Happy Holiday Weekend!

Thanksgiving weekend

Everyone deserves a break to enjoy the long holiday weekend — even writers! I’m taking a brief breather while savoring leftover turkey, football, and the last days of crisp, cool autumn weather. I’ll be back next Sunday with another quirky, forgotten  tale from history. Until then, make the most of being with your loved ones.

And let’s welcome the official arrival of the most wonderful time of the year … the Holiday Season.

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, everybody!

The Only Submarine Ever Sunk By Its Toilet

U-1206  use this oneWhen you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. Even when you’re 200 feet underwater.

But 70 years ago, answering Nature’s Call actually sent a submarine to the bottom of the ocean. You have to hear this bizarre tale to believe it. And I swear every word is true.

Submersibles have been destroyed a host of ways over the years. Depth charges, naval and aerial bombings, collisions, even mechanical troubles have all dispatched them to Davy Jones’ Locker.

But one holds the, uh, distinction of being the only sub done in by its own potty. Continue reading

Did the Kremlin Love Lucy, Too?

Was America’s favorite redhead really a Red?


Lucille Ball was no stranger to pressure. For years, she had appeared on stage and in live radio broadcasts. She had performed hilarious stunts before movie and TV cameras alike with equal ease.

But nothing, nothing at all, was like the pressure facing her on Friday evening, September 11, 1953. Because everything (and I do mean everything) hinged on the response that would greet her when she walked out before 300 people in the television studio audience.

Lucy found herself in countless zany predicaments over the years. But this one beat them all. And here’s the true story of how she got in it. Continue reading

The President’s Love Child

My father left, he never even married mom. I shared the guilt my mama knew.”

-Love Child, Diana Ross & The Supremes


We Americans idealize our presidents. We place them on lofty pedestals while forgetting that the men depicted in the marble statues were once real humans. All too human, in some cases … especially when it came to fooling around.

The problem was present early on. Thomas Jefferson fathered at least one, and probably more, of his slave Sally Heming’s children (although the evidence suggests the affair didn’t begin until after Jefferson’s wife Martha had died.) Continue reading

The Body In the Trunk: Who Killed Elsie Sigel?

How racism, a famous grandpa & Yellow Journalism created a Turn of the Century Whodunnit?


The late Victorians and Edwardians relished a good murder. Consider how our British cousins were fascinated by Jack the Ripper’s killings. The same was true on this side of the pond. When fame, notoriety and crime were rolled into one story, reported by sensational Yellow Journalists to boot, the public couldn’t get enough sordid details.

elsie drawing ofBut seldom was their fiendish appetite indulged as intensely as it was with one Big Apple homicide in the early 20th Century. Almost entirely forgotten today, it was a forerunner of the O.J. Simpson-Nicole Brown Simpson media circus that would follow 85 years later. And it carried ugly consequences for one group of people. With that introduction, let us return to the summer of 1909.

If the telegram was meant to reassure her parents, it didn’t work.

“Will be home soon, or Sunday evening,” it said. “Don’t worry.” It carried the initials EJS.

But the parents did worry, because until then, they hadn’t seen or heard from 19 year-old Elsie J. Sigel for several days. Continue reading

Hollywood’s Biggest Flop: The Disastrous 1923 World’s Fair

How sex scandals, a coin dud and a president’s death created a spectacular failure

Hollywoodland sign

This is the story of the greatest failure you’ve never heard of. From start to finish, it was the living embodiment of Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong, it will. Little wonder that its organizers tried to erase this fiasco from public memory. But the time has come to revisit the utterly disastrous 1923 World’s Fair.

Hollywood had a huge PR problem on its hands in 1922. The infant movie industry was under attack on every front. Continue reading

Bundling: Sex and the Single Colonial American

Bundling - blue

“Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere might be happy.”                      H.L. Mencken

When you think of New England’s Puritan founders, the word “strict” leaps to mind. Theirs was a world of unbending views with no gray zones for doubt. They had strict views on faith and worship. Strict views on family. Strict views on work ethic.

But they were strictest of all on that old bugaboo, sex.

The Puritans didn’t fool around when it came to Fooling Around. (Thumb through Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter to see how they dropped the hammer when someone was discovered having fun under the covers.)

So it boggles the modern mind to learn they encouraged the practice of bundling. Continue reading

Grover Cleveland’s Strange Wish

Grover -standing

It’s a common desire. Many parents secretly hope their child grows up to become President of the United States. The odds are long; but it never hurts to dream, right?

However one day back in the spring of 1887, a man who actually had the job made a very strange wish … and he had no idea what Fate had in store for the child he wished it upon. Continue reading

The Pig War: How a Hungry Swine (Almost) Caused An Armed Conflict

PigOver the years, America has gone to war for a variety of reasons. The Revolution was about winning independence. In the War Between the States, it was ending slavery or defending state’s rights, depending on your point of view. World War I was “making the world safe for democracy,” and World War II was triumphing over some truly Bad Guys.

But never in our nation’s 239 year history have we ever gone to war over an animal.

Yet we came frighteningly close to a trans-Atlantic conflict over one in 1859. Continue reading

The Sad, Star-Crossed Love of Stanny & Sara


Some loves are doomed from the very start. The attraction, the desire, the passion are deeply genuine and sincere. But people, timing and events conspire to make it a stillborn love, forced to remain forever buried within the star-crossed lovers’ memories.

The amazing part of the story I’m about to share is what happened to this couple after they parted. (Spoiler alert: be sure to read all the way to the end for a surprise twist you won’t see coming.) With that, let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and return to 1876. Continue reading