Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ypsilanti Beginings



Whitetail deer in the North Woods marking his territory.

The land along the Huron River which became Ypsilanti, Michigan was surrounded by a vast stretch of primeval forest broken only by lakes, marshland, and occasional open tracts of land early settlers called “oak openings.” The ground cover was a tangle of rugged shrubbery blanketed by a deep carpet of fallen leaves decomposing into rich soil the region became known for. Herds of deer and solitary black bears roamed the countryside while smaller game lived in the treetops and along the river banks. Fish, crawdads, and snapping turtles plied the river currents.


The open area where the Huron River bends and narrows at the shallows was a crossroad and neutral ground for the Chippewa, Pottawatomie, Ottawa, and Wyandot (Huron) Native Americans. The area was not a permanent home of any particular tribe, but the Hurons--as the French dubbed them--were known to have a burial ground on the west side of the Huron River.

Birch bark canoe
There were only two ways to enter the area: by river in a canoe or by foot on the Pottawatomie Trail, which followed the Huron River Valley from the headwaters of Lake Erie. This ancient Indian pathway led to the heartland avoiding most terrain and water impediments.


In 1809, three French pioneers Gabriel Godfroy, Francois Pepin, and Romaine La Cambre built and operated an Indian trading post named Godfroy’s on the Pottawatomie. Various tribes traveled east and west at the Huron River crossing. The trading post bartered gaudy trinkets, steel knives, hand-held farm implements, and small kegs of whiskey for beaver, muskrat, bear, deer, fox, and otter pelts. Native American handicrafts were also traded for American goods brought in from Detroit by pack horse on the Pottawatomie Trail.


Two years later, the three Frenchmen, and Godfroy's adult children were issued four tracts of land under the seal of President James Madison known as the original French Claims. Each claim was approximately a half mile wide and two miles long with the Huron River as its eastern boundary. The four claims included two square miles or about 2,500 acres. The trading post burned down in 1815 but was quickly rebuilt. In 1819, Native Americans began moving westward as European civilization encroached. With the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris, Lower Michigan fell out of Native American hands forever. By 1820, the trading post was abandoned and left in ruins.


Meanwhile in Sandusky, Ohio, Benjamin Woodruff’s wife Ella inherited several hundred dollars from her grandfather’s estate. She and her husband decided to invest the windfall where land was cheap--that was Michigan Territory. In the spring of 1823, Benjamin Woodruff, his brother-in-law William Eiclor, Oronte Grant, and Hiram Tuttle decided to improve their lot and set out on the old Indian trail at Lake Erie in search of land to homestead. The group was outfitted with a wagon loaded with provisions and a large number of cattle belonging to Grant and Tuttle. Each of the men had a stake in the success of this venture.

The group lodged with former neighbors from Sandusky, who then lived in Monroe, Michigan. They were familiar with the countryside of Southern Michigan and suggested a clearing near the ruins of Godfroy’s on the Pottawatomie as a favorable location for a settlement. The pioneers sold much of their cattle to finance their enterprise but retained enough livestock for their new farms. They headed into the interior of Michigan Territory, first on a flat-bottomed boat powered by poles the men used to power their cargo upstream.

Where the waterway narrowed and the current was too strong, the men offloaded their wagon, repacked their supplies, and continued west on foot. A couple of days later, the party came upon a suitable stretch of land southeast of the old trading post. The open plain there would be easy to cultivate. The men staked their claims which would soon become their homes hewed out from trees cleared from the land.


Benjamin Woodruff left Hiram Tuttle in charge of the settlement while he returned to Ohio to bring his family and more supplies to their new home. Woodruff with his wife and six children arrived back on July 6th. When news of the new settlement reached Detroit, other people ventured west and were welcomed by the original settlers who envisioned a pioneer metropolis. The newcomers built log cabin frontier homes and cleared and fenced off more farmland. The settlement became known as Woodruff’s Grove.


The first crisis hit the new community in August of 1824. Malaria struck many of the settlers. If it wasn’t for the efforts of Ella Woodruff and Elona Rogers making hot porridge every day and taking it to the afflicted, many settlers would have perished. All but one settler survived.

