The Unrest That Led to the L.A. Riots, Twenty-Five Years On

The Unrest That Led to the L.A. Riots, Twenty-Five Years On

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The video of Rodney King—the motorist whose beating by the Los Angeles Police Department, in 1991, would ultimately spark six days of violent unrest—asking “Can we all get along?” is still, twenty-five years later, astonishing to watch. He made the remarks at an impromptu press conference at his lawyer’s office on the third day of the violence, which began on April 29, 1992, after the cops who were caught on camera beating him were acquitted of any wrongdoing. King’s voice is unsteady; he fumbles for the words and appears on the verge of tears. He is overcome. As he speaks, buildings are burning in his name. Cars have been set aflame. More than eleven thousand arrests will be made in less than a week. Two thousand injuries will be reported, and fifty-five people, most of them African-American, will die. King’s question became a meme almost instantly, before most of us knew that word. It was ridiculed as infantile. How would it be possible to get along in a city where the police operate above the law, where African-Americans suffer daily under the lash of a crooked justice system that echoes the brutality of slave catchers and overseers? How can we get along when Korean shop owners are targeted and attacked, their businesses burned, and they stand on rooftops armed with high-calibre weapons in broad daylight as firefights erupt on city streets? How can we get along when Reginald Denny, a white truck driver who was hauling gravel past the corner of Florence and Normandie, was pulled from his cab and beat nearly to death by fists, boots, and a brick hurled with full force, from point-blank range, at his temple? These were the circumstances in Los Angeles in the spring of 1992. Obviously, we could not get along. And yet King’s question is striking today for its endurance as much as for its innocence. It still hangs in the air, still taunts us.

To explore the question with any kind of earnestness demands a careful and human consideration of all that led to the riots. This is the approach taken by the ABC documentary “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992,” which screened in a few theatres last weekend and has its television première on Friday night. The feature-length film, directed by the “12 Years A Slave” screenwriter and “American Crime” showrunner John Ridley, is one of a slew of documentaries marking the event’s twenty-fifth anniversary. What sets Ridley’s apart is not the power of the archival footage but the interviews that he has done and the time that he takes with them. As the title indicates, Ridley begins a decade before the world heard about Rodney King, chronicling the death of James Mincey, a black motorist who was maced and choked to death in his mother’s driveway after failing to comply with a routine traffic stop for a cracked windshield. Mincey’s death is recalled by his girlfriend. Like all the interviewees in the film, she is shot warmly, close enough for us to see her thinking and feeling, but not so close as to feel invasive.

Mincey’s death by chokehold was a public-relations nightmare for the L.A.P.D., which claimed that he was on PCP before a toxicology report refuted that pretense. Tensions were further exacerbated when Daryl Gates, the police chief at the time, suggested that black people might be more likely to die from a chokehold than “normal people.” Soon after Mincey’s death, chokeholds were banned, and officers used metal batons instead. Gates would remain the chief of police through the beating of Rodney King and the riots.

Ridley also zeroes in on the death of Karen Toshima, a twenty-seven-year-old graphic artist, in Westwood, in February, 1988. Toshima was caught in crossfire during a shootout between rival gangs in the posh neighborhood. The L.A.P.D. responded to the ensuing panic, driven largely by the fear that the gang problem was beginning to affect non-black neighborhoods, by undertaking mass arrests and “enhanced” enforcement. Thousands of new officers were quickly hired, shoddily trained, and sent forth with a singular mission to “bring the hammer down.” In one April weekend that year, one thousand four hundred and fifty-three people were arrested.

