S: Stuff You Should Know Vol. 5 by Marti Ingram
FC: Stuff You Should Know Vol. 5 by Marti Ingram
1: Table of Contents | When the Pituitary Gland Goes Wrong Aches on a Plane Bananageddon The Winchester Mystery House Was Manhattan Traded for Nutmeg? Emperor Nero, a Fiddle, and a Fire | Page 2 Page 9 Page 28 Page 37 Page 60 Page 71
2: When the Pituitary Gland Goes Wrong | Article One:
3: Although we can see a tremendous amount of variety in the plant and animal life around us - both within and between species - many of us still find extremes in variety among human beings somewhat disconcerting. While an extraordinarily large dog or a cat with an unusually long tail may be regarded as nothing more than a momentarily interesting curiosity or a source of amusement, people who exhibit one of the extremes in human development - whether it be in intelligence, height, weight, or some other feature - have long struggled to avoid being identified as "freaks". Perhaps the most discomfiting record of this nature involves the youngest person ever to give birth, reputedly a five-year-old girl - not only because such a record posits that a child barely of kindergarten age underwent an experience we associate with physical and psychological maturity, but also because it implies the commission of an act we now consider to be nothing less than child molestation. In 1939, a man from the small village of Ticrapo in the Andes mountains carried his five-year-old daughter Lina into a hospital in the town of Pisco, Peru. He indicated to the doctors there that the shamans in his village had been unable to cure the large tumor that was developing in her abdomen. Upon examination, the doctors learned that the swelling was not, in fact, a tumor.
4: Dr. Gérado Lozada was told by Lina’s father that she had been having regular periods since age three, but they had stopped about 7 1/2 months prior to the visit. He listened to the young girl’s abdomen with a stethoscope, and heard a tiny second heartbeat. An X-Ray was also performed, after which there could be no doubt to the doctors’ astonishment, five-year-old Lina Medina was about seven months pregnant. Soon she was transferred to a hospital in the city of Lima, where specialists confirmed the pregnancy. Lina’s father was arrested on suspicion of incest, but due to lack of evidence, he was released. On Mother’s Day in 1939, when Lina was just under 5 years and 8 months old, her baby was delivered by cesarean section. It was a healthy 6 pound baby boy, and was named Gerardo after the doctor who originally diagnosed Lina’s pregnancy, Dr. Gérado Lozada. Further research into the case was done by Dr. Edmundo Escomel, one of Peru’s preeminent physician-researchers at the time. He discovered that Lina’s menstruations had actually begun when she was only eight months old, much sooner than her father had originally reported. Escomel also documented the | Lina Medina at age 5.
5: results of a test which indicated that Lina had the ovaries of a fully mature woman. He concluded that the reason for the early development of her reproductive system must must have been from a pituitary hormonal disorder. But the identity of Gerardo’s father was never determined. For a long time, Gerardo was raised in the Medina household as though he were Lina’s baby brother. Two years after Gerardo was born, American child psychologist Mrs. Paul Kosak was permitted to speak with Lina at some length. As quoted in the New York Times in 1941, Mrs. Kosak said, “Lina is above normal in intelligence and the baby, a boy, is perfectly normal and is physically better developed than the average Mestiza (Spanish Indian) child. She thinks of the child as a baby brother and so does the rest of the family.” | Lina Medina after giving birth to her son at age 5 years 8 months.
6: The case of Lina Medina has often been alleged to be a hoax, but the story has been confirmed many times over the years by physicians in Peru and in the U.S.. Sufficient evidence was gathered that there is little room for doubt, including photos, X-Rays, biopsies, and thorough documentation by a number of doctors. As a point of comparison, the average age of first menstruation in the U.S.A. is twelve and a half. Lina joined the Guiness World Records in place of a young Russian girl who gave birth at the age of 6 and a half. Gerardo grew up believing that Lina was his sister until he was aged ten years, when taunting by schoolmates led him to discover the truth. In 1972, when he was 33 years old, his younger brother was born. His mother Lina had married, and had a child with her new husband. Gerardo died seven years later at age 40 from a bone marrow infection, but Lina and her husband still live in the "Little Chicago" area of Lima, Peru, and their son currently lives in Mexico.
7: Another amazing case regarding the pituitary growth hormone is that of Adam Rainer, a man who was both a dwarf and a giant. Very few details are known about the life of Adam Rainer, but in a way, he represents an extraordinary piece of medical history. He was born in Graz, Austria in 1899, and as he grew and matured, it became evident that his stature was significantly shorter than the average man. He was classified as a dwarf, standing only 3 feet 10.5 inches (1.18 m) in 1920, his 21st year. But in his early twenties, Adam’s height suddenly began to increase at an astonishing rate, and without any signs of stopping. By his 32nd birthday, his unusually short stature of under four feet was increased to an unusually tall stature of just under 7 feet 2 inches (2.18 m). This incredible sustained rate of growth, about 3.6 inches per year, exhausted his body and left him bedridden. It seems likely that the secretions from the poor chap's pituitary gland - the gland responsible for the body’s growth hormones–- went from a trickle to to a flood shortly after his 21st birthday. The malfunctioning organ caused his body to devote all of its resources to unchecked growth, leaving him weak and unable to stand. | The location of the pituitary gland, which controls human growth and maturation.
8: He lived in this unfortunate condition until he died on March 4, 1950, aged 51. At the time of his death, he was measured at 7 feet 8 inches tall (2.34 m), twice the height he been at age 21. Adam was the only person in medical history to have been classified both as a dwarf and a giant. | Growth chart for Adam Rrainer.
9: Article Two: Aches on a Plane
10: Alongside Memphis International Airport in Tennessee there lies a sprawling complex filled with hundreds of miles of conveyor belts, thousands of employees, and millions of parcels. A steady stream of cargo planes–often hundreds per day–carries in cargo from around the world to be sorted and redistributed. This is the FedEx Express global “SuperHub,” and in spite of its titillating name it is seldom the site of much excitement. One notable exception to the day-to-day routine occurred in mid-1994. It was the same year that Federal Express embraced the abbreviated “FedEx” moniker and changed to their infamous hidden-arrow logo, and it was just four years after the release of MC Hammer’s multi-platinum hit "U Can’t Touch This". On 7 April 1994, just after 3:00pm, 39-year-old FedEx flyer Andy Peterson boarded a DC-10 cargo plane at the SuperHub. He was scheduled to join Flight 705 as the flight engineer; a support role in charge of monitoring and operating aircraft systems. As Peterson entered the aircraft, he was greeted by 42-year-old Auburn Calloway, a fellow flight engineer. Calloway introduced himself as the “deadhead,” for the flight. He was just there because he needed a lift. | Old freight plane. | Modern freight plane.
11: Shortly the men were joined by the plane’s pilot, 49-year-old Captain David Sanders, and his 42-year-old co-pilot Captain Jim Tucker. The DC-10 had a bellyful of electronic gear bound for San Jose, ultimately destined for Silicon Valley. But flight 705 wouldn’t make it anywhere near California that day. Flight 705 was the crew’s first time flying together, and none of the men had previously met Auburn Calloway, but each of the FedEx veterans knew his role well. To prepare for departure, Sanders and Tucker buckled into the cockpit, and Peterson took his seat at the flight engineering station just behind the co-pilot seat. As he settled in, flight Engineer Peterson discovered that their jump-seater Calloway had already begun the pre-flight procedure. This was considered a breach of etiquette, but Peterson opted not to raise a fuss. During his routine checks he noted that the circuit breaker for the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) needed to be reset, something he’d never seen before. When he returned to the cockpit after performing some other checks around the aircraft he noticed that the CVR fuse was once again in the off position. Perplexed, he corrected it and made a mental note to report the issue to maintenance if it continued.
