Posted in Film

“The Importance of Outlander”

Note: This article was originally published in The Sting back in the fall of 2014. As such, this review only covers the pilot episode.


On August 9th Starz launched its new highly anticipated series, Outlander, a drama based off of the well-loved book series by Dianna Gabaldon, and found incredible success. The pilot could be viewed before its initial airdate and received positive reviews. When the series first premiered live the pilot had 72,000 viewers, and since then has landed over 3.7 million views, according to the TV by the Numbers website. Surprisingly for a show centered on a female character and involving a lot of romance, there was a near equal amount of male viewers as there were female.

Outlander centers on a nurse named Claire Beauchamp Randall (played by Irish model and actress Caitriona Balfe) who has recently reunited with her husband, Frank, after the end of the Second World War. On their honeymoon in Scotland, Claire manages to accidentally travel back in time to the year 1743—a time when Scotland was ravaged by civil war, fighting the English that wish to claim the country. How she appeared there is a mystery, but Claire soon finds out that she is not dreaming, because her life is constantly in danger from both the English and the Scottish soldiers. She crosses paths with an ancestor of her husband, Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies, who also plays Frank, most recognizable from his roles in HBO’s Rome as Brutus and his appearance in the third season of Game of Thrones as Edmure Tully, the groom at the infamous Red Wedding), but finds that this particular Randall, an English Captain, is far from the loving husband she left behind. Claire also meets Jamie, a Scottish warrior (Sam Heughan in a break-out performance) who helps her navigate the foreign, dangerous terrain.

The hit new series has a wonderful score composed by Bear McCreary, a man whose name you may not recognize, who has had untold success composing for many popular shows, such as AMC’s The Walking Dead, ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Starz’s series Black Sails, and Da Vinci’s Demons, the latter of which he won an Emmy for.

Due to Outlander’s successful start, the series will have a first season consisting of sixteen episodes, and has already been renewed for a second season. It may be that HBO’s hit Game of Thrones could soon find a worthy competitor in Outlander for TV’s favorite fantasy drama.

Along with strong performances, lovely music, and an entrancing mystery, viewers will be entranced by the lush scenery, filmed on location in Scotland, firmly believing they too have been taken on a trip back in time, only this is a trip they will not wish to leave any time soon.

Posted in Crime, History

Two Spirits in Georgia

The city of Marietta has its own ghosts. It has been haunted by in particular, two souls that cast a long shadow over this state and leave a mark that has never been erased even a century after these two souls were stolen from the world all too soon. To know their story is to remember a dark side of Georgia’s history, one that is rooted in to the very land we now stand on.

In the spring of 1915, The murder of Mary Phagan hit the city of Atlanta and Mary’s hometown of Marietta like a ton of bricks or a plague. Police searched frantically for the culprit while the public’s grief turned to rage. When one final suspect remained, he was attacked from all sides, yet when the alleged killer was set free, this would be the catalyst for such a furious uproar that someone else would loose their life before the night was out and the history of the South would change for the worst. No one at the time could have guessed that the murder of thirteen-year-old girl would cause such a bloody stain over Georgia’s history, nor could anyone have predicted that the city’s search for revenge would shatter many lives and bring about the second coming of America’s most infamous terrorist group: The Ku Klux Klan.

At the turn of the century, Mary Phagan was born to a widowed mother with an already large and struggling family. Yet Mary was her mother’s special girl—a pretty young woman with reddish hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. Her relatives would go on to describe her as a warm and caring person with a “bubbly” personality.

Once she turned eleven though, Mary ceased to be a little girl and had to work like the rest of her siblings. She placed her education on hold to earn money for her tired family, as was normal at the time. The Phagan family had moved to the big city of Atlanta and here, unlike in the countryside where she had been born, it was not uncommon to see married women and children working in factories along with fully grown men. Mary obtained a job at the National Pencil Factory attaching metal on to the end of pencils for a measly paycheck in horrible work conditions where the floor was dirty, the hours were long, the rewards were few, and hazardous machinery made work painful for employees, especially unsuspecting young ones like Mary. Yet, despite the danger, Mary liked working. She liked feeling mature and helpful and, better yet, she liked talking to her fellow employees and made several friends there.

Life in the state capitol of Atlanta must have been exciting for a pubescent girl like Mary. Even though few residents owned cars in the years before the first World War, Atlanta was still a growing city that would have seemed foreign compared to working on a farm in the country. Not everyone had electricity, or gas, but the city was filled with people—people from all over the country, people from different corners of the world, of all ages and beliefs. A few months in the city would have opened Mary’s eyes to the world more than her previous years in the country. Horses were still a popular mode of transportation, but now they carried not only wagons but steam engines—the closest most Atlanta citizens would come to an automobile for the next several years. Here in the city milk was delivered to each family from a milkman and his wagon, instead of taken from the family cow. Over there a man sold ice to the overheated citizens. Vendors sold fruit and vegetables in the streets. A relatively new drink, Coca-Cola, was catching the public’s eye (and taste-buds). Perhaps after receiving her week’s pay, Mary might have taken a few sips of the popular soft drink as a reward for all of her hard work.

The busy city was the place where Mary enjoyed working, but her home life was a different story. Her mother, Frances (“Fannie”) married J.W. Coleman in the early months of 1912. The family moved to Coleman’s home in Marietta, which was a relatively small town at the time. With a stepfather to watch out for her, Mary didn’t have to keep working, but she decided to stick with her job since she enjoyed it (and her friendships with the other workers) so much.

However much she enjoyed work, Mary’s paycheck depended on the factory’s supplies and the limited availability of work to be done for such a low-level job as hers was. In April of the following year Mary faced several days worth of disappointment when no new metal was shipped to the factory, thus forcing her and other employees to be laid off for a few days until the new shipment came in. It was thought that she would pick up her check on Friday evening since the following day was a state holiday, Confederate Memorial Day (this was Atlanta in 1915 of course), but since the family did not own a telephone and did not know she was asked to come in a day early, Mary went to the factory that Saturday afternoon anyways.

The factory was nearly empty when she arrived, save for a few employees that darted in and out of the large, gloomy, and windowless building. Everyone was excited for the parade that would occur down the street: Mary even had plans to join the crowd once she had picked up her pay.

But Mary never saw the parade. She never even left the building. Instead her body was found at 3 am the following morning.

The night watchman, Newt Lee, found the thirteen-year-old’s body in the early hours of Sunday April 27th, 1915. At first he thought it was a pile of rags, or that one of his co-workers was playing a prank on him, but as he stepped closer Lee realized this was not a light-hearted prank. Mary’s body was covered in dust and lead, her hair lay sprawled around her head, her clothing was torn, and her skirt was hiked around her legs, leading to the belief that she was raped. Her little pink tongue stuck out of her mouth, a cord bit into the skin around her neck, and blood poured from a wound in the back of her head.

Lee immediately ran to the closest telephone and rang his boss to tell him what happened and found there was no answer, and then he phoned the police. The police arrived shortly after by horse (there were few cars to be found in Fulton County at the time), viewed the body, and immediately became suspicious of the watchman. Lee, it should be mentioned, was a black man in his fifties in the segregated and racist state of Georgia. It wasn’t long before the police decided to arrest their only suspect: Newt Lee.

Lee was questioned by the police and then beaten and then questioned again, but still Lee’s story remained the same: he was innocent. The police called in Lee’s boss, the factory superintendent, Leo Frank. Frank was a skinny man in his late twenties—police found he was twitchy and nervous when they visited his house that morning. Of course, anyone would be nervous and twitchy if a group of stone-faced policemen paid you a visit early in the morning to deliver the news that one of your workers was murdered. At first Frank couldn’t recall who Mary Phagan was until he saw her body, but then he realized that this was the young woman who had collected her paycheck the day before. He decided to cooperate with the investigation and followed the police back to their headquarters to answer more questions, at this point Lee was still the prime suspect.

Yet over the next few days Lee was found innocent and released, while other men were arrested under the suspicion of murder. As potential suspects were weeded out, two men stood out to police in particular: a black Janitor with a history of drunken and disorderly conduct, Jim Conley, and the superintendent himself, Leo Frank. The case was essentially solved when Conley confessed that Frank had murdered the girl and made him hide the body.

