Saturday, March 9, 2019

Detective Book Club cover:
"Death Knocks Three Times"

  • Title: Death Knocks Three Times
  • Author: Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973), under her pen name Anthony Gilbert
  • Dust jacket artist: Unknown! Which is a bummer.
  • Publisher: Spine of the dust jacket says Random House. Back cover of the dust jacket says "The Detective Book Club." Title page says Walter J. Black.
  • Publication year: Book was first published in 1949. Not sure about this edition.
  • Original price: None listed on jacket.
  • Pages: 155
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Back cover rhymed marketing:
    "You'll find no better pick-me-up
    Wherever you may be...
    Than the latest triple volume
    From the DBC."
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "Novelist John Sherren's three elderly relatives were eccentric — and rich. And, by a curious quirk of fate all three died shortly after he visited them. The colonel, a recluse and conscientious objector to anything modern, went first. Then there was Aunt Isabel, a trusting, timid soul who believed in everything and everyone."
  • First sentence: Ever since midday the rain had poured down with such ferocity that the whole moor seemed awash.
  • Last sentence: [Redacted because of being a potential spoiler.]
  • Random sentence from middle #1: His arrogance aroused in her every atom of antagonism of which she was capable.
  • Random sentence from middle #2: Clara looked at him like a particularly vicious boa constrictor eyeing a particularly inferior rabbit.
  • Do boa constrictors actually eat bunny rabbits? Typically, only boas that are held in captivity eat rabbits.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.62 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon rating: 4.3 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Review excerpts: There are Awesome Blogs Galore (ABsG) about mystery novels, so here's a roundup of what some folks who are well-versed in this genre say about Death Knocks Three Times. I encourage you to check out their full reviews and their blogs.
    • J.F. Norris of Pretty Sinister Books: "Death Knocks Three Times (1949) is almost unclassifiable. It's a Gothic send-up, a satire on the art of novel writing, a treatise on detective novels, a 'badass biddy' (my own name for a certain type of subgenre featuring nefarious and murderous senior citizen women) suspense thriller, and [in] the end a fair play mystery novel."
    • Martin Edwards of "Do You Write Under Your Own Name?": "The [publication] date [of 1949] is significant, because a key element of the story is the period setting: we really get a feel of life in post-war austerity Britain, although some of the political comments seem a bit delphic to a modern reader."
    • Armchairreviewer (Kate) of Crossexamingcrime: "So not only does the story keep throwing up surprises, but it is also enjoyable for the depth of personality it produces in its characters, all of which is intricately bound up with the mystery plot itself. Not to be missed and unsurprisingly strongly recommended."
    • Neer of A Hot Cup of Pleasure: "I also loved how Gilbert weaves other literary characters in her novel. There are references to Father Brown, Lord Peter Whimsey, and Albert Campion. And I wonder whether J.K. Rowling had read this book because there are both a Potter and a Pettigrew in the book."
    • Aidan of Mysteries Ahoy!: "Death Knocks Three Times is not an inverted mystery although you may be forgiven for thinking you know who the killer is the whole time you are reading it. This is because Gilbert structures this book cleverly to lead the reader at all times to feel that they know where this is headed but because we are never definitively told what happened we have to remain open-minded to other possibilities."
    • Bev Hankins of My Reader's Block: "[Gilbert's] primary detective is Arthur Crook — a lawyer whose clients are always innocent. Always. Crook is a likable rogue who cheerfully says that he doesn't mind who he sets up as the murderer — provided he can get his client off."

Saturday's postcard: Greta checks in from Innsbruck

Here's a postcard that my great-grandmother, Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988), sent to my mom and uncle in 1958.

It features the Goldenes Dachl building in Innsbruck, Austria. The structure was completed in 1500, its roof adorned with 2,657 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximilian I's wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza.1 The Goldenes Dachl had a balcony from which the royals could enjoy festivals and tournaments in the Innsbruck square below.

Here's my best decipherment of Greta's handwriting on the back:
May 16th Friday
This is a pretty city, clean & a nice hotel & have a lovely room. The ride down to it from high mts. was beautiful. Philip Park [?] lived here. Cooler & windy today, shopped some. Leaving after lunch.
Love Grand Mother?
There's definitely a question mark at the end. Don't know why.

