Friday, August 30, 2013

Photographic History Brought Back To Life

Will Holland and friend - 1925
In 1925, Will Holland stopped into a photography shop with a friend and had a novelty photograph taken. He and my grandmother had immigrated from Tennessee to Detroit in the 1920s looking for work. 

One of the first jobs he was able to find was driving a truck, running bootleg liquor from Canada throughout the Detroit area for a group of Irish entrepreneurs. In the winter, he would drive across the frozen Detroit River to make pickups and deliveries.

My grandfather gave this photograph to my mother before he died in the late 1930s. Not much is known about him because my grandparents were divorced, and my grandmother attempted to purge all memory of him from her life. My mother kept the photograph of her father secretly hidden.

When my mother passed on several years ago, I received the photograph in an envelope with some more recent family photos. I tucked the envelope away for safe keeping and forgot about it until last week when I was looking for something else.

The quality of the photo really deteriorated. It had gone from bad to worse. Not only had it faded over the decades, it had turned brown and the photo paper was beginning to separate. I decided to see if it could be restored because I wanted to preserve this bit of family history and make prints for the rest of the family.

I discovered the name of a local San Diego photo restorer from an ad on Facebook and gave him a call. Paul Hartsuyker is a retired Mesa College professor who has taught Photoshop workshops for twenty years. After he retired, he decided to go pro. See the link.

Restored photograph
I was able to sit next to him while he explained what he was doing.

"Digitally manipulating an antique photograph is an exercise in give and take. For example, do you sacrifice detail for contrast and brightness?"

He went back and forth like an optometrist, "Do you like this one or this one?" He allowed me to make decisions as he worked on the photo.

I was quite pleased with the result. I would have liked more clarity, but there was only so much that the original had to give. This picture freezes a moment in time and captures a gag snapshot which is one of my most cherished family photographs. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My 200th Fornology Blog Post

When I started writing my Fornology blog in May of 2011, I was a techno-dweeb. 

My publicist, Paula Margulies, explained the importance of blogging in this brave new world of digital publishing for launching a novel, establishing a brand, and building an audience. It takes time and persistence, she said. Truthfully, I wasn't enthused and thought I'd be long finished with it by now. That was more than two years ago.

Now, after over 40,000 hits and 200 posts on a variety of subjects, I've graduated to the rank of cybernaut. I actually enjoy the routine of writing a post every week and the immediate gratification of instant publishing. 

Content is king and despite some of the dark and sordid subject matter in some of my posts, many others deal with lighter topics. Several of them talk about blogging and writing like this one does.

Forty of my posts deal with the topic of John Norman Collins and the Washtenaw County, Michigan murders of the late 1960s. Blogging has allowed me to focus on bits and pieces of the larger story, which will be woven into whole cloth when my true crime history of these murders comes out late next year. The Rainy Day Murders will be the culmination of three years of intensive research into these matters and forty-five years of thinking about them.

As well as raising awareness of the topic, Fornology has also been a vehicle for people to come forward with information about John Norman Collins, their personal connection regarding these tragic murders, or their knowledge of the victims.

Some people still support Collins and maintain that he is innocent, but they never contribute any evidence to support their claims. Then there are the people who need to tell their story. Some of these stories don't always pass the sniff test, but many of them do. We try to corroborate every story before we use it.

Blogging is helping me create an audience for The Rainy Day Murders project while I finish writing it. 

I am astounded at the global reach of my blog and often wonder who my readers are on the world wide web and how many of you are regulars.

Recently, it has come to my attention that Fornology has a new fan. Not a fan so much as a critic - John Norman Collins no less. 

Prisoners don't have unrestricted access to the internet, but they can send emails, write and receive written or typed letters, and make collect phone calls to landlines. 

Collins has heard about some of my posts from people who write to him and even from some of the prison guards. He may not have internet services, but nonetheless, John Norman Collins has one Hell of a grapevine.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Through a Rapist's Eyes - Cautionary Advice for Young Women

Read this good advice for young women going off to college. It seems that a lot of attackers use similar tactics to get away with rape. 

Not many people know how to take care of themselves when faced with such a situation. Everyone should read this, especially each and every woman in this world.

 A group of rapists and date rapists in prison were interviewed on what they look for in a potential victim and here are some interesting facts:

1] The first thing men look for in a potential victim is hairstyle. They are most likely to go after a woman with a ponytail, bun, braid or other hairstyle that can easily be grabbed. They are also likely to go after a woman with long hair. Women with short hair are not common targets.

2] The second thing men look for is clothing. They will look for women whose clothing is easy to remove quickly. Many of them carry scissors around to cut clothing.

3] They also look for women using their cell phone, searching through their purse or doing other activities while walking because they are off guard and can be easily overpowered.