Suddenly the word spilled over the state of Georgia and suddenly several workers and former employees of the factory popped up to say that Frank was a dangerous man with a reputation for lechery, used to preying upon young female workers at the factory. But for as many witnesses that said Frank was a pervert, an equal amount of citizens were quick to defend him, ready to say that Frank was a kind and decent man without a blemish on his name. The only person that could convince the public—and later a jury—of Frank’s innocence or guilt was Conley, the supposed accomplice (or supposed killer).

Conley’s story changed several times when he talked to the police, but when he finally told the jury about the day of the murder that following summer, he told a vivid story that no one could ignore, a story that never changed, even after several hours of cross-examination. Conley claimed that Mary had visited Frank’s office—whether by choice or by force he could not say—just like several other young women had: for sexual purposes. The former janitor revealed that Frank had a history of inviting women to his office for sexual liaisons and that Conley was in charge of keeping lookout during these sessions. Mary Phagan was supposed to just be another notch in Frank’s belt of sexual conquests, until Conley heard a scream coming from the superintendent’s office. Conley raced to see what was wrong and found Mary crumbled in the corner with Frank standing frantic nearby.

According to Conley, Frank then claimed that she fell and hit her head, that it was an accident. Then Frank bribed Conley to write some notes (notes that were eventually found near the body). The notes were written to throw suspicion off of Frank and on to other black employees. These notes were made to look like Mary had written them herself; they use the n-word repeatedly while referring to a certain someone, as if the writer was hoping suspicion would fall upon the factory’s black workers (this was what helped get Newt Lee arrested after finding the body in the first place). Conley then proceeded to drop the body and the notes in the factory’s basement.

This story disgusted the jurors and the visitors of crowded courtroom. When Leo Frank took the stand in self-defense, the court seemed to have already made up their mind about him. Frank testified that he had given Mary Phagan her pay on that fateful day back in April and that she had left—never to be seen again. He denied any sexual involvement with the girl, much less involvement in her murder. Despite his genuine pleas, the jurors made up their minds and Frank was found guilty of murder.

Now here’s where the story gets tricky. Mary Phagan was a young white woman. Jim Conely was a black man from the South. Leo Frank was white, but he was Jewish, he was a northerner, and most of all: he was an outsider.  Frank’s defenders at the time and over the past several decades have claimed that Frank was not given a fair trial and that the jury was biased against him—not from any real evidence (most of the actual police evidence had mysteriously vanished before the trial, leaving only Conley’s and other character-related-testimonies) but that he was convicted because he was Jewish and that he was a scapegoat to an anti-semetic population.

Frank tried for several appeals, but lost them all. It wasn’t until Governor John M. Slaton reviewed the case, that Frank’s luck began to change. Slaton found enough reasons to change Frank’s death sentence to that of life imprisonment. The general public was furious. In their minds a convicted murderer was going unpunished. A fellow inmate tried to murder Frank in his sleep, but failed. A few days later a forceful mob would prove more successful.

A lynch mob abducted Frank during the night of August 16th, 1915. He was taken from his cell at the Milledgeville Prison Farm surprisingly easily. The twenty-eight men that made up his party of abductors and future murderers were not local riff-raff or violent criminals: many were politicians, former and current sheriffs, and community leaders—otherwise respectable men at the time. Yet these same “respectable gentlemen” were not above breeching the law as they scurried away in to the night with Frank held hostage in the backseat of a car.

The party road from Milledgeville to Marietta with little interference. Since only a few people had automobiles in that part of Georgia at the time, it’s surprising that this vigilante mob was able to find eight cars that could stand the journey with few stops for gas. This idea alone shows how the group had thought through their actions and planned carefully. It is very well possible that they brought gas with them or perhaps even received help from local citizens along the way. They had no difficulty at all the entire time.

The original plan was to hang Leo ‘ in Mary’s hometown of Marietta, but the sun rose earlier than they had anticipated, so the group quickly made plans to kill him as soon as possible. They stopped near the corner of Frey’s Gin and Roswell Road. Frank was continually asked during the ride if he had killed Mary Phagan, but Frank remained nearly silent, speaking only to deny his involvement in the murder of the Phagan girl two years prior. Though a few of the men felt sorry for him, it was much too late to turn back now.

A table was placed under a tree and a noose was tied to one of the branches. Frank was escorted to the tree without a struggle. His last words concerned his family and his wife, Lucille, and how he wanted someone to give his wedding ring to her after his death. Then the noose was placed around his neck and the table was kicked out from under him. Within minutes he was dead.


For years the whole story of Mary Phagan’s murder and Leo Frank’s subsequent trial and lynching has focused on the men involved. Yet, even a hundred years later, I can’t help but wonder how the silent women that were impacted by these events felt.

In every portrayal of this story, Mary Phagan is portrayed as a silent victim, a footnote in her own story. The grief of Mary’s mother and of the other females in Atlanta and Marietta is swept under the rug in favor of describing Leo Frank’s supposed innocence or guilt. Yet somehow one woman is not been completely ignored and the public’s interest in her has only grown over the years. The key figure in question is Lucille Selig, Leo Frank’s wife.

She has always been portrayed as the supportive and grieving wife that stood by her husband, completely convinced of his innocence. She is seen as a heroine of sorts. But think of modern parallels. Today wives of convicted murderers are looked down on and seen as foolish and blind women who can’t accept the obvious truth about their spouse even in the face of a conviction and evidence. Still, place yourself in Lucille’s shoes for a moment. How would you react if your loved one was accused of such a crime and found guilty? Would you believe the press and the courts over your love for your spouse? This is not an easy question with an easy answer, and this would have affected Lucille immensely. She never married again after Frank’s murder, perhaps out of loyalty to her dead husband, or maybe the whole ordeal left a sour taste in her mouth. Lucille decided to have her ashes buried–not next to her husband–but with the rest of her family in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta: the city that had so willingly convicted Frank.

Another woman impacted by the death of Mary Phagan and the subsequent death of Leo Frank, was Governor John Slaton’s wife Sarah Frances Grant, known by her friends as Sally. At first glance Sally’s life seems to be the complete opposite of Mary Phagan and Lucille Selig Frank’s lives. Dan Childs, who researched Sally’s life for Oakland Cemetery’s Capturing the Spirit event, described Sally as “attractive and charismatic.” Unlike Mary, Sally grew up in comfort. She was a member of the prestigious Grant family (for whom Grant Field at Georgia Tech is named after). She was born five years after the Civil War ended, so she would have grown up constantly hearing stories of the war, exaggerated legends of a era that had all but been destroyed. While these same stories would have been turned in to myths by the time Lucille and Mary were born, Sally would have been constantly aware of the damage the war inflicted upon the south, even decades after it ended. Still, her family retained their status and beautiful young Sally was happy.

Like Lucille, Sally married young, but also like Lucille, her first marriage was short lived and ended in tragedy. Sally’s first husband, the aristocratic young lawyer Thomas Cobb Jackson, was involved in a “financial scandal of some sort.” Dan Childs also found in his research that Jackson suffered from depression and that once the scandal broke, “he committed suicide.” This financial scandal can be explored further in Laurel-Ann Dooley’s 2014 book Wicked Atlanta: The Sordid Side of Peach City History, published by The History Press in Charleston, South Carolina. The death of her husband would have hurt Sally deeply, a pain Lucille would later share twenty-two years later when her own husband became involved in an even more shocking Atlanta scandal.

A few years later Sally married another Atlanta lawyer, John Slaton. The two remained happily married until her death early in 1945. Slaton would die ten years later. Yet, from 1913 onwards, their marriage was tested by the same challenge that had harmed so many other lives: the deaths of Mary Phagan and later Leo Frank.

1913 was an important year for the Slaton’s, as it was an important year for the whole of Atlanta. While spent most of the year focused on the murder of Mary Phagan and the subsequent trail of Leo Frank, 1913 was a good year for Sally. Her husband took office as governor that summer. Then one of her relatives was John W. Grant, became the benefactor of a stadium that was then currently being built at Georgia Tech. The stadium, now known as the Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field, was named after his son, Hugh Inman Grant back when it was originally known as Grant Field. The stadium was later renamed in the 80’s after the successful coach Bobby Dodd. Still, 1913 held more pleasant surprises for Sally. Even Polly Peachtree, a gossip columnist for the Atlanta Journal, complimented her that year, writing: “I frankly and freely confess myself her ardent admirer. Her beauty and wit will make the executive mansion during her husband’s administration the most brilliant state court in all these United States.” This high praise, in Dan Childs’ opinion, only goes to show Sally and her husband’s popularity.

