Why Are We So Obsessed With: Nostalgia?

There’s a certain effect that nostalgia has on the human being.

It’s a warm, familiar, safe glow. 

It’s an old Nintendo game you haven’t dug out in 20 years.

It’s an album you played to death in college. 

It’s a perfume or aftershave worn by someone, somewhere.

We’ve all got nostalgic triggers embedded deep in our minds.  We all have that arrangement of stimuli whose presence takes us back to another time in an instant. Nostalgia is an express ticket back to the past.

However, nostalgia is a double-edged sword. It’s a cunning drug. It sometimes fools us into a revision of the past – that it is inherently better than our present circumstances. There’s a bittersweet quality to looking through old photo albums or listening to old records. We remember the best parts of these times, and all of the inconveniences, disappointments, or problems we once had are conveniently left out. Nostalgia is a cleverly edited highlight reel. All of the behind-the-scenes stuff is left on the cutting room floor.

But is touring the past a good or bad thing? On the one hand, life is all about memories. On the other, living purely for yesterday is a sign that you may have peaked too soon. 

Constantine Sedikides was a young, Greek university professor in North Carolina. He was later transferred to the University of Southampton, England, to continue his studies. Upon his arrival, he was hit with intermittent flashes of the sights, sounds, and smells of his previous homes. He shared his experiences with a colleague, a psychiatrist, who said that Dr. Sedikides may be depressed. After all, why else would his conscience remind him of the past so often?

However, Dr. Sedikides wasn’t buying it. He was happy in Southampton – he had a new life with new friends, new cultures, and new challenges. He began to contemplate that his frequent detours to the past were a positive sign. ‘‘“Nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots and continuity’‘, he said in response.

I think Dr. Sedikides hit the nail on the head with his analysis. Nostalgia is such a powerful source because it reminds us that our lives have foundations and roots, and is not merely a meaningless succession of days. Real-life can get grinding and repetitive, and these nostalgic triggers remind us that we do, indeed, have purpose and meaning in our existence. The rose-tinted hue that the past is always bathed in can help us ease our worries about the future.

Nostalgia is also a great way to bond with others. In fact. there’s a whole nostalgia industry. Old movies are remade, old albums are remastered, vintage clothing drifts in and out of fashion. Nostalgia can help us connect with others more deeply, and give others insight into our perceived golden years.

The bitter-sweet feeling of loss is prevalent with nostalgic memories. Everybody has memories that, although happy at the time, are drenched in melancholy now that time has taken its effect. The word ‘nostos’ is Greek for ”home” and ‘algia’ is derived from ‘agos’ meaning ”pain”. Indeed, the pain of old memories are the ones that hit closest to home for many.

Nostalgia has taken on another life on social media. The hashtag ”#tbt”’ (throwback to..) is one of Instagram’s most popular trends. Young and old users indulge in this trend, meaning that the power of nostalgia is felt by every age bracket. Even young children get nostalgic, and overall, you can expect to experience at least one nostalgic episode a week.

The best thing about nostalgia is nobody can take it away from you. Although the future may be uncertain – the warm familiarity of the past can help us transition through rocky and uncertain times. Whilst it is still important to keep one foot in the present, we should all, sometimes, revel in the glory of days gone – and hope there’s many more ahead.

 

 

Terror in the Skies: Federal Express Flight 705

April 7, 1994

The FedEx base in Memphis, Tennesee is preparing for another unspectacular day of business.

Flight 705, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, is preparing to make the six-hour flight bound for San Jose, California. The aircraft is full of electrical equipment that would be distributed to the companies of the burgeoning Silicon Valley.

At 3:02pm, Flight 705 departs from Runway 9 at Memphis Airport. There are three crew members on board the routine flight – Captain David Sanders (49), first officer James Tucker (42), and flight engineer Andrew Petersen (39). Auburn Calloway, a 42-year-old flight engineer, is the sole passenger on the flight. FedEx offers free company flights to employees, so Calloway hitches a ride. He boards the plane long before the crew – and he plans to make Flight 705 anything but a routine journey.

Calloway’s FedEx career was on the rocks by 1994. His resume contained several lies regarding both his flying experiences and job roles in the Navy and was subsequently summoned to a disciplinary meeting. Calloway was convinced that the company was singling him out due to his race, and decided to take revenge into his own hands. He knew that after his imminent firing at FedEx his career in aviation was over. Irate, Calloway planned to both humiliate FedEx and cash in on a life insurance policy that would deem his family financially set for life. The policy would award $2.5 million to his beneficiaries – a price that Calloway deemed to be more than his life.

Flight 705 is subject to the usual pre-flight rituals before its departure. Safety checks. Hydraulics. Fuel. All the routine procedures. Flight engineer Petersen notices that the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) is turned off, and, believing it to be his own mistake, switches it back on before take-off. Calloway had switched it off during his early arrival – as the disrupted CVR is a key facet of his plan. He is to murder all the crew members shortly after take-off with a hammer, crash the plane in the wilderness, erase all recorded traces of a struggle, and fool investigators into believing that the hammer blows are actually blunt-force trauma injuries caused by an accidental crash. FedEx would be then forced to pay out the $2.5 million to Calloway’s family – as they, overall, would be responsible.

Calloway’s Attack

Twenty minutes after departure, all four occupants on Flight 705 engage in casual conversation. The CVR on board is recording in 30-minute loops. Calloway, noticing the plane has reached cruising altitude, leaves his seat and attends to the guitar case he brought on board – containing his weapons. In addition to the hammer, there are also a speargun and a knife inside the case which are only to be used as a last resort.

Calloway returns to the cockpit, hammer in hand, and repeatedly bashes Captain Sanders over the head with it. He does the same to first officer Tucker. He then strikes Petersen over the head, severing his temporal artery in the process. Sanders and Tucker both receive fractured skulls instantly. Believing all crew members to be dead, he attempts to remove Sanders’s body from his jumpseat and take control of the plane himself.

But the crew aren’t going anywhere for the time being.

Much to his surprise and chagrin, there is not one fatality on board the flight yet. Shocked, a panicked Calloway leaves the blood-soaked cockpit as the reality of what he has just done hits him harder than a hammer ever could. Calloway contemplates retrieving his ace in the hole, the speargun, to finish the job.

The Flight Fights Back

The three dazed crew members, drenched in blood, awake from their initial blows and begin their counterattack. Petersen leaves the cockpit and is confronted by Calloway, who is wielding his speargun. ”Sit back down or I’ll kill you!” he shouts to a bloody Petersen, who, out of instinct, lunges at the speargun with the little strength he has left in his nervous system. He grabs the barrel of the gun, and the two men proceed to wrestle on the floor of the aisle.

The two men in the cockpit are running out of blood as quickly as they are running out of ideas. Behind a haze of blood and murky consciousness, officer Tucker somehow comes up with an idea that would ultimately save everyone’s life. He pulls the yoke of the plane back, sending it into a steep climb, and forcing Calloway and Petersen into the back of the aisle. The speargun goes flying out of their hands, and the two race for the weapon against the forces of gravity.

Calloway wins the race. After all, he is not injured.

Captain Sanders is in better condition than Petersen – although he, himself, is heavily concussed. Calloway grabs hold of the speargun once more but, again, is met with resistance. However, he still has his hammer on him and strikes the Captain’s head once again. In the cockpit, Tucker calls upon his military experience to perform a series of acrobatic moves with the DC-10. After the initial climb, he then pushes the yoke forward to send the aircraft in a steep and barely controlled dive. However, the right side of his body is quickly becoming useless, so he resorts to flying the plane with one hand. The plane approaches maximum speed as he twists and turns the aircraft until the plane is almost fully inverted.

