Friday, 13 September 2019

What You Didn’t Know About Friday the 13th But Were Too Afraid to Ask

Yikes! Today is Friday the 13th AND a full moon! (
Today’s the day when two of our most powerful superstitions converge on one date—it is Friday the 13th and a full moon. While it might be tempting to just stay in bed all day to avoid the doom that awaits us on Friday the 13th, but your boss may frown upon that. Instead, let’s find out where our superstitions about Friday the 13th and the full moon originated. Knowledge is power…and we just may find that we have nothing to fear. 
Eagle owl (Bubo bubo) landing in creepy branches and trunk of dead tree silhouetted against blue night sky with full moon over spooky forest. (Photo by: Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Phobia Alert

Today’s Friday the 13th full moon is rather uncommon. The last time a full moon fell on a Friday the 13th was, ironically, 13 years ago. On this day, two groups of people with irrational fears may commiserate together. The fear of Friday the 13th is called triskaidekaphobia and the fear of full moon is known as selenophobia. 
Twelve was a harmonious number. Thirteen was not. (

12 Is Greater Than 13

The number 12, in Western culture, pops up quite a bit. It seemed to be a number that signified completeness, harmony, and balance. There are 12 months in the year, 12 Zodiac signs, 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 apostles, 12 days of Christmas, 12 gods in the mythical pantheon, and 12 labors of Hercules. For ancient cultures, 12 was a natural number. Adding one more to make the number 13 was unnatural and unbalanced. 13 was a number that caused some anxiety because it did not fit with the neatly divisible even dozen. 
There were 13 people at the Last Supper. (

13 Guests at the Last Supper

One of the theories about the fear of 13 stems from the Last Supper. There were 13 guests seated at the table for the Last Supper, Jesus and his 12 disciples. Of course, we know that having 13 people dining together turned out to be unlucky, as Jesus was arrested that night and crucified the next day. Many Christians point to the Last Supper as the basis for their suspicion of the number 13. In fact, to this day, many people avoid seating a table for 13 people because it is a bad omen. 
Eve gave Adam an apple on a Friday. (

13 Plus Friday Equals Bad Stuff

As if the number 13 wasn’t bad enough, along comes Friday the 13th. In the Bible, some pretty negative stuff happened on Fridays. We know that Jesus was crucified on the cross on a Friday, but there is more. It was on a Friday that Cain killed his brother, Abel, and that Eve gave Adam that apple to snack on. 
The Friday the 13th superstition may have started with the Knights Templar. (

Friday the 13th and the Knights Templar

In the 12th century, the Knights Templar became one of the most powerful religious and military organizations in Europe. They were so wealthy, in fact, that the king of France, Philip IV, borrow a huge chunk of change from them. When he couldn’t pay it back, he ordered that all the Templars be rounded up and burned at the stake. The date of this mass execution? Friday, October 13, 1307. 
The word "lunacy" even comes from the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna. (

Moon Madness

We know that the moon exerts its influence here on earth--just watch the tide roll in and out. For centuries, however, people thought that a full moon cast magical powers over humans, too. All sorts of odd behavior was attributed to the full moon, from sleepwalking and violent outburst, to crime sprees, and suicides. Up until the middle of the 20th century, the full moon was blamed for inducing strange reactions in people. This phenomenon was even given a name—lunacy—after Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon. Some of our earliest philosophers, such as Aristotle and Pliny the Elder, theorized that the human brain was comprised of water, just like the oceans. They deduced that, like the oceans, the moon has the power to impact the water on our brains, making people act irrationally. This was considered solid science for centuries. 
Does the full moon have the power to transform humans into wolves? (

The Moon and Werewolves

The full moon has long been linked to strange, mystical stuff, but none as well-known as the werewolf legends. As any Twilight fan can tell you, infected humans are transformed into werewolves by the light of a full moon. Once transformed, they ravage the countryside in a blood-thirsty reign of violence. While we now know that the werewolf legend is nothing more than a myth, it may have gotten its start because of unexplained wolf attacks on people and livestock that coincidentally happened near full moons. 
Statistically, the full moon does not cause an uptick in crime and violence, despite what most people think. (

An Increase in Violence?

