The Serial Killer You’ve Never Heard Of

I consider myself to be somewhat of a serial killer connoisseur. So, when one comes along that I’ve never heard of, I’m as shocked as a cop finding a head in a refrigerator. I know there are going to be some of you out there who know exactly who I’m talking about, but I feel that most people have no clue.  I’m slightly embarrassed that I didn’t know about this guy until recently, so please don’t judge me anymore than you already do!

Who am I talking about? His name is Robert Hansen and not only is he guilty of murdering 17 woman, but he’s guilty of having a really boring name. In order to spice things up, they called him the “Butcher Baker” for reasons that will soon become obvious. Mr. Hansen was born in 1939 in Iowa to Danish immigrants and he eventually  followed in his father’s footsteps and became a baker. His childhood was pretty dysfunctional and he was awkward around girls, stating that his face was like “one big pimple.” He became a loner and kept himself busy with hunting, eventually joining the Army only to be discharged a year later. The next few years were spent getting married a couple of times, going to prison for burning down a bus garage and entertaining himself with petty thefts. Eventually, this grew as stale as day-old venison and he moved with his second wife and children to Anchorage, Alaska.

Robert Hansen, Butcher Baker
He looks pleasant enough, right?

This guy was well-liked by his neighbors, he won a few awards for his hunting skills and lived a quiet life with his family. Eventually, he became better known for his hunting skills rather than his baking skills and he earned that fantastic nickname.

In the 70s, there was an 800-mile pipeline being built through Alaska and Robert saw a perfect opportunity to sharpen his gun skills. Before I get into talking about his gun, just a few notes about Alaska and the aforementioned pipeline. As happens in these situations, large projects like these tend to bring lots of men to an area, along with criminal activity, drugs and prostitution. I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this because it’s a tale as old as time. Prostitutes are always the best target of the murderous type because they are difficult to trace and someone can be missing for months without anyone noticing.

Anyway, Robert is living his life with his oblivious wife and children, baking bread in the morning and stalking women at night. Unfortunately, by this point, Robert no longer found refuge in hunting animals, but in hunting women. LITERALLY hunting women. He would lure women with the promise of money, get them in his car and sexually assault them. There were several times that he let women go as long as they promised that they would keep their mouths shut. The other times? He would drive them in his car or fly them out to the Alaskan wilderness in his freaking plane. He would drag them out, strip them, assault them and then release them into the woods.

Then he would chase them with his rifle and hunt them down like animals. Read it again and just think about that for a second. Honestly, I have spent WAY too many seconds thinking about this scenario and I still can’t believe it.

WTF.

So on he goes, kidnapping, assaulting and killing women until the summer of 1983 when he picked up a 17-year-old girl named Cindy Paulson and pulled a gun on her. He drove her to his house, assaulted her, chained her to a post in the basement and TOOK A NAP. Then he threw her in the car and drove to the airport. While he was loading his plane, Cindy, who was handcuffed, managed to escape out of the back seat and ran for help. You know what’s amazing? She left her blue shoes in the car so that there would be proof that she had been there. Well played, Cindy. Well played.

For reasons I won’t go into, the case grew cold for several months until a detective from the Alaskan State Troopers started to put the case together. A warrant was issued, Robert’s home, car and plane were searched and, after trying to deny it for so long, he finally admitted to committing the crimes. Ultimately, he was convicted of raping and assaulting over 30 women and of killing at least 17, although more were suspected.

He was sentenced to 461 years plus a life sentence, without the possibility of parole. He died in 2014 at the age of 75.

4 Graves You Have To See In New York City

 

Trinity Church, New York City
Trinity Church, New York City

You go to New York City and you do the obvious things, right? Go to the top of the Empire State Building, see the Statue of Liberty, walk around Times Square, see that golden statue thing in Rockefeller Center. Maybe see a Broadway musical. Go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then swing over to the MoMA. Go see a show being taped.  I have done all of these things and I’ve done some of them multiple times (David Letterman TWICE) and, don’t get me wrong, they’re fun. You know what else if fun? DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

We recently took our six-year-old to New York City for a little vacay and, of course, the first thing we did was take him to the top of the Empire State Building. He loved it and thought the lights were cool (although he suggested that it wasn’t very “luxurious” because they didn’t serve food). Then we took him to Times Square, which in retrospect, maybe we should’ve also done at night. It’s a million times less impressive with all of the flashing lights mixing in with the burning sun.

Anyway, you know what’s cooler than flashing ads for Minolta and Cardi B? Finding an old as hell graveyard and spending time wandering around in it (until your family gets annoyed and you have to leave).

Trinity’s church yard is one of three burial grounds associated with Trinity Church (the other being St. Paul’s and Trinity Cemetery).  It’s located at Broadway and Wall St. in lower Manhattan which is *sort of* weird because it’s between One World Trade Center and the New York Stock Exchange. It’s right in the middle of all the action, so it’s not where you’d expect a historic, yet active, church to be hanging out. The church was established in 1696 when it was purchased by the Church of England. The land grant deemed the rent to be a whopping 60 bushels of wheat a month (where can I get a deal like that??). The church has been rebuilt twice since it first opened in 1696 and it was the tallest building in the United States until 1869. The enormous (at the time) church spire was a welcoming sight for ships pulling into the NY harbor.

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

There are 3 main things for when you go to the Trinity Church yard: Alexander Hamilton, Charlotte Temple and Richard Churcher. Alexander Hamilton is pretty self-explanatory, as he was one of our country’s Founding Fathers and the star of his own Broadway musical. Five of his children were baptized here and he owned a pew, but was not technically a member because he didn’t take communion. After being killed by Aaron Burr in that famous duel of theirs, he was buried here. Fun fact: Did you know that his son, Phillip, also died in a duel? He died three years before his father and, while there is a stake in the ground stating that Phillip is buried here, it is unknown if he is buried IN the graveyard or outside of it somewhere. Apparently when Phillip died it wasn’t quite as “cool” to die of a duel as when his father did and so the church tried to hide the evidence, so to speak.

Charlotte Temple has a pretty inconspicuous “grave” that you might not notice if you’re not looking for it. She was the title character from a best selling novel written in 1794 (Best selling? Was it on the NYT Bestseller List or something?) and there is a grave with her name on it in the church yard. The sign in the yard stated that a man working on the 1840s rebuild of the church carved her name into the stone, but it is unclear whether anyone is buried there. As I looked further, it appears that P.T. Barnum, who owned the American Museum at the time, may have commissioned this weird “grave” as a publicity stunt in order to get more people into his museum, which wasn’t far from the church. A man named William Crommelin admitted to carving the name, but the Historical Society says that it was carved in the 1850s, during the time that Ol’ Barnum had has museum. Anyone want to dig it up and let me know?