But the struggle is far from over. Calloway manages to strike Sanders yet again in the head. Petersen is on the floor, bleeding profusely. Somehow, Sanders grabs the hammer from Calloway’s hand and strikes him several times until he stops moving. Now, the ground is approaching quickly in the cockpit window. Tucker is unable to get out of the stall. He realizes that the throttle is still on full power – and he is running out of precious seconds to minimize its output. To make matters worse, the throttle is on his now-useless right-hand side. Using his only good arm, he places the throttle in between his knees and uses his left hand to reduce the power. The wind resistance does just enough to slow the plane down to a point where he could recover from the stall. He then radios Memphis Center in slurred speech and requests an emergency landing – with medical personnel waiting on the tarmac. His request is granted, and the plane begins its journey back.

But Calloway is still alive.

Tucker engages the autopilot and runs to the aid of his fallen co-workers. All three men are, somehow, still alive – despite their serious cerebral injuries. Petersen manages to stand up and retrieves the speargun from the ground. But his grip was far from secure. The weapon slips from his hands and into the claws of the now-conscious Calloway. Once again, he demands control of the plane – or else.

With nothing left to lose, the three crew members charge at Calloway and pin him underneath their bodies. Petersen strikes him again with the hammer, as Tucker returns to the cockpit. The plane is far too heavy and is traveling far too quickly for a safe landing. However, attempting a go-around landing would take precious time that the crew simply doesn’t have. Tucker throws caution to the wind and executes a death-defying landing to finish a death-defying journey. The plane violently lands on a much larger runway – with only 900ft of tarmac ahead of it.

Aftermath

Amazingly, there were no fatalities onboard FedEx Flight 705. Petersen, Tucker, and Sanders were all rushed to hospital in critical condition – where they all recovered. However, the aviation careers of all three were over. The plane received damages of over $800,000.

Calloway was immediately arrested and is still incarcerated in Santa Barbara, California – where his insanity plea was dismissed. He is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

The three crew members were all awarded Gold Medals for their heroism by the Air Line Pilots Association – the highest civilian honor. Despite their commercial careers being over, Tucker resumed recreational flying in 2004, ten years after the incident.

Over 25 years later, the heroism, grit, and never-say-die attitude of the crew of Flight 705 are still harrowing. Their story continues to be a perfect exemplar of courage under fire, and their actions on that fateful day in 1994 will always be remembered.

 

A History of Celebrity Culture, and Why it Needs to Die

The Catholique cimetière in Saint-Loubès, France, is the resting place of Max Linder – the world’s first movie star.

Linder’s on-screen persona was one of a clumsy, bumbling, rich socialite – whose performances were loved by not only the French audience but everyone during the silent-film era. Before World War One, Linder was by far the world’s most popular film-star. His personal life was often speculated in the media, the press followed him whenever he was in public, and his on-screen bourgeoise lifestyle inspired envy in many.

Celebrity culture goes back a long way further, however. The gladiators of the ancient world were celebrities. William Shakespeare was a celebrity. George Washington was a celebrity. John Wilkes Booth was famous even before he shot Abraham Lincoln. There has always been a human obsession with larger-than-life figures. The heroes of the American Revolutionary War were among the first celebrities in the United States, as the country was looking for some early sense of national identity.

After Max Linder, however, a new meaning was brought to the word ‘celebrity’. Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Beethoven were famous due to their renown. Isacc Newtown and Charlies Darwin were controversial scientists, whose findings outraged as many people as they inspired. Military heroes were courageous and were seen as a symbol of national pride. During the early 20th century, fame began to shift from focusing on accolades to focusing on an individual’s life. As mediums like film and radio became widespread, the notion of fame became easy to broadcast.

Now, people themselves were celebrated – not the acts they did. The Golden Age of Hollywood dawned after the Second World War and brought figures such as Robert Mitchum, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, and Marlon Brando to worldwide recognition. Their personal lives were often discussed in the media, legions of fans hung on their every word, and their bank accounts became saturated with millions of dollars. Soon, our idea of the person became famous – not the people themselves or their talents. Talent commanded attention, whereas fame demanded attention.

The images of celebrities have been masterfully crafted by PR agencies and agents. They have become so integral to our culture that we can’t possibly imagine life without them. Celebrities give us both inspiration and escape. For a few hours, we can watch a Die Hard movie and pretend we are as cool as Bruce Willis. We can watch interviews with our favorite stars and wonder if they’re just normal people like us. We can be inspired by their success and adopt their philosophies on life for our own good.

And then there’s the ‘famous for being famous’ type. The Kardashians, Paris Hilton, Logan Paul, Kevin Federline. Each as inane and useless as the last. The social media generation has brought with it new ‘celebrities’ whose only output is posting pictures of them drinking cocktails on a beach – and making millions off the insecurities of their often-young Instagram followers who wish to be in their shoes. These ‘influencers’ make a fortune making a caricature of themselves online, and their seemingly perfect lives are lining their pockets whilst affecting the minds of the young and impressionable. They are neither renowned or talented, and are simply the internet’s answer to the question nobody asked.

The recent pandemic has revealed just out of touch some celebrities are. Whether it be delusional film-stars singing ‘Imagine’ from the comfort of their own mansions, or Madonna talking about how COVID-19 is ”the great equalizer” whilst sitting in a rose-petal bath, the claim that ”we’re all in the same boat” could not be further from the truth – everyday folk are desperately trying to keep afloat, whist celebrities have docked their yachts in the harbour for the time being.

I understand that the rich and famous are an easy target. I understand that for every Logan Paul out there, there is a John Cena, Ryan Reynolds, or Ariana Grande in return – humble celebrities doing the best they can to raise money and help those less fortunate. I understand it’s unfair to compare medical workers to actors because they’re entirely different trades that require entirely different training.

However, now the world is focused on simply getting through the day, we have been awakened to just how useless celebrity culture really is, and how desperate some celebrities are to stay relevant. We are to blame just as much as celebrities are, as we have idolised their lifestyles and have been giving them attention for so long. Don’t you just feel sorry for them?

No.

Pictures of them all alone in their stately homes does not conjure up any sympathy. Front-line workers who don’t get paid enough do. People who have lost loved ones do. For celebrities to say that they are ‘just like us’ is both insulting and darkly hilarious. Even more so when remembering that those with money or stardom find it the easiest to get tested – whilst the most important members of society are most vulnerable.

The public is beginning to wake up and smell the coffee. Nobody cares about Jessica Alba’s live stream of a ‘self-care’ party. Nobody cares about Kim Kardashian or Ellen DeGeneres’s ‘quarantines’. It’s a shame that it’s taken a deadly pandemic to realise this.

Whilst some celebrities are certainly doing their part, at least we can all enjoy facepalming at some stars’ attempts of coming across ‘just like us’.

I think this tweet sums it up better than I could:

Screen Shot 2020-04-28 at 17.21.13

 

 

A Hero’s Story: Dr. Li Wenliang

When the first coughs could be heard emanating from the markets of Wuhan in December, I would be willing to bet most people thought nothing of it.

It’s December- all kinds of coughs, colds, and cases of flu are going around – no need to panic.

However, those coughs would soon progress into a deep, grumbling wail from the lungs – incapacitating its hosts until they were left gasping for air in a hospital bed.

Soon, it became apparent that this was a new, unforeseen enemy – one much worse than a typical cold or flu that circulates every year. The new decade was to start in the hands of a new enemy.

One man who warned us was Dr. Li Wengliang. Just five months ago, blew the whistle on coronavirus – describing it as a SARS-type of illness to his medical students on WhatsApp.

Born in 1986, Li was a diligent and hard-working student at the Wuhan University School of Medicine. His passion for both medicine and altruism was apparent, and his friendly, studious demeanor made him both respected and well-liked. In 2014, he became a practicing ophthalmologist in Wuhan.

It’s harrowing to consider just how different the world was last December. These were the days of unregulated social gatherings, open food markets, free travel, and unlimited visits outside. Wuhan’s wet markets already seem like a relic from a lost world. It was here that Li noticed an influenza-like ailment that was resistant to conventional drugs. When he shared his findings, he was reprimanded by Chinese authorities for spreading ‘false information’ and was subsequently labeled a ‘rumormonger’ by the powers-that-be.

