Australia’s Penal Colony.

Let Me Remind You…
About Australia’s founding Penal Colony.

Captain Arthur Philips of the HMS Sirius landed the first boat at the shores of New South Wales (now, currently Sydney). It was a long time since his boots touched solid land, but now they crunched on the hot rocks of Botany Bay. Even though it was January 1788, the temperature was warm and sunny. It was a quick reminder he was now in the Southern Hemisphere, where seasons were in opposite months from his home in the UK.
It took two years to get here and if the passengers were restless and agitated before, the trip around the world didn’t help. Food was scarce, with almost 800 passengers spread out over 6 ships, it was no wonder tensions were high as everyone was crammed into a 200ft space, practically sleeping on one another and fighting over food. They wouldn’t be the first fleet to come either; there was already a plan for more ships to bring more “passengers”.
Disease was rampant. Cholera, dysentery, and typhoid ravaging bodies through the boats, killing some. The ones that survived did so on small rations of hardtack and mush.

The passengers ranged from nine years old, up to eighty-two. The men were the first to arrive to the island with a mission to establish an “agricultural work camp”. They would literally have to start from scratch; finding and building their own accommodations, and prison quarters. The “passengers” that had arrived, and would be arriving for the next century were convicts from the UK mostly, some from New Zealand and few other countries.

In the mid-eighteenth-century London, at the peak of the industrial revolution, people found themselves out of work because the new technologies that took over their jobs for them, including farmers. With the lack of work and loss of money, the already overcrowded London received hundreds, if not thousands of people from the surrounding country towns. The overpopulation, lack of jobs and food led to thousands of poor, hungry families and in-turn, skyrocketing crime rates. Eventually the jails became overcrowded, and officials grew tired of even the pettiest of crimes. No matter if a person robbed someone or murdered them; rioted or had a minor assault, they started shipping them off to America. But then the American revolution ended, they were no longer welcome there and the UK was forced to find somewhere else to ship their misbehaved. Insert Australia: the new prison. It was no matter to them that the large island was already inhabited by aboriginal peoples, they had “dealt with” that when they colonized America over 150 years earlier.

The aboriginal peoples knew the new settlers were there but left them alone for the most part; silently watching them from the bushes. Very rarely were there encounters, but Captain Philips was adamant that the aboriginal Australians were treated with kindness and respect—even when he was speared in the shoulder by one during an altercation.

Captain Philips

It took only 2 years for the settlement to become stable and about 5 for it to become fully established. Until then, the unfamiliar land and climate proved difficult to learn how to tend for food. For years, fleets bringing more prisoners also brought food. So when a ship of women convicts came, with the thought of boosting moral for the men, they were ill received at first; looked at as “more mouths to feed”. Not to mention that some of the women had given birth along the 10-month voyage. But, after time, the men relented, and the women were welcomed.
During the 5 years, Captain Philips had tried to return to England, but communication was lacking as they seemed to have been mostly forgotten. By the time the 3rd fleet arrived with 2000 passengers, they had to send a boat to Calcutta for supplies. Despite that though, he managed to incorporate his past job experience and create a whaling industry, bringing trade to the harbor. He also started tending sheep to breed and raise them for their wool. At this point, some of the convicts’ sentences were already running out, but they remained and started farming the land and tending to the sheep. Captain Philips managed to get off the colony about 10 years after he got there.

Though some of the prisoners were well behaved and served their time, some were so rotten they were unmanageable and had to be sent away to a smaller island off Australia, called Norfolk island. At the time it had been inhabited by the East Polynesians, but when the prisoners got there they left. No one would return for almost 100 years, when the descendants of the mutineers from The Bounty were taken there from Pitcairn island.

By 1868, over 160,000 convicts had been sent to Australia but they put an end to the penal colony. They had been dealing with protests against the penal colony for many years at this point since Australia had been established as free in the 1820’s. People were living there now, separate from the jail. They didn’t like the colony being there any longer.
Even though the convicts had been emancipated, many stayed and started a life in Australia. The last convict, Samuel Speed, died in 1938.
It’s said that 20% of the people in Australia are descendants of the penal colony. Even a former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.


New York City’s Historic Steam System

Let Me Remind You…
About New York City’s Steam System

Everyone knows what happens if you put a whistle-top kettle on the stove, half-full with water, and turn the heat up as high as it will go. When the water starts to boil rapidly, it produces steam, when that steam escapes through that whistle, you know it’s done and time to make tea.
But what if you boil water to 305-450 degrees Fahrenheit in a closed system with strategically placed vents, like radiators and other systems of pipes throughout a building? You now have heating, cooling, steaming and in some instances, even sanitization.

Harnessing and controlling the power of steam is not a new invention by any means. The ancient Romans were one of the first to use steam to heat up their homes and baths.
A few hundred years later, in 1882, some businessmen in New York City started the New York Steam Company, providing steam heating/cooling to over 300 buildings. The city gave them a contract and they built the first boiler plant at the site of the world trade center.

But in 1888, a blizzard blanketed the city in snow, knocking out power lines and forcing everyone inside, trying to stay warm. This tragedy was an eye opener for officials. They saw how efficient steam power was for the 300 buildings and they extended the contract to service over 1500 buildings in NYC, which happens to be the same number today. Some saying closer to 1800.

Using steam instead of coal reduces carbon emissions (though I’m not certain they were overly concerned about that at the time), and changed how we see NYC today. If it weren’t for the steam system, the skyline would be dotted by buildings covered in chimneys and the power grid would be far more extensive and less eco-friendly.

