The Two Lon Chaneys

Lon Chaney Sr. was born 1 April 1883 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both his parents were deaf, and because of this he learned pantomime. He started traveling with popular Vaudeville acts in 1902. In 1905 he met and married singer Cleva Creighton, and the following year they had their first only son, Lon Chaney Jr.

The three of them moved and settled in California. In April 1913, marital problems started and one day Cleva went to the theatre where Lon was managing a show, and attempted suicide. The attempt failed, and the ensuing scandal and divorce forced Lon out of the theatre and into the motion picture industry.

From 1912 – 1917,  Lon was under contract with Universal Pictures, doing bit parts. His skills with makeup earned him many parts. In 1915, he married Hazel Hastings, a former colleague from the show he ran before.

By 1917, Lon Chaney was a very well-known actor, though his salary didn’t reflect this. When he asked for a raise, studio executive William Sistrom replied, “You’ll never be worth more than one hundred dollars a week.”

Chaney appeared in 14 films between 1917 and 1919, all of them he starred alongside with Dorothy Phillips, and William Stowell as a team, and usually directed by husband/wife team Joe De Grasse and Ida May Park. This lasted until 24 November 1919, when Stowell was in the caboose of a train when it was hit by the locomotive from another train, killing him instantly.

Later that year, Chaney would star as “The Frog” in “The Frog” in George Loane Tucker‘s The Miracle Man. Not only did it show how talented he was as an actor, but also his skill with makeup. He quickly became one of America’s favourite character actors. starring in a number of films, and earning the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Faces”. In 1923, Chaney would play the tole of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and in 1925 he played Erik (or “The Phantom”) in The Phantom of the Opera, two of the most grotesquely deformed characters in film history. Both were done with Chaney’s skills with makeup.

In late 1929, he was working on a film called Thunder when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. On 26 August 1930, Lon Chaney died.

From the time he was a child, Lon Chaney Jr. had to work hard to get out from under his father’s shadow, who always discouraged him going into show business. It wasn’t until his father died in 1930 that Jr. started his acting career in an uncredited roll in a 1933 film titled Girl Crazy. In 1939, he starred in Of Mice and Men. When he starred in One Million B. C., Jr. began being viewed as a character actor in the same league as his father.

The following year, 1941, he starred in what would be his signature role, The Wolf Man. After that film, be starred in a number of classic Universal Monster films, including further Wolf Man movies.

He starred in a long list of films over the years, until he was doing low budget films and making guest appearances on The Monkees.

Lan Chaney Jr. died on throat cancer on 12 July 1973.

Lon Chaney Sr. and Jr. are survived by sr.s great-grandson and Jr.’s grandson, Ron Chaney, who rums Chaney Entertainment, and attends film conventions and talks about his great-grandfather’s and grandfather’s careers.



[Note: I will simply give you the info I have and let you decide for yourself what you think, Also, just because I include a conspiracy does not mean I believe it. It only means I find it interesting enough to include.]

Nixon murdered Joplin and Hendrix

I was originally only going to post about this tonight, but while I was researching it, I came across more things and decided to make this a collection of conspiracies. According to this one, President Richard Nixon was afraid to not be re-elected, so he has some high profile musicians followed and tapped. He didn’t like the messages that Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were spreading to voters, so he had their drinks poisoned. This sounds like a ridiculous rumour, and probably is, considering that when Joplin and Hendrix died (1970), there wasn’t an election in sight (Nixon started his term the previous year). Although it is true that some high profile musicians were watched, it’s unlikely they would have been killed, much less by order of the President. If anything they would have been detained.

Jim Morrison faked his death and is still alive today

On 3 July 1971 the lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison, was found dead in a Paris apartment bathtub. No autopsy was conducted, and because of this many theories have popped up over the years. The biggest one is that he never died, but faked his death. He has even been found, supposedly. Of course, the same has been said of Michael Jackson.

Enhanced photo proves Grassy Knoll

Everyone knows the story of the Kennedy Assassination. There have been a thousand conspiracy theories made about it. In fact, the Wikipedia article for the conspiracies I linked just now is longer than the Wikipedia article about the actual event I linked before it. But the one that seems to stick around is that there was a second gunman on the Grassy Knoll. This is one I actually do believe. The evidence speaks for itself. If Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK from behind, why did the bullet enter from the front and the back of his head explode like that? Anyway, a photo from that day has been enhanced to reveal what many believe to be proof of the shooter in the Grassy Knoll. Known as Badge Man, a figure of a person behind a puff of smoke is clearly visible.

