Category Archives: Mythology

THE RED GNOME: HALLOWEEN SEASON CONTINUES

Another neglected American horror legend from Balladeer’s Blog to help celebrate Halloween Month.

THE RED GNOME

Red GnomeThis red-hued hobgoblin has plagued Detroit for over 300 years. The Red Gnome was one of the supernatural entities created by the Native American deity Glooskap to protect his people. When European  settlers began to populate the area the figure did what he could to protect the native inhabitants but when that proved futile he turned his attention exclusively to tormenting the newcomers. 

The Red Gnome was short in stature and often mistaken for a child when glimpsed from behind. The hobgoblin has rotten teeth and breath that can kill if the creature so chooses. Anyone tricked into kissing the Red Gnome is said to die immediately. In addition this ageless being has ruby-red eyes that can shoot fiery rays. 

In 1701 Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac (yes, as in THAT Cadillac) battled the Red Gnome, which plagued him until he had lost all his fortune. The hobgoblin’s fiery eye-beams would cause frozen ice on the Detroit River to melt under skaters or racers, plunging them to their deaths in the icy waters below. In warmer weather he would cause small boats to capsize and then drown the passengers.  Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY: 1980s SLASHER VERSION

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE 

Fool Killer Day of JudgmentThe previous 49 installments of Fool Killer lore have seen the neglected folk figure in a variety of roles: Political and cultural vigilante, slayer of lynch mobs, battler of war profiteers, foe of the Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction South, bastard son of a supernatural entity, guardian of Melungeon Gold, old west gunslinger, steam-punk policeman and so much more.

In honor of the Halloween season this post will look at the Fool Killer as a 1980s slasher. And I don’t mean the Fool Killer/ Angel of Death figure from the horror film A Day of Judgment (1981). I mean a true 1980s slasher in the mold of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and others. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FORTY-NINE: SEPTEMBER 1911

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE 

Fool Killer illustrationPART FORTY-NINE: Some of the Fool Killer’s targets in the September of 1911 issue of James Larkin Pearson’s Fool-Killer publication:

*** Standard Oil. The Fool Killer in various incarnations fought the Standard Oil monopoly more than anyone outside of Ida Tarbell. The Fool Killer was already predicting the way Standard Oil would continue trying to subvert anti-trust laws through shell corporations.

*** Henry Clay Beattie, Jr, a wealthy Virginian who shot his wife Louise to death during a car ride then tried to blame it on a highway bandit. The truth came out and Beattie eventually confessed after a media circus of a trial. The Fool Killer also targeted the media circus surrounding the trial.

*** A gang of wild partyers in Hagerstown, MD who caused a nationwide scandal with their dancing and drinking blowout in a cemetery.

*** Samuel Gompers, whom the Fool Killer accused of starting to sell out to big-money and management over his former allies in labor. Continue reading

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TWENTY MORE SENSATIONAL BUT FAILED PREDICTIONS

masc graveyard picYes, it’s another Top 20 for 2020 list! And it’s another one about failed predictions, this time from alleged psychics of long, long ago instead of the recent past. As always these bogus predictions are fun from a Flash Fiction angle.

MALACHY O’MORGAIN (1094-1148)

Pope Hat*** The reign of the final Pope ever will come to a close in 2013. Since that is obviously wrong, these other predictions about O’Morgain’s Final Popes are wrong as well.

*** Before 2013 a Pope who was born in a Middle Eastern country will witness massive persecutions of Christians during his reign and will ultimately fall victim to the persecutors himself.

*** The final Pope to call himself Leo will oversee a period in which all of humanity unites under Christianity.

*** Petrus Romanus, Peter of Rome, will be the very last Pope. He will preside over the destruction of Rome and the end of the world in 2013.

URSULA SONTHIEL (1488-1561)

*** A Muslim leader with a ferocious army will conquer all of Europe before finally taking England itself.

*** A Holy War to retake England will break out with the United States and Russia fighting on the side of Christianity. Much of England will be laid waste.