1888 blizzard leaves the city blanketed in snow

NYC has the largest steam system in the world, larger than the other major steam-using cities put together.
Some of the more notable buildings that have always used steam include the Empire State building, The Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and Rockefeller. Apartment buildings in NYC still have steam heating/cooling systems.
Having steam used in these buildings allows for other buildings like hospitals to divert the use of electricity for modern machinery like MRI’s and Xrays  etc. and using the steam for heating/cooling, sanitizing and laundry.
Museums even use the steam technology to help regulate the humidity in the galleries in order to help preserve the artwork, restaurants use it to sanitize dishes and laundromats use it for pressing clothing.

The great part about the steam system is that it can be tapped into without requiring your own boiler. Kind of like just attaching a pipe under your sink to drain in more than one place.
Obviously, it would be efficient to have your own boiler system, especially if you’re not near one of the boiler plants, and even though the entire system is completely interconnected, some places do have their own system. NYU has the largest privately-owned facility. These smaller plants are called “co-generation plants”.

But with the massive power of steam being forced through the pipes comes disaster. A user on a forum* said that he was speaking with a ConEdison employee about why residents on a massive stretch of the city didn’t have water leading up to Hurricane Sandy. The employee said, “ they’re doing it so that floods won’t hit the steam pipes and cause explosive rupture, with flying manholes to boot.”
Despite being made from heavy metal and getting serviced monthly, there’s still room for error, or fluke accidents, usually caused by a compromised pipe that’s decades old, affected by something called “steam hammer” or “water hammer”, which can lead to a faulty steam trap and cause explosion. this usually occurs when the hot steam is traveling through the pipes and runs into something cold, like water. These have happened a few times in the past. A couple notable ones happened in 1989, and another in 2007.

1989 steam pipe explosion

So next time you’re in NYC, If you see one of the iconic orange and white stacks in the street, shooting steam out the top, that means they’re working on some pipes below. If you’re lucky, you might have seen an (illegal) art installment by an artist, Mark Reigleman II,  who makes small houses to put over the stacks and it looks like steam is coming out the chimney. Though the city is aware of him, they haven’t been able to catch him yet.  

Mark Reigelman art installation: “Smokers”

fun fact: 1 gallon of water will produce 8lbs of steam.

Sources: (photo only)

As always, thank you for taking the time to read! Have a great day!

Kristina Moore is the Author of The Pecan Trees, available on Amazon.

Norma Wallace; The Last Madam of New Orleans

Let Me Remind you…About Norma Wallace…

TW: suicide, sex-work

Norma Wallace

If you google-maps 1026 Conti St, New Orleans, you might see a rundown building, in the middle of a tattered neighborhood that wouldn’t catch any of your attention as you walked by. But you would be missing a history of scandal, sex, crime, love, bribes and a woman who ruled the streets of New Orleans for nearly 40 years.

Author Christine Wiltz didn’t know where to start when she was handed a box full of tapes, journals, notes, and more, detailing Norma Wallace’s life. The voice coming through the cassettes was old, but not weak, and her story was remarkable.

Christine had been contacted by the Norma’s ex-husband, Wayne and his current wife, Jean who had pushed the meeting. She knew of Norma’s wonderful stories, Probably because she was dating Wayne when he and Norma were still married.  Heck, they still lived in Norma and Wayne’s house in Mississippi. The house which still had a bullet hole in the ceiling (We’ll get to how it got there later). Christine was an author of multiple thrillers that Jean was fond of, so when everyone else had fallen through while Wayne and Jean pursued writing the book about Norma, Jean reached out to Christine, and the book of Norma’s unbelievable life came to fruition.

But lets start at the beginning.

Norma was born anywhere between 1900 and 1916—the dates on that could even be off because she fabricated her age many times, to the point where she admittedly couldn’t even remember it herself.
She said,  

“Don’t ask me what year [I was born] because I lied so much about that I don’t even know anymore. My mother caught me lying about my age once. Then she started lying about her age, and I wound up older than my mother!”

Her father seemed to be a relatively decent man, but after he caught his wife cheating on him, he left. Without looking back, he left Norma at 11 years old along with her younger brother Elmo to fend for themselves. Norma’s mom, an alcoholic, was known to leave the kids for weeks at a time. Norma and her brother would steal food where they could but when the neighbors realized what was happening, they took the kids in, and made sure they were fed and taken care of.
Later, when Norma was making loads of cash, she made it possible for these families to purchase their homes (minorities were unable to own property at the time).
Eventually her father was found in Slidell, where he had another family and his own lumber business.

At fourteen or fifteen, Norma knew what she could do to get by. She wasn’t dumb or blind and had seen the women in the windows and streets of Memphis. She became friendly with a local veterinarian, who was already decades older, but somehow telling him she was seventeen made everything okay. She strung him along for six weeks, going out for lovely dinners and shopping, until finally he gave up when she wouldn’t give him everything he wanted.

It wasn’t long after she started using her body for money. She had a bigger goal though, and by the age of 19 she became one of the most renowned Madams of one of (what some might call) the most notorious brothels in New Orleans.
As much as she was breaking the laws in ways, she was also helping law enforcement. Her most popular house, 1026 Conti Street) was no stranger to well-to-do businessmen, policemen, politicians, actors (and actresses) and even the mayor of New Orleans. She knew everybody’s business and she wasn’t one to stay tight-lipped if she knew it could buy her some favors or get-out-of-jail-free cards. She knew when to keep her mouth shut, but she knew when to run it and who to run it to.
This didn’t save her from multiple raids, but being a savvy businesswoman, she had an adjoining apartment building that she could drop a plank of wood to cross the upper balconies and her girls would shuffle over to the other house until the police left. She also kept a little book with the names, times and dates of everyone that filtered through, so if anyone tried to threaten her, she could pull out the book that even had personal details only the person themselves and the girl who serviced them would know…if you catch my drift.