Fall and winter were times of hardship for the settlement. Supplies had all but run out and money was scarce. But the first corn harvest was good and household gardens yielded plenty of turnips, beans, and potatoes. Venison, small game, and fish provided protein to round out their diet that winter.


The spring of 1825 brought more settlers who cleared and fenced off more land. Wildlife began avoiding the area. That same year, the Territorial Government of Michigan proposed a road be cut through the wilderness to link Detroit and Chicago—the two emerging centers of Great Lakes trade. It was argued that building the road would create a commercial and real estate boom along the road stretching the width of the Michigan territory. The road would also allow the Michigan militia to move supplies and manpower quickly to Chicago if necessary.


Orange Risdon
Surveyor Orange Risdon was commissioned to lay out a practical route in 1825 and was surprised to find how easy the task was by following the well-worn Pottawatomie Trail through the Huron Valley to the old Sauk Trail west. Much to the dismay of the settlers, the survey team bypassed Woodruff’s Grove by three-quarters of a mile north. The distance was not much as the crow flies, but it was enough to destroy the dream of a pioneer metropolis. The small settlement was abandoned and fell into ruin.


Greek General Demetrios Ypsilanti
Soon after the new Chicago Road was surveyed, land developers arrived. Judge Augustus Woodward and his business partners—John Stewart and William Harwood—bought the original French Claims on the Huron River. They platted the land into affordable real estate parcels. They christened their new town Ypsilanti after a Greek general prominent in the news of the day. Shortly after, a frontier town developed. In 1830, Ypsilanti’s first post office was constructed with regular stage and mail service to Detroit instituted. In 1832, the Michigan legislature officially recognized the frontier town as the Village of Ypsilanti. The wilderness had been tamed.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017 Terror In Ypsilanti and Fornology Year End Review

Photo credit: Nicole Fribourg.

As 2017 was coming to a close, I thought Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked and Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel were all but played out. I began the year with several California and Arizona book talks which were sparsely attended. Fortunately, my books were selling with some regularity on Amazon, and Ebook sales kicked-in to carry the day.

In February, I was approached by Tantor Media in Australia for the audio rights to Terror In Ypsilanti. They produced, advertised, and distributed the audio. All I had to do was cash the $500 advance and forget about it. Advances are guaranteed upfront, but royalties don't begin until profits pay back the advance. I thought it would take forever if at all, but I started earning royalties in the third-quarter. That was an unexpected surprise. The audio was selling.

Terror In Ypsilanti and Zug Island are self-published regional stories. Several editors and agents told me there was no audience for them. In April, I did a limited book tour in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and Detroit, Michigan and was surprised when I sold out my stockpile of books. I returned again in July with more books to sell at Bookclub of Detroit's Bookfest. I sold out again. Traveling to Michigan from California to promote my books eats up my profits, but I didn't want the titles to die on the vine. Money has never been a motive for writing my books.

Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor. Photo credit: Lisa Powers
To get regional bookstores to handle Terror In Ypsilanti, I stripped my profit out of the equation to make the book attractive to booksellers. Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore, Nicola's Books, and Barnes & Noble in Ann Arbor agreed to carry my title. The Barnes & Noble in Allen Park--my hometown--also decided to carry the book. There may be others I'm unaware of. All bookstores are welcome to contact my publisher Wheatmark, Inc. for more information. Word of mouth has given Terror In Ypsilanti a life of its own.

Last spring, I wrote an article about John Norman Collins for The Dagger magazine in London. Months passed and I forgot about it. Early in December, I was notified that the article was published in their quarterly winter edition. This gives my book some international exposure.

A day or two later, a CBS producer contacted me to see if I'd be interested in being interviewed about the Collins murders for Through the Decades with Bill Kurtis in March. Talk about unexpected! The program will give Terror In Ypsilanti some much needed national exposure when it airs in August. What a nice way to end the year. 

Without my Fornology blog posts, I wouldn't have been able to get word out to the public or the media at large about my books. In April 2011, I reluctantly started blogging  at the request of my San Diego publicist Paula Margulies. My inner voice told me, "Who the Hell has time for this?" Once I got my posting rhythm down, I found I actually enjoyed blogging and the instant gratification I got from it. More and more people discovered my site and responded positively.

