Book review: American Kingpin, by Nick Bilton. Portfolio 2017.

american_kingpin

The Deep Web is a kind of “secret” part of the Internet only reachable by a special browser called Tor. The place is basically a digital reflection of the human id: illegal pornography, weird sexual fantasies (often including rape or other crimes), sick videos – it’s all right there.

A few years ago, a new site popped up there, seemingly out of nowhere: The Silk Road, a website that facilitated the buying and selling of drugs, guns, stolen software, stolen electronics, and the like. It became a hit overnight and, considering the nature of the goods changing hands through the site, a fresh nightmare for governments and law enforcement agencies. The anonymous nature of the Deep Web and the Tor browser made finding the creator of the site that much more difficult.

Despite the challenging premise, the creator of the site was ultimately captured. He turned out to be a brilliant young do-it-yourself libertarian named Ross Ulbricht, a physics whiz kid and self-taught computer genius who believed the government should not be able to regulate what people put in their bodies. He was running the multi-million dollar drug empire from a Samsung 700z laptop, borrowing wi-fi from local coffee shops in Austin, Texas and San Francisco, California.

This book tells the story of the creation of the website, and the efforts of the various law enforcement agents (from the DEA, Homeland Security and FBI, among others) to find the person behind the “Amazon of Drugs”.

Bilton is a master storyteller, and he knows the tech and start-up worlds well, having written about both before.

The portrait he paints of the young Ulbricht is vivid and alive, the story of a young man who believes he is making a difference in the world by challenging the government on its drug laws head-on. Whatever you might think of Ross Ulbricht, he had the guts to follow through on what he believed: instead of arguing on Twitter or lecturing his friends about the hypocracy of the “War on Drugs”, he built something of his own, and left a lasting impression on the world, for better or for worse.

American Kingpin also succeeds in balancing the stories of the agents on Ulbricht’s trail with the rest of the narrative. Determined, inventive, and loyal to the very government the Silk Road challenged, they worked around the clock to dig up “Dread Pirate Roberts” (Ulbricht’s user name on the Silk Road) from the murky waters of the Deep Web. In presenting these agents as human beings too, Bilton evokes the theme of loyalty vs. rebellion towards authority, an age-old question that gets a fresh treatment between the pages of this book.

An enjoyable read that tells an unforgettable true crime story, while at the same time sophisticating the reader with regard to Internet security, digital crime, and the battle between libertarian political philosophy versus governmental institutions.

Grade: 4.5/5

 

 

 

 

Your scary experiences, Spring 2018

Once again, I made a request to my Instagram followers (instagram.com/mysteries_crimes_curiosities) to send me their creepy experiences. Here they are, presented as they were sent to me, unedited.

Thank you to everyone who contributed!


Jacquie:

So my older sister has a quinsiñera doll and its porcelain so everytime you moved her you hear a little scratch. So one time me and my sister were up till like 3:00A.M and we were laying on her bed playing a game and out of no where we hear the little scratch of the porcelain doll. As we were both scared he went to each others bed and went to sleep.

Kevin:

I was 7 and I went to throw out the garbage at 11 at night. As I was walking back to my apartment door I saw a man following me.

He kept following me for days until I yelled in my squeaky voice that he was annoying and then he simply said “ You will learn that people can be so much worse than annoying!“

I was in fear and I moved with my parents the month after.

Ezequiel:

Last Saturday in Buenos Aires there was a party of electronic music. At 3:30 in the morning a lightning bolt fell behind the stage. If it fell in the middle of the stadium we would be lamenting many dead. My friends and I left when the lightning struck. And outside, a hail storm hit us. We were terrified and I think I never felt so much that I was going to die like that day.

Here’s a video of the lightning: YouTube link

Contributor wishes to remain anonymous:

My husband and I were staying on The Queen Mary one weekend as a short getaway. We love the Queen Mary and have stayed on it before, including once for our honeymoon. This time however, when we checked in the receptionist told us that we’d have a windowless room, and asked if we would have a problem with it. Apparently it makes guests feel uncomfortable or claustrophobic. We told her it would be fine and checked into our room.

We walked around the ship taking pictures to see if we could capture an paranormal activity on film. We didn’t. The next day however, my husband took a shower while I ran to the Starbucks on board to get coffee. On my way back I was walking through the hall and heard footsteps that sounded like high heels, coming up behind me. I got to our door after speed walking, and when I looked around there was nobody in the hallway with me. I got in the room as my husband was coming out of the bathroom. I told him what I had heard. And as he was about to give me a “yeah right” the shower in our bathroom turned on. It wasn’t just a drip or a slow leak. It had turned on and my husband had to turn it all the way off.

I text my sister and mom because they are super into paranormal stuff. My sister asked what room we were in and looked up all the “haunted” rooms online. Turns out we were staying in one of the rooms with the most reported activity. It freaked us out when it happened. But then it was kind of cool to be able to tell the story at the same time.