In the 1960’s though, there was a new district attorney in town, Jim Garrison. He was intent on “cleaning up the city” and was ready to crack down on Norma’s establishment. Eventually even Norma couldn’t outsmart him and she went to jail. She had a personal relationship with the judge though and he let her out after a mere 3 months. She had said that being in that place was enough for her to realize she wasn’t going to do this anymore. It wasn’t the first time she had been to jail, but it was going to be the last. She opened up a restaurant out of town, called the Tchoupitoulas Plantation. I’m not going to get into all the things wrong with the name, but I’m sure you can imagine. It was a two-for-one hit to minorities. After that, she never went back to being a madam, but instead stayed as the owner and presence of the restaurant.

At 1026 Conti she ran a tight ship when it came to her house and girls. The girls would be cleaned and were taught how and what to look for in the men to make sure they were disease-free. They weren’t allowed to have pimps and if they worked for Norma, they only worked for her. It seems that many of the girls became like daughters to her since she never had her own; there was a mutual respect between them.

She was married though—5 times and they all seemed tumultuous. She collected diamonds like a child might collect rocks.
The first love of her life was a bootlegger, Andy Wallace. They never legally married but referred to one another as such. Andy was wishy washy and Norma was a firecracker. It never lasted. She did have this to say about it:

I kicked up something of a fuss, you might say, and I’ll tell you what I got for my trouble. I got shot. Well, I also got a seven-carat diamond ring.”

The husbands in between the first and the last were not much of note—and quite frankly, I couldn’t keep track when I tried to line them up. I think one was in law enforcement (this could be the one she couldn’t even remember the last name of); one rumored to be in business with Capone; another was actor and musician, Phil Harris, who is recalled changing his song line-up and lyrics when Norma and her girls walked into the bar and Norma shrugged off her over-sized fur coat in the middle of the walkway, assuming someone would be there to catch it.
Either way, husbands 2-to-4 were the jealous type. One set multiple fires in the Conti house while she was on vacation with her new husband. Her right-hand girl called her in a frenzy announcing that he was there “setting the couch on fire”. Norma told her to deal with it and hung up.

Then there was Wayne Bernard. Norma was 60 when she found Wayne, who was 38 years her junior and seemed to be the most stable of all her other husbands. Him and Norma moved to the country in Mississippi. Partially a tactic by Norma to keep Wayne from being tempted by younger women, though she knew he was fooling around and seemed to accept it. Eventually, Wayne too lost his immunity to women his own age and stopped coming home on a regular basis.

In 1974, with one of her girls, Rosemary and her baby in the other room, Norma grabbed a pillow, a pistol and walked into the kitchen to call Wayne’s sister while she shot twice, killing herself.  She was anywhere from 60 to 74 years old.
Eventually Wayne and Jean, whom he was seeing regularly behind Norma’s back, got married and still lived in that small country house when Christine Wiltz gathered the tapes to record Norma’s life.

What I touched on here it not even the tip of the iceberg; it’s like a corner piece that broke off and floated away. I would highly recommend at least listening to the Death By Champagne episodes on this, go to one of the websites below, or check out Christine Wiltz’s book.

Further Reading: The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz


Death by Champagne podcast.

Don’t forget to check out my novel
The Pecan Trees
Available on Amazon or my website, HERE.

Thomas Crapper

Thomas Crapper

Let Me Remind You… about Thomas Crapper

When the American soldiers were serving in England during WWI, they came up with a clever new phrase we still use today: “I’m going to the crapper.” No need to delve into what it means, I’m sure we all know.
But how did this phrase come about?

In 1861, at about 29, Thomas Crapper, who was a journeyman plumber, inventor, and businessman started his first business as a sanitation expert and with his imagination, he invented the ballcock (It’s the round bulb part in the tank of your toilet that stops the water from filling too high). Though, this was used for syphon toilets (think the high wall-mounted tanks with a pull string), we still use them in the modern toilet.

syphon toilet

Eventually, he would open the very first bathroom showroom that showcased many of his items, which included not just toilets, but also bathtubs and sinks. While people were there, they could try them out, so-to-speak, and see just how they liked them. In a time where you could barely show your legs, actually trying the toilet out in public became a scandal. Eventually it would shut down, but his success was not tarnished by any means.
His wares were so high-end that word of mouth travelled and eventually he received his first royal warrant from Prince Edward for Sandringham palace. After that, he received many more royal warrants finishing the bathrooms for Westminster, Buckingham Palace and Windsor castle. Today, if you walk around London, you can still see his name on some of the manhole covers.

showroom advertisement

So why did Americans call it “the crapper”? Well, it was hard to miss the large

Valveless Waste Preventer
no[serial number]

On the front of all the toilet tanks, sinks, etc., emblazoned in large embossing. Thus leading to the calling of the toilet “the crapper”.

Eventually Thomas Crapper would give his business to his nephew, and business partner, which was sold to a rival company in 1966 until it was completely dissolved. After many years, a historian, who enjoyed antique bathroom fittings, started remaking the items as authentically as he could, and still sells them in a not-so-scandalous showroom today.

They are actually quite beautiful, and I would recommend checking them out here.

There is a couple myths that float around today:
1.”The word ‘crap’ came from him too.” It’s actually been around for many years before with some roots in French and Dutch.
2. “He invented the toilet.” The toilet itself was actually invented by a Game Of Thrones star’s distant relative: Sir John Harrington. Sir John invented a complex toilet system for Queen Elizabeth I using a cistern, a series of pipes and holding tank that would provide a flush of water to remove what was in the tank. 
We can also thank Sir John for the phrase, “I’m going to the John.”

youtubepedia on

Il Morbo Di K; Syndrome K

Let Me Remind You…

Il Morbo Di K…or…Syndrome K

It’s 1943, the fourth year of WWII. Italy was not immune to the horrifying acts that Hitler was carrying out on Jews, and Mussolini, the Prime Minister of Italy, was helping by kidnapping Jews and putting them in Ghettos. Over 10,000 people were sent away with only 1000 eventually returning to their home.

