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Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction’

Take a Quantum Leap with me…

                                … back to the year 30 AD

Yes – we’re talking time travel!  The thing of science fiction, Hollywood and nerd  scientists.  Between H. G. Wells and Albert Einstein scientists and fiction writers opened our minds and consciousness simulating our imaginations, releasing scores of dreams and visions.Time-Travel-JeanLucThe speed of light – the laws of space and time – the theory of relativity – quantum physics – Casimir energy – Einstein-Rosen bridges – black holes – phantom Energy – Kerr Rings – wormholes – cosmic strings – Alcubierre drives – quantum foam… lions and tigers and bears – oh my!  lions-tigers-bears

And we haven’t even thought about the ‘time-travel’ paradoxes yet!

“Paradox,” you say. “What a ‘time-travel’ paradox?”

Nothing much – just think about a time traveler going back in time to kill himself as an infant. If he were to do so, he never would have grown up to go back in time to kill himself as an infant, so how could he….  But, that can’t happen you say. I know…I know.

Oh yes – our imaginations are soaring (as well as national aspirin sales).aspirin_6

Believe it or not, it’s easy to travel in time – going forward. You see, travelling at or near the speed of light transports you into the future!  Oh yes – it’s pure physics.

So, to travel in time – all one has to do is travel fast – very, very fast!

The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10 which traveled at speeds of 25,000 miles per hour.saturn-v-first-launch   article-2121828-126088A3000005DC-106_634x639 To travel forward in time you only have to go 2000 times faster than that. Go any slower and you’ll be sucked into a black hole.black_hole

This is due to a strange fact about the universe. There’s a cosmic speed limit, 186,000 miles per second, also known as the speed of light. Nothing can exceed that speed. It’s one of the best established principles in science.

Ok – so what’s the problem?   Well – to travel backwards in time – now that’s a different story…

If you think about it, we’re all constantly engaged in the act of time travel. At its most basic level, time is the rate of change in the universe — and like it or not, we are constantly undergoing change. The planets move around the sun, the sun moves in the galaxy, you and I age – things change.

We measure the passage of time in seconds, minutes, hours and years, but this doesn’t mean time flows at that nice convenient, constant rate. Just as the water in a river rushes or slows depending on the size of the channel, time flows at different rates in different places. In other words, time is relative.

So time travel comes down to the relationship between time and space. Human beings exist in three spatial dimensions of length, width and depth. Time joins the party as that most crucial fourth dimension. Time can’t exist without space, and space can’t exist without time. The two exist as one: the space-time continuum. Any event that occurs in the universe has to involve both space and time.

Just think about this: The Milky Way galaxy is roughly 100,000 light-years wide, so light from its more distant stars can take thousands upon thousands of years to reach Earth. So, seeing that light is essentially looking back in time. When astronomers measure the cosmic microwave background radiation, they are staring back more than all of known time into a primordial cosmic age. Yes – that’s time travel – my friend – time travel.

While there’s nothing in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity that precludes time travel, it’s not as simple as turning a dial on some shaking contraction time_machine_04      or stepping into a ‘wardrobe’. Further, once the science is addressed and overcome (yeah- right!), the very premise of pushing a button and going back to yesterday violates the law of causality, better known as cause and effect.

You know ‘cause and effect’ – the idea that when an event happens in our universe, it leads to yet another event in an endless one-way string of events. Here’s the law: In every instance, the cause occurs before the effect – at least in our universe it does. Think not?Just try to imagine a different reality, say, in which a murder victim dies of his or her gunshot wound before being shot. It violates reality as we know it; thus, many scientists dismiss time travel into the past as an impossibility.

But – is that the end of the story?  ….Or is it just the beginning….

A clay tablet dating from the 1st Century in ancient Israel is uncovered.

 There is writing on it – a name – in English – from the 21st Century!!!

      Solving the mystery of the Pyramids…

“David…what do you know about the pyramids?” Alex asked.

“Not much, about what most people know, I guess.”

“And what would that be?”

“Well, let’s see, they’re in Egypt; built by the pharaohs thousands of years ago, as their burial tombs.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, I guess it is,” he said. “Oh, they were built by slaves, and Charleston Heston set them free. You know, “let my people go.”

Alex failed to see the humor, “Yes, it makes good theater, seeing hundreds of slaves pulling a massive block of stone up a ramp on the side of a pyramid—but it’s all rubbish…”

Alex shook his head in disgust, “The world has been fed a diet of lies and deception about the pyramids and has swallowed it hook, line and sinker. It’s insulting to the ingenuity of these great structures, the lack of respect they receive.” Pushing back from the table, he stood, “it’s all there, in front of our eyes, the ancient ones left it all in place for us to see and we refuse to. The pyramids have stood as open scrape books of their civilization, and we reject their existence.” He paused, looking directly at David, “do you realize there is no modern engineering feat that comes close to the pyramids?”

“…Because the pyramids look like a pile of rocks, people tend to dismiss them. There are over 2 million blocks in the Great Pyramid of Giza alone, some weighting upwards of 70 tons. That pyramid stood 481 feet high with each side measuring 756 feet with a maximum deviation of less than 1 inch. The sides are curved in to match the curvature of the earth and rise at a precise angle of 51⁰ 52’ with a deviation of less than five-hundreds of one percent of degree. Amazing, since people didn’t even believe the earth was round until thousands of years later…

“…I could go on with more facts about the construction of each of the three major pyramids in Egypt that would confound your modern engineering mind, but their construction is only the tip of the iceberg, just the beginning of the marvel. There is a much greater mystery to them. How the pyramids were built is a question that’s asked repeatedly, but it’s the wrong question. A better question is: ‘Why were they built?’ Why are they scattered randomly across the middle of open desert? Such a massive construction effort…why?”

“I can tell you for certain why they weren’t built. They weren’t built to be tombs. Not only have no mummies ever been found in them, but they wouldn’t go to so much detail, precision and work to build a tomb in the desert. And, it’s my opinion; they never contemplated such a thing because…they never planned on dying. They intended to live forever.”                (except from “Beneath the Turbulence”)

        …the code of the Zodiac Constellations…

“To understand the pyramids David, we need to put aside the material marvel they are and look at the cosmic marvel they are, something Allen showed me.”

“…The Great Pyramid was aligned, by its architects, to be exactly one-third the distance between the equator and the North Pole and is an exact mathematical relationship of the dimensions of the earth. This is truly remarkable for people who didn’t know the earth was round, much less the true size and shape of it! Its north-south axis is aligned to within three-sixtieths of a single degree of true north. David, that’s more accurate than the Greenwich Observatory in London! To position a structure that covers over 53,000 square meters to that precision is not possible today; so how was it done then? The pyramids are a precise mathematical model of the earth. Again, it begs the questions, not only how, but why? Why be so precise for a mausoleum sitting in the middle of the desert? A tomb? Calling the Great Pyramid a tomb is like calling the Buckingham Palace an outhouse. I could spend the next week with scores of facts that would prove false any contention that they were built as tombs by the Pharaohs of Egypt. We haven’t the time for that, and it’s not necessary to show you what they’re not built for—I’d rather show you what they were built for…”

“…The Sphinx had the body of a lion and the head of a man, crouching there, for thousands of years. Why David? What’s it doing? What’s it for? Why was it built? It’s not placed randomly but is precisely aligned with the rising horizon to the east. Precisely David, not close—but exact. Again it begs the questions, ‘Why bother? Why use such unwieldy sizes and materials? Why such precision? Why such meticulous design? Why?”                                                         (except from “Beneath the Turbulence”)

sphinxgreatpyramidegypt

…and a unique form of gold found on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission…

All come together in a travel corridor—a corridor that goes back 2000 years to                   the year 30AD – to the time of Jesus of Nazareth.

