in which we own up to some more mistakes
Everybody makes mistakes. The real test is being able to own up to them. Now, I don’t want to, but the Grand Jackalope is ordering me to. So here are some corrections some of the episodes we’ve released over the last two years.
First, thanks to the other podcasts which have recommended us in the last year, including Pontifacts, The Constant, and Tales from Aztlantis.
Also, thanks to listener “ihazidea” who gave us a nice five-star review on Apple Podcasts. Thanks, ihaz, we really appreciate it. I try make a point of not asking you to smash those like, follow and subscribe buttons… but you know, if you wanted to leave a review of the podcast somewhere, I wouldn’t object. Just sayin’.
Let’s get started.
The Hot House
Since “The Hot House” first aired, I have had a couple of conversations with members of the extended Kabakjian family, some of whom were worried that I was portraying their grandfather or great-grandfather as a mad scientist with a callous disregard for the safety of his family and community. I want to make it very clear that I don’t think that at all. If anything, Dr. Kabakjian’s safety procedures were top-notch — for the time. It’s only in retrospect that we can see how inadequate they actually were.
Pleadings from Asbury Park
While #7 and I were researching the life of Diamond Jim Brady, I came to the belated realization that most turn-of-the-century newspaper reporters were financially illiterate. They didn’t know the difference between liquid and fixed assets, or how to account for volatile assets, etc. etc. Whenever you see a dollar amount mentioned in an old newspaper story it should be taken with a grain of salt.
Let’s take the example of Henry M. Bennett from the episode “Pleadings from Asbury Park.” Reporters initially claimed Bennett was worth $6 million, a sum that seems to represent his total estate. Only a few weeks later, they were breathlessly reporting that the Bennett was only worth $1 million, a sum that seems to represent his liquid assets. Those are two vastly different measures, but reporters treated them as if they were equivalent and that Bennett’s personal fortune had been greatly exaggerated. The value of the Bennett estate fluctuated wildly over the next several years, as reporters cherry-picked the numbers that made for the best headlines, whether those numbers matched the ones they had been reporting last week, yesterday, or even in the previous paragraph.
My larger point about Laura Biggar still stands. She wound up getting enough money from Bennett’s estate to live comfortably, but she could have been much, much richer if she’d just gone with the flow. She was in many ways her own worst enemy.
The episode “French Leave”, about Nap Lajoie and his legal troubles made it seem like Nap was a unique case, the only ballplayer laboring under an injunction that forced him to avoid setting foot in a particular jurisdiction. That’s not the case — plenty of league-jumpers were operating under similar restrictions. Nap tends to stand out for three reasons:
First, he was a future Hall-of-Famer. The other players involved were talented, but not exactly superstars. As the years went by, they faded from memory, and from the story.
Second, Colonel John Ignatius Rogers of the Phillies hounded his former players to the ends of the Earth, prosecuting his case far more vigorously than the other National League owners. Most of his ire, and thus most of the media attention, was focused on Nap Lajoie.
And finally, most of the other jumpers put in Nap’s position caved in when initial court judgments went against them. But Nap held out to the last, which just makes for a better ending.
“I’m the Naughty Boy.”
I was over the moon when my favorite podcast, The Constant, consulted our episode on Bayard Peakes while researching their episode on “Crackpots.” Made my day. My week. My month. My year, even. You should go listen to The Constant right now. And then subscribe. And throw a few bucks at his Patreon while you’re at it.
While Mark Chrisler writing the episode, we had a brief chat about several aspects of the story. It wasn’t clear to either of us whether Peakes’ paper, “How To Live Forever,” had been rejected or accepted by the American Physical Society, because the sources contradict each other. s=Some say the paper paper was rejected outright. Others suggest that the paper was accepted, but that had yet to be communicated to Peakes. Still others suggest that the paper was initially rejected but then reconsidered and accepted after the change in policy.
I told Mark I had decided to go with the version presented by the court in the Faheys’ lawsuit against the Army: that the paper was rejected outright. To me, this made sense, because it was a relatively contemporary account and had the process of law behind it. Later accounts felt like the principals were rewriting events to fit a particular narrative.
If anyone out there has access to better sources and can resolve this one way or the other, I’d love to hear from you! That’s email@example.com. With hyphens.
