Morris Bolber and the Petrillo-Bolber Murder Ring

Among the notable inmates of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was Dr. Morris “Louie the Rabbi” Bolber who’d started his life sentence in 1942.  Shortly after his arrival, Bolber, a Russian immigrant, began interacting within the prison synagogue where, apparently, he made friends like Joseph Paull, a volunteer especially interested in Bolber.  Before Bolber […]

Exploring Istanbul Virtually

My process for virtually exploring new cities begins subjectively.  Literature, memoirs, poetry, and popular histories help me to understand a locale emotionally, enhancing my chances for bonding with any given place.  For example, James Joyce brought me to Dublin while Victor Hugo introduced me to Paris, albeit to specific periods within each city. I need […]

The Cult of Trump: A Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control by Steven Hassan

After January 6, 2021, public rhetoric about Donald Trump as cult leader has escalated, but such discussions aren’t new.  Trump’s obvious narcissism, his penchant for repetitive and slogan-ridden language, and his political rallies that play more like tent revival meetings certainly meet criteria for defining a charismatic leader. I’m using the term “charismatic leader” in […]

Mid-Twentieth Century Women Crime Writers

Recently, I came across two anthologies, A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir edited by Megan Abbott (2007) and Troubled Wives, Twisted Daughters: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense edited by Sarah Weinman (2013).  I’ve been a fan of Abbott’s since reading Die a Little (2005), a harkening back to crime […]

Cults in Comics

In Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China (1961), Robert Jay Lifton identifies techniques related to thought reform, once called “brainwashing,” that apply to how destructive cults inculcate their members and keep them indoctrinated: Milieu Control: the control of communication, of everything a person sees, hears, or reads. This […]

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher

When he wasn’t chained and hanging from skyscrapers, or entombed underwater, Harry Houdini spent much time debunking criminals and fraudulent spiritualists. By the 1920s, Spiritualism had taken on religious weight both in Europe and the United States, and as with such phenomena, unscrupulous types stepped in to gain profit or to exploit hopeful séance attendees […]

Ultra the Multi-Alien: The Hero of Dalesville

No superhero has received more ridicule than Ultra the Multi-Alien. Even Aquaman garnered more respect during the years when fans denigrated him as the useless Justice League member who swims and talks to fish.  Jon Morris includes Ultra in his The League of Regrettable Superheroes, stating “Ultra resembles a mixed-up box of puzzle pieces.”  Blogger […]