Thursday, December 5, 2013

Out of the Bottle

I've moved blogs!  I'm now at so come join me there!

I'm writing about vegetarianism, history, archaeology, books, religions, and everything under the sun.  

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I haven't written anything all summer of substance.  I keep getting ideas and starting outlines, but they're not coming to anything.  I always feel like I write more and better stuff during the school year.  Maybe because I'm under more pressure and I have more time commitments which make me write better.  I don't know.  But I know that when I sit here and stare at my computer, knowing I have no commitments all day except to feed my grandmother, my mind wanders elsewhere.  

I know that I'm only twenty-one, so I shouldn't be expecting brilliance or perfection or even a full book.  But I don't think it's possible for an optimist to stop expecting great things, and everybody knows I'm an unrelenting optimist.  So maybe my expectations of myself are too big.  Maybe I need to work on my editing more.  Maybe I need to go to the public library and find a quiet spot in the front more often.  I don't know yet.

Part of it is that this summer is much more stressful than previous summers because I'm going to my senior year and applying to grad schools and studying for the GRE.  I'm still deciding what I want to do with my life after I graduate.  Right now I'm thinking I'll go to an MA program for Library Science and then later go back for my PhD in history if I still want to teach in a few years. Part of it is that my life feels much less together and sorted than it did last year or the year before.  Everything kind of feels like it's falling apart right now.

I know I'll do better again, but for right now I know I'm stalled.  At least I got through my birthday and I can look forward to my senior year.  Any advice?

Stay Tuned.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Twenty has been a great year for me.  It’s had its ups and definitely, definitely had its downs, but overall it’s been a great year.  A lot has happened, a lot has changed, and I’ve definitely grown more this year than any other. My birthday is in just over a week and I'll be 21. It feels like I just turned 20 but at the same time it feels like I've been waiting for this somewhat arbitrary life mile-marker my entire life. I feel simultaneously like I have the world ahead of me, and like I'm running out of time. Does anyone else feel like this summer is shorter than all the previous ones? I feel like I just finished junior year and all of a sudden I'm making lists for a triumphant return to DC and my final year.

Twenty began with me getting my permit, and ended with me getting my license.
Twenty saw me become a junior, a Big, and a mentor.
Twenty saw me expand my friend group when my best friends studied abroad.
Twenty saw me break up with my boyfriend of over four years.
Twenty saw my dreams change, evolve, and completely re-form.
Twenty saw me act as a treasurer, a committee member, and then committee chair.
Twenty saw me attend a Phi Sigma Pi conference.
Twenty saw me create my 25 Before 25 list.
Twenty saw me become a vegetarian and make better health choices.
Twenty saw me discover yoga and running.
Twenty saw me become a person who is okay with silence and noise.
Twenty saw me look at more new cities to live in than I had before.
Twenty saw me become more like the person I want to be and learn to take pride in myself.  
Twenty saw me find a new personal philosophy that really helps me.
Twenty has seen me grow as a person, a Brother, a Historian, and a friend.

Twenty-one will see even more.

Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


One hundred and fifty years ago this week a battle was fought in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the likes of which no American army had known before, nor has known since.  It lasted three days, beginning on July 1st with the doomed Picket’s Charge, and ending, mercifully, on the night of July 3rd with a casualty count of 46,286.  For days and weeks the bodies of Confederate dead lay rotting in the fields where they fell, while the Union dead were buried in a massive gravesite.  Families lost sons, husbands, fathers, and brothers on both sides.  Several days later President Abraham Lincoln made a speech that lent morale to a force that had nearly given up before the battle.  Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, and had it gone to the Confederacy, the outcome of the war might’ve been different.  

Recently, there have been a lot of TV spots about Gettysburg and its significance.  A lot of them have had someone visit the battle site now, or run B-roll of the reenactments or the site on its normal days.  One thing that’s struck me from all the tv spots I’ve seen was that so many people remarked on how tranquil Gettysburg is now.  They’ll show some film of the open field, empty but for some fences designed to recreate the look of 1863, and a reporter will talk about how calm it is when the ground was soaked with the blood of nearly 50,000 people.  This isn’t a new trend in talking about battle sites many years later.  I heard it when I visited Gettysburg, I heard in when I visited Shiloh, I’ve heard it at nearly every battlefield I’ve been to (and believe me I’ve been to a lot).  But this has always baffled me.  Did they expect the battle to still be raging?  Did they expect the ghosts of the soldiers to still be shooting at each other, though no bullets could harm them now?  Did they expect constant thunder?  

