Wednesday, July 31, 2013

4 Things I Learned from 'Tales from Beyond'

Jim Kleefeld visited the Mentor Public Library Wednesday to share some macabre and mysterious Tales from Beyond with our teen patrons.

He talked about tragedies like the Titanic, horrors like the Lizzie Borden murders, and mysteries like the death of Otto Reuben.

Here are four things I learned from Kleefeld's program. (By the way, these are just some tidbits. They, in no way, encompass the entirety of his talk.)

1. Lizzie Borden was a trailblazer in her way.

The story of Lizzie Borden is well known. She was accused of brutally killing her wealthy father Andrew Borden and her step-mother Abby Borden with a hatchet. However, she was eventually acquitted on all charges.

Borden's case would still be eyebrow-raising today -- in part because of Lizzie's debutante status.

However, in 1892 when the murders occurred, the case was practically unimaginable.

At this time in the country's history, only six people had been convicted with the murder of their parent. In each case, all six suspects were men and each were only accused of killing one parent.

Consequently, had Lizzie been found guilty, she would have been the first woman in U.S. convicted of patricide and of killing both parents.

2. Help is on the way... slowly.

There's not much that can be said about the sinking of the Titanic that hasn't already been said a thousand times before.

However, Kleefeld offered this intriguing nugget:

When the Titanic began sinking, it sent out a call for help to the RMS Carpathia, which was only a few miles away.

However, the Carpathia was moving away from the Titanic when it received the call; and it takes a long time to turn a 550-foot-long ship.

The Carpathia did everything it could to travel as quickly as it could -- even cutting off hot water so more steam would be available for the engines. But it still took four hours for the Carpathia to arrive.

Ultimately, the Carpathia still took aboard more than 700 survivors from the Titanic's lifeboats, likely saving their lives.

3. Voodoo might not be as exotic as we all think.
Katrina Prunty puts a needle into a doll of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
Kleefeld emphasized the macabre aspects of many of his topics, but not voodoo.

"Voodoo's real but it's not real creepy," he said.

If anything, he emphasized the more relatable aspects of the religion.

Voodoo had its beginnings in Nigeria and matured in Haiti. However, it did not become recognizable as we know it today until it mixed with Catholicism.

In fact, Marie Laveau -- perhaps the most famous voodoo practitioner -- also considered herself Catholic and encouraged her followers to attend Mass.

4. It is illegal to buy or sell shrunken heads in the United States.
Thank goodness because who knows how the sellers would collect the raw materials they need.
Kleefeld brought three shrunken heads that he bought from a Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum as a child. (I had no desire to verify their authenticity.)

Robert Ripley bought his first shrunken heads from the Jivaro tribes of Peru in 1923.

However, Ecuadorian and Peruvian governments made it illegal to sell shrunken heads in the 1930s; and the U.S. followed suit (making it illegal to import them) in the 1940s.

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