In a small hospital called Fatebenefratelli, on the Tiber, three Doctors were trying to figure out what to call a disease that could only be assigned to the Jewish people. These Jewish people were coming from the ghettos with a highly contagious disease and put in a room with others that were the same. Eventually, Dr. Ossicini went chose the name Il Morbo Di K, or, “Sydrome K”; sometimes reversed: K syndrome. Named after one of the Nazi commanders, either Keppler or Kesselring.
The symptoms of this disease included fits of coughing, convulsions, eventually leading to paralysis and asphyxiation and death.

Fatebenefratelli Hospital

The thing about the disease was that it’s not actually real. It was entirely made up by the head physician at the hospital and his two Doctors assisting him. They named the disease as an F-you to the Nazi commander; they were going to try and save as many Jewish lives as they could.

It all started when a nearby ghetto was raided by nazi’s and the doctors took in the Jews and hid them in the walls of the hospital. Knowing this couldn’t last, eventually they came up with a plan to hide them in plain sight. One of the people in hiding was Sacerdoti’s own 10 year old cousin.

Left to right: Ossicini, Sacerdoti, Borromeo

The head physician, Giovanni Borromeo, joined the hospital after being fired from a public hospital because of his religion. Fatebenefratelli was a 450 year old, private hospital and was not picky about one’s political stance and hired him with falsified papers. This allowed him to hire other anti-fascist doctors, Vittorio Emanuele Sacerdoti and together with Adriano Ossicini, they came up with their plan.
One room of the hospital would hold the “patients” behind doors. They were kept and treated the same, only not for illness.

Giovanni wasn’t dumb though, he knew the Nazis would come searching the hospital, they were already doing raids. And they would probably more than once because of how close they were located to the ghetto.

When this would happen, the doctors would lead them on the tour of the hospital, allowing them to check wherever they wanted—except the Syndrome K room. The patients were trained to cough wildly and moan and groan on cue. When they stopped the search outside the door, the doctors would remind the Nazi officers of the highly incurable and contagious disease and implore them to listen to the coughing fits before exclaiming how traumatic an inevitable death by paralysis and asphyxiation would be. They never entered the room. The staff and patients could breathe a breath of relief.

When the patients were brought in, they were put on patient papers under Syndrome K, indicating they weren’t sick at all, just Jewish. The patients were brought in many ways. One of the ways was through sneaky communication with the Partisans on the outside. The staff found a radio in the hospital that hadn’t been confiscated by the Nazi’s. They installed it and were able to use that to arrange for the Jews to be brought to them.
Eventually the Nazi’s caught on, but not before the Doctors did and were able to throw it in the Tiber river just outside their door.

The Doctors were able to save between 25-100 Jews during the war. Only 5 Polish-Jews were caught during a Nazi raid when they were hiding on one of the balconies, the rest were released in the liberation in 1945.

60 years later would be the first time anyone would find out about this ploy. Borromeo and Ossicini went on to do a few interviews in the early 2000’s. The hospital, Fatebenefratelli was given the recognition of “House of Life” by the Raoul Wallenberg foundation, who is an advocate for Holocaust survivors. The three doctors were also recognized by Yad Vashem, a Holocaust remembrance center. An honor given to men and women who risked their own lives to save Jews during the holocaust.


Half-Hangit Maggie

Let Me Remind You… Half Hangit Maggie

Trigger Warning: child loss, possible infanticide.

The salty dampness of her palms ironed wrinkles into her apron as she twisted and untwisted the linen in her hands. Maggie Dickenson awaited her sentence from the judge. She knew she would be charged, but with what, she wasn’t sure. She thought about the little baby she laid on the side of the riverbank. Her stomach still hurt from the birth just days ago. With no family in Edinburgh and her estranged husband, a fisherman, who didn’t know where she’d gone, she was alone. She couldn’t count on the baby’s father, her employer’s son, to be at the birth—or the trial.
She had tried to conceal her pregnancy as long as she could, which is what ultimately became her sentencing: concealment of pregnancy. In 1724, this was a real, punishable law. But what choice did she have? She would have been run out of town, or at the very least, definitely fired from her job and chastised. After all, she was still married, and the baby wasn’t her husband’s. She just needed some time to save some money and figure things out.

She tried to smooth the wrinkles out of her apron, but it was useless. And what would it matter? Soon she would be hanging from her neck in the Grass Market, in front of a crown of men and women, who wouldn’t even be looking at the wrinkles on her apron. Men and women, who thought she murdered her own baby by drowning it in the River Tweed. What they didn’t know was that she could never do such a thing.* She and her husband already had two children; she would have more, given the opportunity– and a husband that didn’t hit her.

When Maggie arrived in Kelso (a town near Edinburgh), she got a job as a fish and salt vender, but when that wasn’t enough to pay the bills, she took a job at a local inn. The proprietor’s son was younger than her, but relentless, and so charming. Eventually she gave in to him and they had a lustful affair for months before she became pregnant.

No one seemed to notice her pregnancy and up until the end she thought she had gotten away with it. Even up until the moment she gave birth by herself and laid the child, bundled up on the riverbank. She had tried to fling the baby into the river, but she couldn’t, she was too weak. Or maybe she was too weak mentally. No one was supposed to find the child, but they did. And here we are.

Maggie thought she was almost free when they had no proof that she killed the baby herself; It was born stillborn. But the damned physician said that the lungs aspirated water. Even then, the admission of pregnancy that no one else knew about, that was still punishable by death.

She was sweating, her whisps of hair sticking to her forehead. The pounding of blood in her ears prevented her from hearing the judge, but as if it went quiet for just the right length of time, she heard:

“…Death by hanging.”