COINNEACH ODHAR (1630-1685)

*** A submarine in Holy Loch will unleash a missile powerful enough to destroy all of Scotland. Continue reading

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JOE MAGARAC: NEGLECTED AMERICAN FOLK HERO

Joe MagaracLabor Day weekend is the appropriate time to post this look at neglected working class folk hero Joe Magarac. This figure was the Steel Mill equivalent of Paul Bunyan and John Henry.

Though mostly associated with Polish-American steel workers in Pittsburgh, PA the general figure of a literal “man of steel” helping and protecting his coworkers can be found from the East Coast through the American Midwest. Sometimes the figure is Croation or some other ethnicity instead of Polish. 

Written versions of Joe Magarac and/or similar steel worker tall tales seem to have started around 1930 or 1931. Oral legends about such figures – but not specifically Joe Magarac – have been dated as early as the 1890s.

Vintage advertisements from tattered old newspapers indicate that such Man of Steel imagery may have been used for the steel industry prior to World War One. This “Which came first, the chicken or the egg” dilemma for Joe Magarac and other Steel Men puts one in mind of the quandary surrounding Billiken lore.        

Joe Magarac statueAs a lame play on words since this is Labor Day season I’ll present Joe Magarac’s origin and then depict his tales as “Labors” like in The Labors of Hercules.

BIRTH – Joe Magarac supposedly sprang into existence from a mound of iron ore and – depending on the version – that mound was either in Pittsburgh or the Old Country. Magarac emerged from the melting mound fully grown and spoke broken English like so many of the other Polish steel workers. He was called into being by the urgent need to catch up on production since the current shift had fallen dangerously behind.

Joe was 7 or 8 feet tall, his flesh was like solid steel, his torso was as wide as a smoke-stack and his arms were as thick as railroad ties. His surname Magarac meant “mule” in the workhorse sense, referring to his stamina. Joe’s appetite was such that he carried his lunch in a washtub instead of a standard lunch box.

Magarac’s favorite leisure time activity was polka-dancing and halushkis were his favorite food.

THE LABORS OF JOE MAGARAC:   Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FORTY-EIGHT: JULY 1911

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer grayPART FORTY-EIGHT: Some of the Fool Killer’s targets in the July 1911 issue of James Larkin Pearson’s publication –

*** J.P. Morgan and other “plutes” (plutocrats) who were buying up every news outlet that did negative stories about their abuses. In a way this started us on the path of our present-day situation in which bloated rich pigs like the Silicon Valley Robber Barons own all the news media and social media outlets to control what information gets out.

*** Smokers. Pearson and his version of the Fool Killer considered them stench-ridden, wheezing and coughing losers with yellow fingernails.

*** William A Clark, former Democrat Senator from Montana, who was disputing the tax assessment on his multi-million dollar property on New York’s Fifth Avenue. He claimed it was too high and wouldn’t pay it. 

*** Astrologers, astrology in general, and horoscopes.

*** People who drank, since Pearson’s bizarre puritanical crusade calling for Prohibition continued.

*** “It’s a bug-hunt, man.” William Benton Miller of the American Museum of Natural History, who was setting off on a 4-month expedition into North Carolina’s Black Mountains to look for new bugs for the museum’s collection. Pearson couldn’t resist joking about the undertaking and about its financier, Samuel V Huffman. Continue reading

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CHINESE MYTHOLOGY: YI THE DIVINE ARCHER

BALLADEER’S BLOG’S TENTH YEAR OF BLOGGING CONTINUES … 

 I.WHAT’S UP WITH YI?  – Yi the Divine Archer from Chinese mythology deserves to be remembered in one breath with some of the other great heroes and monster slayers from belief systems around the world. Most people are only familiar with his feat of shooting down multiple suns that appeared in the sky one day, but this article will provide a light- hearted look at all of his fantastic adventures. 

Yi is pronounced “Yee” according to some sources, but according to others it’s pronounced “EEE”, so you can insert your own Ned Beatty joke here. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FORTY-SEVEN: JUNE 1911

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer timelessPART FORTY-SEVEN – Among the Fool Killer’s targets in the June of 1911 issue of James Larkin Pearson’s publication:

*** “The Four Hundred,” the contemporary term used for the moneyed and privileged of New York City. (Coined by Ward McAllister) Pearson and his version of the Fool Killer detested them and viewed them the same way we of today view the corrupt Democrat and Republican career politicians plus the corporate and Silicon Valley robber barons.  

