Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saint Pierre Island: site of the only guillotine execution in north america

The Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a group of small French islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, the main ones being Saint Pierre and Miquelon, south of Newfoundland, Canada. The islands are as close as 25 kilometres (16 mi) from Newfoundland.
The archipelago is the only remnant of the former colonial empire of New France that remains under French control.

"On december 30th, 1888, two fishermen, Louis Ollivier and Auguste Neel, after a night of heavy drinking, decided to go eat dinner at the cabin of Francois Coupard, Louis' fishing boat captain. The cabin, located on l'Ile aux Chiens, across the bay from the harbor of Saint-Pierre, was expected to be vacant. The two arrived to find the door locked. Dismayed they proceeded to kick in a window and, crawling inside, they came nose-to-nose with Coupard, knife-in-hand, ready to defend his property. Neel disarmed the old man, picked up the knife and stabbed him. Ollivier did the same, at the instigation of Neel, who wanted his companion to share the blame for the attack. The two drunken men then got into an argument over whether Coupard was fat or just big. In an effort to find out they mutilated the body, then left it under a sail in the corner of the cabin. They stole whatever they could find then took Coupard's boat to sea in an attempt to reach Newfoundland. The wind and the rough seas threw them back on the coast of Saint-Pierre where they were arrested the next day."

"Their trial was held in February 1889 and resulted in a sentence of death for Neel and ten years Hard Labor for Ollivier. Neel's sentence seemed harsh considering that the murder was not premeditated and not committed for the purpose of robbing Coupard but the horrible mutilation of the body seemed to have weighed heavily on the court. His appeal was rejected and the Governor of the islands made a recommendation of "no clemency" to the President, because it was felt that a rise in criminality on the islands had occurred since a few recent death sentences had been commuted because of a lack of means to carry them out. French law in 1889 not only required that "tout condamne a mort aura la tete tranchee" - every person sentenced to die shall have his head severed - but also that the sentence must be carried out in a public venue near the place where the crime was committed. Despite the inconvenience an example had to be made. The President rejected the clemency and the Governor then requested that Louis Deibler, Executeur des Hautes Oeuvres de la Republique, be sent, with his equipment, to Saint-Pierre to carry out the sentence. This request was turned down (Deibler did not travel outside metropolitan France) but arrangements were made to ship a guillotine from Martinique. The Governor was also told to find a local person to perform the grim task."

"Meanwhile, Neel spent his days in the prison in Saint-Pierre in the care of Sigrist, the warden and his wife. The guillotine arrived on the island on August 22nd 1889 and Neel was executed two days later by a pair of local fishermen, of dubious reputation, who were paid 500 francs and given a pardon on a 3-month petty larceny sentence after the Governor failed to find an executioner among the local tradesmen and the military personnel stationned on the islands. The two headsmen were despised by the islanders for what they had done and everyone refused to accept their "blood money", forcing them to leave the islands before the winter."

"Contrary to widespread reports, the execution was rather uneventful, although the head did remain attached by a thread that the executioner had to sever with a knife. The protocol followed "standard" French procedure, with the awakening before dawn, the mass, a glass of wine and a bowl of tea, the "toilette", a chew instead of the traditional last cigarette, the ride in a carriage to Place de l'Admiral Courbet where soldiers formed a square around the guillotine and most of the population of Saint-Pierre had come to see the event. Neel thanked the Sigrists for their care, told unlookers "Learn this lesson: I killed and now I will be killed, don't do like me" and then said to the executioner "Do not miss" before being basculed."

"Contrary to other reports the guillotine was not an old machine from the French Revolution (I did see the report that stated this, but it was written by someone totally unfamiliar with guillotines) but a rather new Berger machine of 1880-1885 vintage. It was never used again and remains on the island to this day. It was stored in a museum basement for a number of years but is on display since June 2008."

The guillotine is exhibited at Musee de l'Arche, open to the public during the summer months, and is the only place in North America where a real guillotine can be seen. Access to Saint-Pierre is a bit difficult (ferry or small plane from Newfoundland) but well worth a detour if you want to experience a French village in the middle of North America and see "The Guillotine".

*credit due to the author of
Incredible site, worth checking out.

Esao Andrews: From his Jonathan LeVine exhibition

I love his Art!

"Esao Andrews and Xiaoqing Ding"

Separate Lives, A Two Person Exhibition in the Project Room.