Her head dropped and a tear fell from each eye. One for her and one for her child. The guards came to her, grabbing her by an arm each, and dragging her out of the courtroom. She tried to walk, but her legs wouldn’t cooperater. Her body tingled with numbness.

A crowd gathered around the gallows as Maggie was brought through the town square. She tried to tell people that she didn’t kill her baby, but it was no use. They didn’t believe her, and anyways, that’s not what she was being hung for. Her throat tightened with each step towards her death, choking her before the noose was even upon her neck. The roaring of foul words and shouting from the crowd deafened her thoughts.

Grass Market, Edinburgh. The spot where Maggie was hung.

The executioner placed the bag over her head and noose was tight but still rested on her shoulders. It was heavier than she imagined. The twine poked and bristled her skin. Soon it won’t matter. She told herself. Without warning, she heard a THWAP and fell until she was dangling from a knot behind her head. The hangman had forgotten to tie her hands behind her back and she reached up and squeezed a couple fingers between the rope and her flesh. The thumping of her artery pressed against her cold fingers. Then the blackness took over.

The physician came to pronounce her deceased. Once he did that, her body was placed into a coffin and hoisted onto a carriage. Her family had fought against the doctors who wanted her body for study, and they won. She would be brought home to her birthplace of Musselburgh, just a few miles outside of Edinburgh.
despite what would be a 25-minute drive today, the men that were taking her body were apparently in no rush and decided to stop for a pint at a watering-hole just outside of town, body-and-all.

Maggie was in a state of delirium. Like that feeling you get after you wake up from a nap. The pain on her neck reminded her of what just happened. Her eyes blinked open to nothing but black. She assumed with the pain in her neck, her throbbing headache and the confinement of the dark space was an indication that she was in Hell. But she could  hear voices outside of the space; men laughing and glasses being placed on the table, the clinking of coins at a nearby card game. That’s when she started banging on the sides of the wooden coffin. She tried to scream, but nothing but a high-pitched whisper was coming from her sore throat. She kicked and punched until she saw a crack of light coming through the lid; three sets of eyes peering in. The men removed the top of the coffin and Maggie propped herself up on to her elbows. Before she could speak, the men screamed and ran off.

Eventually she was taken before the Judge again. No one knew how to handle such a situation and Maggie herself didn’t know what to expect. To her relief, the judge declared that she had fulfilled her sentence: She was hung until pronounced dead and now she was free to continue her life.

Maggie did continue her life. At some point her husband returned to her and apparently turned a blind eye to the whole situation because they continued their marriage and had a few more children themselves, the first coming just 10 months after her hanging.

Within the years to come, the concealment of pregnancy law was laxed, but they did change the wording: “to be hanged until dead” to “Death by hanging” in order to make sure that any future death penalties would result in an actually dead person.

Over the years, Maggie became a bit of a sensation through Edinburgh; a celebrity, you could say. She made money off of just being the woman who survived a hanging, people would send her jewelry and other things so she and her husband lived a very comfortable life. Maggie ended up living another 40 years and even had a pub named after her in Edinburgh. Right in the Grass Market, where she was hung.


*It’s unknown for sure whether she killed the baby, or it was born stillborn. For the sake of the story, I picked one.

***This was written to be a dramatized version of the real story. While the facts are there, artistic license was taken.


Unearthed podcast

The Origin Of The Flower Girl

Let Me Remind you…

Of the origin of flower girls.

               We can thank the Roman Empire (4th-5th century) for crafting this custom of cute little girls, usually tossing rose petals down the aisle, smiling brightly in their 15 minutes of fame—or crying, as the bride ambles down a velvet carpet behind her, to her groom.

               In ancient Rome, It’s likely she was chosen to represent the bride in her youth, with the bride following behind. The procession represented the woman being passed from childhood into adulthood, and soon-to-be motherhood.
The little girl was typically dressed similarly as the bride and held a basket or a sheath of herbs and wheat, instead of flowers. She would toss them along the path in front of the bride to embody and bring forth fertility and blessings. In some instances, she would carry a ring, or bundle of garlic to ward off bad spirits and offer protection.

Over 1000 year later, when the tradition was adopted into the Elizabethan era, not much changed. Though, the flower girl would now toss rose petals, a symbol of love. She would start from the bride’s house and guide her all the way to the church.

Over the years, the tradition stayed the same, but the dresses changed. They went from bride’s dress copies to elegant puffy things, to a flapper-style dress in the 20’s to slowly what you see today.

The flower girls have always been the youngest person in the wedding party, around the age of 6-8 years old. Today, they are typically a family member, maybe even a daughter, or friend’s child. Some women today even opt to have no flower girl at all. The custom has certainly changed from something that had a strong preternatural belief to the desire to be able to include all ages into one’s ceremony.

Did you have a flower girl? (reply on my Instagram post @Kristina_moore_author)

Online Sources:


(more were read, but with no new info)

Georgia Tann, an American child trafficker

*Trigger warning: child abuse & child loss

     You hear of child abduction or human trafficking in the news today and it’s something so awful and unimaginable you don’t want to believe it. But would you believe over 5000 children were stolen and illegally sold out of an adoption home in Memphis Tennessee between 1924 & 1950, all at the hands of one woman and an intricate system of connections and societal status.
The home: The Tennessee Children’s Home Society, was functioning as an adoption agency with much dire circumstances and unconventional tactics. The head of the facility, Georgia Tann, was a stout woman with short, cropped hair, tiny glasses and a smile with a hidden meaning. She was said to be abrasive and hot-headed with an apt for charisma and gaining prestigious friends.

