Category Archives: Magic

The Black Dahlia Murder: The Truth.

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Baby New Zealand White Rabbit. (Strictly speaking this picture has not a lot to do with this blog, but you may like some light relief to go ”aw” at.)

Hollywood. Tinsel Town. A town of smoke and mirrors, the epicentre of a global entertainment industry, but along with the glitz and the glamour, Tinsel Town has a darker side – one of dirty tricks, cover-ups and even murder

Hollywood is all about deception, always.

For more than a century Hollywood’s glamour, its people, its money has captivated people from around the world. Movies have as much power today as they did when they first hit the screens. When entering a cinema we are transported by from our humdrum existence to a world, literally as well as figuratively, much, much larger then real life as we gaze past the head of the person in front to the star who we are temporarily in love with.

With so much money and power flowing through the town many believe there were – and still are – people who would do anything to advance their interests and then cover it up in a passel of lies. That may be the clue to why Hollywood is so fascinating; you cannot believe anything about it and yet you want to so you do, you suspend disbelief to soak up what can only be described as Fairy Stories.

The ‘tradition’ of not letting the truth get in the way of a good story comes from Hollywood’s golden era, the 1930s and 1940s when names and biographies were invented for the ‘big names’ to portray the squeaky clean image that Hollywood required, with agents and producers working closely with Police to keep their stars out of trouble and their reputation unsullied. Indiscretions that broke every one of the Ten Commandments and invented another ten were not so much as hinted at, unless it was in the interests of the Powers That Be to so do.

It was into this place of outward glamour and clean living, bling, colour, sparkle and glitz that twenty two year old Elizabeth Short walked in 1946 hoping for an opening in films. She was an attractive, slim but well formed girl, with clear blue eyes and deep brown hair, her looks marred only by badly decayed teeth.

Like so many hopefuls, Elizabeth failed to find work as an actress and was employed as a waitress, (a job which does actually involve a fair amount of acting as I can testify from my own experience as a student.) She claimed she had been engaged to an airman who had died and whilst there is no evidence to suggest that she was ever a prostitute, she certainly used her blue eyes and charm to persuade men to lavishly subsidize her income.

Her big break came on New Year’s day 1947 when she met Harry Blackstove Sr., a courtly, ‘old school’ magician and illusionist. In the town where deception was a way of life, mind over eye tricks such as his were elaborate and sought after. Among his especially effective illusions was one in which a girl lay on a divan, draped with a gossamer shroud and then seemed to float high in the air and then disappear as Blackstove pulled off the shroud. In another illusion, a woman stepped into a cabinet in front of many bright, clear, lights. When the magician suddenly pushed the perforated front of the cabinet backward the light bulbs protruded through the holes in the front of the box (to the accompaniment of the lady’s chilling screams). The cabinet was then rotated so that the audience seemed to see the lady impaled by splinters of filaments.

Great_Blackstone_at_the_Pantages

His ‘sawing a woman in half’ involved an electric circular saw some three or four feet round mounted on a swing-down arm. Blackstove demonstrated the efficacy of the device by sawing noisily through a thick piece of wood. Then a female assistant was placed on the saw table in full view, as wide metal restraints were clamped upon her middle section. The blade whirred and appeared to pass through her body, as ripping sounds were heard, the woman shrieked and particles of what seemed to be flesh were scattered by the whirring blade. When the blade stopped she, of course, rose completely whole and unharmed.

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Join the dots to get a straight line.

Harry was looking for a new assistant to tour with him, his previous lady accomplice being so ‘great with child’ that the restraint no longer did fastened and Elizabeth seemed perfect for the position. She gave a week’s notice at the diner and undertook a rigorous week of training with Harry for her new role.

She was perfect!

ElizabethShortBlackDahlia

Harry also had another assistant, a large New Zealand White rabbit that for reasons unknown he called Rampant. Rampant Rabbit was the atypical stage magician’s rabbit, adept at popping out of hats and from sleeves at the right moment.

Everything seemed good in the lives of Harry, Elizabeth and Rampant.

But on the morning of January 15, 1947, the unclothed body of Elizabeth Short was found on waste ground in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Local mother Betty Bersinger discovered the corpse about 10:00 am. and first thought it was a discarded shop display dummy. When she realized it was a naked body she rushed to a nearby house and telephoned the police.