The other super cool grave is that of Richard Churcher who was a five-year-old who died (I know, NOT super cool) and was buried here. His grave is the oldest carved gravestone in the entire city and is two-sided, which was very rare for the time period. The date on it is 1681 which makes it 337 years old, for those of you who are bad at math. I’ve tried to find more information on this little guy, but I haven’t been able to. My best guess would be that he died from any one of the numerous diseases that festered in New York City during that time period. Most of the people buried during this era died of smallpox, yellow fever or typhus. It was around the time of Richard Churcher’s death that they started to bury people in church yards, thank god.  Previous to this, if you died, they might literally toss you out into the intersection along with the other yellow fever victims. As you can guess, this wasn’t quite sanitary and people were finally buried underground. THANK YOU.

Richard Churcher grave, Trinity Churchyard, New York City
Richard Churcher 

Finally, of course you MUST be wondering why there was a picture of the  Washington Monument fronting this post? Well, SUPRISE, this is the 4th grave! This monument is located in Washington Square Park and was once a potter’s field. People were buried here by the thousands  during the yellow fever epidemic between 1797-1825. The area where this monument is was once on the nothern edge of the fashionable part of town (Lower Manhattan) and when people started to move north, they built a park on top of the burial grounds so that the fancy (and alive!) Manhattanites could have a place to frolic. Or picnic. Or whatever.  There are approximately 20,000 people buried here under this piece of land and old vaults are still dug up on the regular when they do excavation projects.  So next time you’re walking through, after sticking your toes in the fountain to cool off, think about ALLLLL of those people that are REALLY cool underneath you.

Kurt and Courtney: The Saga Continues

Did you guys hear the story about Courtney Love wanting to have her ex-son-in-law murdered? No? Well, lemme tell ya a story.

Before I embark on the details, I have to admit something. I totally think she killed Kurt. I have obsessively read books, watched movies, and fallen into Cobain conspiracy theory rabbit holes on the internet. I just fell into another one 3 minutes ago when I needed to remind myself about El Duce. For those not in the know, El Duce was a crusty punk dude from the band, The Mentors. He was the guy that Courtney offered to pay $50,000 to in exchange for killing Kurt. Supposedly, he turned Courtney down, a guy named Allen Wrench (another crust punk dude) did it and then when El Duce was going to rat Mr. Wrench out, Mr. Duce mysteriously died. It should be noted that before he died, he completed a lie detector test and, as Maury would say, it was with 99% certainty that El Duce WAS TELLING THE TRUTH. Did you follow all of that? That was KIND OF a lot of information.

Other questions that always pop up are: Would Kurt have been able to shoot himself with that much heroin in his system? Why were there no fingerprints on the gun? What’s with those copies of paper where it looked like Courtney had been practicing Kurt’s handwriting? Get the picture? Just watch Soaked In Bleach and you’ll totally be on the Courtney-killed-Kurt train. Choo-choo!

Kurt and Courtney: The Saga Continues

Fast forward to this week when court records were released of Isaiah Silva’s lawsuit against Courtney. Who is Isaiah Silva, you ask? He is Frances Bean Cobain’s now ex-husband. In the lawsuit, he is claiming that Courtney, along with Ross Butler (actor) and Courtney’s manager, Sam Lufti, plied Frances Bean Cobain with drugs in order to “weaken” her and to take advantage of her. Courtney also hatched a plot to kidnap Silva.  First off, do you remember Sam Lufti? He is the owner of SIX various restraining orders and has “represented” female stars like Britney, Lindsey Lohan and Amanda Bynes. He was the gentleman that was representing Britney during her shaved head/swinging an umbrella around phase. Courtney Love now seems like the only one crazy enough to think that having Sam Lufti represent her would be a GREAT idea.

Anyway, so why would Silva be kidnapped, you ask? TO KILL HIM. The best part? It’s over ownership of a freaking guitar.

This guitar, which Kurt used on the 1993 MTV’s Unplugged appearance, was already determined by the courts to be owned by Isaiah Silva (he said that Frances gave it to him for an engagement gift). So, a judge had already said that this guitar ship had SAILED, but we’re dealing with Courtney here, so, yeah. She had Sam Lufti and Ross Butler kidnap Isaiah from his home and throw him in a Cadillac, with the intention of killing him and setting it up to look like a suicide. Unfortunately, they weren’t counting on him having a buddy over who called the police. The LAPD chased them down, helicopters blazing and streets blockaded. It’s also been reported that he had previously called the police to report that someone had been hacking into his phone and was sending fake messages to friends stating that he was suicidal. No charges were pressed after the incident because Lufti warned Isaiah that Love owned the LAPD, the judicial system and the media and nobody would believe him. He ultimately stated that it was a prank.

Like what the hell? This is straight out of a bad episode of CSI or something.

BUT, guess who is thrown into the mix to make it sound more legit than it normally would? Wendy O’Connor (remember her? Kurt’s mom?). Isaiah reported that in 2015 she had a conversation with him about how she believed that Courtney had something to do with Kurt’s death. She warned him that Courtney was manipulative and was not to be trusted and encouraged him to get his shit together and watch the aforementioned Soaked In Bleach.

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? This is INSANE. I have so many questions. Is Frances okay? Is sure turning into her mother? If this stuff is true, Courtney is so brazen and reckless. I cannot imagine coming up with these plots and recruiting people (famous people, nonetheless) to act out her whims. I get that she’s a star, but c’mon (this is coming from someone whos till listens to Hole on occasion). WHEN WILL SHE BE STOPPED?

If you need to dig deeper, here are the court records, ready for your perusal.

 

 

 

Brightside Films: 5 Documentaries To Make You Cry

My husband always says to me, “Unless it’s a movie about murder or Nazis, you don’t want to watch it.” This quote usually pops up as we go back and forth for an hour about what movie to watch. And while what he says is MOSTLY true, I also leave room for movies about death, family tragedies and American history (the dust bowl, anyone?). Everyone once in awhile, a movie about a wild animal on a killing spree will sneak in there, so I’m not as narrow minded as he claims I am!

Needless to say, I’ve watched many a documentary in my life and I wanted to share with you 5 of my most favorite, sob-inducing real life movies.

My Flesh and Blood (2003)

This documentary follows the Tom family for an entire year as they pass through each season. The Tom family consists of Susan and the 11 children that she adopted, most of them having mental or physical disabilities. She also has 2 children of her own, but the main focus is on a handful of the ones that she brought into her home. At times I wondered what Susan’s motives were for adopting so many children as she was in a constant state of overload (her biological daughter becomes upset at one point as she believes that she is only there to help Susan with the kids and wants to have her own life).  The point of the film is the kids, though, and Susan’s ability to give them hope when they need it most. We meet Faith who suffered severe burns in a crib fire, but is emotionally invested in looking like “regular people” after receiving plastic surgery when she is older. Xenia was born without legs and she lives without fear, chasing after teenage love and optimism. The MOST heartbreaking child was Joe, who was given up by his mother when he became too ill to take care of. He is in the end stages of cystic fibrosis, which is a struggle, but his anger is the most difficult part to watch. When he threatens to kill one of the other children, it throws a whole new layer on the already overwhelmed family. I won’t tell you what happens at the end, but if you don’t cry, you truly don’t have a heart. I will never, ever forget Joe.