Before running the TCHS, Georgia grew up in a prominent family in Hickory Mississippi. Despite wanting to become a lawyer, her father and judge, swayed her to find a path into social work after graduating from university; a job more “fit for a woman” he said.
She moved around the US, learning and adapting the techniques she would soon use to run the TCHS. Starting under the guidance of Kate McWillie Powers in Jackson, she learned the in’s and out’s, including how to exploit the very lax system for adoption. Eventually she moved to Dallas, and a short stint in New Orleans. But when authorities would start sniffing around, she packed up and moved on. Eventually she ended up as the Executive Director at the Memphis branch of the TCHS. She learned how to work the system and her way into elite society becoming fast friends with the mayor, Edward ‘Boss’ Crump. Through his political connections she was even consulted by Eleanor Roosevelt on child welfare and even personally invited to the inauguration of President Truman. Eventually, it would be some rumors in this exact circle and a run for governor that would unravel the secrets she had been holding behind locked doors.

Georgia Tann knew there was a demand for children with parents that were unable to conceive. She helped to remove the stigma from adoption, making it a completely acceptable option, when before adoption was a frowned upon. she particularly liked the blonde-haired, blue-eyed ones, but she wasn’t known to discriminate. In fact, she even pushed adoption for bi-racial children, who were once only adopted for house slaves and indentured servants. Unfortunately, the good she did was washed away like a sandcastle in a storm when the secret doors to her home were broke wide open by soon-to-be Governor, Gordon Browning.

Georgia and her team had a few different ways to acquire the children, the rarest of them was when the parents brought the children willingly to the TCHS. More often than not, Georgia would steal the babies and children right off of front lawns, playgrounds, or even daycares, where she would have either a fake, or a bribed social worker enter the premise and remove the child under the “orders of the state”.
When and if the parents would find their children, there was almost no chance of getting them back. Georgia would falsify documents, including birth certificates, renaming the child completely and telling the parents that there was no such child by that name at the facility. If the parents were lucky enough to afford to take Georgia to court, she would pay off Judge, Camille Kelley, who handled the juvenile cases. Kelley would be more than happy to sign a few papers deeming the parents (or commonly a single mom) unfit and transferring custody of the children to Georgia. The children were commonly told their parents had died to prevent any snooping or spreading of “misinformation” once they were placed in an adoptive home.

In other instances, Georgia would go straight to the hospital and through her system of bribed contacts, the newborn babies would be handed off to a social worker and put in a car to be driven to the TCHS. When the new mother asked about her child, she was told that the baby was born stillborn or died after birth, leaving the mother in anguish while only her body held the reminder of her child.

The adoptive parents Georgia dealt with were typically high-class families, usually recommended by a friend. Including actress Joan Crawford, and a NY governor among others.
They were given papers and under the impression that the children and babies were all received through a cooperation between parents and TCHS. Georgia took their fees, pocketing over 70% herself sometimes. If the parents came to question her, possibly when the child admitted to being stolen off a playground, Georgia would threaten to take the child back from the new parents who had been desperately waiting so long and came to love the child. If the parents were willing to give the child back, she would plan to bury them in legal fees, or blackmail them, dropping their status in society. Georgia had a knack for being able to divert issues and blame, including when rumors started to spread about her. She and the mayor, Crump would start switching the spotlight on problems with other adoption agencies in town.

During the holidays, Georgia found the perfect money-making trick: place an ad of a beautiful child in the local paper with a caption that said, “Want a real-life Christmas present? … How can you say no?”
These ads actually worked and her sales of the children would sky-rocket. When asked to stop placing the ads by local officials, she refused.  

Meanwhile, at the facility, the children were not kept in good circumstances. They were typically unwashed and underfed. The babies slept 5 or 6 to one crib, often left to cry alone with watered down formula or corn mush. Their diapers were rarely changed, and the babies would constantly get sick. At one point, a dysentery outbreak killed over 50 (documented) babies before they got it under control. The TCHS alone even raised Memphis’ infant mortality rate to the highest in the nation.

If the children would misbehave, punishment was swift and harsh. For weeks they could be locked in a closet, fed only water and stale bread. They would be hung from coat hooks for hours and other unimaginable ways of abuse. It was known that sexual assault was happening at the hands of the staff of the TCHS. One particular staff member, the janitor, who had a room in the basement of the house where he was known to take the little boys. Georgia herself would also sexually abuse and rape the little girls. Survivors of the TCHS can recall the bright, frilly nature of her bedroom; once so inviting and calm, now remembered as a torture chamber.
This wouldn’t be the end for the children either. Georgia’s vetting process became next to nothing. She stopped doing in-home visits with the adoptive parents; she stopped placing the children and let the parents choose which ones they wanted. This was the dismal concoction for unfit parents to gain access to the children and many faced abuse at the hands of their new family.

Eventually, over time, Georgia got complacent. She still funneled money into her account; charging fees where there shouldn’t be, or charging a fee that belonged to another, more expensive adoption, like an out-of-state adoption. Her (assumed) girlfriend, would pick up children, where she would get five or more for the cost of one, pocketing the rest of the money and forging any documents needed.

By 1949, Gordon Browning was running for governor. There were rumors going around about what was happening at THCS. In an effort to not only humiliate his opponent, but uncover what was happening, he hired investigator and attorney, Robert Taylor, to look into Georgia. Robert went as far as to follow Judge Kelley’s assistant when she went all the way to LA to gather children and bring them back for Georgia. He was able to gather records showing her fraud. But when questioned about it, Georgia stated she was just following procedure by eliminating files. Back then—and in some states still, adoption files were sealed completely with no access.
Eventually, Robert made a case against Georgia, and in 1950 she was finally set to go to court. But not for human trafficking, only for the fraud and money laundering. At this point, Georgia was in the very late stages of uterine cancer and she died before the charges were even brought. Days later her friend, Judge Camille Kelley resigned from her post. The TCHS was closed with only 20 children left and none of the staff were charged with any wrongdoing.