That was also the year that N.W.A. recorded “Straight Outta Compton,” addressing police brutality on a record that would go triple platinum, and capturing the feeling of turbulence and trouble in the neighborhoods south of the 10 freeway. While the acquittal of the officers who beat King is remembered as the event that incited the riots, fewer accounts today mention the shooting of Latasha Harlins, which took place less than two weeks after the beating of King came to light. Harlins was a fifteen-year-old in South Central who got into a dispute with a Korean shopkeeper named Soon Ja Du. Du accused Harlins of attempting to steal a carton of orange juice. Security footage showed that the altercation becoming heated, with Du grabbing Harlins, Harlins throwing blows at the fifty-one-year-old Du, and Du then throwing a stool at the child. When Harlins tried to leave, without the orange juice, Du shot her in the back of the head, killing her instantly. Eyewitnesses reported, and the L.A.P.D. later concluded, that Harlins was not trying to steal the orange juice but, rather, had it in her open backpack, with money in her hand to pay for it. Eight months later, Du was found guilty of manslaughter, and the jury recommended the maximum sentence of sixteen years. But the trial judge, Joyce Karlin, instead sentenced her to five years probation, four hundred hours of community service, and a five-hundred-dollar fine. “This is not a time for revenge,” Karlin said in her sentencing remarks. Less than six months later, most of the stores burned during the riots were Korean-owned. Korean business owners formed ad hoc militias; footage presented in “Let It Fall” shows these groups exchanging gunfire in the middle of the streets.

Ridley gives most of the film over to people who were there, letting them tell their stories. Each person who lost someone in the riots maintains a quiet, loving reserve, as though the grief is so permanent that it does not need acknowledgement. Ridley’s camera gives these emotional nuances time to present themselves. He extends this courtesy to the L.A.P.D. as well. We hear the officer who choked James Mincey to death justify his decision as normal police work gone wrong. We hear the commanding lieutenant of the department’s seventy-seventh division, who made the ill-fated decision to retreat from the corner of Seventy-first and Normandie, which allowed the rioting to spread. (Denny was attacked a block south of there shortly afterward.) He says that he felt he did all that he could. We are ready to recognize the humanity of those who were victims of an unequal system; the film’s poise forces us to recognize, as well, the humanity of those who served as executioners. “Let It Fall” maintains a remarkable balance, laying bare how deeply the system was designed to oppress some and privilege others, and still portraying all the players in that system simply as flawed human beings. Ridley tells a story in which there are no winners, just losers of varying degrees, mostly determined by race and class.

Almost no one who is interviewed—from the men who attacked Reginald Denny to the parents of slain children to the officers who killed unarmed citizens—looks back with certainty that they would have done anything differently. And so the story that the film tells feels, rightfully, unresolved. The causes and conditions of the riots in Los Angeles in 1992—appalling racial injustice and a largely white state force rarely held accountable—persist. As does King’s question. But twenty-five years later, it has become less of a question and more of a prayer.

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April 28, 2017 at 02:33PM

Meetings and Events Are a Big Part of Vegas’ Latest Winning Streak

Meetings and Events Are a Big Part of Vegas’ Latest Winning Streak

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Thomas Hawk  / Flickr

Las Vegas has rebounded following a shift away from generating gambling revenue. The Las Vegas strip is pictured here. Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Skift Take: With gambling revenue in steady decline, meetings and events have become extremely important for Las Vegas resorts.

— Andrew Sheivachman

After the recession hit, companies and tourists shunned the country’s largest gambling hub. Now Las Vegas is on a winning streak.

MGM Resorts International’s stock surged to a eight-year high Thursday after the casino giant showed resurgent sales growth in its home market, lifting earnings above Wall Street estimates. The results followed strong reports from Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts Ltd., suggesting Vegas’s comeback is here to stay — with some help from non-bettors.

Big conventions have returned and tourists are flocking to the Strip’s new nightclubs and restaurants, as hotel operators rebrand and refresh old Vegas landmarks to attract new cash-paying crowds.

While the number of new casinos and hotels under construction remains well below historical norms, the city continues to invest in non-gambling attractions, underscored by the planned move of the Oakland Raiders football team to Las Vegas.

“Entertainment continues to be a key driver for our company and the primary reason people visit our resorts,” MGM Chief Executive Officer James Murren said on a conference call Thursday. He pointed to the year-old T-Mobile Arena, which will soon host the city’s first professional hockey team, and a new theater being built for esports.

Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson said his Las Vegas casinos reported their highest quarterly profit since 2008. Wynn founder Steve Wynn said his hotel rooms in the city generated the best revenue in the history of his company, with the 75-year-old executive announcing plans to spend $400 million to $500 million building a lake and meeting center behind his Las Vegas casinos.

