As we celebrate the art and life of Tomie dePaola, who died Monday at the age of 85, let’s discuss why one of his most famous books is also a frequently banned book in the U.S. Strega Nona is the main character in this popular series. Literally, her name translates from Italian to mean “Grandma Witch.” In the first book, Strega Nona practices white—or good—witchcraft. She helps the townspeople in Calabria, Italy. Strega Nona is a hero we still need.
The book is an Italian American folktale written and illustrated by Tomie, who was of Italian American descent. Tomie based his main character on his grandmother, Concetta. In the book, the aging Strega Nona employs Big Anthony to help her with her chores. Big Anthony watches Strega Nona cast spells. One day, Big Anthony attempts to cast a spell; however, unbeknownst to him, he forgot one critical part. No worries! Strega Nona saves the day.
Beloved children’s author/illustrator Tomie dePaola died Monday at the age of 85. The cause was complications from surgery stemming from a bad fall he took last week. In addition to his books, Tomie was an accomplished artist.
Tomie knew at the age of 4 he wanted to be an artist. Tomie held several degrees: a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn; an MFA from California College of Arts; and the doctoral equivalency in fine arts from Lone Mountain College.
Tomie lived for a short time in a priory.
One of his most famous children’s book is Strega Nona (1975), which garnered Tomie a Caldecott Medal in 1976.
He was the author and/or illustrator of over 270 books, selling over 15 million copies in over 20 languages.
He purchased a portion of a property named Glengae in 1985. He renovated a 200-year-old barn to be his studio. His home was once described as “welcoming, vibrant and magical.”
He was born Thomas Anthony dePaola September 15, 1934. A relative suggested he spell his name “Tomie” to stand out from the crowd. He died on March 30, 2020.
The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that Adam Israel, incarcerated for murdering his mother, cannot see poltergeists, thus tossing his medical malpractice suit against the Department of Corrections.
In 2005, Adam Israel killed his mother, Dorothy Israel. In 2011, he was found guilty of 2nd degree murder by stabbing and killing Dorothy. He was sentenced to 60 years with 20 years suspended with 40 years to serve. While incarcerated in Colorado, Israel was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. With this diagnosis, Israel was able to be placed in a facility handling inmates with mental healthy issues. Israel protested and filed a medical malpractice suit.
In the suit, styled Supreme Court No. S-16990 (previous Superior Court No. 3AN-14-11063 CI), Israel, acting as his own attorney, relies on 2 arguments. The first is that his family, and possibly comedian Steve Martin, bribed the doctors to diagnose Israel with a mental illness. According to Israel, several of his family members, but not Steve Martin, have committed several murders and they’re afraid he will grass them out.
The second argument, and by far the most interesting, is that Israel claims to be born with a “rare genetic ability to see the electro-magnetic radiation of poltergeists.” Israel claimed, without evidence that former British Prime Minister David Cameron is a third cousin once removed and also suffers from the genetic anomaly. Israel educated the Court on plasma and how he can see “low energy photons.” He finished by claiming “any respected physician knows this phenomenon exists.”
Israel asked to perform a demonstration where dead insects would be placed individually in jars containing ethanol. Each insect corpse was to be removed, and Israel would guess what type of insect was held in the jar. (It is not believed that the experiment took place). Instead, the Court stated: “Mr. Israel believes he testified truthfully. But Mr. Israel’s claims are incredible. Without supporting evidence, the court cannot find that Mr. Israel’s testimony is based in reality.” The written opinion went on to state that Israel’s testimony was “bizarre.”
The Court found that Israel’s behavior was consistent with someone who is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Israel failed to provide any expert testimony to rebut the state’s case. They ultimately ruled against Israel.
Several conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus abound. Researchers authored a study dispelling many of them.
The most popular conspiracy theory is that the virus was engineered in a lab for a biological attack. The academic, research-based study shows otherwise. Dr. Robert Garry, Professor at Tulane University’s School of Medicine, one of the authors of the study, stated the premise of the study was to ascertain the origins of the novel coronavirus. Without a doubt, the virus developed naturally. Dr. Garry states that the virus was not build on the backbone of a previous virus. Further, he believes that the virus is a recombination of a virus found in bats and another virus found in pangolins.
Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, concurs, saying “there is little room to refute.”
Dr. Garry was also able to dispel another error in reporting by noting that the virus did not originate in a fish market in Wuhan, China.
Sunday night (and birth anniversary of Vincent van Gogh), The Singer Laren museum experienced a smash and grab. The museum was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The art thieves entered through a large glass window and made off with one of van Gogh’s oil paintings. Here are some facts about the master painter and his lesser-known piece:
Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (March 30, 1853-July 29-1890) tried several careers before settling on artist. He attempted to be an art dealer, like his brother; a schoolteacher; and a preacher.
He was self-taught and began to paint seriously at the age of 27.
He was an avid letter-writer. He exchanged over 600 letters with his brother, Theo.
The stolen painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884, represented a time when he painted about everyday life. He uses a somber earth-tone palette.