Josi:

My husband and I have always been fans of the paranormal so when we first started dating our ideal dates involved paranormal/ horror / conspiracy type shenanigans.

I remember we had talked about using a Ouija board  but neither of us had one nor had ever used one. A friend had offered up his for us to use and experience. The night we got the board something came up and I had to go home early, leaving the board at my boyfriend’s house.

Later that night I was doing my usual stuff before bed, falling asleep fairly quickly. I usually wake up a few times at night to go to the bathroom so I’m no stranger to wandering my house in the dark, but but this instance was different. I opened my eyes and usually moonlight goes through my window and lights the room up but everything was pitch black. No outline to anything, just pure darkness. The entire room was so quiet and cold.

I tried to move to get my blanket but I was just stuck, petrified. I had heard of sleep paralysis but this seemed much more sinister. My breathing was so heavy, as if someone was sitting  on my chest. I couldn’t move, as if I were being held down by heavy chains, and in the corner of my eye, three large figures were at the foot of my bed as if observing me. I couldn’t see their faces but I knew they were three. They seemed to be darker than the darkness that filled my room.

This feeling of dread just came over me and engulfed me with such fear. I felt as if I were doomed, that I was losing everything I’ve ever loved, among other feelings I can not describe. I’m not sure out of all that I had remembered a prayer my great grandmother had taught me as a kid and so I began to say it in my head. I heard a voice in Spanish so clearly whisper in my ear: “Dont use the ouija board, return it”, and I felt this warm hug and this milky light illuminated the room. The feeling of dread was vanishing and I fell into a deep sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, I called my boyfriend to tell him we were returning the board. He agreed because he said when he brought it into his house, his mom flipped out and demanded he take it outside (she later told us her ouija story ) so he took it out and put it in his truck.

Later that night he had to take the trash out, and he lives in the woods so there’s always noise going, so he took the trash out and upon walking back he had a weird feeling someone was in his truck. He said everything got quiet and eerily still and  his dog was snarling at his truck showing her full teeth. She’s a fairly docile dog so this was out of character for her. Even weirder: he couldn’t move, he couldn’t look away from the vehicle. He was just standing there in fear. He said he felt so terrified to move, when he finally snapped out of it he turned around to go back in the house. When he stepped foot on the porch the light bulb busted, shattering little pieces of glass everywhere. He locked the doors and didn’t go back out till morning.

Needless to say we did return the board to my friend who insisted he closed it properly but who knows what would have happened if we had used the board.

Contributor wishes to remain anonymous:

I’m [name], I’m from Mexico and I’d like to share what happened to me last February.

It was my birthday on February 24th, I was in a party with my friends. Then I decided to leave the party to go to another place. I went to a friend’s house, and I was waiting for him outside of his house when a guy appeared of nowhere and asked me for a street. I said I didn’t know where it was. He stared at me and I felt uncomfortable so I moved. He pushed me through the wall and I started to scream, I thought he wanted my purse, money or something, so I gave my cell phone to him. He said “I don’t want your cellphone” In that moment he just cut my neck with a cutter and ran away.

My friend arrived and a guy on a bike saw everything so he went looking for this person. The police and the ambulance arrived and they took me to the hospital where I was told it was a miracle I was alive – he cut 15 cm of my neck, 19 stitches were necessary.

2 months have passed and I´m healing. It still hurts but I feel stronger, I feel good. This event opened my eyes in some many aspects of my life but at the same time, sometimes I feel angry, sad, scared, so many things I didn’t think it was possible to feel. So this is what happened, the day I could’ve died, it was the day I started living.

 

Holly:

So I found out once that you can just use a candle to talk to the dead instead of an ouija board. But that was a really bad idea because my house used to be haunted but a couple years ago my family realized that the ghost may have passed on (the ghost was a middle aged woman, we found out through our neighbors). And also my dad used to be a grave digger so he probably carried many spirits. So once I tried to contact someone through a candle and I forgot to say goodbye before I blew out the candle. Which means I left sort of a portal to the other side open…

The next day I was taking a nap and I thought my sister was clapping to try and wake me up but at the time my mum was up stairs and said that there wasn’t anyone up there, another thing that happened when I was asleep was that it felt like someone was bouncing on my bed but again no one was there, then a few nights later someone was literally pulling my hair and when I turned around no one was there and I was in my bedroom alone, and every couple days I get the worst cramp in my leg and I never had it before I lit that candle. I think the ghost is a child playing around but nothing has happened for a few days now but I’m not sure if the ghost is gone.

Alyssa:

So, my mom went to Wilkes University back in 1979/1980, before the Internet. At the time, there wasn’t enough housing for all the students, so the college rented out a nearby hotel, the Hotel Sterling, built in 1897, finished in 1898.

Now, my mom said there was a ghost in her room. She said all the ghost would do was sit in a chair and watch them, but both my mom and her roommate had actually seen her. My mom said the ghost was wearing old fashioned wear, probably around the 1800’s if she had to guess. They called the ghost Emma, because that was the name the ghost seemed to like. As she had only told me the other day, I decided to google the hotel and see if anyone named Emma had ever died there, expecting to get back nothing. Instead, it turns out Emma E. Sterling was the name of the woman who oversaw the building of the hotel, primarily after her husband passed away.