Atlanta’s love for the Slaton’s did not last much longer. Two years later, John Slaton made the controversial decision to commute Leo Frank’s sentence from that of the death penalty to life imprisonment. The citizens of Marietta and Atlanta were appalled by this action. Not only did they hang Leo Frank, citizens nearly rioted, making life so dangerous for the Slaton’s’ that their house had to be protected by martial law and guarded constantly due to the threat of rioters storming the house. That summer Slaton’s term as governor had ended, now the former governor, once loved by the city of Atlanta, fled the state of Georgia with his wife in toe a mere week after the Frank incident. His career was effectively finished and their lives never quite recovered from the scandal. Sally stood by her husband the entire time, never wavering in her opinion that Slaton’s decision was the right one.

Both Sally and Lucille left Georgia for several years, but once the entire ordeal died down, both returned to Atlanta. Lucille went on to work at a clothing store downtown. Even years after her husband’s death, Dan Childs found that, “she wore a name badge at work that identified her as ‘Mrs. Leo Frank.’”

In one final coincidence, John Slaton, Sally, and Lucille are all buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Even now, fifty years after Slaton’s death and a full century after Frank’s lynching, Sally and Lucille are still linked together in both life and death.

Atlanta historians’ interest in these two women has only grown these past hundred years, especially considering the way their lives mirror one another before finally being laid to rest in the same location. Oakland Cemetery commemorated these two women in the previous month during the Capturing the Spirit tours. The Capturing the Spirit tours occur every year at Oakland around Halloween. During this event tour guides take visitors on a walk around the cemetery. Each year a handful of people buried in the cemetery are selected to be portrayed during the tour. Workers and volunteers at the cemetery research the lives of those chosen. Then during the tour actors and actress stand in front of the deceased’s graves and portray their chosen spirit as they have come back from the grave to tell tourists their tale. Actors deliver a speech for five and a half minutes, introducing visitors to their life story, all while dressed in period appropriate costumes. This October Lucille Selig Frank and Sarah Grant Slaton were chosen to be “resurrected,” most likely due to the fact that this year was the hundredth anniversary of Frank’s death.

The two actresses portraying Lucille and Sally read off of a script written by a professional scriptwriter. While this writer was difficult to track down, Oakland was more than happy to give credit to a fellow volunteer, Dan Childs.

Dan Childs wrote the script for the Leo Frank tour given by Oakland several times a year. His research is what helped bring Lucille and Sally back to life, so to speak, during this year’s Capturing the Spirit tours.

Sally’s husband, the former Governor John M. Slaton, was “resurrected” in the previous years, which stirred Atlanta historians’ interests. While Leo Frank is not buried in Oakland Cemetery, his wife Lucille’s grave is a poignant reminder of the ordeal that shocked Atlanta a century ago. Mary Phagan is buried at the Marietta City Cemetery, a special black information marker tells her story in words, but her spirit remains silent.

 

Posted in History

“Two Floors of History”

Docents, actors, and other volunteers pain-stakingly re-create historic homes in Roswell.


Sunlight falls over the staircase and blankets the many cats and dogs that have curled up on the edge of each step to bask in the warmth. The rustle of skirts can be heard. The smell of roasted ham from the Smoke House creeps into the home through the open windows. The cook, a hungry slave, hums to herself as she enters the house through the back door to set dinner on the table for the family that dresses themselves upstairs. Large windows on the front of the house are being opened. These windows reach all the way down to the floor and contain three separate panes that can be opened or closed to become a small slot for food to be passed through by the slaves, a simple window, or, when pulled up to its full height, a large enough opening that could be counted as another door. If a party were to occur the window would be opened all the way so that guests could come and go as they pleased in and out of the house without having to cluster at the front door. There is the possibility that the neighbors across the street at the Bulloch family home might come to visit after dinner, a prospect that excites the only daughter Eva, who has been best friends with Mittie Bulloch for years. The King clan and the Bulloch family are two of the founding families of this mill-based city named Roswell. In the years before the Civil War the city is peaceful. The King family at Barrington Hall has their mill while the Bulloch’s have their gardens. They expect life to remain the same way for years to come.

The year is now 2014. Their houses remain in Roswell, but the old families have long since passed away. Barrington Hall has since become noticed for sharing the same name as the old fashioned coffee brand, a brand which took its name from the house. Bulloch Hall is now remembered for housing Martha Bulloch Roosevelt who would give birth to Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.—the 26th President of the United States. Her family called her Mittie and the nickname has stuck throughout the years. Today at the historic homes of Roswell she is once again referred to as Mittie.

As I stand on the staircase inside Barrington Hall my fantasies of sleeping pets, rustling skirts, roasted ham, and the hope of distinguished visitors disappears. Today the distinguished visitors are not the offspring of Roswell’s finest families. There are no Southern Belles here, nor are there any handsome young gentlemen who have come to discuss politics and have a smoke with the master of the house. Instead there are only four of us: a docent, two tourists, and myself. The two other tourists, women in their sixties and seventies, comment on the house’s furniture and compare them to their own family heirlooms. They can remember being told stories of the opulence and the noble souls that once lived here, but the place is foreign to me. My generation has grown up with i-phones and laptops. These other women standing with me used typewriters. This house was the home to people who never would have imagined such things.

I eye the back staircase slaves would have used and feel a twang of remorse. As someone who has grown up in the post-Roots and Civil Rights era, I cannot picture the simple lifestyles of the rich family that once lived here without thinking of the disturbing cost of such leisure. The back stairs for slaves merges with the family’s staircase. Here slaves and the privileged King family members might have walked side by side: this is the only place in the house where this could be possible.

The docent mentions this to our little group of four. We stop to ponder this while the sunlight streams in from the large window up above us. The slave cabins are long gone having been replaced by a parking lot for visitors. This staircase is one of the few reminders left of the slaves that walked these same halls nearly two hundred years ago.

The docent is a woman in her sixties. Her hair may be auburn colored, but I am sure that this is the work of a dye routinely scrubbed into her hair every few months. Today people do not want to be reminded that they are old. For the King family that once owned this house, living to be sixty was a privilege many did not have. Every wrinkle and scar was worn as a proud reminder of how the house had stood through the Civil War, even when their mill had been burned, even though Union soldiers had occupied the house, and neighbors had stolen many pieces of furniture. These imperfections proudly stated: we were here and we survived. Today we cover our wrinkles, scars, and blemishes with make-up and lotion.

The South’s prickly history has since become an awkward subject for Americans, especially those of us in the South who cannot trace themselves back to founding families and disapprove of slavery whole heartedly. My ancestors were poor farmers. The only way a member of the Hohn family could enter a house like this would be as tourists a hundred years since the original family died. The other women in my tour group do not seem to share this same problem, coming from several generations of Southerners who could trace their family trees back several generations, who kept old family heirlooms in storage, and visited homes like this to become in touch with their roots. I am only a guest.

The docent is no exception to this. “My mother collected antiques,” she tells me. She can remember joining her mother to hunt down traces of a desk, a hat, or a frame as a child. These experiences in her childhood inspired her love of history. Her mother, now in her eighties, still enjoys searching for and collecting antiques. It is a nice tradition for mother and daughter to continue after several decades. Her interest in antiques influences what she says in our tour. She points out the history of several pieces of furniture, excited to explain how this desk actually belonged to this person and how this quilt made of many different scraps of fabric was a present for that member of the house. “Oh,” she exclaims, walking over to the large wooden wardrobe that sits on the second level of the house. “This is my favorite part of the house.” She runs her fingers along the wood. She explains that this wardrobe was built inside the house, and since it is too big to fit through any door in Barrington, this wardrobe sits on the exact same spot where it was built over a hundred and fifty years ago. She then informs us about the history of other pieces of furniture in the house.

I have been on this tour before. My earlier docent had focused on the various people that had lived here, while today’s docent uses her own background of gathering antiques to praise the furniture. A lot of the furniture in Barrington today is the same furniture the original King family would have used, but some pieces or recreations or period-accurate pieces that had belonged to someone else before being tracked down by antique-lovers.

The layout of historical houses like Barrington is painstakingly re-created time and time again by the few members of staff each house has. A few years ago one volunteer at Barrington was able to track down the actual bed one resident slept in and the matching dresser through the magic of E-bay! I should explain that this would have been an extremely difficult task since much of the furniture in both houses was spread out across the south in storage units, relative’s basements, and museums. This one volunteer was able to find the exact bed and dresser through a lot of hard work and dedication after reading countless family letters that detailed the appearance of these pieces of furniture.