4] The number one place women are abducted from/attacked at is in grocery store parking lots.

5] Number two is in office parking lots/garages.

6] Number three is public restrooms.

7] The thing about these men is that they are looking to grab a woman and quickly move her to a second location where they don't have to worry about getting caught.

8] If you put up any kind of a fight at all, they get discouraged
because it only takes a minute or two for them to realize that going after you isn't worth it because it will be time-consuming.

9] These men said they would not pick on women who have umbrellas, or other similar objects that can be used from a distance, in their hands.

10] Keys are not a deterrent because you have to get really close to the attacker to use them as a weapon. So, the idea is to convince these guys you're not worth it.


1] If someone is following behind you on a street, in a garage, or with you in an elevator or stairwell, look them in the face and ask them a question, like what time is it, or make general small talk: can't believe it is so cold out here, we're in for a bad winter. Now that you've seen their faces and could identify them in a line- up, you lose appeal as a target.

2] If someone is coming toward you, hold out your hands in front of you and yell Stop or Stay back! Most of the rapists interviewed said they'd leave a woman alone if she yelled or showed that she would not be afraid to fight back. Again, they are looking for an EASY target.

3] If you carry pepper spray, yelling I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY and holding it out will be a deterrent.

4] If someone grabs you, you can't beat them with strength but you can do it by outsmarting them. If you are grabbed around the waist from behind, pinch the attacker either under the arm between the elbow and armpit or in the upper inner thigh - HARD. One woman in a class this guy taught told him she used the underarm pinch on a guy who was trying to date rape her and was so upset she broke through the skin and tore out muscle strands. The guy needed stitches. Try pinching yourself in those places as hard as you can stand it; it really hurts.

5] After the initial hit, always go for the groin. I know from a particularly unfortunate experience that if you slap a guy's parts it is extremely painful. You might think that you'll anger the guy and make him want to hurt you more, but the thing these rapists told our instructor is that they want a woman who will not cause him a lot of trouble. Start causing trouble, and he's out of there.

6] When the guy puts his hands up to you, grab his first two fingers and bend them back as far as possible with as much pressure pushing down on them as possible. The instructor did it to me without using much pressure, and I ended up on my knees and both knuckles cracked audibly.

7] Of course the things we always hear still apply. Always be aware of your surroundings, take someone with you if you can, and if you see any odd behavior, don't dismiss it, go with your instincts. You may feel little silly at the time, but you'd feel much worse if the guy causes you trouble.

I know you are smart enough to know these pointers, but there will be some who will say, "Hmm, I must remember that." After reading this, forward it to someone you care about. It never hurts to be careful in this crazy world we live in.

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do: The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do it.

2. Learned this from a tourist guide to New Orleans : if a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM. Toss it away from you.... chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car: Kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy. The driver won't see you but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit doing their checkbook or making a list, etc. DON'T DO THIS! The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go. AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE THE DOORS, LEAVE.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or parking garage:

a. Be aware. Look around your car as someone may be hiding at the passenger side. Peek into your car, inside the passenger side floor, and in the back seat. DO THIS TOO BEFORE RIDING A TAXI CAB.

b. If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.

c. Look at the car parked on the driver's side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE PARANOID RATHER THAN DEAD.

6. ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot.

7. If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times, and even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN!

8. As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP IT! It may get you raped or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked "for help" into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is how he abducted his victims.

Please forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life. A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle.

Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that we live in a crazy world and it's better safe than sorry.

Helping hands are better than Praying Lips. Give us your helping hand.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Summer in Detroit - 2013

Twilight in Detroit
I just returned from several weeks in and around my hometown of Detroit, Michigan. I was doing field research with my Detroit counterpart, Ryan M. Place. For the last several years, he and I have been seeking information and documents related to the John Norman Collins coed killing cases of the late nineteen-sixties.

I was in the Detroit area for three weeks in June and July and drove 2,300 miles in my rental car crisscrossing much of Michigan. Ryan and I went wherever we could to find individuals with credible information who were willing to tell their stories. We were very busy.

But because of the somber and dark nature of our subject matter, we made it a point to get out and do something a little different each week. The first week we went to the Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit to meet with Canadian filmmaker, Mark Dal Bianco. 


At Elmwood Cemetery for Zug shoot.
Mark is making an indie documentary film about Zug Island and its environmental effects on Canada and the United States. After a brief meeting with Stewart McMillin (noted Detroit tour guide), Mark Dal Bianco, and Ryan, we all headed to the burial plot of Samuel Zug, the man Zug Island is named after. 

On the strength of the introduction of my book, Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, Mark wanted me to give a brief biography of Mr. Zug, at the site of his grave marker. 

When we were finished there, we drove over to the ghost town of Delray which once existed outside the blast furnace and coke oven plant. I filmed a segment talking about working conditions on the island in 1967, the year of the Detroit riots. 