The Chinese government squashed any claim that there was a deadly new pandemic on the way. His WhatsApp conversation was leaked and was subsequently described as nonsense, as the wet markets continued to operate in their usual, unsanitary manner. Cases were now beginning to stack up, deaths were being reported, and Li took the bold action of criticizing his government’s lack of free speech:

I think there should be more than one voice in a healthy society, and I don’t approve of using public power for excessive interference”

On January 8, Li was infected with the virus – despite the best efforts of his peers, he succumbed to the disease on February 7 – he was 33 years old. His death sent shockwaves throughout the country. Criticism of the government was abundant, advocacy for free speech was rife. One user stated “The police that reprimanded Dr. Li and said he was making up rumors… will they apologize to him now?!”. The hashtag #wewantfreedomofspeech circulated rapidly, but all derogatory and critical posts about the government were soon deleted by the censors.

We’re still fighting the enemy that Dr. Li warned us about. If his government had acted sooner on his discovery, perhaps our battle would be easier. It’s impossible to speculate – but Li’s abrasive and honest manner, even in the face of government adversity, should not be overlooked – not now, not ever,

It’s a new decade – we have a new enemy – and we all need new heroes. Dr. Li was the first of these heroes. His courage and determination to his craft are truly exceptional.

Whilst we all hope this virus will eventually be eliminated, the life of Dr. Li Wenliang must be celebrated and remembered forever.

There’s No Such Thing as Society: The Summer of 1989

Perhaps no other decade has shaped our current lives in Britain as much as the 1980s. It was the era where the United Kingdom truly became divided – those living in London led completely different lives to those living in Yorkshire. Young men fresh out of university were scarcely seen without their mobile phones and briefcases in the capital, whereas those in the North were devastated by Margaret Thatcher’s ramshackle policies of deindustrialisation.

This imaginary line separating the country represented two polarising experiences for young people in Britain: one end was flush with cash, – the other was worse-off than they had ever been before. Britain had triumphed individual prosperity above all other principles, and one young man’s golden age was another’s worst nightmare.

There just wasn’t much to do in large parts of the country. Many people were out of work and out of money – and feeling of boredom festered itself deep within the minds of young people. Needing release, those with nothing but time on their hands needed catharsis.FDGB-Pokal, Leipzig - Schwerin, Ausschreitungen

Football hooliganism served as an outlet for many. After all, the country was strongly divided politically, and the fighting gave many an avenue to express their anger towards society. In 1985, English teams were banned from European competition after an incident at Heysel Stadium where 39 Juventus fans were killed during a riot. The government was powerless containing the fights – and no amount of security personnel or government legislation seemed to have any effect. The decade would be dominated by the degeneracy of the national sport – fights were seemingly happening every week. Hooligan firms such as West Ham’s Inner City Firm and Hibernian’s Capital City Service were at their zenith, and football would not clean up its image until well into the next decade.

Whilst the football world was busy knocking each others’ teeth out – the pop music landscape of the time told a much different story. Jason Donovan was the biggest selling artist of 1989, selling out concerts in a heartbeat to his screaming teenage fans. He had the machine behind him, as he perfectly captured the family image, and his sanitized, non-threatening discography made him a favorite of corporate record labels. Kylie Minogue was another favorite – and the two starred in the sitcom Neighbours which was pulling in millions of viewers a week.

smash1989

Underground, however, there was a secret new scene brewing. This scene was unknown to the record charts – and was, at the time, the nation’s best-kept secret. House music had arrived from Chicago some years before and had acquired a substantial following. At 120 beats-per-minute, it served as perfect dance material- especially when Ecstasy was taken along with it. Like the psychedelic rock and LSD from twenty years before, the music (and drug) had captured the imaginations of young people – call it Mandy, Molly, MDMA, Vitamin E,  X or any other name, the effects of the drug were universally appreciated. For a few, lip-biting, eye-rolling hours, the music seemed to come alive – it didn’t matter whether you were a Chelsea fan or an Arsenal fan, or a Tory voter or a Labour voter, the experience of Ecstasy was always one that built itself and unity and acceptance. Much like their once-Hippie parents, young people were founding a musical and chemical revolution. By the summer of 1989, a new, unprecedented movement was underway right under the nation’s feet.

The Second Summer of Love

The flowers at the Chelsea Flower Show wilted in the heat. A perpetual blue sky reigned over the United Kingdom, upon which shone a bright, beaming sun. It was one of the warmest summers on record – kicked off by the hottest May in 300 years. There was a new, unseen phenomenon taking place behind the glossy facade of British music, attracting with it an army of sweat-drenched, saucer-eyed enthusiasts. Behind a dazzling and maniacal light show laid the next big thing – Acid House.

The world around it was changing. Millions of people in Eastern Europe had begun peacefully protesting the perils of Communism, those in Germany were campaigning to have the Berlin Wall knocked down – and the Eastern Block was beginning to embrace a new democratic way of life. Britain was undergoing its own paradigm shift, and Thatcher’s oppressive, polarising government provided the perfect soil for this new movement to fester in. Directionless, bored young people now had a purpose – and for the first time in their lives, they felt like they belonged somewhere. This was a new, peaceful movement – scored by a new and unfamiliar soundtrack.

”Coming home at noon with a tie-dyed top on, dripping with sweat, or walking into a petrol station in bare feet, you really did feel like an outsider.”

All-night events were absolutely not allowed in the UK, so the gatherings, or raves, were being held in clandestine locations – often empty airport hangars or free fields. Many ravers simply got in their cars and followed the music. The mania of Acid House seemed to spread like a cold, infecting anyone who came into contact with it and converting them into followers of the new movement. Ecstasy and dancing were the bread and wine – and the drug reached astounding levels of popularity. The usually rowdy football hooligans dropped their respective issues and began embracing each other. As one Acid House follower said, ”MDMA did more for multiculturalism than anything the government has ever done.” Thatcher’s children had now grown up, and their imprint on society was beginning to be felt.

tdy_news_keir_tiananmen_190604_1920x1080.focal-760x428

It’s images like this that proved the world was changing – for the better. People around the globe were standing up against the governments that had kept them down for so long. The pendulum was beginning to swing in favour of the everyday citizen, and it was against this backdrop of societal change that the Acid House movement exploded.

By mid-summer, illegal raves were popping up across the country. A game of cat-and-mouse was underway between police and rave promoters – decoy locations were given out to mislead the police, and promoters would hold their venues elsewhere. Decoy vehicles were sent out with the sole purpose of getting pulled over, whilst the actual van containing the Soundsystems and lighting setups drove past the distracted. Police were getting infuriated as they were being outsmarted by (the often very young) promoters every weekend. The recently opened M25 motorway served as the perfect highway for ravers, much to Thatcher’s chagrin. She had proclaimed that the motorway would be “a road of which we can all be proud” – and couldn’t have imagined that it would instead be synonymous with illegal raves. It seemed like the authorities were being defeated at every corner in their fight to suppress the spread of Acid House. Resistance was futile – Acid House, for a while, seemed unstoppable. Thousands of young people were invading rural England and turning in to their own party utopia every weekend – and there was not a damn thing anybody could do about it.

acid-house-party

Well, almost anybody. Undercover journalists attended one Berkshire rave – and let the cat out of the bag for the whole public to see. Conservative England went ballistic at the discovery – saying that the Acid House movement undermined everything the Prime Minister stood for. Soon, every tabloid in the country was reporting on the story. Britain’s new moral panic had been identified, and the police started to crack down on illegal raves with extreme force.

The Summer of 1989 was beginning its comedown. It had already passed its dizzying peak – and, now the public was aware, it had only one direction to go in. The last true hurrah came with the Longwick Festival on the 12th of August, which attracted over 200,000 people and is considered by many who went to it as the best party of all time.

If the summer of 1989 had ended then and there, then things would have been perfect. This ‘moral panic’ had not caused any deaths, vandalism or any other kind of societal harm. The summer had to end eventually, despite how much its participants wished it didn’t. However, the Second Summer of Love was in for a cruel twist of fate before its final curtain.

