It Is Now 88 Years Since Houdini’s Death, And No Word From Him Yet

Houdini, Debunker Of All Psychic Phenomena STILL Has Not Communicated From The Other Side

Houdini Emerges from jail cell

When Harry Houdini claimed he could do something, he would prove it. For instance, he said he could escape from any jail cell, sometimes with multiple gates and holding areas. Here he is seen emerging from a penitentiary holding only shackles and locks next to his near naked body. The demonstration would usually blow the superintendent or warden of the prison away. Before entering the cell Houdini was searched and stripped. How did he escape from all those jail cells?

Usually Houdini opened the lock with a carefully hidden key or pick – use your imagination to figure out where he hid it or click here to find out.  All over the United States and Europe, Houdini performed this trick as a jail breaker hundreds of times and it rocketed him to fame. The one thing Houdini couldn’t escape was death.

On Halloween in 1926 Houdini died. He promised his wife Bess that if there was an afterlife that he would be able to break through from the other side and communicate with the living.

But as we wrote three years ago no one has heard from the late Harry Houdini, because as he proved time and again all spiritualists, psychics and seances are fake.

Yes, it has been 88 years since Houdini passed and there is still a $1 million award available from the The James Randi Educational Foundation to any person who demonstrates any psychic, supernatural, or paranormal ability. But of course no one will ever claim the money, just as Houdini is never communicating from beyond the grave.

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Old New York In Photos #42

Central Park Transverses 1863

Central Park Transverse at 79th St looking east 1863

Central Park Transverse 79th St looking east 1863

Central Park Transverse (which one?) 1863

Central Park Transverse (which one?) 1863

 

Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, the designers of Central Park, had amazing foresight to build transverses through the park so that omnibus, carriage and horse traffic, could get crosstown without disrupting the flow of the landscape. Users of the park today are the beneficiaries of the uninterrupted paths and vistas as automobile traffic crosses the park out of sight and mind.

These two photographs are from stereoviews taken in 1863 by E. & H.T. Anthony & Co. who took some of the best images of mid-nineteenth century New York. They show the recently opened Central Park with little activity and just a few buildings in the background.

The photo on the left shows transverse number two (I never knew they had numbers assigned to them) that cuts across the park from East 79th Street to West 81st Street. On the left can be glimpsed the southern edge of the Croton reservoir, one of two reservoirs that were in Central Park. The Croton reservoir was drained and filled-in in 1931 and the former reservoir located between 79th and 86th Streets became the Great Lawn, opening in 1937. The second reservoir above 86th Street remains in place today and joggers frequently circumnavigate its perimeter.

The photograph on the right is another one of the transverses but it is not identified on the stereoview itself. It looks to be the 65th Street transverse but I am unsure of the orientation and surroundings. Which one do you think it is?

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Old New York In Photos #41

Park Avenue And 51st Street 1889

Park Avenue 51st St looking north 1889

In 1886 what had been unglamorous Fourth Avenue above 42nd Street was renamed Park Avenue. This mix of 19th century modernity and bleak landscape is Park Avenue looking north from 51st Street in 1889. You would be hard pressed to find a time today when this busy intersection of New York would be so deserted. There is little activity besides a lone horse and cart on the right side of the incline by the tunnel and a ghostly man in a derby by a boulder in the lower portion of the photograph.

Commodore Vanderbilt reluctantly covered the tracks used by his New York Central & Hudson and New York & Harlem Railroads along Park Avenue from 58th through 99th Streets between 1872-1875. This improvement opened up building possibilities in what had been an undesirable stretch of land with noisy and polluted streets. But from 56th Street to Grand Central Depot at 42nd Street, the tracks had an open cut as seen here. The railroad tracks remained that way until they were finally covered in 1914.

The main building on the right in this photograph is Steinway & Sons Piano Forte  finishing factory, which occupied the entire block on Park Avenue from 52nd to 53rd Streets. According to King’s Handbook of New York City (1892) “There, 500 workmen plain, saw, join, drill, turn, string, fit, varnish and tune the piano works and cases received from the 600 workmen of Steinway, Astoria.”

The Steinway Factory was sold in 1910 for about $1 million, demolished in 1911 and replaced in 1912 by the 12 story Montana apartments. For over 40 years the Montana remained a first class apartment building, housing many well-to-do residents  including Theodore Steinway and silent film star Richard Barthelmess, until it was demolished from 1955 – 1956. The world’s first bronze and glass skyscraper completed in 1957, the Seagram Building at 375 Park Avenue, now stands on the site.