IG @female_snoop

My experience: was arguing with my 5 year old last week and I told her “No”. She turned around and said to me: “Mom, do you remember when you were the kid and I was the mom?” So of course I tell her “No I don’t, because I’ve always been the mom and you’re my baby. It’s been like that for 5 years.” Her response: “Well you’re wrong because I remember. . . They told you and my dad who wasn’t my dad that you had to go somewhere and when I tried to tell them they weren’t taking you nowhere they chopped all our heads off.”

Ummm… What? So I told her “No one has chopped our heads off and don’t talk like that no more”. Her last response “I didn’t say anything bad. I told you what happened when I was the mom, you don’t remember. And I do.”

That was the end. And now I can’t look at my child the same in a way.

Caroline Hochmuth (IG @carolinehochmuth):

Bro once I was watching the movie Grave Encounters 2 with two of my friends in his basement with all the lights off. During the scene where the ghosts pick up the camera and start recording the characters a light turned on in the closet across the room. Keep in mind the closet door was mostly closed, we were the only ones on that level of the house, and it was a regular light switch just inside the closet. We have no idea how it happened and weird shit still goes down in the basement anytime I house sit for them.

IG @trisarahtops1228:

About 10 years ago I was by myself in my car in traffic about to make a left turn, and out of habit I checked for traffic coming from my right. When I looked, a very good friend, Rebecca, was sitting in my passenger seat where no one had been sitting – because I was alone. She looked right at me and smiled. When I realized what I saw I looked again and no one was there, but this made me think about her and I hadn’t spoken to her in a long time, so I decided to go on her MySpace (okay maybe it was longer than 10 years ago lol) and send her a message and see how she was and what she was up to.

When I got to her page there were all these memorials and RIP messages to her! I was so confused so I contacted a girl who had been her roommate. My friend had been killed in a car accident 3 months before I saw her. I think she was telling me goodbye. I never saw her again.

Claire:

My ghost story definitely isn’t the scariest, but it’s the event that made me really question the existence of the paranormal.

There was nothing special about the night that it happened. My father and sister had gone out for dinner, and I had chosen to stay home and work on homework. To help me concentrate, I had put my earphones in and closed my bedroom door. It was about 30 minutes after my family had left the house that a muffled sound had come from the lower floor of the house (my room was on the second, for reference). I know the sounds that my house makes, and what I heard – or thought I had heard – was the door to the garage slamming shut. I had just assumed that it was my dad and sister. Maybe they’d decided not to eat after all? I yelled out “Hey!”, but there was no response. I found it kind of weird that no one replied but didn’t think much of it.

A few minutes later, I could hear footsteps approaching my room, strong enough to be heard over the classical music playing in my ears. I pulled one bud out and managed to catch the noise with a bit more clarity, and whatever was making the noise seemed to stop abruptly at my door. There were no visible shadows that I could see in the space between the door itself and the floor. When the footsteps didn’t continue on, as they probably would’ve if they belonged to anyone in my family, I began to freak out. I didn’t move from my position until later, when my dad entered my room to announce that him and my sister had come back home. I asked them if they had been at the house for a while, but they had only just arrived.

Months later, I decided to talk to both of them about the incident, and my father disclosed that he had had a similar experience when we first moved into the home. It definitely freaked me out at first, but years later, we make light of our haunted house. We even have a name for the ghost: Linda.

IG @ms.aakrity:

When I lived in Roseville California in 2017, I was always so afraid of this apartment.  I don’t know of what or what made me afraid I just had the feeling of being scared, I had the feeling that something was there.  My restroom was across the hallway just a few steps away from my room.  But I was always so mortified at night to go to the restroom.  If I did manage the courage to go to the restroom I would walk in and out as quickly as possible and not even look towards the living room.  I was so afraid that something or someone was in the living room.

While living in this apartment I also had nightmares.  Some really bizarre and scary ones. I’d be so scared that I would wake up and not want to go back to sleep.  But I was awake just shaking in my boots thinking of what was in the living room or outside my door.   In our living room we had a chimney.  I could always hear noises coming from the chimney specially at night it sounded  like wind. One of my dreams was that I had a vision of my living room.  In my dream it was dark. The chimney was on and fully lit.  There was a little boy very close standing right in front of the chimney.  I only saw his back but he was small like 2 years old.  I woke up so scared thinking that the little boy got hurt standing that close to the chimney.

Outside the restroom towards the right side there was a wall filled with cabinets for storage.  They were very big from the floor to the top. One day at night roughly like at 7 pm I was coming out of the restroom.  Outside the restroom door near the cabinets  I saw a little boy standing near the cabinets.  He was looking down, I could only see the top of his head, the forehead and hair.   I thought it was my baby boy.  I was looking at him with a big smile thinking that he was waiting for me outside the door.  But suddenly I saw my baby coming from the left side.  I was so shocked and I look to the right side but the other little boy was gone.  This happened so fast in a matter of seconds but it scared the crap out of me.  At times I thought it was the little boy from my dream, I thought that maybe he had burned in the chimney.

