Weird 4th of July facts

Weird Independence Day Trivia You Didn’t Learn in School

Did you know that 1000s used to die in agony from “Patriotic Lockjaw” after 4th of July celebrations? Or that a European country hosts a big 4-day celebration of America’s Independence Day each year?

Fenn Treasure

The Search for Fenn’s Treasure Claims Another Victim

Forrest Fenn buried a treasure worth $2 million somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and now two men have died trying to find it.
Chest containing the treasure of Forrest Fenn

The New York Times reports a Colorado pastor who went in search Forrest Fenn’s buried treasure was found dead Sunday by New Mexico authorities after his family reported him missing. He is the second treasure hunter found dead since the hunt for Fenn’s riches began.

When Fenn published his memoir The Thrill of the Chase in 2010, he wrote about burying a bronze chest filled with “265 gold coins, hundreds of gold nuggets, hundreds of rubies, eight emeralds, two Ceylon sapphires, many diamonds, two ancient Chinese jade carvings, pre-Columbian gold bracelets and fetishes, and more.”

A poem provided 9 clues to the whereabouts of the treasure:

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.

With only Fenn’s words to go on, an estimated 65,000 people have joined the search, knowing only that the treasure is buried somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, higher than 5,000 feet above sea level. But now, with two dead in search of a treasure that may or may not actually exist, the victim’s families along with the chief of the New Mexico State Police are asking Fenn to call it off. They believe Fenn is “endangering lives for his own selfish reasons.”

“Life is too short to wear both a belt and suspenders,” Fenn told the New York Times. “If someone drowns in the swimming pool we shouldn’t drain the pool, we should teach people to swim.”

Fenn said he is thinking of ways to make the treasure hunt safer, and is expected to make that announcement soon.

A photo of the treasure taken by Forrest Fenn
Fenn’s treasure

UPDATE: The treasure of Forrest Fenn has finally been found!

Sin Ship: The Story of the SS Monte Carlo Shipwreck on Coronado Beach

The SS Monte Carlo was the flagship of the mob’s gambling fleet, where a host of illegal pleasures could be found floating just outside the law.
Monte Carlo shipwreck
Shipwreck of the SS Monte Carlo on Coronado Beach

Beneath the sands of San Diego’s Coronado Beach lies the concrete and iron remains of a 300-foot ship called the SS Monte Carlo. Built in 1921, the oil tanker found a new life in the 1930s as “the world’s greatest pleasure ship,” the largest of several notorious mob-owned “sin ships” anchored in international waters three miles off the coast of California. There, wealthy patrons, including some of Hollywood’s glamorous elite such as Clark Gable and Mae West, could indulge in liquor, gambling and prostitution outside the jurisdiction of Prohibition-era US laws.

On New Year’s Day in 1937, a violent storm wrenched the Monte Carlo from her moorings and set the ship adrift. Eventually the iniquitous floating den ran aground on the Coronado shore, where the activities for which it was known were illegal. Not surprisingly, no one stepped up to claim ownership.

Authorities soon confiscated the slot machines and other gambling paraphernalia from the wreck. Scavengers ran off with whatever was left, and then the Monte Carlo was left to ruin, swallowed by the sand and surf, eventually forgotten.

Wreckage of the SS Monte Carlo

$100,000 in Gold and Silver Coins

In the days after the Monte Carlo grounded, crowds gathered on the beach to get a look at the monstrous stranded ship. A man named Bud Bernhard, a teenager at the time, was offered $20 by a small group of men to survey the damage on board. These men, he later learned, were the owners.

Bernhard swam out to the wreck, climbed up the anchor chain, and explored the devastated interior. He found a hoard of gold and silver coins inside, but reported to the men that everything was destroyed. Over the next several weeks, he returned many times to fill his pockets with silver dollars.

In later years, Bernhard said he was convinced there was $100,000 in gold and silver coins still remaining in the buried hulk.

Weird Book Club
For more on the gambling ships of Southern California, check out Noir Afloat by Ernest Marquez. There is an entire chapter devoted to the SS Monte Carlo.

These days, the Monte Carlo can sometimes be seen underwater at low tide. On rare occasions, El Nino storms will wash away the sand and expose the ship, as seen in the drone footage below from earlier this year.

World Record Black Sea Bass

These vintage photos depict fisherman with their world record black sea bass caught off of California’s Catalina Island.

world-record-bass-1900

A world’s record 384-pound black sea bass caught by Franklin Schenck of Brooklyn with rod and reel off Catalina Island, California, on August 17, 1900.

world-record-bass-1905

World record (1905) black sea bass caught by John T. Perkins at Catalina Island on June 3rd, 1905. The fish weighed in at 428 lbs. and took 57 minutes to land on rod and reel. Geo. Farnsworth – Boatman.

Home Dentistry in the 1920s

Vintage photo of home dentistry in the 1920s

A woman prepares to pull a child’s tooth with a pliers in this photo from the 1920s.