In the last several decades, it was widely thought that the full moon caused a spike in crime, accidents, and crazy behavior. Ask any police officer, emergency room doctor, or kindergarten teacher, and they will attest to this. The evidence is merely anecdotal, however. Study after study has proven that there is no correlation between the full moon and odd behavior. Today’s Friday the 13th’s full moon is most likely not a reason to be alarmed. Instead, view it as a unique opportunity to kick off the upcoming Halloween season, albeit a bit early. 

Protection Against Witches: How Ornaments Used To Ward Off Evil Spirits

Witch balls, colorful glass orbs, were commonplace in 17th and 18th century England. Source: (tripadvisor)
It's mostly reserved for quiet nights following horror movie marathons these days, but most people in 17th- and 18th-century England and the United States truly believed that evil spirits, witches, spells, and sorcery were everyday threats. Just as one would arm themselves against an intruder or inoculate themselves against a disease (you know, if that were an option back then), people looked to magical objects to serve as protection against witches. One of the more common lines of defense was the witch ball or witch bottle. Let's learn about these weird and mystical devices to see how important they were to people living a few centuries ago. 
Witch bottles, like witch balls, were powerful talisman against evil spells. Source: (

What are Witch Balls and Witch Bottles?

Both witch balls and witch bottles were used as tools for the defense against the dark arts. The witch ball was a hollow glass sphere that closely resembles the traditional Christmas ornaments we see during the holidays. Witch bottles were similar, but instead of being glass orbs, they were clay jugs or containers. 
Accused witches were tested by water. A true witch would float, just like the witch balls. Source: (

Floating Balls and Sinking Witches

One of the key properties of a witch ball was that it could float on top of the water. There was a strong connection between the ability to float and witches in the 17th century. In those days, if a person was accused of being a witch, a surefire way to find out was to bind their arms and legs and toss them into a river or lake. If they floated, so the accusers thought, it was because they were so evil that the water rejected them and their attempt at baptism by water. A floating witch was pulled from the water and hanged. If the accused failed to float and sank to the bottom, then they were innocent of the crime of being a witch. Dead but innocent.
There was even a witch ball hanging at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem during the first half of the twentieth century. Source: (

Hanging a Witch Ball

While it was important that a witch ball could float, it wasn't used in water. Instead, a witch ball or two were hung in a window of a home. Dangling in the sunlight, the witch ball, according to legend, had the power to cleanse the evil from the home. In the same vein, a witch who was executed on the gallows was typically left hanging so that they could cleanse the entire village of the evil sorcery. A witch bottle could be stored in an out-of-the-way spot in the house or buried to keep it safe. The power of the witch bottle only lasted as long as the bottle was unbroken, so it wasn't something to display on the mantle where unruly children could accidentally condemn you.
Three witches in a graveyard, c1790s. A man passing by is assailed by demons. Artist Unknown. Source: (Photo by Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Shiny and Reflective

In addition to their ability to float, glass witch balls were shiny and reflective. As everyone knew, witches abhorred seeing their own reflection, so they avoided mirrors and other reflective surfaces. As such, a witch ball hung in a window would frighten a witch away. The witch ball could also bounce sunlight off its shiny surface. Much like the Care Bear Stare, the unexpected bouncing sunbeams served to scare away evil.
The scent of rosemary could carry away an evil spirit. Source: (

Filled with Anti-Evil Materials

Witch balls and witch bottles were hollow with openings on top, so items could be placed inside the balls and bottles to ramp up their powers. Both holy water and salt were used because witches hated those two items, but they could also be filled with herbs such as rosemary, red wine, and pins. According to legends, the evil spirit would drown in the wine, become impaled on the pin, and be carried away on the scent of the rosemary. 
Witch balls could thwart a personal attack by using the target's blood, hair, and fingernail clippings. Source: (