I remember one time I was in the kitchen cooking. My baby boy was roughly a little bit over 1 year old.  He was in the kitchen playing on the floor with his toys.  Suddenly I hear him whining, and he starts crying.  So, I look at him and he comes towards me really quickly.  I ask my baby what’s wrong but he can’t speak because he’s still very young.  But I could see that he was scared he was hiding behind my legs he was still whining and peeking towards his toys as if he was seeing something.

One night while sleeping I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I woke up and looked towards my husband thinking he had woken me up. But he was sound asleep.  I went back to sleep but the days to come I was always so afraid that someone was going to tap my shoulder again.  I used to leave the door from my room cracked open just like 1-2 inches so that when my husband left to work he wouldn’t make noise opening the door since the baby was sleeping.  Most of the time while living in this apartment I had a hard time falling asleep.  At times I would just be on my bed using my phone, other times I’d just be tossing and turning.  But I would always stare at the door.  I was so afraid that someone would open the door completely.  I was afraid that someone was outside the door watching me.

My husband is the type of sleeper that when he goes to sleep he doesn’t wake up at all during the night. He also never remembers his dreams.  He says he never dreams.  One night while playing on my phone and having a hard time falling asleep.  With the corner of my right eye I saw orbs of light towards the side of my husband.  So I turn my head towards him and he suddenly wakes up and asks “where is the baby?” I replied “he’s sleeping.” My husband got up and went to the restroom.  When he came back I asked him if he had a nightmare.  But he replied “something woke me up but I can’t remember what it was.” The next day I asked him about the incident but he had no recollection of what happened or him waking up and going to the restroom.

One night I was in the kitchen washing the dishes.  My baby and husband were already asleep.  As I’m washing the dishes with the corner of my left eye I saw something moving.  I look towards it and saw a bubble of smoke it was small like the size of a quarter.  I smelled it and and it had a burning smell and it disappeared.  I didn’t think much of it but I did get scared thinking that maybe something in the apartment was burning. But I looked around everywhere specially the electrical outlets but found nothing.

In another incident, it was late at night and I was picking up my baby’s toys.  As I’m picking up the toys I hear his train go on. This was my baby’s favorite toy.  It was a huge train 3X3 and you press the buttons and it plays music and it says the ABC and numbers.  On this day I was a few feet away when I heard it playing music.  I tried to calm myself down and kept picking up the rest of the toys but again the train started playing music.  I just got so scared left the toys and went to the room.

During the time I lived in this apartment I was studying for an exam I had to take.  I used to study at night when my baby was sleeping.  I would sit in the living room and study.  But I was always so afraid.  At times I’d be scared of looking at the reflection on the tv I thought that I’d see someone else sitting next to me.  There was always an awkward silence it’s hard to explain.  One time my sister came to visit me and after I didn’t live in the apartment anymore.  I shared with her my stories and how scared I felt living in that apartment.  My sister told me that one day when she visited me she was falling asleep and felt someone sitting on the bed.  She said she was so afraid to look but she felt very scared.

Thankfully I no longer live in this apartment.  These are the  incidents that happened to me in roughly 1 year of living there.  At times I think about it and still get the chills.  Other times I get sad because I was so uncomfortable living there.  I was always tired because of the lack of sleep and my husband is so skeptical he never believed anything I said to him.

Interview with artist Merja Pöyhönen, writer and performer of “Missing Amelia Earhart”.

On Sunday I had the honor and pleasure of seeing Missing Amelia Earhart, a solo puppet play performed by Finnish artist Merja Pöyhönen.

The play tells the story of the famous disappearance of Earhart, an aviator who went missing on her flight around the world, and has never been found. As a result of her mysterious vanishing, her story has become the stuff of legend.

I had an opportunity to interview Ms. Pöyhönen after the performance. We discuss the famous disappearance, but also touch on the role heroes play in human history, the importance of dreams, and the human faces behind historical events. We also hear Merja’s thoughts on what really happened to Amelia.

INTERVIEW IS IN ENGLISH. Just press “Play”.


amelia-10

Link to Merja’s site: http://auraofpuppets.com/services/merja-poyhonen/?lang=en

Link to Tehdas Teatteri, the wonderful theater where I saw the play: http://www.tehdasteatteri.fi

 

 

The book and film favorites of Rea Haverinen, presenter at Radio SuomiRock.

Rea Haverinen hosts her own show at Radio SuomiRock, one of the most popular radio channels in Finland.

Though we here at Books, Bullets and Bad Omens usually can’t get women as good-looking and talented as her to tell us the time of day, Rea was kind enough to share her top 3 books and films with us.