5 Documentaries That'll Make You Cry

The Suicide Tourist (2007)

“I’m not tired of living,” says Craig, a retired computer science professor. “I’m tired of the disease, but I’m not tired of living. And I still enjoy it enough that I’d like to continue. But the thing is that I really can’t.” And so it goes as the film follows Craig Ewart as he makes the decision to end his life 5 months after being diagnosed with ALS. At 59, he ponders the possibility of living without REALLY living and decides to take matters into his own hands before he endures unbelievable suffering. Craig travels to Switzerland, the only place where foreigners are able to receive physician-assisted suicide. With the assistance of Dignitas, the nonprofit providing support, the film follows Craig and his wife to the apartment where he will ingest a lethal sedative that will end his life. The film comes to an end with a video camera perched in the room as his wife kisses him goodbye and he swallows the medication. The bravery and quiet tenderness shown between the two of them is forever etched into my brain. They both have reached a quiet acceptance as his life comes to an end. *cue the waterfall*

The Bridge (2006)

I’ve told people about this movie several times and I’m usually hit with a mix of intrigue and horror. Why would a person want to watch people jumping off of a bridge? Furthermore, isn’t it pretty shitty that the producers put video cameras out in the HOPES of catching someone jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge? Well, yes, these are excellent questions. First of all, let me clarify that if the filmmakers were near a person making an attempt they would actively try to stop them from jumping (and they actually stopped several). The answer to the first question is a little more complicated. No, I don’t want to watch people kill themselves. The whole point of the movie is that people are more than just their deaths. After finding footage, the filmmakers go out and find the loved ones of those that died to find out more about who they were. Naturally, there were tales of depression, substance abuse and other mental health issues. Added bonus? They found a man who had jumped off the bridge and survived—his interview is included in the movie.

So Much So Fast (2006)

At 29, Stephen Heywood was diagnosed with ALS (HOLY, sorry about all this ALS. Eesh.). He was successful at building houses and had a girlfriend who loved him. He also had a brother, with no medical background, who was hell-bent on finding a cure before it was too late. Stephen keeps working, gets married and they decide to have a baby. While his impending death is indeed sad, the Heywood family were upbeat and determined to focus on all that was good. You can FEEL Stephen’s desire to live just as you can FEEL the pain that you know is coming. I have also seen this one a couple of times and if there was ever a movie that could kick you in the throat and make you realize that your time is now, it is this one. His decline is heartbreaking, but simultaneously inspiring as you think to yourself, “I’ve got to get my ass off of this couch and go hike Mt. Everest!” Maybe hiking to the mall is all you can handle, but you get my point. I won’t tell you how he dies (it’s not what you think), but get 16 boxes of Kleenex ready.

Dear Zachary (2008)

I had just moved to Minneapolis and I was lying in bed, hungover, with MSNBC on (Lord, I miss John Seigenthaler!). Had I known what was going to hit me next I *might* have turned the channel in order to save myself the horror. I’m glad that I didn’t, however. This random documentary that popped up on cable TV turned out to be one of THE best I have ever seen. It is certainly THE MOST HEARTBREAKING. This movie is basically a love letter made by the filmmaker for his friend, Andrew Bagby’s son, Zachary. In a nutshell, the story begins as Andrew meets a fellow M.D., several years his senior, and they begin dating. His family and friends find Shirley rather off-putting (you’re going to hate her, too) and the relationship eventually comes to a messy end. Just as Andrew feels that he has gotten rid of her, she reappears and Andrew is found dead. Shirley finds out that she is a suspect and flees to Canada. While the filmmaker is collecting footage for a documentary about Andrew’s life, Shirley announces that she is pregnant. Everyone is distraught and the movie veers off, turning into the craziest true-crime film I have ever seen. Custody battles ensue, Andrew’s parents are allowed to raise Zachary, but then Shirley is let out of jail (WHAT?). I will not tell you what happens next, but suffice it to say, I was HORRIFIED. I am not easily horrified, so this is really saying something.

P.s. I have recommended this movie many, many times over and, inevitably, I would receive a call/text/talking-to about how I ruined this person’s day with the trauma of this movie. DO NOT LET THIS STOP YOU. Draining your body of tears is cathartic, right?

 

Have you seen any of these? TELL ME! What should I add to my list?

 

 

 

 

Brightside Biography: I’m a Funeral Director

Funerals are not fun. That’s obvious, right? What may not be obvious, though, is all of the work that goes into taking care of your sweet grandpa after he’s passed. Not only the work of taking care of sweet grandpa, but really, the work (and love) that goes into caring for the entire family. I’ve always had a quiet admiration for funeral directors and their ability to be quietly professional, but to also be graceful and understanding of families who are grieving. This leads me to Chelsea Tolman, who I met after reading this post on her blog, Mbalmergirl. She has tales that are considered “gross,” but more importantly, she shares stories that will break your heart and simultaneously restore your faith in humanity. There’s this story about a husband and wife who died together in a car accident and this poignant story about a man who died alone. This woman is a gift. Here’s her story.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself (first name, position, family, what you like to do in your free time–things like that)?

My name is Chelsea Tolman. My position currently is a consultant for a local mortuary (newly acquired BTW), basically I promote and give advice on advancing their firm. I am fully licensed, which means I am a director and embalmer and can handle every step of the process in death care. Which means I can pick up bodies from their home, a facility or medical examiners office etc., I am an embalmer, I can make arrangements with families, direct funerals and everything in-between. I am married to an amazing man and with him I have gained a beautiful step-son both of which I love and cherish deeply. I love to write, I read science fiction and fantasy, and of course books related to the death trade, I am a runner and I love coming up with fun things to do with my family. I like to play video games (as long as there are puzzles to solve) and watching movies with my husband and step-son.

When did you know that this is the type of work that you wanted to do? How did you know?

Okay, here is the played-out cliché of “It’s a calling”. I get that some people do not understand that, but it was truly a lightbulb moment for me when I spoke with a funeral director on the phone and when I hung up I knew that this was what I was meant to do. I was working at a junk yard at the time and I loved it! I never would have thought that this was where I would end up 15 years later.

What kind of schooling did you have?

I attended Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science in Decatur, GA. I have a degree in Mortuary Science and did 18 months of apprenticeship. Classes I took are anatomy, biology, microbiology, chemistry, pathology, mortuary history, mortuary law, embalming, funeral service management, small business management, communications, sociology, psychology, counseling, ethics, restorative art and whatever in-between classes I have missed. I have been licensed in Georgia, North Carolina and now Utah.