“So, if I’m not a time traveler, and didn’t write those tablets—then who did?”

“But David, who said you didn’t write them?” He was surprised it was Allen who spoke.

“What’s that supposed to mean? Your interrogation proved I didn’t do it.”

Allen answered meticulously, measuring every word as if listing the factors of a     mathematical equation, “That’s correct…it proved…you… didn’t do it…yet.”

David was stunned, “Yet? What’s that mean? You still think I did it?”

“No…we think you…will do it.”

“But, you said you believed me that I don’t have a time machine.”

“That’s true; we believe you have no such device.”

“Yet, you think somehow I came here from 2000 years ago?”

“No, we believe you came here from now, but you’re going to go back to 2000 years ago.”

…David looked around at the group, “You guys have built a time machine, haven’t you? That’s what this is all about, isn’t it?”

“No, we haven’t built a time machine, and I don’t believe such a machine can be built,” Allen answered, “but we may have found a time machine, and have figured out how to use it and how such travel was done.”   (except from “Beneath the Turbulence”)

Is this for real?  Is this a hoax?  Or a ruse – hiding a terrorist cell planning massive mayhem and destruction?

A determined group of scientists wants to know. An avowed atheist, also want to reluctantly know…and the Department of Homeland Security wants to know.

Travel with this dysfunctional team as they journey through this time corridor to 1st Century Israel, dodging Egyptian warriors, Roman legionnaires and a country in turmoil, to find the evidence of who the man called Jesus really was. Was he a crazed man with his own agenda? A deluded prophet? A liar and fraud? Or was he actually who he claimed to be – the Son of God?

An uninvited traveler journeys with them, bent on a private mission of revenge and personal glory. If they can make the return journey back to the 21st Century, what they discover and reveal will not only impact the world but will change each of their lives for eternity.  

“Beneath the Turbulence” an exciting, simulating and invigorating story of time-travel and history is presented in two volumes, both volumes are included in the book. Scan_Pic0004

Volume One: “The Journey describes the science driving the journey back in time, coupled with the suspense of evading the Department of Homeland Security, who considers them potential terrorists. ,

Volume Two: “The Journal” chronicles the trials and adventures encountered while seeking the truth of Jesus traveling in First Century Egypt and Israel under Roman rule.

Click on the cover to get your copy today.

header 3      Until Next time – Embrace your Bridges – for they define who you are.

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A Roman Tribune plays the role of Columbo in the most famous game of “CLUE” known to the world, called – “Where’s the body?”

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We all know the story of the empty tomb – the excited women – the missing “Messiah”. That is – we all know it from that side of the tomb.

But, what was it like from the other side? The Roman side of an empty grave? The tomb that was sealed with the Roman Governor’s seal and guarded with Roman soldiers?

‘RISEN’ has taken up the challenge in resolving the mystery.

“I’m yet sticky with filth.”  

Thus said the Tribune Clavius when summoned to Pontius Pilate. And thus sets our understanding of Clavius’s soul – ‘yet sticky with filth’.

Clavius, a role portrayed with depth and sensitivity by Joseph Fiennes, is accustomed to brutality, bloody combat and death, but not without a price. He is drained, depleted, battle weary and emotionally dead. In the opening battle scene, he brutally kills a Jewish rebel leader, named Barabbas.  (“Barabbas”? Is that coincidental or is that God’s way of evening up the score?) The constant gore and butchery of quelling those pesky Jewish insurrections in a remote, desolate land far from the ‘action’ of Rome, has taken its toll, robbing him of hope and peace, leaving him numb and yearning for nothing more than…

“…a day without death.”  

Upon returning to the Antonio Fortress, (interestingly placed below the old city of Jerusalem), his day isn’t quite over yet.  He is summoned by the Governor, something that happens all too often. It seems Pilate “has a situation and he needs Clavius to tidy up the loose ends. Those “raving Jews wanted a man named Yeshua, who claimed to be the “messiah” disposed of.

“I had to crucify him,” Pilate says almost regrettably, (a sentiment one finds hard to accept knowing the history of this brutal dictator who crucified and slaughtered thousands).

Clavius ensures that Yeshua is dead and securely buried in a sealed tomb with Roman guards posted.

End of story – right?

No – of course not – it’s only the beginning. The inevitable happens – the body doesn’t remain in the tomb.

Let the games begin – after all – we can’t have dead people walking about – can we?

56c5f51411ca7.image“We must find the body,” Pilate raves. Find the corpse of this cursed Yeshua before it rots.”

Exploded frayed ropes – two anemic looking drunken guards – discarded, bloody grave clothes – a stone tossed aside – lies and bribes from the Sanhedrin – all lead to …nothing…no body.

Does Clavius ever find his missing body?   Oh yes – with a little twisting of the arm and a bag of coins, Yeshua’s disciples are found. And they did, in fact, have the body with them.

Only – the body isn’t dead, but is very much alive, and in a scene straight out of The Twilight Zone, this hardened Roman warrior melts into the stone wall as he encounters the true power of God in the flesh. This moment just happens to coincide with the arrival of ‘doubting’ Thomas. While he probes the wounds in the wrists and side of the Messiah, the eyes of a smiling Yeshua probe deep into the soul of the Tribune.

What do you do when you encounter the impossible? He does the only thing he can do – he follows the walking dead man. In this case it means following the followers of Yeshua, like a stray, lost dog; finding acceptance among them, and ultimately – friendship.

When finally he is alone with the murdered, living man, Yeshua asks him what he seeks in life, and then answers his own question: 

“A day with no death?”

Clavius leaves all behind – to travel a new road – to places we know not of – but with a new found peace, after witnessing the ascension of Jesus and hearing His great commission.

We are set up for a sequel – as we know not where Clavius is going or what roads lie ahead for him.

‘Risen’ is excellent historical fiction that intertwines Biblical scripture with “what might have been”.  The historical is historical and the fiction is fiction – and in those scenes where the two intermix, the purity of the Scriptures was not compromised. One area where liberties were taken, was the reference to Mary Magdalene being a quite popular “woman of the streets”.  This was based on church tradition and finds no merit in Scripture.

file_607174_risen-trailerThe battle scene, Roman soldier dress, weapons and warfare was as realistic as ever shown, and Jewish culture along with Sanhedrin attire and demeanors were portrayed as accurately as history tells us.