Screenshot-2018-4-22 Rea Haverinen on Instagram “📷 senjarapila”

Books

Avioliittosimulaattori, by Veera Nieminen (2013)

I usually avoid books that claim to be funny because I often don’t find them particularly hilarious. This book is an exception! I laughed so much that I cried! I have also passed the book on to many friends and gotten the same feedback from them.

BUY

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty (2009)

Before buying a book I always read the first page. If it doesn’t catch my interest, the book will stay at the shelves of the bookstore. This one did though, and it turned out to be one of the funniest I have ever read. A woman who suffers from memory loss, a well-kept secret and a grandmother who has decided to die – this book gets funnier and weirder by the minute. Made me laugh out loud and also cry.

BUY

The Rice Mother, by Rani Manicka (2003)

This book sank deep in my mind and although it’s so upsetting I still haven’t been able to read it again, I remember the names of the main characters and the profoundly shaking turns the book took. A vivid story of a family trying to survive in horrible circumstances.

BUY

 

Films

Boys Don’t Cry, dir. Kimberly Peirce (1999)

Like many books that really touch me, this is a movie I will always remember and always mention when asked about the best movies I have seen – yet I haven’t been able to watch it again because I find it so upsetting. Hilary Swank won an Oscar for her role in the movie and it was certainly well earned!

imdb

UP, dir. Pete Docter and Bob Peterson (2009)

I loooove animations and this one had me crying within the first five minutes. The story gets funnier, deeper and more touching by a minute. One of my all time favorites, no doubt about it.

imdb

Pride, dir. Matthew Warchus (2014)

So it would appear I am a cry baby but let’s not make a problem of it! I went to see this movie in the cinema and it turned out to be a big mistake – I cried so much that eventually I couldn’t control it and also weeped openly the whole way back home! A touching yet funny film about sexual minorities – and the beauty of finally accepting difference.

imdb

 

Interview with Mauri Karvonen, researcher of Finnish ghost stories. (Suomeksi alempana)

Mauri Karvonen is a Finnish researcher and historian who specialuzes in stories of ghosts and haunted houses. He has released a book entitled Aavetaloja ja ihmiskohtaloita (“Haunted Houses and Human Fates”). A sequel to the book will be released next month.

Thank you Mauri for taking the time to talk to Books, Bullets and Bad Omens!


 

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1.) Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Mauri Karvonen and I live in Jyväskylä, Finland at the moment. I have a Master’s degree in Finnish history. I work as a historian, writer and researcher of paranormal topics. Of course, my work entails lots of other things as well, like lecturing and doing readings as an author.

My hobbies are cycling, swimming, exploring the outdoors, reading, history, culture and traveling, mostly within Finland.

2) How did you end up writing about haunted houses?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in old buildings, their history and the people who lived in them. Ghost stories have been an elemental part of this wider interest. That’s how it all got started for me. Over the years I’ve visited hundreds, if not thousands of houses that are said to be haunted.

Before graduating from university in 2014 I started thinking about what I should write about. That’s when I got the idea of combining my hobby with my profession, and ended up writing about haunted houses.

3) Are you interested in paranormal topics in general, or just ghosts?

Ghosts and haunted houses are my number 1 interest, but I’m interested in all kinds of mysteries, as well as UFOs.

4) Tell us about the process of researching and writing your book! Is it hard to find people who will open up about this subject to you?

The process begins with generating an interesting idea and establishing a contact with it. Each of my books has 12 houses. Then I start a process of light background research that entails looking into the history of a location, it’s people and ghost stories. Next, I visit the location myself to look for sources of information and take photographs. I take both daytime and night time photos. I also try to spend a night at the location I plan to write about.

While at a location, I also try to interview people. Finding people who will talk to you is usually fairly easy, since a particular story can’t really be connected with a particular source, so informants are able to maintain their anonymity. They usually speak very openly once they’ve warmed up. I’ve noticed that people have become more and more open about these [paranormal] topics, at least when they talk to us professionals.

5) What is the history of Finnish ghost stories like? Is there something different about them compared to ghost stories from other countries?

Ghost stories have been told in Finland for hundreds of years; they used to be a popular form of entertainment. The oldest story featured in my books is from the 1200s, I think.

The tradition of ghost stories is fairly uniform across the globe, and the stories are fairly similar everywhere, though I want to stress that each story is unique in itself.

6) What types of houses does the haunting lore attach itself to? Old mansions, that sort of a thing?

Yes, mostly old historical places like castles, theaters, mansions etc., but stories are told about new buildings, too. I myself research only historical buildings and their stories.

7) The term “ihmiskohtaloita” (“human fates”) is included in the title of your book. What types of “human fates” does one find behind ghost stories and stories of haunted houses?

There is usually a sad human story behind a ghost tale, but there are also happy incidents and fates. There doesn’t always have to be a murder or an accident or anything like that for a story to live on. Take, for example, the story of Märtha Rosenlaw and the Vanajanlinna Castle, from my first book.