Blogthoven: Erhu

No, I didn’t put random letters as the title of this post. The Erhu (or 二胡) is a traditional Chinese musical instrument, and the sound you think of when you think of Chinese music. It’s a 2-string bowed instrument that Westerners often refer to as the “Chinese fiddle”. A traditional Chinese instrument, it’s also used in contemporary music.

The Erhu can be traced back over a thousand years, and were made of python skin and silk strings. In the 20th century, steel strings gradually became the professional way. In 1988, China severely regulated the use of python skin, as the snakes were becoming endangered. From 1 January 2005 onward, each Erhu made had to be certified as using farm-raised python skin and not wild python skin.

This makes them be very expensive. A few months back I looked into buying one, and the cheapest real one I found was over $300. Just the cloth to clean it was over $50. I became interested in the instrument last year, when I visited San Francisco in July 2011. I was walking through Chinatown when I saw someone playing one. It was something I had never seen before, and although I grew up hearing the music of China, I had never heard the instrument live in person, or even knew what made that sound. I was able to take a picture of the person playing it.

Here is a video that explains more


Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

In the 1920s, an unknown animator known as Walter Disney made a series of animated/live action shorts known as the Alice Comedies, which were based upon Alice in Wonderland. From 1923 to 1927, Disney and his business partner, Ub Iwerks, made 57 Alice shorts. But in 1927, the two decided to end the series due to the rising costs and technical limitations.

Around this time, Universal Pictures wanted to start making and releasing animations. Disney and Iwerks decided to make an animated character that they could sell to Universal. What they came up with was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney and Iwerks signed a contract with Universal and Oswald became Universal’s first animated series. On 5 September 1927, the first Oswald short was released, titled Trolley Troubles.

In the spring of 1928, Disney traveled to New York City to attempt to negotiate a more profitable contract. As the economy was already in a slump at the time, Universal cancelled Disney’s contract. As Universal owned the rights to Oswald, Disney wasn’t allowed to keep him, even though he created him and drew the shorts himself.

On the train ride back home, Disney and Iwerks brainstormed to find a new character they could use. By the time they made it back home, they had came up with the idea of a mouse named Mortimer Mouse. When Disney told his wife, she said that name didn’t sound pleasant at all, and suggested naming him Mickey Mouse.

Meanwhile, Universal continued using Oswald, even making a sound short in 1929, until 1951, as a cameo in a Woody Woodpecker short.

In February 2006, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Universal agreed on a trade. Disney gave ESPN Sportscaster Al Michaels to NBC Sports, and in exchange Universal gave Disney the rights to Oswald, including the rights to the shorts Disney has worked on. Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller had this to say about the exchange:

“When Bob was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word. Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun.”

Al Michaels, who Disney traded for Oswald, had this to say:

“Oswald is definitely worth more than a fourth-round draft choice. I’m going to be a trivia answer someday.”

In 2010, Oswald was one of the main protagonists in the video game Epic Mickey, as leader of forgotten cartoon characters.

Mickey Mouse and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

“With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.”

 -from “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning

Most of us grew up hearing the story of The Pied Piper, about how a village was suffering from a rat problem until the Pied Piper offered to rid them of the problem, which he did by playing his magic flute. When he went to receive his payment, the villagers refused. So, to get back at the villagers, he used his magic flute to make their children follow him out of the village to hide in a cave until the villagers agreed to pay him. This is the story I heard as a kid, although I have heard other variations over the years.

But what if I were to tell you that the fairy tale was actually a true story?

In 1285, the German village of Hamlin had a serious rat problem. A mysterious man appeared one day, many believe him to have been Nicholas of Cologne, offering to rid the village of their rats. He made an agreement with the mayor of Hamelin that he would get paid if he rid the village of their rats. It is said that he used his flute (whether magical or just really good at playing, I’ll leave that for you to decide) and lured the rats into the Weser River. When the Piper went to the mayor for his payment, the mayor refused to pay him, denying they had an agreement.