I was not only building a domestic audience, but also getting some international exposure from Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Canada, the United Kingdom, and a vast array of other countries. In the six years since I began blogging, I've written over 380 posts. On December 26th, Fornology.com surpassed half a million hits.

Here is a link the Terror In Ypsilanti audiobook read by professional New York voice artist Chris Ciulla. Listen to a five minute sample: https://www.audible.com/pd/Nonfiction/Terror-in-Ypsilanti-Audiobook/B06XSKGMMJ/ref=a_search_c4_2_8_srTtl?qid=1491099172&sr=2-8 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Detroit's Shock Theater


In 1957, Universal Pictures syndicated a television package of fifty-two classic horror movies released by Screen Gems called Shock Theatre. The package included the original Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy, and Wolfman movies. Shock Theatre premiered with Lugosi's Dracula in Detroit on WXYZ channel seven at 11:30 pm on February 7, 1958.

Each syndicated television market had their own host. Detroit had one of the first horror movie personalities in the country. The show was hosted by Mr. X--Tom "Doc" Dougall--a classically trained actor who taught English at the Detroit Institute of Technology and moonlighted as a vampire on Friday nights. Unlike later horror movie hosts who would spoof their roles or riff on the movies they showed, Dougall was grimly serious and set a solemn tone for what was to follow. What most people don't know about Professor Dougall is that he co-wrote several Lone Ranger and Green Hornet scripts for WXYZ radio.

The opening of the show was memorable, but I was only nine years old when I started staying up every Friday night to see the classic monsters and mad-scientists--The Invisible Man comes to mind. This is how I remember the opening:

The show's marquee card came up with ominous organ music and a crack of thunder in the background. Replete in vampire grab with cape, Mr. X walked slowly on screen holding a huge open book announcing the night's feature in a scary voice. Next, he would say, "Before we release the forces of evil, insulate yourself against them." With a sense of impending doom, Dr. X continued, "Lock your doors, close your windows, and dim your lights. Prepare for Shock." The camera came in for an extreme close-up of Dr. X's face, more lightening and thunder effects, and finally his gaunt face morphed into a skull. Then the film credits would roll.

There was something positively unholy about the show which made it an instant success with my generation of ghoulish Detroit Baby Boomers. The show's ominous organ music set the mood for the audience. The piece was listed only as #7 on a recording of Video Moods licensed for commercial television and not available to the public.

No video link to Detroit's Shock Theatre's opening has surfaced, but the above newspaper ad for the show gives an idea of the facial dissolve special effect. If anyone knows where I can find a link, Gmail me so I can add it to this post. Thanks.

Detroit's Baby Boomer Kid Show Hosts:
https://fornology.blogspot.com/2017/12/detroit-baby-boomer-kids-show-hosts.html

Thursday, November 30, 2017

5,000 Ways You Know You're From Detroit


5,000 Ways You Know You're From Detroit (2017) is a treasure trove of memories and images which will resonate with Detroit and Windsor, Ontario area Baby Boomers (1946-1964). But it would be a mistake to think 5,000 Ways is only of interest to the Baby Boomer generation. Anyone with an interest in Detroit's storied past or who wants to learn more about the world their parents and grandparents lived in will find this coffee table book fascinating and informative.

Walkerville Publishing owners Chris Edwards and Elaine Weeks.

Chris Edwards and Elaine Weeks say that "5,000 Ways is not meant to be an encyclopedia or an almanac. Our book is more of a personal exploration of life in Detroit primarily after World War II based on an eclectic collection of Detroit stories and photos." Each chapter has a narrative that provides relevant historical context with photographs and lists to enhance the reader's experience.


5,000 Ways is not chronological but thematic in its organization. The book can be read cover-to-cover, but it makes a great "jump around" book too. The scope is so broad that no matter how you experience it, you're certain to learn things about the Motor City that will delight and educate you. Of course, the automobile business is well-represented, but chapters on Detroit's music scene, pop culture, fads, shopping centers, and local television personalities will delight young and old alike. But this book doesn't shy away from the city's tragic history and strives to give a balanced account of race relations in the city.