12: Having completed their pre-flight preparations, the crew was cleared for takeoff. Calloway settled into the jump seat in the galley just outside the cockpit, and co-pilot Jim Tucker piloted the plane into the air. Barring any unexpected turns of events the voyage to San Jose and back was to take approximately 10 hours. As the plane ascended to cruising altitude, Calloway unfastened his safety restraint and crossed the galley to retrieve his carry-on luggage. Sounds of laughter emanated from the cockpit as the flight crew joshed at the ground crew’s expense. Tucker was making jokes about the ground crew’s recent “goatrope”–a term referring to good intentions gone wrong. As the new flight crew got to know one another, Calloway quietly opened a hard-sided acoustic guitar case he had carried with him onto the flight and withdrew a pair of hefty hammers. Despite the calm, innocuous exterior Auburn Calloway had displayed to his fellow FedEx flyers that day, he was in a strange state of mind. His résumé suggested a healthy, well-balanced employee–he was a graduate of Stanford University, a former Navy pilot, and an expert in martial arts.
13: His earnest purpose in life was to provide a top tier college education for his two children, and he had taken a career in commercial flight as a pragmatic way to accomplish this. But recent circumstance had sent him into despair. He felt that FedEx had been discriminating against him due to his African-American heritage, squandering his piloting skills by assigning him as a mere flight engineer. His wife had divorced him four years earlier. Most recently, management at FedEx had discovered “irregularities” in the reporting of his flight hours. Calloway had been summoned to a hearing to discuss these suspicious inconsistencies on April 8–the day after flight 705 took to the air. Calloway was convinced that this hearing would result in FedEx terminating his employment, along with any chance of providing a good future for his children. | Auburn Calloway in his military uniform.
14: In the week prior to the scheduled hearing, Auburn Calloway began rejiggering his financial affairs. He collected all of his wealth and transferred it to his ex-wife, including almost $14,000 in cashier’s checks and approximately $40,000 in securities. He visited a lawyer to revise his will, and he updated the beneficiary information on his employee life insurance. According to FedEx accidental death policy, if Calloway were to be killed on the job his family would receive an additional $2.5 million in compensation. Consequently, Calloway concluded that the only opportunity his children had for a fair future was for their father to perish in a work-related accident. And he was dead-set on creating one. | Prior to his flight, Calloway spent the day attending to a few last-minute details. He placed his will and some other important documents into a neat stack on the bed in his apartment, and he replaced the acoustic instrument in his guitar case with several blunt ones. He telephoned FedEx to secure his “deadhead” seat on flight 705, and he left early to ensure he’d be the first to arrive on the aircraft. When he boarded the plane he switched off the fuse for the cockpit voice recorder in the hopes that it would prevent any scuffle from being recorded. After Andy Peterson fixed the fuse Calloway tried once more when the flight engineer stepped away, but Peterson was too vigilant. As a backup plan, Calloway would need to fly the plane for at least a half an hour to erase any trace of a ruckus from the CVR’s 30 minute loop.
15: Several minutes outside of Memphis, Jim Tucker was in control of the craft as it climbed to cruising altitude. Captain Sanders pointed out landmarks through the cockpit window as Auburn Calloway stepped quietly into the cockpit. The flight engineer station was to Calloway’s right, and the pilots were just in front of him. All of them had their backs to the door, so they could only see him peripherally as he entered, and they assumed he had stepped in to visit. The first indication of trouble in the cockpit voice recorder transcript is a moist cracking sound and Andy Peterson shouting in pain and surprise: | Typical interior of a DC-10 cockpit.
16: Sanders: See these trees? Tucker: Yeah. Sanders: That’s a natural fault line. Tucker: Oh, this is the New Madrid, uh Sanders: Well, it’s part of it, yeah, but it’s much higher in elevation and the er, climate is different, you drive in Arkansas, you drive right over it. Tucker: Well, I Sanders: You see all those trees there, that’s it. Tucker: I know it, but I wonder about that. You go, Wynne and all the, you know, stuff over here, you know, where it’s flat and you cross over that and I wondered about that. That’s not part of the no vaculight uplift and all that, that’s where? That’s further west, isn’t it? Sanders: Yeah. Peterson: Altimeters. Tucker: Nines and twos here. Peterson: After takeoff is complete. Tucker: Do you, uh, live over in Arkansas, Dave, or? Sanders: Naw, I live in Fisherville. Tucker: Aw, Fisherville, great spot. (Sounds of hammer blows striking pilots.) Peterson: Ow! Tucker: God! | Above: What not to do on an airplane Below: Map of area around Memphis
17: Tucker: Oh, ah, s---! Sanders: God almighty! Peterson: Ow! Tucker: What are you doing? Sanders: God, (groan), (groan), God almighty! God, God, God. Tucker: Get him, get him, get him! Sanders: He’s going to kill us. Tucker: Get him! Sanders: Get up, get him! Peterson: I can’t, God! Auburn Calloway had swung a hammer with great force into the top of Andy Peterson’s head several times in rapid succession. Jim Tucker turned to see what the commotion was about just as one of Calloway’s hammers landed a crushing blow to the left side of the co-pilot’s skull, driving bone fragments into his brain. Having temporarily incapacitated 2/3 of the crew, Calloway turned his attention to the pilot. Captain Sanders managed to deflect some of the hail of hammer strikes, nevertheless several blows penetrated his confused defenses and rendered him bleeding and disoriented. Calloway withdrew back into the galley as the mauled crew members attempted to disentangle themselves from their seats with sluggish limbs and excruciating pain. The instrument panels were spattered with blood and all three men bled profusely from head wounds. Co-pilot Jim Tucker, unable to get out of his seat, repeatedly urged “Get him!” to his more
18: mobile crew mates. Engineer Andy Peterson could barely hear due to a loud ringing in his ears. Before Sanders and Peterson could mobilize, Calloway reappeared holding a spear gun. His initial attack employed blunt instruments because he knew that a bludgeoning would be consistent with the normal injuries sustained in an airplane accident, therefore avoiding suspicion of foul play. But he’d brought along his spear gun in case his hammers didn’t take all the fight out of the flight crew. “Sit down, sit down,” he commanded. “Get back in your seat, this is a real gun, I’ll kill ya.” In spite of their compromised conditions, it was quite clear to Sanders, Tucker, and Peterson that Calloway had already attempted to kill them once, and given the opportunity he was likely to resume that endeavor. As Calloway trained the gun on Sanders, Peterson lunged from the side and grabbed the spear that protruded from the end of the gun. He yanked it to point it away from his crew mates. “I’m gonna kill you!” Calloway shouted, “Hey, hey! I’ll kill ya!” Sanders seized the opportunity to grapple their attacker. The flight crew now had the advantage of numbers, but Calloway had the advantages of weapons, martial arts expertise, and an unbruised brain.
19: Hearing the telltale grunts of violent reciprocation, Tucker pulled back on his flight yoke and put the plane into a sharp climb. The FedEx co-pilot had once been a combat flight instructor, and he was intimately familiar with the effects of g-forces. His tactic succeeded in throwing Calloway off balance and back into the galley. Sanders and Peterson stumbled in pursuit. With waning strength the men attempted to wrestle the weapon from Calloway, but they were locked in an apparent stalemate. Without intervention, the crew was likely to lose the fight due to attrition. Jim Tucker, hearing that the struggle was still underway, leveled out the airplane’s climb and cranked the flight yoke hard to the left to roll the plane onto its side. The female voice of the DC-10s autowarning system began to chant “bank angle” to warn the crew that their maneuver was outside of normal operating parameters. The skirmish in the rear tumbled over to the left side of the aircraft. | “Get him, get him, get him, Andy,” Tucker shouted from the cockpit. “I got the airplane!” He continued to roll the plane until it was almost entirely upside-down. In the galley, the bloodied mass of men fell down onto the ceiling. Calloway managed to regain a grasp on one of his hammers that was rattling around the galley like a loose coin in a clothes dryer, and he freed one arm long enough to land another skull-cracking blow to Captain Sanders’ head. | Spear gun such as the one Calloway used on the plane
20: Jim Tucker, continuing his tactical application of inertia, pulled back on the yoke to send the belly-up DC-10 into a steep upside-down dive. Calloway, Sanders, and Peterson were forced against the back wall. The DC-10 airspeed indicator pegged at maximum as the cockpit filled with the sounds of roaring wind, the urgent “overspeed” chant of the autowarning system, and the groans of flight surfaces which were not designed to withstand such punishment. The plane was traveling at more than 600 miles per hour, well above the safe maximum speed of the airframe. Much to his alarm, Tucker was rapidly losing all feeling and motor control on the right side of his body. He decreased the throttle–which had been at full power since takeoff–and began the process of pulling out of the dive and correcting the inverted aircraft. In the galley, the situation was deteriorating. Sanders took yet another hammer blow to the top of his head, and he nearly blacked out. Peterson’s compromised temporal artery left him with a dangerous deficit of blood and strength. Having returned the DC-10 to level flight, Jim Tucker called in the emergency. Tucker to Center: Center, Center, emergency! Center: Aircraft with emergency, go ahead. (Pause) Aircraft with emergency, say again. Tucker to Center: Center listen to me! Express 705, I’ve
21: been wounded, we’ve had an attempted takeover on board the airplane, give me a vector please, back to Memphis at this time, hurry! Center: Express 705 fly in zero niner five, direct Memphis. Tucker to Center: Keep me advised, where is Memphis? Center: Express 705, flighting of zero niner zero and the airport is at 43 miles twelve o’clock. Tucker to Center: Say my direction to Memphis. Center: Express 705, you’re eastbound at this time, and it’ll be about twelve thirty, one o’clock. Tucker to Center: Look, just keep talking to me, okay? Sanders: JIM! Tucker to Center: Yeah, we need an ambulance and we need, uh, armed intervention as well. Alert the airport facility.