Colors played an important role in his paintings. His favorite color to use was yellow, representing emotional health. He used yellow for sunlight, life, and God in his work.
Vincent suffered from mental illness. He committed suicide in 1890 by shooting himself in the chest. He survived 2 days but died from an infection.
The stolen painting measure 10×22 inches and is done in oil. Over his lifetime, he created 2,100 artworks, of which 860 were oil paintings.
The stolen painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum.
American couple Willian and Anna Singer own the museum the painting was stolen from.
One of Vincent’s famous quotes: “The sadness will last forever.”
Since his paintings do not come up for auction often and fetch millions of dollars, it is highly unlikely that we will see it in any auction house publications. Hopefully, it will not be hidden in some uber-rich family’s private collection—removed from the world to experience.
The Stanley Hotel, made famous from Stephen King’s The Shining, has closed temporarily. Citing an order from local governments, the hotel posted a notice on their Facebook page earlier today. The notice does not state when the hotel and surrounding property will reopen.
The Winchester Mystery House (WMH) is presently closed for tours while we isolate for COVID-19; however, you can watch a 41-minute tour of the property. The video is entertaining with lots of historical perspective and facts woven into the story.
Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester (1840-1922) was a wealthy woman known for continually renovating her home in San Jose, California. Back East, Sarah was known as the “Belle of New Haven” and was a desirable—and wealthy—woman in New Haven, Connecticut. On 1862, she married William Wirt Winchester (1837-1881), the only son of Oliver Winchester, owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Tragedy befell the young couple. Four years into marriage, the couple welcomed Annie Pardee Winchester into the world on June 15, 1866. Forty days later, on July 25, Annie succumbed from marasmus. The couple would not have any more children.
Sarah and William’s marriage struggled. Sarah’s father-in-law Oliver died, leaving William to handle the entire business. Within a year after Oliver’s death, William died from TB at the age of 44. Sarah inherited $20 million dollars in cash, plus 3,000 shares in the business. Her daily income was $1,000, which would be roughly $26,000 per day. Sarah was a very wealthy woman.
Sarah sought to live near Pardee family members, choosing to move to California. The young widow, presumably age 41, purchased an 8-room farmhouse that sat on 161 acres in California. Sarah worked every day hiring contractors, employees, and gardeners to fashion one of the largest and most mysterious homes in America.
The Winchester Mystery House documentary does a decent job guiding virtual tourists around the property. An interesting fact: Sarah stood 4 feet 10 inches tall. Therefore, some of the strange or odd building features are built for a woman of her size.
Sarah had the financial ability to indulge in extravagances. She loved to garden; therefore, it seems reasonable that she would have 2 conservatories: One to the North and the other to the South.
She had 6 kitchens. However, a couple were used for her large staff. Between 41-43 people worked and lived on the property. It is said that Sarah paid her employees well above minimum wages.
The video exaggerates a few items. The series could have gone into the more plausible theories about Sarah’s fascination on renovating the house. For instance, there isn’t any historical record of Sarah being a member of an occult group or visiting a psychic who supposedly told her to build a house across the country to confuse the spirits of people killed by the Winchester guns. These are merely anecdotes.
The question people want answered is: Why? Why did she keep on building? We will never know. Nor will we know if the “Séance Room” (as it is called in the documentary) was actually used for seances. Only one person—Sarah—had access to the room. She sat alone in the room. Sure, the room is designed a bit odd, that doesn’t mean that she held seances there. In fact, it shows she wouldn’t. Instead, I proffer that the room was more for meditation and prayer.
What we do know is that she liked to build rooms and used the most expensive materials available. Her favorite stained-glass pattern was the Spider’s Web, possibly purchased through Tiffany’s. And, boy, there are a lot of stained-glass windows in the house.
Twenty-two years into the project, and the house was 7 stories high. After the April 18, 1906 San Francisco earthquake, several top floors became unstable and were compromised. Today, the house has 4 stories.
After reading the article, I became interested in how modern Reiki came to be. My mom had an elderly dog, Bentley (female), who was suffering from joint pain. A couple of friends who are Reiki practitioners laid hands on Bentley and remotely sent healing energy. My mom swears it helped ease the small dog’s pain. My mom is not the only believer.
There are over 6,000 Reiki Masters worldwide, with 4 million practitioners who are at least Level 1. According to Kisner, over 1.2 million adults have tried Reiki, with 60 plus hospitals offering the alternative medicine as a compliment—not replacement—to traditional medical treatment. In addition, over 800 hospitals provide Reiki education.
No historical document exists showing how Reiki originated. It is believed to have come from Japan. Modern-day Reiki is attributed to Mikao Usui Sensei (1865-1926), a Japanese Buddhist who popularized the practice in Japan in 1922. During Usui’s short life, he taught over 700 people, although his memorial monument claims 2,000. One of Usui’s students, Chujiro Hayashi, taught Mrs. Hawayo Takata (1900-1980), a Japanese American who resided in Hawaii. Takata brought Reiki to America in 1960.