A large part of researching these historic homes and their families comes from reading family letters, journals, and any form of writing that has been preserved after all these years.

One worker, Gwen Koehler, the education coordinator at Bulloch Hall across the street, recently discovered several Bulloch family letters in a museum up in Washington D.C. Since then Koehler and a friend are currently compiling these letters to publish in a book. These letters are especially interesting because they contain correspondence between Mittie Bulloch and her son Theodore Roosevelt, the former President of the United States.

While Barrington Hall covers several generations of family members that have inherited the house, Bulloch Hall is all about Mittie, her ties to the Roosevelt’s, and her parents that had at one point disapproved of the marriage. Every year in December people flock to Bulloch Hall to re-create the wedding between founding family members Stephen and Martha Bulloch (Mittie’s parents). This is one of several important historical events that are re-enacted at Roswell’s historic homes.

The re-enactment of the wedding is noticeable because it does not only feature actors in costumes: the docents and other volunteers have to dress up too. The attention at this event is directed towards the actors playing the bride and groom, but I doubt their costumes are much more comfortable. Volunteers that play the spectators are handed whatever is available or left over. The dresses look tight and very tiny on modern day women. The women of the Bulloch and King families, like many southern women, were very short, so an average sized woman today would not enjoy being stuffed into these old-fashioned clothes for historical re-enactment events. At the time of the actual wedding between Stephan and Martha, women wore an astonishing number of fourteen petticoats (no wonder a fainting couch was kept on stand-by downstairs: women would simply collapse from the heat). Luckily, the re-enactors today do not have to wear all fourteen petticoats, and they get to enjoy modern air conditioning, but I imagine that wearing these costumes is no picnic for anyone. Yet every year the wedding is preformed nearly word-for-word to re-enact the wedding as accurately as possible because Bulloch Hall’s history is that important to the people of Roswell.

In the summer there are some more historical reenactment events. The most popular one occurs at Barrington Hall. Here people reenact the time when Union soldiers invaded the house in the summer of 1864, where they stayed for two weeks while rebuilding the Roswell Bridge, which Confederates had burned to slow the Union forces’ march through the south. A good amount of men volunteer to re-enact this scene during the summer, not for the pay or acclaim, but for their respect for the town’s history.

I should also mention that everyone that works at these historic homes is a volunteer who typically receives very little money for this, if any at all. Volunteers come here after finishing their busy shifts at their actual, professional jobs, to give tours to whoever straggles in from the streets due to their love of history.

That phrase summarizes the feeling of every worker at these historic homes: they love this history. Each hour spent in the heat wearing thick, uncomfortable costumes, each hour spent on their feet while giving tours of the houses, each hour spent reading page after page of family letters—all are done for each persons’ absolute love of Roswell’s history and their dedication to preserving it in the public’s memory.

As I leave Barrington Hall the fluttering ghosts of the house’s history once again strike me. I look at the dining room and think of the little slave girl one docent had told me would fall asleep while fanning the King family during dinner. I pass the formal visiting parlor that where President Theodore Roosevelt had sat while visiting one of his mother’s oldest friends, Eva King Baker. Over a decade later a reporter named Margaret Mitchell interviewed Eva in the same exact spot, asking about her experience as a bridesmaid at Mittie Bulloch’s wedding. I wonder if the stories of Eva, Mittie, and other Roswell families inspired Mitchell when she wrote the famous heroine Scarlett O’Hara in her wildly popular novel Gone with the Wind a few years after the interview took place. I notice that someone had carved into the windowpane near the front door. Dupart believes a child of the house had tried to write their name there, only to be punished. Over a hundred years later the words carved in the glass are impossible to read, but still potent. As I walk down the front porch steps, I imagine the ghosts of charming Southern Belles giggling behind gloved hands, slaves humming a tune while thinking of abolitionists’ promises of freedom, and Union soldiers camped out on the lawn, waiting for the war to end. Behind me the docents prepare themselves for another tour.


Works Cited

“Barrington Drive.” City Data, n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2014. <http://www.city-data.com/fulton-county/B/Barrington-Drive-1.html>

“Barrington Hall: Family Biographies.” Roswell Gov. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <https://www.rosw-ellgov.com/index.aspx?NID=406>

“Bulloch Hall: Family Biographies.” Roswell Gov. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <https://www.roswell-gov.com/index.aspx?NID=426&gt;

“Catherine Evelyn King Baker.” Roswell Gov. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <https://www.roswellgov-.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/733>

“History of Barrington Hall.” Roswell Gov. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <https://www.roswellgov.com/-DocumentCenter/Home/View/724&gt;

“Our History: History of Bulloch Hall” Roswell Gov. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. <https://www.ros-wellgov.com/index.aspx?NID=429 >

Posted in Literature

“June Cleaver Loses the Apron”

Women, for many decades, had assigned roles in literature with authors following the rules of society that tell them how to portray females in their plays and other art forms. Women in literature were maidens or sirens, wives or prostitutes, and most heroines had to be pure, innocent, and virginal.

As the literary form known as the novel came into being, women started to be portrayed a little bit differently than before. One of the writers who took advantage of this was Eliza Haywood, whose short story Fantomina: Love in a Maze, helped break the rules of how women were portrayed in fiction by making its heroine a sexually curious young woman who desires a man sexually, a role only men had played previously in novels.

Several hundred years later, Edward Albee captured the changing gender roles in America after the Women’s Rights Movement and both World Wars, in a time that was beginning to push for social changes with the Civil Rights Movement and the First wave of Feminism. The cultivation of these ideas comes out in his most famous play: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? where he challenges the typical stereotype of gender roles in a marriage. Both authors challenge the typical roles of women in literature by portraying their main female character as being the opposite of society’s expectations of what a woman should be, despite the fact that the time periods each author wrote in had a very different climate concerning the rights of women and the topics of sexuality and marriage.

Fantomina and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf center on two very different women, both of who are the exact opposite of society’s expectations for the role that they, as women, must play. They differ in how each author portrays these women and the time period each author wrote them in.

The unnamed heroine in Fantomina is filled with sexual desire for Beauplaisir, a man she disguises herself for to keep herself interesting for sexually. The heroine, whom for simplicity’s sake will be called Fantomina, was written in a time when women had very few rights and were basically property of their husbands or fathers. Fantomina disregards social roles of the time when she thinks: “Men…have no cause to scorn our easy weeping, wailing sex!” (Haywood 2754) Fantomina defies both of these rules by having no father mentioned, and no husband to speak of, and is instead subservient to her mother, Beauplaisir, and her own sexual desires. Despite this, she still believes she is in control of her own situation by doing “beyond what almost any woman but herself ever did” (Haywood 2745). Her new-found power in her sexuality makes her desire freedom as she never has before. She does not understand women’s desire to “make their life a hell, burning in fruitless expectations, and dreaming out their ways in hopes and fears, then wake at last to all the horror of despair” (Haywood 2751). Though eventually she tires of her taste of sexual freedom, having bitten off more than she can chew, by becoming bored with Beauplaisir: “she began to grow as weary of receiving his now insipid caresses as he was of offering them” (Haywood 2756). Even though she is, in the end, submissive to her mother’s control, Fantomina is the exact opposite of what society tells her to be by acting on her sexual urges and fulfilling her desires in a time when women were meant to be virgins before marriage.

Martha, the main female character of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf may be as lusty as Fantomina is, but besides their lusty dispositions, the two heroines are extremely different. Martha does not take no for an answer. She is loud and crude, while Fantomina is innocent and naïve. Martha is a middle-aged wife, while Fantomina is merely a young woman. Fantomina nearly worships her lover, Martha, on the other hand, calls her husband a “FLOP! A great big fat flop!” (Albee 84). When Albee was writing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, the idea woman was represented in the T.V. sitcom “Leave it to Beaver” character June Cleaver: she was the perfect wife, always in the kitchen, obedient, loving, and motherly. Martha is none of the above. Martha is abusive to her husband, she does not take orders, she is cruel to George, and she is childless, and the only time she steps foot in the kitchen is to pour herself another drink. George, her husband, even remarks on how Martha is constantly “ridiculing [him], tearing [him] down” (Albee 91). Martha even punches George during a humiliating boxing match, which counts as physical abuse, even if she does it as a jest. She threatens her husband when he tries to stand up to her: “I’ll make you sorry you made me want to marry you…I’ll make you regret the day you ever decided to come to this college. I’ll make you sorry you ever let yourself down” (Albee 173). Martha defies nearly every aspect of what the fifties’ and sixties’ society thought women should be.