That night, 26 June 1284, the Piper used his flute to lure the 130 village children out of the village. What happened next has been left out of most versions of the tale and replaced with a happy ending. The Piper led most of the children to the same river he led the rats to, and had those children drown themselves. The few who he didn’t drown, he took to the top of Koppelberg Hill and had his way with them, killing them when he was done.

However, one child was able to get away, and told the villagers what was happening. By the time they caught up with the Piper, it was too late.

Mordern-day Hamelin holds reenactments every Sunday in the summer.

Corn Flakes

The story of Corn Flakes dates back to the late 1800s. A group of Seventh-Day Adventists were creating new foods to tie in with their vegetarian diets the church made them do. Most of them experimented with a number of different grains, including wheat, oats, rice, barley, and corn. In 1864, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg used some of those experiments on some of his patients.

One day, he and his brother, John Keith Kellogg, left some wheat to cook while they ran some errands, and returned to find that the wheat had overcooked and gone stale. As they had a low budget, they decided that instead of discarding the mess, they would put go ahead and process it and see what happened. To their surprise, what came out was flakes, which they served to their patients. This on 8 August 1894, and a patent for “Flaked Cereals and Process of Preparing Same” was filed on 31 May 1895, and issued on 14 April 1896.

The product became very popular among the patients, and shortly afterward, the brothers began experimenting with other grains. They soon formed their own company to market their product, they originally named their company Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which was later renamed Kellogg’s.

The mascot of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes is Cornelius “Corny” Rooster. In early adverts, his catchphrase would be, “Wake up, up, up to Kellogg’s Cornflakes!”, but later on he stopped talking and simply crowed.

One of the former patients of Dr. Kellogg was C. W. Post, who later went on to form a rival company for Kellogg’s by selling the original Corn Flakes knockoff, Post Toasties.

Blogthoven: Darby Crash

Born Jan Paul Beahm on 26 September 1958, Darby Crash had a bad start in life. When he was young, his older brother died of a drug overdose, and he spent a large part of his life believing his father had left them. He found out in his teens that his father was really a Swedish sailor. Crash lived with his mother most of his life. Accounts of this time of his life show that his mother was possibly mentally ill, often verbally abusing Crash.

In his school years, he attended a program call Innovative Program School (IPS), where students were allowed to form their own classes. He and his bestfriend, Pat Smear (born Georg Ruthenberg) formed a class for themselves call “Fruit Eating” where they would go to the market, eat fruit for an hour, then return to the school. Over time, the two became frequent users of LSD, and soon had a following of students who would also use the drug. The two were accused of brainwashing students, so they were dismissed from the school in 1976.

Shortly afterward, the two tried forming their own band. They originally wished to call it “Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens”, but they couldn’t afford to have the full name printed on a shirt, so they settled for calling themselves the much shorter name of The Germs. At the time, only Smear was good at an instrument. The band can be seen in the 1981 film, “The Decline of Western Civilization“. They quickly became known around Los Angeles for their chaotic shows. Onstage they had a ritual called a “Germs burn.”  Crash would put out a cigarette on some lucky fan’s arm, scaring them with the mark of his band.

The Germs split up in 1979, and soon after Crash moved to England, where he began using heroin. But he moved back to America, where he formed the unsuccessful Darby Crash Band. Shortly afterward, his new band split up, and he fell into a depression. He decided that the only way he would become a rock legend now was to commit suicide, which he did.

Darby Crash committed suicide on 7 December 1980. The very next day, former Beatle John Lennon was assassinated, which took up the headlines that Crash’s death would have occupied, so it went largely unnoticed.

Pat Smear later went on to play guitar in the band Nirvana, whose lead singer, Kurt Cobainalso committed suicide. He currently play guitar for the band Foo Fighters.

In 2007, a biopic about Crash’s life was made titled What We Do Is Secret.

Darby Crash

The Unsinkable Violet Jessop

Some people are just plain lucky. Violet Jessop is one of these people. Born on 2 October 1887 in Argentina, she was the first of nine children, but only six survived. When she was very young, she contracted Tuberculosis. The doctor said she wasn’t going to make it, but Violet proved at that early age that she is one of the few born lucky and proved him wrong.