Of course the battle sites are tranquil, these battles have been over for centuries.  I don’t mean to belittle the feelings of those reporters, but I don’t understand them.  I find the tranquility to be a better memorial to those who fell there than any plaque could be.  It reminds me that everywhere could have been a battlefield at one time.  It reminds me that people died in every corner of the earth, but they don’t all get a memorial, and they don’t all get remembered.  

Instead of thinking about the weird things that have happened in history today, I think we should take these days leading up to the anniversary of the founding of our nation to remember those who have lived before us.  I think we should examine why we go to war, as nations, and as individuals, and recognize that they are often very complicated.  

Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Weekly Dose of Weird: Liver-Eating Johnson

Here’s another weird history piece, this time from the American west.  In the nineteenth century it
was easy to change your name and become someone else.  That is exactly what John Johnson, born Garrison, did.  And then his real story begins.  

A little backstory, he was born under the name Garrison in New Jersey around 1824.  When the chance to see the world and serve his country came up, he joined a fighting ship in the Mexican American war, but quickly deserted after a brawl with an officer that likely would’ve gotten him dishonorably discharged.  Garrison then changed his name to John Johnston and hopped a train out west, as many generations of Americans would do after him.  He was said to be a striking figure, over six feet tall, two hundred pounds, and pure muscle.  Not a man I would challenge lightly.

Johnston (later called Johnson) traveled to Montana in hopes of finding gold and becoming a rich man.  He did not find gold, what he found instead was a welcome to the Flathead tribe.  He married a Flathead woman and considered them to be his family.  Tragedy struck in 1847 when his wife was killed by a Crow brave.  His wife was heavily pregnant at the time, and Johnston had been away hunting, unable to protect his family.  Johnston was heartbroken and vowed revenge.

To the Crow the liver was vital to an individual’s chances of entering the afterlife, and Johnston knew it.  He began a personal vendetta against the Crow that would last twenty-five years and claim the lives of countless Crow men.  Distraught over the loss of his beloved wife, Johnston, now called Johnson, began killing any Crow he came across, and eating the liver, insulting the Crow.  Just coming across Crow men wasn’t enough for him, the loss of his wife was so great and Johnson was so bereft, that he sought out Crow men to kill and cannibalize.  

The Crow picked out their twenty best warriors, outfitted them, and sent them to kill Johnson.  Not one of them returned, and no accounts exist of what happened when they left their tribe.

Many legends surround Johnson, it can be hard to tell legend from fact through the veils of history, but one in particular stands out.  Some attribute this to another man, but many attribute it to Johnson.  He had begun a journey of over 500 miles to sell whiskey to some of his Flathead family when he was attacked by Blackfoot warriors.  They planned to sell him to the Crow for revenge.  Johnson was tied up, and put in a teepee with only one guard.  Of course, as we know, Johnson was a brick wall of a man with quite an axe to grind.  

Johnson broke through his binding, killed the guard, scalped him, and supposedly cut off his leg.  He then escaped from the camp and survived on only the guard’s raw leg in the middle of a Rocky Mountain winter until he reached the cabin of a friend and old hunting partner Del Que.  He would’ve traveled 200 miles through snow and ice.  

In 1864, almost twenty years after the death of his wife and unborn child, John Johnson joined the Union Army.  A year later, at the end of the war, he was honorably discharged from the army, and returned to Montana.  A few years later he made peace with the Crow, bodies having piled up and followed him everywhere.  Later, he was appointed deputy sheriff, then town marshal in Montana.  In December 1899 Johnson was admitted to a VA hospital in California, where he died on January 21, 1900.  

Tragedy can be truly transformative, and for John Garrison Johnston Johnson it created a monster.

Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Hi guys.  Sorry for my unanticipated hiatus.  I've been super busy and kind of stressed, but I've also been writing.  Yay for writing!  Let's hope it keeps up.  I have a cool weird-history style Weekly Dose of Weird for you tomorrow, so stick around.  