Just one week after the triumph at Longwick, a collision between two vessels on the Thames killed 51 young people. Although not connected directly to the rave scene, the diaster served as the rainstorm that extinguished the raging inferno of the summer. Perhaps young people weren’t invincible, and the Marchioness disaster served as a brutal reality check for many. Autumn was on its way, and as the Rave scene grew, the morality of its promoters regressed. Soon, nefarious promoters had jumped on the Acid House bandwagon, and had hijacked it for their own personal gain.

The grey skies of September had set in – and the once-buzzing fields of England lay empty once again. Although the Second Summer of Love was over and had ended in tragedy, the legacy of those few months left a lasting impression on the country. The attitude of a generation had shifted from selfishness and apathy into a much more open and accepting one. City centres that were previously deserted in the wee hours soon adapted late-night trade – and, furthermore, Acid House dominated the charts at the end of 1989. Black Box’s Ride on Time became the biggest-selling single of the year, signaling the new change in tastes of the country.

‘People who worked in dead-end jobs and hated their lives, it opened them up: ‘I don’t have to live my life this way’. People who wanted to do something creative but didn’t know anyone that did that, it opened up a space for them to do something different. In that sense, it changed a lot of lives.” – JD Twitch 

The Berlin Wall came crashing down in November, signaling the end of a year in which both politics and society had changed entirely. The beginning of the summer saw the first cracks appearing in society, and by the year’s end, the world had turned on its axis completely.

Whilst the Second Summer of Love is well-over, its legacy continues to shine down on society and warm the hearts of all who were involved in it.

 

The quotes in this article were taken from here – https://mixmag.net/feature/summer-of-love-cover-feature – 

Edit – This post does not advocate or glorify drug-taking and is only presenting them in a historical context. 

Off the Face of The Earth: 3 Unsolved Disappearances You Might Have Missed

This post is dedicated to both the individuals involved and the family and friends of those affected.

I write this post, and all the other unsolved mystery posts, out of respect for the individuals, and to shed some light on the cases – most of which have been dormant for some time.

We all hope these people are found soon, alive and well.

1) Michael Negrete

negrete

Somehow, time has not afforded Michael Negrete with the same level of publicity compared to others who disappeared around his age.

Perhaps this is due to the lack of evidence, clues or suspects in his case.

December 10, 2019, marked twenty years since he went missing – and the case is just as mysterious as it was back then. No new leads have been reported since the summer of 2000, and the case lies as cold as the December night that he went missing. 

Background and Disappearance 

Michael was a student at UCLA in his freshman year. A popular and well-liked student, Michael was a talented musician who played steel drums. On the last day of term before Christmas break, Michael celebrated by going to a gathering on his campus, Dykstra Hall. Once there, he partook in some moderate drinking and socialized with his peers until the early hours.

Once he returned to his room, he took part in an online video game against other players who were also in the same building, albeit in different rooms. The game lasted until around 4am – after which Negrete shut down his computer, and left his room to congratulate his other players. This was the last sighting of him, as his roommate awoke the next morning to find Negrete gone. All of his possessions, including his wallet and keys, were left in his dorm room.

Police dogs tracked his sent to a bus stop near Sunset Boulevard, but the trail stopped there. Police also found this unreliable as the canines seemed to be following a pattern that would have been rather confusing and disorienting to walk. Those who partied with Negrete were questioned, but no leads came out of the investigation.

However, the following July, one witness came forward to say they had seen a man in Dykstra Hall at around 4:35 A.M. on December 10. He was allegedly wearing a silver jacket with a turquoise design and seemed to be in his mid-30s. Nobody could account for this man – and despite a police sketch, he has never been identified.

suspect

Whether or not the man seen in this sketch was involved remains a mystery, but police consider him at least a possible witness. Authorities are investigating the case of Michael Negrete as a homicide.

Negrete remains missing today – and no trace of him has ever been uncovered.

2) Jason Jolkowski

jasonjolk

19-year old Jason Jolkowski was a shy, reserved young man. He had few friends and worked at a fast-food outlet (Fazoli’s) in Omaha, Nebraska.

On the afternoon of June 13, 2001, Jason called his workplace and stayed he was running late due to his car being at the mechanics. A friend of his was giving him a ride to work – and Jason agreed to be picked up outside his former high school, Omaha Benson High.

Jason never showed. The last sighting of him was at 10:45am when a neighbour spotted Jason taking the garbage out. Surveillance cameras from Omaha Benson High School were checked, but none recorded Jason on the premises.

Somehow, Jason vanished in broad daylight between his home and his former school, which was only a short walk away. There were no witnesses, no suspects, and nothing unusual was reported. Some speculate Jason was the victim of a hit and run, but this is unlikely as Jason was 6ft tall, and his body would not have been moved easily – let alone with nobody spotting the incident in the bright sunlight.

Jason remains missing almost twenty years later. The lack of a single clue in the investigation has rendered his case near-unsolvable.

3) The Sodder Children 

 

sodderfamily

Jennie, Martha, Maurice, Betty, and Louis Sodder

On the evening of December 24, 1945, a massive fire broke out at the Sodder residence in Fayetville, West Virginia.

The home was owned by parents George and Jennie – and nine of their ten children lived in the large home with them. The oldest son was away fighting the last embers of World War Two.

George Sodder had made some disparaging remarks about fallen leader Mussolini to a life insurance salesman in the weeks leading up to the fire. He threatened Sodder by saying his house would go up in smoke if he continued to make such comments, and that his children would suffer greatly. Furthermore, several of the children reported seeing a strange vehicle on the street, whose occupants watched the younger children walking home from school.

The fire broke out after Jennie Sodder heard a loud bang coming from the roof, followed by a rolling sound. Thinking nothing of it, she returned to sleep – but was awoken again after smelling smoke.

Four of the children, and both parents, scrambled to the outside – whereas five of the children remained in the house. The phone lines were out of action, and a passing motorist spotted the inferno and tried to reach aid by calling from a local bar. However, the phone line didn’t work there either. The ladder that usually rested against the Sodder home was nowhere to be found, a large water barrel that could have contained the blaze was frozen rock solid. Furthermore, George Sodder’s truck would not start – he hoped to park it near the fire, and then climb on top of it to reach an upstairs window. The truck had been fully operational in the preceding hours.

When the fire department eventually arrived, they were too late to save the house. However, no trace of the five children who were inside could be found. The fire was nowhere near intense enough to cremate all of the remains – so a large amount of evidence should have been left behind.

The missing ladder was found around 75 feet away from the house. It was later discovered that the phone lines had been sabotaged with by someone, rather than being cut off due to the blaze. This man was identified and arrested, but he denied starting the fire. Bizarrely, the police let him go after his denial. His identity has been lost to time – and the perpetrator was never positively identified.

Sightings of the children were reported the next morning. One was in a vehicle near the house at the time of the fire, and another person believed he had seen the children in a diner on Christmas morning with an unknown male whose car had Florida license plates. However, the fate of the Sodder children remains a mystery.

In 1967, twenty-two years later, the Sodder family received a mysterious letter in the mail. It came from Kentucky, but an exact return address was not present. The letter read:

Louis Sodder

I love brother Frankie

Ilil boys

A90132 or 35

Attached was this photograph – picturing a young man whose features are very similar to Louis Sodder, albeit several years older – as he would have been.

Alleged_1967_photograph_of_Louis_Sodder

I’ll let you decide on the identity of this man.

As is the situation with all of the cases here, the Sodder family mystery remains unsolved.

Tuesday’s Gone: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Date with Destiny

”Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars. Oaktree, you’re in my way.”

That Smell is a song that was written after Gary Rossington, guitarist for Lynyrd Skynrd, smashed his Ford Torio into woodland whilst driving under the influence.

It wouldn’t be the last accident involving a member of the band. In fact, it wouldn’t even be the last one of that year.