1. About that marriage, per Wikipedia: "At her wedding, Bianca wore a bodice 'with eighty pieces of the jeweler's art pinned thereon, with each piece consisting of one ruby and four pearls'. She also brought her husband a rich dowry of 400,000 ducats. ... [However] the union was unhappy: shortly after the consummation of the marriage, Maximilian complained that Bianca may have been more beautiful than his first wife but was not as wise. It was impossible for the young bride to win the affection of her husband, who considered her too uneducated, talkative, naive, wasteful with money, and careless. ... Bianca Maria Sforza died at Innsbruck on 31 December 1510. She was buried at Stams. Her husband did not attend her funeral or even dedicate a gravestone to her."

Thursday, March 7, 2019

1928 headline and spooky article: "Radio 'Ghost' Balks Experts"

For today's amusement and mystery, here is a lengthy article that appeared 91 years ago, in the November 23, 1928, edition of The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Kentucky:
Walls of House Emit Programmes of Nearby Station Without Cause.

By Sam Love.
Bellmore, L.I., Nov. 22 (UP) — A "radio ghost," that haunts an untenanted and ancient farmhouse here, causing voices and music to come apparently from the walls themselves, has literally set this peaceful village by the ears and caused the owner to annunce [sic] a conviction that she never will be able to rent the property again.

The strange phenomenon has occurred daily and nightly for months but was kept a secret by Mrs. Lou Greenamyer, owner of the property, who hoped that the manifestations would stop.

Programmes Reproduced.
An investigation of village rumors today revealed that the whisperings in Bellmore not only were true but that they understated the case. The Greenamyer house not only reproduced the programmes from WEAF's control station, half a mile distant, but when not fading reproduced them more clearly than an ordinary radio set and absolutely without static.

Most of the radio voices and music seemed to come from the south wall of the living-room. Then for no apparent reason they would come from the cellar.

It was admitted at the WEAF control station that experts had been sent over recently when Mrs. Greenamyer complained about the voices and that their best technicians had been utterly at a loss of [sic] solve the mystery or even to explain it after going over the old farmhouse from top to bottom.

Mrs. Greenamyer drove over from her home in Freeport and unlocked the house for the United Press correspondent and Charles Ellsworth, chief operator of the United Press radio station.

She explained that she had been unable to rent it since the last tenants, a Mr. and Mrs. Duval and their son, moved out suddenly — without mentioning anything strange, however, last February.

Meantime grass had grown knee-deep in the yard and a tangle of bushes and dried weeds aided a cluster of fir, oak and apple trees in screening the two-story frame home from Bellmore Boulevard to the East. To the South of the house is a thick woods of oak.

Haunting Denied.
Mrs. Greenamyer, a matter-of-fact young matron, denied indignantly that she took any stock in village talk that the place was "haunted."

"But it is enough to give you a start," she said. "I remember last spring the first time I heard it I thought somebody near here had an extra-loud speaker radio, although nobody lives within a quarter of a mile.

"I was dusting the furniture, getting ready to spend part of the summer here with my two boys. Then I found out that you couldn't hear the music in the yard — only the house.

"I never thought much about it — that it was some sort of accident.

"But last August our house in Freeport was crowded with guests and a friend, Miss June Bell of New York, and I, came over to spend the night. We heard the music again. It seemed to be coming from everywhere, this time. I said:

"'June, you go to the back door and I'll go to the front and see where it's loudest'

"But when we got outdoors we couldn't hear it. Finally it got loudest in the cellar. Believe me, we got scared. When it never stopped we got petrified. About 1 o'clock in the morning it stopped and we went to a bed upstairs — both of us in a single bed.

"That's the last time I have slept here."

When the house was entered today it was disappointingly silent. The investigators went into the shallow center and crouched there. More silence.

Like Early Phonograph.
Preparing to leave, despite Mrs. Greenamyer's protests that she had heard the noises with WEAF experts only a few days before, the party gathered round an oak table in the living-room.