After her father passed away, she and her family moved to Great Britain, where she attended college until her mother became ill, when she left college to become a stewardess on a luxurious liner, the RMS Olympic, the largest passenger liner at that time. Violet Jessop boarded the liner on 14 June 1911. On 20 September, Olympic collided with a cruiser, the HMS Hawke. Olympic was able to make it back to port, where the liner was blamed for the incident.

On 10 April 1912, Violet boarded Olympic’s sister ship, the RMS Titanic. Four days later, Titanic collided with an iceberg. Violet later said she was ordered to go on deck to set a good example for the non-English speaking passengers. She was then ordered into a lifeboat, where she was handed a baby. Later that night, hours after Titanic sank, the survivors in the lifeboats were rescued by the RMS Carpathia. While on deck, a woman ran up to her, snatched the baby, and ran off without a word.

During World War I, Violet worked for the British Red Cross, and in 1916, she worked on board the hospital ship, and also sister ship of both Olympic and Titanic, HMHS Britannic. On 21 November 1916, Britannic ran into a mine and because all the portholes were open at the time, sank rather quickly. While it was sinking, Violet’s lifeboat was heading towards a propeller, so she jumped out. When she did that, she got pulled underwater and bumped her head on the keel of the ship, underneath. She later said that her thick auburn hair provided a bit if a cushion and saved her life.

Despite being involved in three mishaps with their ships, Violet continued working for the White Star Line for years afterward, retiring in 1950. Years after her retirement, she received a phone call from a woman asking if she, Violet Jessop, rescued a baby on the Titanic during the sinking. When Violet replied that she had, the voice on the other end replied, “I was that baby” and hung up. Her biographer said it was probably some local children out for a laugh, but Violet said, “No, John, I had never told that story to anyone before I told you now.”

Clearly, one of the luckiest people to ever live. Violet Jessop died of congestive heart failure on 5 May 1971 at the age of 83.

Violet Jessop

The Mysterious Death of Thomas H. Ince

On Saturday, 15 November 1924, the yacht of American newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, set sail from San Pedro, California. It was carrying Hearst, his mistress Marion Davies, actor Charlie Chaplin, actor Thomas H. Ince, among several others. They were celebrating Ince’s 42nd birthday, but ironically he was late.

While on the boat, he had a bit of indigestion and was taken off the boat by water taxi to San Diego. After being treated for what was believed to be a heart attack, he was taken back to his home in Hollywood. On 19 November 1924, he died.

His personal physician signed the death certificate, saying that heart failure was the official cause of death. But the Los Angles Times’ front page read ‘”Movie Producer Shot on Hearst Yacht!”, which were pulled from shelves within hours of publication. Ince’s body was quickly cremated, then his widow immediately flew to Europe.

Several rumours soon sprang up, including one that Davies and Chaplin were secretly lovers, and Hearst walked in on them, when he let out a shout, waking Ince, who walked in and accidentally stepped in front of Chaplin as Hearst was about to shoot him. Another popular rumour is that Ince and Davies were together on deck, when Ince, who was prone to ulcers, bent double from the pain. Then Hearst walked in and,  assuming the worst, pulled out his gun. Yet another rumour tells of a story of unnamed passengers below deck struggling over a gun, when it accidentally fired, shooting through the plywood floor, and into Ince’s room.

Chaplin’s secretary added to the rumours by telling newspapers that he witnessed Ince being brought ashore and that he was bleeding from the head. He told his wife what he saw, and the story spread throughout Beverly Hills. Whether it was murder or accident, the stories spread. It got to the point that a month later the San Diego District Attorney’s office had to take action.

The DA only talked to the doctor who brought Ince ashore, Dr. Daniel Goodman,who said that Ince got sick on the train and he had another doctor look at him.

Rumours flew up around the guests who were present that night. Chaplin later denied even being there, and claimed that Ince died two weeks later, when in fact he had died less than 48 hours later. Davies made things more confusing for people by never acknowledging that Chaplin was there.

So how did Thomas Ince die? Was it natural causes? Was he murdered? If it was natural, why the rush to cremate his body? If it was murder, why didn’t any of the doctors examining his body notice a gunshot wound? It looks like we’ll never know.

Thomas H. Ince