Street Survivors, the group’s latest offering, had been released on October 17, 1977. It was accompanied by yet another tour – one which had them cruising up and down America’s highways and beyond. In January, they had been to Asia for the first time – playing shows in both Tokyo and Osaka. This was followed by shows in England, rocking Manchester, Newcastle, Portsmouth, Liverpool, and Bristol. They were no strangers to long, winding tours – the one for their first album was hectic, the one for Gimme Back My Bullets was extensive, and Second Helping’s tour was excruciating. Skynyrd were seasoned veterans on the road and had been since their youths. These tours, to them, rolled like whiskey off a duck’s back.

 

 

stsurvivors

(The original Street Survivors album cover)

Their success was abundant at this point. Formed in 1964 during the group’s high school days, Lynyrd Skynyrd spent seven years perfecting their craft, practicing twelve hours a day without fail. Their beginnings were as humble as their Southern backgrounds, playing every dive bar in the Florida area – often for a pittance. By 1969, they were known as The One Percent – playing Rolling Stones covers in front of their heckling, drunken crowds. After one too many ”1% talent” barbs courtesy of the audience, the name was quickly abandoned. Inspiration was found due to a strict P.E. teacher’s dislike for the long hair which they all sported. This man’s name was Leonard Skinner – and the name stuck after they playfully altered the spelling. By 1971, Lynyrd Skynyrd were becoming the top band in Florida – their first album was in the works, and they had landed a prestigious gig opening for The Who – an outfit whose reputation as the world’s greatest live band was about to be challenged.

These humble roots seemed a distant memory by 1977. The local dive bars had been switched out with massive stadiums, those drunken hecklers in the crowd had been replaced with legions of screaming, die-hard fans. Those Rolling Stones covers had evolved into anthems of their own. Free Bird was always the climax of their concerts, and a sea of concert-goers lifting up their flaming lighters had become one of the most famous sights in rock. Millions of dollars flooded the bank accounts of the band members – and a small cost of that fortune went on a private jet. Not only would it make the band’s relentless touring easier, it also meant that the group could fly again. They were blacklisted from most private airlines after several incidents of misbehavior, one of which included trying to launch a roadie out of the plane from several thousand feet. The introduction of their own set of wings meant Skynyrd could once again be rambunctious in the skies.

Rossington’s car accident was hardly laughed off by the group. For leader Ronnie Van Zant the incident was more than a drunken mishap. ”“I had a creepy feeling things were going against us” he stated, ”so I thought I’d write a morbid song”. Indeed, Van Zant had an unshakeable feeling that the auto-smash was only a starter of what was to come.

Ronnie was no stranger to dark thoughts. His status as the leader of one of the world’s most popular rock acts was beginning to take its toll. Like many rockstars, he despised the constant traveling – and had begun drinking heavily to calm his ever-growing list of anxieties. However, the thousands of miles that Lynyrd Skynyrd covered during their arduous tours couldn’t distance himself from one nagging, omnipresent thought – Van Zant was convinced he wouldn’t live to see 30, often telling band members of his mortality. By the time Street Survivors was released, he was 90 days away from his next birthday. He was 29 at this point.

Concerts were being relentlessly churned out. Los Angeles. San Diego. Honolulu. The Skynyrd freight train was steamrolling into Asia, then the United Kingdom, and back to the United States again. Their object of transport, designed to make life easier, was older than most band members. The Convair-240 had thousands of miles under its belt and was perhaps a more seasoned veteran to life on the road than all of the band members put together. The plane was a relic by 1977 – creaking and shuddering its way through the North American skies lethargically and dangerously. It had been disowned by Aerosmith the year before after their agents spotted the pilots polishing off a bottle of Jack Daniels during flight. ”It looked like it belonged to the Clampett family’‘, said drummer Artimus Pyle, and by the time the tour for Street Survivors came around, the band were all in agreement the antique aircraft was well past its sell-by date.

Joining them on the tour were new arrivals, siblings Steve and Cassie Gaines. The pair had joined to fortify the group after the departure of guitarist Ed King in 1975. Gaines’s talent was obvious – and Van Zant welcomed his arrival. Sister Cassie joined as a backup singer – her career was new, only being in the business for 18 months. She hated flying – preferring the confines of the tour bus, willing to live with its lack of space and lack of efficiency. After Skynyrd played at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium, she was finally convinced by Van Zant to hop on board the Convair – the journey would be cut in half, and she wouldn’t have to lug all her baggage around. Furthermore, if she flew, they were no stops to be had en route to their next destination, Baton Rogue.

Van Zant was now 87 days away from turning 30. Spirits were high in the Skynrd camp – Street Survivors had already gone platinum, the tour was a huge success, and furthermore, there was only one more journey on the rickety Convair left before the band upgraded their aircraft. A small fire had broken out over one the engines a few days before, and the idea of a shiny new vessel brought much-needed relief to the group. Pilots Walter McCreary and William Gray were at the helm today – and the group nervously walked up to the plane once again after the show in Greenville.

Ronnie had begun referring to himself as the ‘Mississippi Kid’ in the preceding months, despite having no ties to the state whatsoever. He calmly approached the plane, along with the other members, on the afternoon of October 20th. ”I’m not gonna get on it” Rossington said, ”it’s not right”. Cassie Gaines was equally terrified, and an overall sense of impending doom came over the passengers. Van Zant remained oddly stoic, telling Rossington, ”Hey, if the Lord wants you to die on this plane, when it’s your time, it’s your time. Let’s go, man.” Once the aging plane cleared takeoff, passengers let out a collective sigh of relief, and one last party on the Convair soon broke out. Card games, drinking, and practical jokes were all staples of Skynyrd’s touring life, and today was no different – they were going to arrive in Baton Rouge in their usual style.

Van Zant sat out on the sidelines for this party, however. Not only was he hungover, he was also plagued by back pain. He was sprawled out at the front of the cabin. Under normal circumstances, he would be at the back joining in with the hijinks. However, those in the cabin were soon joined by officer McCreary, who had burst open his cockpit door and came running into the cabin, flailing his hands and exclaiming ”We’re out of gas! We’re out of gas!” as the poker chips held by the band members cascaded to the floor, he shouted ‘‘Put your heads between your legs and buckle up tight!”. The Convair had seemingly been on one journey too many and was beginning to tumble out of the sky rapidly.

Both disbelief and anger became rampant in the cabin – before eventually giving way to a sense of hopelessness. The aircraft’s right engine had failed, and it wasn’t long before the left followed. A screeching rush of air was now becoming deafening as the plane entered free-fall, the pilots violently wrestling with the controls in order to force an emergency landing in the nearest field. “Everybody was sitting down kind of praying, real silently” said keyboardist Billy Powell. The landing zone was in sight, an empty field a few hundred feet away was the target. But the Convair was exhausted by this point, succumbing over a dense woodland. Ronnie Van Zant was said to have looked over at Artimus Pyle, grabbed a pillow, and smiled. He knew his time was up – he had been waiting for this moment his whole life.

The plane was bombarded with tree branches. ”There was a sound like someone hitting the outside of the plane with hundreds of baseball bats”, Powell recalled, as the aircraft continued its journey through the woodlands. For twenty long, agonising seconds, the plane mowed its way through a series of bushes and trees, before eventually fragmenting against a giant oak tree. Soon, all that was left was a twisted pile of metal, upon which laid a pile of broken bodies.

Lynyrd Skynyrd had their date with destiny. Both Steve and Cassie Gaines perished, along with both pilots, road manager Dean Kilpatrick, and Ronnie Van Zant, who was killed instantly after colliding with the oak tree. The opening lyrics of That Smell became even more morbid – so too was the fact that the plane had gone down in rural Mississippi. Van Zant had become the Mississippi Kid, as his last breaths on planet Earth were taken there. He was 29 years old.

lynyrd-skynyrd-street-survivors-censored

Street Survivors‘ album cover was altered out of respect after the crash

 

“Ronnie could see the future, always had been able”, said his late father Lacy. Indeed, Ronnie’s fate seemed to be already made. He knew he wasn’t long for his Earth – and as the broken bones of surviving band members healed, the void in the group never was. Lynyrd Skynyrd retired after the plane crash – unwilling to make any future profits on the tragedy that had befallen them. However, a hybrid version of the group exists today – featuring only Rossington as the sole original member. How ironic, seeing it was his accident that set off the band’s tragic events, and whose injuries became a cautionary tale of things to come.

