Listening to the dead

October 30, 2009

Growing up I was a big fan of John Edwards,   a professional and very popular medium who claimed to talk to the dead.

 Edwards has his cynics  but there are also many apparent believers, as his live shows are consistently sold out around the world and his personal readings are booked years in advance.

 I like the idea of ghosts, of becoming something else when we die rather than simply disappearing forever.  And when I look around carefully, there is plenty of evidence that something more does exist.

Charles’ obituary on my wall upstairs is a good example.    That can’t be easily explained… and if I did the math and calculated the odds… how many local papers have been printed in the last 100 years (because though Charles’ obit was published in 1928, the papers on the wall up there date from 1908—and some of those are from Canada).   We’re talking crazy odds, inexplicable odds.

Lucy wants her story told, I don’t doubt it for a moment.  Too many strange coincidences have happened over the years for me to ever doubt it.  And so here I am.

 But what about other ghosts, other stories?

The story of Jack Ryan


Jack Ryan's alleged double murder "confession"

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Funny courtroom quotes having nothing to do with history…

October 29, 2009

I received the following from a friend of mine and enjoyed so many I just had to share. 

These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and are things
people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by
court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were
actually taking place.
> ATTORNEY:  What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
> WITNESS:     He said , ‘Where am I, Cathy?’
> ATTORNEY:  And why did that upset you?
> WITNESS:     My name is Susan!
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
> WITNESS:     Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Are you sexually active?
> WITNESS:     No , I just lie there.
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  This myasthenia gravis , does it affect your memory at all?
> WITNESS:     Yes.
> ATTORNEY:  And in what ways does it affect your memory?
> WITNESS:     I forget..
> ATTORNEY:  You forget?  Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
> ___________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
> WITNESS:     We both do.
> ATTORNEY:  Voodoo?
> WITNESS:     We do..
> ATTORNEY:  You do?
> WITNESS:     Yes , voodoo.
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Now doctor , isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep ,
he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
> WITNESS:  Did you actually pass the bar exam?
> ____________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  The youngest son , the 20-year-old , how old is he?
> WITNESS:      He’s 20 , much like your IQ.
> ___________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Were you present when your picture was taken?
> WITNESS:     Are you shitting me?
> _________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
> WITNESS:     Yes.
> ATTORNEY:  And what were you doing at that time?
> WITNESS:     Getting laid
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  She had three children , right?
> WITNESS:     Yes.
> ATTORNEY:  How many were boys?
> 0AWITNESS: None.
> ATTORNEY:   Were there any girls?
> WITNESS:      Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  How was your first marriage terminated?
> WITNESS:     By death..
> ATTORNEY:  And by whose death was it terminated?
> WITNESS:     Take a guess.
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Can you describe the individual?
> WITNESS:     He was about medium height and had a beard
> ATTORNEY:  Was this a male or a female?
> WITNESS:     Unless the Circus was in town I’m going with male.
> _____________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition
notice which I sent to your attorney?
> WITNESS:  No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
> ______________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Doctor , how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead
> WITNESS:     All of them.. The live ones put up too much of a fight.
> _________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  ALL your responses MUST be oral , OK? What school did you go to?
> WITNESS:     Oral…
> _________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
> WITNESS:     The autopsy started around 8:30 PM
> ATTORNEY:  And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
> WITNESS:     If not , he was by the time I finished.
> ____________________________________________
> ATTORNEY:  Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
> WITNESS:     Are you qualified to ask that question?
> ______________________________________
> And last:
> ATTORNEY:  Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a
> WITNESS:     No.
> ATTORNEY:  Did you check for blood pressure?
> WITNESS:     No.
> ATTORNEY:  Did you check for breathing?
> WITNESS:     No..
> ATTORNEY:  So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began
the autopsy?
> WITNESS:     No.
> ATTORNEY:  How can you be so sure, Doctor?
> WITNESS:     Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
> ATTORNEY:  I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
> WITNESS:     Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing

1900 Census index provides lots of info

October 28, 2009

My friend Olmanriver recently let me know that the Humboldt County Historical Society  has an on-line  1900 census index .

The index was compiled by MARILYN KEACH MILOTA an amazing woman who has contributed all kinds of useful information to the county library (and apparently the historical society) to help folks find genealogy-related and general historical info.

The 1900 index consists of the person’s name, wife if any,month and year of birth, place of birth, relationship to head of household, township name and page number.

The index can make it easier to find someone, especially if you’re not quite sure where that person was living, but are pretty sure they were around here somewhere.

For example, I very quickly found David Stewart

David G., Jan 1860, Canada; Emma L., July 1868, Calif Mad River 133A

David used chalk to write his name on our upstairs ceiling when he still thought of himself as “Davie”.  Someone else kindly filled in Stewart (different handwriting) before covering Davie’s name with wall paper.

If I wanted, I could now go to the County Library and find the 1900 census, page 133 A and get more info about Davie.

Or, because I belong to, I can use his name and township from the index to easily find the original census record…


1900 Census, Mad River Township

Note:    If you find your family (or other person you’re researching) in the index and want a copy of the original census record, let me know (include all the info, please) and I’ll get it from   It may take me a while, but I’ll try to get to all requests.

I can also do more extensive genealogy research for a (very reasonable) fee.

Halloween in early Arcata?

October 27, 2009
Looking north up H Street, Arcata

Looking north up H Street, Arcata

It was only when I magnified this photo that I noticed the creepy masks in the window.


Fifty cents to cross a bay

October 26, 2009


Ferry, possibly crossing the Eel River

Ferry, possibly crossing the Eel River

In October of  1854, the county supervisors approved the petition by Heammon and Marvel to establish a ferry crossing Humboldt Bay.  The partners needed to pay the county $5 for the privilege, follow Section 16 of the Act  Concerning Public Ferries and Bridges and get a bond of $1,000.