“This town is a real safe bet,” Wynn told investors.

Executives have also learned to operate their businesses more efficiently. Wynn Resorts has rejiggered its casino floor, putting higher-yielding games in more prominent positions and moving destination games like craps into secondary locations. MGM is benefiting from a multi-year efficiency push that has all its Las Vegas hotels working together to book conventions and meetings.

But with Easter falling later this year, MGM expects fewer conventions, leading to flat second-quarter revenue on the Las Vegas Strip, Murren said. Full-year revenue should still rise in low to mid-single-digit percentages.

Vegas tourism, at 42.9 million visitors in 2016, has been setting records for the past three years. Convention attendance was up 3.4 percent in the first quarter due to large events like the Conexpo in March, which drew 140,000 attendees from the construction industry. Hotel room rates rose 8.3 percent in the first quarter to an average of $140 a night, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Gambling revenue on the Las Vegas Strip, a weak spot in recent years as casinos proliferate across the U.S., rose 5.5 percent in the first quarter to $1.68 billion. That result was largely driven by baccarat, a favorite game of Chinese tourists, resuming its growth, according to Brian Egger, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Christopher Palmeri from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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April 28, 2017 at 01:04PM

Atomic Bomb Loading Pits in Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands

Atomic Bomb Loading Pits in Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands

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Loading Pit

During the final stages of World War II, an American B-29 Bomber dropped the world’s first atomic bombs over Japan. The attack was launched from an airfield on Tinian Island, one of three islands in the Marianas. Today, little remains of the airfield where the Atom Age began, save for two loading pits used to haul the nukes onto the aircraft that carried them over Japan.

Located just over 1,500 miles from Japan, Tinian was an ideal launch site for the U.S. 509th Composite Group and 313th Bombardment Wing. But first, a massive construction project had to be undertaken on the north end of Tinian. Working for more than 45 days and nights, troops built docks, airport runways, barracks, an administration building, oil storage facilities, weapons depots, an air-conditioned bomb assembly building, and two bomb loading pits. The result, North Field, was the largest airport in the world at the time.

The loading pits were necessary to get the massive bombs onto the aircraft, as the weapons were too large to be loaded conventionally. The plane was towed over the pit with its bomb bay doors open, and the bomb was hauled onto a hydraulic mount in the pit then winched into the belly of the plane.

Atomic Bomb Pit No. 1 was used to load "Little Boy," the 4-ton uranium bomb that became the first atomic weapon ever used in combat. The Boeing B-29 Superfortess—named Enola Gay, after pilot Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets’s mother—was loaded late in the afternoon of August 5, 1945, and the following morning took off from Tinian’s Runway Able and dropped the atom bomb over Hiroshima, killing hundreds of thousands in one of the most notorious events in world history.

After being loaded at Pit No. 2, the plutonium bomb codenamed "Fat Boy" was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. A plaque at the site reads that after the bombing, "the Japanese Emperor, without his cabinet’s consent, decided to end the Pacific war." On August 14, Japan declared unconditional surrender. 

North Field was abandoned after the war, and has been reclaimed by the island’s tropical jungle, though designated a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can make out some faded remnants of the old wartime administrative buildings and airport runways, and the two Atom Bomb Pits have been preserved. They were covered for safety and reopened with commemorative plaques for the 60th anniversary of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian.

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April 28, 2017 at 01:02PM

Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg’s Last Home in Aarhus, Denmark

Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg’s Last Home in Aarhus, Denmark

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The house on Fiskergade 82, where Drakenberg lived.

The grey house looks like the others around it, ordinary and unassuming. But a closer look at the walls of Fiskergade 82 in Aarhus, and you will find a plaque with a grand statement: “In this house, the world’s oldest sailor, Denmark’s oldest mariner and Aarhus’ oldest inhabitant, Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg passed away. Born 18th November 1626, died 9th October 1772. He reached an age of 146 years."