I've also been thinking of cross-posting the Weekly Dose of Weird posts on their own blog page so that people who are only interested in them don't have to wade through all the rest of my weirdness to find them. Also cause then I could use them as an example of freelance writing, although they need to be edited and cleaned up more if I'm going to do that.

Regardless, good luck with your own writing and other summer adventures.  I'll be in my cave.

Stay Tuned.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Honesty Hour: Writing Edition

This is the first post in a while that I haven't pre-written in Google drive, edited, then scheduled.  And it's gonna be a really honest one.  It's time to talk about writing again.  

Writing has been rough lately.  I've been having a lot of trouble getting it going at all.  I re-read outlines from last summer, and I get excited about the stories again, but I also can't seem to slip into that world like I did in 2012.  So I'm struggling.  Partly I think it's because I'm doing so many other things right now, partly I think it's because I'm leading a particularly stressful life of late (lots of added responsibilities with my family and the house, lots of personal stress about finding a place to live after I graduate and hoping to move there as quickly as I can after I graduate, etc).  But regardless of why, I'm struggling.  

I've been trying to get back into my Camp Nano book from last year, about a teenage psychic who moves to my hometown and discovers there's a lot more to the world than she thought.  It's a character I've been playing with for the last six years.  

I'll let you know how it goes.  But that'll probably take a while.

To any of you struggling with writing right now, good luck.  And I've always got the chocolate for when we need it.

Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Weekly Dose of Weird: New England Vampires

On a cold night in 1892 George Brown pried open tomb doors to see his younger daughter’s dead body.  It had been months since young Mercy died of consumption, which we now call tuberculosis, but her body was perfectly preserved.  She looked just as she had when her father and brother laid her to rest in January.  She should’ve been buried properly, as her mother and sister had, but the ground is hard in New England in January, so she was held in a tomb until the ground was looser.  Mercy’s body was perfect, her skin and clothes still intact, her hair and nails seemingly longer than when she’d died.  Her father and their neighbors believed she had become a vampire, and was praying on her sick brother Edwin.  
In the four years preceding Mercy’s death George Brown had lost his wife Mary, and their other daughter Mary Olive.  Then Mercy died, and Edwin became sick.  George tried to save his son.  He sent Edwin to Colorado to get the Western air, which was considered to be better for the lungs of patients with tuberculosis, but unfortunately when Edwin came home he was even sicker.  Then neighbors suggested that perhaps Edwin wasn’t really sick, perhaps he was being targeted by undead relatives.  
George Brown and his neighbors dug through the tough New England soil to unearth Mary and Mary Olive’s bodies.  They were clearly long since deceased, their bodies decayed and brown.  But Mercy had been kept above ground, in a stone building, in the freezer-like temperatures of early 1892 Rhode Island.  Thus, her body was perfectly preserved, and that was enough for her community to say that she was clearly a vampire, preying on her own big brother.  

Her father and community cut open Mercy’s chest, pulled out her heart, and burned it.  They then mixed the ashes with water, and gave it to Edwin to drink, believing that it would cure him of his disease.  Two months later Edwin joined his mother and sisters in the Rhode Island ground.  George Brown must have been heart crushed, destroyed inside.  First he lost his wife, then his first daughter, and then another daughter.  When his son too became sick, he would have taken on Atlas’ burden if it would’ve saved Edwin.  George Brown underwent the emotional trauma of digging up his wife and daughter, then of removing his other daughter’s heart and burning it.  And all of this still did nothing to save his son.  He had been a father of six children, five daughters and one son.  By June 1892 he was a father of three living daughters, and he bore that burden alone.  
George Brown was not the only one to fall into this tragedy.  Disease was not well understood in the late nineteenth century, tuberculosis especially.  Doctors recommended sending patients out west to drier air to clear out the lungs.  We know now that disease has to be treated with medicine, but at the time if the doctor’s suggestions didn’t work, people thought maybe it wasn’t disease.  Maybe, just maybe, it was a vampire.  
Archaeologists and historians in New England are very familiar with the folklore that surrounded vampires in the Victorian era.  Though the disinterments that mark a vampire search date back to the seventeenth century and stretch to the midwest, they cluster in the 1800s and New England.  Many places have legends about vampires and other undead, but this one was so strong it drove people to dig up their relatives.  
(this is where Mercy Brown's remains were likely stored until the ground thawed)