Opening reception - Saturday, January 12th, 7pm-9pm

January 12, 2008 through February 9, 2008

NEW YORK, NY (January 2, 2008) — Jonathan LeVine Gallery is pleased to announce Separate Lives, a two-person exhibition featuring works by Esao Andrews and Xiaoqing Ding. Paired together, these two young Brooklyn-based artists will combine their talents to present new paintings and drawings, showcasing each of their distinctly creative voices. This will be the first time Andrews has shown at Jonathan LeVine Gallery. His work, full of dark and whimsical allegory will be put on display in a series of skillfully rendered oil paintings. "Surreal, frightening and humorous all at once, his pieces are windows into a strange and imaginative dream world."


Esao Andrews
grew up in the Arizona desert, and moved to New York in 1996 to complete his BFA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts. After graduating in 2000, he spent the next few years working as a flash animator while painting in his free time. Andrews exhibited his oil paintings in coffee shops and group shows before landing his first major two-person show at Fuse Gallery in New York with John John Jesse in 2003. He has since collaborated with Tara McPherson for a DC Comics project, and has created album artwork for several bands, as well. Esao Andrews has developed a signature cast of dark and surreal characters, blending erotic and sometimes frightening images, in a manner that is often compared with other American artists like Mark Ryden and John Currin.

If you enjoyed these pieces remember to check out Esao's site. Remember to check out the Jonathan LeVine gallery as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Seppuku: ritual suicide

Seppuku, (Sape-puu-kuu) the Japanese formal language term for ritual suicide (Hara-kiri (Har-rah-kee-ree) is the common language term.), was an intregal aspect of feudal Japan (1192-1868). It developed as an intregal part of the code of bushido and the discipline of the samurai warrior class.

Hara-kiri, which literally means "stomach cutting" is a particularly painful method of self-destruction, and prior to the emergence of the samurai as a professional warrior class, was totally foreign to the Japanese.

The early history of Japan reveals quite clearly that the Japanese were far more interested in living the good life than in dying a painful death. It was not until well after the introduction of Buddhism, with its theme of the transitory nature of life and the glory of death, that such a development became possible.

To the samurai, seppuku--whether ordered as punishment or chosen in preference to a dishonorable death at the hands of an enemy--was unquestionable demonstration of their honor, courage, loyalty, and moral character.

When samurai were on the battlefield, they often carried out acts of hara-kiri rapidly and with very little formal preparation. But on the other occasions, particularly when it was ordered by a feudal lord, or the shogun (as was directed of Lord Asano in the Tale of the 47 Ronin. ) , seppuku or hara-kiri was a very formal ceremony, requiring certain etiquette, witnesses and considerable preparation.
Not all Japanese samurai or lords believed in, even though many of them followed the custom. The great Ieyasu Tokugawa, who founded Japan's last great Shogunate dynasty in 1603, eventually issued an edict forbidding hara-kiri to both secondary and primary retainers.
The custom was so deeply entrenched, however, that it continued, and in 1663, at the urging of Lord Nobutsuna Matsudaira of Izu, the shogunate government issued another, stronger edict, prohibiting ritual suicide. This was followed up by very stern punishment for any lord who allowed any of his followers to commit harakiri or seppuku. Still the practice continued throughout the long Tokugawa reign, but it declined considerably as time went by.
Honor for the samurai was dearer than life and in many cases, self destruction was regarded not simply as right, but as the only right course. Disgrace and defeat were atoned by committing hara-kiri or seppuku. Upon the death of a daimyo loyal followers might show their grief and affection for their master by it. Other reasons a samurai committed seppuku were: to show contempt for an enemy; to protest against injustice, as a means to get their lord to reconsider an unwise or unworthy action and as a means to save others.

The ritual for disenbowlment was to be performed calmly and without flinching. If condemned to death, it was held to be a privilege to execute the sentence on one's own body rather than to be a disgrace and die at the hands of the public headsman.

The location of an officially ordered seppuku ceremony was very important. Often the ritual was performed at temple (but not Shinto shrines), in the garden or villas, and inside homes. The size of the area available was also important, as it was prescribed precisely for samurai of high rank.
All the matters relating to the act was carefully prescribed and carried out in the most meticulous manner. The most conspicuous participant, other than the victim, was the kaishaku (kie-shah-kuu), or assistant, who was responsible for cutting off the victim's head after he had sliced his abdomen open. The was generally a close friend or associate of the condemned.