My main interest is, indeed, the people behind the stories of haunted houses and ghosts. I sometimes jokingly say that my job is private detective work in the world of history and ghost stories.

aavetaloja

8) Do you have a favorite ghost story?

I’m interested in all different kinds of stories. I know hundreds of them, so I don’t really have any one favorite. I’d say I’m most affected by stories related to children and child ghosts.

9) How does the haunting phenomenon “work”, in your opinion? Do you believe there is a genuine supernatural force behind it, or something else?

Because I only research stories, I have not really researched the phenomenon itself. To put it bluntly, I would say that perhaps ghosts have some sort of unfinished business on Earth, making them return to the world of the living, if they ever left it in the first place.

There are some views according to which ghosts consists of different kinds of energies. It’s also said that ghosts are humans who never realized they died, and think they are still alive. Other ghosts, on the other hand, may have gotten “stuck” here on Earth, unable to live after their death, while still others cross the border between life and death every now and then, and come back to visit the living.

10) Have you yourself ever experienced anything paranormal?

I have seen so many of these haunted houses during my life that it’s inevitable that I’ve come across paranormal incidents myself as well. 95 percent of such incidents have a natural explanation, but then there’s the remaining 5 percent that is left without a rational basis. So I’m “skeptically curious” *smile*

11) You will soon release a sequel to your book. Tell us about it!

“Aavetaloja ja ihmiskohtaloita 2 – Hyytävä matka Suomen historiaan jatkuu” (“Haunted Houses and Human Fates 2- the creepy journey to the history of Finland continues”) will come out in May. Compared to the first book, the stories in this sequel are collected from a wider geographical spectrum. The sequel also makes more of a use of archives, interviews and other source materials. In keeping with the spirit of my books, I’ve placed great emphasis on versatility.

Because this year marks the 100th anniversary of Finland’s civil war, I’ve also researched stories related to it. War in general features more heavily in the stories in this sequel.

12) Where can people keep up with your work and buy your books?

The best way to follow my work is through my Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/aavetalojajaihmiskohtaloita

So go ahead and take a peek at my work, and leave a “Like”!

My books are available in all kinds of bookstores, both physical and web stores. If you want a copy with my signature, you can order directly through my site. You can also follow my work in the media, and I am available for lectures if you’re interested in holding your own event.

13) Is there anything you’d like to add that I forgot to ask about?

All is well 🙂

And finally, my regular questions.

14) Your top 3 films?

1) Downfall (2004)

2) Braveheart (1995)

3) Käsky (2008, English title “Tears of April”)

15) Your top 3 books?

1) Suomen kartanoita (“Finland’s Mansions”) by Dahl & Gardberg

2) Ammattina vankikarkuri (“Profession: Prison Escapee”) by Jan Jalutsi

3) Hävittäkää Helsinki! (“Destroy Helsinki!”) by Antero Raevuori

16) What model phone do you use?

Some very old piece of junk by Huawei.


1) Kuka olet? Kerro hieman itsestäsi!

Nimeni on Mauri Karvonen ja asun Jyväskylässä tällä hetkellä. Koulutukseltani on FM, Suomen historian asiantuntija. Työskentelen historian- ja rajatiedontutkijana sekä kirjailijana. Työhöni kuuluu toki paljon muutakin kuten esim. Luennot ja kirjailijavierailut. Harrastan pyöräilyä, uintia, ulkoilua, lukemista, historiaa, kulttuuria ja matkustelua lähinnä kotimaassa. 

2) Kuinka päädyit kirjoittamaan aavetaloista?

Olen ollut lapsesta asti kiinnostunut vanhoista rakennuksista, niiden historiasta ja siellä eläneistä ihmisistä. Niitä olellinen osa on ollut kummitustarinat. Siitä kaikki on lähtenyt liikkeelle. Vuosien saatossa olen kiertänyt satoja ellen tuhansia paikkoja joissa väitetään kummittelevan. Ennen valmistumistani yliopistosta (2014) aloin miettimään mitä alkaisin kirjoittamaan kun se eniten kiinnosti. Sitten sain idean yhdistää ammatti ja harrastus ja näin päädyin kirjoittamaan aavetaloista.

3) Oletko kiinnostunut yliluonnollisista ilmiöistä ylipäätään, vai ainoastaan aaveista?

Kyllä ykkösenä tulee aaveet ja ennenkaikkea aavetarinat. Toki olen aina ollut kiinnostunut kaikenlaisista mysteereistä ja ufoista. 

4) Kerro kirjan kirjoitusprosessista. Millaista sitä oli tutkia ja kirjoittaa? Oliko haastateltavia helppoa löytää? Puhuivatko ihmiset yleisesti ottaen teemasta avoimesti, vai välttelivätkö aave-aihetta jonkinlaisen leimaantumisen pelossa?