To this day, less than 10% of the children from the TCHS were able to find their birth families. Over 500 (documented) children died at the facility at the hands of Georgia and the staff. There is now a memorial where the cemetery is.
Crump currently has statues and streets named after him to this day. He died in 1954 with no repercussions for his actions or involvement. Wikipedia doesn’t even mention the TCHS under his name.
In a proverbial silver lining, Tennessee strengthened their adoption policies and procedures. As of recently, they are one of the only states to allow unsealed adoption papers, allowing children to see the documents and possibly find their birth parents.
This story has been depicted in a couple other movies and shows, a book with survivor interviews and most recently, a novel by Lisa Wingate: Before We Were Yours. Until I read this, I had never heard of this story. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time things like this have happened in America. There have been a few women following in Georgia’s footsteps, but that’s a story for another time.

Online Sources:

Southern Fried Crime
Most Likely Misinformed

The Great Fires of New Orleans

Let Me Remind You…About the Great Fire(s) of New Orleans  

It was 1:30pm, on March 21, 1788, the sun was starting to warm the Mississippi shores of Louisiana, or then known as “The Territory of Orleans”. Spring was warming the air and bringing birds to sing their song in the budding trees. It also brought a cool, but very strong wind from the Southeast.
Near Jackson square, at the home of the Spanish army treasurer, Don Vincente Jose Nuñez (say that five times fast), the family gathered for a Good Friday meal. A prayer was said and many candles were lit on the alter to pay their respects. Somehow during this meal, the candles managed to catch the home on fire. The wooden structure caught flame like a match struck with a flint.

 Don Vincente and his family escaped the home, screaming for the neighbors to get out of their homes. Like many ‘great fires’ throughout history have shown us: wood was a New-World way of building and it was far from fireproof. Unfortunately, when the French settled the New Orleans area, that was their main building material of choice and the French quarter was pretty much one big stack of timbers.

The strong wind carried the lick of the flames to the homes adjoining the Nuñez’s. Many of the women and men ran into the streets, carrying their children and only what they had on their backs. They watched as one-by-one, houses were engulfed by flames; smoke billowing into the sky, blotting out the sun; flames shot out of the windows like a dragon’s tongue tasting the air. The smell of burning timber filled their senses as they ran to get away from the heat of the flames, leaving behind everything they knew of their life just an hour before.

Pedestrians frantically ran to the churches, which would normally ring their bells to alert the residents of the French Quarter to emergencies, but they were denied. The priests refused to ring the bells because it was Good Friday.

Over the next five hours, the flames continued to spread like magnets to metal shavings. More and more homes and businesses catching fire, forcing more people into the streets to watch the destruction, choking on tears, sweat and smoke until finally the fires rescinded to the embers throughout 856 of the 1100 structures in New Orleans. 80% of the city was lost that day. The damage stretched between Dauphine and Chartres along the Mississippi; from Conti to St. Philips.

During the fire, men grabbed whatever they could and moved Her Majesty’s Treasures, any of the auditor’s papers and ammunitions or weapons they had stored. But many people had their own stash of guns and gun powder hidden in their homes, which exasperated the flames, combusting at every chance they got. The only two fire trucks that were in the city were burned as well.

Just like in the normal, New Orleans spirit, people who were unaffected by the fire stepped up and offered to help. Even crowd funding to rebuild the city. The people who lost their homes could apply for a tent to stay in just outside the city, if they had no family to stay with.

When Governor Esteban Miro Wrote to the Queen in Spain, he stated that the damages were estimated to be at $1,080,000, or $3,000,000 including personal belongings. Today, that would equal to over $59,000,000. Never-the-less, they rebuilt and continued on with living… Until 1794, when the second Great fire struck New Orleans.

Less is known about this fire, or how it started, but it happened on December 8, 1794, just a mere six years after the first. New Orleans had already been hit by two hurricanes that year and was not in the mood for something like this. Though this fire did significantly less damage, it still took 212 of the 1100 structures. Among those structures was the jail, where the inmates were moved to a schooner that was held offshore called the Nuestra Señora Del Carmen. They would remain there until February.

A notable man in this story is Andres Almonaster y Roxas. He was born of a noble family and once in New Orleans became the Notary Public. He solely funded the rebuilding of the Cabildo after both fires, along with providing funds for many other charitable endeavors to help the residents of the city.

Some of the structures that escaped both fires are still intact today, unaffected by the fire or time. One of them is a popular bar at the end of Bourbon St. called Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It has remained mostly unchanged inside and out. Another is the Ursuline Convent, which has been renovated due to the disintegration of the aged building materials.

After the second fire, that was the last straw. New Orleans developed and continues to have strict fire codes. When the buildings were rebuilt, they are what you now see: wrought iron balconies, courtyards and brick or stucco facades. This look has become traditional New Orleans style.
To this day you must have a permit for things like, cutting or welding on your property, fumigation, and many more obvious open-flame permits. The houses must be made of more fire-proof materials like brick and abide by a strict building code to avoid repeating history.


The Lost Colony Of Roanoke

Let Me Remind You… About the lost Colony of Roanoke.

It took two and a half months at sea, cramped in close quarters of a handful of ships, bearing the weather of the Atlantic, but in August of 1587, 115  settlers arrived from England and arrived on the shores of what we now call North Carolina. With the summer sun blaring down on them, they finally saw land with a lush, green tree-line and stable ground.
With Queen Elizabeth’s blessing, they had four main tasks: try to discover a passage to the Pacific through inland waterways, mine for gold and silver, Christianize the natives and annoy the crap out of the Spanish, not limited to the use of privateering. As the ship rolled in the waves, they looked at the wooded shoreline, summer sun beating down on them and decided to settle on the long, thin island that was once called Roanoke. It was also said to be a stopping point between the West Indies and England while the English privateers fought the Spaniards. I’m not sure how, since the colony of Roanoke barely had resources for themselves…

A few years earlier there had been two expeditions to North Carolina to scout the land for settlement; one that established a relationship with the natives that inhabited the area, and one that ruined the relationship through deceit and cold-blooded murder of the chief.
The colonists of 1587 had a lot cut out for them, since many didn’t know how to grow the crops needed for survival in this new land. They had brought provisions, but none that would last forever.
Over time, they were able to fortify enough of a relationship with the natives to supplement their resources, but they soon realized that they needed more provisions and more funding from their investors if they wanted to continue their mission.