We know now, with modern science, that the reason dead people’s hair and nails seem to still grow after they die is that the skin recedes.  We know now that people likely passed tuberculosis to members of their families, and that the disease could kill you very slowly.  We know now that once truly dead, you stay dead.  But for most of the nineteenth century there was no germ theory, no pasteurization, no sanitation measures.  People still believed that disease could be caused by an imbalance of the vapours or the ire of a witch or the unholy desires of the undead.  And it is never, ever a surprise that people will go to any lengths to save their family members, especially their children.  
So it’s not really that surprising that people were willing to dig up friends and family, neighbors and community members, to try to protect those still living.  Why such a cluster in New England?  Perhaps there was a higher death rate in New England then, perhaps it was the influence of neighbor whispering to neighbor, perhaps there was a touch of mob mentality about the whole affair.  Perhaps those interred in the cold New England ground woke, and had lost their human instinct of family.  
We’ll never know.

Stay Tuned.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Recent events in my life have made me rediscover my monogram.  I’ve loved monograms for a long time, but lately I’ve been monogramming a lot of things.  Including my water bottle...

My clipboard...

My phone...

And my iPod, and iPad backgrounds.  Plus my desktop wallpaper is my monogram surrounded by two photos from this year, and a quote from C.S. Lewis.  (It’ll come up again in August...)  

You can choose how your monogram represents you.  The font, the way that the letters intertwine or don’t, the size of the letters.  There are so many ways to customize the three letters decided by your parents.  Your name may have been chosen by your parents, but like your nickname the way that your monogram represents you is entirely your own decision. The letters can be uppercase or lowercase or a mix thereof.  The font can be solid print, or loopy cursive.  The size of the central last initial can emphasize a family connection.  

I love my monogram.  It just looks so fancy and sophisticated on my water bottle.  My clipboard with my monogram makes me feel very grown up.  It also is helping me feel connected to family members that came before me, and distant ones.  My third cousins with the same last name?  Same middle letter in the monograms.  Even if we’ve never met, same letter, and it means the same thing.  It’s like hanging walking around with your family crest, but stylized to match your own personality.  

Names are a basic part of our identities. But the thing about names is that they’re given to us before our parents know our personalities.  They mean well, but we have to stylize them to fit us.  We do this through nicknames, nameplates in our own style, changes of spelling, and through the style of our monograms.  

Own your name.  Own your monogram.  Take a lesson from Reese Witherspoon: If it’s not moving, monogram it!

Stay Tuned.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Home Is Where Your Feet Are

I call myself a perpetual nomad because I never live in the same place for very long at once.  Even though I’m moving between the same house and various dorms on the same campus, I never feel like I have a place to call home.  At first, this bothered me a little bit.  Then I came to the perspective that home could be a person, or a feeling.  But recently I’ve come to a different philosophy.  Home is where your feet are.  

Pinterest is where I first came across this sentiment, and it immediately resonated with me.  I didn’t need to have one physical place to call home.  I didn’t need to tie my feelings of home to another person.  I didn’t need to leave my “home” somewhere that I would rarely be.  Home could be wherever I was at any given time.  Home could be my dorm, home could be my grandma’s house.  Home could be the hiking trails of Rock Creek Park.  

Home has always been a complicated concept for me.  When I was a kid I would sit on the stairs in my house, wrap my arms around my knees, and rock back and forth saying “I want to go home, I want to go home” to myself, even though I was home.  I just didn’t feel at home.  In middle school, when my parents sold the house I grew up in, I was determined that the apartment I moved to would never be home.  But it did become a home.  Then college came and I lost that home as well.  For a time home was tied to a significant person, and the feeling of being warm and safe.  

(click through for a high-res, perfectly sized for ipods, version!)

My doctor in high school once told me that how much she had enjoyed medical school was tied to the experience of moving around.  She went to school in the Caribbean and for a while home was wherever she could put her pillow down for the night.  That particular piece of conversation always stuck with me.  