Van Zant, in the end, died a Mississipi kid at the age of 29. His legacy lives on – however, his eery talent of predicting the future remains a disturbing gift.

 

 

Image – Getty Images.

The Disappearance of Andrew Gosden

Andrew Gosden is a young man who got off a train and into obscurity. His case is as frustrating as it is heartwrenching, and his family were on the receiving end of some extremely bad luck.

September, 2007.

14-year-old Andrew Gosden has just returned to school after eight weeks off.  A gifted student at McAuley Catholic High School in Doncaster, Andrew is a member of the Young Gifted and Talented Programme, which aims to advance the development of the top 5% of learners. He is expected to achieve A grades in his GCSE exams, which are two years away.

Gosden is shy, and although he is academically smart, he is clumsy and sometimes naive to the world around him. However, this is to be somewhat expected due to his age – his family are religious, but do not force Andrew to have the same views as them, as they prefer him to think for himself.

By the start of the new school year in September, Andrew chooses to walk home from school instead of getting the usual bus. The 4-mile journey from school takes almost 90 minutes, it is unknown why Andrew makes this decision. His school life is relatively mundane, he is neither a popular student or a bullied one. He rarely speaks of his school life at home and seems indifferent to education as a whole, perhaps the whole thing is too easy for him. He has cruised through school, and perhaps is already thinking of college – as it might perhaps finally challenge him.

September 13, 2007

The Gosden family eats dinner together as usual, and perhaps discuss their respective days at work and school. It is clear Andrew comes from a good family, and has parents who support and care about him. After dinner, Andrew watches the sketch-comedy That Michell and Webb Look with his parents – before retiring to his room, ready for the next day.

Nothing is amiss, and the 14th of September looks like it’ll be another day in the status quo of an English family.

September 14, 2007

Andrew’s father, Kevin, wakes Andrew up for school. Although he is usually up by this time, Andrew seems lethargic and irritable today. At 8:05am, he finally leaves for school, a little later than usual. However, Andrew must have decided the night before that this was not going to be a normal school day.

Instead of waiting for the bus, Andrew heads to Westfield Park. Once there, he waits for several minutes until he is certain everybody in his house has left for work or school. Andrew then walks back home, where is captured on a neighbour’s CCTV system.

gosdencctv1

Family friend Rev. Alan Murray spots Andrew walking back into his house. Perhaps Murray assumes Andrew has just forgotten something. He would be the last person in Andrew’s neighbourhood to see him.

Andrew ditches his school uniform and changes into casual clothes. His schoolwear is placed into the washing machine, and Andrew leaves donning a Slipknot t-shirt, jeans, and a bag decorated with various patches of rock and metal bands. Also with him is his PSP console, and £200 he withdrew from a cashpoint. For one reason or another his PSP charger, and an additional £100, is left in his room.

At 8:30am, Andrew heads to Doncaster Railway Station.

gosdenshirt

Once at the station, he requests a one-way ticket to King’s Cross Station in London. The woman at the desk says that a return could be purchased at a meager cost more, but Andrew declines this offer and sticks to his one-way ticket. He then boards the 9:35 train to London.

Stdoncaster2Doncaster Railway Station

Once he is aboard the train, Andrew remains engrossed in his PSP. The woman sat next to him remembers a quiet, calm young man matching his description – playing the same game’s console and wearing the same clothes. The journey to London is only a few hours, and at 11:40, the train arrives.

He is captured on CCTV several times, getting off the train and arriving at the main concourse. This CCTV image is the last confirmed image of Andrew.

_109431662_07-019198andrewgosdenpress5

It is from this moment that Andrew Gosden would become a missing person. Sadly, this is a status that he still has today.

Investigation

On the evening of September 14th, Andrew was reported missing. His family arrived home and assumed he was in his room playing video games, as this was often the case. However, it soon became clear that Andrew was not at home, nor was he at the home of any of his friends.

Panicked, of course, his family report Andrew missing at 7pm. His neighbourhood is searched top to bottom – bushes, woods, parks, houses are scoured – but no trace of the young man is found. Fliers are handed out everywhere and, soon, Andrew’s face becomes the most well-known in the vicinity.

Little did they know that Andrew is hundreds of miles away, and has been for several hours.

Days pass without a hint of where Andrew has gone, police decide to check Doncaster Railway Station in the belief that Andrew perhaps boarded a train somewhere. It is then that they discover that he had, indeed, got a train – and it was to London. Andrew was no stranger to the capital city, as he had family there, and was enamored with the city. This discovery does not shock the Gosden family – as they are aware of Andrew’s fondness.

Lady Luck Goes Against Them

Since Andrew did not arrive at school, his absence was noted. He had a 100% attendance record, so it was highly unusual for Andrew not to show. His parents were supposed to be informed, but the person making the call misdialed his father’s phone number, and recorded a voicemail that was not delivered to Gosden’s family- instead going to the family either above or below his name in the register.

This wouldn’t be the last of the bad luck. The police investigation was botched from the beginning – the investigation was much too focused on the Gosden family, despite the CCTV footage from both the neighbour and King’s Cross Station proving that Andrew had vanished on his own. The good-natured parents were devastated by the police suggesting that Kevin Gosden was involved somehow. Eventually, he was rightly cleared of involvement.

However, by this time, most of the additional footage Andrew would have been captured in had been overwritten. The CCTV footage was not requested until several weeks later – and the trail was long gone by this point. Andrew disappeared in the most-watched city on Earth, yet this advantage was not seized upon in time. Every street corner, bus, bank, shop, and tube station would have documented Andrew’s movements and subsequent journey in London. However, the King’s Cross footage remains the last confirmed sighting of him.

Theories,  Explanations, and Developments 

We know that Andrew went to London. We also know that he loved the city, and his choice to go there was not out of character for him. What is out of character, however, is him bunking off of school to go there.

Some people speculate that Andrew traveled to London to attend a concert at the O2 Academy in Brixton. Thirty Seconds to Mars were playing there that evening, and Andrew was a fan of similar rock outfits. In addition, SikTH were playing a gig at the Carling Academy in Islington, a short walk from King’s Cross. SikTH were a band who often opened for SlipKnot at concerts, however, it is not certain that Andrew was a fan of these bands, let alone to a point where he would skip school for them. The 2007 YouTube Gathering was also on that day, but it is unlikely that Andrew would have been aware of this as he did not own a computer – and seemingly had little to no interest in YouTube or the Internet as a whole.

Perhaps Andrew traveled to London to meet with someone. It was stated before that he had begun walking home from school rather than getting the bus, and the long walks could have been spent with someone. This would have meant, however, both parties being in London on that day. It is already established that Andrew traveled alone, and neither any of his online or text message activity details him planning the trip with anyone. Some speculate that Andrew appears to be looking for someone in the King’s Cross Footage, but this is purely conjecture. The theory that Andrew was lured to London can’t be discounted, but there is no concrete evidence to prove this.

We all know what it’s like to be a young teenager. We’ve all had ideas and schemes about skipping school for a day and having a Ferris Bueller-Esque adventure in some other town. Perhaps Andrew thought ”screw it, I can afford to miss a day” and spent the night before his disappearance planning his spontaneous adventure, which would explain his lethargic demeanour on the morning he went missing. Sometimes it is easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission – and Andrew’s grandparents lived in London. Grandparents are generally much more accommodating to mischief than parents, so perhaps Andrew felt like his elderly relatives could stick up for him if his father took issue. Andrew could have been on the receiving end of random foul play in London – which is a terrible thought, but one that needs addressing if any of us wish to get closer in uncovering the mystery of his disappearance.