Can you describe a “typical” week (as if there is such a thing!)?

Yes, there is such a thing. “Typical” is running around like a chicken with your head cut off only to slow down and patiently listen to someone who needs to talk, then rush off again and finalize paperwork, make a dozen phone calls, then again patiently listen to an angry family member about what they need to vent about, then sit on hold with insurance companies, airlines and cemeteries only to then change clothes and head to the embalming room, then change back and rush to a church, cemetery or vital records office. All while remembering which family requested what and for what day. It’s a fantastic juggling marathon of events. Lunch? What is that?!

What is the embalming process entail?

Through most of my career embalming was typical, the norm. In our current culture there is controversy surrounding the procedure. I think it is important to understand that embalming is not required by law (aside from certain circumstances, I can elaborate if you want). The purpose is to stay decomposition, at least long enough to have a funeral days or even weeks after death. Embalming is a procedure of replacing most of the blood in the body with preservative chemicals. It makes the tissue feel firmer (which is disturbing to some and comforting to others), it makes applying cosmetics easier and gives the body a much more “Life-like” appearance (again, disturbing to some, comforting to others).

What do people get buried in such expensive boxes? Are underground vaults necessary?

The expensive “boxes”, LOL, can be described as a display, like a pretty jewelry box. It is intended to make the deceased look comfortable and protected. Caskets have as many features as you could imagine that the public could want. They can be sealing, non-sealing (meaning there is a casket surrounding the lid allowing air out, but nothing gets in). They are made of wood and metal and now even biodegradable materials like wicker. The interior fabric can be a crepe, cotton or velvet. They come in every color and almost every size and can be personalized with artisan corners and embroidery. They have mattresses with springs and mechanisms to raise and lower as well as tilt side to side (for the best viewing options). People make these choices because it’s consoling to know that their mother, or brother, or child is comfortable, we love our family and even when we know they are gone from the body, it is human nature to want to make them comfortable. So, all of these options make caskets “boxes” expensive.

Brightside Biography: I'm a Funeral Director

Underground vaults serve two main purposes: 1. Some vaults protect the expensive casket from water, earth and critter damage. Albeit not forever, but some people like to imagine that the jewelry box stays just as beautiful as when they bought it, maintaining their loved one in comfort. 2. If you bury a casket in bare earth, it deteriorates quickly. This can cause the lid of the casket to collapse which then causes the ground to sink, which then creates a problem for the cemetery. They will have to fill the space with more dirt and sod making it laborious and expensive to maintain a beautiful lawn. So, to answer your question, no, vaults are not necessary for the purpose of burying a body, unless you want the protection, or you are burying in a cemetery that requires it (which is pretty much all of them).

Most people would probably say that they would be afraid to touch a dead body. Has this ever been an issue for you?

Nope! I have never had a problem touching dead bodies. I don’t think I have an exact answer for you, but this has just not been a problem for me. I know it is disturbing for some, it can be creepy or weird but it’s just us, without the blood moving. It’s not dangerous (unless you have a terrible disease), it can be smelly, look weird and the skin texture can be strange but it’s really normal, it’s the end of life. I can see where people are put-off by it but I think it is just that our current culture is so removed from death that it seems like a taboo. Nope, it doesn’t bother me.

How do you get the images of their faces out of your head at night? How do you handle your own emotions when working with grieving people?

You don’t get the images of the faces out of your head. Period. I can still see some of the broken people I have helped, I can still feel their pain. You just learn how to cope with the craziness of being surrounded by death all the time, or you go crazy with it and find a new profession. Any aspiring funeral director should take this piece of advice: If at all possible, do your apprenticeship first! Know what you are getting into, it is not easy, it is emotional and strains you and your family. The caveat is that these days, funeral homes are taking strides to ensure that their employees get time off and are on some type of regular schedule. The high of helping people will wax and wane, in the highs you will sacrifice your personal life and your family, in the lows you will break. The first high in this industry can last for years. Some have lost it all, family health, emotional stability. But it’s not all dark, find a firm that supports you in the dark times and don’t sacrifice yourself, if you can do that, it is100% worth it.

I created a saying for myself, “It is not my grief”. I didn’t lose somebody, I didn’t know the deceased and until now, I didn’t know the family. My purpose is to be the shoulder, if I fall apart, how can the family trust that I can help them? It is important to me to get out of my head, whether I go for a run, take a yoga class or read a good book, self-care (doing something for you and only you) is paramount and remembering that you didn’t lose someone, the people you are helping did.

What is one thing you learned on the job that you did not learn in school?

Everything! LOL. Not really. College prepares you for a lot of things, it does not prepare you for everything. Learning how humans react in a textbook cannot, no matter how hard you try, prepare you for how humans react in real life.

What is one decedent/family that will stay with you forever?

So many! I have built incredible relationships with the families that I have helped. Even now, years later, I have families whom I have kept in touch with, I love them all, deeply.

What is your favorite thing about your career? Your least favorite thing?

I am fulfilled when I know that my efforts were helpful. When I walk a family into a room to see their loved one for the first time since the death and they physically show emotion, that is satisfying. At the end of a graveside, when the service is over, and the family can go on and find their new way of life, I feel pride. Grief is hard and messy, so when I know the family is feeling it and getting it out whether its anger or sadness, I know I have done something right.

What do you believe happens to you when you die?

Ha! Good question. I like to think that whatever an individuals belief is, that is what will happen to them. It would be fun if the faith people have in their religion or Gods or views of afterlife were true for each person. I don’t have any different view of afterlife now then before I became a funeral director. It is all a mystery, I don’t have strong feelings, but it would be cool if we could all end up wherever we believe we should end up.

Do you believe in ghosts?

 I believe in energy left when a body dies. I have had encounters that felt like a ghostly experience but I can be no more definitive than that. The short of the long is I don’t really know. I would like ghosts to be real, and I would like my experiences to be real but I just don’t know.

How has this work changed your view of death?

Well, my view of death has only changed in that it is unpredictable. I didn’t understand that before. I thought that death is just death and that was the end of it. The reality is that death can be harsh and bewildering and funny and sad. There is no black and white. I have learned, so far, that you cannot put a label on death other than it is final for this world, or life, or segment depending on what you believe. Life is a crazy whirlwind and death is no different.

How has this work affected your view of life?

Live hard and live real. Never quibble about the little things and love everybody! Take care of your own body and mind first, before taking care of others.

Thank you so much, Chelsea, for taking the time to share your story! Do you have any questions for her?

 

Brightside Booklist: Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor

It’s not a surprise to anyone that I’m afraid of dying. Not the act of dying (well, that’s kind of a lie), but of being dead. I like naps, but I don’t much care for dirt naps. I know what you’re saying right now. “Does she not know that you don’t actually know when your dead?!” YES, I know that, but that is NOT HELPFUL.