As mentioned earlier, I’ve always had a touch of wanderlust.  I used to fantasize about being a forensic anthropologist in high demand and flying all over the world with nothing but a duffel bag of clothes and my ipod.  Home would be wherever I could lay my pillow.  

Reminding myself that “home is where my feet are” helps when I start to feel alone, or out of place, or uncertain.  Wherever I am, that’s home.  Because of my lack of one “home base” I live a very flexible lifestyle, and I really (really) don’t like uncertainty.  The “home is where your feet are” philosophy really helps me with that though because I remember to treat wherever I’m living as my home, not just a temporary spot to lay my pillow.  It helps me fight that feeling of uncertainty.  

Knowing that I’ll be changing locations after graduation is scary, but it’s tempered by “home is where your feet are” enough that my excitement is larger than my anxiety.  Which is tough, my anxiety levels are often pretty high.  

On twitter and instagram I’ve been taking pictures of my feet in various places and hashtagging it #homeiswhereyourfeetare.  So far they’re mostly here in Missouri, and mostly in my neighborhood/territory.  Eventually, that’s gonna change.  Eventually they’ll be in DC.  Eventually maybe they’ll be in Chicago or Indianapolis or Colorado Springs or Grand Forks, North Dakota.  But for now, home is Missouri.  Home is The Peninsula, and the poolside; home is the bench with my book and my dog.  Home is driving the alleys of my town. For now.

(click through for a high-res, desktop-sized version to use as wallpaper!)

Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Weekly Dose of Weird: Phineas Gage

Lest you think this should really be called Weekly Dose of Ghosts, here’s a post about a strange brain injury.  You may have heard of the victim, especially if you’re a nerdfighter.  This post is about Phineas Gage.  

When Phineas was twenty-five, in 1848, he worked as a rail foreman in Vermont.  His crew was blasting their way through rocks to lay track, when tragedy struck.  Phineas was packing explosive powder into a hole drilled into the rock, when his iron tamping rod created a spark against the rock.  This explosion drove the iron bar through his skull and straight out the top.  

Immediately after the accident Gage’s crew rushed to him, and were shocked to find that Gage was able to sit up, and speak, within moments of the bar being driven through his brain.  They took him to his lodgings in town, and called for a doctor to come see to him.  When the first doctor, Edward H. Williams, arrived, he saw the injury from his carriage.  Because of Gage’s remarkable ability to speak and move, the doctor did not believe that the bar had truly been driven through his skull.  At least, until Gage got up to vomit.  According to Dr. Williams a “teacupful of brain” fell out onto the floor from the effort required to vomit.  

Another doctor, John Martyn Harlow, took over after Dr. Williams left.  Harlow was nearly as shocked by the injuries as Dr. Williams, though he appears to have served in the military as a surgeon.  Dr. Harlow wrote that the injury was “truly terrific” but that Gage was strong throughout it, even saying that he hoped he wasn’t hurt too badly.  When he had finished examining and cleaning Gage’s head wound, Harlow remarked that Gage’s body, the bed, and his clothes were “one gore of blood.”  

For the next month or so Gage was semi-comatose.  For the length of his coma Gage’s friends thought he would die.  They went so far as to set out clothes for him to be buried in, and readied a coffin for him.  Amazingly, though, Gage survived, and in late November he made the journey home to New Hampshire after a month of walking around and recovering in Vermont.  Within a month Gage was well enough to ride horses at his parents’ home in New Hampshire.  The next year in April he went back to Vermont to visit Dr. Harlow.  The doctor noted that Gage could no longer see out of his left eye and the eyelid would not lift.  

Gage was unemployed at the time, and may have come to work for P.T. Barnum in New York, though this fact is only stated by Dr. Harlow.  In 1852, Gage moved to Chile to work as a stagecoach driver.  He stayed there for 7 years.  At about the same time that he moved to Chile, his mother and sister moved to San Francisco.  At first he had donated the iron bar that had wounded him to the Warren Museum at Harvard, but later requested its return and made it his constant companion.  