When people discover I'm from Detroit, I often get a condescending response. Too many Americans know Detroit only through photographs of the city's urban ruins at the end of the last century, but they fail to acknowledge the great strides Detroit has made in the twenty-first century. The City of Detroit has a legacy and cache that younger generations of Detroiters and Europeans recognize and are excited about. 5,000 Ways goes a long way to rekindle an appreciation for a wounded city too tough to die.

5,000 Ways is available at select bookstores in the Detroit or Windsor area.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bonnie and Clyde's Letter to Henry Ford

Bonnie and Clyde
The era of the Public Enemy in America was from 1931 through 1935 during the depths of the Great Depression. Names like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, and Baby Face Nelson blazed across the headlines, but none of these criminals captured the imagination of the American public more than Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, whose daring exploits were romanticized by Midwesterners down on their luck. The press glamorized them in newspapers, news reels, and pulp mystery magazines. Their hardscrabble life on the road was anything but glamorous.

When Clyde teamed up with his brother Buck and various other gang members, the press referred to them as the Barrow Gang. Originally, they were cast as underdogs fighting a corrupt banking system and developed the urban myth of robbing the rich and giving to the poor.

Bonnie Parker with cigar.
On March 22, 1933, the gang narrowly escaped capture and left a cache of stolen weapons, a handwritten poem by Bonnie entitled the "Story of Suicide Sal", and a camera with three rolls of undeveloped film. The staged photos led to Bonnie's glamorization. Some showed Bonnie pointing guns at Clyde and one had her smoking a cigar. W.D. Jones, surviving gang member, testified that Bonnie never smoked cigars or shot at any policeman. She did chain smoke Camel cigarettes.

Clyde's favorite weapon was the .30 caliber Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) stolen from an armory. The gang also favored "whippet" guns (sawed-off shotguns) they could conceal under overcoats, and a variety of hand guns. The gang is credited with twelve bank robberies, but they preferred to rob small stores and rural gas stations. They killed nine police officers and a number of civilians who were unfortunate enough to get in their way. Their cold-bloodedness eventually soured the public's perception of the outlaws.

The Texas Department of Corrections contacted retired legendary Texas Ranger Frank A. Hamer. It could be argued that Hamer was more lethal than his quarry Clyde Barrow. Hamer was credited with fifty-three kills and surviving seventeen gunshot wounds. Law enforcement investigators studied the gang's movements and determined to set an ambush for them. The gang swung in a circle of five Midwestern states exploiting the "state line" law that prevented police from pursuing fugitives from one jurisdiction into another. 


On March 23, 1934 at 9:15 am, a posse of four Texas Rangers and two Louisiana officers hid behind roadside bushes waiting for Bonnie and Clyde to drive by. The posse heard Barrow's stolen Ford V8 speeding down the country road. The car slowed down when Clyde recognized a truck broken down on the side of the dirt road as belonging to a gang member's father whose farm they were hiding out at. When Clyde stopped the car offering to help, the posse opened up on the couple. First they emptied their BARs into the Ford, then they let go with a shotgun barrage, and finally they emptied their handguns. Though legend holds that each body was riddled with as many as fifty rounds apiece, coroner Dr. J.L. Wade's autopsy report documents seventeen bullet wounds on Clyde's body and twenty-six on Bonnie's body. Their remains were buried separately in Texas cemeteries.

A mere month before their deaths, automobile magnate Henry Ford received a letter proported to be from Clyde himself praising Mr. Ford's new V8 models. This letter is on display at the (Henry) Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.


Handwriting experts dispute the authenticity of the Barrow letter. The cursive does not compare favorably with a letter Clyde wrote to his mother two years earlier, but the letter compares more favorably with Bonnie's handwriting. You be the judge! Compare the writing samples in the link listed below that includes a letter reputed to be sent to Henry Ford by John Dillinger.