The legend of Drakenberg has remained a mystery for decades. Did he actually live until the age of 146? It’s extremely unlikely, but Sophus Emil Johnsen, a Danish sailor and chandler, deeply believed that he did, and was so fascinated by Drakenberg, he spent many years of his life trying to spread the story of this remarkable man.

He certainly had a lot of material to work with: The tales surrounding Drakenberg are numerous and fantastic. Drakenberg’s intermittent career as a sailor in the Danish navy included three stints fighting the Swedes, being captured by pirates, and 15 years as a slave under various masters in the Mediterranean before he escaped and made his way back to Denmark. Once on Danish soil with tales to tell, he became a favorite of the aristocracy who enjoyed his stories and showed him off as a living curiosity. Word of this extraordinary, feisty old man got around and in 1735 he was presented to King Christian VI where he was thanked for his war services under three Danish kings and received an annuity.

In 1760, supposedly at the ripe age of 134, Drakenberg arrived in Aarhus and became a lodger at Fiskergade 82—the house in which he would spend his last years. At the time, most people genuinely believed his tales, and with his huge white beard, he certainly looked the part. Today, these claims are looked at with a more skeptical eye. 

Drakenberg’s body was mummified after his death, and placed for several years on display in a closed—but easily opened—yellow casket in Aarhus Cathedral. It was customary for souvenir-hunting visitors to the cathedral to pluck hairs from his beard. This custom was stopped in 1840 when Queen Caroline Amalie visited the cathedral, saw the body, and demanded it buried under the cathedral floor. This sparked a tradition among local boys, who dared each other to throw rocks through a small opening in the wall yelling "Good Day Drakenberg!"

Inspired by his fellow sailor’s incredible life, Johnsen began to collect Drakenberg paraphernalia, and he claimed to have received permission to make a cast from Drakenberg’s mummified body. Johnsen had made his wealth as a ship chandler, but started spending more and more of his time on his obsession with Drakenberg. He built a house for his business and named it "Drakenberghus." He published the periodical Drakenberg-posten, opened a Drakenberg museum north of Aarhus and introduced the Order of Drakenberg—a trophy in the form of a small brass cannon given to people Johnsen deemed worthy. Past recipients include Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn.

This obsession with Drakenberg would eventually drive him to ruin and madness. Johnsen himself became something of a legend, zealously defending Drak’s legacy in increasingly incoherent letters to the local newspaper, walking his pet goat through town dressed in his sailor’s suit and pretending to be captain of the town’s trams. He died penniless and his last remaining Drakenberg souvenirs were disposed of.

However, one of Johnsen’s contributions that remains is the plaque outside Drakenberg’s last house in Aarhus. It was installed on the November 18, on what would have been, if the stories are to be believed, the colorful sailor’s 300th birthday.

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April 28, 2017 at 01:02PM

Atomic Bomb Loading Pits in Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands

Atomic Bomb Loading Pits in Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands

http://ift.tt/2oGdqX2

Loading Pit

During the final stages of World War II, an American B-29 Bomber dropped the world’s first atomic bombs over Japan. The attack was launched from an airfield on Tinian Island, one of three islands in the Marianas. Today, little remains of the airfield where the Atom Age began, save for two loading pits used to haul the nukes onto the aircraft that carried them over Japan.

Located just over 1,500 miles from Japan, Tinian was an ideal launch site for the U.S. 509th Composite Group and 313th Bombardment Wing. But first, a massive construction project had to be undertaken on the north end of Tinian. Working for more than 45 days and nights, troops built docks, airport runways, barracks, an administration building, oil storage facilities, weapons depots, an air-conditioned bomb assembly building, and two bomb loading pits. The result, North Field, was the largest airport in the world at the time.

The loading pits were necessary to get the massive bombs onto the aircraft, as the weapons were too large to be loaded conventionally. The plane was towed over the pit with its bomb bay doors open, and the bomb was hauled onto a hydraulic mount in the pit then winched into the belly of the plane.