The portrayal of crucifixions reflected the known information of such executions.

Jesus is shown smiling, laughing and gracious. He is a miracle worker and His disciples love Him as their father and leader. When Bartholomew (who would have fit right in on a California beach as a surfer dude) is threatened with crucifixion himself, he spreads open his arms and laughingly replies: “I would happily submit”.

Clavius sums it all up by leaving his life behind, saying “I believe. I can never be the same.”

‘Risen’ does something the previous stories of Jesus failed to do: it makes the non-believer pause and think about the resurrection from an outsider perspective. It’s not the usual scenes of blinding lights and rolling thunder with the women running about in alarm. No, rather it presents a barren, empty tomb and proceeds to answer the question that Pontius Pilate asked:

“How could he follow a Hebrew?”

Watching Clavius undergo a life-altering transformation, leads us to one answer – the one that Lucius, Clavius’s protégé, hesitantly offers to Pilate:

“Perhaps it is true.”

Amen – brother – Amen.

header 3                            Until Next time – Embrace your Bridges – for they define who you are.

 

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ANNOUNCING!!!

It’s been a year of silence from me – and for that I apologize to each of you.

A lot has happened during that year – the world is rapidly changing around us and Wallenda walked across the Grand Canyon! (Check out my previous blog “The Spirit of Blondin lives in Wallenda”).

I’ve spent that year working and laboring heavily on my latest novel and I’m happy to announce:  IT IS FINISHED!

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Beneath the Turbulence 

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, Spring Arbor and the author; available in print and ebook on various formats.

Was Jesus of Nazareth truly the Son of God? 

A clay tablet from the 1st Century is found in the ruins of a village in Israel, with writing on it—from the 21st Century!

Solving the mystery of the Pyramids, along with a unique form of gold found on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission, and the Zodiac Constellations—a group of scientists and archeologists uncover a time-travel corridor—to the year 30AD.

Is this for real? Or is it all a ruse to hide a terrorist plot planning massive mayhem and destruction? The Department of Homeland Security wants to know.

One determined person, along with an avowed atheist, journey back to 1st Century Israel to find the evidence of who Jesus really was. Was he a man with his own agenda?  Was he a deluded prophet? Or was he the Son of God?

An uninvited traveler journeys with them – bent on a private mission of self-justification and revenge

What they discover and reveal, will not only change their lives—but will impact the course of human history forever.     

The book is actually two volumes in one cover. Volume One, titled “The Journey” describes how they journey back in time to 30 AD. Volume Two, “The Journal” details the events that follow in Egypt and Israel after they arrive in the 1st Century.

Until Next Time:

Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are

DK LeVick

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This past Friday, June 15th,  the great Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls.

He is the first person to ever walk across Niagara Falls, but there is an exciting and sometimes tainted history of men and women who have challenged Niagara over the years.

In tribute to Wallenda’s feat, I’ m posting a short history of them that I had written a year ago.

Sit back and Enjoy the trip! 

   Ahhh –  Niagara, nature’s majestic triumph,

                                                             God’s glorious gift to humanity,                                                                                                              

Home of those….

CRAZY MEN AND WOMEN IN TIGHTS!

For strange – unknown reasonsNIAGARA has been (and remains) a mystic magnet, pulling in people who have thoughts of fame and fortune or just plain weird and crazy thoughts about becoming a part of the drama of the mighty cataracts – and some fulfill their dream and remain forever in Niagara’s lore (and depths).

“The pictures we liked the best (meaning those we argued the most about) were of those daredevils who’d done those bad-ass tricks and stunts over the Falls. While those pictures were exciting, they made us feel cheated as well, because the cops didn’t let anyone do cool things like that anymore.” Kevin; ‘Journeys Across Niagara

Beginning in 1827 (see the ‘Pirate’ ship, the buffalo and the loss of innocence”) and right up to the present, people have challenged Niagara.  Whether it’s the surging brink itself, the powerful whirlpool, the steep walls of the gorge above or the raging rapids below – there’s been a steady stream of human fodder offering themselves to the water god in exchange for a moment of glory. Cowabunga!! 

The age of the Niagara stuntmen had begun!

And Niagara would never be the same again as men attempted to shrink Niagara to mere background to their feats of daring and danger. But did they? Since 1827 there are at least 81 documented ‘Niagara Daredevils’ with hundreds of individual feats of bravery – valor or sheer stupidityy, since that time. Have they demeaned and shrunk Niagara?

Let’s take a look at a few of them:

The Jumper

When the mighty ‘pirate’ ship “Michigan” was sent to its destruction over the Horseshoe Falls in 1827, standing in the crowds was a diminutive, young man of 20, named Sam Patch.  Sam was intrigued by the thousands of people come out to witness the massacre of the ‘animal‘ crew and he shaped his destiny to become Niagara’s first stuntman.

On the 17th of October, two years following the ‘Michigan’s‘ destruction, the 22 year old jumped off a platform, 130 feet high, set up below Goat Island, into the base of the Horseshoe Falls.

He survived. (Too bad, if he would have failed perhaps it all would have stopped there and then – not!)

Having to make the same decision all men face (to work for a living or not) Ol’ Sam chose the ‘not‘ and toured the country with his hand out. The cyber-age having not arrived yet, there was a shortage of digital cameras, websites, and IMAX screens, leaving him with only his mouth to promote the mighty leap. In 1829, most people didn’t know what Niagara Falls was yet (actually Niagara wasn’t labeled yet but was the ‘great falls by the City of Falls‘, now there’s some great imagination at work).

Just a month after his jump into Niagara, on November 6, 1829 he attempted a shorter jump of 100 feet from the Genesee Falls in Rochester, New York.

He died.

The Swimmers

Of course there’s the ‘Hermit of Niagara’ – but that’s another story for another day. He wasn’t a daredevil – he was just crazy is all. Let’s jump to…

…Captain Matthew Web – the first person to swim across the English Channel in 1875. Oh, how the English press raved! He could swim anything, anywhere, anytime. Niagara? Phefff – what’s a Niagara?

Born in Shropshire, England in 1848, he was the recipient of a gold medal from the Royal Humane Society of Great Britain for jumping off the steamer “Russia” to save a sailor who had been washed over board.

Webb came to Niagara Falls during the Summer of 1883 boasting to challenge the Niagara River. He had been promised a $2,000 reward if he swam the Niagara River Whirlpool Rapids.

On July 24, 1883 he was rowed from the Maid of the Mist landing and he slipped into the water downstream from the thunderous Falls to begin his swim through the Whirlpool Rapids. He made mighty strokes and showed the form that conquered the English Channel as he swam through the rapids in just two minutes. He truly was a great swimmer.

From there things didn’t go too well. At the vortex of the Whirlpool – he disappeared.

