throughout the country and was in St. Petersburg to meet well-connected individuals. The Czar and Czarina meet the Holy Man and eventually get to talking about Alexei, and soon after that Rasputin becomes the de facto healer to the Romanov family.

Rasputin held power over the Royal couple because it truly seemed like he could heal Alexei. On one occasion in 1912, Alexei was injured in a carriage accident and was near death for days. In desperate need of help, the Czarina telegraphed Rasputin who was away in Siberia, through telegram, the healer told the Czarina what to do and to have the doctors leave the young boy alone. Within days, the boy went from near death, to perfectly fine. Historians have debated and attempted to figure out what exactly happened with Alexei, but it remains a mystery.

What isn’t a mystery though was the power that Rasputin held over the Royal family, they listened to everything he said. This was dangerous because Rasputin was not everything he claimed to be, while he professed holy devotion, his favorite past times were drinking himself into a drunken stupor and sleeping with as many women as he could. His actions around the city caused massive amounts of embarrassment for the Royal Couple, and many times they had a falling out with Rasputin.

After the outbreak of World War I, the Czar turned to Rasputin for guidance, with Rasputin telling the Czar to go to the front and take command. While the Czar was gone, the Czarina allowed Rasputin to make monumental decisions of national importance on her behalf. This was the final straw for many in Russia, and soon three prominent men decided to kill Rasputin. Prince Felix Yusupov invited Rasputin over to his house for wine, food and womanizing one night. The Prince gave Rasputin cakes and wine laced with cyanide, with Rasputin eating three cakes and drinking three glasses of wine.

The cyanide food did nothing do the holy man, which freaked out the three men waiting for him to die. Eventually, the Prince shoots Rasputin point-blank in the chest and runs out of the house. Hours later the three men return and walk down the stairs to the basement where Rasputin’s body was. As the Prince walked in, Rasputin jumped off the floor and attacked him, running up the stairs and out the front door.

This is bonkers stuff here, this crazy healer has had six servings of cyanide and a bullet to the chest with no damage done, he is like the final boss on those hard as hell video games I played as a kid. Well, finally the three killers chase down Rasputin in front of the house, and shoot him in the head, ultimately killing the raging priest. With Rasputin dead, attention turned to the Royal Family and their failure to rule decisively and adequately during the World War. Eventually, all the distrust with the Czar and Czarina led to the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of the entire Royal Family. The fall of the last dynasty in Russia, and the rise of the Communist regime, all began over the distrust of a crazy holy man and the family he served.

Book Review: The Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian

devils workshop

Alex Grecian knocked this out of the ballpark. As a huge fan of his first novel, The Yard, I was extremely disappointed in his second book about the Murder Squad, the Black Country. I was honestly worried he was a one-hit wonder, but I decided to reach book three to see if it was just a bad book in the series, and I’m so glad I did! Book three gets back to the gritty roots of what made Grecian’s writing so great. Saucy Jack is now on the loose and his writing and story-weaving revolving around the most notorious killer in London’s history is amazing.

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The Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House, Spiritual Hotbed or shades of the DaVinci code?

By Sherry Michaels Perry

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Winchester Mystery House, Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