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A Strange Grave Monument

Off With His Head!

Statue Sir Robert Holmes Yarmouth parish

Statue Sir Robert Holmes Yarmouth parish

Sir Robert Holmes (1622-1692) fought under Prince Rupert and was governor of the Island of Wight from 1667-1692. Holmes has an unusual story to the statue that sits atop his grave where he is buried at the parish church in Yarmouth.

During one of England’s many wars with France, Holmes captured a ship on its way to France which contained an unfinished headless statue of King Louis XIV. The sculptor of the statue happened to be on board. Holmes liked the statue and commanded that the sculptor carve the head in Holmes likeness. In return for doing this the sculptor would be granted his freedom.

The sculptor had no choice but to comply. The statue was finished in Yarmouth and Holmes’ head was placed upon it. The head’s carving is not in proportion with the body and of an inferior quality.

When Holmes passed away he instructed that this statue was to be placed on his tomb at St. James Church.

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In 1918 The Largest Hotel In The World Was Going To Be New York’s Hotel Commonwealth

 The Unbuilt 2,500 Room Hotel Commonwealth – New York’s Largest Hotel

Hotel Commonwealth New York City postcard view 3

New York has always been a city of ambitious plans, dreams and schemes. But there are few rivals to the grandiose project for a hotel which was to be the largest in the world with 2,500 rooms and set up on a cooperative system to be owned by common investors.

The promotional brochure proclaimed:

TO BE BUILT BY THE COMMON WEALTH
TO BE MANAGED FOR THE COMMON GOOD
TO BE OPERATED FOR THE COMMON BENEFIT

The Hotel Commonwealth was to be situated on Broadway between 55th and 56th Streets. The description on the back of this 1918 postcard pictured above contains early 20th century ballyhoo of the highest order:

Hotel Commonwealth – “Greatest thing of its kind on earth.” The Commonwealth will be the first important building to be erected in conformance with the new building law to conserve light and sunshine for the general public. Through its 28 stories which will contain 2,500 rooms, it will rise 400 feet in the air in graceful terraces, or “set-backs” as the zoning law calls them, the flowering plants and shrubs upon each terrace giving the monster hostelry an unusual beauty of architecture, rivaled only by the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The planned 2,500 rooms would be 500 more rooms than the largest hotel ever built. Continue reading

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It’s Time For Day Baseball Games To Return To The World Series

It’s Been 30 Years Since The Last Outdoor, Daytime World Series Game Was Played – Who’s to Blame? MLB, FOX & “TV Research People”

World Series baseball the way it used to be played - during the daytime. Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon awaits the first pitch from Yankees ace Whitey Ford to begin game 3 of the 1960 World Series at Yankee Stadium, October 8, 1960.

World Series baseball the way it used to be played – during the day. Pirates center fielder Bill Virdon awaits the first pitch from Yankees ace Whitey Ford to begin game 3 of the 1960 World Series at Yankee Stadium, October 8, 1960.

30 years ago on October 14, 1984 the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres played game 5 of the World Series at Tigers Stadium under what used to be normal circumstances – they played a day game.

Three years later in 1987 the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals also played a day game in the World Series, but you would not have known it because the Twins played their home games indoors at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

Since then, every World Series game has been played at night. Continue reading

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Wes Parker Battles Fans For A Foul Ball In The 1965 World Series

Hey Dodgers Fans Get Out Of The Way!

Wes Parker catch attempt WS game 4 Oct 10 1965 photo UPI

Wes Parker goes after a ball in game 4 of the World Series Oct 10 1965 photo: UPI

The Los Angeles Dodgers played the Minnesota Twins in the 1965 World Series with the Dodgers prevailing in seven games.

At Dodger Stadium on October 10, 1965, in game four with two outs in the top of the ninth, Twins slugger Don Mincher hit a pop fly that was drifting into the stands in foul territory. With the Dodgers leading 7-2, Dodgers first baseman Wes Parker made a desperate leap into the stands to try and catch Mincher’s foul ball and end the game.

Parker’s jump fell short and he missed the ball.

Mincher ended up striking out and Don Drysdale got the complete game win for the Dodgers. Time of the game two hours and fifteen minutes.