  His body surfaced four days later between Lewiston and Youngstown

The Barrels

“Some of those pictures were of men and women who had gone over the Falls in contraptions they called “barrels” but which usually didn’t look anything like a barrel. Just some old fart standing next to some gizmo called a barrel, staring at the camera with bug eyes in his long underwear like a zombie. Big deal—bo-r-ring.” Kevin; Bridges – a Tale of Niagara

In 1886, Niagara Falls witnessed its first barrel stunt. Carlisle D. Graham, an English cooper (that’s a barrel maker for you generation ‘Xers). Graham had made a five and a half-foot barrel of oaken staves and handmade iron hoops he planned to house himself in for a trip down the rapids.

On Sunday July 11th 1886 Graham began his trip from what is now the Whirlpool Bridge through the great gorge rapids and the whirlpool. Graham stood six feet tall had to stoop over once inside the barrel to allow the water tight lid to be screwed into place (why didn’t he make a six foot barrel?).

The initial trip took 30 minutes. Graham survived but had become extremely ill from the ride.

Carlisle Graham made a second trip on August 19th. Graham survived but sustained serious hearing loss. The next day, James Scott, of Lewiston, New York attempted to swim the rapids and lost his life.

Graham made three more trips through the rapids in a newly designed seven foot long barrel. He nearly suffocated after getting caught in a whirlpool in his last trip.

(those long johns became the rage after his ride – but worn down low – you know “pants on the ground”)

On September 6th 1901, Graham loaned his barrel (was there a waiting line?) to Martha Wagenfuhrer of Buffalo, New York. Miss Wagenfuhrer became the first woman to successfully navigate the rapids and whirlpool alone.

On September 7th 1901, Graham arranged a double performance with friend Maude Willard of Canton, Ohio. Willard would ride the barrel through the rapids to the Whirlpool and then both she and Graham would swim the rest of the way to Lewiston.

Ms. Willard entered the barrel with her pet dog for the journey through the rapids. As the barrel reached the Whirlpool it became stranded for six hours. When recovered, Maude was dead. Her pet dog jumped out of the barrel uninjured. The dog survived the ordeal by putting its nose to the only air hole the barrel had allowing the dog to breathe which resulted in Maude suffocating to death.

(As a side note, in 1886, Carlisle Graham offered $10 to anyone willing to retrieve his barrel from the Whirlpool following his daredevil stunt ride. James Scott accepted the offer. Scott made a practice jump into the water at the Whirlpool. Scott failed to resurface.)

Annie Edison ‘Maude’ Taylor –  Schoolteacher – looking to make some money (teacher salaries were really low back then) had a unique idea to go over the brink of Horseshoe Falls in a barrel.

And so, in October 1901, the 63-year-old school teacher did just that and was the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel (canoes don’t count).

After exiting the barrel, she said, “No one should ever try that again.”

She didn’t and she didn’t make any money neither. While she made some meager dollars posing for photographs and selling pieces of her barrel, her manager took her for everything she owned and left her ‘high and dry’.

Bobby Leach On July 25, 1911, became the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. As he went over he was heard singing, “Anything you can do, I can do better….”

Bobby Leach was a circus stuntman in England. He announced his intention of becoming the first person to complete the “triple challenge” of Niagara: (a triple-dog dare)

1.) making a barrel trip through the rapids to the whirlpool,

2.) parachuting from the Upper Suspension Bridge into the  river upstream of the rapids. (Did they invent parachutes before airplanes?)

3) going over the Great Falls in a barrel.

On July 1st 1908, Leach jumped off the Upper Steel Arch Bridge using a parachute – 1 down.

In 1910, Leach returned to Niagara Falls to ride the barrel through the Great Gorge Rapids to the Whirlpool. Leach had attached an anchor to his barrel (?) but it got stuck in the rocks (duh!) and was cut. Leach’s barrel bounced from rock to rock through the rapids before becoming stuck in an eddy in the WhirlpoolWilliam “Red” Hill Sr. (more about him later) risked his life swimming to Leach’s barrel and dragging it into shore. Leach was removed from the barrel unconscious.

Liking the limelight, ‘Red’ Hill climbed into the barrel and rode it through the lower rapids to Queenston.

During that summer, Leach made the successful trip through the Whirlpool Rapids. – 2 down – 1 to go.

Riding inside an eight foot steel drum, on July 25th 1911, Bobby Leach took eighteen minutes to reach the brink of the Horseshoe Falls before going over. The barrel became stuck in the river at the base of the falls before Fred Bender tied a rope around his waist and swam to the barrel and tied a rope to it. Leach was removed from the drum and rushed to the hospital suffering from two broken knee caps and a broken jaw.

He spent six months in the hospital recovering and then went on a publicity for his mighty deed.

In New Zealand (of all places?) he slipped on an orange peel.

Go figure – he died.

THE TIGHTROPE WALKERS

There seemed a special attraction for watching those daring souls venture across the gorge on a thin wire rope. It was a nonstop stream of ‘rope walkers’ doing crazy things over Niagara.

“The good pictures were of those guys who walked across the gorge on tightrope. Of course, they weren’t ropes at all but wires (why didn’t they call them “tightwires”?), and everyone always said those guys walked across Niagara Falls, but I’d never seen a picture of anyone doing that. It was always the gorge they walked across, away from the Falls. No matter, these guys were amazing. They did everything out there on those wires, suspended over the middle of the gorge with that wild river below them.” Kevin, Journeys Across Niagara

(Well, now we know that’s no longer true – on June 15, 2012 Wallenda ‘tightwired’ across Niagara!  Let’s trace his forerunners.

Jean Francois Gravelot, better know as “The Great Blondin” was the most famous of them all. He was born February 28th 1824 in St. Omer, Pas de Calais in Northern France.

Blondin came to Niagara in early 1858. He was obsessed with crossing the Niagara River on a tightrope and on June 30th 1859, he successfully walked over the river. He utilized a 1,100 foot long – 3 inch diameter manila rope stretched from what is now Prospect Park in Niagara Falls, New York to what is now Oakes Garden in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

During the summer of 1859Blondin completed eight more crossings. He crossed carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back.

During the summer of 1860Blondin returned to Niagara for a second successful year of tight rope walking across the Niagara River for hundreds of thousands of sightseers. His acts included pushing a wheelbarrow along as he crossed and cooking breakfast on a stove, lowering it to guests on the Maid of the Mist below.

Thousands jammed the shores and climbed the trees – hoping to see him fall.

He never did.

The crowds actually became despondent and upset with him that he didn’t fall. What’s the matter with him – didn’t he know how to entertain?

Blondin died in 1897 at the age of 73 years.

William Leonard Hunt was born Lockport, New York in 1838. During the early summer of 1860, a young 22 year old Hunt watched intently from the shore of the Niagara Gorge as the Great Blondin made his way across on a wire. Hunt turned to his girlfriend and boasted that he could do that too. She laughed. That night, Hunt gave notice to his employer (his girl friend’s father!) that he was quitting to pursue a career as a rope walker in order to challenge Blondin. His girlfriend immediately broke off their engagement (think daddy had anything to do with that?).

William Hunt changed his name to Signor Guillermo Antonio Farini (couldn’t go wrong now) and he left his home in Port Hope after his father accused him of being a disgrace to his family by becoming a circus performer (“whats the matta for you?”).