Haywood wrote Fantomina centuries before Edward Albee was even born, long before the idea of women’s rights came into formation. This shows in her writing and plotting at the end of the story where Fantomina is forced to redeem herself after “sinning” and “degrading herself” with her lover by becoming a nun. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? does not have a tacked-on ending and Martha never attempts to redeem herself for her actions, nor is she forced to by society. Albee wrote the character of Martha during a time when American societal and gender norms were beginning to be challenged. The Women’s Rights Movement had happened fifty years earlier, and the Feminist Movement was about to take place. Men had left for war only to return home to find that their wives had taken their place at the head of the household, becoming the breadwinner by themselves. Martha challenges the typical role of females in entertainment at the time by representing the male fear of what this “new, independent” woman could be: pushy, rude, and mean. Both writers use their heroines to challenge social norms, but for Haywood her story of Fantomina comes off as a cautionary tale of girls who give in to their sexual desires, while Albee directly challenges American society’s rules through the character of Martha.

Despite the differences between the two main characters and the time period both stories were written in, Albee’s play and Haywood’s story both feature two strong women who, perhaps unconsciously, attempt to defy stereotypical roles of women at the time their story is set. Fantomina does not succeed in her quest for lust and independence, as few women did at that time, while Martha, though she is independent, ends the play in tears, having been broken down—not by society as Fantomina was—but by her own treacherous womb, unable to conceive. Martha’s independent nature and her abusive behavior is shown to be a façade, something for her to hide behind so that she can forget about the pain she feels inside. Both characters were born too early; their personalities are those of twenty-first century women: free, independent, and able to do what they want when they want to. Neither fully succeeds in obtaining the freedom they want because someone or something inside of them pulls them back to their harsh, unfeeling reality. Society and its beliefs is a chain around their necks, pulling them back into the dark waters of obedience and silence and while Fantomina drowns in the watery grave society has made for her, others, like Martha, keep swimming, reaching for the light and the freedom that awaits for them above. These two characters, and others like them, have helped, in one way or another, pave the way for stronger, more iconic female characters to appear on the literary scene. By defying society’s rules of how a woman should be written, Haywood and Albee have, whether they meant to or not, shown that women in literature should not be simply labeled as Virgin Mary’s or Mary Magdalene’s, June Cleaver’s or terrible shrews—women in literature, like in life, can be as diverse as men are and should be.


Works Cited

Albee, Edward. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Signet, New York. 1983. Print.

Haywood, Eliza. Fantomina: Or, Love in a Maze. New York. Print.

Posted in Television

“Westworld Pilot Review”

Note: Originally written in the fall of 2016

HBO’s new series raises profound and unsettling questions about humanity.

The pilot episode of HBO’s new series Westworld starts off with the spoken words: “Bring her back online.”

The first image is of a naked woman (Rachel Evan Wood) who sits limply in a chair, hidden by shadows. This is Dolores. She is perfectly still. Frozen. A fly crawls over her blank and glassy eyes.

This is not a human. This is an android.

“Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” an omnipresent voice off-screen asks.

We cut to Dolores lying in bed, slowly awakening as she narrates about how she chooses to see the beauty in the world. She follows her usual routine: she gets up, dresses, greets her father, then quickly stops by the nearby town where she runs in to Teddy (James Marsden), her secret lover. They hug, kiss, and ride off in to the sunset until their romantic interlude is disturbed by the sound of a gunshot. When she arrives home, Dolores is horrified to find that her parents have been murdered at the hands of a wanted fugitive. Another shot rings out and this time fugitive falls to the ground, dead. A lone gunman dressed in black approaches Dolores, but he is not her hero. This mysterious man, known as The Man in Black (played by a menacing Ed Harris) slaps Dolores across the face. They’ve met many times before, but she can’t seem to remember him. When Teddy tries to stop the familiar stranger from presumably raping his lover, the young man finds that the gunman is impervious to bullets. The Man in Black chuckles and taunts the two. “I want you to fight,” he says. Teddy tries once again to kill the dangerous man, but can’t. He is not the golden hero riding to the rescue. Instead he is quickly shot and falls to the ground, his last moments spent listening to Dolores’s painful screams.

And then we see Dolores lying in bed once more. Another day is dawning. No, it’s the exact same day as before, playing out in the exact same order beat for beat. You see, Dolores’s world is a simulation and she is merely a tourist attraction.

Westworld is the name of a park where visitors (or “guests” as they are called), can visit and interact with androids posing as characters from the Wild West. Dolores is just another android “host,” catered to the whims of the “guests” who use and often abuse her, especially Ed Harris, another “guest” who takes “the game” (as he calls it) way too seriously.

For many years the simulation has gone off without a hitch. Until now, of course.

Several hundred “hosts” have been re-coded, which causes them to have new, nearly human-like movements. Soon the androids will become more and more lifelike, more than their creators and programmers could ever imagine. You see, there is a bug in their system, represented onscreen by the presence of a literal bug: a fly.

We are introduced to the staff of Westworld. There’s the programmer Bernard Lowe, Theresa Cullen, the operation’s leader that frequently clashes with Lowe, the English writer, Lee Sizemore, and the park’s director, Dr. Robert Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins). Ford used to be an artistic genius, but now he has fallen victim to his own creations. His beautiful androids are slowly turning in to a robotic form of Frankenstein’s Monster.

Ford reminds me of Jurassic Park’s John Hammond and that comes as no surprise given the fact that Michael Crichton, who wrote the script and novel Jurassic Park, also directed the film that Westworld is based off of. The original film, also named Westworld was released in 1973 and starred Yul Brynner as the Gunslinger, who is reimagined as Ed Harris’s character in the HBO series.

The pilot episode to HBO’s Westworld perfectly sets up both worlds—the real one and the fake on. Yet the androids seem much more life-like and are certainly more engaging to follow than the programmers and park employees.

The gorgeous cinematography is matched with brutal violence. One scene in particular stands out: there is a gunfight at a saloon with various characters cruelly riddled with bullets as a haunting instrumental version of The Rolling Stone’s “Paint it Black” plays in the background. Actors portraying the androids brilliantly capture the stunted movement and far away look of characters that aren’t quite human, while also making these inhuman characters sympathetic and likeable, despite the fact that they are indeed androids that do not truly feel any emotions. Or do they?

While watching the pilot, I couldn’t help but be reminded of popular first-person shooter games, which have drawn controversy. Westworld replaces video game characters with androids and somehow manages to draw an emotional response from the audience more than any video game ever could. Westworld makes us question what it means to be human, our treatment of others and even every-day objects, and our own ideas of humanity.

The series is off to an excellent start with this pilot and I for one cannot wait to watch the entire season in full. Perhaps this will be a worthy successor to HBO’s mega-hit Game of Thrones, which is slowly entering the homestretch. Westworld is an expertly crafted piece of television that will quickly draw viewers in to an uncomfortable world where fiction and reality start to cross in disturbing ways.

Posted in History

The Most Dangerous Decade

Last year was…a memorable one. When the world rang in the New Year, social media was bursting with memes declaring 2016 to be the worst year ever, with many fearing this year would be even worse.

Before you click the back button, know that this article is not about politics in that I am not saying one political party is better than another, nor am I saying that 2017 heralds the end of the world.

No. I am here to tell you that it’s all right, that this is not the end of the world. I say this because the seventies were way worse.

Ah, the seventies, a time when music was great, movies were daring, and…America didn’t quite know with to do with itself. The nation was divided: parents and children argued, the old were pitted against the young, liberals waged political war against conservatives, and the Beatles were coming to an end. While the seeds of this conflict were planted in the sixties, they came into full bloom in the seventies.

Still, this picture of the seventies that we remember today came into fruition in the previous year of 1969. If the sixties were a time of marching and protesting, from ’69 onward marching and peaceful protesting turned to rioting and violence.

A Decade of Rage

There were over six separate major incidences of terrorism that year alone: from the bombing and attempted bombing of two different California colleges in February to Sam Melville’s bombing of the Marine Midland Building in New York City that August.

