My Town Monday Cincinnati: Repost – The Peters Cartridge Factory

It’s Halloween, so let’s revisit one of this blog’s most popular My Town Monday haunts, the Peters Cartridge Factory in nearby Kings Mills.
This being October, I thought I’d take a look at some of the more haunted places around Cincinnati this month. So today, I want to revisit one we looked at back in May: The Peter’s Cartridge Factory.

Situated near King’s Island in the Mason area, Peter’s Cartridge was a supplier of munitions during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. The building is crumbling, yet still in use in places. Still, even with cars parked around it, mostly cyclists and hikers using the Little Miami Trail, it looks abandoned.

And haunted.

According to forgottenoh.com, many of the legends of hauntings stem from a 1940 explosion at the plant that killed three people. The stories gained traction after an artist who keeps a studio in one of the buildings left tombstones inside for a photo shoot, which were later used for a horror movie shoot. Rumors of hauntings still persist. In fact, the current site has been surrounded by stories of ghosts almost from the day the plant opened in 1899. In 1900, an earlier explosion of two rail cars killed 11 people.

But if rumors were whispered after the 1900 and 1940 explosions, they became rather shrill in 2002, when a movie crew came to shoot a film in the factory. Cast and crew reported whispering heard in empty rooms and seeing objects move on their own. In addition, in 2006, during a paintball tournament, a man fell through a floor in the factory (a not-uncommon accident for visitors and trespassers alike) and was nearly impaled on some remaining old equipment. While it’s likely the building’s deteriorating condition caused the fall, many see the incident as proof the dead want everyone to stay away.

The dead are bound to be disappointed as the former Little Miami Railroad is now the Little Miami Trail, and the factory’s parking lots serve as a trail head. Is it haunted?

In 2008, my wife and I rode up from Loveland to look at the place. Nita insisted she felt as though she were being watched from a window. The window was bricked over. The atmosphere of the place? Or someone from one of the explosions watching the trail?

More at the My Town Monday blog.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger By Stephen King

I could start by saying this is a strange book. And you’d say, “Well, duh. It’s a Stephen King book.” But there’s a certain sense of normalcy in a King book. The monster is more a catalyst than the star. Witness how Barlow shows up in Salem’s Lot and sets the town against itself while he picks off the inhabitants one by one. Or Randall Flag quietly gathering his forces in The Stand. Sure, “The Walking Dude” is a rock star villain, but he’s not the central player.

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger is a weird book for Stephen King. For starters, it takes place in a world that “has moved on.” The world Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, is spent, used-up, long past its civilization’s peak. There are bits and pieces of our world in Roland’s, but it’s clearly not ours. In the beginning, Roland shows up in a town called Tull, at the edge of a vast desert. He’s been walking for a thousand years, chasing a Man in Black, sometimes called “Walter o’Dim.” Roland new him in his youth as “Marten,” who seduced his mother and caused his father’s death. And the Man in Black has just passed through, grinning madly and leaving a couple of traps for Roland.

His presence eventually forces Roland to slaughter the entire town after he kills the preacher woman’s unborn child, who is the offspring of a being known as the Crimson King. (One assumes this, like a lot of Stephen King, was written with classic rock pounding through the speakers.)

Crossing the desert, which takes days and no one knows what lies beyond, Roland encounters a boy, Jake, swept from our world into Roland’s by the Man in Black. He is apparently the key to catching the Man in Black. They will cross the desert, chase the man up a high mountain range, and crawl through the belly of those mountains to reach him. In the process, Roland encounters two demons, one of whom he makes love to.

King has described this work as a cross between King Arthur, Lord of the Rings, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And it shows. The gunslingers are shown in flashbacks to be knightly warriors, the defenders of a civilization that’s evaporated by the time the story begin. Roland and Jake’s journey is not all that different from the hobbits trek to Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring, though it ends nowhere near as pleasantly. And Roland, of course, is a superhuman shootist.

This book was a little hard to get into at the start. King himself says in the intro that it took until the second Dark Tower book to find this story’s voice. Since King used his other work to inform this story, a sort of Stephen King fanfic tale written by King himself, it should come as no surprise that the Man in Black is noneother than The Walking Dude, Randall Flagg from The Stand. Like most of King’s work, one does not have to read the Dark Tower to get the most out of the other stories. It barely ties in to his Castle Rock stories until Dreamcatcher, written two decades later. Cujo has ties to the later Dark Tower books, but itself is not a supernatural story. Skip the series, and you’re left feeling sorry for a very doomed St. Bernard dying of rabies and forced by the disease to become a monster.

But read the series…

It was a slow start joining Roland on his quest to find the mysterious Dark Tower. And the Man in Black is, as one suspects reading The Stand, where he is The Walking Dude, simply a toady of a greater evil.