The documentary will go on from there and delve into some of the current controversies Zug Island finds itself at the center of with its neighbors. Notably, the Windsor Hum.

We were very lucky to catch a break in the rainy weather for the shoot. Afterwards, we had a wonderful dinner at the Polish Village Cafe in Hamtramck, a city within the city limits of Detroit. It turned out to be a lovely day.


On the second week of our quest for knowledge and insight into the John Norman Collins case, we went on a field trip to where Collins began his life sentence behind bars, Jackson Prison. The Seven-Block (1934-2007) tour was led by prison docent Judy Gail Krasnow.

We were taken on a bus to the Michigan Theater in Jackson to view a short film history of the various incarnations of the Jackson prison system over the years, and then we listened to an orientation lecture before going over to Seven-Block. 

Our docent, Judy, asked the thirty or so people on the tour if any of us were from Jackson, Michigan. A smattering of hands went up. "Do we have any former guards or prison employees in the crowd today?" Several more hands went up.

Ryan and I were sitting in the front row when she asked me where I was from. "Originally from Detroit," I said, "but now I live in San Diego."

Old Jackson Prison Walls
"Really?" she said, in surprise. "I just returned from visiting friends in San Diego."


Judy held up her Seaport Village shopping bag to prove it. "What, may I ask, brings you here to Jackson prison today?"

I was hoping she would ask me that. "I'm doing research and writing a book on John Norman Collins."

I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head. "You're kidding me."


Turns out that Judy was given a private prison tour of Marquette Prison in Michigan's Upper Peninsula just a couple of months before, and she was able to meet briefly with Collins in front of his cell. She found Mr. Collins to be alert and engaging. 

"Let's talk after the tour,"  she said, to me.

And talk we did. When The Rainy Day Murders is released, Judy will see about getting it carried in the prison stores. Not a bad outing for a field trip.

They serve a box lunch on the tour of Seven-Block in the prison mess area between the five galleries of cells that face across from each other. Nice touch!

For more information and reservations on Jackson Prison Tours, contact Judy Gail Krasnow at 517-795-2112, or check out the link below.

End of an era - old Tiger Stadium
I have a deep childhood memory of walking into a gray cavernous building that was dark and shadowy inside with screened ramps and overhead walkways. The air was heavy with tobacco smoke and stale with Strohs beer vapor. I remember walking along among a throng of adults mostly. I didn't know where we were headed for sure, but I followed my dad with my little brother in tow.

We finally made it. I saw the diamond for the first time and the vibrant field glistened like the emerald jewel it was. I came out into the comforting light of a Sunday afternoon Tiger game at Briggs Stadium. Man, I never knew a Coke, a hot dog, and a bag of peanuts could taste so good.

On the last week of my latest Michigan trip in July, I went with friends and saw my first Tiger game in the modern Comerica Park.  

The stadium is airy and open, not like the fabled Tiger/Briggs Stadium of the last century, and the cigarette and cigar smokers are gone.

After a week of heavy rain, the weather cleared on game day and Tigers fans were out in force ready to take on the White Sox.

But before the game started, my friends and I split a pizza and drank a couple of beers at a local bar to avoid the high cost of stadium concessions. 

In the old days, a person could have a great outing with ten or twenty dollars in his pocket. Now that's what a beer and a hot dog costs at the concession stands. Everything is expensive these days. But Detroit beat Chicago, so there was joy in Mudville, that night anyway. Go Tigers!

For information on the current schedule of Detroit tours, connect with Stewart McMillin's website: 

For information on Jackson Prison tours, contact:

For authentic Polish food in the Detroit area, go to Hamtramck and visit Polish Village Cafe: 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ghost of a Soul (Part Four of Four)

Charles Manson
The integration of mind, body, and soul is the business of growing up human. Our notions of right and wrong become established as our conscience develops in childhood. The Golden Rule of  "Do unto others - as you would have done unto you" travels well across many religions and cultures around the globe. This may be the guiding principle that grounds us to society and binds us to other people.

Dr. Martha Stout, Ph D, a clinical psychologist and faculty member in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has convincing data to support her belief that ninety-six percent of the population has a conscience and some attachment to other humans. Fully four percent of the population are not inhibited or encumbered by conscience and suffer from attachment disorder - the inability to relate to people in meaningful and lasting ways. These people go through the motions of life without fully participating in it. It is as if they are absent from their own lives.

Their emptiness gnaws away at them from the inside. Unexposed, it is fed by a need to dominate and control others to meet their egocentric ends. Life becomes a power play where "winning" means everything. Dr. Stout makes the keen observation that "If all you had ever felt toward another person were the cold wish to 'win,' how would you understand the meaning of love, of friendship, of caring?"

