Friday, August 14, 2015

Light, Camera... Horrorible

It is one of the peculiarities of human nature. We are all inspired and delighted by beauty and nobility but we are also inexplicitly drawn to the bizarre, the ugly... the worst possible aspect of human nature. 

We can't seem to turn our eyes away from the wild animal that's been inadvertently killed by a car... It's hard not to stare at the family huddled outside their burned-out home.

Worse, we find ourselves peculiarly fascinated by people who, willingly or unwillingly, find themselves frequently involved in such inhuman horrors... Or, most amazingly, are regular instigators of such acts... People like Hermann Webster Mudgett of Gilmanton.

If you've never heard the incredible tale of Mr. Mudgett, allow us to quote from our latest book, Legendary Locals of New Hampshire's Lakes Region. (It's available at local bookstores and online at the attached link.)

 The Mudgett homestead still 
stands at Gilmanton Corners.

Gilmanton’s Shameful Son. When Herman Webster Mudgett was growing up in a simple house in Gilmanton, town residents saw no sign of the man he would become. He appeared normal in every way, attending Gilmanton Academy and even studying medicine for a while.
But, under the alias Dr. H. H. Holmes, Mudgett became known as one of America’s first serial killer. He worked out of a building he had constructed in Chicago around the time of the 1893 World’s Fair (aka Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition), where he reportedly tortured and killed dozens of people, many transients who came to the city for the event.
Mudgett once said he killed 27 people but the pathological liar confessed and recanted his testimony numerous times, never revealing a reliable total. Police officials said they could not accurately estimate how many had died at his hands but some guesses were in the hundreds.
Mudgett’s capture, trial and execution in Philadelphia were front-page national news in the last years of the 19th century, distressing his Lakes Region family. Local townspeople huddled around the Mudgetts, supporting them during the difficult times.
Several books have been written about Mudgett and rumors of a movie based on his life have persisted for years. So far no one has been able to explain the reason for his unnatural behavior.

Now, we're hearing from our friends in Hollywood - of which we have, none - that the terrible tale of Herman Mudgets - or Dr. Holmes - may finally be told ion the screen. The story would be based on one of the most popular of the several books that have been written about Mudgett entitled The Devil in a White City: Murder, Magic and Madness At a Fair that Changed America; it was written by Erik Larson. Adding to the anticipation, two very talented men are associated with the pro Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scoresese. Read about it here.

Despite that -- knowing what we know about Mudgett/Holmes, we're not sure if we'll plan on seeing the film. Some people "like" horror films - apparently in the same spirit that attracts eyes to the dead animal or the demolished house. But we're not among those... Still, there's a curiosity... 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Laconia's Colonial Theater - Past and Present

If you're in - or in love with - the Lakes Region, you may have already read the news about the planned revival of the old Colonial Theater building on Main Street.

You may want to know a bit about it's past.

Bright Lights. Benjamin Piscopo was born in Italy and immigrated to Boston as a teenager where he made his fortune in real estate. In the early 20th century, he moved to the Lakes Region and invested heavily in the area, building a summer home on Lake Winnisquam and the original “Piscopo Block,” which helped establish Laconia’s Main Street as a commercial thoroughfare. 
The block’s Colonial Theater, which is still standing, was a local landmark and considered “one of the handsomest play-houses to be found in New England,” according to a 1915 newspaper story. Vaudeville performers and motion pictures shared the stage but the playhouse was also used for public meetings, high school graduations, recitals and lectures; it operated primarily as a movie theater for many decades afterwards and there are still people interested in reviving the facility.
Interestingly, Piscopo’s theater manager, Ralph Morris, is credited with inventing the tiny lights now used on Christmas trees. Morris, who had worked previously for the telephone company, said he was inspired to utilize the tiny bulbs that lit up on telephone switchboards as an alternative to candles; previously, it was not uncommon to hear of tragedies when lit candles hanging on trees started house fires.
-- Excerpt from "Legendary Locals of New Hampshire's Lakes Region," new book available at local bookstores and here

Quite A Sport

Not sure why we've been so attracted to writing about sports lately, but here's another addition... The story of how the new Manchester Monarchs hockey team will different from the current, champion Manchester Monarch team.

The story, and a link to my on-air interview, is here. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

(Laconia) Muskrats Love

There's a big difference between the Boston Red Sox and the Laconia Muskrats.

The Red Sox (allegedly) play in the Major Leagues in a relatively large facility called Fenway Park.