Although suicide is deplored in Japan today, it does not have the sinful overtones that are common in the west. People still kill themselves for failed businesses, involvement in love triangles, or even failing school examinations, death is still consider by many as better than dishonor.

*all credit to the author/s(?)

Seppuku in modern Japan

Seppuku as judicial punishment was officially abolished in 1873, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, but voluntary seppuku did not completely die out. Dozens of people are known to have committed seppuku since then, including some military men who committed suicide in 1895 as a protest against the return of a conquered territory to China[citation needed]; by General Nogi and his wife on the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912; and by numerous soldiers and civilians who chose to die rather than surrender at the end of World War II.

On November 25, 1970, famed author Yukio Mishima and four members of the Tatenokai, under pretext, visited the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp—the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan's Self-Defense Forces. Inside, they barricaded the office and tied the commandant to his chair. With a prepared manifesto and banner listing their demands, Mishima stepped onto the balcony to address the soldiers gathered below. His speech was intended to inspire a coup d'etat restoring the powers of the emperor. He succeeded only in irritating them, however, and was mocked and jeered. He finished his planned speech after a few minutes, returned to the commandant's office and committed seppuku. The customary kaishakunin duty at the end of this ritual had been assigned to Tatenokai member Masakatsu Morita, but Morita was unable to properly perform the task: after several attempts, he allowed another Tatenokai member, Hiroyasu Koga, to behead Mishima.

Another traditional element of the suicide ritual was the composition of jisei (death poems) before their entry into the headquarters. Mishima planned his suicide meticulously for at least a year and no one outside the group of hand-picked Tatenokai members had any indication of what he was planning. His biographer, translator and former friend John Nathan suggests that the coup attempt was only a pretext for the ritual suicide of which Mishima had long dreamed. Mishima made sure his affairs were in order and left money for the legal defence of the three surviving Tatenokai members.

*the most recent documented act of Seppuku was done by Isao Inokuma, gold medal winner for Judo in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. He also authored several prominent books and manuals relating to judo, contributing to the sport's development. He became the CEO of the Tokai company in 1993, but committed suicide in 2001 by means of seppuku, possibly due to the financial losses suffered by his company. He was 63 years old.

Images of old Japan


geisha performing

women on trial.

imitating Seppuku? My next post will be on this subject.

The society of traditional Japan was long held to be a good example of one in which shame is the primary agent of social control. Ancient Greece has also been described as a shame society. The first book to cogently explain the workings of the Japanese society for the Western reader is The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. This book was produced under less than ideal circumstances since it was written during the early years of World War II in an attempt to understand the people who had become such a powerful enemy of the West. Under the conditions of war it was, of course, impossible to do field research in Japan.

Nevertheless, depending on the study of members of that culture who were available for interview and study in the West, namely war prisoners at detention centers, as well as literary and other such records pertaining to cultural features, Ruth Benedict drew what some regard as a clear picture of the basic workings of Japanese society. Her study has been challenged and is not relied upon by anthropologists of Japan today, but one that has stood the test of time as an inspiration and starting point still useful for many purposes.

*If you want to see other photos of old Japan visit this site.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Auguste Rodin: the gates of hell

The Gates of Hell ''La Porte de l'Enfer'' is a monumental sculptural group work by French artist Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from "The Inferno", the first section of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. It stands at 6 m high, 4 m wide and 1 m deep (19.69'H × 13.12'W × 3.29'D) and contains 180 figures. The figures range from 15 cm high up to more than one metre. Several of the figures were also cast independently by Rodin.


The sculptural ensemble was commissioned by the Directorate of Fine Arts in 1880 and was meant to be delivered in 1885. Rodin would continue to work on and off on this project for 37 years, until his death in 1917.
The Directorate asked for an inviting entrance to a planned Decorative Arts Museum with the theme being left to Rodin's selection. Even before this commission, Rodin had developed sketches of some of Dante's characters based on his admiration of Dante's Inferno[citation needed].
The Decoratives Arts Museum was never built. Rodin worked on this project on the ground floor of the Hôtel Biron. Near the end of his life, Rodin donated sculptures, drawings and reproduction rights to the French government. In 1919, two years after his death, The Hôtel Biron became the Musée Rodin housing a cast of The Gates of Hell and related works.

A work of the scope of the Gates of Hell had not been attempted before, but inspiration came from Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise at the Baptistery of St. John, Florence. The 15th century bronze doors depict figures from the Old Testament. Another source of inspiration were medieval cathedrals. Some of those combine both high and low relief.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Franz Kafka: Before The Law

I have read and recommended this short story more times than I can remember. Kafka at his best.

Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in sometime later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” The gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try going inside in spite of my prohibition. But take note. I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I cannot endure even one glimpse of the third.” The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate. There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this first one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. He curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud; later, as he grows old, he only mumbles to himself. He becomes childish and, since in the long years studying the gatekeeper he has also come to know the fleas in his fur collar, he even asks the fleas to help him persuade the gatekeeper. Finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. But he recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. Now he no longer has much time to live. Before his death he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper. He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things considerably to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know now?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.” “Everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?” The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it.”

*"Before the Law" is a parable in the novel The Trial (German Der Prozeß), by Franz Kafka. "Before the Law" was published in Kafka's lifetime, while The Trial was not published until after Kafka's death.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Palmyra Island: mystery, murder and a curse

This is as close to the show "LOST" as you can get!

Palmyra is one of the last uninhabited islands in the Pacific.
Although officially listed as an island, Palmyra is actually an atoll. The difference between an atoll and an island is that an atoll is formed by the growth of coral around the rim of an ancient ocean volcano that has sunk below the surface of the sea over eons of geologic time, giving the classic atoll a circular or horseshoe shape. Hundreds of such atolls dot the massive area that is the Pacific ocean. (Perhaps the most famous of these is Bikini Atoll where the U.S. Navy tested nuclear weapons in the 1950s).

Palmyra island's coordinates are 5 degrees, 52 minutes North, 162 degrees, 6 minutes West, placing it near the very center of the Pacific ocean or about 1000 nautical miles south-southwest of Hawaii in the North Pacific Ocean, or about one-half of the way from Hawaii to American Samoa. The island measures approximately a mile and a half in length by a half mile wide.

Lying six degrees above the equator, [Palmyra consists of] about fifty islets covered with dense vegetation, coconut trees, and balsa-like trees up to 30 meters tall . . . the west lagoon is entered by a channel which will only accommodate vessels drawing 4 meters or less of water; much of the road, the landing strip and many causeways built during [World War II] are unserviceable and overgrown.

On a nautical chart, Palmyra is but a tiny speck in the middle of the mass of blue that represents the Pacific Ocean. The island lies well off of the major shipping lanes for vessels plying the Asian/American run and is geographically perhaps one of the remotest places on earth and one of the last few truly uninhabited islands left in the world. Local fauna consists of mosquitoes and other insects, lizards, land and coconut crabs, a huge bird population, palm and coconut trees and mangrove bushes. The interior is thick jungle. The coral reef and lagoons at Palmyra are also a breeding ground for gray and blacktip reef sharks whose aggressiveness is well known throughout the Pacific. This has been noted by every person who has ever ventured to the island, sometimes with fatal consequences. (Many visitors to the island found that swimming and even wading in the island's lagoons was completely out of the question because of the large shark population and their aggressive nature).

In 1855, a whaling ship was reported wrecked on Palmyra's dangerous reefs, but attempts to locate the ship and its crew turned up nothing.

In 1911, ownership of the island was granted to Judge Henry E. Cooper of Hawaii from a purchase price of $750.00. He eventually sold all but one small islet on Palmyra (Home Island), apparently believing the rumor that priceless Inca artifacts of gold and silver, part of the pirate plunder of the Esperanza, were still buried there under a tree. With the exception of Home Island, possession of the rest of Palmyra eventually fell, in 1922, to the Fullard-Leo family, who in 1940 became embroiled in a legal skirmish with the United States over ownership. The United States wanted jurisdiction of Palmyra assigned to the Department of the Navy in anticipation of World War II in the Pacific.

Although the private-ownership status of Palmyra was eventually resolved in favor of the Fullard-Leo family, the island was still used as a naval air facility during World War II in the Pacific. Palmyra also became a base of operations for air attacks against Japan. As a result, American military relics can be found in abundance there. Old gun emplacements, ammunition and fuel dumps, abandoned war equipment, machine-gun bunkers, underground tunnels and buildings, as well as what is left of the old landing strip, lend a timeless and ghostly feeling to the place.

Primarily, Palmyra functioned as a refueling station during World War II for long-range air patrols and extended submarine missions against Japan in the Pacific. The island itself was attacked only once when, on December 24, 1941, a Japanese submarine surfaced offshore and began shelling the beach and a dredging barge with its deck gun. A five-inch gun battery on the island drove the submarine off.