22: Following instructions from Memphis tower, Tucker began to descend below 10,000 feet as a precaution against explosive decompression. Meanwhile, in the galley, Calloway had found his second wind and renewed his resistance. Sanders and Peterson were running low on blood pressure and useful consciousness. “Put it on autopilot!” Peterson shouted to Tucker from the galley. “Help, the son of a bitch is biting me!” “Andy!” Tucker shouted from the co-pilot seat. “Keep him back there guys, I’m flying!” He rolled the plane hard to the left then back to the right in an attempt to keep Calloway off balance. “Hurry up, Jim!” Peterson urged as Sanders got a firm grip on a framing hammer and gave Calloway a brief brow-beating. “Put it on autopilot and come back here!” Sanders seconded. “Hurry, Jim! COME BACK HERE NOW!” Jim Tucker engaged the autopilot, unbuckled his seatbelt, and struggled from his seat despite nearly complete paralysis in his right limbs. As the radio squawked with urgent requests for a response from Air Traffic Control, Jim Tucker stumbled into the galley to see a barely conscious Andy Peterson lying atop the hijacker as Captain Sanders held the barbed spear to Calloway’s throat. Blood was smeared and spattered upon every visible surface, and dislodged detritus littered the room.
23: Jim Tucker relieved his captain from guard duty, and Pilot Sanders returned to the cockpit. Via radio, Sanders reiterated the need for security upon their arrival. When asked if the situation was under control, he responded, “Well, it’s sort of under control.” He had suffered considerable blood loss from several head wounds, he was blind in one eye, and his right ear was nearly severed. And his glasses seemed to have gone missing. | Sanders adjusted course to head back to Memphis. The plane was still nearly full of fuel, putting it well over the recommended safe landing weight, but the veteran pilot had little choice. He selected the longest available runway to allow maximum stopping distance. A few minutes outside of Memphis, as the plane descended, Calloway suddenly lashed out again with renewed vigor. He dragged his handicapped captors across the galley as they struggled to regain the upper hand. Using his thumbs, Calloway attempted to gouge Jim Tucker’s eye out. Andy Peterson finally found purchase on a hammer handle from the floor and made eye contact with co-pilot Tucker. | Jim Tucker being honored for his efforts aboard Flight 705
24: “You’ve got to hit him,” Tucker said. Peterson hit him. Flight 705 landed heavily on Memphis runway 36 about half an hour after their original departure. Despite the excess fuel weight Captain Sanders managed to stop the DC-10 with no blown tires and a few hundred meters of tarmac to spare. As emergency vehicles converged on the parked plane, Sanders emerged from the little room in the front of the plane where the pilots sit and opened the emergency escape chute. Paramedic David Teague was the first to clamber up the ladder into Flight 705s open doorway. No one on the ground knew anything about the emergency beyond the fact that there had been an attempted takeover. The scene that met the paramedic atop the ladder was strange and gruesome. Every horizontal and vertical interior surface of the DC-10s small galley was spattered with crimson. There were bloody footprints on the walls and ceiling, and the upholstery had somehow been peeled entirely from the jump seat. Papers, packages, hammers, and brutalized FedEx employees were scattered around the plane. David Teague handcuffed the tenderized would-be hijacker, and the semiconscious crew disembarked via the inflatable escape slide.
25: At the hospital, Captain Sanders’ dangling ear was stitched back into proper position, and he was treated for multiple lacerations to his head and a dislocated jaw. Flight engineer Peterson’s skull had multiple fractures and his temporal artery had to be repaired. Co-pilot Tucker suffered severe skull fractures, including a hole larger than a golf ball. He would require months of physical therapy to regain full motor control in his right arm and leg, and a lifetime of anti-seizure medication. He was also partially blinded in his gouged eye. As for Calloway, his injuries were less severe, but his original fear was realized: FedEx elected to terminate his employment. An FBI search of Auburn Calloway’s apartment turned up a suspiciously fresh stack of getting-ones-affairs-in-order documents lying in a neat stack on his bed. They also found a note listing the names of the flight 705 flight crew, and another note listing the weapons he had brought with him on the plane. At Auburn Calloway’s trial the defense pleaded temporary insanity. The judge did not agree, and he told them so. After the defense failed to impress the court with other arguments regarding technicalities, a grand petit jury convicted Calloway of attempted aircraft piracy and sentenced him to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
26: He is presently jailed in a federal prison near Atwater, California. For a while he maintained his innocence via www.auburncallowaysupport.com, but the site is no longer online. Near the top of the page it proclaimed in an enlarged typeface: “When justice fails and hope grows cold / though it may not outwardly show / bitterness simmers in the soul / and hate begins to grow.” On 26 May 1994 the crew of flight 705 was honored with the Air Line Pilots Association’s Gold Medal Award. The organization recognized the men’s heroism in withstanding the surprise bludgeoning, overpowering an armed martial arts expert, and saving the lives and property that would have been destroyed if the plane had crashed. Sadly, due to their injuries none of the men are medically fit for commercial piloting anymore. However David Sanders and Jim Tucker successfully acquired private pilots’ licenses and enjoy recreational flight from time to time. | The website Auburn Calloway set up to declare his innocence. It is no longer in use.
27: In total, Auburn Calloway’s attempted hijack/suicide cost FedEx an estimated $800,000. The aircraft involved in the incident was repaired, and it still flies in the FedEx fleet as of 2011. It has been upgraded from a DC-10 to an MD-10; a revised model which eliminates the need for a flight engineer. Considering his apparently selfless concern for his children’s futures, Auburn Calloway’s actions almost seem to have a tiny nucleus of noble intentions, yet his actions were clearly misguided. Additionally, he demonstrated cunning in his use of blunt instruments to simulate crash trauma, yet he left an orgy of damning evidence in his home. One wonders whether his mind was dulled with madness, or if perhaps he wanted the world to know what he had done once it was all over. Chances are we’ll never know exactly what was going through Calloway’s head before he boarded flight 705.
28: Article Three: Bananageddon
29: The humble banana almost seems like a miracle of nature. Colourful, nutritious, and much cherished by children, monkeys and clowns, it has a favoured position in the planet’s fruitbowls. The banana is vitally important in many regions of the tropics, where different parts of the plant are used for clothing, paper and tableware, and where the fruit itself is an essential dietary staple. People across the globe appreciate the soft, nourishing flesh, the snack-sized portions, and the easy-peel covering that conveniently changes colour to indicate ripeness. Individual fruit—or fingers—sit comfortably in the human hand, readily detached from their close-packed companions. Indeed, the banana appears almost purpose-designed for efficient human consumption and distribution. It is difficult to conceive of a more fortuitous fruit. The banana, however, is a freakish and fragile genetic mutant; one that has survived through the centuries due to the sustained application of selective breeding by diligent humans. Indeed, the “miraculous” banana is far from being a no-strings-attached gift from nature. Its cheerful appearance hides a fatal flaw— one that threatens its proud place in the grocery basket. The banana’s problem can be summed up in a single word: sex. | Bananas are a favorite snack and dessert in Western culture.