Short’s body was completely severed at the waist and drained entirely of blood. The body also had obviously been washed by the killer. The lower half of her body was positioned a foot away from the upper, and her intestines had been tucked neatly under her buttocks.

It did not take the coroner long to rule out suicide and a verdict of murder by person or persons unknown was recorded. Short soon acquired the nick name The Black Dahlia from newspapers in the habit of nicknaming crimes they found particularly lurid. It may have been derived from a film noir murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia released the previous year.

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What a black dahlia really looks like.

There’s never been a shortage of suspects in the Black Dahlia murder — but even after sixty eight years police have never been able to pin the crime on any of them.

Here is, however, a reason for that.

Elizabeth Short was NOT murdered!

The ‘sawing a woman in half’ illusion went badly, badly wrong. Rampant Rabbit, fed up with sitting in a top hat, decided to investigate and hopped out and spying what he thought was food, nibbled through the hemp rope that was holding the safety guard in place. The safety guard zoomed up, the circular saw buzzed down and with a whir and a shower of entrails, Elizabeth Short was no more.

The magician panicked. Had he telephoned the ambulance or the police he may have got away on a rap of accidental death, but all he could think of was the dead woman, a murder rap, the electric chair and his own death. Freezing like a rabbit in the headlights (not Rampant – some other rabbit) he was unable to think or function for hours and then suddenly had a brilliant idea. In this town of many murders and hidden crimes one more stiff on a vacant lot would not be a big deal, but a world renowned magician cutting a woman in half for real? Why, he would never get a booking again!

He carefully washed the dead girl and stripped her, not for any sexual reason of his own but to make it seem like a sexually motivated murder. Under cover of darkness he loaded his van with some large illusion ‘furniture’ and concealed the two bits of the Black Dahlia beneath the self same gossamer shroud that she had lain under for the illusion just that afternoon.

He seemed to drive for hours looking for a dark and lonely place to dump her but at saw that Leimert Park was deserted. Getting out he looked this way and that and seeing no one he dragged the legs out and carefully put her intestines under her bottom – he was a very neat and tidy man. He was just dragging the top half into position when a police car siren could be heard somewhere near, so he left it where it lay a short way away from the legs and jumping in his van fled the scene.

As for Rampant, he went on to father 14,003 babies who in their turn have populated the United States with a further 2, 749, 307 rabbits, all of whom have a passion for hemp – the rope variety of course!

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Rampant rabbit relaxing after living up to his name.

Source material

Hemp rope making for intermediates (Adult education night school course)

Hemp by B. Stoned (purchased by accident.)

Fifty years in the saddle by Major Bumsaw

Trying to get tidy by Ina Mess

Insect Bites by Amos Kito

The photograph of the Black and Burgundy Dahlia was taken from the website http://www.fiftyflowers.com

© Jeff Jefferty Jeff August 12th 2015.

(Aha! The glorious 12th, when all self respecting game birds hide. This is my sort of game bird .blend_fam2 Anyone for some Famous Old Grouse?)

Jacquetta, The White Queen and a look at Witchcraft

Much has been said in popular fiction about the claims that Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a witch and did witchy things, engendering a whole generation of believers in the magical power of this feisty woman. A TV series exploited these claims and took her spell making to a whole new level. Was Jacquetta capable of ‘blowing up a storm’ or ‘ensnaring Edward IV’’ for her daughter Elizabeth? Who was Jacquetta and why were these claims taken so seriously – claims still believed in some quarters and discussed today?

Jacquetta of Luxembourg was born in 1415 or 1416 and was the eldest daughter of Peter I of Luxembourg and his wife Margaret of Baux. The Luxembourgs claimed to be descended from the water deity Melusine through their ancestor Siegfried of Luxembourg (922-998).

Raymond rides off on a slope backed camel-horse cross breed when he finds Melusine  in magic water that does not pour out when the door is opened. Illustration from the Jean d'Arras work, Le livre de Mélusine (The Book of Melusine), 1478
Raymond rides off on a slope backed camel-horse cross breed when he finds Melusine in magic water that does not pour out when the door is opened. Illustration from the Jean d’Arras work, Le livre de Mélusine (The Book of Melusine), 1478

At the age of 17, Jacquetta was married to the much older John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, at Therouenne. The Duke, died in 1435, worn out after only two or three years of marriage to his beautiful young wife. He was the third son of King Henry IV of England.