The fall of 69 saw a sharp rise in terrorist activity. Jane Alpert, Sam Melville’s lover, bombed the Federal Building in New York City a month after Melville. Alpert was also responsible for bombing the Armed Forces Induction Center, also in New York. With October came the “Days of Rage,” where 800 protestors hoped to “bring the [Vietnam] war home,” hoping to start a new war from the Chicago streets. While these three days of rioting did contain much of the advertised rage, it did not start a war, but instead resulted in mass arrests, many injuries, businesses looted, car windows smashed, and started a new wave of violent protests.

In November, Alpert and Melville finished off their busy year detonating a bomb in the Manhattan Criminal Court, leading to their arrest.

While Melville was placed in prison, the Weathermen Underground was born.

The Weathermen and other domestic terrorist organizations burst on to the scene, quite literally, when Weathermen member Cathy Wilkerson’s’ townhouse in Greenwich Village prematurely detonated, setting the townhouse aflame and killing three people. The Weathermen soon declared war in retaliation for the death of Black Panther Fred Hampton, who was killed during an FBI raid in December of 1969.

In June of 1970, the Weathermen, now known as the Weathermen Underground Organization (WUO), took responsibility for the bombing of the New York City Police Department headquarters. The group would go on to attack the United States Capital, the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh, and on May 19, 1972 the WUO even bombed the Pentagon.

The WUO might be the most well-known terror group of the time, but they were not the only ones involved in terrorist attacks. The Jewish Defense League were involved in bombings in New York and D.C. The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patricia Hearst, robbed many banks, was responsible for several deaths, and was behind many more crimes. Puerto Rican terrorist organization, the FALN, were behind the deadly bombing of the Fraunces Tavern in New York City, killing over fifty people. LaGuardia Airport in New York was bombed, killing eleven people and injuring nearly seven times as many, with the perpetrator unknown to this day. This was just the tip of the ice burg.

There were so many domestic terrorist attacks that they became common place, something, which seems unthinkable today.

These attacks only added to the political instability that shook the early seventies, which climaxed with the Watergate Scandal.

Crime wave

From the late 60’s up until the 80’s, America also experienced a crime wave with an emphasis placed on dangerous cults and that new breed of predators: the serial killer.

The summer of ’69 marked a string of murders by the Manson Family. While much has been made of the murder of actress Sharon Tate and several others at her house in Cielo Drive, the Manson Family also killed Leno and Rosemary La Bianca, violin teacher Gary Hinman, and even stuntman-turned-ranch hand, Donald Shea, when he grew suspicious of the group. The Manson Family was behind several more attempted murders, including the attempted murder of several of their own members who started to doubt Manson and his followers. This was not the end of the Manson family’s crime spree, devoted member Lynette Fromme, known by the moniker of “Squeaky,” attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford in September of 1975. Interestingly enough, later that same month Sara Jane Moore would attempt to kill the president before being stopped by the secret service. As for the Manson Family, the group slowly disbanded, but everyone involved never forgot the murders of 1969.

The seventies ended with another killer cult on the news, this time it was the mass suicide of members of the Peoples Temple at Jonestown and the murder of five people, including a congressman, at the Port Kaituma airstrip, which preceded the mass suicides.

As shocking as these events were, one was still more likely to meet their end at the hands of the many killers that now roamed the streets.

California’s Zodiac Killer is believed to have claimed the lives of over twenty people, perhaps as high as thirty-seven, the Zodiac killer murdered several young couples, is alleged to have abducted a woman and her infant before the mother and child escaped, and all the while taunted law enforcement with letters and codes, before slipping away into the night, never definitively identified.

Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy left a trail of bodies behind him from 1974 to 1978, murdering over thirty women. John Wayne Gacy killed his first victim in 1972, killing and assaulting well over thirty people for six years, many of his victims were young boys. Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK killer due to binding, torturing, and killing his victims, murdered the Otero family in 1974.

There are many theories for what could have caused this sudden spike in crime with many attributing it to broken homes and single mothers to lead poisoning, but whatever the cause was did little to comfort the many victims’ families and friends who were left behind.

A Recap

When you consider the alarming wave of left-wing domestic terrorism and brutal murders in the seventies, it is hardly surprising that the following decade would be a return to conservative values under the Regan administration.

While the seventies produced a lot of great music and ground-breaking movies, its political instability, the prevalence of domestic terrorism, and the troubling rise in crime all together make the seventies perhaps America’s most dangerous decade.


Recommended viewing and reading:

For more on the Weather Underground and 1969’s Days of Rage:

You can view Vanity Fair Confidential’s episode on these events here at Investigation Discovery. You can also read the original Vanity Fair articles by Bryan Burrough and the subsequent book he wrote on the events.

Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence. By: Bryan Burrough.

For more on the Manson Family Murders:

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Family Murders. By: Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry.

There are also plenty of documentaries and television mini-series you can watch on the topic, plus countless of biographies and memoirs of those involved. Bugliosi’s book is the best place to start and is the definitive account of these events, perhaps even more reliable than the accounts given by the killers themselves.

For more on the Zodiac Murders:

Zodiac: The Full Story of the Infamous Unsolved Zodiac Murders in California. By: Robert Graysmith.

I also highly recommend watching David Fincher’s brilliant dramatization simply titled Zodiac.

For more on Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army:

I highly recommend you read Jeffrey Tobin’s recent book, American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst.

Posted in Film

My Favorite Films of 2016

This past year was filled with many great and also disappointing films. Instead of merely focusing on the negative, I have decided to praise some of my personal favorite films of the past year.

If a film you enjoyed is not on here, it’s probably because I haven’t seen it yet.

These are some buzz-worthy films I have yet to see:

  • Moonlight
  • Rouge One
  • Fences
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Jackie

Now for some of my personal favorite films of 2016:

7. Zootopia

When this movie was released I had no idea it was coming out, so this was a pleasant surprise. It actually beat out Moana as my favorite animated film of the year, which I was not expecting. The film contains several powerful messages, which everyone of all ages should consider. Though the film is a bit on the nose at times (or should I say…on the snout?), its lessons are both timely and timeless. I’m also very pleased with how the film was able to build a very believable and well thought-out world (or city) for a film that doesn’t even clock in at ninety minutes. Judy Hopps is a great role model for children, more than recent and popular Disney characters like Anna and Elsa.

6. Anthropoid

A horror movie of a different sort, Anthropoid tells the story of two Czech resistance fighters’ attempt to assassinate a leading member of the Nazi Party in the middle of WW2. This film was largely ignored upon release here in the states and it’s a shame that this film has flown under so many people’s radars. It just might be that people are starting to get tired of only seeing historical movies about WW2 or viewers are tiring of listening to clearly British actors attempt to sound vaguely “European,” but this film definitely deserves a larger audience. While the first act of the film is rather slow, Anthropoid has at least three incredibly effective and suspenseful scenes: the first is the assassination attempt, another involves a surprise visit and a cyanide capsule, and the third makes up the film’s brutal final act. History buffs need to check this movie out, it is well worth the time.

5. The Witch

I’ve seen many horror movies and few of them legitimately scare me. This film is a terrifying exception. From the first few frames until the last few seconds of the ending credits, I was on edge and as the film crawled towards the climax, I was constantly in this state of dismay and dread. Some of the images in this movie will make you sick without being gratuitous. As a film lover, there’s much to love about The Witch. The music, especially the score in the film’s final moments, made my skin crawl. If you’ve seen the ending of this film, you know which song I’m talking about. The characters were fascinating and expertly played. I was also impressed at how good the younger actors were while having to speak in an old fashioned New England dialect which does not come easy to most people, much less child actors. This film also has the best and most unsettling performance by an animal in any horror movie. Also from a historical standpoint, the script is composed of actual text written during the 17th century, adding an uncomfortable level of accuracy and believability to a film that is also disquietingly realistic (minus the whole talking goat and evil witch thing.) After two decades of predictable horror movies, The Witch and last year’s It Follows are hopefully just the start of a new wave of good horror movies.

4. Green Room

There were a lot of great thrillers this year, especially ones that flew under the public radar. In fact, I had a difficult time choosing between The Witch, Don’t Breathe, and my number four pick Green Room as my favorite thriller of the year. In all honesty, the only reasons Green Room isn’t higher on my list is that I feel the first twenty minutes of the film are rather slow and the characters are rather one note. Ignoring that, this is an excellent film that didn’t get nearly enough attention as it deserved when it was first released! The film is notable for being the last film of Anton Yelchin’s career before his untimely death in a freak accident, and though he does give a stellar performance, the film is much more memorable even if one ignores Yelchin’s passing. Once you past the rather meandering first twenty minutes of the movie, the film suddenly kicks in to gear and constantly has you on the hook. Who knew Patrick Stewart could be so creepy while doing so little? In fact, everyone in this film turned in solid performances and this is just more proof that Imogen Poots is one of the most underrated young actresses in recent memory.