A Personalized Witch Ball

Occasionally, a particularly self-involved person came to believe that they were the specific target of witches' spells and evil spirits. To protect themselves, the person could create a highly personalized witch ball. In it, they put parts of their own body: urine samples, fingernail clippings, strands of hair, or even menstrual blood. These items increased the potency of the witch ball and let the witch know that the person was prepared to put up a fight. Later, the witch balls and bottles were stuffed with small items that had significant meaning to the individual, such as feathers, herbs, colorful stones, ashes, or charms. 
Did witch balls morph into Christmas ornaments? Source: (

Witch Balls and Christmas Ornaments

Witch balls, particularly ones made of colored glass, look a lot like the round, glass ornaments that we traditionally hang on Christmas trees. This has led many people to postulate that the origin of Christmas ornaments lies with witch balls, suggesting that the ornaments were used on the Christmas tree to banish the jealousy and evil thoughts that visitors to the home might bring upon seeing the presents beneath the tree. Other historians point to the ornaments' first appearance in Germany in 1847 as proof that there is no connection between Christmas ornaments and witch balls. If you really need one, The Nightmare Before Christmas is available year-round.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

This Is How The 50 U.S. States Got Their Names









Frank R. Beckwith: The First Black Presidential Candidate

Attorney Frank R. Beckwith. Source: (
Long before the historic presidency of Barack Obama, one man cut himself off a little slice of that history by becoming the first African-American candidate in a major party's presidential primary election. To give you just a small idea of how gutsy he was, he did this in the middle of the turbulent Civil Rights era. It was a groundbreaking achievement and a huge step in the quest for racial equality, yet you probably don't know this man's name. History has relegated him to the footnotes of the history books, but his contributions cannot be ignored. He is Frank R. Beckwith, and this is his story. 
Beckwith was a prominent lawyer in Indianapolis beginning in the 1930s. Source: (

A Hoosier Politician

Born in 1904, Frank Roscoe Beckwith grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana as the son of former slaves, where he received a public school education and graduated in 1921 from the Arsenal Technical High School. After that, Beckwith interned for two prominent lawyers in the city, Asa J. Smith and Sumner A. Clancy. From these two men, Beckwith learned about law and politics. He then went on to become a successful attorney in his own right. 
Beckwith joined the Republican Party and became an active member. Source: (

A Member of the Republican Party

In the late 1920s, Frank R. Beckwith got involved in politics. The registered Republican served as the Director of Welfare and Safety on the Indiana Industrial Board for four years and lobbied the General Assembly of Indiana in favor of issues that were important the African-American community, including free busing for public school children who enrolled in schools outside their home school districts. It may seem strange in our era that a Civil Rights activist would identify as a Republican, but Beckwith was fiscally conservative, believing that government assistance would be largely unnecessary after the end of racial discrimination.
Beckwith worked to racial equality in Indianapolis. Source: (

An Unsuccessful Candidate

Working out of his law office, headquartered near the African-American cultural hub of Indianapolis in the 1930s, Frank R. Beckwith launched at least two failed attempts at political office. He tried for a spot on the Indiana General Assembly in 1936 and for a seat on the City Council of Indianapolis in 1938. Both times, Beckwith lost the elections. Undeterred, he remained an active figure in city and state politics and volunteered his time and efforts to community projects to improve the lives of African-Americans in the community. 
Beckwith's radio broadcast was so popular that the American Bar Association released it as a book. Source: (

From Speech to Book

After Frank R. Beckwith was admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943, he was asked to deliver an address over the radio. His speech, titled The Negro Lawyer And The War, received such positive feedback that Beckwith expanded it into a book by the same name, which was published by the American Bar Association. 
Beckwith worked on the reelection campaign of Dwight Eisenhower. Source: (Photo by Bert Hardy/Getty Images)

A Public Servant

Frank R. Beckwith was devoted to public service, and he didn't let his failed campaigns slow him down. In 1953, he served as president of the Yankee Doodle Civic Foundation, where he worked to end racial discrimination against workers in the public transportation industry, and served as a delegate for the Republican Party at state conventions. He was even the Indiana urban coordinator for the reelection campaign of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. His work in this arena helped him understand the inner workings of presidential politics and laid the foundation for his own future candidacy. 
It is true that other African Americans ran for the presidency before Beckwith, but none of them, including Frederick Douglass, ran on a major party ticket. Source: (