The Laconia Muskrats play in the New England Collegiate Baseball League which is  considered one of the best college player leagues in America - on Robbie Mills Field, occupying a harmonious space on top of a hill between Meredith and the City on the Lakes. 

When the sun sets around the sixth inning... 

The Muskrats' league has only been around for about 20 years, but it's already considered one of the best of its kind. Like the famous Cape Cod League, several of its "graduates" have played in the majors, including the Washington National pitching ace Stephen Strasburg and Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow. 

The Muskrats gained some national attention in 2011 after Sox manager Terry Francona resigned from his position. The Muskrats offered Franconia their vacant manager's seat, throwing in the gift of all the free hot dogs he could eat.

Then, last year the team was again in the news after Mariano Rivera, Jr. - the college-aged son of baseballs best reliever ever - came to play for the Muskrats.  We broke the story here and on New Hampshire Public Radio's website, At the time, we hinted that "Moe, Jr." playing in New England was almost like Babe Ruth coming back to the Red Sox at the end of his career. Or Mickey Mantle's son coming to play for a New England college team.

Still, the chances of the younger Rivera making the Big Leagues seemed distant - as it is for most college-aged prospects. Then we saw this story recently written by the New York Times. Looks like the Rivera II is making real progress - and his time here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire is a major reason why.

Read, and enjoy... And, perhaps, dream about a talented young pitcher who already has warm and wonderful memories about his summer in New Hampshire.

NEWS: The latest news is that Mariano Jr. has been drafted by the Washington Nationals - NOT the Red Sox or the Yankees.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Archie's Best Girl? You Bett(y)-cha!

One of the great joys of working on our latest book, Legendary Locals of New Hampshire's Lakes Region, was learning about some of the wonderful people who've contributed to life in the Lakes Region.

One of the best was Bob Montana. Don't recognize the name? How about the creator of Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica? 

Montana, who grew up in Haverhill, Mass. - but finished his high school education in Manchester, NH - was working for a small company when he started doing some short stories featuring a gang of post-World War II teenagers. When the publishers saw a positive reaction, they sent Montana away to Meredith with orders to create a full comic book. (Montana had spent time in the Lakes Region as a kid, and loved the area.)

Montana rented a cabin on Lake Waukewan and came up with a story named "Mirth of a Nation." When it was released, its success boosted the business, which later changed its name to the Archie Comics, into a cultural phenomena.

Now we've learned more about the iconic Archie characters - and especially about his lifelong dilemma of the heart, i.e., "Betty or Veronica". According to a recent story in the Boston Globe, the inspiration for the All-American Betty Cooper was NOT a member of Montana's teenaged gang. Instead, she was a young woman who dated the artist when he was first starting his career in New York City.

Read all about it here. And learn about our new book here.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Insurance Assurance

LATE NEWS: This event has been cancelled.

Do you have problems with your health insurance? 
Is your car insurance too expensive? 
Will your insurance help if an older family member needs continuing care?
Does your company struggle with its group insurance plan year after year?

This Thursday you can share your concerns – and get some answers – when NH Insurance Commissioner Roger A. Sevigny holds a “listening” informational meeting at Inter-Lakes HighSchool in Meredith.

Sevigny and his team will be on hand to answer questions, listen to your concerns and get feedback that could improve things. They want to hear about problems you have with the state’s insurance system, including its rate review process and group plans.

The team will listen to your ideas about how the state can best respond to insurance problems, and how they can make sure everyone who needs to know about changes does know.

The meeting will be held this coming Thursday, May 21, in the Inter-Lakes High School Community Auditorium in Meredith, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The gathering is open to the public so everyone – both individuals and company representatives – is welcomed to attend.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Green Times

This is the time when a young man's - or, to be more honest, an older man's - fancy turns to outside endeavors, including baseball and golf.

It's good to know that the Lakes Region has one of the best golf courses in the Granite State.

WBIN-TV recently posted info about the top five in New Hampshire, and the Owl's Nest in Campton was number three. That's not bad, considering how many courses we have per capita here. 

We've been to Owl's Nest, and it is a great spot - much better than those places with windmills that we usually frequent during the summer season.

BTW, you should check out the WBIN-TV evening news, at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. It's becoming a viable alternative to WMUR-TV, and they're sometimes days ahead of Tom & the gang on stories.

Meanwhile, the Sox are on TV right now...