Feedback and Followups
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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 email@example.com. 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.
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