Prosessi lähtee liikenteeseen mielenkiintoisen kohteen löytämisellä ja sen kontaktoimisella. Jokaisessa kirjassa on 12 kohdetta. Sitten aloitan kevyen taustatutkimuksen liittyen paikan historiaan, ihmisiin joita siellä on elänyt ja aavetarinoihin. Seuraavaksi menen paikan päälle tutustumaan paikkaan, etsimään lähteitä ja kuvaamaan. Kuvaan sekä yöllä, että päivällä. Pyrin myös yöpymään paikan päällä. Samalle kertaa yleensä haastattelen ihmisiä suunnitelman mukaan. Kyllä haastateltavat on yleensä helppo löytää. Tiettyä tarinaa kun ei pysty yhdistämään tietyn henkilön kertomaksi. Kyllä puhuvat aiheesta avoimesti kunhan ollaan päästy alkuun. Olen huomannut, että aiheesta jutellaan entistä avoimemmin, ainakin meille ammattilaisille.

5) Millainen on suomalaisten kummitustarinoiden historia? Onko niissä jotakin erityistä/erilaista verrattuna vaikkapa ulkomaiden kertomusperinteeseen?

Kummitustarinoita on kerrottu Suomessa satoja vuosia, olihan ne muinaisten aikojen viihdykettäkin. Kirjasarjani kakkososassa vanhin tarina taisi olla 1200-luvulta. Kertomusperinne on aika samanlainen ympäri maailman ja tarinat ovat samankaltaisia, mutta kuitenkin painotan, että jokainen tarina on kuitenkin uniikki.

6) Millaisiin taloihin kummitteluiden/aaveiden folklore kiinnittyy? Vanhat kartanot tms?

Kyllä kärkipäässä on ns. historialliset paikat kuten linnat, teatterit, kartanot jne, mutta kyllä tarinoita kerrotaan ihan uusistakin rakennuksista. Itse toki tutkin vain historiallisia kohteita ja niiden tarinoita. 

7) Kirjasi nimessä esiintyy termi “ihmiskohtaloita”. Millaisia ihmiskohtaloita kummittelujen taustalta löytyy?

Kyllä tarinan taakse usein kätkeytyy, joku surullinen ihmiskohtalo, mutta myös iloisia tapahtumia ja kohtaloita. Aina ei siis tarvi olla murha, onnettomuus tms, että tarina on jäänyt elämään. Tästä esimerkkinä vaikkapa Märtha Rosenlewin tarina Vanajanlinnasta, joka on ykkösosassa. Tutkin nimenomaan oikeita ihmisiä tarinoiden taustalta ja onko niitä. Olen leikilläni sanonut, että tämä on salapoliisityötä historian ja aavetarinoiden maailmassa.

8) Onko sinulla suosikkitarinaa kummitustarinoiden alueelta?

Itseäni kiinnostaa kaikki mahdolliset tarinat. Tiedän satoja tarinoita, joten ei ole yksittäistä suosikkia. Itseäni ehkä eniten koskettaa lapsiin tai lapsihaamuihin liittyvät tarinat ja kohtalot.

9) Miten kummitteluilmiö syntyy? Uskotko että sen takana on aito yliluonnollinen voima, vai jotakin muuta?

Koska tutkin vain tarinoita niin en ole itse ilmiötä niinkään tutkinut. Lyhyesti ja ytimekkäästi itse ilmiöstä sanoisin, että kenties aaveella on jäänyt täällä jokin asia kesken, että pitää palata elävien maailmaan tai sitten ei malta lähteä kuotuaankaan. On olemassa yleisiä käsityksiä kuten, että aaveet ovat erilaisia energioita. Kerrotaan myös, että aaveet eivät tajuaisi itse olevansa kuolleita vaan elävänsä edelleen. Toiset taas on jääneet tänne puolelle “jumiin” ja toiset palaa rajan takaa takaisin silloin tällöin.

10) Oletko itse koskaan kokenut mitään yliluonnollista?

Olen niin monta paikkaa elämäni aikana, että kyllä väkisin on vastaan tullut jotain yliluonnollista. 95% ilmiöille löytyy luonnollinen selitys, mutta sitten onkin jäljellä se 5% mille ei löydy selitystä. Olen siis skeptisen utelias.:D 

11) Julkaiset pian jatkoa kirjallesi. Kerro hieman mitä on odotettavissa?

Kirjasarjani saa jatkoa tosiaan pian. Aavetaloja ja ihmiskohtaloita osa 2. – Hyytävä matka Suomen historiaan jatkuu- ilmestyy toukokuussa. Ensimmäiseen osaan verrattuna on kohteet enemmän ympäri Suomea. Kirjassa on myös enemmän hyödynnetty lähdemateriaalia, arkistoja ja haastateltavia. Olen panostanut kirjasarjan perinteitä silmällä pitäen myös monipuolisuuteen. Koska tänä vuonna tulee kuluneeksi Suomen sisällissodasta 100 vuotta olen tutkinut ja kirjoittanut aiheesta kohteiden ympärillä. Muutenkin nostin enemmän esille myös sotahistoriaa enemmän verrattuna ekaan osaan. 

12) Missä ihmiset voivat seurata työtäsi ja ostaa kirjojasi?