Hal Horton, a former Navy officer was stationed on Palmyra from 1942 to 1944 and had this to say about the island:

"Once one of our patrol planes went down near the island. We searched and searched but didn't find so much as a bolt or piece of metal. It was weird. Like they'd dropped off the edge of the earth. Another time, a plane took off from the runway, climbed to a couple hundred feet, and turned in the wrong direction. They were supposed to go north and they went south instead. It was broad daylight. We never could figure it out. There were two men aboard that plane. We never saw them again. We had some very bad luck on that island. Old salts in the Pacific called it the Palmyra curse. [The island] . . . is very small. You [could] fly over it at ten thousand feet and not see it if there [were] a few clouds in the sky. Once we heard a plane overhead trying to find us, but he crashed in the drink before he could find the runway. We didn't get to the poor guy fast enough. Sharks found him first."

It seems that many of these experienced and adventurous sailing people ventured to Palmyra expecting to find an island nirvana, but like Fletcher Christian and the mutineers of HMS Bounty who found that life on Pitcairn Island deteriorated into a grim struggle for survival, so perhaps did their romantic notions about Palmyra soon fall apart.

Murder on Palmyra

In 1974, the grisly double murder of a sailing couple that became the subject of the book And the Sea Will Tell took place on Palmyra. The evidence at the subsequent trial for murder showed that Mac and Muff Graham of San Diego, who had ventured to Palmyra for an extended stay of up to a year, were probably killed for their expensive sailboat, the Sea Wind, and the large quantity of food stores it contained. (The murderer was an ex-convict and fugitive named Buck Walker who, along with his girlfriend Stephanie Stearns, had also taken up residence on the island. Walker and Stearns, described by some as "hippie types", had sailed from Hawaii to Palmyra on a small and very poorly outfitted boat. Walker was later tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of the Grahams, while Stearns was acquitted, a verdict that remains controversial to this day).

It was a full six years after the murders that the skeletal remains of Muff Graham were discovered washed ashore on Palmyra by South African sailors Sharon and Robert Jordan during their own extended stay on the island in 1981. Although the Jordans had heard stories from other yachting people about the murders of the Grahams, they had never connected the event to Palmyra atoll until they discovered a stack of old newspaper clippings about the missing couple laid out on a table in a building in the jungle, apparently left behind by someone attracted to the island because of the notoriety of the murders (and who seemingly wanted to let others know about them, too).

Sharon Jordan concerning the murders: "When we arrived at Palmyra we discovered that someone had left a huge pile of newspaper clippings all about the Grahams, their sailboat, their sinister disappearance, etc. The one really strange thing was that I knew with absolute certainty that I would find the remains of at least one of the Grahams. And I did."

Indeed, she did. Days later, while out beach combing, Sharon found a human skull and other bones that had apparently fallen out of a metal box of World War II vintage that had washed up on the beach after a storm. The bones were later determined to have belonged to murder victim Muff Graham. (Sharon Jordan's discovery of Muff Graham's skeletal remains is in itself a long shot at the odds in that Sharon just happened to be walking along that particular stretch of one of the earth's most isolated beaches at what experts later determined was most likely the only time that the bones would ever be exposed. Evidence at the murder trial showed that the next tide would have most certainly washed the bones back out to sea to disappear forever).

The condition of the remains suggested that Muff Graham had been either shot or bludgeoned to death, her body dismembered, and then burned with an acetylene torch. Her body was then placed in a small metal storage container that had been removed from one of the old military rescue boats on the island and then finally dumped into the lagoon. Just what forces actually caused the container with Muff Graham's remains to surface is still a mystery. Vincent Bugliosi, author of And the Sea Will Tell, noted how the average human body, even when confined inside a container, usually floats to the surface in about ten days. Strangely, the container holding Muff Graham's body seems to have stayed submerged for almost seven years. (Sharon Jordan told me that she felt that it was possible that her and Rob Jordan's raising of a submerged boat from the bottom of Palmyras lagoon -- the same boat from which the two missing containers had been lifted -- might have somehow caused a disturbance that allowed the container to break free from the bottom). It is also a mystery as to how the heavy wire that had been wrapped around the lid of the container to hold it shut came loose. Sharon Jordan found the wire lying next to the container still bent in the exact shape of the box that it was once wrapped around. (Mac Graham's remains have never been recovered and are believed to have been hidden in a second missing container, perhaps somewhere on or near the island. That fact that Mac is still missing remains as one of the more enduring mysteries of Palmyra).