In 1884 construction began on a house in California, and a prevailing mystery began. Sara Winchester, widow, and heir to the massive Winchester rifle fortune moved from New Haven after she lost her husband to TB and her infant daughter to marasmus. According to lore, the bereft widow began consulting a spiritualist who convinced her that the spirits of the people killed by the Winchester rifles were angry and sought to harm her. The only way to keep the ghosts at bay was to begin construction on an ever-changing house to stay ahead of the angry spirits. Carpenters haphazardly started work on the house as no architects were used. Some stairs go nowhere, staircases with uneven risers, doors that opened into nothing.
The house was initially built to 7 stories, but three of these stories were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and only 4 remains. There are approximately 161 rooms, the latest having been discovered in 2016. Since she was very wealthy, she did not skimp on expense, and many of the windows were made by Tiffany, including the Shakespeare window which many people believe to be a nod to the noted English philosopher Francis Bacon.
Sarah had quite the obsession with the number 13. Most of the windows had 13 panes of glass, 13 paneled ceilings, 13 step stairwells; her will had 13 sections with 13 signatures. There were 13 bathrooms, and bathroom number 13 had 13 windows. Curiously, there was only one working toilet out of all those bathrooms, and towards the end of her life, Sarah’s arthritis was so severe that she had to have more shallow staircases built because she could not live her feet very high.
Sarah supposedly consulted with the spirits every night for construction plans then shared them in the morning with the foreman. She slept in a different bedroom every night to confuse the souls that were supposed to be angry with her and seeking revenge.
Richard Allen Wagner, in his article “The Truth about the Winchester House” proposes that the paranormal tales floating around about the Winchester House were started for tourism reasons. He states that Sarah was instead a Rosicrucian and a Freemason. He states that the great Shakespeare window and the repetitive use of the number 13 are “intricate puzzles of coded messages implemented to guide the adventurer on a treasure trail of discovery. “
He further states that the architectural details highlight the Kabbalistic numbers emphasized by the Rosicrucian’s and Freemasons. He supports this by pointing out that 13 is the most famous number in the Fibonacci sequence (DaVinci Code anyone?) which has great meanings to both the Rosicrucian’s and the Freemasons.
Whatever Sarah Winchester’s motives were for building the house it provided much-needed work for many people of that era and is a point of fascination for many today. Perhaps we do not need to know her reasoning’s, enjoy exploring the mystery mansion she left behind for us.

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The Infamous Shakespearian Windows

Historical Conspiracy Theories: Pearl Harbor Was Allowed

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Welcome to our first installment of a new feature here on theoddpast.com, historical conspiracy theories. History isn’t always as cut and dry as your history teachers, or the popular media would have you believe, there are still shades of gray in between the white and black of the past. While we will be covering all types of different theories from the past, I want the reader to take all posts with a grain of salt, NONE of these “theories” can be proven, but there is much evidence behind the beliefs. With that disclaimer in mind, let’s dig into my personal favorite theory from the past, Pearl Harbour was allowed to happen by FDR and the United States government.

German dictator Adolf Hitler ran roughshod over mainland Europe from 1938 to 1941, the only real bastion of freedom were the British Isles. England and their fantastic Prime Minister Winston Churchill was surviving the onslaught of Nazi aggression alone. England needed the United States, but American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was in no position to declare war and enter the Second World War. Public opinion was quite against joining the fight, and many Americans saw no reason to join yet another European conflict. Roosevelt pledged help to England in the form of the lend-lease policy where the United States sent millions of dollars worth of aid to the English, which angered the Nazis. Roosevelt also began to tighten the noose around Japan as well because of the atrocities committed by the Japanese against the Chinese. Japan is an island nation with almost no natural resources, so their war-machine relied heavily on trade with the United States, once Roosevelt began to limit trade with Japan, it caused the relationship to sour quickly.

This is all where the conspiracy theory begins, many historians and researchers over the past seventy years have pointed to Roosevelt’s treatment of Japan as his way of prodding the Japanese to attack the United States. According to Rear Admiral Frank Beatty who had direct access to Roosevelt’s inner-circle:
“Before December 7, it was evident even to me… that we were pushing Japan into a corner. I believed that it was the desire of President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill that we get into the war, as they felt the Allies could not win without us and all our efforts to cause the Germans to declare war on us failed; the conditions we imposed upon Japan—to get out of China, for example—were so severe that we knew that nation could not accept them. We were forcing her so severely that we could have known that she would react toward the United States. All her preparations in a military way — and we knew their over-all import — pointed that way.”

To add to the conspiracy thoughts, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the armed forces at Pearl Harbour were caught completely unaware and unprepared. Multiple investigations were launched into as why the attack was so devastating. The official findings found that the Army and Navy communication was pathetic, and the unwillingness to listen to warnings were the crux of the disaster. We honestly will never know if FDR or other high-ranking officials had advance knowledge of the attack, but it seems clear that not everything was done to protect the fleet at Pearl Harbor.