3. Don’t Breathe

Another unexpectedly effective thriller that borders on horror movie, Don’t Breathe is easily one of the most suspenseful movies of 2016. It also boasts one of the most memorable and fascinating villains/anti-heroes of the year. In fact, the two main characters are really intriguing, as is the concept of the film itself. The script flips your expectations and makes you wonder who is in the right and who is in the wrong. I don’t want to give too much away because the film is best seen with fresh eyes, unspoiled by trailers, but I will say that this gem flips the home invasion subgenre on its head. It will leave you, quite like the characters, breathless.

2. La La Land

I had a difficult time deciding between my number 1 and number 2 spots since I love both films to pieces. The only reason La La Land isn’t number 1 on this list is because the film is a study of style versus substance. Still, I love this movie. La La Land is a tribute and throwback to old Hollywood musicals, the kind that would feature Gene Kelly or Judy Garland. Though the songs are rather hit and miss—the soundtrack is not for everyone and our two leads aren’t terribly good singers—but what the film lacks in memorable lyrics, it more than makes up for with its score and choreography. Damien Chazelle is certainly a force to be reckoned with after directing this film and my favorite film of 2015, Whiplash. He has a command on cinematic pacing and language that few directors of his age group have in this day and age. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us in his next film.

Before I unveil my favorite film of 2016, here are some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:

  • The Girl on the Train
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • The Neon Demon

And my favorite film of 2016 is:

1. Silence

This long awaited drama from Martin Scorsese is well worth the wait. The film is nearly three hours long and has a rather slow pace, while peppered with scenes of truly disturbing violence, this film is not for everyone, in fact it will test the audience’s endurance as much as the characters’. Yet, if you can sit through the film, you will find that it is a deeply rewarding film that engages viewers in a complex moral and ethical argument: Would you sacrifice everything that you love to save someone else? I’ve noticed that many people online have had a difficult time understanding the main characters’ actions. Since the protagonists are Jesuit priests on a mission in Japan, where Christianity is forbidden on the threat of death, many viewers don’t understand why the two priests are so conflicted over the film’s moral dilemma. As someone who was raised in a semi-religious household, the film’s themes of faith struck a cord with me in ways most religious films don’t. If you’re a Christian and want to see a film that challenges you and causes you to truly think about you religion, watch Silence instead of the recent forgettable Pure Flix films. Silence a brutal and trying film, but one that is worth the effort and your patience. The best way to view the film is to ask yourself if you would spit on everything you ever loved in the hopes of helping others. Would you settle for a lifetime of misery if it saved someone else? Finally: is it better to die for what you believe in or to live believing in nothing at all?

Posted in History, Other, True Crime

Should Juvenile Offenders Be Tried As Adults?

Upsetting and somewhat graphic content to follow!

In the past century there has been an ongoing debate on how to punish children found guilty of serious crimes, such as murder. While many children are tried in court as adults and given harsh sentences befitting the crime, other children tried as juveniles are sent to juvenile prisons where their sentences are much shorter and they are released back in to society around the age of eighteen. This differential treatment for some of the same crimes has stirred much debate and even outrage.

I believe that even children should be held accountable for their actions, especially when it comes to serious crimes such as murder. Even though an article by Duaa Eldeib from the Chicago Tribune detailed how several studies have found that children’s brains are not as fully developed as an adult’s (Eldeib), many older children are more than old enough to know that murder is wrong morally and legally, along with other serious crimes such as sexual assault. These older children who certainly knew better but still committed terrible crimes should serve time either in juvenile or adult prisons. An opinions piece by Phillip Holloway from CNN reported that 200,000 children and teenagers have been tried as adults this year alone (Holloway). However, I will leave it up to the attorneys and the judge to decide if the child should be tried as an adult or as a juvenile. Part of this decision comes from the offender’s age, their crime, the severity of the crime, and if they are a future danger to society.

While I stand by this belief, I also think that courts should take in to consideration the difference between the imprisonments of juveniles versus adults. Children and teenagers sent to adult prisons are more likely to be bullied, raped, assaulted, and tormented by other inmates. They also have a higher risk of suicide than children and teenagers serving time in juvenile facilities. However, even at corrections facilities for juveniles, they still run the risk of being assaulted and abused by other inmates and staff members. Some people, though, might see this as fitting punishment if a teenager has committed a similar crime, but I do not condone rape or sexual assault. I still believe that this decision is up to the courts to decide.

I would like to finish this post off with a list of several children and teenagers found guilty of particularly infamous and brutal murders and their subsequent sentences so that you can decide for yourself how these offenders should be treated.

  • Eric Smith (13) murdered Derrick Robie (4) via strangulation, then dumped rocks on his body, and sodomized the youth with a stick. (Calin).
  • Joshua Phillips (14) murdered Maddie Clifton (8). Due to his young age he did not qualify for the death penalty and was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole (Calin).
  • George Stinney (14) was given the death sentence after being found guilty of murdering two girls: Mary Emma Thames (8) and Betty June Binnicker (11). He was executed at the age of fourteen (Calin).
  • Lionel Tate (14) murdered Tiffany Eunick (6) via stomping on the girl, thus fracturing her skull, ribs, and forcing her brain to swell. While initially sentenced to life imprisonment, this sentence was later overturned and was realised three years later with a decade long probation sentence (Calin).
  • Barry Dale Loukaitis (14) took several students and teachers hostage and killed three people during this hostage and shooting spree at a middle school. He was given two life sentences without the possibility of parole (Calin).
  • Craig Price (15) murdered a woman and her two children during a suspected robbery, stabbing the three over ninety times. After his arrest, he admitted to the crime and even another murder two years prior (Calin).
  • Graham Young (14) poisoned his family, resulting in the death of his step-grandmother. He was sent to a maximum security hospital where he continued to poison and kill several hospital staff members and inmates. After his release, Young only continued to poison others until he was eventually caught and imprisoned once more (Calin).
  • Jesse Pomeroy (15) kidnapped and murdered Katie Curran (10) and was accused of also killing another child, a four-year-old boy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment (Cowboy).
  • Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both only ten, beat, sexually assaulted, and murdered James Bulger (2) and then left his body on the train tracks to be run over by a train. The two were found guilty and imprisoned until the age of 18, when they were released, causing much controversy and outrage (Calin).
  • Mary Bell (11) murdered Martin Brown (4) and Brian Howe (3), strangling Howe, stabbing Brown, skinning his genitals, and carving the letter “M” on his stomach. Mary was convicted of manslaughter, but was released at the age of 23 and given a new identity (Cowboy).
  • Jordan Brown (11) shot and killed his father’s pregnant fiancé (Cowboy).
  • Curtis and Catherine Jones (12 and 13) murdered their father’s girlfriend and were tried as adults. They were released in 2015 while in their early twenties. (Axelrod).
  • Two thirteen-year-old girls murdered a fellow teenager, alleging that they committed the crime because of Internet creepypasta (scary stories shared online) character Slenderman. The two will be tried as adults. (Gomez).
  • Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson (both 13) killed five people and wounded several others in the Westside Middle School Massacre. The two were still tried as juveniles (Farrell).
  • Alyssa Bustamante (15) murdered Elizabeth Olten (9) and admitted that she had seriously contemplated killing her younger brothers too (Cowboy)
  • Andrew Wurst (14) killed one fellow student and wounded three people at his 8th grade dance (Farrell).
  • Shanda Sharer (12) was abducted, brutally beaten, tortured, murdered, and set on fire by four other teenage girls: Melinda Loveless (16), Laurie Tackett (17), Hope Rippey (15), and Toni Lawrence (15). Loveless and Tackett were the ringleaders, while Rippey and Lawrence were accomplices to the murder. Lawrence plead guilty to Criminal Confinement and was sentenced to a maximum of 20 years and was released on parole after serving eight years. Hope Rippey was released on parole after fourteen years. Loveless and Tackett accepted plea bargins and were sentenced to sixty years, however the two could possibly be released in 2020 (Jones).
  • Kipland Kinkel shot and killed two students, wounding eight others, at his school. Several hours earlier he had murdered both of his parents (Cowboy).
  • Cindy Collier and Shirley Wolf (14) brutally murdered a woman after she let the two girls in to her home for tea. Both girls admitted they enjoyed the act and were eager to kill again (Cowboy).
  • Christian Fernandez (12) killed his younger half-brother who was only an infant at the time (Cowboy).
  • Amarjeet Sada (8) was accused of murdering three babies, two of which were his own cousins (Cowboy).
  • Terilynn Wagner murdered nine people before the age of fourteen. She was convicted of several murders, but was realised at the age of eighteen, having served less than four years in prison (Whitney).