Ted Bundy
Sociopaths are preoccupied with themselves. Their narcissism is compounded by their lack of feeling for other people. Their social detachment can range from callous indifference to protracted dehumanization. They may play on our pity when the occasion calls for it, but their game is not getting our sympathy, it is drawing us into their web of influence to accomplish their own ends. 

Being master manipulators, when they have their prey in their clutches, the demon in them is aroused and all Hell breaks loose where they play out their God or Satan fantasies of omnipotence.
Dr. Stout's book, the sociopath next door (sic), suggests ways people - young women in particular - should deal with the sociopathic personality. I have adapted them below to reduce her list of thirteen to ten.
  1. Accept that some people literally have no conscience. It's not your fault!
  2. Don't let preconceived notions of people's roles (doctors, teachers, clergy, policemen, family, etc) interfere with your instincts. Listen to your inner voice. If something doesn't seem right or feel right about a person, don't ignore it.
  3. A series of broken promises, neglected responsibilities, or misunderstandings are warning signs. Strike three and you're out!
  4. Question authority! (related to #1) Blind obedience is dangerous. Dr. Stanley Milgram from Yale University conducted the famous "Authority Compliance" study in 1961-1962. He discovered that "at least six out of ten people will blindly obey to the bitter end an official looking authority in their midst." In this case, a "researcher" in a white lab coat clutching a clipboard.
  5. Suspect over-exaggerated flattery or concern for others called "counterfeit charm." It often signals an "intent to manipulate."
  6. Don't play their game. Avoid contact or communication with them and document everything.
  7. Question their appeals for pity, and curtail your need to be polite or to speak with everyone. 
  8. Don't try to save them. Their behavior is not your fault, unless you enable them.
  9. Never be a party to a sociopath's deceptions or help him/her conceal their true nature. If you do, from that moment on, you are ensnared in their web.
  10. Defend your personhood and your mental health. People who seek to diminish you have an infinite capacity to inflict harm and damage at your expense. Get some help!
John Wayne Gacy

    Friday, August 2, 2013

    Sociopathic Charm (Part Three of Four)

    People labeled as sociopaths are often superficially described as charming. Even after their outrages have been discovered, many people seem dumbstruck, despite the evidence. It is part of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nature of their personality disorder that enables them to deceive other people so easily. They are natural actors because deception and manipulation are second nature to them.

    Sociopaths are people with an uncanny ability to access weakness and vulnerability. They know us better than we know them. They read and study their victims - this is their great advantage. Their propensity to exploit our weaknesses is their hidden skill; once they target their prey, their victims are compromised and defenseless. People who recognize or see through a predator's deceptions are assiduously avoided. Discovery is the last thing a sociopath wants.

    But that speaks to them. What about us? Why do so many of us seem vulnerable? As with many things in life, there is no easy answer.  One explanation may be that most people have a mild affinity for danger and a hunger for excitement to punctuate their otherwise mundane lives.

    Most people enjoy "controlled" risks. We love cheap thrills we can get an emotional rush from and then return to the safety of our homes. Vicarious experiences from action and thriller fantasies on the silver screen, to riding the latest and greatest amusement park attractions, fill this void for many of us. Still, others prefer creating murder and mayhem in the guise of video games in the privacy of their own homes, or living vicariously through the exploits of their sport heroes.

    American pop culture presents a high octane lifestyle of the rich and famous, often fueled by drugs, alcohol, and conspicuous wealth, that creates an unrealistic expectation for success which most Americans can never achieve. We idolize famous actors, successful athletes, and people with money. We long for our own sense of celebrity. Anything to quell the incipient boredom of our conventional lives. We hunger for excitement, so most of us are willing to take the occasional risk.

    Part of our American folklore informs us that dangerous people are charismatic. Going for the "bad boy" seems like a coming of age ritual for many young women in our culture - the proverbial moth attracted to the flame. How many intelligent women get into relationships with men who aren't as smart as they are because the man may be perceived as exciting, sexy, or notorious? The answer is "Too many!"

    Often, these guys undermine other people's faith in themselves with a technique called "gaslighting," a term derived from the movie Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer - a husband tries to make his wife go insane by manipulating her self-doubt. It has since become a term used in clinical psychology. When someone or something doesn't feel right to you - go with your instincts - don't ignore warning signs.

    Another thing that makes people vulnerable is that we are irrationally influenced by a person's appearance, especially people in positions of authority and in uniform. Our conventional wisdom insists that "You can't judge a book by its cover," but we do this routinely.

    Sociopaths make full use of social and professional roles which provide a "ready made mask." Most people seldom look behind the mask, and they readily accept the superficial trappings of success. Women need to be more discerning in their personal lives and take off their blinders. Don't be an enabler and a party to your own emotional and physical destruction. Passivity is what sociopaths thrive on.