Atomic Bomb Pit No. 1 was used to load "Little Boy," the 4-ton uranium bomb that became the first atomic weapon ever used in combat. The Boeing B-29 Superfortess—named Enola Gay, after pilot Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets’s mother—was loaded late in the afternoon of August 5, 1945, and the following morning took off from Tinian’s Runway Able and dropped the atom bomb over Hiroshima, killing hundreds of thousands in one of the most notorious events in world history.

After being loaded at Pit No. 2, the plutonium bomb codenamed "Fat Boy" was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. A plaque at the site reads that after the bombing, "the Japanese Emperor, without his cabinet’s consent, decided to end the Pacific war." On August 14, Japan declared unconditional surrender. 

North Field was abandoned after the war, and has been reclaimed by the island’s tropical jungle, though designated a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can make out some faded remnants of the old wartime administrative buildings and airport runways, and the two Atom Bomb Pits have been preserved. They were covered for safety and reopened with commemorative plaques for the 60th anniversary of the Battles of Saipan and Tinian.

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April 28, 2017 at 01:01PM

Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg’s Last Home in Aarhus, Denmark

Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg’s Last Home in Aarhus, Denmark

http://ift.tt/2qnzuCo

The house on Fiskergade 82, where Drakenberg lived.

The grey house looks like the others around it, ordinary and unassuming. But a closer look at the walls of Fiskergade 82 in Aarhus, and you will find a plaque with a grand statement: “In this house, the world’s oldest sailor, Denmark’s oldest mariner and Aarhus’ oldest inhabitant, Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg passed away. Born 18th November 1626, died 9th October 1772. He reached an age of 146 years."

The legend of Drakenberg has remained a mystery for decades. Did he actually live until the age of 146? It’s extremely unlikely, but Sophus Emil Johnsen, a Danish sailor and chandler, deeply believed that he did, and was so fascinated by Drakenberg, he spent many years of his life trying to spread the story of this remarkable man.

He certainly had a lot of material to work with: The tales surrounding Drakenberg are numerous and fantastic. Drakenberg’s intermittent career as a sailor in the Danish navy included three stints fighting the Swedes, being captured by pirates, and 15 years as a slave under various masters in the Mediterranean before he escaped and made his way back to Denmark. Once on Danish soil with tales to tell, he became a favorite of the aristocracy who enjoyed his stories and showed him off as a living curiosity. Word of this extraordinary, feisty old man got around and in 1735 he was presented to King Christian VI where he was thanked for his war services under three Danish kings and received an annuity.

In 1760, supposedly at the ripe age of 134, Drakenberg arrived in Aarhus and became a lodger at Fiskergade 82—the house in which he would spend his last years. At the time, most people genuinely believed his tales, and with his huge white beard, he certainly looked the part. Today, these claims are looked at with a more skeptical eye. 

Drakenberg’s body was mummified after his death, and placed for several years on display in a closed—but easily opened—yellow casket in Aarhus Cathedral. It was customary for souvenir-hunting visitors to the cathedral to pluck hairs from his beard. This custom was stopped in 1840 when Queen Caroline Amalie visited the cathedral, saw the body, and demanded it buried under the cathedral floor. This sparked a tradition among local boys, who dared each other to throw rocks through a small opening in the wall yelling "Good Day Drakenberg!"

Inspired by his fellow sailor’s incredible life, Johnsen began to collect Drakenberg paraphernalia, and he claimed to have received permission to make a cast from Drakenberg’s mummified body. Johnsen had made his wealth as a ship chandler, but started spending more and more of his time on his obsession with Drakenberg. He built a house for his business and named it "Drakenberghus." He published the periodical Drakenberg-posten, opened a Drakenberg museum north of Aarhus and introduced the Order of Drakenberg—a trophy in the form of a small brass cannon given to people Johnsen deemed worthy. Past recipients include Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn.

This obsession with Drakenberg would eventually drive him to ruin and madness. Johnsen himself became something of a legend, zealously defending Drak’s legacy in increasingly incoherent letters to the local newspaper, walking his pet goat through town dressed in his sailor’s suit and pretending to be captain of the town’s trams. He died penniless and his last remaining Drakenberg souvenirs were disposed of.