Thursday Reviews: American Creation, Eddie’s World

AMERICAN CREATION

By Joseph Ellis

A couple of years ago, I wrote about Joseph Ellis’s two presidential biographies, his demystification of George Washington, His Excellency, and his rather fanboyish tribute to Jefferson, American Sphinx. Of the two, I was most disappointed with Sphinx. Ellis seemed a bit too earnest in rationalizing Jefferson’s contradictions, almost afraid that, if left unexplained, we’d somehow come to the wrong conclusion about the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Then we come to American Creation, where Ellis eloquently explains something I’ve always argued until I’m blue in the face. The Founding Fathers were not a unified monolithic group with a clear-cut agenda, ticking off bullet points one by one. (Action item 1: Fire George III, Action item 2: Kick out British troops, Action item 3: Write Constitution, Action item 4: Elect Washington president…)

Ellis defines the Founding Period as the 28 years from 1775 to 1803, from the first shots of the Revolution to the Louisiana Purchase. He then portrays the defining moments of this period as plays with a shifting cast of stars who wax and wane with each installment. They are the 15 months from the first shots at Lexington to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Valley Forge, the drafting of the Constitution, the rise of the two-party system, and the Lousiana Purchase.

Ellis is a bit scarce in his details about the Constitution. While accurate, he sounds like he’s saying that Congress commissioned a constitutional convention in Annapolis that adjourned to Philadelphia for a few Yuenglings, then picked up where they left off. There is nothing on the arguments over the type of presidency America would have, Hamilton’s suggestion the president by elected for life, or the arguments over a bicameral legislature vs. a unicameral one. He does, however, detail Madison’s surprising proposal that the federal government have veto power over all state laws. While generally a bad idea, it would have ended John C. Calhoun’s political career before he was even born.

But if Ellis was a Jefferson fanboy in Sphinx, he gives no such quarter to our third president in Creation. Here, Ellis calls Jefferson on the carpet for failing to push slavery into its eventual extinction. Jefferson was one of several forward thinking slave holders who saw the institution as a moral paradox in a republican nation. But, Ellis suggests, if John Adams and other northerners could desire emancipation without fear of freed black reprisals, Jefferson should have been able to reach that same conclusion. But then Jefferson’s mind often worked on multiple contradictory tracks, making him equal parts genius and mad man. Fortunately for America, Jefferson’s madness was a managed one.

EDDIE’S WORLD

By Charlie Stella

I’m linking the Kindle edition here because the hardcover I read is out of print. That’s good for you because the ebook is only $3.99. Good for you. Good for Charlie.

Why’s that good? Eddie’s World is Charlie Stella’s debut from way back in 2001. Eddie Senta is a knockaround guy with problems. He wants out of the mob life, but he needs one last score. His wife is becoming insanely successful to the point where she wants to have a baby. Just not with Eddie. But Eddie can be in the baby’s life after a time. Confused? In the meantime, he’s planning to heist a former employer of $15,000. He’s getting help from an ex-coworker, an on-again, off-again drunk who is in sexual bondage to her boss.

Unfortunately, she’s got a new boyfriend named James. And James wants the money for himself. Since he’s under federal protection, he sees no reason not to help himself. James is Murphy’s Law personified, and he makes everything turn to garbage for Eddie.

Stella’s mob is not the romanticized mob of The Godfather and Goodfellas. He portrays it as a largely blue collar organization with few of the trappings from the movies. Guys like Eddie don’t get rich doing what they do, and Eddie works full time as a freelance word processor (a job Stella does in real life.) You want a grand epic about honor among thieves, go read Puzo. Stella has been in the streets and can tell you how it really works.

James A. Garfield

James Garfield is one of three presidents whose most notable accomplishment was to die while serving as president. William Henry Harrison barely lived long enough to give his inaugural speech, and Zachary Taylor, who did manage to get 500 days in office under his belt before dying of (most likely) food poisoning, probably needed another six months to leave his mark on the presidency.

But Garfield is one of the so-called “Lost Presidents” (Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison), as Garfield biographer Ira Rutkow calls them. The running joke is that the presidents between Grant and McKinley are noted for for their facial hair than their accomplishments. In most cases, this is not really a fair assessment. These presidents guided the nation out of the Reconstruction Period, built up the US Navy to take its current place among the most powerful fleets in the world, and began the reforms that kept American industry from becoming a block of monopolies. (Yes, I’m pretty sure they despise Benjamin Harrison in the offices of BP North America, IBM, AT&T, and Microsoft.)

Garfield, however, was cut down by Charles Guiteau, a man who would make Glenn Beck shudder with the level of his paranoia. But Guitaeu did not kill Garfield. In fact, at his trial, he argued that the doctors killed Garfield.