Given that this is a touchy subject, I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions in the comments.


Sources

Axelrod, Tal. “Youngest Children Ever to Be Tried as Adults for 1st-Degree Murder to Be Released Soon.” ABC News. 23, July 2015. Web.

Calin, Mirian. “Top 10 Youngest Killers.” Listverse. 14, May 2011.

Cowboy. “20 of the World’s Youngest Murderers.” Pop Crunch. 15, June 2012.

Eldeib, Duaa. “Young Killers Who Stay in Juvenile Court Take Vastly Different Paths.” Chicago Tribune. 12, June 2015.

Farrell, Nancy. “10 Youngest Murderers in History.” Criminal Justice Degrees Guide. 2016.

Gomez, Dayana Morales. “Two 13-Year-Old Girls Are Being Tried As Adults. Here’s Why That Matters.” Huffington Post. 12, August 2016.

Holloway, Phillip. “Should 11-year-olds Be Charged With Adult Crimes?” CNN. 14, October 2015.

Jones, Aphrodite. Cruel Sacrifice. Kensington Books. 1994.

Whitney, Heather. “Victims of Terilynn Wagner.” Serial Killers Podcast. 22, January 2011.

Posted in Literature

The Madness of Cassandra

Cassandra, a character found in Homer’s epic The Iliad and Virgil’s The Aeneid, has become the poster child for characters in literature who can see into the future and whose miraculous gift has become a curse. She was given the gift of prophecy by the god Apollo, who had fallen in love with her, but when she refused his advances, he cursed her: yes, she could see into the future, but no one would ever believe her visions. Because of this, Cassandra is seen as a mad, insane woman who predicts death and destruction everywhere she goes. Other characters shrug off her words, not knowing that she can see into the future, and that her warnings hold true. Of all the female characters found in myths about the Trojan War, Cassandra appears most often, after Helen, the woman that the war started over. Writers have been fascinated by Cassandra, painting her as a tragic victim of circumstance, someone whose genius is overshadowed by their apparent insanity.

The princess of Troy, Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba, can be found in many works of ancient literature. Cassandra appears only briefly in The Iliad, but her character is important to the contemporary literature and mythology of the time. She is a footnote in this text, but a reference to her appearance in a larger number of works. In Homer’s epic about the Trojan War she makes her first appearance in the last book, being the first to see King Priam return home with the body of Hector, her dead brother. It is stated that “No one saw them at first, neither man nor woman, none before Cassandra” (Homer 24.819-820.) Homer’s way of phrasing this sentence is done to show that Cassandra can see what others cannot, hinting at her gifts of prophecy. Upon seeing the body of Hector she screams with “her scream [ringing] out through all Troy” (24.826). Cassandra is typically seen screaming and wailing in ancient literature. She can be seen screaming again at the end of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon and her screams are mentioned in The Odyssey when Odysseus visits the Underworld and sees his dead Agamemnon, who tells him that “the death-cry of Cassandra, Priam’s daughter—the most pitiful thing I heard!” (Homer 11.476-477). Cassandra’s screams echo throughout Greek mythology and literature.

Cassandra is mentioned early on in Virgil’s The Aeneid, via flashback, warning the Trojans not to accept the gift of the wooden Horse offered by the Greeks, but she is ignored. Virgil writes, “Cassandra’s lips unsealed the doom to come: lips by a god’s command never believed or heeded by the Trojans” (2.330-332). Little do they know that the wooden horse is filled with Greek soldiers who sack the city once night falls, just as Cassandra predicted. Aeneas speaks of a man, Coroebus, who had earlier come to Troy seeking Cassandra’s hand in marriage, but was unsuccessful. The narrator laments that he was “deaf to what his bride foretold!” (Virgil 2.462). Cassandra’s unheeded warning of the destruction of Troy is her most important action in the mythology surrounding the Trojan War, but her story does not end here.

Virgil depicts Cassandra, like her mother Hecuba and her sisters, clinging to the idols of Gods and Goddesses at an altar during the sack of Troy, “enfolding holy images in their arms,” hoping the Greeks will not hurt them in this sacred place (Virgil 2.669-672). Their hope is vain for the Greeks capture them anyway. Aeneas watches in horror as Cassandra is “dragged by her long hair out of Minerva’s shrine, lifting her brilliant eyes in vain to heaven—her eyes alone, as her white hands were bound” (Virgil 2.533-537). Like most of the surviving women of Troy, she is taken to a camp outside the burning city where plans are made to divide the women up amongst the Greeks as war prizes, as concubines, as slaves.

The enslavement of the remaining women of Troy, especially its royal family, is at the center of Euripides’ play The Trojan Women. Cassandra becomes the war prize and mistress to Agamemnon. As she leaves the camp, she comforts her mother, Hecuba, saying that her “marriage will destroy those whom thou and I most hate”—the Greeks, especially Agamemnon, who would die because of his involvement with the Trojan princess (Euripides 4). A Greek soldier, Talthybius, remarks that people might have heeded her warnings if the god Apollo had not “turned thy wits astray” (Euripides 4). The tragic conclusion to Cassandra’s part in Greek literature is found in another play.

The prophetess eventually predicts her own death, just as she had the destruction of Troy. In her most famous moment in all of Greek literature, she partakes in a “mad scene” in Aeschylus’s play Agamemnon. Here her “insanity” or “prophetic” ways are seen in full force as she screams, rants, and raves of visions of death that will soon befall Agamemnon, the Greek general who has taken her as a war prize, and Cassandra herself at the hands of Agamemnon’s wife. She even hints at events that would occur in the rest of the trilogy of plays written by Aeschylus, known as the Oresteia, which covers the events after Agamemnon’s death. Up until this point in the play, Cassandra has remained silent, kept in the background, like she is in most pieces of ancient literature covering this time period. Now she is, possessed by the god Apollo, and in a trance she rambles about the fate that will befall the house of Atreus, to which Agamemnon belongs, featuring betrayal, murder, cannibalism, and matricide. As much as her death pains her, Cassandra knows it will also cause pain to her enemies, the Greeks, chanting that her “death is edged the double-biting sword!” (Aeschylus 25). She walks offstage to her death, knowing full well what is in store for her at the jealous Clytemnestra’s hands.

Cassandra is always associated with madness and prophecy. In fact a disorder known as the “Cassandra Complex” is named after her, describing valid concerns, medical or otherwise, that are dismissed. In literature, Cassandra is sometimes portrayed as being just as beautiful as Helen of Troy, and Homer even compares her to the goddess of love, describing the princess to be as “golden as goddess Aphrodite” (Homer 24.820). But no matter how beautiful she may be, Cassandra is always seen wringing her hands anxiously, telling the audience and other characters of their future deaths, visions which are never believed by anyone until it is too late.

The Trojan princess Cassandra is defined by her skills as a prophetess in literature, while the other characters in these works of literature believe her to be insane. She is a victim of war, a victim of the curse brought on from what should have been a wonderful gift. The character never fully gets her due in The Iliad or The Aeneid, but she has become a popular figure for modern writers to feature in novels about the Trojan War. Her story is haunting and tragic, being just as moving as the story of Achilles, Hector, or any other tragic hero of Greek Mythology. She does not have the physical strength of the heroes of The Iliad, but her downfall as charted over the course of several plays and poems has stayed with readers for centuries, with her screams of pain and fear echoing throughout literature as the years pass, unheard by all, except for the reader.


Works Cited

Aeschylus. “Agamemnon.” Greek Texts, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.

<http://www.greektexts.com/library/Aeschylus/Agamemnon/eng/24.html&gt;

Euripides. “Trojan Women.” Greek Texts, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013

<http://www.greektexts.com/library/Euripides/The_Trojan_Women/eng/336.html&gt;

Greek Myths. “Myth of Cassandra.” Greek Myths-Greek Mythology, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

<http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/the-myth-of-cassandra/&gt;

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1990. Print.

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.

Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Vintage Classics, 1981. Print.