He joined the Dan Rice’s floating circus on the Mississippi River and was reunited with his family after buying his father a farm (he made him an offer he couldn’t refuse).

He issued a series of challenges to Blondin but they went unanswered. Blondin was a polished acrobat however ‘Farini’ was a much more powerful performer and a much better businessman. Blondin usually took a collection at the end of each performance while ‘Farini’ marketed and ticketed his performances to ensure financial success.

His first performance at Niagara Falls occurred on August 15th 1860. ‘Farini‘ began the tightrope walk while carrying a balancing pole and an additional coil of rope strapped to his back. When he reached the mid-point he tied the pole to the tightrope and using the coil of rope he carried with him, Farini lowered himself to the deck of the Maid of the Mist boat 200 feet below.

Getting down was relatively easy. On the deck of the boat, he drank a glass of wine before ascending back to the tightrope above. This task was much more demanding than he had anticipated and he was near total exhaustion and nearly fell on several occasions. But he did make it back to the tightrope, and continued to the shoreline. After a brief ten minute rest, he made the return crossing blindfolding and wearing baskets on his feet. He would quickly become known as “The Great Farini”.

Blondin did not try to equal this feat.

In the weeks that followed, Farini matched or surpassed each of Blondin’s performances. He balanced himself on his head, hung from the tightrope by his toes and carried a person across on his back. On September 5th 1860, Farini carried an Irish washer woman across the gorge on his back.

When Blondin took out a stove on the tightrope and cooked an omelette, Farini carried a washtub out on the tightrope and lowered a bucket to the river below for water to wash a dozen handkerchiefs.

Farini had a passion (but still no girlfriend).

Farini performed at Niagara Falls twice each week. Although his acts were more daring and drew larger crowds, he never received the attention and press coverage that Blondin received.

For Farini, tightrope walking was but one of his many interests throughout his life. During his life he was an inventor, an explorer, writer, secret service agent, painter and sculptor. During the American Civil WarFarini was a member of the Secret Service for the Confederate Army.

In 1864, Farini attempted another death defying feat. Wearing a pair of specially made stilts, he waded out into the cascading water just above the American FallsFarini planned to walk to the brink of the Falls on the stilts but one of the legs got caught in a crevice in the riverbed causing it to break. Farini suffered a badly injured leg but was still able to reach Robinson Island which is nearest the Luna Falls. Here he was rescued. Farini left Niagara Falls defeated, deflated and de-dollared.

The Great Farini retired to Canada in 1899 where he took up the art of oil painting.

William Leonard Hunt, aka: The Great Farini died in January of 1929 at the age of 91 years. The Great Farini was one of the worlds greatest tightrope walkers ever, but to this day remains hidden behind the mystique of Blondin.

And of course – let’s not forget Maria…..

“There was one picture that Chuck didn’t like at all. It was another picture of a daredevil walking on a tightrope, just like the others, but that’s where the similarities ended. Two things made this picture different. First, the daredevil had a wooden bucket on each foot. As unbelievable as this way, it was the second difference that outraged Chuck to no end—the daredevil was a girl.” Kevin, ‘Journeys Across Niagara’

Signorina Maria Spelterini (also spelled as  Spelterina) was a buxom, beautiful woman of Italian descent, famous for wearing outrageous costumes. Her stunts included walking with her feet in baskets and performing wearing shackles and chains.

She was the first woman to ever walk cross the Niagara Gorge (as far as I know, she was the only woman too).

Many of her stunts were done at the age of 23, as part of the celebration of the United States Centennial in 1876. Her final crossing was on July 26th 1876.

Her personal life remains a mystery. The date and place of her death are unknown.

Note in the pictures above that in one she is wearing a hat and in the other she is not – obvious proof that she walked across at least twice with buckets on her feet.

Also note the Suspension Bridge in the background, jammed full of people watching. This is the bridge that ‘Lizzie’ and her ‘mammy’ escaped across to the:

lan o’ plenty – where the colored man be free. Mother Moses, ‘Journeys Across Niagara

An exciting, yet relatively unknown feat was done in 1846 involving the famous Maid of the Mist’. The first Maid of the Mist was launched on May 27th 1846 and was not a joy ride but was a ferry, being the only method to cross the border. In 1848, when the first suspension bridge was built, the ferry was no longer required.

What to do? Fold or change?

Change.

The Maid of the Mist ferry boat service became a tourist boat attraction.

And it was so popular, on July 14th 1854, a larger boat, the Maid of the Mist II was launched. It was a single smoke stacked 72 foot long steam propelled paddle wheeler. But alas, in 1861, due to the impending American Civil War, the Maid of the Mist was sold at public auction was sold to a Canadian Company. That is, providing the boat could be delivered to Lake Ontario. The Maid of the Mist would have to be navigated through the Great Gorge Rapids, the Whirlpool and the Lower Rapids prior to delivery.

The thought was mind boggling and terrifying. Who would do it?

On June 6th 1861, 53 year old Captain Joel Robinson along with two deck hands, began the perilous journey. His engineer, James Jones tended the boiler, ensuring maximum power was available. With the shores lined with people come to watch and with a short blast of the whistle, Captain Robinson and crew rode the Maid of the Mist through one of the world’s most wild and dangerous white water rapids.

The first giant wave, threw the men to the deck of the wheel house and ripped the smoke stack from the boat. Engineer Jones was thrown to the floor of the engine room and the boat was now at the mercy of the mountainous waves crashing against and over the tiny boat. Carried by the water at 39 miles per hour through the rock strewn rapids, the Maid was propelled into the Whirlpool. The tranquility of the Whirlpool allowed Captain Robinson to regain control of his boat.

Captain Robinson struggled to break the Maid from the grip of the Whirlpool before challenging the dreaded Devil’s Hole Rapids. The Captain Robinson did the best he could to steer through the channel with his damaged vessel.

Being motivated by a five hundred dollar reward, the Captain and his crew had accomplished something no one had done before and thought impossible. But at a price – the frightening experience caused Captain Robinson to give up a career that he loved. He retired into near seclusion and died two years later at the age of 55 years

Stephen Peer was born in Stamford Township and was 19 years old when Blondin performed his first tight rope walk in Niagara Falls. He signed on to become an assistant to Henry Bellini (another ‘wire walker’) by helping Bellini string the rope across the gorge.

Peer made his first public appearance using Bellini’s equipment but without obtaining Bellini’s consent – not cool.

Bellini tried to stop Peer by trying to cut the rope, with Peer on it.

Bellini was chased out of town.

Peer became famous enough to begin performing under his own billing. But on June 25th 1887Stephen Peer was found dead laying on the bank of the Niagara river directly below his wire cable. It is speculated that Peer tried an unscheduled night crossing, on a dare, after an evening of drinking.

On May 30th 1930, a crowd estimated at twenty-five thousand lined both sides of the Niagara River to witness a spectacular feat performed by legendary river man “Red” Hill.  Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, now at the age of 42, Hill was going to fulfil his promise to run the Great Gorge Rapids and the Whirlpool from the docks of the Maid of the Mist.