Actually, they did. How?

Let’s compare the most similar presidential shooting to Garfield’s, that of Ronald Reagan. In 1881, Reagan would have been a dead man walking after being shot. The surgical techniques to save Reagan simply did not exist in 1881, nor did the X-Ray machine that would have found the bullet. Garfield?

His wounds suggest he should have lived. However, a dozen physicians, none of whom could be called quacks by any stretch of the imagination, all manipulated Garfield’s bullet wound with unsanitary hands. It’s quite likely that, had carbolic acid been poured into the wound and the doctors’ hands been washed before touching the entry point, Garfield would have, at worst, had a very nasty summer with the resignation of perennial pain-in-the-ass Senator Roscoe Conkling as the best get-well present ever. Instead, Garfield’s physician, D.W. Bliss, usurped control over the president’s treatment. When the president did not respond, Bliss began to flail, all the while putting out deceptive bulletins assuring the nation that Garfield was on the mend. In reality, he could not keep food down, and Bliss even attempted a bizarre means of providing food through rectal feeding (a practice that would soon be discredited.) By the final weeks of Garfield’s life, it became clear to everyone but Bliss himself that the doctor’s own hubris was killing the president. But how did it get that far?

In reality, Garfield might have been shot at the right time in terms of what physicians knew. Certainly, Bliss, a former Civil War surgeon with an enviable record treating gunshot wounds, had enough experience to save the president. And in 1881, Joseph Lister was extolling the virtues of hand washing and antiseptic treatment. So why did things go so wrong?

Well, 1881 was a time when modern medicine was in its infancy. Many doctors simply did not understand or trust the discoveries about microbes and infection. Bliss was of the old school. Many others were disciples of Lister’s new methods. Even in the pre-antibiotic era, Lister’s protocols called for keeping the wound, all instruments, and physicians’ hands sterile. Because of this, Bliss likely killed the president before he even realized the patient was lost.

It is a tragedy, and no one can deny that Charles Guiteau deserved the full brunt of the justice system’s wrath. But let’s think about what might have happened one hundred years later, if Garfield, not Reagan, had stepped in front of John Hinckley’s bullet. According to Rutkow, himself a surgeon, Garfield would have, like Reagan, been whisked off the George Washington Medical Center and quite likely walked into the ER, the same as his eventual successor. Unlike Reagan, whose wound was much more severe however, Garfield would have spent only one night in the hospital before returning to the White House for a couple of days rest (and under the current system, been briefed by Vice President Arthur or Bush, depending on how your alternate reality works) before starting a rigorous physical rehab program. In short, Garfield’s first reaction would have been, “Ouch.” The rest would be anti-climactic.

What surprises me the most about Garfield’s death, however, is the ease with which Guiteau could get to the president, a mistake that would be repeated with William McKinley twenty years later. Even JFK moved in a hermetically sealed bubble that became even tighter after his own assassination. (Hint to future presidents: Open-topped cars are a really bad idea for powerful heads of state.) Lincoln, of course, served at a time when the president had no body guards. What is shocking is that Garfield, whose Secretary of War was Robert Todd Lincoln, also did not have such a detail. Neither did McKinley. (I’m assuming Teddy Roosevelt would have simply shot back or personally strangled his would-be assassin.) Both presidents were killed at point-blank range by people who, today, would likely be hitting you up for change on a street corner.

Over the course of 222 years under the Constitution, it’s inevitable that we’d lose some of the men serving as our chief executive to disease, old age, or a gunman’s bullet. Certainly, the killings should never have happened, but Garfield’s death is particularly outrageous. Twenty years after Lincoln’s murder, the government failed to protect America’s head of state. Compounding the atrocity is the aftermath. James Garfield should have been able to recover and finish his term. And in an era when presidents did not directly campaign for office, even a weakened Garfield could have won reelection without taxing his constitution too much.

We will never know.

Ebookery: West Coast Crime Wave

Last winter, I had the privilege of contributing to bstsllr.com‘s first anthology, West Coast Crime Wave, stories of America’s Left Coast from San Diego to Alaska. I contributed the story “Bad History.” For the next few weeks, I’ll be looking at the rest of the stories in this collection.

“Blind Date” by Scotti Andrews

This tale takes place in a Starbucks. Fitting, since it’s one of the Seattle stories in this collection. Kim arrives to meet her blind date, not really hoping for much. She spots her potential beau sipping a latte and doesn’t think too much of him. Her friend was supposed to introduce them, but she’s a no show, so Kim edges in, trying to be subtle. And then Kim arrives.