In “The Icelander,” I tentatively identified the “skraelings” of the Greenland Sagas as the Dorset peoples of the Canadian arctic, but further research has revealed that the Dorset were already in decline by the time the Greenlanders arrived in America. It is far more likely that the “skraelings” were the Thule peoples who had been aggressively moving into former Dorset territories.
In the Reddit thread on the episode, there was a spirited debate about who was responsible for toppling the statue of Thorfinn Karlesfni into the Schuylkill River. Antifa or anti-racists remain the most likely subjects, but those groups have some spirited defenders who will jump to their defense, and in this case, they have a point. There’s no hard evidence one way or the other. I’ve heard rumors that there were flyers distributed at the site where anti-racists took credit for toppling the statue, but I’ve yet to see a photo of said flyers or see any corroborating evidence for their existence. So for now, it’s still a mystery.
As of November 2021, Thorfinn Karlsefni is still on his extended sabbatical. There is indication that he will ever return to Fairmount Park.
Now, when we got an angry comment on Instagram about factual inaccuracies in our episode on chromotherapy, “Normalating,” my initial urge was to reply in anger. But then I realized I should be more open-minded here. Perhaps I did get something factually wrong. Perhaps there’s recent research indicating that confirms that chromotherapy has some positive benefits. So I asked the commenter to clarify, hoping to learn something new.
Turns out, the “inaccuracies” were that I had challenged the efficacy of Spectro-Chrome Metry. Yeah, I’m not gonna issue a correction about that.
In the interest of fairness I will offer one correction to this episode. I said that Dr. Ghadiali was tried and convicted of transporting his secretary across state lines to perform an abortion. I should have said “procure” an abortion.
The Terror of Gillikin Country
In “The Terror of Gillikin Country,” the episode about the 1927 Coverdale Payroll Robbery, I may have inadvertently given the impression that the Burchianti Gang never existed. Not so! The Burchiantis did exist at one point, they just didn’t have the longevity or superhuman planning abilities attributed them to the cops.
You’ll see some sources that suggest that the Burchianti Gang eventually became Jaworski’s Flathead Gang as the original members were arrested or died off. These sources are assuming that initial police statements were entirely correct in their speculations, but just because the cops say so, does not necessarily make it so. The two gangs were simultaneously operating in different states in the early 1920s, making it impossible for one to have evolved into the other. Lesser members may have jumped back and forth between the two gangs in later years, but that doesn’t make one an offshoot of the other.
You’ll also see sources claiming that Dan Rastelli was a member of the Flatheads. Rastelli was only dragged into the Beadling robbery investigation because of his ethnic background and a physical resemblance to Paul Jaworski. The police kept hounding him after his acquittal because they assumed he was a cop killer who escaped justice thank to technicalities, instead of an innocent man caught in an arbitrary dragnet. But police suspicions do not amount to actual criminal activity. Rastelli wasn’t exactly a choirboy, but there’s never been any evidence that ties him to either the Flathead or the Burchianti Gangs.
The Prophet of the Pacific
I don’t have any actual corrections to this episode, but I just wanted to say I received a very nice letter from one of Ira Colver Sparks’ descendants which made made my day.
As I was researching a future episode, I stumbled across a factoid that provided new insight into the Jersey Devil hoax of 1909. “What-Is-It?”, one of the names given to the mysteirous creature by the press, was also the name of a rotating exhibit of oddities at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. It’s likely that reporters intended the name to be a tip-off to readers that the story was not on the level.
After the episode aired, #23 wrote me expressing some interest in the history of the Ninth and Arch Dime Museum. It was originally opened in 1869 by Colonel Joseph H. Wood, a business partner of P.T. Barnum, as the imaginatively-named “Colonel Joseph H. Wood’s Museum.” In 1883, Wood sold it to a consortium of businessmen, who turned it into “Hagar and Campbell’s New Dime Museum.” Hagar and Campbell apparently didn’t have the right stuff, and in 1885 they sold it to Charles A. Brandenburg, who turned it into the “Ninth and Arch Dime Museum.” The museum was on its last legs when they conceived of the Jersey Devil hoax in 1909, and it was too little, too late. It closed in 1910 and was replaced by a minstrel show. Yikes.
Moron or Madman?