However, one of Johnsen’s contributions that remains is the plaque outside Drakenberg’s last house in Aarhus. It was installed on the November 18, on what would have been, if the stories are to be believed, the colorful sailor’s 300th birthday.

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April 28, 2017 at 01:01PM

Donald Trump Cartoons: Politics and Satire in The New Yorker

Donald Trump Cartoons: Politics and Satire in The New Yorker

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If there’s one thing I trust about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s currently the President. He’s made us laugh until we cried, and then continued to cry in perpetuity. But, as they say, comedy equals tragedy plus time, so one day everything might be hilarious, and also underwater. Our cartoonists have been working hard to transform the daily scandals and horrors into humor, and they’ve been doing a great job. See some of their work above—I’m sure there’s more to come.

See the rest of the story at newyorker.com

Related:
Daily Cartoon: Friday, April 28th
Why Donald Trump Is Skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner
1-800-CATS

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April 28, 2017 at 12:48PM

Zalud House in Porterville, California

Zalud House in Porterville, California

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In 1891 the Zalud family, immigrants from Bohemia, built themselves an elaborate European-style mansion with a mansard roof, a style that was unique in the Californian city of Porterville at the time. John Zalud ran a successful saloon with a card room in the back, and his bets in some high-stakes card games paid off. But in 1912 their fortunes began to change.

The family endured an unlikely string of tragedies, and this sad history has been preserved in a small museum at the old house, which has long been rumored to be haunted. 

The misfortune began when one of the Zalud children, Mary Jane, succumbed to a long bout of tuberculosis. Five years later, Anna’s husband William Brooke was shot in a hotel courtyard by a woman who had allegedly rebuffed his advances, causing him to spread defamatory stories about her. At the time of the shooting, he was sitting in a rocking chair, which is today preserved at Zalud House, bullet holes and all. Edward, the son of the house, who ran a bootlegging business during Prohibition, was thrown from his horse in 1922 and died from his injuries. The saddle he was using at the time of his accident also on display at the house.

After this devastating decade, the Zaluds spent most of their time away from the house, visiting occasionally to check on it. The last Zalud to live there was Pearle who moved back to spend the last decade of her life in her childhood home. She died in 1962 and she donated the house and grounds to the city, to be converted into a museum in memory of her parents. 

The rumors of paranormal activity are never too far from a house with so many tragedies, and sure enough, reports of medicinal smells can allegedly be picked up in the house around the anniversary of Mary Jane’s death, rumored to be remnants of her prolonged illness. Haunted or not, the Zalud house is unique as the entire house is furnished with the family’s actual possessions, and walking inside is like taking a step back in time more than 100 years. In a part of California that has long since given way to urban sprawl and innumerable strip malls, the Zalud house offers a glimpse of what life was like in a previous age.

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April 28, 2017 at 12:34PM

Zalud House in Porterville, California

Zalud House in Porterville, California

http://ift.tt/2pd0CX1

In 1891 the Zalud family, immigrants from Bohemia, built themselves an elaborate European-style mansion with a mansard roof, a style that was unique in the Californian city of Porterville at the time. John Zalud ran a successful saloon with a card room in the back, and his bets in some high-stakes card games paid off. But in 1912 their fortunes began to change.

The family endured an unlikely string of tragedies, and this sad history has been preserved in a small museum at the old house, which has long been rumored to be haunted. 

The misfortune began when one of the Zalud children, Mary Jane, succumbed to a long bout of tuberculosis. Five years later, Anna’s husband William Brooke was shot in a hotel courtyard by a woman who had allegedly rebuffed his advances, causing him to spread defamatory stories about her. At the time of the shooting, he was sitting in a rocking chair, which is today preserved at Zalud House, bullet holes and all. Edward, the son of the house, who ran a bootlegging business during Prohibition, was thrown from his horse in 1922 and died from his injuries. The saddle he was using at the time of his accident also on display at the house.

After this devastating decade, the Zaluds spent most of their time away from the house, visiting occasionally to check on it. The last Zalud to live there was Pearle who moved back to spend the last decade of her life in her childhood home. She died in 1962 and she donated the house and grounds to the city, to be converted into a museum in memory of her parents. 