During his life after the accident Gage’s personality was said to be completely changed.  Before his accident Phineas Gage was a well-liked man, a favorite of his employers, and a hard worker.  Accounts of him later, claimed the exact opposite.  He seems to have lost his ability to consider what was appropriate or inappropriate; he became impatient and irritable.  Though he had little formal education, most had considered Gage a smart and business savvy  man, but after his accident he couldn’t keep one idea in his head long enough to pursue it.  His employers felt he was so changed that they could not offer him his job back.  Friends and family said he was so drastically changed that he was “no longer Gage.”  

However, over time it appears that Gage recovered and became much more like his old self.  Some neurologists theorize that this was partly due to the highly routinized nature of his job in Chile as a stagecoach driver.  Correspondence between his mother and Dr. Harlow also shows that Gage was good with children, as he often entertained his nieces and nephews.  

In 1859 Gage joined his family since his health was deteriorating.  He began to have epileptic seizures and convulsions, then in May of 1860 Phineas Gage died in San Francisco.  

But, it wouldn’t be a Weekly Dose of Weird if the story stopped there.  At first Phineas Gage was buried out in San Francisco.  Then, Dr. Harlow found out where he was and that he’d died.  Dr. Harlow immediately went to the family and requested Gage’s skull.  His family agreed, and Dr. Harlow came into possession of both Gage’s skull and his iron bar.  The doctor spent some time studying Gage’s skull again, then he wrote a seminal paper on Gage and the incident.  

Gage’s skull and iron bar were then both given back to the Warren Museum at Harvard.  The iron bar was then inscribed “This is the bar that was shot through the head of Mr Phinehas P.­Gage at Cavendish, Vermont, Sept. 14, [sic] 1848. He fully recovered from the injury­& deposited this bar in the Museum of the Medical College of Harvard University. Phinehas P.­Gage Lebanon Grafton­Cy N–H Jan 6 1850.”  It’s still on display there today.  

Stay Tuned.

Friday, May 31, 2013

25 Before 25

As my twenty-first birthday looms close, bringing with it clouds of graduation and lightning strikes of possible unemployment, I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately.  This of course is terrifying, but also kind of exhilarating, a little like turning off the power to my riding mower while it’s going downhill.  (Why yes, I am a country girl at heart, why do you ask?)  A few years ago I ran across the idea of doing 20 things before you hit 20, or 19 before 19.  I tried that, but I had a hard time setting things that were achievable.  So instead I’ve created a list of 25 things to do over the next four years before I turn 25.  That way it’s a smaller number per year, and some of them are very simple.  This list is part to-do list, part goals list, and part bucket list.  I know that sounds a little morbid, but it’s not really.  I’m not planning on dying any time soon.  In fact, that’s the last thing I intend to do.  

I started this list with something I think I’ll have done by eighteen months from now, knock wood.  Moving to a new place by myself.  This, hopefully, will happen relatively quickly after graduation.  There are also things like “Get a driver’s license” which are definitely more life to-do than goals, but will (hopefully) be easily accomplished.  Then there are the bigger things, like “Publish a book” which is a lofty goal.  

(click through for a high-res version perfectly sized for ipods/iphones)

I haven’t finished the list yet.  Currently it’s only 23 items long, but I have four and change years for it, so that’s okay.  

1. Move to a new place by myself.
2. Get a tattoo.
3. Run a 5k.
4. Birthday & holiday cards.
5. Visit a city by myself.
6. Visit Europe.
7. Publish a book.
8. Buy a subscription to Evernote prime.
9. Buy a subscription to Spotify premium.
10. Get my blog off the ground.
11. Adopt an animal.
12. Become an active alumna of Phi Sigma Pi.
13. Attend a Phi Sigma Pi conference.
14. Surprise someone with something special each month.
15. Try out a notebook planner.
16. Buy a pair of quality nude pumps.
17. Get my master’s degree.
18. Visit Canada.
19. Learn a language well.
20. Buy stock.
21. Learn how to code well enough to make my own website.
22. Get a driver’s license.
23. Go vegan for a week.
24. ?
25. ?

Have you ever run across this idea before?  (If you have, please share the link! I still need two more.)  Would you consider making a similar list?  Have you made a list of tasks to accomplish before a birthday?  Have suggestions for my last two? Please share. Tell me more, tell me more!

Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Weekly Dose of Weird: Carl Tanzler

This week on Weekly Dose of Weird, we’re following a love story.  This love story isn’t exactly rom com fodder, though.  In 1930 Carl Tanzler was working in a hospital in Key West when he met the twenty-one year old Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, called Helen or Elena.  She was sick with tuberculosis, which killed most of her family, and eventually killed her as well.  But her story didn’t stop when she died.

Carl Tanzler was raised in Germany, but moved to the United States in 1926.  While he was living in Europe, he claimed to have had visions of an ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, who showed him a beautiful dark-haired young woman who would be his one true love.  Despite these visions, he got married in 1920 to a woman named Doris, they then had two daughters Ayesha and Crystal.  The whole family emigrated to the US together, to the same town in Florida where Tanzler’s sister lived.  
Tanzler had few friends or acquaintances outside of the hospital where he worked, and many of those acquaintances were patients, who died from tuberculosis.  Losing so many of his friends must have taken quite a toll on Tanzler’s emotional state, given what would happen with Elena de Hoyos.  

When Tanzler met de Hoyos she was already ill, but he became infatuated with her.  According to Tanzler, de Hoyos was the dark-haired woman that his ancestor had shown him years before.  She was a lovely woman, and though Tanzler treated her to the best of his ability - often using unorthodox and experimental treatments - she died young in 1931.  Her family gave Tanzler permission to build an above-ground mausoleum for her body when he brought them concerns about groundwater contamination.  He then visited her regularly.  Her family never found this suspicious, since he had tried so hard to keep her alive.  What they perhaps did not know was how far he had gone.  Tanzler preserved de Hoyos’ body with formaldehyde and spent most nights by her side, talking all night long.  For the nights when he couldn’t be there in person he had a telephone installed in her mausoleum.  He claimed that her ghost visited him all the time, and that she begged him to take her body from the mausoleum.  
In 1933, he did.  Tanzler took her body to his home, and lived as if they were in a relationship.  Sometimes he would even play her songs on his organ.  Of course, by this time Elena de Hoyos had been dead for two years.  Though Tanzler had tried to preserve her body with formaldehyde when she first died, the preservative just wasn’t working anymore.  He used buckets and buckets of preservatives to stop her from decomposing any more than she already had, and poured bottle after bottle of perfume on her to try to keep her from smelling like a corpse.  But to no avail.  

After all of the time that Elena de Hoyos had been dead, there wasn’t much that could be done about her condition.  That didn’t stop Carl Tanzler from trying though.  As she decayed he began replacing parts of her body.  When her skin began to peel away, Tanzler replaced it with silk soaked in wax and plaster - a false skin of his own design.  As the tendons and ligaments holding her together fell apart, he used piano wire to hold her bones in place.   When her eyes decayed and became slush, he replaced them with the type of glass eyes used in blind patients at the time.  Elena’s hair fell out, and Tanzler made it into a wig.  When her organs decayed, he filled her body with rags to keep her shape.  Some later accounts also say that he installed a false vagina, but these did not begin to surface until the 1970s and no earlier evidence exists of this.  Over time, Tanzler’s obsession transformed the remains of a lovely young woman into a morbid caricature of her living self.  

Nine years after Elena de Hoyos died, in 1940, there were rumors about Tanzler and her body.  Elena’s remaining sister confronted him about it, and found the body.  Tanzler was arrested and psychologically evaluated; he was found fit to stand trial.  Unfortunately, the statute of limitations on grave-robbing was long expired, so he couldn’t be convicted.  
Media attention following the trial was enormous, but oddly much of it seemed to be favorable to Tanzler.  Many articles referred to him as an eccentric romantic.  That may have been racially motivated, as Tanzler was white and Elena de Hoyos was hispanic.  
After the trial and media circus, Elena de Hoyos was reburied in a private unmarked grave so as not to tempt Tanzler again.  He also wrote an autobiography which, oddly enough, appeared in a fantasy and science fiction magazine.  Unfortunately, Tanzler’s obsession didn’t end with Elena’s corpse being reburied.  He had a death mask of her, and used it to create a new replica, which he dressed in her clothes and kept with him until he died in 1952.  

Two museums in Key West have exhibits highlighting this story, including the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, which has a replica of Elena’s body.  