In “Moron or Madman?”, the episode about Soviet agrobiologist Trofim Lysenko, I wrote the following about Michurinist biology:
Michurinist biology, at its heart, argues that heredity is controlled by a substance that cannot observed, studied, or explained but only sort of nebulously understood through its manifestations. That’s not a scientific idea at all. It is, in fact, almost a religious idea. Which makes it pretty ironic that it was cooked up by a bunch of Communists who tried to tart it up with a fresh coat of dialectical materialism.
Listener Kristen responds:
Actually, not surprising at all. There is so much Soviet culture that is straight out of religion and traditional Russian culture that it’s kind of alarming. In some ways they took pages out of early Christian missionaries’ handbooks, e.g. instead of an icon of Jesus or some saint in the icon corner of your house, you now have a portrait of Lenin. That’s not a Christmas tree, that’s a New Year’s tree, etc.
Well. Sounds like I’ve got another episode to research.
Suffer Little Children
At the end of “Suffer Little Children,” our episode about John Ballou Newbrough and the Faithists of Shalam, I groused that I had been unable to prove a possible connection that tied the Faithists to the Harmony Society and the Koreshan Unity. I was so focused on a potential slam dunk that I missed the easy layup: Elizabeth Rowell Thompson.
Thompson, an eccentric Spiritualist and philanthropist collected authors and free thinkers the way other people collect sports cards. For about a year she covered all of Dr. Cyrus Reed Teed’s personal expenses in the hopes that he would publish a groundbreaking work of theology, but Teed developed a writer’s block and had a falling out with his patron. A few years later, she gave money to Dr. John Ballou Newbrough to help print the first edition of the Oahspe.
After “Triple Jumper,” the episode on the mysterious death of Ed Delahanty, #23 asked how Big Ed with his dubious moral history of drinking and gambling, got into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The short answer is “the Veterans Committee.” The long answer is that dubious morals have never been grounds for exclusion from the Hall of Fame. Remember, Pete Rose wasn’t banned for betting on baseball. He was banned for betting on his own games.
His Royal Snakeship
Boy, #23 asks a lot of questions. He asked if there were any bass in Silver Lake, NY. And the answer is yes. According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation web site, Silver Lake is home to largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, black crappie, and brown bullhead. Sounds like it’s still a great place to go fishing.
Burning Fire, Deep Water
At the beginning of the episode “Burning Fire, Deep Water”, I consistently mispronounced the name of Hollywood producer Walter Wanger. It’s apparently pronounced “wayne-ger” — rhymes with “manger.”
The Graveyard of Baseball
And while we’re at it, in “The Graveyard of Baseball” I mispronounced the name of historian Bruce Kuklik by leaving out the second of three ks. Sorry, Bruce.
Also, friend of the show Jim asked if there was any reason Joe Sohosky of Exton, PA was stabbed in the back while buying tickets for a Phillies game. And the answer is… nope! He was stabbed in the back by four random youths who ran off and were never caught. What can I say? The stadium was in a rough neighborhood.
Westward Huss, Part 1 (New England)
In this episode I accidentally referred to runologist Olaf Strandwold as “Olaf Strangwold,” repeating an error I found in one of my sources. Hey, at least I got it right in Part 3.
Preview of Series 9
Series 9 is currently shaping up nicely, and will feature six stories that take us from from the dawn of man to the far future; or from the jungles of Central America to an unknown planet on the edge of the galaxy.
As usual, here’s a quick preview of what you can expect, based on some of the books we consulted for research:
- Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland
- Blue Blaze: Danger and Delight in Strange Islands of Honduras
- Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension
- My Work is That of Conservation
- Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils
- The Gold of the Gods
- The Life and Adventures of James F. O’Connell, the Tattooed Man
- Unknown Tribes, Uncharted Seas
The Ancient and Esoteric Order of the Jackalope podcast will return on November 15th with an episode we’re calling, “Liminal Space.” Until then, remember: quiquid minime sciunt, optime scire.
Featuring Corrections For
- The Hot House
- Pleadings from Asbury Park
- French Leave
- “I’m the Naughty Boy”
- The Icelander
- The Terror of Gillikin Country
- The Prophet of the Pacific
- Moron or Madman
- Suffer Little Children
- Triple Jumper
- His Royal Snakeship
- Burning Fire, Deep Water
- The Graveyard of Baseball
- Westward Huss, Part 1