The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: Mass Murder

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 9, 2018 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 9) in 1349, Jews in Basel, Switzerland were accused of poisoning the wells because fewer of them seemed to be dying of the Black Death than the Christians. 600 Jews were rounded up, shackled inside a barn and the building was set on fire. Their orphaned children were forcibly converted to Christianity.

Today in History: Alfred the Great's First Victory

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 8, 2018 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January Eight) in 871, Alfred (the Great), younger brother of King Ethelred I, led a West Saxon army against the Danes and won the Battle of Ashdown. Days earlier, the West Saxons had been defeated in their attempt to push the Vikings out of Reading. Ethelred and Alfred’s three older brothers had already been killed in battle against the Danes and the situation looked quite severe—so much so that Ethelred refused to leave Mass to command his army out of fear that God would punish him with another defeat if the king insulted Him. So Alfred took the initiative, defeated the Danes and drove them back to Reading. It was the only victory the West Saxons would enjoy that year.

Today in History: Slaves Rebel

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 8, 2018 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January Eight) in 1811, Charles Deslonde led a slave revolt in the Territory of Orleans. Deslonde had been a “driver” (a slave overseer of other slaves) who had been brought to the area after his owner fled the slave rebellion in San Domingue. He rallied slaves from his own plantation, attacked the owner and his son, then led his recruits to other plantations adding to his force. They burnt three plantations and gathered about 200 slaves to support their rebellion, but couldn’t find enough weapons. Three days later, a white militia killed forty of them, and then 14 more in follow up skirmishes. They captured many slaves, interrogated them, and executed them. In all 95 insurgents were killed as a result of putting down the rebellion.

Today in History: The Mantell UFO Incident

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 7, 2018 at 7:50 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 7) in 1948 Kentucky Air National Guard Pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell, died in what had become known as the Mantell UFO Incident. At 1:45 p.m. the control tower at Fort Knox reported an unidentified flying object that was about one quarter the size of the full moon, white with a red bottom. The object was also seen from two airfields in Ohio, one of which reported that the object had the “appearance of a flaming red cone trailing a gaseous green mist.” Four P-51 Mustangs (already in the air) were directed to approach the object. Observers in the control tower disagree over whether or not Mantell reported that the object “looks metallic and of tremendous size”. (You can easily see why accusations of government cover ups get made. Did he make the statement or not? Why can’t the witnesses agree on this simple point?)


One of the pilots ended pursuit because he was low on fuel. Two others ended their pursuit at 22,500 feet due to low oxygen. Mantell continued pursuing the object until he (according to the Air Force) passed out at 25,000 feet and his P-51 spiraled downward, crashing south of Franklin Kentucky near the Tennessee border at 3:18 p.m. By 3:50 p.m. the UFO was no longer visible.


The incident got a lot of attention in the press—a P-51 Mustang had been destroyed and many rumors were published: the Soviets were responsible; aliens shot Mantell down; his body was riddled with bullet holes; his body was not found with the crashed plane; the wreckage was radioactive. The Air Force refuted these rumors in its report, but they persisted.


The Air Force attempted to convince the public that Mantell had seen the planet Venus and died trying to reach it. Four years later, they retracted this explanation as Venus was neither large enough nor would have been visible at the time of the incident. There also have been efforts to explain the sighting by way of the (then secret) U.S. Navy Skyhook Weather Balloon project but no balloon can be demonstrated to have been in the vicinity at the time of the sighting.


Today in History: The Four Freedoms

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 6, 2018 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 6) in 1941, as part of his effort to prepare the U.S. to intervene in the war in Europe, FDR gave a State of the Union Address in which he argued that people everywhere deserve to enjoy four freedoms: (1) Freedom of Speech; (2) Freedom of Worship; (3) Freedom from Want; and (4) Freedom from Fear.

Today in History: Mother Theresa

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 6, 2018 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 6) in 1929, Mother Theresa arrived in Calcutta to begin her ministry to the poor. In 1950 she founded the Missionaries of Charity which serves the poor, sick and dying in 133 different countries. She spoke at my high school once a great many years ago. She was a very impressive woman who stayed true to her mission despite suffering painful periods of doubt in her faith.

Today in History: The Night of the Big Wind

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 6, 2018 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 6) in 1839, more than 20% of the homes in Dublin, Ireland were destroyed during the Night of the Big Wind. (It sounds better in Gaelic.) This was the most damaging storm to hit Ireland in 300 years and it resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Today in History: Edward the Confessor Dies

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 5, 2018 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 5) in 1066 King Edward the Confessor died, initiating a three way struggle for the kingship of England. Edward was the son of Aethelred II and Emma of Normandy. Aethelred II was succeeded by the Danish conqueror Cnut who married Emma and had a son with her, Harthacnut. During Cnut and Harthacnut’s reigns, Edward lived in exile. (In fact, his brother was murdered when he returned to England and was handed by the Godwin family over to Harthacnut.)


When Harthacnut died, England needed a king and Edward made his comeback but his reign was always overshadowed by the powerful Godwin family. Edward bungled his effort to get rid of the family and was forced to accept Godwin’s daughter as his wife. His reputation for holiness that developed out of his monk-like celibacy was probably motivated by a refusal to produce an heir to the throne with the daughter of the man he held responsible for his brother’s murder. This resolution to prevent the family of Godwin from taking the throne of England probably also explains Edward’s promise to make his cousin, Duke William of Normandy, his heir.


When the king died on January 5, 1066 his fears that his brother-in-law, Harold, would seize the throne proved well-founded. Harold was crowned King of England but would face two other contenders for the throne—Harald Hadrada who traced his right to the throne back to Cnut and William of Normandy, Edward’s kinsman through his mother, and chosen heir.


Today in History: The Fabian Society

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 4, 2018 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 4) in 1884 the Fabian Society was founded in England. The Fabian Society was created to work to transform English society into a socialist society through gradual reform rather than through violent revolution. It was a very important transformation in method which permitted many socialist ideas (old age pensions, workman’s compensation, safe working conditions, etc.) to be brought into the political debate in a manner that did not frighten the majority of society. The Labour Party grew out of the Fabian Society. The Fabian Society also founded the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Today in History: Sir Isaac Newton

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 4, 2018 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (January 4) in 1643, Sir Isaac Newton was born. Sir Isaac was the genius who would discover the universal laws of gravity. He invented the first reflecting telescope, and invented a form of calculus. He is one of the most famous and influential scientists of all time. Yet, he was also fascinated by the occult and alchemy. After the South Sea Bubble burst (an early stock market crash in which he lost 20,000 pounds) he said, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of men.” With all of his accomplishments he appears to have maintained a measure of humility, for in speaking of his achievements he said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”


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