Ford letter handwriting samples: http://texashideout.tripod.com/comparison.html

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Scarab Club--Heart of Detroit's Arts Scene

Despite celebrating its one-hundred and tenth anniversary as the center of Detroit, Michigan's artist community, the Scarab Club is relatively unknown to many people in the greater Detroit area. In its heyday, the club held themed costume balls annually from 1917 through the 1950s, with as many as 1,800 Detroiters in attendance. 

To revitalize the club, current Executive Director Ashley Hennen told me when I visited in October that the club is rebranding itself to attract more local artists, art lovers, and the general public. In spring of 2016, the Mars Agency was hired to update the club's logo, their website, and their outreach programs. The club's new motto is We Know Detroit by Art.

The original club was named for master marine and landscape painter Robert Hopkins (1832-1909). After a successful showing of his work at The Detroit Museum of Art in 1907, Hopkins and his fellow artists formed an artists' club. They named the Hopkins Club in his honor. The original mission of the club has changed little over the years.
  • promote the mutual acquaintance of art lovers and artists
  • stimulate and guide the artistic sense of the people of Detroit
  • advance the knowledge and love of the fine arts
  • maintain a clubhouse for entertainment and social purposes
  • and provide working and exhibit facilities for artist members

Scarab detail over club entrance.
In 1913, the club changed its name to the Scarab Club and adopted the Egyptian symbol of rebirth--the scarab beetle--as its mascot. The three story brick building that currently houses the Scarab Club was designed by member architect Lancelot Sukert and opened in October of 1928. It is located at 217 Farnsworth Street amidst Detroit's Historic Museum District.

The exterior architecture of the building is Renaissance Revival. A glazed terracotta scarab emblem adorns the south facade. The club has a great deal of history and tradition. The building is listed on the United States National Registry of Historic Places, it is designated a Michigan Historical Site, and it is entered on the Register of Historic Buildings for Detroit.

Signing in on October 20, 2017.
The interior of the clubhouse is finished in the Arts and Craft style popular in the early twentieth-century. Club member Alfred Nygard carved and painted the scarab panel poised above the guest book as visitors enter the front lobby. The main floor is used as a gallery and performance area. The second floor was a members-only lounge in its early days. Above the fireplace is a mural painted on pine planks by Paul Honore in 1928 entitled "The Scarab Club Family Tree."

Early in the club's history, the ceiling beams of the members only lounge served as the club's guest book. Poet Vachel Lindsay is said to be the first to sign. Over two-hundred and thirty others have signed the beams including Norman Rockwell, Diego Rivera, Marcel Duchamp, William Milliken (Michigan governor), and John Sinclair. The third floor has six working studios not open to the public.

William (Bill) Bostick in 1980.
The Scarab Club was originally a men's-only organization. Women were not permitted above the first floor gallery. William Bostick joined the club in 1937 and acted as president and chairman of various committees. He was to become administrator of the Detroit Institute of Arts from 1946 until his retirement in1976. Bostick championed inclusion of women into the club. He remembered his mothers' disappointment when she was not allowed to practice her profession as an archeologist because women were forbidden to go on digs with men. Bostick shamed the club's board to include women for auxillary membership. Women were given full membership rights in 1962.

Scarab panel detail.
The Scarab Club serves the visual, the literary, and the musical arts. Since 1998, the club has instituted Chamber Music at the Scarab Club and the Blues Heritage Concert Series, but the original mission remains intact. The Scarab Club "continues to be a driving force in the artistic community and is proud to serve Michigan as a cultural stimulant for artistic diversity in the 21st century."

For more information contact: www.scarabclub.org

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

WEMU "Hidden In Plain Sight" Broadcast--John Norman Collins

Photo taken by Nicole Fribourg.
On October 18th, 2017, WEMU in Ypsilanti, Michigan asked me to record my observations while touring some of the landmarks of John Norman Collins's serial killing spree in Washtenaw County in the late 1960s. One link takes you to the internet article; the other takes you to the audio.