Hill Sr.’s barrel was of steel construction, six feet long and three feet in diameter with a manhole for entry. There were air holes on the sides of the barrel with were plugged with cork to allow them to be opened in an emergency. It was weighted by a steel keel consisting of a section of railroad track.  The barrel was painted bright red with gold lettering with “William Red Hill, Master Hero of Niagara” inscribed on the sides.

On May 30th 1930, Hill climbed into the barrel and set off on his journey. It took one hour and forty minutes caught in the back eddies before the river released his barrel, allowing it to enter the rapids. In ninety seconds he was through and in the whirlpool, where it became stuck in the vortex. It was three and a half hours before his friends were able to free the barrel so he could resume the journey through the final set of rapids.

He suffered a few minor bruises and the next day went back to work driving a taxi.

This was actually Hill’s second trip through the rapids. His first trip occurred in 1910 using the barrel of Bobby Leach. On Memorial Day 1931, he made a third trip using the barrel of George Strathakis, who had died in the barrel while attempting to go over the Falls.

Red Hill Sr. had officially been credited with saving the lives of twenty-eight persons from drowning. He received more lifesaving awards from the Canadian Government than any man before or since.

Red Hill Sr. was the foremost expert in the knowledge of the rivers treacherous tides, undertows, whirlpool and eddies. He had grown up near the gorge and it was his playground. During his lifetime, Red Hill Sr. recovered the bodies of one hundred and seventy-seven persons who had died from accidents or suicides.

Hill Sr. spent the waning years of his life showing off his barrel and selling pictures of himself in a souvenir store. On May 14th 1942, William Red Hill Sr. at the age of 54 years, died of a heart attack.

William “Red” Hill Jr. felt compelled to fill the shoes of his father.

He had helped on most of his fathers twenty-eight rescues. He helped his father in the recovery of 117 of 177 corpse recovered. On his own Red Hill Jr. pulled another 28 dead bodies from the river. He twice made the strenuous and dangerous swim from the base of the American Falls to the Canadian shore and he twice rode the Great Gorge Rapids and Whirlpool in a barrel.

Red Hill Jr. acquired fame but the fortune eluded him. A month after his second ride, a bailiff seized all of his goods, to include the three famous barrels of the Hill family, for sale at a public auction in order to satisfy his creditors.

On the last Saturday of July 1949, Hill Jr. decided it was time to restore the legend and the financial status and so he challenged the Great Gorge Rapids once again in a torpedo shaped steel barrel. The journey garnered little media coverage and no financial gain and Hill Jr. had to be hauled up the gorge in a basket and hospitalized.

But his dream for a memorial to his father weighed heavily and he planned a ride over the Horseshoe Falls.

Oh, how fickle are the winds of fortune! On August 5th 1951, Red Hill Jr., with no funding, built a cheap ‘barrel’ called “the Thing”. It wasn’t a barrel at all, but rather was a contraption of thirteen large heavy duty inner tubes lashed together with canvas webbing. These were encased in a heavy gauge fish netting.

“The Thing” was launched on the Canadian shoreline approximately three miles upstream from the Horseshoe Falls. With Red Hill Jr. inside, ‘the Thing’  rode through the upper rapids and went over the the Horseshoe falls, was caught under the falls and the pressure of the falling water broke it apart.  It was long minutes before pieces of ‘the Thing’ began to surface. There was no sign of Red Hill Jr. Above the thunder of the FallsRed Hill Jr.’s mother, wife and children frantically called out for him.

The vigil lasted through the night.

His body was found in the morning near the Maid of the Mist dock.

Following a public outcry over his death, a special order to the directors of the Niagara Parks Commission was issued to arrest anyone who commits an act of stunting upon the properties of the Niagara Parks. Since that day, no permission has been granted to allow any stunting within the park.

But, of course, that didn’t stop them…they continued to evade the police and challenge Niagara, some over the brink, some running the rapids, some …. well, you take a look….

THE KAYAKER!

There’s few pleasures in life as soothing as a quiet ride in a kayak down a peaceful river with the birds chirping and the fish jumping.

This is the last picture of Jessie Sharp, who chose to ride his kayak on the Niagara River on June 5, 1990, without a helmet or a life vest (he didn’t want to hide his face from the cameras).

On June 5th 1990, the 28 year old bachelor from Ocoee, Tennessee and an experienced kayaker, attempted to ride over the Horseshoe Falls in a twelve foot long, thirty-six pound polyethylene kayak. Having planned the trip for three years, he brought a crew to video tape his journey.

He confidently had made dinner reservations at the Queenston Park Restaurant, as his plan had been to continue riding the Niagara rapids after he successfully went over the Falls.

Sharp was never seen again.

His body was never recovered.

THE SKIER!

On October 1st 1995, Robert Overacker, a 39-year-old man from California, went over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls on a single jet ski. Entering the Niagara River near the Canadian Niagara Power Plant, he started skiing toward the Falls. At the brink of the Falls, Overacker  ignited a rocket propelled parachute that was strapped to his back. His plan was that the rocket would quickly deploy the parachute allowing him to safely land in to river below the Horseshoe Falls where he could be rescued. Overacker did ignite the rocket which deployed the parachute as planned. Unfortunately as the parachute deployed it fell away from Overacker to the ground below. Unknown to Overacker the parachute was not tethered to his body. The parachute was not packed by Overacker prior to the stunt and he was unaware of this fatal error. His step-brother and a friend witnessed this unfolding tragedy as Overacker fell to his death to the water below the Falls.

Robert Overacker was married and had no children. Overacker became the fifteenth person since 1901 to challenge the Falls.

He paid with his life. His body was recovered by staff at the Maid of the Mist.

So – what do you think?

From jumpers to barrel riders – from rope walkers to skiers – Niagara Falls has attracted them all for almost 200 years. Officials say that they recover an average of 20 people per year who chose Niagara Falls to commit suicide, but there are those who choose to go over the Falls in the name of adventure or fame or fortune.

The Niagara daredevils of today can’t compare to those of years gone past. The power of the mighty Falls has been sucked dry – bled away from the brink to power the unending thirst for electricity. Technology has removed the gadgetry of the daredevil and replaced it with scientific analysis and design. The odds of failure have been greatly reduced.

Daredevils can be best summarized as persons who wish to take conscious risks with their lives. It’s all a question of odds. Some risks are so great that the odds of survival are so little that they become suicidal in nature.

It may be a thin line between being a ‘daredevil’ and being ‘suicidal’.  The definition of a daredevil is success.  Fail and you’re suicidal – succeed and you’re a daredevil.

The public doesn’t really care – they want to SEE it and hopefully SEE it FAIL! Most spectators come in the anticipation of a deadly outcome. Successful stunts are actually boring.

Want to know more?

‘Google’: ‘Niagara daredevils’ and you’ll find more than enough information and pictures to fill a scrapbook.

or view more pictures at the Historic Niagara Digital Collection

or visit: Niagarafrontier.com  thunder alley  daredevils

or Read: ‘Niagara Daredevils – Chills and Spills over Niagara Falls ’ by Cheryl MacDonald

or go down and have some ‘dare-deviling’ adventure of your own riding the:

Whirlpool Jet Boat!!