The First Major-Party African-American Candidate

In 1960, Frank R. Beckwith announced his campaign to become the Republican Party's presidential candidate. Other African-Americans had run for the office of U.S. President in the past---most notably Frederick Douglass in 1848, Simon P. Drew in 1928, and James W. Ford in most of the '30s---but all of them had run on independent or third-party tickets. As a loyal Republican, Beckwith was the first real contender to the presidency.
Beckwith, along with Richard Nixon, were among the six candidates vying for the Republican nomination in 1960. Source: (

Campaigning Against Richard Nixon

Unfortunately for him, it was not to be. The Republican primary of 1960 included six candidates, one of whom was Frank R. Beckwith and another named Richard Nixon. Beckwith got about 20,000 votes, which seems like a sizable amount, but in reality, it was only about one-third of 1% of the total number of votes casts in the primary. In the end, Richard Nixon became the Republican nominee. Clearly not one to be disheartened, Beckwith encouraged the elected officials to build stronger bonds with the African-American community and end labor discrimination against minorities.
Beckwith's effort may have laid the foundation for Barack Obama's candidacy. Source: (

Paving the Way

Although Frank R. Beckwith was unsuccessful in his bid for the presidency, he did prove that minority candidates could be key figures in the two major political parties. Beckwith's achievement paved the way for such politicians as Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Colin Powell, and Barack Obama. Odds are that you're not a huge fan of at least one of those people, but surely we can all agree that everyone deserves the chance to be reviled by the American public.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Then and Now: What Happened to the Alaskan Glaciers from 100 Years Ago?

Repeat photography is a technique in which a historical photo and a modern photo, both taken with the same field of view, are put side by side to determine their similarities and differences.
The following collection depict how this technique was used to document and better understand the effect of the changing climate to glaciers and landscapes for the last century-and-a-quarter.

Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

H. F. Reid photograph, muir1892_417, courtesy of National Snow and Ice Data Center
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
1880s – 1890s
G. D. Hazard, 7807, courtesy of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve Archive
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
Late-19th century
(L.V. Winter and P. E. Pond, postcard # C141 in the personal collection of the author
105 - 110 years later...
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
Alaska State Library Photograph by Winter and Pond
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS Photo Library Photograph - Gilbert 276
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS Photo Library Photograph - Gilbert 278
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Reid Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

G. K. Gilbert, 258, courtesy of the USGS Photographic Library
104 years later
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
A. H. Brooks, 1299, courtesy of the USGS Photographic Library
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Lamplugh Glacier

Field photograph # 430-41
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Triangle Island, Queen Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph - Wright 333
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS Photo Library Photograph - Wright 333
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Pedersen Glacier, Aialik Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph–Grant 131
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS Photo Library Photograph – Grant 130
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Yalik Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kenai Mountains, Nuka Passage, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph – Grant 235
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Aialik Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kenai Mountains, Aialik Bay, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph –Grant 128
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

McCarty Fjord, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph – Grant 143
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS Photo Library Photograph – Grant 144
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS photograph by D.F. Higgins
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Holgate Arm, Aialik Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph–Grant 132
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Bear Glacier, Kenai Mountains, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

USGS Photo Library - Photograph Grant 123
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS Photo Library - Photograph Grant 120
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
Older photo, undated
Kenai Fjords National Park
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Harris Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park, Kenai Mountains, Alaska

USGS Photo Library - Photograph Grant 136
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia
USGS Photo Library - Photograph Grant 137
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Harvard Arm, College Fiord, Prince William Sound, Chugach National Forest, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph–Grant 208
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

Toboggan Glacier, Harriman Fiord, Prince William Sound, Chugach National Forest, Alaska

USGS Photo by Sidney Paige - 731
USGS Photograph by Bruce F. Molnia

East Fork of the Teklanika River, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

USGS Photo Library Photograph – Capps
2004 NPS Photograph by Ron Karpilo