30: The banana plant is a hybrid, originating from the mismatched pairing of two South Asian wild plant species: Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana. Between these two products of nature, the former produces unpalatable fruit flesh, and the latter is far too seedy for enjoyable consumption. Nonetheless, these closely related plants occasionally cross-pollinate and spawn seedlings which grow into sterile, half-breed banana plants. Some ten thousand years ago, early human experimenters noted that some of these hybridized Musa bore unexpectedly tasty, seedless fruit with an unheard-of yellowness and inexplicably amusing shape. They also proved an excellent source of carbohydrates and other important nutrients. Despite the hybrid’s unfortunate sexual impotence, shrewd would-be agriculturalists realised that the plants could be cultivated from suckering shoots and cuttings taken from the underground stem. The genetically identical progeny produced this way remained sterile, yet the new plant could be widely propagated with human help. An intensive and prolonged process of selective breeding—aided by the variety of hybrids and occasional random genetic mutations—eventually evolved the banana into its | present familiar form. Arab traders carried these new wonderfruit to Africa, and Spanish conquistadors relayed them onwards to the Americas. Thus the tasty new banana was spared from an otherwise unavoidable evolutionary dead-end. Today, bananas and their close relatives, the starchy plantains, grow in a number of different varieties or cultivars. Among | A seed-filled Musa banana
31: temperate palates, the most familiar is the Cavendish, a shapely and sweet-tasting dessert banana. This is the banana found in the supermarkets, splits, and milkshakes of the developed world. It is exported on an industrial scale from commercial plantations in the tropics. Every Cavendish is genetically identical, possessing the same pleasant taste (which is somewhat lacking in more subtle flavours according to banana aficionados). They also all share the same potential for yellow curvaceousness and the same susceptibility to disease. Although there are numerous other banana and plantain varieties cultivated for local consumption in Africa and Asia, none has the same worldwide appeal as the Cavendish. While these other varieties display more genetic variability, all come from the same sterile Musa hybrids which so delighted our forebears thousands of years ago. Likewise none of them have enjoyed the benefits of the frenzied gene-shuffling facilitated by sexual congress. Stuck with the clunky, inefficient cloning of | Typical Cavendish banana | Assortment of banana varieties
32: asexual reproduction, the sterile banana is at a serious disadvantage in the never-ending biological arms race between plant and pest. Indeed, it is a well-established fact that bananas are particularly prone to crop-consuming insects and diseases. A severe outbreak of banana disease could easily spread through the genetically uniform plantations, devastating economies and depriving our fruitbowls. Varieties grown for local consumption would also suffer, potentially causing mass starvation in tropical regions. This scenario may seem preposterous, but researchers all over the world are earnestly exploring the possibility. The custodians of the beloved banana are all too aware of the potential for a banana apocalypse— because it has already happened in the fruit’s past. And the next time could be much worse. Until the middle of the twentieth century, most bananas on sale in the developed world belonged to the Gros Michel cultivar. These bananas were sweet and tasty and didn’t spoil too quickly, making them eminently suitable for commercial export. Old-timers | Bananas suffering from the Panama fungus
33: contend that in flavour and convenience, the Gros Michel outshone even the current top-banana, the Cavendish. Yet from the early twentieth century, large plantations of ‘Big Mike’ proved increasingly fertile ground for a fungal leaf affliction known as Panama disease. Affected crops would soon deteriorate into rotting piles of unprofitable vegetation. As the century progressed, commercial growers found themselves in a desperate race against time, making doomed attempts to establish new plantations in disease-free areas of rainforest before the fungus arrived. | In the 1950s the Vietnamese Cavendish came to the rescue. Banana companies delayed switching from Big Mike for as long as possible due to the necessary changes in growing, storage, and ripening infrastructure, and many producers teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. As Big Mike started pushing up daisies, banana plantations frantically reconfigured, and by the mid 1960s the changeover was largely complete. The distinct—and now extinct—taste of Big Mike was quickly lost to the fickle public memory. Cavendish was king. | Attempt to preserve bananas | The now-extinct Gros Michel
34: It has done a sterling job in the intervening years, yet now the Cavendish is starting to struggle in its own contest against contagion. In the 1970s a disease named Black Sigatoka was beaten back with enthusiastic applications of pesticide, but more recently a new strain of the original bane of the banana has threatened the plantations. Since 1992 a vigorous, pesticide-tolerant strain of Panama disease has been wiping out bananas—including previously resistant crops of Cavendish—in Southeast Asia. It has yet to reach the large commercial plantations in Latin America, but most banana-watchers believe that this is only a matter of time. | Opinions differ on how long the Cavendish can survive the new onslaught, and on the best way to tackle the threat. This time, unfortunately, there is no obvious back-up variety waiting in the wings. So far, banana science has provided scant few approaches for improving disease resistance. One method involves the traditional techniques of selective breeding: although banana plants are clones, very occasionally they can be persuaded to produce seeds through a painstaking process of hand pollination. Only one fruit in three hundred will produce a seed, and of these seeds only one in three will have the correct chromosomal configuration to allow | Banana crops
35: germination. The seeds are laboriously extracted by straining tons of mashed fruit through fine meshes. Research stations in commercial banana growing countries, such as Honduras, engage large squads of banana sex workers for such tasks, and to screen the new plant varieties for favourable characteristics. Another fruit subject to such human-assisted reproduction is the ubiquitous navel orange. It, too, was the result of a serendipitous mutation, this one from an orange tree in Brazil in the mid-1800s. Each orange on this particular tree was found to have a tiny, underdeveloped twin sharing its skin, causing a navel-like formation opposite the stem. These strange siamese citruses were much sweeter than the fruit of their parent trees, and delightfully seedless. Since the new tree was unable to reproduce naturally, caretakers amputated some of its limbs and grafted them onto other citrus trees to produce more of the desirable fruit. Even today navel oranges are produced through such botanical surgery, and all of the navel oranges everywhere are direct descendants—essentially genetic clones—of those from that original tree. | Naval oranges, another cloned fruit
36: As for the Cavendish, its last best hope may lie in genetic modification (GM). The University of Leuven in Belgium is a world centre in banana research due to its colonial connections with Africa. Belgian banana scientists have become skilled in using DNA-transfer to introduce disease-resistance genes directly into the plant’s genome. These less labour-intensive methods promise a way to develop stronger, fitter, happier and more productive bananas. In 2007, Ugandan field trials of the first Leuven uber-banana were announced, although public distaste of the idea of GM foods may impede its long term success. And in Honduras, researchers have developed a banana cultivar named ‘Goldfinger’ through traditional selective breeding methods. Although it has enjoyed some public acceptance in Australia, it suffers from the drawbacks of a distinctly different, non-Cavendish flavour, and a longer maturation time. If nothing else, these advances offer hope that science will one day overcome the unfortunate sexual inadequacies of the banana. Let us hope so, otherwise the resulting bananageddon will ensure that the Cavendish goes the way of Big Mike, and future generations of fruit lovers will have to find some other curved yellow food to complement their ice cream.