My remarks are based on my true crime book Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked available in a paperback edition, all ebook formats, and an audiobook at http://www.amazon.com/Gregory-A.-Fournier/e/B00BDNEG1C

Link to the WEMU article: http://wemu.org/post/hidden-plain-sight-terror-ypsilanti#stream/0

Link to MP3 audio: https://cpa.ds.npr.org/wemu/audio/2017/10/terror_in_ypsi.mp3

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

WEMU to Air Terror In Ypsilanti Audio Tour


Last week, Eastern Michigan University's NPR radio station in Ypsilanti serving Washtenaw County recorded my observations on several sites important to the John Norman Collins killing spree of 1967-1969. WEMU will air an eight-minute feature on Monday, October 30th. If you can't listen to the program when it airs, I'll run a link on this blog and route it on my social media outlets.


Patrick Campion
Program Director Patrick Campion and I stopped at the boarding house where Collins lived and sexually harassed a number of young women; then, we went to the wig shop where Karen Sue Beineman was last seen alive getting onto the back of Collins's stolen Triumph motorcycle; next, we stopped outside the David Leik house where Collins tortured and killed Miss Beineman in the basement; and finally, we drove to the gully in Ann Arbor where Miss Beineman's body was found.

Special thanks to Lisa Powers--University of Michigan Office of Student Publications--for taking photographs of this outing.

***

2017 has been a great year for Terror In Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked (TIY). In addition to winning an International Book Award and a Literary Classics Silver Award, TIY just won an Independent Author Network finalist award. I'd like to thank my loyal readers for their support, especially those who wrote Amazon book reviews.

http://www.amazon.com/Gregory-A.-Fournier/e/B00BDNEG1C 
  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Is Madness Anyway? Simply a Personality Disorder?


My research into the minds of mass murderers and serial killers informs me that if a person feels he or she can take the lives of innocent people without guilt or remorse, that individual is incurably a psychopath and a permanent danger to society.

Extreme behaviors the average person might simply call insane, the legal and mental health communities call personality disorders representing a wide range of aberrant behaviors, but despite the euphemism they all spell grief and tragedy for the victims and the people who love them.

Mental illness is rampant in America. We see it in our families, in society at large, and on the nightly news. No sector of society is immune from it. To better recognize and understand what personality disorders are and how the mental health community categorizes them, I've attached a link from the National Mental Health Foundation. This is a national crisis.

http://www.nmha.org/go/information/get-info/personality-disorders

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Criminalistic Junk Science

Cesare Lombroso
In the late nineteenth-century, Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso advanced the idea of the "born criminal" based loosely on the work of naturalist Charles Darwin. Lombroso believed the criminal could be distinguished by "abnormalities" in the skull, face, and body. He compiled a list of criminal traits including receding hairline, forehead wrinkles, bumpy face, broad noses, fleshy lips, sloping shoulders, elongated arms, and pointed fingers.

In the Gilded Age of Queen Victoria, the belief there was a "face of evil" was an easy one in the era of Jack the Ripper. In the first half of the twentieth-century, this theory was strongly reinforced in American popular culture through radio mysteries, crime cinema, dime novels, and pulp-fiction detective magazines. This folklore reinforced the idea that criminals are easily identified because they look different from other people--loosely defined as "us".


Rather than scientific, these ideas broke along racial and ethnic lines. In nineteenth-century America, religion was also considered a prejudicial factor in determining guilt. It was generally believed by Anglo-Saxon Protestants--who made up the social and power elite--that Catholic and Jewish immigrants bore a greater responsibility for crime in cities like Boston and New York than law-abiding American folk. In Germany, the Nazis made great use of the pseudo-science of Social Darwinism against European Jews, which they documented to their shame in the last century.


In the early twentieth century, two new forms of pseudoscience gained popularity in law enforcement circles, the polygraph test--also known as a "lie detector" test--and the intravenous injection of truth serum. The polygraph machine measures and records several physiological indices such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity. The belief is that deceptive answers will record a different response that true responses. 

Sodium pentothal was invented in 1934 intended to be a pain killer, but it was found to relax subjects who would answer questions put to them in an unguarded and uninhibited fashion while under the influence of the sedative. During World War II, the drug was widely used as an anti-anxiety drug by psychiatrists for battle fatigue.