The main leader of the settlement was a painter, cartographer and explorer, John White. White had tried to employ some other men to return to England to talk to the investors, but they denied and voted that White go himself. Even though White also had a wife, pregnant daughter, and son-in-law, he relented and took sail. Though not before his daughter gave birth to the first English person born in the new land. Named after the queen, Virginia Dare was baptized in the new settlement.

Before White left, he told the people, if they were to have to leave for any circumstances, to go fifty miles inland, off the island of Roanoke. If they were forced to leave because of distress, to leave a marking of the Maltese cross somewhere in view. Again, John White sailed off and another two and half months bouncing through the Atlantic brought him back to England, where Queen Elizabeth had declared war with the Spanish. It was a war that consumed every bit of her navy and she ordered that any functioning boat be used to help fight. This got John White stuck in England, unable to return to the Americas. I assume this also meant he wasn’t able to send word by letter to the colonies to let them know of his delay. What an uncertain time to be in a new world.

Finally, three years later, in 1590, White returned to the shores of North Carolina. They anchored offshore the night they arrived and celebrated their return by playing music and dancing aboard the ship, hoping the people would hear their celebrations. The next morning he deployed the row boats and they made their way to the island. When he stepped off the boat, he was met with only an eerie silence in the crackle of the trees, the crunch of his boots on the rocks and wind rustling leaves overhead. There was not one person left in the area; not even their bones.

White was obviously suspicious, but also curious because everything was still intact. The houses were built in a way to be easily dissembled and taken with them if they needed to move, but here they stood as if everyone just vanished into thin air. Along with that was a new, log fence that was built in the three-year time span he was gone, suggesting they had needed deterrent or fortification from some outside force.

John and his men took a look around for anything they could find and stumbled upon a tree with the words CRO carved in the trunk. There was no understanding of that until they found the word “Croatoan” on one of the fence posts… But no Maltese cross; no distress, just nothing.

South of Roanoke island was another island inhabited by natives who called themselves Croatoans (Now called Hatteras Island). John thought perhaps they went or were taken there. For some reason he didn’t go check himself, but months later sent an excursion instead. Some speculate it was because there was more funding in lost people versus dead ones and he didn’t want to lose the money to further his future endeavors.

No one from the lost colony has ever been found. Despite extensive searches and archaeological digs up until present day, not much has been found in the way of definitive evidence. There has been much speculation, including from the people of Jamestown, which was established in Virginia, 17 years later. They claimed to have seen “light skinned” children and people among the native tribes.

Some main theories to the vanishing of the colony:
-They were absorbed into a local native tribe. This also includes the possibility of the group being split in two and going with two different tribes.
-Some of the Spaniards that trolled the coast from Florida attacked them.
-They tried to sail back to England but their boat was lost at sea.
-They went inland as John White advised. But the problem is that he didn’t suggest a direction, so there’s at least a fifty-mile radius to explore.

In more recent (20th century) archaeological searches, a 16th Century ring was found on Hatteras island along with a few other things like a slate and pencil, an English-style sword and pottery shards called “border ware”: a very specific type of pottery also found at Jamestown.

There is, however, a very promising site, cleverly named “Site X” in Bertie County, North Carolina. This is the location of a fort that once stood there. Many artifacts have been found, but nothing that would specifically tie the Dare family to that location. There is one thing that connects the two though: A map that White drew himself. As a cartographer and artist, he made a map of the area and X-ray photos of it show a small marking that had been patched over on the spot of Site X. This could suggest that this had previously been a spot of consideration for settlement.

Another huge find happened in 1937, when Louis Hammond and his wife were road-tripping and he stopped to stretch his legs. He happened to stumble over a large rock with weathered words chiseled out of the stone. He threw the heavy rock in the trunk of his car, as you do, and three months later took it to Emory University where it was examined and miraculously read

Ananias Dare &
Virginia went
to Heaven, 1591

Any Englishman show [this rock to]
John White, Governor of Virginia[2]:

Father, soon after you
go for England, we came
here. Only misery and war [for]
two years. Above half dead these two
years, more from sickness, being twenty-four.
[A] Savage with [a] message of [a] ship came to us. [Within a] small
space of time, they [became] frightened of revenge [and] ran
all away. We believe it [was] not you. Soon after,
the savages said spirits [were] angry. Suddenly
[they] murdered all save seven. My child [and]
Ananias, too, [were] slain with much misery.
Buried all near four miles east [of] this river,
upon [a] small hill. Names [were] written all there
on [a] rock. Put this there also. [If a] Savage
shows this to you, we
promised you [would] give [them] great
plenty presents.
EWD. (Eleanor White Dare)

Because of another 47, allegedly fraudulent stones that were provided by another man in 1940 (for a reward, of course), It’s hard to say if this stone is real, but a more recent study from an Emory University professor states that it is more likely that this first stone is real.  The story of the Dare stones is an interesting one, which I would be happy to cover if you’re interested.

For now, all we know is that 115 men, women and children disappeared into thin air leaving us with nothing but curiosity and speculation and some great tales.

Online sources:

Encyclopedia Virginia
How Stuff Works
Mental Floss

Unsolved mysteries podcast