Then, at first faintly, swelling later in volume until every word was clear, a lecture voice was heard coming from the south wall of the room. The voice had an uncanny quality, unlike radio as received on either a tube or crystal set, but more like the tone of the earliest crude phonographs.

The voices stopped in a moment. It was 3:45 o'clock. An announcer's voice was heard: "This is Station WEAF. Our programme continues with" — it faded — "our first number is by —" And then a piano tinkled in the wall and a soprano voice began a song that grew stronger and then faded into nothingness.

A hasty visit to the cellar revealed that whereas a moment before nothing could be heard in the cellar, but only in the living-room, now the soprano was singing below stairs only.

A search through the house while the music was still audible revealed nothing to explain it. An electrician went to the master switch in the cellar, cutting off the light current without affecting the reception, which was night fell became clearer. There was no aerial on the house. The remains of an old radio ground-wire were found in the cellar. This was uprooted without affecting the phenomenon.

Walls Seem Solid.
The walls were tapped where the music seemed to come out. They seemed as solid as when Henry Golder, a Bellmore resident, who still lives, had them put together with old-fashioned "No. 9 out" nails fifty years ago.

As a final test, Mrs. Greenamyer, who seemed to have no room for a radio to be concealed on her slender person, was sent out into the yard. The result of this seemed to be that the WEAF programme came in stronger than ever in the home.

Various groupings of persons in the house seemed to effect the reception somewhat, but when all left the living-room the entire wall was sending out a musical programme.

WEAF's transmitting station is in view through the trees in the yard across field land. Half a mile distant another abandoned house and partially burned barn are in the between.

Questioned after the correspondent had visited the "radio-ghost" house, operators at WEAF's transmitting station admitted than an investigation had been made but that no evidence of a hoax could be discovered by their experts.

Nor was the "radio ghost" laid by the recent change in wave lengths when WEAF, on November 16, switched from 492 meters to 454 meters. The old frame house, if some freak of construction really makes it the queerest receiving set in the world — a receiving set without a crystal, a tube, a circuit, headphones or a loud-speaker — tuned itself in on the changed wave length automatically.

Suggestions that a nail in the structure might have penetrated a rock crystal in the foundation — that the whole phenomenon may result from some curious echo in the WEAF transmitting station — occurred to experts, but their preliminary investigations failed to substantiate them.

To them, as to Mrs. Greenamyer, the "radio ghost" is still just a radio ghost, manner of living and functioning unknown.

A large home-made sign recently was tacked on the front of the "radio ghost" habititation. It reads:

"For Sale."

Happened Before.
New York, Nov. 22 (UP) — The Bellmore "radio ghost" recalled to veteran wireless men here a slightly similar case that a dozen years ago nearly frightened a farmer's family to death in an isolated house near New Zealand, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Mysterious tappings, which eventually proved to be code from the first transatlantic radio station at Glace Bay, Cape Breton, 135 miles from the farm house, continued to afflict the family for several months of 1913 and 1914.

Scientists from Boston investigated without solving the mystery, and the family abandoned the house.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

1927 headline: "Black Magic Is Alight With Television Ghosts"

For your amusement, here is a short article that appeared 92 years ago, in the April 21, 1927, edition of the Daily News of New York:

Black Magic Is Alight With Television Ghosts

Light magic — magic that would have led its creator to be burned at the stake 100 years ago — sparked and sputtered in old Manhattan last night.

First, the Engineers society, at their meeting at 29 West 39th st., saw a novel radio furnace heat metal discs to whiteness, without wires or any aid. Invisible rays were used, giving spectators the idea that Jules Verne's imaginary death ray may some time become a reality. The demonstration held the possiibility that some day New York may be crisscrossed by giant rays giving light and power.

