Saturday, December 20, 2014

Detroit's Saint Anne Roman Catholic Church--the Second Oldest Continuous Operating Parish in America

Stained-glass Windows in Saint Anne's Catholic Church in Detroit
As history records--on July 24, 1701--Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his troop of 105 soldiers and settlers arrived in what became known as Detroit. It took the expedition's 25 canoes 55 days to paddle upstream from Montreal to a clearing on the western bank of the strait that gives Detroit its name. This site was chosen because Cadillac felt it was defensible and had plenty of wild game to help sustain them.

Two days later, the first mass was said in Detroit--on the feast day of Saint Anne's--and the foundations for a small chapel were laid. Catholicism had come to the wilderness. It was the first building constructed in Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit and named after the patron saint of France.

Saint Anne was the grandmother of Jesus Christ and the mother of the Virgin Mary in biblical heredity. Though long considered the patron saint of Detroit, Ste. Anne was installed officially as the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Detroit in a September 2009 decree issued by Pope Benedict XVI.

Saint Anne Conceiving the Virgin Mary by Flemish Painter Jean Bellegambe
Over the years, there have been as many as eight different church buildings--though archaeologists and historians can't agree on an exact number. The original Ste. Anne's was made of logs and planks and was burned down by Native Americans in 1703--including the chapel, the rectory, part of the fort, and the parish's baptismal records. The church was rebuilt in 1704.

Ste. Anne's has succumbed to flames on two other occasions during its 314 years of existence. A larger church was built in 1708 outside the palisade of Fort Pontchartrain. The settlers burned it down themselves in 1714 during a Native American uprising. They feared that it would offer cover to the Indians, so they sacrificed it. 

And in 1805, most of Detroit was destroyed by an accidental fire--all but one of 300 buildings were burned to the ground--including Ste. Anne's. A new church building was begun in 1818 and completed in 1828.

Locally revered, Father Gabriel Richard arrived at Ste. Anne's in 1796. He was not only a theologian but also a politician. He was a co-founder of Catholepistemaid du Michigania--which evolved into the University of Michigan--and as territorial representative to the United States Congress from the Michigan Territory, he helped establish a road-building project that connected Detroit with Chicago--now known as Michigan Avenue.

In 1832, after caring tirelessly for Detroit's cholera victims, Father Richard succumbed to the disease on September 13th. Legend notes that he was the last person to die from the outbreak. His body is interred under the altar of Ste. Anne's side chapel

The current Gothic Revival Cathedral--designed by architects Leon Conquard and Alert E. French in 1886--has flying buttresses, four gargoyles, and the oldest stained glass in the city of Detroit. They all reflect European French influence. Ste. Anne's Cathedral was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

More interesting background information on Saint Anne:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dead Reckoning by Caitlin Rother

Caitlin Rother's 2011 true crime book--Dead Reckoning--tells the twisted murder-for-profit tale of diabolical killers Skylar and Jennifer Deleon. This young married couple schemed to defraud a retired couple--Tom and Jackie Hawks--of their financial assets and their 55' yacht before tying them to an anchor and shoving them into the Pacific Ocean. The use of a nautical term for the title of this book is most appropriate.

Caitlin Rother brings her considerable talent--as a Pulitzer Prize nominated journalist--to guide her readers through the complexity of this multi layered case with clarity and precision reflecting her nineteen years as an investigative reporter. Rother's skillful narrative carries the reader along to help contextualize what would otherwise be an overly complicated story.

Skylar Deleon's personal revelation--behind bars--of his motivation for killing the Hawkses is an unexpected jaw dropper. This is a story of sociopathic greed and ruthless people who were blinded by the same thing--the color of money.

For two days, I did little else but turn pages of this satisfying true crime read.

Aphrodite Jones interviews Skylar Deleon in prison:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Serial Killer Groupie Sondra London Interview--Parts Two and Three

Sondra London
While researching serial killers and why they do what they do, I am amazed at how easily they can rationalize their actions and take pride in them. This perverse narcissism is disturbing and repulsive to most people. 

But there are those people who are in love with lunacy and attracted to these psychopaths. Serial killer groupie Sondra London is a case in point. After establishing a relationship with serial killer Gerald Schaefer, London dropped him for another serial killer Danny Rolling and played one man against the other. Trying to figure out human nature is complicated and often heart-breaking.

If part one of Sondra London's interview--in my last post--wasn't enough to make you lose sleep--parts two and three will send you ranting into the darkness.

Part two:

Part three:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Serial Killer Groupie - Sondra London - Pt. One

Warning! This interview may be disturbing to some people. It is part of my research for The Rainy Day Murders, my book about John Norman Collins and the Washtenaw County Coed Killings of the late sixties in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ex-Deputy Sheriff Gerald Schaefer
More inscrutable than trying to understand the logic of a psychotic serial killer is trying to understand why some women are attracted to them and have relationships with them behind bars. It is the ultimate expression of either falling for the bad boy or flirting with disaster that some women seem wedded to in our culture.

Sondra London
Rather than going crazy trying to understand these people, I will satisfy myself with trying to become familiar with them and their behavior. This video link goes into the relationship between Sondra London, a writer and lover of serial killer Gerard John Schaefer. Watch part one of an interesting interview about their relationship. Then, check out Schaefer's Wikipedia entry. It is amazing how serial killers share so many of the same characteristics. Look at that smile on Schaefer's face. It says "Recognition at Last!"

Gerald John Schaefer had a fatal reaction to some sharpened steel in his Florida prison cell one December night in 1995 - an early Christmas present from his cellmate.