Feedback and Followups
Some nifty extra information for a few recent episodes supplied by listeners in the know.
by Brian Dunning
November 8, 2016
Today we're going to dip into the mailbag and address some comments sent in by listeners that I found particularly interesting. A lot of them add new information to some of our episodes or clarify some questions we weren't quite able to answer. Hopefully you're a regular listener so you'll be familiar with the stories we're about to discuss; if not, I hope this extra discussion sufficiently intrigues you to get you to become one.
To start with, a number of people emailed me about a news item in September 2016. The wreck of the HMS Terror was located, just about a year after my episode on Franklin's Cannibals. This explored the question of whether Sir John Franklin's fourth voyage to the Canadian Arctic of 1845-1848 had to resort to cannibalism, as had long been believed but was unproven. The wreck was found at the bottom of Terror Bay, Nunavut. There are still holes in the story because there's a lot we don't know, but the placement of the wreck fit perfectly into the standard model of what we think happened, as did the 2014 discovery of their other ship, the HMS Erebus. The men of Franklin's expedition gradually split up as they moved south after losing their ships to the ice, and some of the groups did, sadly, have to do the unthinkable.
This next one was an attempted correction to my episode Is She Real, or Is She Fictional? about women characters from pop culture whom you might now know if they were real people or fictional characters. This email came from listener Michelle:
In that article you sited that Aunt Jemima was fiction. That is gross9 incorrect. She was a real person who's name was Nancy Green. She was a former slave who was bought to be the spokes person for the flour mix in 1893.
That's true, but the episode wasn't about whether an actor or spokesmodel was ever hired to portray Aunt Jemima; it was about whether Aunt Jemima was an actual person. She wasn't. The Pearl Milling Company invented the Aunt Jemima character in 1889, about four years before Nancy Green was hired to portray her. Your correction is rebuffed.
Let's go now to the episode debunking the claims that Adolf Hitler survived WWII, and was secreted to South America on board a submarine called the U-530. This was a boat that actually did make a surprise surrender in an Argentine port a full two months after the war had ended. Upon being debriefed, the sub's captain Lt. Wermuth testified they'd done as the Kriegsmarine ordered: jettisoned their ammunition and surrendered at a United Nations port. Listener Tim wrote in:
Hate to be that guy, but the UN didn't exist in May 1945, so the order for U-Boats to surrender to the nearest UN port couldn't have been issued. Anyway, I assume it's one of those obvious slips that makes it through all the way to recording, and it's the first I've seen, so keep up the good work (hope that's not patronising because that's not my intent).
Not at all, I totally encourage corrections of any kind. But this was not a "slip" of mine; I was quoting what someone else said. The following is a direct quote from the Navy intelligence report of the Argentine Navy interrogation of nine officers from the U-530, dated July 24, 1945:
These messages instructed all submarines to cease attacks, to use navigation lights at night, to fly a blue flag, to travel only on the surface, and to proceed to the nearest United Nations port for surrender.
This is the record of what Wermuth told them. Tim also appended a link to the actual German surrender documents, and these do include the instructions that were to be given to all U-boats at sea. The difference is that these say to proceed to any "Allied" port, not to a "United Nations" port. But elsewhere in the same document, we find that Article 4 of the Act of Military Surrender, signed May 7, 1945, reads:
This act of military surrender is without prejudice to, and will be superseded by any general instrument of surrender imposed by, or on behalf of the United Nations and applicable to GERMANY and the German armed forces as a whole.
Tim is correct that the United Nations had not yet begun operations; that wasn't until October 1945. But it had been planned throughout World War II. The United Nations Declaration was signed by 26 Allied nations on January 1, 1942. During the war, the United Nations was actually the official name for the Allied forces, though the common term was the Allies. So it's not surprising that either Vermuth (or whoever summarized his testimony) used the term United Nations.
Let's look now at our episode on The Santa Barbara Simoom of 1859, a claimed (and highly dubious) case where a blast of wind measuring 133° swept through the town, causing all kinds of trouble: killing animals, burning people. As part of my verification of the event, I tried to find the earliest original reports. I found nothing earlier than 1869, ten years after the event, by which time no record remained of who measured this temperature, or where or when or how it was measured. Listener Michelle wrote in with a couple of earlier sources, published within just a few weeks of the June 17 event. They are:
First, a San Francisco newspaper dated June 28, quoting a June 23 report from the Santa Barbara Gazette. I couldn't find the Santa Barbara article. The quoted section quite vaguely said:
...Suddenly a blast of heated air swept through our streets, followed quickly by others, and shortly afterwards the atmosphere became so intensely heated that no human being could withstand its force...
