New Book Website

Hey there, book fans! I wanted to tell you guys about a nifty new website that just launched, called Shepherd. Why? Because this site curates authors’ books, like a shepherd herding their sheep, keeping them all nice and tidy. And one of the cool things Shepherd does is to let authors like me gush about their favorite books by OTHER authors. (Most authors are also voracious readers.) Here’s my list: . I chose to make a list of nonfiction books that rock my world just as hard as a novel would. Nonfiction is not boring — it’s anything but! Go check it out! And do support Shepherd; they link to for book purchases, so if you choose to pick up one of the many, MANY books featured on the site, some of that moolah goes to support small bookstores. And Heaven knows indie bookstores can use the support. Go browse, and have fun!

Morbid Curious Issue 3 Is Out!

Hey there ghostie fans — I’ve got something absolutely wonderful for you! The new issue of Morbid Curious is available to order, and it’s got an article by the one and only me in it. (YES, my name’s misspelled on the cover. That makes it a collector’s item, don’t you know?) Join me to explore The Vigilante Massacre of the “Black Donnellys”. After you finish that story, feast your eyes on all the other creepy, spooky tales within these pages. It’s nearly warm enough to read on the porch, or by the pool, or in the garden, so treat yourself to this issue of Morbid Curious. Here’s the link to order:

Today I Learned …

Hummingbirds shut down their kidneys at night. Because of their small size and incredibly fast metabolism, hummingbirds have to keep just the right amount of water in their bodies. During the day, the birds take in water from nectar, and excrete it. But at night, they have to retain enough water to keep their bodies functioning. Slowing their kidneys down prevents water being lost.

Today I Learned …

A woman in Mauretania was granted a court injunction to make her husband, who was a farmer, stop using her instead of his cow to pull a plough through the fields. The husband explained that he was reluctant to use the cow because he believed his late mother was reincarnated in it. In Singapore, a young bride had to go to court to force her husband to stop letting his mother sleep under their bed. And in Chicago one Allen C. Farber brought a suit against his former in-laws, claiming that his ex-wife had been cautioned by her mother not to bear Farber any children because they might look like him. (From Bizarre World, by Bill Bryson)

Today I Learned …

Alexey Bykov from Omsk, Russia, faked his own death so that he could propose to his girlfriend. He hired a movie director, stuntmen, make-up artists and a scriptwriter to stage a bogus car crash. The ruse was so convincing that when Irina Kolokov arrived at the scene and was told that Alexey was dead, she broke down in tears, convinced she really had lost him. Alexey jumped to his feet and proposed, still covered in fake blood. She said yes! So what did YOU do for Valentine’s Day this year? (From Ripley’s Believe It or Not: Eye-Popping Oddities)

Lights Out #95: Old Orphanage, Jennie Wade House

You’ll get a double dose of spooky with this episode of Lights Out! The people of Gettysburg didn’t go looking for a battle; the battle came to them. In this episode, we’ll visit not one, but two haunted places touched by the war. The Old Orphanage was a sanctuary for war orphans … until things went horribly wrong. And just across the street is the house where Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed in the battle, lost her life.

I’m very excited about this episode. Not only are we getting closer to Episode 100, but I’m getting better at the new video rendering program I’m using now. This means that you’ll be treated to an hour-long episode where the pictures match up to the sound much better than in past episodes. Enjoy, and thanks so much for watching!

Lights Out News!

There’s amazing news in the world of the Lights Out podcast! The podcast hosting service I use has just partnered with Amazon/Audible. What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means you can listen to Lights Out through Audible. I just posted Episode #95, about the Old Orphanage and the Jennie Wade House in Gettysburg. This is part of the Gettysburg Experience leading up to Episode #100. It also means that you can join over 55 million people who love podcasts, including Lights Out! I’m stoked! (And the YouTube version of the latest episode is coming soon.)

Getting bigger and better all the time!

Today I Learned …

Stretching nearly 25 feet, the Onion Ditch Bridge in West Liberty, Ohio, is made from 120,000 pounds of recycled plastic, including old detergent bottles and car dashboards. Although it cost $250,000 to build, its projected 150-year life span is more than three times longer than conventional materials such as concrete or steel. (From Ripley’s Believe It or Not: Eye-Popping Oddities)

Book Review — Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington, by Ted Widmer

I started this book January 21, 2021, the day after Biden’s inauguration, and finished it the next day. This is a rollicking read that gives the feeling of being on Lincoln’s train careening towards destiny. Widmer is a crackerjack writer — his is one of those nonfiction books that reads like a novel. He throws in the most amazing “oh by the way” facts, too, pointing out things like which future presidents saw Lincoln’s train roaring past (Taft was four years old, and apparently already a chonk). I enjoyed the fact that at the end, Widmer writes about the return trip to Springfield, when the train carried the assassinated president’s body home for burial.
I do have to say that it was deeply surreal reading this just two weeks after the Capitol riots. Why is that, you ask? Because the SAME DANG THING happened in 1861! Congressmen were arguing over the vote count. Some were hoping to prove Lincoln’s presidency invalid and replace him with someone else. Thugs and hoodlums were milling around, disaffected, outside the Capitol building. (They didn’t storm the place that time, though.) The vice president, Breckenridge, was afraid he’d get waylaid as he was carrying the boxes with the votes in them, the boxes he was charged with protecting until the votes could be counted. The nation, and the Lincoln party traveling to Washington, were on tenterhooks all day until the votes were verified and Lincoln was confirmed as President-elect. Any of this sound the least bit familiar? This book is amazing by itself. As an example of “history repeating itself”, it’s unparalleled.

Today I Learned …

There are two skulls in the tomb of Austrian composer Josef Haydn (1732-1809). After his death, his head was stolen by phrenologists (“scientists” who study the shapes of heads — it used to be a thing), and a replacement skull was put into the tomb. Then in 1954, the real skull was returned, but no one took the substitute head out. (From Ripley’s Believe It or Not: A Century of Strange)

Today I Learned …

Dinosaurs laid eggs in a fabulous variety of shapes and colors. According to research on the fossilized pigments from ancient eggs, dinosaurs laid eggs with shells in a rainbow of hues more than 145 millions years ago. Adding blues and greens and speckles to eggs was a way of making them less visible to predators. That’s because calcite, the white mineral that makes up hard eggshells, would glow vivid pink to a dinosaur’s eyes. (From National Geographic)