Well – there you have it, all the thrills and chills and kills!

Niagara is a wonder – and it has and always will beckon to the daredevil. 

Are you ready?

Until Next Time:

Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are

dk Levick

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When a faded picture from a by-gone era sets in motion a perilous quest…

…five young men not only encounter harrowing danger in the forbidden Niagara Gorge, but must confront the swirling illusions of the world they knew – changing their lives forever.

The day we decided to go down into the gorge of Niagara Falls—to walk on the ice bridge—had started out normal enough but quickly showed itself as anything but normal …

Living in the City of Niagara Falls in the early 1960s, winters were simple for teenagers – like snowball fights and warm-ups at “Ol’ Gordy’s” general store, and arguing over his “wall of pictures.” It’s a ritual—sipping Cokes while studying the old photographs … listening to Ol’ Gordy’s tales..and dreaming about the daredevils of old.

Then, on a frigid February morning, all that changed. An ice ball to Kevin’s face, and a funny looking picture, snatched from Ol’ Gordy’s wall, sets in motion a journey from which they will never recover. Despite Ol’ Gordy’s warnings (or perhaps because of them) that, not only is it extremely dangerous, but against the law, they secretly vow to venture forth and walk on – the ice-bridge of Niagara Falls.

The ice-bridge of Niagara Falls – an aberration of nature—steeped in history – fraught with tragedy – challenged through the ages, by daredevils, bootleggers and tourists alike – lures them from the world they know into the depths of the mysterious Niagara Gorge. As in a time machine, they enter an exhilarating bygone world of impassable rapids, massive frozen sculptors and unassailable walls of ice.

Coming face-to-face with the mighty Falls itself, from the bottom looking up, as it proclaims its dominion over them, they find themselves in a struggle of life and death with a Niagara they never knew existed.

Peeling back time, along the way we encounter others, who had made their own journeys across Niagara in eras gone by. We’re there when the ‘Hermit of Niagara’, living on top of the mighty Falls itself, finds his destiny in becoming one with the water. Years later, we stand in awe on the day Niagara stood still and explore a riverbed never before walked on by man – until the water returns – sealing the mystery of the flute.

We follow the journey of the feather, and witness slavery through the eyes of a runaway slave girl, as she rides the ‘Underground Railroad’ seeking to find the bridge to freedom and paying the fare to ride that train.

We march to the beat of the drum and the chant of the the tom-tom, as nations clash and cultures collide when the journey of a British drummer boy converges with that of a young Iroquois brave at the brutal and bloody “Devil’s Hole” massacre.

‘Journeys across Niagara’ (previously titled: ‘Bridges -a Tale of Niagara’ and recipiant of the Readers Favorite 2011 Silver medal for General Fiction YA), is much more than a simple tale of camaraderie and adventure shared by young men. It a  tale that is rich in both historical fact and fiction, weaving a series of unique historical events, in a twist of mystery and revelation, with a group of 1962 teens, caught up in the complexities of a changing world around them. While each struggles with his own inner demons and angels – together they face the demons and angels of the Niagara Gorge.

It is my hope that you enjoy the journeys, and that you hear the crack of the ice, while feeling the tremor beneath your feet travel up your loins, knowing the mighty Niagara is reaching to claim you as well. ‘Journeys’ is a kaleidoscope of adventure and history, exploring the questions confronting people of all ages and from all times.

The earth is forever, and we’re just visitors—and only for a short time at that. By the time we begin to understand enough about the world to ask the right questions, our visit is over, and someone else is asking the same questions.


Until Next Time:

Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are

DK Levick

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As the saying goes “the devil’s in the details”.

When, writers of historical fiction, put words to paper, they bear the responsibility to transpose their readers to the time period their story relates to. This doesn’t mean telling them it’s 1776 – it means transporting them to 1776, making them feel it, live it, and be a part of it – having them jump up and march along with the fyfe and drum.

If only done on the macro level, the characters are superficial and transparent. The reader doesn’t feel authenticity and sees through the ruse. To lift the characters off the pages and bring them into the minds and hearts of the reader, the writer must work on the micro level—down in the trenches – with the details. And, here he must tread carefully, for it can easily be overdone. Too many details are overpowering and will bog a story down quicker than a hippo wallowing in molasses. Inserting a few carefully selected details, in a natural way, so as not recognizable as being inserted, will unconsciously, allow the reader to live them.  This is where the writer’s art comes in to play, weaving the facts and substance of the era into the spirit and essence of the story, putting the reader into the story’s setting as witness to the action.

For every word of detail the writer puts to paper, a hundred words were researched, reviewed and revised. Each sentence represents hours of background investigation, study and learning about the times, people, environment and cultures of the era.

If a writer’s passion is the blood flowing through his veins – then research is the muscle that forms his flesh.

During the writing of ‘Journeys across Niagara’ (formerly ‘Bridges – a Tale of Niagara’),  I traveled down many roads of research. Not so much for the main story line of Kevin and his friends living in Niagara Falls during the ‘60s, (having lived that era myself – I was my own research), but for the historical stories embedded in the novel. Encompassing four actual events, covering over 200 years of history in the Niagara Region, and crossing lines of culture, nations and habitat, each story required separate journeys of research and investigation. The stories are separated by many decades, in a rapidly developing part of the New World, undergoing major political, societal and cultural change. The world of the English drummer boy and the Iroquois brave in 1763 was a different world from the world of slavery and abolition found in Lizzie’s story of 1859. Conversely, The Hermit of Niagara lived on top of Niagara Falls in 1831, while the only instance of Niagara Falls stopping was in 1848, a mere 17 years apart, yet significant changes had occurred in the Niagara Frontier, due to the advent of the Erie Canal and the introduction of the railroads along with a spreading population, radically affecting the culture of the people. (See “Was there a Hermit of Niagara?” post on the right hand side.)

Research is the mantra of the historical fiction writer. It is hard work and takes considerable time but it’s as crucial to success as the reentry heat shields are to the space shuttle. I often wonder how earlier writers researched their subjects and eras. (hmm, could be a story there in the making.)

“To where do we go?” the writers asked. They went to the libraries and to building personal acquisitions of books and writings. Yes, long, hard, tedious work, not to mention, costly but worth the effort and cost.

Today, all that’s changed, writers have the advantage of the internet. Call up any subject or key word and information is immediately at your fingertips. Images, words, histories, background, essays and opinions—lots of opinions. This is a huge advantage for the modern writer, but I also see a snare lying in wait for us. As wide and as deep as the internet is, it only coughs up what someone has put in it. And those things are repeated – over and over. The internet fools us into thinking we can click on any subject and then, magically and instantly, we are ‘well informed’ and ‘all knowing’ about that subject. It has the potential to ‘Wikipedia’ an entire population, on a global scale, with a ‘one-click’ mentality, regarding any particular subject.