Second, the Sonoma County Journal, on July 1, quoted an undated report from a correspondent of the San Francisco Phare writing from Santa Barbara. I couldn't find that one either; in fact I couldn't even find any record of such a publication. But at least this one mentioned a temperature measurement:
At 2 o'clock the thermometer exposed to this wind, arose to 133 degrees Fahrenheit; at five o'clock it had fallen to 122 degrees, and at seven o'clock it stood at 77 degrees, where it had been in the morning.
Again, neither article said anything about the details of the temperature measurement, or of any official measurement, or of any records kept. This whole thing could have been a joke in the San Francisco papers from all I can tell. Neither of these early reports give any verifiable information, and both are secondary sources, i.e., "We heard that someone else said..."
The official record high for June 17 in Santa Barbara, CA still stands at 96°F. Should a primary source disputing this turn up, it should interest not only Skeptoid listeners, but also all the weather data centers that keep track of record highs. Until that happens, I'm going to maintain a rating of "extreme caution" on the Santa Barbara Simoom of 1859.
The same rating goes for the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film, that familiar movie you've seen a thousand times of Bigfoot striding confidently across a meadow, turning its head to glance back at the camera. In episode 375 we laid out the complete history of what we know about Roger Patterson, the colorful character who made the film. A quick reminder of a few of the events detailed in that episode:
After shooting the film, Patterson and Gimlin put the film on a small plane and had it flown to Yakima, Washington, where it was picked up by Al DeAtley, Patterson's brother-in-law. Only ten days later, DeAtley fronted some cash and he and Patterson formed a company they called Bigfoot Enterprises in order to license the film and profit from it however they could. This enterprise proved quite successful, as they reported $200,000 in income in just the first year, not bad for 1968. Of course, some of that cash had to be spent fending off the legitimate owner, a company called American National Enterprises which had hired Patterson to make the film in the first place, but that's another story for another time.
Imagine Patterson viewing his footage, just back from the developer, and seeing just how good it turned out to be. Imagine that he then called up DeAtley and maybe some other folks who had a bit of money. Imagine he gathered them all together to show them the film and pitch them on his idea for licensing it out.
While you're imagining that, listen to this email I received from listener John Dohrmann:
I have never told anyone this story, but thought you might be interested:
My family lived in Yakima Washington in 1967. Even though I was only 8 years old, I remember what I saw. We were taken to a friend's house in Selah [SEE-la] Washington, near Yakima, into a dark room. My father and other men were in the room. I laid on the floor and watched the infamous Patterson film on a movie projector. As a kid and a horror movie fan, I was stunned. I had no idea what I saw but I thought I saw a monster! The men were talking to my father, but I have no memory of the conversation.
Years later when the film was being analyzed by experts, I immediately remembered that day. I had seen the film in my family friend's living room! I showed to clip to my father and asked him if he remembered seeing the film:
"Why were we there?"
"The guy wanted money, wanted me to invest in it."
"What did you tell him?"
"I thought he was full of s**t. I didn't want any part of it."
This is a TRUE story. I am 57 now. My father is 88 and still lives in Yakima. I'm sure we weren't the only ones who experienced this, but I'm surprised no one else has come forward.
My father was a local businessman and of course, he knows the DeAtleys. Al might have been there at the screening. DeAtley was a big shot in Yakima... DeAtley bit and my Dad passed on it.
And thus was narrowly averted a career in the licensing of Bigfoot hoaxes. John's dad should be anointed an Honorary Skeptic.
And so, listeners, keep the feedback flowing in. If you've got some additional information on one of our episodes, let me know; email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It's always fun to engage, and always fun to add additional layers to our investigations; and no purchase into the distribution of a Bigfoot film is necessary.
By Brian Dunning
Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "Feedback and Followups." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media,
8 Nov 2016. Web.
21 May 2018. <http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4544>
References & Further Reading
AAR. "Nancy Green, the Original Aunt Jemima." The Registry. African American Registry, 20 Nov. 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2016. <http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/nancy-green-original-aunt-jemima>
Burt, C. "Hottest air temperatures reported on Earth." News & Blogs. Weather Underground, 22 Oct. 2010. Web. 9 Jun. 2014. <http://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/hottest-air-temperatures-reported-on-earth>
Hinchey, G. "Sir John Franklin's long-lost HMS Terror believed found." CBC News. CBC/Radio-Canada, 12 Sep. 2016. Web. 25 Oct. 2016. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/hms-terror-found-1.3758400>
Long, G. The Making of Bigfoot: The Inside Story. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 2004.
US Navy. Interrogation of Lt. Otto Vermuth. Washington DC: Chief of Naval Operations, 1945.
Woodman, D. Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991.
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