After some dramatic events happened in my life (like REALLY dramatic events, not my “normal” dramatics), I decided it was high time I started enjoying life.  Does shit suck sometimes? Yes. I hate it when people are in line and aren’t paying attention (HELLO, move forward, already!). I hate it when you think you lose your phone so you drive around, retracing your steps in full panic mode for an hour and then realize it was in your purse the whole time. I really, really hated that.

Anyway, in the grand scheme of things, whatever. I lost my phone. I didn’t DIE over it or anything, right?

So, back to enjoying life. Lately, I’ve been paying extra attention to sunrises. This wasn’t a conscious decision. I wasn’t, like, setting my alarm for 5:45 a.m. in order to lurk around in the yard waiting for the sun to appear. But, heck yes, if I’m up, I’m going to walk over to the window and check it out. I even went outside this winter in my robe a couple of times. Being outside in the silence, with the sun and all of it’s colors appearing in front of my face is a kick ass way to start the day. Bonus: I even had an early morning sunrise bonding session with my neighbor!

What’s the big deal? It’s the sun. It’s mundane. It’s there alllll the time. Well, I hate to tell you this, but one day THE SUN WON’T BE SHINING FOR YOU ANYMORE.

Losing these mundane moments is what makes me afraid of death. Because I’m afraid of it, I figured that maybe if I immerse myself in it, maybe I won’t be so afraid. Buddhists practice for death every day of their lives by being mindful of the preciousness of life. They toss out non-virtuous thoughts and those that induce suffering in order to be ready for death when the time comes. Back in the day, the deceased used to be cared for by family members in their home. The washing, dressing and preparing of the body was all done by Aunt Caroline. I am, HOWEVER, not going to prepare for death by doing any washing of any bodies. I think I’ll just stick to reading books.

This brings me to the book Dying: A Memoir by Corey Taylor. It is a short and beautiful book written by a woman diagnosed with terminal cancer. As a lifelong writer, she found it to be cathartic to write her thoughts down in order to process her own death.

She wanted to talk about what nobody wants to talk about.

This is why I started writing this book. Things are not as they should be. For so many of us, death has become the unmentionable thing, a monstrous silence. But this is no help to the dying who are probably lonelier now than they’ve ever been. It takes courage to contemplate one’s death, and, as I said before, it is inexpressibly lonely.

As she is focused on looking forward into the future, she has vivid memories of growing up as a child, visions of various family entanglements and an acknowledgment of the “sweetness” of life. The everyday life that she loves, also, is slowly disappearing.

Brightside Booklist: Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor

We don’t do that walk anymore. I’m frightened I’ll fall and break something. Nor do I ride my bike along there, another pleasure gone. How I’d love to pack the car and head off to some deserted beach for a swim. But I weigh less than my neighbor’s retriever. I’d never make it past the first break. And so it goes, the endless list of pleasures I can no longer enjoy. Pointless to miss them of course, as that won’t bring them back, but so much sweetness is bound to leave a terrible void when it’s gone. I’m only grateful I tasted so much of it when I had a chance. I have had a blessed life in that way, full of countless delights. When you’re dying, even your unhappiest memories can induce a sort of fondness, as if delight is not confined to the good times, but is woven through your days like a skein of gold thread.

I have read that paragraph over and over again (I think I even cried the first time I read it). These small moments are the ones that she longs for. Never once in the entire book did she write about “BIG” moments or wishes that things had been different. The other thing that I found fascinating was that the subject of regret only made a brief appearance.

A bucket list implies a lack, a store of unfulfilled desires or aspirations, a worry that you haven’t done enough in life. It suggest that more experience is better, whereas the opposite might equally be true. I don’t have a bucket list because it comforts me to remember the things I have done, rather than hanker after the things I haven’t done. Whatever they are, I figure they weren’t for me, and that gives me a sense of contentment, a sort of ballast as I set out on my very last trip.

GIRL, this paragraph hit me hard. I have been so hung up on the fact that I haven’t done ALL of the things in life and WHAT IF I NEVER DO???? I have seriously panicked over this and I am now realizing that maybe it’s not necessary. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still going to go Russia some day, I’m going to write a book and I’m going to sky dive (this one’s a lie, I’m never going to f**king sky dive). BUT, I’m not all that hell bent on having a bucket list anymore. Whatever I want in life, I’m ALREADY going for it and that makes me happy.

I have another book on my Brightside Booklist: 52 Books to Read Right Now called When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This is a memoir written by a young neurosurgeon diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Similar to Ms. Taylor, he contemplates what it is that makes life meaningful and what happens when all of your dreams are flattened by a terminal diagnosis. Reading about a young man with a beautiful wife, a soaring career and a new baby struggle with the knowledge that he will soon be gone puts a person’s life in CHECK. Fast.

Why do I torture myself with these books? Well, I see them as an opportunity to truly contemplate what it is that I’m doing here. What AM I doing? At the end of my life, what am I going to miss? Would I miss sitting on my ass, complaining about shit out of my control? Or complaining about shit I CAN control (which is even worse!)? No. I want to make sure I swing by to visit Colonel Sanders in the Louisville cemetery. I want to keep chatting it up with the sample lady at Costco. I want to dance to Stevie Wonder at 2 a.m. in my backyard with my friend Ann.

THESE are the things that I’ll miss. What about you?

P.S. Barack Obama put Dying: A Memoir on his list of best books of the year, so don’t just take my word for it. It’s good. Read it.

What Really Happened In Waco?

I was 17, hanging out in the Moorhead High School library. I VIVIDLY remember looking at the TVs and seeing the chaos evolving in Waco. Thinking back, I knew there was some sort of cult in that building and David Koresh was, like, this satan-type fella. I also remember hearing about Janet Reno and the government’s attempts to coax the Branch Davidians out of their compound in Waco, TX. Those people were EVIL. GTFO of that house, already, right?

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Danny and I watched 3 episodes of “Waco” (in one night!). We had a moment when we looked at each other and wondered out loud if we were supposed to feel sorry for David Koresh? Was I feeling PITY for this guy? You know when you watch a horror movie and you scream, “Get out! GET OUT! Run! Save yourself!” and then they run and eventually trip and fall? I felt like I was watching a scary movie and I wanted to yell at David to get out of there, to SAVE HIMSELF. And then I felt bad for feeling bad for him.

As it turns out, I had no clue as to what was really going on at Waco at the tender and ignorant age of 17.

So what really happened in Waco?