37: Article Four: The Winchester Mystery House
38: Everyone loves a good, creepy story, and the tale of the Winchester Mystery House is no exception. This house, which still stands today, captures the imaginations of all who view it. It is huge, intimidating, confusing, and most importantly, supposedly haunted. The tale begins with Mrs. Sarah Winchester, who was born as Sarah Pardee in 1839 in New Haven, Connecticut. She was recorded as being vivacious, beautiful, and it was noted that everyone wanted to be around her. She was pursued by many men in New Haven. She was also a tiny woman who only stood at 4’11”, which is important to note for later. When Sarah finally chose from her plethora of suitors, she selected William Wirt Winchester, who was soon to become a very wealthy and successful man - Sarah chose well! | The Winchester Mystery House in all its creepy glory
39: William was part of the Winchester gun family, which became very successful and rich during the Civil War, when Winchester guns were used in great numbers. William Winchester bought into the company fairly early on in its operation, and during his time at the company, created and perfected a type of quick-loading rifle that became extremely popular. Because of the war and the necessity of a quick-loading rifle, the government put in large orders of what is now called the “repeating rifle”. It wasn`t just government sales: private citizens wanted the rifle too, and so it quickly became a national bestseller. Due to this, the company became known as the `Winchester Repeating Arms Company`. | Despite the immense wealth William gained during this bright era in his career, the old adage `money can`t buy you happiness` proved to be true. William and his wife, Sarah, had their share of tragedy as a young couple. They had a daughter, Annie, who was born in 1866, but she died just a few months later. Sarah Winchester was understandably heartbroken by this loss, and when her husband died in 1881, she suffered a psychological break due to stress and grief. The deaths left Sarah grief-stricken and desperate, and she didn`t know where to turn. | The Winchester rifle | Mrs. Sarah Winchester
40: During the Victorian era, it wasn`t uncommon for people who had lost loved ones to consult a spiritualist - in fact, it was quite normal. Abraham Lincoln`s wife, Mary, held several séances with spiritualists right in the Whitehouse after her son died, and it was rumored Abe Lincoln himself attended a few of these events. When Sarah Winchester sought the help of a spiritualist, she received a very direct and pointed message: there were spirits who were very angry at the Winchester family, and in fact, may have been responsible for taking the lives of Sarah`s husband and child. In order to appease these spirits, Sarah had to begin a `little` construction project. This is putting it mildly, for what Sarah Winchester did was undergo a 38-year long, never-ending, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week construction project. There are several different versions of the legend, but the one most commonly found is that her husband`s spirit led her out west, as far as she could go, leaving behind the East coast for the West coast. She arrived in San Jose, where she encountered a farmer who had a six room farmhouse with many acres of land for sale. | There was plenty of room for Sarah to expand and build, and so she purchased the property. With her dead husband`s guidance, she settled down and began her project that spanned her lifetime of 38 more years and even outlasted an earthquake. | Mysticism was big in those days.
41: Sarah believed that if ever construction was finished on the house, she would die and that the spirits would come to claim her finally. Therefore, construction never ceased in the house during her lifetime. She paid for this constant activity through the Winchester rifle fortune left to her by her late husband, which was approximately $20 million. In addition to the money left to her, she herself had personal shares in the company which provided her with an influx of income. Basically, when the math was done, Sarah Winchester had a construction budget of about $1000 per day for every day of her life in the San Jose mansion. (If you want to account for inflation, you can multiply that number roughly by 20 to figure out how much money that would be in today`s standards - that`s a lot of extra spending money in your pocket each day!) | The Winchester Mystery House in its earlier days. | The Winchester Mystery House today.
42: You may be wondering, `How on earth could someone find that many home construction projects to last 38 years? It would be tricky if we were only talking about building some giant mansion to cover all of these acres... but we aren`t. Her house is called `The Mystery House` for a reason. If you go on a tour, which you can, you will see things like doors that open into solid walls, staircases that are nearly vertical, stairs that lead straight to the ceiling, and doors that open into an immediate drop into the lawn stories below. One closet opens into a drop that leads down to a kitchen sink several stories below. There are cupboards that only have an inch of room behind them. There are skylights that look up into skylights that look up into more skylights. One back porch is completely walled in. Finally, Mrs. Winchester believed that ghosts were afraid of mirrors, and so to appease them, had only two mirrors hanging in all of the 160-room house!
43: Upon first inspection, the house really is completely absurd. It is only when you know the back story, of how deeply Sarah Winchester was grieving and of the strange advice she`d taken from her spiritualist, do you begin to see the logic behind the strange construction projects in the Winchester Mystery House. As she got older, Mrs. Winchester became more and more eccentric. She was obsessed with building and building, and in one case, tore down a room which had just been built and instructed the construction workers to start all over again. There was no master plan to her projects, no uniformity, no final goal in mind: she just believed she needed to keep building, no matter what was being built, where, or for what purpose. In fact, no blueprints exist today from any of the building projects - rumor has it that she would tear off a piece of butcher paper from the kitchen, go into her special séance room, consult with the spirits about what she was supposed to do the next day, and emerge with plans for her contractor for the next morning.
44: People aren`t even sure which rooms Sarah actually used for living in, as she definitely could not have usefully occupied them all. However, there are teeny tiny stairs in locations throughout the house in the places that she frequented most often. Remember, Sarah was a tiny woman of just under five feet, and as she aged, she developed arthritis, which meant she could only take very small steps. The Switchback Staircase, which has seven flights with forty four steps, rises only about nine feet, since each step is just two inches high, perfect for a woman who would have difficulties going up and down normal stairs. The guides at the Mystery House refer to these types of stairs as `easy risers`. The stairs that are widely spaced and very large are thought to be the staircases of the original farmhouse. In fact, the stairs that lead straight to the ceiling are thought to be original stairs, and that Sarah Winchester just built stuff right on top of them because they weren`t useful to her anymore. | The contractor that worked with Mrs. Winchester was named John Hansen. He was employed by her for a long period of time, as were many others. It was said that Mrs. Winchester was a generous woman who knew she had a lot of money and wanted to help others with it, by giving them jobs and a good place to work. | Stairs leading to nowhere.
45: The servants who worked there were quite content with their employment, but it was well understood that you never contradicted her or asked questions why. She was the authority. We know that John Hansen stayed with Mrs. Winchester for many years, redoing scores of rooms, remodeling them one week and tearing them apart the next. It is doubtful whether John Hansen ever questioned his boss. Mrs. Winchester may have been trying to confuse evil spirits, or simply making mistakes, but there were no budget ceilings or deadlines to meet. This resulted in many features being dismantled, built around, or sealed over. Some rooms were remodeled many times. It is estimated that 500 rooms to 600 rooms were built, but because so many were redone, only 160 remain. This naturally resulted in some peculiar effects, such as stairs that lead to the ceiling, doors that go nowhere and that open onto walls, and chimneys that stop just short of the roof!
46: Sarah Winchester bought some beautiful Tiffany glass and was going to have a stained glass window installed in the house, but the ordered a wall built directly behind it. This obviously defeated the purpose of having expensive stained glass windows with sunlight streaming through. Most contractors would attempt to thwart this ridiculous idea and keep the windows as outside features, but in this case, no one did. No one talked back to Mrs. Winchester. She may have had batty ideas, but she was the woman paying you the big bucks. She was paying such big bucks and generating so much local business that one railway line was diverted to be closer to her home in order to more effectively deliver timber and other building supplies - a whole railway line, just for Mrs. Winchester`s building projects! | A room full of old Tiffany windows from various rooms in the house. Doors leading to nowhere, and odd towers and skylights dot the house.
47: Once a room was completed, and most importantly, not targeted for further alterations, it was adorned with some of the best furnishings money could buy. Mrs. Winchester appreciated beauty, and she was a woman with exquisite taste. Freight cars loaded with gold and silver plated chandeliers, imported Tiffany art glass windows then valued up to $1,500 each, German silver and bronze inlaid doors at twice that amount, Swiss molded bathtubs, rare precious woods like mahogany and rosewood, and countless other items were docked onto a side track at San Jose. Everything was then transported to the house where much of the material was never even installed. At the time of Mrs. Winchester’s death in 1922, there were rooms full of ornate treasures still waiting to find a niche in the massive home. | The finest cabinetmakers toiled for years, using richly polished woods, to create built-in chests with deep drawers and tremendous bins and lockers. Inside were stored the rarest satins and silks; hand-embroidered linens from China, Ireland, and the Philippines; and bolt upon bolt of elegantly woven cloth from Persia and India. Legend has it that Mrs. Winchester bought whole bolts of material so that nobody else in the valley would have the same pattern.