Polygraph printout.
Polygraph tests measure arousal and are inherently subjective. They can be affected by anxiety disorders and other factors. In 2002, the National Research Council noted "There is no specific physiological reaction associated with lying. The mechanisms associated with lying are unknown making it difficult to identify factors that separate liars from truth tellers." The National Academy of Sciences stated that polygraph tests "are simply unreliable, unscientific, biased, and inadmissible in the United States court system."

The belief that lie detectors are a useful forensic tool is generally discredited, but the myth is keep alive in the popular culture through fiction and film. Polygraph tests today are the subject of comedy as in Meet the Parents 3 where Robert De Niro straps a vintage polygraph machine to Ben Stiller for comic effect.


The idea of truth serum also has been the mainstay of pulp-fiction and true crime magazines. Its conceptual originator was Dr. Robert House in 1915. He gave the drug scopolamine to women during childbirth and noticed that they would speak spontaneously and respond to any questions put to them while under the influence. 

Sodium pentothal was invented in 1934 by Ernest H. Volwiler and Donalie L. Tabern as a sedative or painkiller, but it soon became what the public regarded as truth serum. Side effects included short-term memory loss, headache, nausea, agitation, drowsiness, and up to a three day hangover.

In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled that "barbiturate confessions" produced under the influence of truth serum were unconstitutionally coerced and therefore inadmissible. Truth serum results are not accepted by Western legal systems and legal experts as genuine investigative tools.

There is no drug proven to cause consistent or predictable enhancement of truth-telling. Studies have found that subjects questioned under the influence of truth serum are suggestible and their memories are subject to reconstruction and fabrication. Another problem is what the subject perceives as truth cannot be differentiated from unbiased, factual truth.

Unlike fingerprint and DNA science, Social Darwinism, polygraph tests, and truth serum are considered junk science and have no place in modern investigative forensics.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ypsilanti's Historic Depot Town

Mark Norris (1796-1862)
Ypsilanti, Michigan was a ramshackle frontier town on the old Chicago Road in 1828 when pioneer Mark Norris and his family settled just east of the Huron River. Perhaps more than any other Ypsilanti citizen, Norris advanced the development of the city. He was an industrious and shrewd businessman. He owned a wool carding company, a dry goods store, the Western Hotel next to the railroad, the Norris Block building on River Street, and the Ypsilanti Flour Mill.

Original Ypsilanti Depot
It was Mark Norris who convinced the Michigan Central Railroad to make Ypsilanti a scheduled stop and construct a wooden loading dock and a freight warehouse giving birth to Depot Town. The first train arrived on February 2, 1838. Ypsilanti was no longer an isolated frontier town. It became an economic hub for the area's growing agricultural and manufacturing concerns.

The Depot Town businesses on the ground floor catered to the needs of weary travellers and light manufacturing. The upper floors were used for lodging, warehousing, or residential use. In 1864, the railroad built a lovely, three-story train depot said to be the nicest between Detroit and Chicago. Unfortunately, the upper floors were destroyed by fire in 1910--only the ground floor was rebuilt.

Depot Town became a staging area for the Underground Railroad from 1841 until the 1860s. Escaped slaves hid in safe houses or wherever they could during the day and traveled down the Huron River at night. During the Civil War, the 14th Michigan Infantry Regiment and the 27th Michigan Infantry Regiment shipped out from Depot Town heading for the South.

Cross Street Bridge is left--Depot Town is right.
A thriving two-block-long commercial district grew up along both sides of East Cross Street. Mark Norris built his flour mill on the northeast corner of Cross Street next to the Huron River sometime in the 1850s. A water canal raceway powered the waterwheel. The property changed hands several times. In 1874, William Deubel bought the mill and ran it with his sons. The mill was damaged by fire in 1915 and rebuilt. It became obsolete in the electrical age and was demolished in 1925.


Frog Island Bridge--March 8, 1935.
The old flour mill was gone, but the water raceway remained. During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) built a footbridge north off the Cross Street Bridge over the raceway leading to Frog Island Park. The following year on March 8th, 1935, the body of seven-year-old Richard Streicher, Jr. was found stabbed and frozen to death beneath the footbridge.