*** Dancing schools. As I often point out, Pearson’s Fool Killer had qualities that would annoy BOTH the political left AND the political right of today. Many right-wingers would disapprove of their hostility toward the robber barons, while many left-wingers would disapprove of the strange religious zeal which lay behind Pearson’s hostility toward dancing and dancing schools, which he found “sinful.”

*** Husbands who did nothing but drink booze, play cards, smoke, swear and chew tobacco. Drowning was his preferred method of killing such men.

*** High Society women of New York, for their latest folly. It had become (very briefly) fashionable to walk the streets with a small calf (yes, a small calf) on a leash instead of the fru-fru poodles they had been walking with til the present. Today on Social Media we see that there are still imbeciles who will do ANYTHING just because they’re told other people are doing it.

*** Frederick Forest Berry, for authoring The Torch of Reason, because of the way Berry used reason to criticize religion and belief in God.

*** Danville, VA Police Chief R.E. Morris, who, after serving for 6 years, turned out to really be an escaped fugitive named Edgar Stribling (Pearson accidentally spelled it “Stripling”), a convicted murderer who had been on the run for 13 years. Continue reading

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THE INDEPENDENCE DAY “SPEECH” THAT NEVER WAS

Declaration of IndependenceFor the most part the silly conspiracy theories about the establishment of the United States are good only for laughs. One of my favorites, however, features a speech from a mysterious figure usually associated with Freemasons, Rosicrucians and/or the Bavarian Illuminati of Adam Weishaupt.

I don’t believe for one minute that such an enigmatic man showed up and tipped the balance toward ratifying the Declaration of Independence with a fiery, impassioned speech. However, I DO believe that the wording of that fictional tirade is pretty moving and nicely captures the feel of Independence Day.

Here is the relevant part. I’m omitting the ridiculous section where this mystery man supposedly made Nostradamus-style predictions about America’s future.

Independence Hall“They (the British) may stretch our necks on all the gibbets in the land. They may turn every rock into a scaffold, every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave and yet the words of that parchment can never die!”

“They may pour our blood on a thousand scaffolds and yet from every drop that dyes the axe a new champion of freedom will spring into birth. The British king may blot out the stars of God from the sky but he cannot blot out His words written on that parchment there. The works of God may perish … His words, never!”  

“The words of this Declaration will live in the world long after our bones are dust. To the mechanic in his workshop they will speak hope. To the slave in the mines, freedom. But to the coward kings these words will speak in tones of warning they cannot choose but hear.” Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER FORTY-SIX: MAY 1911

Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer picPART FORTY-SIX – Items of note in the May of 1911 issue of James Larkin Pearson’s version of The Fool-Killer:

*** Pearson’s Fool Killer figure targeted money-obsessed clergymen and pretended they wanted a new version of the Ten Commandments emphasizing profits.

*** The Fool Killer targeted the way so many corrupt millionaires were suddenly overcome with “medical ailments” when they were being investigated or after getting sentenced to prison time. 

*** In another of the surreal satirical bits which Pearson was writing more frequently, this month he had the Fool Killer encounter a medical abomination called the Composite Man. The Fool Killer visited the Rockefeller Institute in New York (called the Rocky D Oilyfeller Institute in Pearson’s odd stylistic blend of Frank Baum and Walt Kelly with Bullwinkle & Rocky).

              The reason for the visit? Our title character wanted to check in on the latest work on medical transplants. The doctors at the institute surgically removed the lone healthy body part on a variety of their most far-gone patients and sewed them all into a lone figure called the Composite Man and the Pieced-Up Man interchangeably.

              The Composite Man had the head of a preacher, the chest of a drummer, the heart of a lawyer, the stomach and bowels of a farmer, the left arm of a blacksmith, the right arm of an editor, one leg of a dude and the other leg came from a tramp. The competing portions of the Composite Man’s anatomy not only prevented him from accomplishing any one undertaking but resulted in him breaking into his component parts and dying within one day of his release. Continue reading

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