In 2008, a man appeared at the Leominster police station in Herefordshire one evening. This station is located in a business complex and would have required some effort to visit. The man said he had information regarding Andrew, but as it was evening, the reception was not staffed and instead the man spoke to an intercom. Police appealed for his man to come forward, but he was never identified. Several sightings of Andrew were reported, and one of these – in Pizza Hut – was deemed highly credible. This sighting took place on the day of his vanishing, but police (again) didn’t chase this up in time. The woman’s recollection was not as clear as it would have been several weeks earlier.

Recent Developments 

As age-progressed photos, documentaries, posters, and reports of sightings continued to be released, no new evidence has ever come forward directly leading to Andrew. One possible breakthrough came in 2018, however, when a man calling himself Andy Roo appeared in a chat room asking for money. When asked why, he explained he needed to pay his rent. He went on to say he did not own a bank account, and that he had run away from home at age 14 because he ”just felt like it”. ”Roo” was a nickname Andrew had been given by his family, and this information was not released to the public in 2007. Sadly, this individual was never found, and the chatroom conversation remains a mystery.

Alexander Sloley

alexsloley

In July 2008, 16-year-old Alexander ‘Gog’ Sloley vanished from Islington, London. Sloley was on his way to his own birthday party and had been staying at a friend’s house. He was never seen again.

No footage of Sloley was ever found detailing his movements. ”It was like he disappeared off the face of the planet” – one police offer said. Despite the police investigation, nothing was ever found. Sloley’s disappearance had even fewer clues than Gosden’s – and his fate remains unsolved.

Sloley was also a gifted maths student alone in London. His case was less than a year after Andrew vanished, and some theorize that the two cases are related. However, there has been no evidence linking the two young men, and this remains just a theory.

Closing Thoughts

Andrew Gosden’s parents have kept his room just how it was when he vanished. Recently, he became the face of the Find Every Child campaign, and his face can be seen on posters around the UK today. Perhaps Andrew *is* still out there, somehow obtaining a new identity and a new life – perhaps he is walking our streets today. Perhaps he is your reclusive neighbour, or the quiet man sipping coffee in the background of your local cafe, or quiet friend that you vaguely know. I sincerely hope he is, despite the pain his potential lack of correspondence has caused his family.

Of course, there are more tragic fates that young Gosden could have experienced. However, until he is found, we will never know what happened to him.

The Myth of ‘Completeness’

In 1988, a man named William ”Bud” Post III won the Pennsylvania Lottery jackpot. He was awarded a sum of $16.2million (over $35 million today) to the envy of pretty much everybody in the country, and probably the whole Western world altogether.

William was, of course, delighted with this win. His mother had passed away when he was a young boy, and he was sent to an orphanage to end up with god knows who. As a young man, he undertook a variety of jobs – a cook, a painter, a truck driver – each as uninspiring and dead-end as the last.

At the time of his win, Post had less than $3 in his bank account – at 49 years old. He had served time in jail for issuing invalid checks, and his lottery win seemed to be the catharsis of a lifetime of struggle. He had finally made it. All the years of the bullshit he had to endure were worth it – as he had finally been on the receiving end of some good news. At almost 50 years old, his life could finally begin.

lotterysimpsons (Actual odds of winning – 1 in 380,000,000)

Post went apeshit with his spending – he blew $300,000 on gifts and other novelties straight away and even bought a fucking plane despite not knowing how to fly it. Hell, why not? The money was all his and he could do whatever he wanted with it. He had been chewed up and spat out by life for long enough, and it was finally his time to shine.

When we think of stories like William Post’s, there is an understandable feeling of jealousy. Here was a guy who lady luck plucked out of obscurity and handed over a golden throne to. Whilst everybody else was at work, Post woke up one morning, bought a ticket, and was set for life. He was truly was a rags to riches story, minus the part in the middle where the person actually does some work to earn their fortune. It was like the gods had provided him with a cheat code for life – suddenly he was rich behind his wildest dreams – suddenly, he was complete.

Well, he was for a while.

Like most material things in life, the idea of winning the lottery turned out to be better than actually winning it for him. His extreme wealth only brought out the worst in not only himself, but in those few people who were close to him. Shortly after his win, his brother tried to murder him. He was jealous, and hired a hit-man to take out his brother and his wife – the attempt failed. However, one-third of Post’s winnings were given to his girlfriend after she had sued him. Soon, he had racked up so much debt his mansion was repossessed, and he tried to scare off the debt collector by firing a shotgun at him. He also tried to gun down his sixth wife a few years later.

“Everybody dreams of winning money, but nobody realizes the nightmares that come out of the woodwork, or the problems” – he said, before going on to say ””I was much happier when I was broke.”

He died at age 66. For the last few years, he had lived off food stamps and a weekly retainer. Post died a destitute, debt-ridden, shotgun-wielding shell of his former, wealthy self.

We all know that adage ‘money doesn’t buy you happiness’ – that is not a novel concept, and Post’s story isn’t just an example of that old saying. We are all, or have been, Robert Post before – we may have not had his millions, but his story is relevant to almost every human on Earth.

We all are obsessed with not only being happy but being ‘complete’. If you’ve ever seen or read Fight Club – you’ll be aware of the narrator. Hoarding furniture, ornaments, trinkets, and everything else in the Ikea catalogue he can get his hands on, his apartment becomes the microcosmic representation of his pursuit of completeness. When his apartment explodes, he doesn’t just lose his objects, but his sense of identity along with it.

Life is Not Mt. Everest, It’s More Like Mt. Vesuvius 

The tragic mistake both William Post and the narrator in Fight Club made is their idea that that completeness is akin to climbing a mountain, with a visible start, visible steps, and a visible climax.

Post thought he had ascended to life’s summit after his lottery win, yet he was not aware that a multi-million-dollar bank account meant dealing with multi-million-dollar problems. The unnamed narrator believed that he was just one carpet rug away from clawing to the summit of his life’s work.

Neither happened.

That’s because life is not a mountain and completeness doesn’t greet its climber after their journey to the top. Life is more like Mt. Vesuvius, as it can (and will) fuck you for no rhyme or reason and at a moment’s notice. Cheerful, right?

 

pompeiiguy Just one wank away from completeness…

 

Life doesn’t care if you’re complete or not, it just does its thing. It doesn’t care if you have an imported Japanese coffee table or an antique Aztec rug – because these things are meaningless, fleeting, arbitrary concepts. Life will devour these things in a pool of hot, flaming lava if it wants to, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

Well, That’s Depressing – So How Do I Feel Complete? 

Going back to our old friend Mt Vesuvius, who decimated an entire civilization in 79AD (that rascal!) – one thing we do learn is how much life can change, for better or worse, in an instant. William Posts ‘Vesuvius’ moment was him winning the lottery. His life changed in a flash, but it ultimately ruined him, and his mega wealth started a chain of events that eventually fucked his life up beyond repair.

However, once we let go of this need for ‘completion’, we can start to let life do its thing. You aren’t a job, a house, a car, or a six-pack away from completion. Life is fundamentally an unfinished project – it is Mount Vesuvius deciding it wants to erupt. It doesn’t care what’s underneath, you just better be ready when it does.

I could do a whole separate post about the perils of the self-help industry, and how it markets ‘buy this book and you’ll be complete’ – when in reality, it wants the exact opposite of that. The self-help industry’s worst nightmare is a world full of actualized people, as nobody would want their books or products anymore. It markets the notion of ”completeness’ and makes up problems you didn’t even know you had in order for you to spend your money.

The whole notion of ‘completeness’ is one of the most enduring, frustrating, and profitable myths…

In the words of Fight Club director David Fincher…

”A work is never completed, but merely abandoned. A work of art is never completed, only abandoned. Books are never finished—they are merely abandoned. Films are never completed, they are only abandoned.”

Life, and people, are never completed. They are, and always will be, unfinished.

So let go of this need and wait for the volcano to do its thing. It may end up being a good thing.

 

Lies, Lies, and More Lies: The Disappearance of Zebb Quinn

.

It’s been 20 years since 18-year old Zebb Quinn vanished from Asheville, North Carolina.