48: Among the most remarkable features of the house are the parquet floors. One craftsman worked for thirty-three years doing nothing but building, installing, and tearing up the floors! They are made of mahogany, rosewood, teak, maple, oak and white ash, arranged in impressive mosaics. Mrs. Winchester’s favorite bedroom, the one in which she died, has a notably special floor. It is laid so that the sunlight streaming through the windows appears to change the dark strips to light, and then back again, when viewed from the opposite ends of the room. | Mrs. Winchester’s elegant Grand Ballroom is built almost entirely without nails. It cost over $9,000 to complete at a time when an entire house could be built for less than $1,000! The silver chandelier is from Germany, and the walls and parquet floor are made of six hardwoods – mahogany, teak, maple, rosewood, oak, and white ash. Ironically, the ballroom was probably never used to hold a ball. According to one story, Mrs. Winchester once heard that a celebrated orchestra was performing in San Francisco. She invited the musicians to play at her home, but scheduling conflicts prevented the visit. In any case, Mrs. Winchester sealed off the ballroom after the earthquake of 1906. | Art and poetry are a large part of the Winchester Mystery House.
49: Apparently Sarah Winchester`s employees were very devoted as well - there is the legend of the `Basement Ghost` at the Winchester Mystery House. Guides and other visitors have shared that while in the house, they met a man in the basement wearing overalls and pushing a wheelbarrow. When they`d ask about this man, wondering who he was, they would be told that the basement was closed off and that there should be no one down there, particularly anyone working with a wheelbarrow. Finally, someone saw a very old picture of Mrs. Winchester posing with her employees, and recognized the man from the basement with the wheelbarrow, now dead for many years. It is ironic that a man who helped build a house to prevent Mrs. Winchester from being haunted is now haunting the building (supposedly). | The Winchester Mystery House ghost - first in the group photo, then zoomed in and somewhat blurry.
50: Mrs. Winchester was truly terrified of ghosts, despite doing all of these things to appease them (not hanging mirrors, building continually, etc.) It is thought by modern psychologists that she purposely built a labyrinth of a home in order to `trick` the ghosts and to hide from them, making it like a reality version of Pacman`s maze. Some versions of the story state that Sarah Winchester slept in a different room every night to keep the ghosts at bay. (Other sources rebuff this story, stating that hardly any of the rooms would have been substantial enough to serve as a master bedroom.) When the Great San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake of 1906 struck, Sarah was trapped in the `Daisy Bedroom` for hours upon hours, because no one knew where she was or how to get her out. The quake registered 8.3 on the Richter scale and stretched all the way from Oregon to Los Angeles, and it severely damaged Mrs. Winchester’s home, toppling the seven-story Observation Tower and some cupolas.
51: Before the earthquake, there were actually seven stories to this house, complete with towers and flying buttresses. It was a spectacle of Victorian excess. It is said that Mrs. Winchester felt the earthquake was a warning from the spirits that she had spent too much money on the front section of the house, which was nearing completion. After having the structural damage repaired, she immediately ordered the front thirty rooms – including the Daisy Bedroom, Grand Ballroom, and the beautiful front doors – sealed up. The heavy, ornate front doors, which had been installed just prior to the earthquake, had only been used by three people – Mrs. Winchester and the two carpenters who installed them. | Sarah used her twisting, complex, and mysterious house to thwart these spirits and keep them from further harming her. This wild and fanciful description of Mrs. Winchester’s nightly prowl to the Séance Room appeared in The American Weekly in 1928, six years after her death: “When Mrs. Winchester set out for her Séance Room, it might well have discouraged the ghost of the Indian or even of a bloodhound, to follow her. After traversing an interminable labyrinth of rooms and hallways, suddenly she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into | Some rooms have not yet been repaired for tourist eyes.
52: another, and unless the pursuing ghost was watchful and quick, he would lose her. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out, not into the open air, but onto the top of a flight of steps that took her down one story only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again, all inside the house. This was supposed to be very discomforting to evil spirits who are said to be naturally suspicious of traps.” Some of the more strange construction quirks can be explained by the irrational fears of an old woman who a) is terrified of the supernatural and b) has been previously trapped in her own home during an earthquake. For example, some bathrooms have clear glass doors. Odd? Yes. But it makes sense if you think that maybe Sarah was afraid of being trapped in a small, claustrophobic bathroom where no one can see that you are inside. One room has four fireplaces - yes, four fireplaces. What room needs four fireplaces? Well, it was the only room in the house that could get hot enough to soothe her arthritis pains.
53: Part of being a recluse is being lonely and missing visitors from the outside world. One very important visitor that Sarah Winchester missed was United States president Theodore Roosevelt, who was passing through San Jose during his Grand Tour of the West, and wanted to visit her and her labyrinthine home. He had made it known to city officials that he`d like to pay her a call, but she would have none of it. According to legend (this may not be true, but it makes a fun story), Teddy Roosevelt showed up at Sarah Winchester`s front door. Mrs. Winchester did not like ANYONE to simply show up on her front step, and so yelled out, `Who comes to a front door?` and turned him away. The house is now a very popular tourist attraction, where people travel to delight in its mystery, absurdity, and the legend of the `crazy` woman who built it, but not about the woman herself. Sarah Winchester did not keep a diary or journal, and had no close friends with whom to share her innermost thoughts. No one today really knows what Sarah Winchester thought about or what she was thinking. However, it is very poignant to think about two quotations that are inscribed in the Grand Ballroom on two leaded stained glass windows which may give us some insight into her brain.
54: One is a line from Shakespeare`s `Troilus and Cressida` which goes: Wide unclasp the table of their thoughts (IV:5:60). This comes from a part in the play where Cressida is being berated for being too coy. However, in the Victorian era, the play was rewritten to reflect that she was chaste, and she was meant to be a heroine for having that very Victorian attribute. This may have been how Mrs. Winchester conceived herself, as a chaste heroine who was doing right by her deceased husband and daughter, and was going to be rewarded eventually. The other quote is from Shakespeare`s `Richard II` and it says: These same thoughts people this little world (V:5:9). This comes from a moment in the play where the King has been dethroned and has been shut off into his own little microcosm of society. Instead of going crazy, he tries to make his new lifestyle work for him. What works for him is by occupying his mind with certain thoughts, certain things to focus on. This may have been the same for Sarah Winchester: locked away in her home, occupied by the same thoughts to keep her focused.
55: Whatever occupied Sarah Winchester`s mind as she was locked away in her own little world, we may never know. When she died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 82, the house was a bit of a disaster: part of it was still destroyed due to the San Jose earthquake, the labyrinth floor plan was a nightmare for potential homeowners, and it had a deservedly creepy reputation. It was estimated to be worth $5.5 million dollars, but only sold for $135,000. Strangely enough, for a woman who was rich enough to build such a crazy house, Sarah Winchester didn`t care about money. To her, the money was cursed because it was earned through the sale of rifles which had been used to kill people - quite possibly the people who had now returned as spirits to haunt her. In her will, she didn`t even mention the money. Sarah listed the furniture and stated that her niece could take what she wanted and sell the rest, but the house and her fortune was never even brought up at all.
56: The house instantly attracted several businessmen, who knew a tourist attraction when they saw one. Not only was it amusing and strange, it was an innovative building. It had one of the first hot water heaters in the state of California, as well as an elevator system and other novel, unique ideas developed by Sarah Winchester and her contractor. It opened originally as a self-guided tour, with arrows painted on the floor to guide visitors, then evolved into a wax museum, and today is a museum with guides, leveled tours, and history exhibits. It is recommended that if you want to go on a tour with a really knowledgeable, passionate guide, go during the winter or fall, because in the spring and summer, due to the high traffic flow of tourists, many summer students are hired and taught only the basics in order to do tours. Perhaps now, after reading this article, you can teach the guides a thing or two! MORE LORE: This is all from the website: winchestermysteryhouse.com/ thelore.cfm Mrs. Winchester The Spy Bizarre explanations of how Mrs. Winchester had lived flourished. Many long-time employees became very superstitious over the years and even believed that Mrs. Winchester could walk through solid walls and unopened doors. She did, in fact, have elaborate spying features built into the house to keep an eye on her servants. There are also stories of how she sometimes appeared noiselessly behind them to watch them work.