Reiki is a spiritual practice whereby the healer radiates heat. The heat is channeled to a person or animal for healing. It is sometimes called energy healing. Takata Sensei believed Reiki was an oral tradition. Takata modified Usui’s practices, making students memorize the symbols. Prior to her death, she initiated 22 Reiki Masters. Her teachings continue today.
There are various forms of Reiki. Instruction varies by price and location.
Reiki is not without its critics. Some Christian organizations ban Reiki, along with yoga. They claim that Reiki does not conform with the teachings of Christ. Their opinions are not based on the Bible. In fact, Reiki does not contradict the Bible of Jesus’ teachings; it enhances it.
Moreover, Reiki is not a religion, and several Christian groups are touting the benefits of Reiki in their pastoral routines.
Medical researchers highlight the lack of quantifiable evidence supporting the benefits of Reiki. Kisner’s article does a good job discussing how that argument fails. (Again, I highly recommend you read it.)
I’m not interested in becoming a Reiki practitioner. However, I’m always open to new alternative practices that offset the effects of pain. And there are loads of people who would benefit from such healing.
The flimsy “Dogman” attack at the abandoned Hayswood Hospital is making the Internet rounds. Skip the story. Instead, read about how a widow generously purchased and gifted the small town a hospital. The hospital’s history is more exciting.
With a population under 9,000 residents, Maysville is an example of quintessential small-town Americana. Maysville, Kentucky sits on the southern side of the Ohio River. The median income is $29,274 with a 22% poverty rate. On 4th Street overlooking the downtown, sits the abandoned Hayswood Hospital.
The main wooden building was built around 1842 by Dr. Joseph Taylor. By 1886, newspaper articles began soliciting female students for the private Hayswood Female Seminary, founded by Rev. John S. Hays, D.D. The school offered education in the arts, as well as, traditional subjects. Rev. Hays died in 1899 at the age of 67. However, the school continued in operation until 1907.
On August 8, 1907, “Hayswood” as it was informally known was auctioned for $6,200 and sold to widow Mrs. May V. Peale Wilson, who promptly deeded the property to a trust in order to open a town hospital. On December 2, 1907, the Hayswood Hospital informally opened. It was dubbed the “palace on the hill.”
By 1907, May Wilson was a widow who had the means to purchase property. Wilson did reside at the hospital. She advertised for a “white woman” to serve as a companion and cook. The “May Wilson” Hospital League was a women’s volunteer group. Mrs. Wilson died in 1909. She did not have any surviving children and bequeathed her fortune to various individuals and organizations. The hospital received an annual payment from the trust. In 1909, the hospital was re-dedicated as the Wilson Hospital. An oil painting was commissioned to hang within the hospital.
The trust ran the hospital from 1907-1915. The city took control of the hospital and saw it through an extensive renovation in 1925. Samuel Hannaford designed a brick building and added a 4th story due to anticipated volume. In 1981, the hospital was sold to the Nashville company Hospital Corporation of America, which ran it as the Maysville Hospital until February 9, 1983.
The hospital, abandoned and decaying, changed hands several times. First in 1994 for $42,000 to Ester Johnson of Classic Properties. Ms. Johnson sought to renovate the building and turn it into high-end apartments. The development never took off. Johnson lost the property to unpaid taxes in a tax sale.
Tax Ease Lien Servicing paid roughly $6,000 for the property in 2013. Still, the hospital sat abandoned but became a regular location for thrill seekers and paranormal enthusiasts. And, yes, all of them were trespassing with lots of them receiving citations.
Hope gripped the town in 2018 when Stitch Up Properties, LLC snatched the property for $50,000. However, it may be dashed as the local newspaper has not been able to contact anyone at the company to enquire about prospective development.
In the end, most people want to know if the hospital is haunted. It’s unstable and dangerous to explore. In addition to the falling debris, the hospital has a lot of asbestos, which hindered earlier developments since the cost to remove ran about $2 million dollars.
I’ve seen several blogs discussing these supposed haunting. However, they fall flat and lose credibility because the writers have their facts wrong. If someone can’t even research the location, then how can we believe he researched any hauntings?
Walking through an old, overgrown cemetery, I encountered several graves that were decorated in seashells. Growing up in Florida, I’m accustomed to seashells as building materials. Yet these graves intrigued me. The reasons vary as to why people covered burial sites with shells.
Spanning from the late1800s-1910, some graves in the Southeastern United States were covered in seashells. Here are some of the more popular reasons for this:
The scallop shell, or cockle shell, is an important symbol in Christianity. Today, it is tied to baptism; however, it also signifies the pilgrimage one makes through life. It also represents the resurrection. Graves covered in scallops or any other clam shell may signify the act of crossing over into Heaven.
African American tradition tells of seashells representing the oceans slaves crossed to America. Placing shells upon the grave signifies the figurative act of going home after death.
Seashells were a cheap alternative in burying people. They were readily available in coastal communities. However, the practice of covering a grave with shells was not limited to these communities. Shells were used in transporting fish inland. They were also a by-product of eating mollusks.
Seashells were also used to protect the grave from eroding. The shells weighed down the sand and dirt, thereby keeping the grave from being exposed after heavy rain.