Richard Streicher, Jr. post:
https://fornology.blogspot.com/2016/11/little-richard-streicher-ypsilantis.html 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Unexpected America: A Memoir by Wanjiru Warama

At the age of six, Wanjiru Warama [WAHN-jee-row Wa-RAH-Ma] had no knowledge of the world outside the Rift Valley in the East African British colony of Kenya. Her father was from the Kikuyu tribe, the largest ethnic group in the country and loyal to the British. He worked for a wealthy farm owner but only made enough money for his family to live in abject poverty. 

After World War II, it became increasingly difficult for European countries to maintain a colonial presence in Africa. Kenya was given its independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 after eight years of guerrilla warfare known as the Mau Mau Uprising from 1952 through 1960. Amidst this political and civil strife, Wanjiru was sent to Nairobi where she was fortunate enough to be enrolled in a school where she earned a high school diploma.

Realizing education and job training were her only avenues for social mobility and personal independence, Wanjiru was motivated to pursue a business degree from United States International University (USIU) in Naiorbi. Reasoning that opportunities were scarce in the capital city of Nairobi and wanting to expand her horizon, Wanjiru saved up enough money from her clerical job to finance the final year of her bachelor degree program and transfer to the USIU San Diego campus.


San Diego Festival of books--August 2017.
This is where Wanjiru Warama's memoir Unexpected America begins. Armed with a certified check made out to USIU for a year's expenses, a student visa, and a plane ticket, Wanjiru arrives to make her stake on the American Dream only to discover a culture shock beyond her imagination. Her naive view of America collides squarely with the harsh realities of being an immigrant, a minority, and a woman in America--compounded by being in one of the most competitive job markets in the United States, San Diego, California.

Told in straightforward prose with revealing candor, Wanjiru weaves her story of determination, hard work, and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds to establish herself as an American citizen. May her story be an inspiration to others who come to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-America-Wanjiru-Warama/dp/0998051306/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504469409&sr=1-1&keywords=Unexpected+America

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Preston Tucker from Ypsilanti, Michigan



One of the least recognized of Ypsilanti's notable citizens was Preston Tucker, an automobile innovator who many automotive historians believed was way ahead of his time.
                                                     
In 1939, Tucker moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan, and opened the Ypsilanti Machine and Tool Company. There he innovated and produced the Tucker Turret used on PT boats, landing craft, the B-17, and the B-29 during World War II. That's where he made his fortune. After the war, he turned his attention toward his life-long passion--automobiles.

The Big Three (Ford, GM, and Chrysler) Detroit automakers had not developed a new car since World War II began. This opened the door for small, independent automakers to produce post-war cars for a starving market. Studebaker--out of Indiana--was the first to produce an entirely new automobile after the war.

But Tucker's vision was to design and build a car with modern styling and safety innovations. He pioneered hydraulic drive systems, fuel injection, direct-drive torque converters, disc brakes, easily accessible instrument panel, padded dashboard, self-sealing tubeless tires, independent springless suspension, laminated windshield, an air-cooled aircraft engine, and a "cyclops" center headlight which would turn when steering around a corner for better visibility while driving at night. The "cyclops" became a fixed headlamp on the production model. There were only fifty Tuckers ever built.


Academy Award winner, Jeff Bridges, played Preston Tucker
masterfully in the 1988 movie--Tucker: A Man and His Dream. An interesting aside to the film is that Jeff's father, Lloyd Bridges, played the Michigan senator that kicked the legs out from under the automotive innovator. It's fun to see the real-life father and son actors battle it out in the film. Baby Boomer's will remember Lloyd Bridges from the 1950s television series--Sea Hunt. Younger viewers may remember him from the movie--Airplane.

I have been fortunate to have seen two working Tuckers, and a third fiberglass mock up used in the filming of the movie. One of the cars is in the Henry Ford Museum; another is in Auburn, Indiana, at their Auburn/Cord/Dussenberg Automobile Museum; and the fiberglass mock-up used in the movie is at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum in Depot Town on East Cross Street in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Check it out the next time you are in town.

More specifics on Preston Tucker can be found in the link below. He died of lung cancer on December 26th, 1956, at the age of fifty-three. He is buried at Michigan Memorial Park in Flatrock, Michigan.