 

Scaphism AKA The Boats

Ancient history is fantastic, partly because we can’t verify much of it, so we are left with a massive amount of second-hand knowledge and terrifying tales from the past. Almost all of the ancient civilizations that we study from the past had their version of both corporal and capital punishment. Ancient cultures were twisted and used what was at their disposal to….dispose of their undesirables. The Persians were the dominant power of the Middle East around the birth of Christ and reached the height of their power out of a mixture of brilliant military conquests and intelligent, diplomatic deals. But, when the Persians reached a certain point with individuals, they had quite the unique form of execution, and it is arguably in the top five of the worst ways to die in world history, scaphism.

If a person was condemned to death in the Persian Empire, the evilest and terrible form of execution was scaphism, also known as “The Boats.” The condemned man was placed in a hollowed out tree stump; they were then force-fed milk and honey until the person could not hold anymore. They were fed so much milk and honey that they shit themselves uncontrollably. Once the pooping began, the condemned was placed in a boat with no oars and the person laid in the ship, crapping themselves constantly and baking in the sun. The person would then be slowly, but surely, eaten alive by vermin, flies and other terrible insects. It could take upwards of a week for the person to die in this horrible, shit-filled death.

Cannibalism at Jamestown Colony

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Throughout the ages of the human experiment, there have been times when people have been faced with indeed a terrifying prospect. It is taboo, almost too taboo to even fathom, but there are multiple instances throughout history where cannibalism has been practiced. It is something the ordinary human doesn’t want to think about, carving up and eating the flesh of a fellow human, we look down upon anybody who even harbors the notion, but the earliest Europeans on this continent were faced with that terrible decision.
Life for the earliest of European settlers of North America was tough, the elements were harsh, and the ground didn’t give them the bountiful harvest they imagined. At the Jamestown, Virginia Colony, things were rough. The first settlements of Jamestown occurred in 1607 by the winter of the next year, only 38 people survived. Food was low, the weather was harsh, and the natives of the area didn’t take too kindly to the fact of European settlement. The survival of the Colony rested upon the shoulders of those 38 people. With so much on the line, these people turned their sights to the best source of food they had, the freshly dead corpses of their fellow Colonists.
Don’t misunderstand me, there is ZERO proof that the people of Jamestown murdered their fellow colonists for their meat, they only harvested the freshly dead from natural causes. For the longest time, there was an only scant written testimony of cannibalism in Jamestown, but four years ago there was a breakthrough. The skeletal remains of a 14-year-old girl were found, and her skull and leg bones showed the tell-tale marks of harvesting. The skull was clumsily butchered for her brain, as that was a good source of food for the starving colonists. This shows archaeologists and historians alike that the butcher was not anxious or happy about the prospect, they were merely trying to survive. The discovery of her skeleton answers the age-old question of cannibalism at Jamestown and brings the “starving time” of 1609 into a much darker light than ever before.

Sources
Smithsonian Magazine of April 2013
National Geographic Magazine of the same Dates

The Civil War General Who Called an Entire City of Women Hookers

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Thanks to Battlefield.org for the use of the Butler Photo

The American Civil War is full of wonderfully bizarre characters, the reason for this is because it was very much a “citizens” war in many aspects. While the career soldiers and West Point graduates did play a massive role in the conflict, countless men were put in a command that had little to no military experience at all. These “political appointments” as they were called were given command simply because of who they knew and how much money they had. Of course, many political appointments served admirably and effectively, but what is the fun in learning about those guys? Today, we will learn about one of the most reviled Generals to ever serve during the war, Benjamin “Beast” Butler.

Ben Butler was born in New Hampshire but spent most of his young life in Massachusetts. Growing up in an upper-middle-class family, Butler lived comfortably and was given many opportunities to succeed in life. As an adult, he chose to become a lawyer and was quite the successful trial attorney in his home state. When the clouds of war began to form before the Civil War, Butler used his political connections as a lawyer to secure an appointment as commander of the Eighth Massachusetts Militia. It was as the commander of the Eighth that Butler made his first of many decisions that angered many. Butler seized the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and also seized the capitol building, this was a bold strategy because Maryland was a slave-holding border state, and many of the politicians in the country wanted to join the Confederacy. Butler’s actions are actually credited with derailing the possibility of Maryland’s secession, so for the north, this was a brilliant move. But, Butler had shown his willingness to spit in the face of the southern people, and for a people obsessed with formal niceties this would only get worse.