Stay Tuned.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Skimm

I’ll admit, I’ve always enjoyed it when I feel like the smartest girl in the room.  I’ve always tried to be that, to be the most educated, the one who knew the most.  Of course, I then went to AU and joined an honors fraternity so I don’t feel that way too often anymore.  

I’ve also always been terrible at being informed of current events.  I usually got my info from Vlogbrothers videos on Youtube, from various tumblr blogs, or from Associated Press tweets.  Until very recently.  

I came across The Skimm from an article on the Sweet Lemon Magazine website.  Every morning I get an email with the top news stories with the most important information laid out at the end.  The Skimm comes early in the morning so I integrated it into my morning routine very easily.  

Getting up in the morning, brushing my teeth, and reading the Skimm while I fully wake up has quickly become part of my normal routine.  I’ll pull it up on my cell phone or my ipod and read while I’m brushing my hair or getting dressed or stretching after my runs.  

The Skimm makes me feel like one of the smartest girls in the room because I'm informed and I know what's happening out in the world beyond my campus.

I cannot recommend the Skimm enough to all of my readers.  They’re a great source, especially for girls like me who aren’t terribly good at being informed.  Subscribe!

(The Skimm is not in any way affiliated with this post.  They didn’t sponsor it, they won’t know about it until I tweet at them.  Ditto Sweet Lemon Magazine.  Everything I wrote is my own opinion).

Stay Tuned.

Friday, May 24, 2013


This post is something I’ve been mulling over since I was a brand new freshman at American.  It’s only appropriate that, as a rising senior, I write it and finally post it now.  Partly, this is motivated by my life experience at AU.  Partly, it’s motivated by living in a house with three entirely different generations.  Partly, it’s motivated by my own life happenings.  

Identity is as fluid as gender or sex.  Your identity will change.  As a brand new freshman I was dealing with no longer having my high school-related identities to cling to.  I was no longer a Murrow student, a yearbook editor, a Research kid.  I didn’t live in New York anymore, so while I am always a native New Yorker, I could no longer call myself a New Yorker on a daily basis.  Yes, many things have stayed the same about my identity since I was born, like my name, and my sex and gender, those for me have not changed.  But name and sex do not an identity make.  They’re distinguishers, not really identifiers.  

As I mentioned, I also recently ended a very long term relationship.  That was a big part of my identity for over four years, and negotiating not being a girlfriend is very different from my previous identity.  I haven’t been single since I was sixteen.  So I’m negotiating who I am all over again.  

My identifiers are many, and they’re vast.  I always start with Jeanni, because it’s the part of my name that I decided.  My parents named me Jean, and they nicknamed me Jeannie when I was a baby, but when I was twelve I decided that Jeanni just felt more me.  And I still think it does.  It’s adapted with me though, from a sarcastic, angry twelve-year-old, to a sassy, type-A young woman.  

I realized a while ago that I no longer knew who I was, and that as I was about to leave college I needed to figure that out.  I know a lot of people say you don’t figure that out until your thirties, but as previously mentioned many times on here I really hate being on time; I always have to be early.  So last night I started making a “Personal Map” which is sort of like the graphic organizers you used back in elementary school.  I started with my name in the center and just wrote things I like, things I want, things I love, ways I identify myself.  Everything from “Purple” and “Zebras” to “Leo” and “Monograms” to “Museums” and “Stær” is on there.  (Stær means both story and history in Old English).  

My identity is complicated and full of contradictions and juxtapositions.  I’m Jeanni; I’m a blogger; I’m a Phi Sig Pi; I’m a historian; I’m a friend; I’m a writer; I’m a country music fan; I’m a shoe aficionado (though frequently barefoot).  I’m many things, and I’ll be more throughout
my life.  So are you, and so will you.

I’m not really “done” with the Me Map, but I think I’m as done as I can be for now.  Will I ever be done figuring out who I am?  I doubt it.  But I should have a solid idea of who I am right now, and I’m working on that. I encourage you all, especially those of you who, like me, have been in very long term relationships, to really think about the person that you are and the person that you want to become.  After all, we become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become.  

(in case you didn't know, gray and yellow is one of my favorite color pallets)
(click through for a full-sized, high resolution version for your own desktop!)

Stay Tuned.