Sir Richard Wydeville was commissioned by Henry VI of England to bring Bedford’s young widow to England. During the journey, the couple married in secret without seeking the king’s permission. Despite the king’s ire and the large fine they were made to pay, the marriage was long and very fruitful. Jacquetta and Richard had fourteen children, including the future wife of Edward IV, Elizabeth Wydeville. Richard was so exhausted by begetting children that in 1469 that he voluntarily threw his neck against the blade of one of the Kingmaker’s men severing his own head, ensuring that Warwick would get the blame for his decapitation.

Through her daughter Elizabeth, Jacquetta was the maternal grandmother of Elizabeth of York, wife and queen of Henry VII. She is, consequently, an ancestress of all subsequent English and British monarchs, including Elizabeth II, and seven other present-day European monarchs. It is unknown whether the present day descendants have inherited Jacquetta’s insatiable desire to ‘procreate children’ although the more tawdry of tabloids do speculate on the subject frequently. Shortly after her husband’s aforementioned suicide, Thomas Wake, a follower of Warwick’s, accused Jacquetta of witchcraft. Wake brought to Warwick Castle a lead image “made like a man of arms . . . broken in the middle and made fast with a wire,“ and alleged that Jacquetta had made it to use for witchy things and sourcery (sic). He claimed that John Daunger, a parish clerk in Northampton, could attest that Jacquetta had made two other images, one for the king and one for the queen. The case fell apart when Warwick released Edward IV from custody, and Jacquetta was cleared by the king’s great council of the charges on February 21, 1470.

In 1484, Richard III in the act known as Titulus Regius, brought the allegations of witchcraft against Jacquetta up again and claimed that she and Elizabeth had procured Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward IV through witchcraft. No proof or evidence was ever supplied by Richard to support these claims. The methods for them so doing were explored at length in a novel and popular TV series, which also claimed the witchy pair were able to blow up winds and storms.

''It was a dark and stormy night..."
”It was a dark and stormy night…”

Witchcraft in the Middle Ages was a controversial crime that in the eyes of the law was bad as poisoning, though given the choice of a belly full of arsenic or a few herbs and mystic words, I would go with the herbs and spells any day but that may be because I live in the 21st century.  If one was accused of witchcraft, the charges could be dropped by a relative’s defence in a trial by combat or by twelve people swearing an oath of the innocence of the accused .

With the rise of Christianity witchcraft became a superstition, and persecution of witches persisted through the Middle Ages. In the 5th century AD, Christian theologian St. Augustine of Hippo (that is Hippo the place; he was not a saint of hippopotamuses) had

No comment.
No comment.

said that all pagan magic and religion were invented by the devil and that the devil’s purpose in inventing magic was to lure humanity away from the truths of Christianity, a view still adhered to in the time of Jacquetta. Witchcraft was feared and was a part of every day life and the every day beliefs of most people.

If Jacquetta did embrace witchcraft, is this the type of practice she enjoyed?
If Jacquetta did embrace witchcraft, is this the type of practice she enjoyed?

Two “types” of magic were said to be practised during the Middle Ages, white or good magic and black – the “bad” type of magic (maleficium).  Black Magic had more of an association with the devil and satanic worship.  If someone fell ill of unknown causes, someone’s cow stopped giving milk, a hen went off the lay, a woman could not conceive, this was all said to be caused by a witch who practiced black magic. Not the same witch necessarily. No one could do all that much before breakfast and still go to the market unless they were really magical and indeed a witch. Witches were often portrayed as old, warty and ugly women, often with gigantic hooked noses, because the church wanted them to be the targets of dislike and hatred.  Of course, those who allegedly practiced witchcraft had a wide range of appearances. Jacquetta was said to be very beautiful, though it is not known if she had a huge hooked nose, warts and wore a black pointy hat.