Butler rose quickly in the Union Army because of his performance early in the war, and his political connections. He eventually was given the command of the garrison of New Orleans in the spring of 1862 after the critical Confederate city fell into Union hands. Butler and his men were, of course, hated by the citizens of New Orleans, with the Southern Belles of the town showing the most contempt. The Union soldiers in New Orleans were routinely insulted and even spat upon by the ladies of the city. Many soldiers also claimed that the women of the town were infamous for waiting for a passion soldier below before they emptied their chamber pots out the window. Apparently, throwing shit on a soldier is not very lady-like, and Butler sought to put an end to such behavior. Butler’s idea was to insult the southern people right where it hurt, their pride.

What followed was one of the most brilliant and insulting orders of the entire war. General Butler issued his General Orders Number 28 which read as follows:
“HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF

New Orleans, May 15, 1862.
As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall by word, gesture, or movement insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.
By command of Major-General Butler:”

For those of you who need a translator, allow me. Since the United States soldiers assigned to the city of New Orleans have been insulted by women, who call themselves ladies time and again, the General in charge has ordered a stop to all activity. If a woman is found to abuse a soldier in any way, they will be considered a lady of the city and be charged with plying her advocation. In short, Butler said any woman that insulted his men was a hooker and would be considered trying to lure a John to have sex with them. Brilliant! The people of New Orleans were sooo pissed, it’s hard to explain in words just how angry they were. The behavior changed though, and the men of the Union Army were no longer treated outwardly like dirt. A local merchant in New Orleans though made himself quite rich with an idea, he used General Butler’s face as the bottom of his new chamberpot, and they were bought by the thousands so the ladies and gentlemen of New Orleans could piss on the Union General at their own pleasure and convenience.

The Truth Behind Paul Revere’s Ride

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History is a fickle mistress; she can make or break you depending on a multitude of factors. Throughout the annals of recorded history, there are many people who are famous for something they either didn’t do, or their contributions were widely blown out of proportions. One of the most glaring examples of proportion exploding is the story of Paul Revere. Let’s get a few things out of the way first before a get a pile of hate mail from every elementary school teacher I ever had, Revere did ride that night, and he did perform a valuable service to the rebels, but not only was he not the only person to do it, he failed epically by being caught on his ride. So without further ado, let’s dig into the story of April 15th and 16th, 1776 and see just why Revere has been canonized in American mythology.

By April of 1775, the relationship between the American Colonists and their British oppressors had become broken beyond repair. Massachusetts became the center of the Revolutionary movement, with many prominent citizens choosing the path of rebellion. One of the most famous rebels of the Massachusetts colony was Doctor Joseph Warren. Being a prominent doctor and well-respected throughout Boston, Warren became a de facto leader of men throughout the city and even served in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. On the night of April 18, 1775, a contingent of Redcoats stationed in Boston were ordered to leave the city and march to the nearby village of Concord to destroy provisions that were supposedly being held there by the Colonists. Warren and many other Bostonians found out about the planned march and began to implement a series of signals and plans to alert the small militias throughout the area. On that night, Warren sent silversmith Paul Revere and tanner William Dawes.

The lanterns were to be lit in the Old North Church to alert the people of Boston, and Revere and Dawes began their rides. Dawes had the much longer route to take, but the goal was the same, ride to Lexington and Concord, alert the militias and alert John Hancock and Samuel Adams. You see, if the Redcoats got hold of Hancock and Adams, they would have been hung at the end of a rope. Dawes and Revere spread throughout the countryside, with Dawes riding a considerably longer distance. Because of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous poem, Revere is the only rider to get credit for that night. To make things worse, schools for the past two hundred years have taught their students that Revere yelled “The British Are Coming” all throughout the countryside. Not only is this false, its stupid, why would a British citizen, as all Americans were, yell “The British Are Coming!” The riders said, “the regulars are coming,” which means the regular soldiers.

When Revere and Dawes reached Concord, alerted the two fathers of America, and the militia, they met with Samuel Prescott. Prescott met the two riders and showed them throughout the countryside and the hidden paths, becoming the third rider on that night. The perfect example of historical tunnel vision, because of one poem, the other two riders on the eve of the American Revolution have mostly been lost to history. Thanks a lot, Longfellow…..