The men were also required to have at least two boats, one large and one small, and at least two “hands”, meaning two men and literally four hands, I’m guessing.

As licensed ferrymen, they could charge foot passengers  fifty cents and could demand $2 for anyone wanting to cross the bay with a horse, mule, ox, cow, hog or other animal .

Anyone wanting to get from Eureka to Arcata was pretty much stuck taking the ferry, as there was no reliable trail and the wagon road that would eventually follow along Old Arcata Road wasn’t built yet.  The ferry dropped passengers off near the present location of Fairhaven, and they hoofed it (ha, ha), to Union/Arcata from there.

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Getting to work at Falk

October 23, 2009
Falk, about 1890

Falk, about 1890


I talked to Bill Rich yesterday, and the folks at HSU are getting ready to start digging at the historic town site of Falk.

In it’s heyday, Falk was a company mill town in the Elk River Valley with over 400 residents.   Unfortunately a drop in lumber demand in the late 1930s forced the mill’s closing and by the 1950s, the town was deserted (ish).  Squatters were living in the abandoned buildings and treasure seekers were looting the site.  These problems and concerns over legal liability prompted property owner Sierra Pacific Lumber Co to demolish the town in 1979.

In 1999, the Headwaters deal came through, and the  Bureau of Land Management took over the area. The BLM wants to use the townsite as an educational area with self-guided, and possibly guided,  tours.   Careful excavation of certain buildings and areas will  help folks learn more about how people lived in this isolated 19th century mill town and volunteers are welcome to help .

The crew will be working mostly Fridays and weekends so that they can get as many folks involved as possible and will focus on the dancehall and a small bachelor’s cabin site.

Call  Jamie Roscoe or Bill Rich at the HSU Cultural Resources Facility at (707)  826-5247  for more info or to sign up.  You can also call Dave Johnson, archaeologist at the Arcata BLM at (707) 825-2320 for more info.

Washing clothes has never been fun

October 22, 2009
Arcata Laundry 1881

Arcata Laundry 1881

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey,   folks dedicate a little more than 1/2 hour a day to household chores , including laundry.    Can you imagine how much longer it would be if we still used this?

Clothes "dryer"

Clothes "dryer"

Zoot Suit Riots

October 21, 2009
Sleepy Lagoon Murder Defendants

Sleepy Lagoon Murder Defendants


I was called for jury duty yesterday and wanted to post something today about how it felt to be a part of that process, that history. Instead I ran across a photo of the Sleepy Lagoon defendants and followed my curiosity.  I googled Sleepy Lagoon and learned about the Zoot Suit Riots  (Until today, I would have  sworn that “Zoot Suit Riots” was a song…)

The Zoot Suit Riots are summarized as follows thanks to PBS:

May 1943, Zoot Suit Riot. For the better part of a week, sailors and other servicemen dragged (Mexican and African American)  kids off streetcars, from restaurants, and out of movie theaters. The boys were beaten and often stripped of their zoot suits. Thousands of white civilians cheered them on and helped the sailors. As the riot progressed, Mexican American boys moved to defend their neighborhoods, setting traps for sailors and assaulting them in their cars. The L.A.P.D. let the riot continue for the better part of a week. After the riot ended, the Los Angeles City Council banned the wearing of zoot suits on Los Angeles streets.

 Oh yes, and the Sleepy Lagoon Murder., for those who are interested. 

This is also a great site about the history of the Los Angeles area with more info about the Zoot Suit and riots- as well as this very graphic reminder that blatent prejudice existed not so long ago.



I noticed that I neglected to even describe a Zoot Suit (or let wikipedia do it for me).  According to Wikipeida,

A zoot suit has high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed pegged trousers (Spanish: tramas), and a long coat (Spanish: carlango) with wide lapels and wide padded shoulders. Often zoot suiters wear a felt hat with a long feather (Spanish: tapa or tanda) and pointy, French-style shoes (Spanish: calcos). A young Malcolm X described the zoot suit as: “a killer-diller coat with a drape shape, reet pleats and shoulders padded like a lunatic’s cell”.[4] Zoot suits usually featured a watch chain dangling from the belt to the knee or below, then back to a side pocket.

Zoot suits were for special occasions, such as a dance or a birthday party. The amount of material and tailoring required made them luxury items, so much so that the U.S. War Production Board said that they wasted materials that should be devoted to the World War II war effort.[5] This extravagance during wartime was a factor in the Zoot Suit Riots.[6] Wearing the oversized suit was a declaration of freedom and self-determination, even rebelliousness.[6]


Revival of the Holy Trinity Church in Trinidad

October 20, 2009

From this…

Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Trinidad (built in 1872)


To this…

After restoration

After restoration


 I don’t know who was involved in restoring the old church, but the results are nothing short of amazing. 

It is a shame the folks in Arcata were not as successful in their efforts to save this one.

Old Arcata City Hall, Torn down in 1970

Old Arcata City Hall, torn down about 1970


I believe the Historical Sites Society of Arcata was formed after the destruction of this beautiful building to prevent the loss of other historical resources in that community.

If your grandparents disappeared

October 19, 2009
Willie Childs and Jim James

Someone's ancestors


I have a friend who, according to the 1928 Bureau of Indian Affairs records, is of the Numsoose Tribe.  Trouble is that the Numsoose don’t exist anymore, and haven’t for long enough that people think they’ve heard of them, but can’t quite say where.

Many people figure “Indian” is “Indian” and the tribe isn’t all that important.  That is like saying the fact that you were born in Mississippi or have family in Ireland is irrelevant.   Or that Mexican, Spanish and South American are all pretty much the same.    

They’re not.