57: An Amazing Memory Mrs. Winchester was renowned for her memory. She knew the location of every item on her estate and kept track of it all, even down to the last screw. After her death, a workman told of the time he was asked to repair a gate, which he did using six colored screws from one of the storerooms. Later, when Mrs. Winchester discovered the screws were missing and asked if he knew where they were, she reportedly said, “Those screws were gold plated! I was saving them for something special. Let’s use something cheaper.” The Lady’s Demands Mrs. Winchester occasionally tested the loyalty of her help. Once she told a painter to paint the walls and ceiling of an entire room with red enamel; three days later, she had him repaint the same room white. Another time, she was trying to decide which of 3 applicants to hire as a new gardener. She asked each to plant a row of cabbages upside down. The first did so with-out saying anything, and the second refused her request. The third one agreed to do so but suggested to Mrs. Winchester that cabbages were normally planted with the roots in the ground. The third gardener got the job. He was not afraid to speak up, but recognized that Mrs. Winchester was the Boss! | Sarah Winchester in her later years, as eccentric as ever!
58: A Nephew Comes To Call Mrs. Winchester could be curt and dismissive, even to her own relatives – but she usually had her reasons. Once a nephew from the east coast made the long train trip, supposedly to pay his respects to “Auntie Sarah.” However, she guessed exactly what he was after. Upon his arrival, he was met by a maid carrying a silver tray with a check on it. The young man never set foot in the house. The Safe After Mrs. Winchester’s death, her safe was opened with much anticipation. However, no fortune was found within – only reminders of her deceased husband and daughter. The safe contained fishing lines, newspaper clippings, socks, underwear, and a lock of baby’s hair in a tiny purple velvet box. The New Haven newspaper clipping along with it was from the obituaries and read, “WINCHESTER. In this city, July 24, 1866. Annie Pardee, infant daughter of William Wirt Winchester and Sarah L. Winchester.” The Wine Cellar There may be a real treasure hidden away in the Winchester mansion. At one time Mrs. Winchester enjoyed the finest vintage wines and liqueurs. But one evening when she went to the wine cellar to locate a special bottle, she came across a black hand print on the wall. It was most likely a dirt smudge left by a workman, yet she took it as a omen and ordered the cellar boarded up. To this day the wine cellar has not been rediscovered, which means that there might still be spirits in the Winchester Mystery House – if only the intoxicating kind!
59: Houdini Though Houdini is the most remembered for his magic shows and his feats as an escape artist, he also devoted much of his time to exposing fraudulent practices by mediums. In 1924, on one of his many lecture and magic tours, he stopped in for a private midnight tour and séance at the Winchester House. Unfortunately, the results of his late-night excursion have been lost to time, but his visit was written about in the Portland Oregon Daily Journal, in November 1924. The Number 13 Whether or not one believes in Mrs. Winchester’s superstitions about spirits, it’s harder to dismiss occurrences of the number 13 throughout the house. Many windows have 13 panes and there are 13 bathrooms, with 13 windows in the 13th Bathroom. There are also 13 wall panels in the room prior to the 13th Bathroom, and 13 steps leading to that bathroom. The Carriage Entrance Hall floor is divided into 13 cement sections. There are even 13 hooks in the Séance Room, which supposedly held the different colored robes Mrs. Winchester wore while communing with the spirits. Here are even more thirteens: 13 rails by the floor-level skylight in the South Conservatory, 13 steps on many of the stairways, 13 squares on each side of the Otis electric elevator, 13 glass cupolas on the Greenhouse, 13 holes in the sink drain covers, 13 ceiling panels in some of the rooms, and 13 gas jets on the Ballroom chandelier. (Mrs. Winchester had the thirteenth one added!) The number 13 occurs often on the grounds as well as in the house; for example, there are 13 cupolas in the greenhouse and 13 fan palms lining the front driveway. For more stories about the house, go to winchestermysteryhouse.com!
60: Article 5: Was Manhattan Traded for Nutmeg?
61: New York City is one of the most famous cities in the world, and the island of Manhattan the focal point of the city. The city of New York is made up of five major “boroughs”, or neighborhoods: Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Manhattan is the busiest and flashiest these, for it is the “downtown” area and features major tourist stops such as the Empire State building, Rockefeller Center, Broadway, and Wall Street. It is a wealthy, bustling, and healthy economic area of the city - and it was obtained over a trade for nutmeg. Legends have the island being traded for $24.00, or a few strings of beads, or through a major swindle to the First Nations people originally living there: all of these legends are false. The only people that were really taken advantage of during the acquisition of Manhattan were the Dutch: it will all become clearer later. | The island of Manhattan in New York, and its five major boroughs.
62: Much as today, back in the 14th century Europeans really enjoyed their nutmeg. During the Black Plague, they even wore it around their necks as a precaution against disease - and ironically it may have actually helped, as the scent may have repelled the fleas that carried the plague. Nutmegs, before they are ground into a spice, are about an inch long and have a very odd design. They grow on trees are actually the pit of a fruit. When baked, the pits turn a light brown and can be ground for spices. The inside kernel of the nut is ground to create nutmeg, and the coating of the nut is ground to make the spice mace. Nutmeg was considered very valuable, not just for its medicinal value as mentioned before, but also because it could be used as a hallucinogenic and an aphrodisiac. In the 16th century, some monks were known to reduce it to an oil, and rub it on their genitals. (Perhaps as a way to stay abstinent and keep away from the ladies?) Nowadays, we use nutmeg in small quantities to quell gas and nausea, and mainly as a spice for cooking. In very large quantities, nutmeg does still cause hallucinations, but you’d need a very large supply, much larger than what you could get from a cooking supply. If you eat enough of it, nutmeg can also cause symptoms similar to an epileptic seizure. | Nutmeg in its natural "pit" state, and then dried and powdered into a spice.
63: Because of all of this (other than the seizures), nutmeg was a very hot commodity. Europeans were used to getting a regular supply of nutmeg, typically through trade via land routes. Nutmeg itself is indigenous to islands in the East Indies, and can’t be grown in the colder regions of Europe. In the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire overtook Constantinople, a major trade center and a gateway to European trade. The Ottomans cut off trade to Europe, which instigated the entire push for European nations to discover a sea trade route to the east, and led to Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. Vasco da Gama sailed for Portugal and found the sea route under the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, making a successful voyage to Asia and completing his goal. | Columbus’ discovery of the West sparked intrigue amongst the adventurous European nations, and in 1609 the Dutch hired explorer Henry Hudson to assess the value of the new lands and to find the Northwest Passage. Of course, Hudson did not find a northern route through America to the East Indies as his employers had hoped, but he did find many other wonderful and valuable things, such as the island of Manhattan, Long Island, and the Hudson River, which was named for him. | The East Indies on a map.