But was witchcraft possible and did ‘witches’ genuinely exist then? It is possible that the effect of having a spell cast on one was enough to trigger the desired result. The placebo effect is a universally acknowledged phenomenon. In essence, if you think something is going to make you better, it probably will. The term placebo, meaning “I will please,” dates back to the 18th century By contrast, the placebo’s darker cousin, the nocebo and is taken from Latin for “I will harm”. It was first formally recognised in the 1960s to mean something that rationally should have no effect but actually causes a deterioration in health. There are many anecdotal examples of the nocebo effect at work. For example, a nocebo response may explain the phenomenon of the voodoo curse in which a victim dies only because a belief in the power of the witch doctor has been so ingrained that, after he has been hexed, the target simply cannot believe that he will live. Other cases have been reported in which a patient has died after having been given a terminal prognosis; only for a post-mortem to reveal no such fatal disease was present. Although not thoroughly understood, physiological explanations of the nocebo effect have been proposed. It has been shown, for example, that a patient’s anticipation of worsening pain causes an increase in anxiety which triggers the activation of cholecystokinin that, in turn, facilitates pain transmission. This response generates a vicious circle of anxiety and pain which may be one explanation of the nocebo effect.

I, therefore, suggest that the belief in magic in the Mediaeval period was so engrained as to make spells actually appear  to work, but that Witches and Witchcraft existed no more then than they do today. To get a broad view I petitioned various experts on the subject to see what their answer was to the question ‘Could witches and witchcraft have existed in the Mediaeval period?’ The results are in the table below together with my comments.

Expert Opinion My comment
James Randi, stage magician and scientific skeptic, best known for his challenges to paranormal claims and pseudoscience  ¿Qué ? James Randi was unable to comment personally as he is still trying to decide exactly what his husband’s name is. This comment was left by his husband.
David Blaine, American magician, illusionist and endurance artist What the f*** do you want, ar*e w*pe. F*** off and quit bothering people. Regrettably I telephoned the wrong David Blaine.  I should have realised by his address being at a notorious traveller site.
Doris Stokes, medium There is someone with me who is looking for his brother.  Initial  letter J. I had to contact Ms Stokes through a medium.  I was not satisfied by the response.
Meg (of Meg, Mog and Owl) Of course witches exist. Although I am only a character in a book I am a witch so that proves it. Words fail me.
Miranda Aldouse-Green   The Goods of the Celts No Oh
Jason Kingsley, my next door neighbour Jeff, what are you on? Can you get some for me (Oh!)
The ‘Magic Circle’ Representative I think you misunderstand the difference between magic and witchcraft.  If you want a one word answer then that word must be no. I’m losing the will to go one here.
The White Witch: the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe I think, therefore I am. Witches will always be here. That’s a bit better, except she is also a character in a book.
The three witches of Baelmore No comment That may be because they were part of a dream one of the small people who hang around the house once had.
Witchsmeller Pursuivant – character: first series fifth episode of Blackadder I was incinerated at the end of the episode which proves that I am actually a witch to be able to still talk.The play writers didn’t think of that cunning plan, did they? Brilliant, Witchsmeller, just brilliant. Now everyone is confused.
Dumbledore, character in Harry Potter. Naturally all magic people exist. I am getting the message now.
The Wicked Witch of the West: character in Oz How much will you pay me? Nothing.
Paul Daniels: magician I will ask the lovely Debbie McGee. No comment, no comment at all.
Spokesperson for the Fortean Times No That is succinct
My own late Aunt Rose (via a sceance) Is that really you, Jeff? You’ve got fat. Thanks Aunt Rose

Summing up it seems that the only people who believe that witches and witchcraft actually existed in the Mediaeval period are characters in books, TV series and films  so therefore I conclude that Jacquetta and all other people accused of witchcraft are ‘not guilty’ as charged and are free to leave this pseudo courtroom. It remains only for us to judge whether Jacquetta was a nymphomaniac, had a degree of erotophilia or was just simply highly sexed. Next week I will be holding a séance to see if I can contact either of her husbands to comment on this matter.

Sources: Barsky AJ, Saintfort R, Rogers MP, Borus JF. Nonspecific medication side effects and the nocebo phenomenon. JAMA. 2002;287:622-7. DOI: 10.1001/jama.287.5.622

My phenomenal memory

A comment on Facebook

Philippa Gregory (author): ”The White Queen”

The White Queen (author) : ”The life and times of Philippa Gregory”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malleus_Maleficarum (very interesting!)

©Jeff Jefferty Jeff February 2015