Looking similar to our Kim, this new Kim is also there to meet her blind date and zeroes in on Mr. Latte Sipper. It’s definitely a case of mistaken identity, and Kim – our Kim – debates whether to leave or not. The Mr. Latte flies into a fit of rage and slits the new lady’s throat. That’s when we learn Kim’s day job. She’s a cop.

It’s one of the most bizarre blind date stories ever told, and in the end, like Kim, we’re left just a bit confused.

“Returning to the Knife” by Dave Corbett

Dave Corbett picks my favorite city in California, San Francisco. It’s a stream of consciousness piece that leaves you wondering if the narrator is on crack, schizophrenic, or simply has the worst case of adult ADHD in all of crime fiction. Our protag goes on and on about a knife, a dog, and blogging. Slowly, Corbett gets his protag to tease the story out, but he does it with one of the most unreliable narrators I’ve ever met.

“The Town at the End of the Road” by Ted Hertel

If San Francisco and Los Angeles are centers of civilization, the villages well beyond Anchorage, Alaska are the far-flung fringe. Hertel’s protag begins stranded in the rain on a dirt road 120 miles from Anchorage. The town he finds is mostly a collection of trailers and shacks soon to be abandoned or locked down for the winter. Why is he there? Well, he kills people for a living,  and he’s come to collect his fee. Only he didn’t do the job. His client is a hypocrite who rubs him the wrong way.

My Town Monday: Movies Shot In Cincinnati

Earlier this month, the George Clooney film Ides of March opened, which excited a lot of locals here in the Queen City. Clooney, a native of nearby Maysville, Kentucky, who also grew up in Cincinnati, used the area for location shooting for the film. After all, much of the action takes place in Cincinnati, and even in the trailer, you can’t miss the Roebling Suspension Bridge or the skyline’s newest feature, Queen City Square.

But this is not the first movie to be shot here. In fact, Cincinnati has had several movies shot in and around the city. If you’re old enough to remember, WKRP in Cincinnati is not the first television series to use the city’s skyline and landmarks in its transition shots and credit sequences. Crime-centered soap opera The Edge of Night (produced by local corporate behemoth Procter & Gamble) used a shot of Cincinnati’s skyline from Mt. Adams to stand in for the fictional Monticello. (Which, it has been suggested, was located in Ohio.)

Getting back to the silver screen, what movies were shot here?

A few of them…

Eight Men Out, 1987: This John Cusack movie about baseball’s 1919 Black Sox Scandal was, appropriately, shot in Cincinnati. Eight White Sox players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

Rain Man, 1988: Tom Cruise comes to Cincinnati to retrieve his autistic older brother, played by Dustin Hoffman. There are scenes on the Roebling Suspension Bridge and in the Dixie Terminal Building, which offers a spectacular view from the lobby of the bridge and the Northern Kentucky skyline. Sadly, that view, which I once got to see on a daily basis in the pre-9/11 era, is no longer there. The Banks riverfront development has blocked the view.

Lost in Yonkers, 1992: The Martha Coolidge adaptation of Neil Simon’s play takes place in 1940’s Yonkers. The problem is Yonkers looked like 1990’s Westchester County. So Northern Kentucky, which looks in places like a World War II era town along the Hudson, doubled as Yonkers of Simon’s youth.

Milk Money, 1993: This Richard Benjamin film starring Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith shows a lot of Cincinnati locations, though it’s not really clear if the film is set here. Most of the film was shot in the Mt. Lookout neighborhood, which means I likely delivered pizza to the crew at some point. There are also some great shots of downtown, and the seedy flophouse Ft. Washington Hotel makes an appearance as Melanie Griffith’s “office.” In one scene, Griffith, who plays a hooker, is kicked out of a limo while servicing a businessman in a parking garage. When I finally saw the movie, I realized that I parked in that same garage almost daily in 1997.

The People Vs. Larry Flynt, 1996: The only film on this list not listed on the Chamber of Commerce’s web site. But you can’t tell the story of Larry Flynt without shooting it in Cincinnati. The bar that doubles as the original Hustler Club is actually a quiet fern bar on the corner for Fourth St. and Central Avenue. What happened to the Hustler Club. It and the entire block were torn down to make way for the Aronoff Center.

Traffic, 2000: Michael Douglas plays a prosecutor from Cincinnati named as the nation’s new Drug Czar. Much of action takes place around Cincinnati. Douglas’s daughter in the film, who descends into drugs and prostitution, is depicted as a student at Cincinnati Country Day, which prompted outrage from the private school

Seabiscuit, 2003: This Depression-era tale of the horse racing legend used the retro-looking River Downs along Kellogg Avenue for some of its location shots. If someone could chime in with a comment, tell me if my memory is correct in that Florence, Kentucky’s Turfway also got some camera time in this one.

More at the My Town Monday blog.