64: By this time, the Dutch had formed their own company called the Dutch West India Company, and this company took all the lands that Hudson had discovered (Manhattan, Long Island, etc.) and dubbed it “New Netherland”. This location became a focal point for their involvement in the fur trade. Around 1626, the director of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Minuit, bought the island of Manhattan from the American Indians. It was a strange purchase, as the American Indians didn’t really conceive of the island as “their” property: it was simply a place they visited occasionally to hunt. There were no permanent or even temporary dwellings on the island, and no major connections to the First Nations. | It is believed that Henry Hudson originally encountered some American Indians out on a hunting party when he first arrived on Manhattan. The story recounts how Hudson offered the First Nations peoples some liquor, and to this day, the First Nations name | Manhattan before and after; a portrait of Peter Minuit
65: for the island roughly translates to “place where we first got drunk”, which shows literally how little they used the land - it didn’t have a name until Hudson set foot on it. The Dutch didn’t realize this, however, and simply assumed that the American Indians considered the land their own. In keeping with this notion, the Dutch tried to do the right and give the First Nations people due compensation in the form of commodities for the land. This was atypical of the time, considering the brutality and force used by other explorers and settlers, such as the Spanish conquistadors who took land whenever they wanted and however they wanted. At least the Dutch tried to make a sign of good faith by purchasing the land formally. | While the fur trade is flourishing in Manhattan, the spice trade was flourishing with the East India companies. Nutmeg, by this time, had achieved a 6000% mark-up, making it a very lucrative trade item. A group of islands near Indonesia, the Banda Islands, became so much more attractive to traders at this time because of their connections to nutmeg. Portugal actually annexed the islands in 1512, which angered a | Meeting the First Nations peoples The green line shows how far we have built Manhattan Island
66: few nations, including the Dutch. n 1602, the Dutch arrived at the Banda Islands and formally ousted the Portuguese. At the time, the Bandanese (the local population) were happy to see the Dutch, as the Portuguese had been very harsh colonizers. Little did they know that the Dutch would end up being much harsher. When the Dutch took over the Banda Islands, they immediately made a treaty with the Bandanese village chiefs. These treaties were designed to control the nutmeg trade, and forced the Bandanese to only deal their nutmeg through the Dutch. This would ultimately create a monopoly for the Dutch. This has been a recurring problem throughout history, as long as expansionism and imperialism have been around: one country trying to broker and monopolize trade deals in foreign languages and with foreign policies, while the other country has no idea what they are agreeing to. In the case of the Bandanese, this is what happened. They did not fully understand the terms of the Dutch treaty, because nutmeg was valuable to them | A map of the West Indies.
67: as a bartering tool with neighboring islands. This nutmeg was traded locally for items such as garments, textiles, and food, so they needed nutmeg for their own sustenance. When the Dutch got word that the Bandanese people were trading nutmeg between islands, and that they weren’t the exclusive recipients as per the contract that had been signed, they became very upset. The | Bandanese hadn’t broken their contract per se, if they hadn’t fully understood the terms, and needed to trade nutmeg locally to survive, but that was what the Dutch believed they had done. The Dutch responded with violence, beginning with occasional skirmishes and some organized attacks, but at points there were violent massacres of the local Bandanese, so brutal that by the end of the retaliation, most of the Bandanese citizens were dead. The Dutch, now lacking people to harvest the nutmeg, had to begin importing their own farmers. Meanwhile, at this time, Britain was now in control of a neighboring island named Run where nutmeg also grew. They were using this to their advantage, trying to destroy the Dutch monopoly. The Dutch traders were so adamant that they were to be the only ones exporting this spice that they actually dipped nutmeg in lime to prevent anyone else who purchased it from planting it and growing their own trees, but this did not deter the British. | A map of the Banda Islands.
68: One particularly notorious Dutch trader, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, wanted desperately to ambush the island of Run and expel the British violently. Unfortunately for him, the Dutch and the English, back in Europe, had just signed a cooperation agreement in 1619, so he couldn’t just go in and kill the British. Instead, he did a more underhanded trick, and snuck onto the island when the British had left it briefly and burned down ALL of the nutmeg trees growing on the island. | This was a bit extravagant, and in the end, the joke was on the Dutch, as buying nutmeg seeds and planting them is not the only way to grow a nutmeg crop. Birds and other animals who eat the nutmeg fruit do a lot of “dispersal” of nutmeg pits as well, as they travel from island to island, and defecate where they please. There were nutmeg trees growing on several | Jan Pieterszoon Coen | An image of the tropical Banda Islands.
69: islands, in different locations, and the seeds to grow more were constantly being re-distributed by animal life. There was no way the Dutch would able to have complete control of the proliferation of nutmeg trees. In the end, the Dutch were very upset with the British: they had lost their monopoly on the spice, they had burned a large portion of the nutmeg crop to the ground, and they had engaged in some battles with the British over this issue. These battles weren’t just fought among the Banda Islands - they extended to the colonies as well. In 1664, a British fleet forcibly took over the island of Manhattan as part of the “nutmeg wars” during the second Dutch-Anglo War. A few years later, in 1666, on the other side of the world, the Dutch forcibly took over the island of Run. The two countries seemed to be at a stalemate, both with lands they desired, held by force. | In 1667, the Treaty of Breda effectively ended the war, when the Dutch relinquished their claim over the island of Manhattan in exchange for legal rights to the island of Run. Long story short, the island of Manhattan, now the bustling city center for New | The nutmeg seed is quite fascinating to see. | The trade wars turned quite vicious.
70: York City and one of the wealthiest areas of the United States, was essentially traded for a spice; for nutmeg. To add an even bigger kick in the pants, during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, the British actually returned to the Banda Islands and took some nutmeg seeds with them. This time, they hadn’t been dipped in lime as in previous years. The British took these seeds to various islands in the West Indies, which were under British control, and were able to successfully replant the seeds. Granada was one of these islands, and even today, nutmeg trees flourish in this area. So next time you are sipping a glass of eggnog, and sprinkle on a little of this significant spice, remind yourself that it was the cause of many deaths, a few wars, and a very interesting trade. | ALl of this - traded for nutmeg!
71: Article 6: Emperor Nero, a Fiddle, and a Fire
72: In the year A.D. 64, Rome was burning. It was burning, and burning badly. In fact, at least half of the citizens of Rome, which was pretty expansive at the time, lost their homes due to the fire. The blaze burned for six days and seven nights, destroying approximately 70% of the city. There were 14 city districts in Rome in the year A.D. 64, and only three were left intact when the fire was finally extinguished. The districts that had suffered fire damage were completely leveled by this horrible fire. At the time, the man in charge of the city was the emperor Nero, who was considered to be wildly unpopular. Facts are muddy around whether or not Nero was a tyrannical leader. Some ancient sources paint him as extravagant, cruel, and supportive of religious persecution. Other sources depict Nero as popular with common Roman people. However, the predominant point of view, and most documented and sourced by writers of Nero’s own time, is that of a leader who flaunted his power with acts of violence and through spending Roman taxes on himself.
73: Nero came to power when he was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius and groomed to become the next emperor. When Claudius died in the year 54, Nero immediately gained the throne. His reign wasn’t all bad - he did focus a great deal on diplomacy, trade, and Roman culture. He built theatres and promoted athletic games, and his military personnel conducted successful war attacks. Despite his extravagant spending and dislikeable personality, he did seem to be of some benefit to the empire of Rome. However, his acts of evil over-shadowed his good deeds: he is known for many executions, including those of his mother and the probable murder by poison of his stepbrother, Britannicus. However, the fire of 64 seemed to burn up any of Nero’s credibility as a leader as well. There were even rumors that Nero himself started the fire, because he didn’t like the way Rome looked and he wanted to rebuilt it to his own aesthetic
74: standards. Some thought he was clearing room in the city for his own planned palatial complex named the Domus Aurea, which ended up being between 100 and 300 square meters, standing where many noble villas used to be before they burned down. Another accusation spawned during this time about Nero was that he stood and coldly played the fiddle while watching his city burn. This rumor, however, is indeed fiction. While it is true that Nero was known to play a stringed instrument, but it wasn’t the fiddle, seeing as the fiddle wasn’t invented until 1500 years AFTER Rome burned. There are historical accounts from the ancient historian Tacitus that Nero was at the fire, yes, but he was busy coordinating fire-fighting efforts, housing the homeless in his own gardens, and bargaining for discounted foods to feed his distraught residents. Despite all of this, it wasn’t enough to rectify his vilified image to the Roman public.
75: No one really knows what exactly began the fire, but Nero tried to divert the guilty fingers pointed at him, and blame the fire’s origins on the Christians. He had a history of persecuting Christians already, and punished anyone who practiced the religion horribly in the aftermath of the fire. He was known for having captured Christians burned in his garden at night for a source of light. As his antics escalated, he became even more unpopular, and finally the Senate declared him a public enemy. In the year 68, he was driven from the throne when his own soldiers revolted on him. Finally, Nero took his own life in desperation on June 9, 68 by stabbing himself in the throat.