Second, when television service again was established between Whippany, N.J., and this city, ghosts made their appearance. When only one message and one image of the sender was sent from Whippany, three and four images, very faint and resembling spirit pictures in the movies, were received here. The ghosts sometimes blurred the original image.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Some WKBS-48 nostalgia

I really had to scrounge around on the internet to find these nifty title cards and bumpers for the now-defunct WKBS-TV, Channel 48, an independent channel out of Burlington, New Jersey, that was on the air from 1965 to 1983. That was one of my go-to channels as a kid when we lived in Clayton, New Jersey, from the summer of 1978 until late 1980. Even though I spent long days outside exploring the neighborhood and riding my bicycle, I also watched way too much TV. I specifically remember Battle of the Planets and Star Blazers on weekday afternoons and Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons. I also have specific memories of a bumper for The Bowery Boys, but don't remember watching them much.1 These WKBS images will become scarcer and scarcer, so I'll add a layer of preservation by posting them here.

1. Per Wikipedia, "The Bowery Boys and East Side Kids picked up a new generation of mostly younger fans when the films were repackaged and syndicated for television in the 1960s and 1970s. They became a staple for independent stations across the U.S., often used to fill up the early-afternoon time-slots on weekends."

Monday, March 4, 2019

Some recent Postcrossing arrivals and thank-you notes

I've been a Postcrossing member since December 2012, and I'm headed toward 1,000 postcards sent and 1,000 received. It's the most fun you can have with your mailbox! With a little help from Huggles and Mr. Bill, here's the lowdown on some of my recent international communications.

Received in the mail

The colorful postcard in the middle of the above photo is from the Netherlands. The message states: "My name is Kim and last Summer my postcard for you got lost. So hopefully this one does arrive. I live in the south of the Netherlands in a small town and I have two dogs. What kind of animals do you have? I don't think we have a lot of fairy tales or folklore in the Netherlands [note from Chris: not true!]. We know mostly German fairy tales. But I think this is a happy postcard of Amsterdam and I hope it makes you happy as well."

From Finland came a postcard featuring a marvelous illustration by Rudolf Koivu. The note states: "Hejsan Chris. My postcard comes from Finland's southern coast, where I live in a small village near Helsinki. The drawing on front is one of the illustrations in very old fairy tale book. Wish sun and joy on your day, Cheetah." While Cheetah is from Finland, the salutation hejsan is Swedish for hello. According to Wikipedia, "Swedish-speakers comprise 5.4% of the total Finnish population."

From Hungary came a postcard featuring a photograph of the Herzan Library in Szombathely. The note states: "Greetings from Hungary! My name is Éva, I live in Budapest and retired a year ago. I read a lot, play the viola in two orchestras and collect postcards, books, old letters and photos, etc. :) This postcard was bought in Szombathely, the town where I was born. ... I love libraries!"

From Belgium came a postcard featuring the André Derain artwork "Portrait of a Man with a Newspaper (Chevalier X)." The painting is now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The note on the postcard states: "Hello Chris. 'If we saw tomorrow's newspaper today, tomorrow would never happen'. Best wishes, kind regards. My name is Filip."

And from Russia, I received a nice postcard with this note: "Hello Chris! My name is Larisa. I live in Russia, in the city of Tyumen, this is Western Siberia, the city is beautiful! We have winter, t -10°. I love to travel. I wish you good luck in the New Year and excellent postcards."

* * *

Thanks from abroad

And here's another roundup of emailed thank-you messages from fellow Postcrossing enthusiasts across the globe.

Thessa from Germany wrote: "Thanks for your Card. Now, the time before Christmas, I bought so many books for give away. I visited the book fairy in Frankfurt and found so many interesting stuff. I'm a teacher and I guess we are Born to select books. Have a good time."

Yana from Malaysia wrote: "Hello Chris. Your map card of Amish County has safely arrived in my postbox. And it is not the one with the postcard ID. But I decided to register this map card anyway. Is it okay? By the way, I really love the stamps too. Famous figure I suppose. Will Rogers and Sally Ride. I learn a lot from those stamps and the map card. The green stamp, it looks pretty. So now I will wait for your card with the postcard ID. Just thinking about the still travelling card, makes me happy. And it is very thoughful of you to send this map card and the other card to me."