For those not in the know, I’ll give you a little background. It’s sort of a long, sordid, crazy-making affair on how we went from Victor Houteff starting the “community” at Mount Carmel in 1934 to 1993’s Koresh-led Branch Davidians, but stick with me. Houteff modeled the community after the Seventh-day Adventists, who believed that preparing for the “end times” was of utmost importance. Life was hard at Mount Carmel and the community was designed to test members and their ability to handle hardships (I don’t think I would’ve done very well there, what with the shabby cottages and the washing of the clothes by hand). In the 1950’s, the group split into factions, with one eventually becoming the Branch Davidians. Twenty-three-year-old Vernon Howell (a.k.a. David Koresh) appeared on the Mount Carmel doorstep in 1982, ready to jam with some prophecies. After having an affair with the then-current leader, 65-year-old Lois Roden (in an attempt to conceive a child, yikes!), David got into it with Ms. Roden’s son, George. David was then forced into exile with the rest of his followers.

George became jealous of David and his followers. In order to show that he was the leader supreme, George challenged David to a rousing game of “Who can raise this corpse from the dead?” Seriously, George dug up a corpse and David said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Koresh went to the authorities, they asked for proof of said corpse and he went back in an attempt to get evidence. Gunfire broke out, George was shot, David was charged with attempted murder and was eventually freed after a mistrial was declared.

The man who became David Koresh was born to a 14-year-old mother and was teased as a child for being dyslexic. He eventually dropped out of school in 11th grade to avoid the constant humilation and floated around congregations, eventually getting kicked out of one or two of them.  He started to play music as a way to express himself and, apparently, hung out a lot on Hollywood Boulevard in the ’80s (wha? really?). By the time he made his way to Mount Carmel, he had solidified his belief that he was the incarnation of the sacrified lamb from the book of Revelation. He believed that every book in the bible was a coded story describing humanity’s spiritual history and he had the key to unlocking the meaning.

David Thibodeau, author of Waco: A Survivor’s Story, says that David would preach for 20-30 hours at a time and described him as “modest” and appreciated his “soft-sell, laidback approach.” Thibodeau was a drummer when they met and religion was NOT his thing, which he stressed this over and over again in his book. Eventually, he said, “Though I was strongly drawn to David and fascinated by his ideas, I often had difficulty believing everything he said.”

It became clear through watching the documentary (Taylor Kitsch’s performance is OUTSTANDING) and by reading David Thibodeau’s book, that Koresh’s down-to-earth approach, his passionate convictions and his soothing Texas twang was appealing to many. People were searching for answers and his “revelations” made sense and provided much-needed comfort. Ultimately, Thibodeau said it best when he said, “If I hadn’t liked him so much as a person I most certainly wouldn’t have listened to him.”

Fast forward to the siege of 1993. The ATF approached the compound in Waco with an arrest warrant for David Koresh, as they claimed that he had a stockpile of semi-automatic weapons that they intended to turn into automatic weapons. And, actually, the weapons were not the problem. The problem was that David did not pay the tax in order to obtain the license to do so legally. THIS IS HOW THIS ALL STARTED.

So what’s the deal? What did I miss in the time between watching the that compound fire on TV and now? Apparently, a lot of things:

  • Who started shooting first? The Branch Davidians? I mean, they had a HUGE stockpile of weapons, right? Well, yes, they had a huge pile of weapons, but it may have been the FBI that shot at them first. No one really knows.
  • Prior to the assaults on Mount Carmel, David Koresh had heard through the outer community that the ATF was curious about their weapons. ATF agents were inside Mount Carmel several times and had numerous opportunities to arrest him then, but they never did.
  • After ATF agents were killed, the FBI took over. They were successful in “saving” kids from the building, but whenever an adult came out, the FBI would punish David’s followers by cutting off electricity, using tanks to crush portions of their property or throw flash grenades to force people back INTO THE BUILDING.
  • The FBI and David Koresh had reached a breakthrough when David said that he would surrender after Passover. He wanted to take time to write out his interpretation of the Seven Seals from the book Revelation. Despite this, the FBI told Janet Reno that negotiations had stalled, which sent their aggressive tactics into overdrive.
  • The FBI had told Janet Reno that the kids inside were being abused, that babies were being beaten. This wasn’t true, but she thought it was. Her answer was to start tear gassing everyone.
  • Side note: Even if the kids WERE being abused (young girls were being married off to David Koresh, so, yes, there DEFINITELY was abuse happening, in my opinion), this is not a matter for the ATF. The ATF was the bureau responsible for the start of this whole thing because they went to the compound to execute search and arrest warrants related to the weapons. In addition, Child and Family Services had previously investigated David Koresh for concerns of abuse and the case was closed as the suspicions were unfounded.
  • The FBI has claimed that the Branch Davidians committed mass suicide by setting themselves on fire. In fact, it is known that the FBI used a pyrotechnic device to send the tear gas into the compound.

Oh my gosh, I could go on and on and on with a million more bullet points, but I’ll stop here. This New York Times article goes in-depth into the FBI’s use of tear-gas and you can also read the FBI transcripts here (it could take you years to get through these–have fun!).

Since I started writing this, we finished the Waco series on TV and I also read David Thibodeau’s book, Waco: A Survivor’s Story, which the series was based on. Because my obsession runs deep, I read through tons of articles online, which just got me even more fired up

Death By Orange Peel + Other Weird Ways To Die

I once read an obituary that said that a man died while on an anniversary vacation with his wife. They had taken a trip to Florida and he ended up drowning in the ocean while taking a dip. Isn’t that HORRIBLE? Another one said that a woman had wiped out and hit her head on the ice. She suffered brain damage and eventually died, which is also HORRIBLE. To add insult to injury, the photo used in her obit showed her laughing with a giant smile on her face. I’m sure we could’ve been friends.

Death By Orange Peel + Other Weird Ways To Die: These people died in some of the most unfortunate, random ways (an orange peel, a sidewalk, a deadly scarf!)..

Most obituaries do not fully disclose how someone died, let alone disclosing some kind of weird way to die. So, in order to quench my thirst for weird death stories (I’m really not crazy, REALLY), I started digging around on the internet and found some good ones. These happen to involve famous folks (some more than others), but here is a list of some of the bizarre deaths that I found:

  • Jack Daniel, 1911: Yes, THAT Jack Daniel. Apparently, he wasn’t very good at remembering the combination to his safe. He got pissed that he couldn’t open it, repeatedly kicked it and got an infection in his foot which led to his death. Maybe he should’ve had a drink and chilled out instead. It’s not like he would’ve had to run to the liquor store or anything!
  • Hans Staininger, 1567: Death by beard. No, Really. This guy had a 4.5 foot long beard that he normally kept rolled up in a leather pouch that he carried. Well, a fire broke out and in his haste, he forgot to roll that thing up. He ended up tripping over it and breaking his neck. The lesson here? Don’t EVER leave the house without your beard pouch.
  • Allan Pinkerton, 1884: This fella was the first appointed detective in Chicago, IL and started the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which is still in existence today. Before that, he was in charge of the Union Intelligence Service during the Civil War and spent time guarding Abraham Lincoln. After spending time warding off assassination attempts and posing as soldiers to gain intelligence, this guy hit some bad luck. He tripped on a sidewalk, biting his tongue. He developed some nasty gangrene and died. That’s it, after all he’d been through??
  • Mike Edwards, 2010: Mike was a founding member of ELO and cellist who was known to play his instrument with a grapefruit (okay….?). Anyway, he eventually left ELO, changed his name and lived on a commune. Unfortunately, none of this could save him from the fact that he was killed by a runaway 1,300 pound hay bale that flew down a hill and hit his car. I mean, really? What are the chances?
  • Bobby Leach, 1926: So this guy died when he slipped on an orange peel, injuring his leg. His leg got infected, had it amputated, but he died from complications a couple of months later. Ironically enough, Bobby had many other dramatic chances at death. Why, you ask? He was the second guy to go over Niagra Falls in a freaking barrel and SURVIVE. He lived when falling 188 feet through water traveling at 225,000 cubic feet per second, but couldn’t pull through an encounter with an orange peel. Oof.
  • Isadora Duncan, 1927: World renowned dancer, friend of Aleister Crowley and “scandalous” woman, she met her fate when driving in a car with a friend. Her long scarf got caught in the wheel of the car, pulled her out and broke her neck. Before leaving, a girlfriend asked her to wear a cape because of the cold, but Isadora only agreed to the scarf. Tragically, she also lost her two children when their nanny lost control of the car they were in and crashed into the Seine river. Another interesting thing of note? In medicine, any death or injury that is a result of neckwear being caught in a wheel or other machinery is called Isadora Duncan Syndrome.
  • Kurt Gode, 1978: This guy was a famed mathematician and logician who died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. He refused to eat anyone else’s cooking and, apparently, was unable to use logic to deduce that this plan was a bad idea.
  • Tennessee Williams, 1983: We all know Tennessee Williams, right? He was the 20th century American playwright know for such things as A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie, among other works. He was well-known for his alcohol and drug use, but probably less known for the way that he died.  The poor guy choked on a bottle cap. The theory is that he was using eye drops with his mouth open and he somehow dropped the cap in his mouth. The cap ended up blocking his airway, causing asphyxiation. Next time you’ve got dry eyes, BE CAREFUL. I warned you!
  • Edward II of England, 1327: Oh, boy, I saved the best for last. Ready for this one? Edward II was taken prisoner by his wife, Queen Isabella, and her lover Roger (of course his name is Roger). The plan was to rip Edward II from the throne and replace him with their son, Edward III. After being forced to abdicate the throne, Edward II was thrown into pits of rotting corpses and starved, but this wasn’t good enough. Isabella and Roger decided to kill him, but wanted to do it without leaving any marks. Naturally, they did it the EASY way. They had their cronies push a horn into Edward’s butt and shoved a hot poker through the horn, burning his internal organs. OH.MY.GOD. OUUUUCCCHHHHHHH.

Aren’t those crazy and horrible and just plain AWFUL? I guess the lesson here is, be careful when doing everyday, normal, mundane activities. You never know, there could be a deadly banana peel awaiting your arrival or some uneven pavement itching to harm you. Hopefully, you don’t know a couple named Isabella and Roger with a collection of trumpets in their basement.

Whaddya got? Have you heard of any other crazy stories? Comment in the space below–I would love to hear them!

 

 

Brightside’s Best: 5 True Crime Shows You Need To Watch

 

Ready for something funny? There is a show on TV right now called “Deadly Dentists.”

Maybe you don’t find it that funny, but I did for a couple of reasons. For one, I’m very easily entertained and number two, is this what it’s come down to? Are we out of ideas? Are there no more nail-biting crime shockers out there? Is this all there is?

Not only that, but ARE THERE ENOUGH HOMICIDAL DENTISTS TO WARRANT THEIR OWN TV SHOW?

Well, don’t worry, I’ve got your back. I have been watching true crime TV for, oh, thirty years (yikes) and I’ve made a list of shows that are WAY better than “Deadly Dentists.”

These are shows that I watch regularly and only miss an episode if my cable goes out and all of my DVR recordings go missing (that actually happened). Also, I only listed shows that you can currently watch on TV. I have a MILLION others I could have listed, but it might be difficult to find them. So, with that in mind, here are the 5 true crime shows you should be watching:

Disappeared (Investigation Discovery)

I was in NYC 3 years ago and I stayed up until 4 a.m. one night watching episode after episode. I mean, cool, I was on vacation, but it didn’t make for a very energetic next day. I’ve seen most of these episodes more than once (there are 9 seasons) and I even know someone who was IN one of the episodes (am I totally cool or what? *eyeroll*).

These are not stories about homicidal maniacs, but of regular people that literally disappear off the face of the earth. To me, having a friend or family member go missing is a horror I can’t even imagine. You’ve all heard of Natalee Holloway or Chandra Levy, but there are also plenty of “regular” people that go missing every year. The girl who goes outside to smoke at a Metallica concert and is never seen again (Season 4 Episode 3, “Heavy Metal Mystery”). An 8-year-old boy who goes missing after his mom steps outside for 5 minutes (Season 8 Episode 8, “About a Boy”). A 35-year-old who leaves a note saying that she’s going to the store and never returns (Season 8 Episode 13, “The Long Way Home”).

This is the show where I first heard about the oft-mentioned Maura Murray (Season 1 Episode 6). The stories are engrossing and heartbreaking and the narrator’s voice is so soothing. Except Season 7 when they had a random dude and his voice was NOT soothing. I give you permission to skip that season.

American Monster (Investigation Discovery)

This show is the real deal. This show IS about killers, but you get to know them in a more intimate way than you would with a run-of-the-mill crime show. Every episode starts with an introduction to a family via home movies and interviews. It’s cool because you’re all like, “Aw, look at this family having a nice picnic! They go on trips to Europe, play basketball and go fishing together. Man, they look just like my next door neighbors!” And then, BAM, you find out that the dad has been using the family van to drive around and kill women (Episode 2, “Family Snapshot”). Or you follow an upstanding family in the 1960’s, watching them go to church, have picnics (what’s with these picnics?) and celebrate holidays and then, BAM. I won’t tell you what the mom did, but just watch Episode 3 (“Alabama Murder Mystery”) and find out for yourself.

48 Hours (CBS)

This is the show that got me started in my so-called “crime career.”  When every other 14-year-old was out on a Saturday night, I was horizontal on the couch with the channel turned to CBS (loser much?). It’s the longest-running true crime show (since 1988!) and it’s won 20 freaking Emmy awards. I know people always go bananas over Dateline, but I think that 48 Hours FAR surpasses Dateline in quality. The stories presented are of equal caliber to Dateline’s, but the journalistic integrity of 48 Hours and the reporters have an edge that Dateline lacks. Sorry, Keith Morrison, but I like Erin Moriarty better.