That’s one scary thought! The same, singular knowledge and information is put out and repeated to all who punch in a keyword or subject and most inquiries stop at that level. Much of this information has already been filtered and is steeped in ‘opinions’, before we ‘surf’ through it, filtering and discarding along the way. We, too easily, fail to genuinely dive into the heart of the matter, as true research demands. With enough repetitions and enough people reading the same things without rebuttal and opposing views and insights, we begin forming a global community of keyboard punchers who think along the same lines. And we then put our faith in it – “I read it on the internet, so it must be true.”   There is a great risk of an unconscious ‘dumbing down’ of the entire world concerning any given subject of history – like-minded regurgitating with like-minded. Understandings about people and events can easily become condensed down to a singular ‘common’ or ‘general’ opinion, and we all know, there is nothing ‘common’ or ‘general’ concerning people. People are unique, diverse and always at emotional states with one another, whether loving or hating one another. And history is nothing more than a reflection of those people and those emotions. And make no mistake about it, we must fully understand and know all the details of history or the past will overtake the future.

Think for a second, what power true censorship would have over this medium. The world’s understanding of history would be revised and reshaped to conform to the political or social designs of those doing the censoring. This isn’t fantasy or paranoia talk, for we know all too well that such things have happened down through history by governments, religions and organizations burning, rewriting and revising history for their own purposes and agendas. It’s not inconceivable or preposterous to think it could happen with the internet and we mustn’t be complacent– for there are governments, around the globe, imposing censorship and monitoring the internet as I write.

True research goes beyond the internet and dives into the heart, fiber and cellular DNA of the matter. We, as writers, owe it to our readers and to those who went before us, to embrace research with both arms wide open, welcoming the joy of bringing history to life.

“To where do we go?” the writers ask. We go to the libraries and to building personal acquisitions of books and writings.  Yes, long, hard, tedious work, not to mention costly but worth the effort and cost.

Gee – I guess not all that much has changed after all.

Until Next Time:

 Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are

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Hello Friends…

I trust you have all been well and good.

I’ve been asked lately about an embedded story in my novel “Bridges – a Tale of Niagara”   http://www.bridgesataleofniagara.com/ which recounts a strange man called the Hermit of Niagara, whether he was a real person or if I just made him up.

Let’s talk about him a little today…

WAS THERE REALLY A ‘HERMIT OF NIAGARA’?

Oh yes! There certainly was.

He came from England – he lived on Goat Island – he was musically talented – he frolicked in the brink of Niagara Falls – he spoke to no one – and he’s buried in Niagara Falls.

“He was real enough, fellas—a certified nut case for sure, but real all the same he was. Lived on Goat Island all by himself, ya know. Didn’t talk to no one, and he sure ’nough died there, too. The Hermit of Niagara is what they called him.” Ol’ Gordy; Bridges – a Tale of Niagara

Arriving in June of 1829, Francis Abbott shunned society. The villagers had this knowledge of him: He was an English gentleman. He was educated, skilled in music and drawing. He had visited Egypt, Palestine, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. He wrote in Latin but destroyed his compositions. After his death, when the towns people investigated his hut they found his dog guarding the door (which took considerable effort to remove) and his cat on the bed. There was a guitar, a violin, some flutes, and a number of music books scattered about. The pages were blank. He explored Goat Island extensively, which was a thick forest at the time and had relative solitary confinement due to the only access being a scary bridge crossing the fierce rapids.

“A narrow, rickety foot bridge crossed the treacherous rapids, dividing the mainland from the island. Few dared cross it—so violent were the rapids below, so unstable was the bridge—as it were mere yards away from the brink.” The Hermit’s Story; Bridges – a Tale of Niagara

He did, in fact, find and live in a small log cabin that had been previously erected by a pioneer family before the island was purchased by Peter and Augustus Porter. He lived in it for almost two years before being evicted by the Porters.

Did he hang on to those boards over the Falls like in the book?

According to many witness reports – he did!

The sketch below is the one that ‘Sam’ bought in the novel and was drawn by James Edward Alexander in 1831, shortly after the hermit’s death.  Look closely and you’ll see the Hermit hanging off the wooden planks located on the brink of the Falls at Terrapin Point.

“The walkway ended in a single twelve-foot beam, a mere ten inches wide, extending out like an accusing finger from the tempest. Francis walked the length of the beam for hours, as if strolling down a country road. Spectators were shocked and fearful and often broke into hysteria. He’d sit on the end of the beam, dangling his legs over the edge, and on occasion, he’d suspend himself off the beam, kicking his feet into the roaring maelstrom that spewed and tumbled down past him. Women swooned and fainted; brave men trembled, their knees buckling as they watched Francis casually pull himself back onto the beam with no more concern than if he was rising from his dinner table.” The Hermit’s Story;  Bridges – a Tale of Niagara

Did he really drown in Niagara?
Yes he did – but by the best accounts – he didn’t drown going over the Falls. I took a little literary license with that. After getting booted off the island, he resumed his hermit lifestyle at the base of the Falls. It was down there on June 10th, 1831, he was observed ‘bathing’ by a passing ferryman who saw Francis go under the water surface and not come back up. A search for Francis was conducted – without success. On June 21st, 1831, the body of Francis Abbott did surface at Fort Niagara and he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.

There is a headstone but it’s been knocked over and neglected so that it is unreadable now. It read:.

“Francis Abbott, the Hermit of Niagara Died June 10, 1831 He died in his 28th year” 

What happened? Suicide or accident? 
“What, it will be asked, could have broken up and destroyed such a mind as Francis Abbott’s? What could have driven him from the society he was so well qualified to adorn — and what transform him, noble in person and in intellect, into an isolated anchorite, shunning the association of his fellow-men? The history of his misfortunes is not known, and the cause of his unhappiness and seclusion will, undoubtedly, to us be ever a mystery.”  New York Mirror 1890

Of interest is that found on a rock on Luna Island was the following inscription:

“All is Change, Eternal Progress, No Death”

Did the hermit leave this?

Why was he here?

What was he looking for – or running away from?
To this day, no one knows.  ‘The Hermit’s Cascade’, located between Goat Island and First Sister Island, is named after Francis Abbott, the Hermit of Niagara. If you’d like to read further about the ‘hermit’ let me suggest the following:

“Niagara – A History of the Falls” by Pierre Berton

www.niagarafrontier.com

New York Times article:  July 6, 1875   http://bit.ly/qmnKK6
The Montreal gazette   Oct. 29, 1948      http://bit.ly/mOXxUm
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What have I been doing lately?

Well, on a personal note, I’m been overwhelmed with a couple of things, not important here but they’ve taken up a great deal of my time.
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Meanwhile – I’ve published another short story on Amazon and Smashwords titled:  “The Man in the Painting”. Take a look at it and leave a review.  Use this code during the next week and get it free on smashwords:  FA24C
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Also, I’ve been writing two projects simultaneously. First, is a new novel that I’m not ready to tell you about yet. Suffice it to say it’ll be quite different from my previous work.
Second, is something quite similar to my previous work, which I’ll tell you about next time. (I know, I didn’t talk about either one. Sorry… what can I say?)

Until Next Time:

Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are

dk Levick

 


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