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115 Years After New York’s Deadliest Hotel Fire, A Memorial Goes Up For The Unidentified Dead

The Windsor Hotel Fire On St. Patrick’s Day In 1899 Killed 86

Windsor Hotel Fire Memorial  by artist Al Lonrenz photo: Ricky Flores for The Journal News

Windsor Hotel Fire Memorial by artist Al Lonrenz photo: Ricky Flores for The Journal News

It only took 115 years, but finally 31 unidentified dead, who were killed in New York City’s deadliest hotel fire, will be receiving a stone which commemorates their final resting place.

On Thursday, October 9 at 4:00 p.m., a memorial service was held at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y. to officially unveil and dedicate a monument to those who were interred without a marker.

The Windsor Hotel built between 1872 and 1873, stood at 575 Fifth Avenue, between 46th and 47tth Streets and was considered one of New York’s finest hotels.

At a few minutes after 3:00 p.m. on Friday, March 17, 1899 with thousands of spectators along Fifth Avenue watching the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a fire broke out at The Windsor Hotel and spread like lightning throughout the entire structure.

Windsor Hotel 5th ave 46th 47th street magic lantern slide B.P collection

The Windsor Hotel

On the 46th Street side of the hotel, John Foy, a waiter at the hotel was passing the parlor located on the second floor. Foy watched a guest light a cigar Continue reading

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An Incredible Baseball Card Error – Aurelio Rodriguez & The Bat Boy

How The Bat Boy Ended Up On Aurelio Rodriguez’s 1969 Topps Baseball Card

Aurelio Rodriguez 1969 Topps Error cardAurelio Rodriguez was a slick fielding, rocket-armed, gold glove winning third baseman who enjoyed a 17 year major league career and batted .237 with 124 career home runs in just over 2,000 games with seven teams.

Though he is wearing a uniform, and the baseball card states that this is Aurelio Rodriguez, the California Angels third baseman, it is not.

In actuality the card shows Angels bat boy, Leonard Garcia, on what was supposed to be Rodriguez’s card #653, for 1969. The error was not divulged until 1973.

So how does a bat boy get on a baseball card?

There are two popular rumors/theories of how this happened. The first, was that the Topps photographer Continue reading

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Malcolm Young’s Illness Spells The End For AC/DC

AC/DC Founder Malcolm Young Quietly Played A Huge, Behind The Scenes Part In AC/DC’s Long Success

Malcolm (l) & Angus Young (r)J photo Jaime Saba For the L.A.  Times

Malcolm (l) & Angus Young (r)J photo Jaime Saba For the L.A. Times

When reading about the recent disclosure that AC/DC founder and rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young was suffering from dementia and was retiring from the band, it occurred to me how many casual fans of AC/DC are not aware of how important Malcolm is to the band.

Malcolm did a lot more than stand in the background pounding out crunchy rhythm guitar riffs and come up to the microphone to sing things like “hoy” with his backing vocals.

AC/DC is (was) Malcolm’s band.

Malcolm controlled the touring, personnel, finances, important band decisions and most importantly the songwriting.

It was Malcolm Young, not his flashier, lead guitarist younger brother Angus Young, who came up with most of the riffs and leads for those brilliant AC/DC songs over the past 41 years.

In a recent Guitar World interview Angus Young said:

Malcolm is a big inspiration to me; he keeps me on my feet. Even when I’m tired from running around the stage for two hours, I’ll look back at what he’s doing and it gives me that boot up the backside I sometimes need. [laughs] Also, he can always tell me if I’m playing well or if I’m not. Mal’s a very tough critic, and I know that if I can please him, I can please the world. A lot of people say, “AC/DC-that’s the band with the little guy who runs around in school shorts!” But I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without Malcolm and the other guys pumping out the rhythm. They make me look good.

Mal is really a great all-around guitarist. I know it says “rhythm guitar” on the album jacket, but if he sits down to play a solo, he can do it better than me. Not a lot of people have picked up on this, but in the early days he used to play lead. But then he said to me, “No, you take the solos. I’ll just bang away back here.” And what’s more, he actually plays rhythms. He just doesn’t make a noise; he works them out, and he knows when not to play.

My part in AC/DC is just adding the color on top. Mal’s the band’s foundation. He’s rock solid and he pumps it along with the power of a machine. He doesn’t play like a machine, though. Everything he does grooves and he always seems to know exactly what to play and when to play it. He’s a very percussive player too, his right hand just doesn’t stop sometimes. It’s scary, it really is!

Fans on the official AC/DC web site commenting about the announcement that Malcolm has retired because of dementia are clueless. Most are writing things like, “Get well soon, Mal!” Continue reading

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