The rumors of paranormal activity are never too far from a house with so many tragedies, and sure enough, reports of medicinal smells can allegedly be picked up in the house around the anniversary of Mary Jane’s death, rumored to be remnants of her prolonged illness. Haunted or not, the Zalud house is unique as the entire house is furnished with the family’s actual possessions, and walking inside is like taking a step back in time more than 100 years. In a part of California that has long since given way to urban sprawl and innumerable strip malls, the Zalud house offers a glimpse of what life was like in a previous age.

Travel

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April 28, 2017 at 12:33PM

Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg’s House in Aarhus, Denmark

Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg’s House in Aarhus, Denmark

http://ift.tt/2pGM4jN

The house on Fiskergade 82, where Drakenberg lived.

The grey house looks like the others around it, ordinary and unassuming. But a closer look at the walls of Fiskergade 82 in Aarhus, and you will find a plaque with a grand statement: “In this house, the world’s oldest sailor, Denmark’s oldest mariner and Aarhus’ oldest inhabitant, Christian Jacobsen Drakenberg passed away. Born 18th November 1626, died 9th October 1772. He reached an age of 146 years."

The legend of Drakenberg or "Drak," as he was known, has remained a mystery for decades. Did he actually live until the age of 146? Nobody knows for sure. But Sophus Emil Johnsen, a Danish sailor and chandler, deeply believed that he did, and was so fascinated by Drak he spent many years of his life trying to spread the story of this remarkable man.

He certainly had a lot of material to work with: The tales surrounding Drakenberg are numerous and fantastic. Drak’s career as a sailor in the Danish navy included three stints fighting the Swedes, being captured by pirates, and 15 years as a slave under various masters in the Mediterranean before he escaped and made his way back to Denmark. Once on Danish soil with tales to tell, he became a favorite of the aristocracy who enjoyed his stories and showed him off as a living curiosity. Word of this extraordinary, feisty old man got around and in 1735 he was presented to King Christian VI where he was thanked for his war services under three Danish kings and received an annuity.

In 1760, supposedly at the ripe age of 134, Drak arrived in Aarhus and became a lodger at Fiskergade 82—the house in which he would spend his last years. At the time, most people genuinely believed his tales, and with his huge white beard, he certainly looked the part. Today, these claims are looked at with a more skeptical eye. 

Drakenberg’s body was mummified after his death, and placed for several years on display in a closed—but easily opened—yellow casket in Aarhus Cathedral. It was customary for souvenir-hunting visitors to the cathedral to pluck hairs from his beard. This custom was stopped in 1840 when Queen Caroline Amalie visited the cathedral, saw the body, and demanded it buried under the cathedral floor. This sparked a tradition among local boys, who dared each other to throw rocks through a small opening in the wall yelling "Good Day Drakenberg!"

Inspired by his fellow sailor’s incredible life, Johnsen began to collect Drakenberg paraphernalia, and he claimed to have received permission to make a cast from Drak’s mummified body. Johnsen had made his wealth as a ship chandler, but started spending more and more of his time on his obsession with Drakenberg. He built a house for his business and named it "Drakenberghus." He published the periodical Drakenberg-posten, opened a Drakenberg museum north of Aarhus and introduced the Order of Drakenberg—a trophy in the form of a small brass cannon given to people Johnsen deemed worthy. Past recipients include Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn.

This obsession with Drakenberg would eventually drive him to ruin and madness. Johnsen himself became something of a legend, zealously defending Drak’s legacy in increasingly incoherent letters to the local newspaper, walking his pet goat through town dressed in his sailor’s suit and pretending to be captain of the town’s trams. He died penniless and his last remaining Drakenberg souvenirs were disposed of.

However, one of Johnsen’s contributions that remains is the plaque outside Drakenberg’s last house in Aarhus. It was installed on the November 18, on what would have been, if the stories are to be believed, the colorful sailor’s 300th birthday.

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via Atlas Obscura http://ift.tt/SEYBhH

April 28, 2017 at 12:06PM

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