Tom Wolfe, a yachtsman who was on Palmyra just before the murders, testified at four different criminal trials in relation to the crime. Just one month prior to the trial, Wolfe had an experience that is either a further bit of testimony from the realm of synchronicity or a part of the strange residual power that affects those who have had contact with Palmyra: one morning, after a brutal storm had hit the coast along his beachfront home located on the Puget Sound in Washington, Wolfe went out for a walk along the shore to see what kind of flotsam the storm may have deposited on the beach. A mere forty feet from his house, he spotted a cylindrical object washed up on some rocks. Uncovering the object, he was astonished to discover that it was a cardboard mailing tube containing three copies of the Palmyra Island detail chart! Recounting this story later to one of the defense attorneys in the trial, Wolfe could only wonder at what strange forces could have caused the Palmyra chart to wash up literally on his doorstep on the eve of his scheduled testimony during a critical stage of the trial. He noted that "finding that damn chart was eerie [and] I'm not the superstitious type, but I'll admit, it really shook me. It was as if Palmyra, the island itself, had reached out and touched me from three thousand miles away." (If not a supernatural occurrence, one would have to wonder what the astronomical odds were of such a thing happening. In my correspondence with Tom, he told me that he still has those charts today, slightly warped with some bits of seaweed clinging to the outer edges).

And the list of strange things that occur in connection with Palmyra keeps growing; like the Sirens of Greek mythology whose sweet singing lured sailors to their deaths on rocky coasts, Palmyra also seems to beckon:

  • In 1977, sailor Amanda Lane and four friends, while sailing to Hawaii from Micronesia, made a stop at Palmyra only to be frightened off the island after just a single night by a group of strange "hippies" who had taken up residence there. According to Lane, she and her group fled in fear from the island after the hippies told them a weird story about the possible deathly fate that might have befallen one member of their group, a tale that Amanda and crew took to be a sort of veiled threat of violence and that the hippies might have been trying to imply that it was not wise of them to stay for very long on Palmyra. Years later, Amanda came to believe that the hippies might have been fully aware of the fate that had befallen the Grahams and may have been trying to take advantage of that notoriety in order to have Palmyra all to themselves.
  • In 1981, John Harrison, a Canadian yachtsman, along with his two daughters, were marooned on Palmyra after their sailboat was struck by a typhoon and de-masted. With the help of fuel air-dropped to them by the Coast Guard, Harrison and his daughters managed to motor their disabled vessel to Palmyra. There they subsisted on fish, coconuts and what they had salvaged from their vessel, supplementing this diet with canned goods supplied by Palmyra's only permanent resident at the time, self-appointed caretaker and island hermit, Ray Landrum. They remained on Palmyra for over a month while a somewhat bizarre legal entanglement and the foot dragging of both the United States and Canadian governments ensued over who should be responsible for assisting the three castaways. They were eventually rescued by plane after spending days clearing the old runway on the island.
  • In 1987, after acting on a tip from a fishing vessel, a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft sighted a sailboat just southeast of Palmyra. An aerial inspection revealed no sign of life onboard the drifting sailboat and Coast Guard personnel noted that the mast was broken off and that the sails were torn and shredded. A week after the sighting, the vessel was boarded by Coast Guardsmen. who found the skeletal remains of owner Manning Edward onboard. The cause of death was undetermined. But prior to leaving on his extended three-year voyage through the Pacific, Manning had spoken excitedly about his plan to visit an uninhabited island called Palmyra.
  • In 1989, another sailboat named the Sea Dreamer, in transit from San Diego to Hawaii was caught in a storm that pushed her far off course to the south, and onto Palmyra Island. After a brief stay on the island, the boat again departed for Hawaii and then disappeared. An extensive search by the Coast Guard between Palmyra and Hawaii and even along the coast of the United States failed to turn up any trace of the Sea Dreamer and the four members of the Graham Hughes family that were her crew. (Again in the spirit of synchronicity, you will recall that the murdered couple, Mac and Muff Graham, were also from San Diego and their vessel was named the Sea Wind).
*All recognition goes to And The Sea Will Tell authors Vincent Bugliosi Bruce B. Henderson. Check out that book!
*Thanks also to Curt Rowlett for his further research. Check out his site and book.