Try these episodes: “Buried Truth” (story about real estate broker Todd Kohlhepp who was recently arrested for murder and for keeping a woman locked in a trailer), “Dear Savanna” (about a mother who goes on the run with her daughter for 20 years), and “The Mortician, The Murder, The Movie” (did a mortician kill an older wealthy woman-friend and throw her in a deep freeze just to get her money?).

DID he kill her for the money? I watched it and still can’t figure it out.

Evil Lives Here (Investigation Discovery)

So, today a man nicknamed the “Tourniquet Killer” was executed. His name was Anthony Shore and he was convicted of murdering 5 girls. He sat on death row for 12 years and it was the first execution of 2018. At first, I didn’t think much of it until I remembered seeing an episode of Evil Lives Here featuring his daughter, Tiffany (Season 2 Episode 6, “My Secret Nightmare”). When she described growing up with her sister and her dad she spoke about how evil and terrifying he was. He was her dad, however, and she kept his secrets. Eventually, she finds out that he was much, much worse than she ever thought and tries to comes to terms with the monster that he was.

This show is fairly similar to American Monster, but without the home videos. Today I watched an episode featuring the brother of Warren Jeffs (convicted felon and polygamist leader of the FLDS church). This was Season 2 Episode 3, “My Brother, The Devil” and that guy was seriously worse than I thought, if that’s possible. The majority of the cases are ones you’ve never heard of, but once in awhile you get a sneak peek into some more well-known cases. Like Ben Rhoades, the Truck Stop Killer. Know about that guy? No? Well, watch Season 3 Episode 3, “Deadly Fetish” and let me know what you think of him. Side note: I wrote THIS POST awhile ago about psychopaths and it featured our friend, the Truck Stop Killer. Check it out.

The Hunt with John Walsh (CNN)

Host of America’s Most Wanted, father of murdered son, Adam Walsh. We all know his story and have seen him on TV for CENTURIES (it seems like it, anyway, right?).

This show is similar to AMW only because he is broadcasting the names and faces of people that are on the run, but other than that, you can expect better. Better because the show isn’t John Walsh walking around a cheesy “call center” yelling about fugitives. This show’s production is on a whole other level and the reenactments are realistic and paced really well (got to build the suspense, yo!).

Each episode covers either one or two fugitives and some of them are truly scary. Some of the stories are INSANE. It follows the typical format: interviews with John Walsh mixed in the reenactments and interviews with the family and/or victims. There is one episode that I will never forget and because my description would never do it justice, you can read about it in the link RIGHT HERE. For those of you that live in Minnesota and are familiar with the story, they did an episode on Jacob Wetterling. I know this story inside and out and I was STILL riveted.

Bonus: You can also find this show on Netflix.

The Ones I Didn’t Mention

I know I said that I wouldn’t list shows that aren’t currently on TV, BUT if you can find them, A&E used to broadcast American Justice and Cold Case Files. They were both narrated by Bill Kurtis (the BEST voice in crime TV) and I watch them whenever they happen to be on TV (you can find some of them on YouTube). A&E recently revived Cold Case Files with Danny Glover narrating, but, sadly, it’s just not the same. Also, if you have HBO Go, you can watch all of the old episodes of Autopsy. There’s some really weird, good stuff on that show (and some images I’ll never get out of my head).

Finally, two words: Forensic Files. I didn’t need to tell you about that one, though, did I? They are on HLN 24 hours a day, swear to god.

What are your favorites? What should I be watching??

 

 

You Are The Brightside: Best of 2017

Happy New Year from The Brightside! I hope this year brought all of you health, happiness and all the Party Pizzas that your heart desired! Just me with the Party Pizzas? Okay, fine.

This year was pretty exciting for me, partially because I started this blog. I decided that I was just kind of coasting along in life and, well, that’s no way to live. In order to feel ALIVE, I took more risks than I have before and it has paid off immensely. I started playing softball (if you know me, you know that this is a HUMONGOUS deal!) and I moved up into a supervisory position (I like my job WAY better now). While this isn’t taking a “risk” per se (unless you count the horrifying pedicab ride), I FINALLY went to Europe. Did you know that people really do walk around Paris gnawing on giant baguettes? It’s weird.

Ok, enough of that, back to the blog.

This year I’m going to work on posting more often and am going to include new features like the Brightside Biography. My first post (coming soon!) will be an interview that I did with a woman who was born into a cult. Yes, a CULT. I’m also going to continue to do my Brightside Booklist, which is wildly popular (okay that is a bit of an overstatement, but I’m aiming big here, people), and continue to post travel stories and other things related to crime, history, each every other weird thing that I like (and you do, too).

In honor of my first year of blogging, I’m going to post several of my favorite and/or most popular posts from 2017. Here they are, in no particular order.

  • This is the post I did about changing my frown upside down, with the help of Andrew W.K.
  • I went to a forensic training and wrote two posts about what I learned about psychopaths: this one and this one.
  • I went to Paris and spent some time in Pere Lachaise cemetery (I was one of 3.5 million visitors last year!). I swear, this place was BEAUTIFUL and the tombs were unlike anything of seen in the plain ol’ midwest.
  • If you’ve spent time on this blog, you know that Jeffrey Dahmer makes quite a few appearances. I did a review of the book that his father, Lionel, wrote about Jeffrey as he was growing up. People ate it up! *wink, wink*
  • In the interest of balance, I posted this collection of THE cutest, happiest stories that I could find on the internet. It wasn’t my most popular post, but dammit, these made me cry and I know you could use a cry, too.
  • Finally, my magnum opus of the year was this beast of a booklist that I made. If you like crime, stories of adventure, dysfunctional families, spiritual growth and North Korea, keep this list handy. There’s enough books on here to last a year (if you read a book a week, that is).

Well, there you have it! I hope you’ve found something worthwhile/crazy/revolting/inspiring on this blog this past year and I want to thank ALL of you. Those that share my posts, those that comment, people that send me private messages/texts with crazy stories I might like and, if you’re still reading this, YOU. It just makes me so ding-dang happy to know that all of you are out there supporting little ol’ me.

As I said, I’m aiming big this year. Would you help me out? Please share my posts, like my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/youarethebrightside/), share anything of interest you find on my Facebook page (then EVERYONE gets to share in the love) and, finally, subscribe. You can subscribe by entering your email address below or above the right sidebar on the front page. I also added a Goodreads thingamajig to the front page of my blog so you can browse through ALL of the books I’ve ever. Okay, not ALL, but there’s a lot on there, so check it out if you need a read.

You guys RULE. Here’s to 2018!

P.S. People often ask me if my blog can be accessed WITHOUT Facebook. The answer is YES and you can find it at youarethebrightside.com.