Tatiana from Russia wrote: "Hi, Chris! Many thanks for such a nice postcard you kindly sent me. I really like the choice you made. First of all I just wanted to say that the illustration the card depicts is almost about me. Yes! Cause of four!!! Cats who are living with us. But to be honest I don't allow them to enter my room. They easily can organize a little disaster there. The next thing is about Baba Yaga. During the New Year eve I have met her ... She just walked down the street and smoked her cigarette!!! Of course she was an actress who came back from a performance. But she looked so realistic that I can definitely say that Baba Yaga is existing!!! So thank you again and again for the card. Sending good vibes in your way and wishing you to have a very happy year full of marvelous postcards!"

Christine from Germany wrote: "Thanks for your lovely postcard of the little dance party. Unfortunately other countries seem to follow the idea of hateful and disrespectful politics. I'm really afraid of our current right-wing party (AfD) gaining any more influence on everyday life. Looking at what they do and having read many books about German history 80-100 years ago, there are far too many similar things happening nowadays. Letz's hope for global peaceful development with an attitude of acceptance and aiming for equality."

Olga from Russia wrote: "Hello, Chris! Thank you very much for the postcard! In the Udmurt Republic really lives Baba Yaga, her name is Abida (Обыда). Wish you happiness and good luck!"

Ronja from Finland wrote: "Thanks a lot from the card you sent me, Chris!! I love it! And I really like that Robert F. Kennedy stamp. It was nice, that you translated something in finnish too. Good luck with the parks!!"

Maris from Latvia wrote: "Thank you for your beautiful card!!! I like it very much. Many greetings from Riga, Latvia and me! Happy New Year 2019! If you like marmots (groundhogs) visit my family website or Facebook page"

Tiina from Finland wrote: "Thank you for your very lovely card! You wrote so much, it was very nice to read and get to know you a bit. You have 5 cats, how amazing is that! I have only one, she is one of the best things in my life, my furry baby. Cats just makes life even better. You sound and for sure are amazing dad to your daughter. Good luck with getting that tattoo. It hurts only a bit, but it's definitely worth it, especially in your case."

Irina from Russia wrote: "Hello, Chris! Thank you very much for the beautiful postcard, gorgeous stamps and interesting letter! I think you need to go to Russia for the sake of Baba Yaga. My whole family was making lasagna last weekend. Pizza and lasagna — they are always to the feast! I went to the movies with a friend on the film Green Book 2018. We liked it very much!"

Murmetti from Finland wrote: "Thank you Chris for your nice card! I especially loved the John Lennon stamp, and the fact that you think your daughter is awesome. Happy times to your way!"

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Believe it or not, Jack Palance:
A house inside a tree

On the heels of a mid-February post, here's another postcard, plucked from someone's old scrapbook, of sequoioideae being used in a novel way by capitalist Homo sapiens.

The handwritten caption on the front of this postcard, which dates to 1930-1950, based on its style of EKC stamp box, states:

At Lilly Redwood Park
on the Redwood Highway

And the sign hanging in front of the attraction states:



Additional small signs state:
  • "Please Stay Outside of Fence"

Jennifer Bourn wrote a nice history of the attraction on the Inspired Imperfection blog in 2017. Here's an excerpt:
"Originally named The Fraternal Monarch and later the Quadruped Tree, the World Famous Treehouse was featured in Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not in 1933, claiming to be the tallest one-room house in the world.

"It is built inside a 4,000 year old redwood tree that has been hollowed out into a 21×27 foot room with a 500 foot tall ceiling. Even though this enormous redwood tree was struck by a lightning thousands of years ago and had the opening expanded to create a single room home inside it’s base, the tree is still alive."
Check out Bourn's blog for more information, some great photos and an explanation on why you should take some pennies if you make the trip.

More importantly, if you plan to check out this California destination, check in advance to make sure it's open. There have been some reports in recent years of the Tree House being closed for extended periods., which also has a nice writeup on the attraction, states: "On a road trip in the region in December 2017, we were advised by workers at three separate redwood attractions that the World Famous Tree House had been shut down, probably for years. However, we noticed on our return leg that the OPEN sign was once again lit." This only-in-America type of attraction won't be around for as long as the redwood itself, but it's sure going to try.