Zebb’s case is notable for the bizarre nature of his disappearance – and the vague clues that were left behind, which ultimately left the public with more way more questions than answers. Furthermore, the turns that the investigation took led investigators down a rabbit-hole in which they, along with amateur sleuths, still find themselves today.

Background

Quinn was a reserved, shy young man. A member of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, he was well known for his disciplined and studious demeanor. When he wasn’t with the ROTC, he supplemented his income by working at the local Walmart.

Quinn’s old Mazda was aging by January 2000, and Zebb wanted to save up for a new car – perhaps to celebrate the new millennium in style. He had heard about a Mitsubishi Eclipse for sale in nearby Leicester – so he agreed to a friend’s offer to go and check out the car after work one night – on January 2nd.

That friend was Robert Jason Owens. The two young men worked together (Owens had two jobs at the time) and hung out together out of hours. We all know how dull a Sunday night in January can be – so in order to kill some time, the two left for Leicester after work – with Quinn in his vehicle and Owens in his. The two were captured on CCTV at a nearby gas station some 15 minutes later, at 9.15pm. The pair purchased soft drinks on the brief detour, before continuing on with their journey.

6-Zebb-Quinn-CCTV-Footage

The two continued driving until Quinn flashed his headlights at Owens, signaling him to pull over. The two were pulled over and Owens asked Quinn what was wrong – and Quinn informed him that he had just got a message on his pager and had to return to the gas station to make a brief phone call. Owens agreed to wait where he was, and Quinn said he’d return shortly.

Less than 20 minutes later, Quinn returned – but seemed nervous. He did not share the details of the call – and did not reveal what his earlier page had said. Owens said he seemed ‘frantic’ and nervously sped off into the night, colliding with Owens’s car in the process of his getaway. This was the last confirmed sighting of Zebb Quinn.

Aftermath 

As Quinn did not return home after work, his mother called the police. It was unusual for Quinn to be out all night, let alone without informing his mother of his whereabouts. A missing person’s report was immediately filed – as Quinn suddenly taking off without a word was so out-of-character. The next day, the Walmart branch in which he worked received a phone call – Zebb was on the line. He said that he could not make it into work as he had developed a fever, and apologized for his absence. However, the woman on the other end, who had known Quinn for a while, immediately noticed that the voice on the call did not belong to him. After calling the number back, she was transferred to a Volvo dealership – the other workplace of Robert Jason Owens.

The police, of course, questioned Owens about the impersonated phone call. He admitted to making it but stated that he only had done so as Quinn had told him to. The authorities questioned why Quinn didn’t just call himself – to which Owens bizarrely responded by saying that his suspicious actions were due to a concussion he had received in a second car accident he had been involved in on the night that Quinn vanished. Police discovered that Owens had admitted himself into the hospital on the night of January 2 with broken ribs and a concussion. However, the damage on his car was not consistent with this, and the only damage it had received was when Quinn rear-ended him on his getaway. Owens had also failed to file an accident report, and no other witnesses could corroborate his claim of an accident on the road.

Misty Taylor Enters the Picture

After the police did some digging into Quinn’s personal life, they quickly discovered Misty Taylor. Quinn was infatuated with Taylor, and the two were involved in a secret relationship. Taylor had a boyfriend – Wesley Smith, who she’d also recently had a baby with. Smith was an abusive and domineering partner, so Taylor kept her secret affair with Quinn under wraps to avoid any conflict. However, Smith found out about the couple eventually and had threatened Quinn severely before he went missing. However, no evidence pointed towards Smith being involved in Quinn’s disappearance, and police dropped him as a suspect. Several weeks had now gone by, and authorities were no closer to uncovering any answers.

They did, however, trace the origin of the page that caused Quinn to act so nervously on January 2nd. The message had come from the home of Quinn’s paternal aunt, Ina Ulstich. The two were not close by any means and rarely spoke to each other. Ulstich’s home was visited by the police, but she denied sending the page. In fact, she had a strong alibi – she was having dinner with friends on January 2nd at another home. Police asked her who was present, to which Ulstich replied that she was with Misty Taylor and Wesley Smith (for some reason) along with Misty’s mother, Tamra Taylor. Furthermore, Ulstich claimed her home had been broken in to on the evening of January 2nd. She said although nothing was stolen, picture frames and other household items had been moved around.

At this point, it is obvious that the case is highly confusing. Owens checks in to the hospital on January 2nd after a phantom car accident, although he is sporting legitimate injuries, he fails to report the accident or tell anyone about it until questioned. He also phoned Quinn’s workplace badly impersonating him but said he had only done so because Quinn told him to. Quinn’s page message came from his aunt’s house, but she claimed she wasn’t at home – and was with people very familiar to Quinn despite not being close with him at all. Furthermore, her house was definitely burgled, but the thieves didn’t steal anything and instead re-arranged her living room. Somewhere in this confusing mess, there are several lies. I had a hard time keeping this as easy-to-follow as possible, and yet the case is only going to get more confusing from here.

The Mystery of Quinn’s Car

Four days after Zebb Quinn vanished, his car was discovered in the car park of a barbeque restaurant, adjacent to the hospital where Quinn’s mother worked. The car had been defaced with the drawing of a pair of lips and an exclamation mark. Inside the car was a live puppy, a keycard from an unknown hotel, a jacket that didn’t belong to Quinn, and empty soda bottles. The headlights were on and it seemed that someone shorter than Quinn had parked it due to the position of the seat.

zebb quinn car

The puppy was unharmed and later adopted by a police officer. The symbolism of the animal is unknown but it is believed that the car was left in a state as conspicuous as possible in order to ensure its discovery, preferably by Quinn’s mother, as her workplace (Mission General Hospital) was mere yards from the car park.

A couple came forward to say that they had seen this car being driven in downtown Asheville, near the hospital, shortly before its discovery. From their testimony, a composite sketch was created.

mistytaylor

This abomination of a sketch bore a strong resemblance to Misty Taylor, who had allegedly severed contact with Quinn the week before he went missing. Despite this sketch, no concrete evidence against Taylor, Owens, or any other party could be found.

The Zebb Quinn case was beginning to go cold. Despite the obvious lying by the people involved, there was neither a strong motive, suspect, or body to attach the case to. ”In the back of my mind, there is still that little bit of hope”, Quinn’s mother said in a TV interview. No new pieces of evidence were being discovered – and it took yet another bizarre instance for the case to get the shot in the arm it needed.

Cristie Schoen and J.T. Codd

In March 2015, Food Network Star contestant Cristie Schoen and her husband, J.T. Codd, went missing. Their families called police after the couple, expecting their first child, stopped responded to phone calls and had not been seen in public for a little while. They were last seen on March 15, and their absence immediately alerted those close to them. The next day, a man phoned the police with a tip saying he had seen a man carrying two large garbage bags to be disposed of outside, in the area the couple was last seen. The police quickly found the identity of the man – and his name was Robert Jason Owens.  His property was searched and the couple’s remains were found in a woodstove. Owens was arrested and admitted to the killings – saying that he had accidentally run over the couple after they helped him with his stalled car, before disposing of the bodies to avoid charges. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison without parole.

The Quinn Case Today

Owens’s property was again searched by detectives after his 2015 arrest. They discovered that he had created a pond in his garden some years ago, and underneath it were fragments of leather, fabric, and an unknown hard substance that had been pulverized. Police did not confirm if these were human remains. However, in July 2017, Quinn was formally charged with the murder of Zebb Quinn, and he currently awaits trial in prison.

Ultimately, there are still several mysteries about the night of January 2nd, 2000. Were Misty Taylor and her boyfriend involved? Why did Owens have rib and head injuries shortly after Quinn went missing? Were these injuries caused by Quinn fighting back? What message did Quinn receive on his pager that caused him to speed off into the night? In fact, did any of this happen at all? We have only the testimony of Owens to go on, and he’s hardly a trustworthy man.

The case of Zebb Quinn may well be solved with Owens’s arrest, but the bizarre nature of his disappearance will perhaps always go unknown. It has been over twenty years now, and we’re still as perplexed as ever.