Parhaiten työtäni voi seurata kirjasarjani facebook-sivuila: http://www.facebook.com/ aavetalojajaihmiskohtaloita  Joten käykäähän kurkkaamassa ja tykkäämässä sivusta. Kirjojani voi ostaa kirjakaupoista, verkkokaupoista ja jos vaikka omistuskirjoituksen haluaa niin suoraan minulta sivujen kautta. Työtäni voi myös seurata mediassa ja luennoilla. Ps. Minut saa myös tilata luentokeikalla minne vain.;)

13) Unohdinko kysyä jotakin oleellista? Kerro siitä tässä!

Kaikki hyvin.:)

Ja loppuun vakiokysymykset, jotka esitän kaikille haastateltaville:

14) Top 3 elokuvasi?

Perikato
Braveheart
Käsky

15) Top 3 kirjasi?

Suomen kartanoita-Dahl Kaj/Gardberg C.J
Ammattina vankikarkuri-Jalutsi Jan
Hävittäkää Helsinki!-Raevuori Antero

16) Minkä mallin puhelinta käytät? (Olen puhelimia keräilevä tekniikkanörtti :))

Joku erittäin vanha Huawein romu.

Interview with Mark Marek, creator and administrator of Best Gore.

Mark Marek is the man behind the (in)famous bestgore.com, a website that gives you a peek behind the curtains of such battlegrounds as the drug war in Mexico, the various wars in the Middle East, gang wars in Latin America, and so on. Over the years, the site has also published videos featuring police brutality and racism, videos other sites have refused to feature.

In addition to this, it also publishes simply gory, bloody and otherwise disturbing content.

Below is my interview Mr. Marek.

Thanks, Mark, for taking the time!


marek

1) Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

I’m that guy on the street you wouldn’t give a second thought about if he passed by you.

2) What did you do before BestGore?

I worked for the provincial government in Alberta, Canada.

3) How did the site come to be? Who established it and how?

I established it just as I was preparing to escape the rat wheel of the corporate world and quit my job to pursue self-discovery. It all came together in my mind in just the right sequence to make sense of it and pursue it.

4) What were the early days of BG like?

Nothing too spectacular. The beginnings were humble with a lot of discouragement as I was being told over and over that it will never be successful due to the fact that there were too many similar websites out there already and the niche was dominated by websites so well established, a new one could never get ahead of them. I persevered nevertheless and added to my site what all other ones were lacking – descriptive titles and the accompanying articles containing considerable background research. It was a lot of extra work, but in the end it paid off as the readers came in ever increasing numbers, expressing appreciation for making the site about more than just graphic content.

5) How has the site changed over the years? I would imagine visitor numbers have gone up considerably.

The growth has never stopped and it is currently the most popular it’s ever been, with record user participation and interest from newcomers. Needless to say, whereas the website celebrates its 10th anniversary this month of this year, it’s gone through many changes over the decade. I myself have grown with her. I may be the founder, but I’m not a know it all. To the contrary, all I know is that I know nothing, to paraphrase Socrates. I may be the founder of Best Gore, but I learn by observing what goes on around the world the same other readers of the website do. And it’s been an ongoing learning process, which has only shown that there is so much more to learn, the process will never stop.

puppy

(from the disclaimer page of the website)

6) How is a BestGore post put together?

Best Gore has a very active user base, so a lot of the published content is submitted by the users. Of all the similar websites out there, we have and have always had the highest amount of exclusive content. I also have my own avenues for obtaining content so after the end of each day, I have more content in my hands than I could possibly publish. The rest is a matter of researching the background story and penning it all together for the use on the internet. I have my own way of putting posts together and styling them which seems to be broadly appreciated, so I have stuck with it for the decade.

7) Is there a deeper philosophy (freedom of speech, libertarian values, anti-censorship etc) behind what you do, or do you just enjoy posting the materials?

I think it’s a little bit of everything. I do enjoy posting the content as it affords me the ability to keep informed and educated on what goes on around the world. And whereas the feedback I have been receiving demonstrated without a shadow of the doubt that the material shared saves lives and contributes in countless ways to a better and safer world, the added incentive only propels me further. The philosophy of the right to freedom of expression would be meaningless without its “sister”, the right of the public to have access to information, and in particular the information of their own choosing and interest. When I was prosecuted for informing the public on what really goes on around the world, the authorities tried to take the former away from me, and the latter away from the world.

8) You have posted several videos and photos that other sites or news outlets sometimes won’t release, such as videos of police brutality and racism, etc. Do you get thanks for doing this?

I get both thanks and death threats. There are powerful people and institutions that feel threatened by me showing their true colors to such a large audience.

9) Your site famously features, among other things, beheading videos by Mexican cartels. Where do you get these videos? From the cartels themselves?

Submissions from users are anonymous. I have 10 years of unbroken record of respecting people’s privacy and anonymity. The videos are submitted and I do not ask who the person submitting them is, or what their affiliation with the participants in the video may be. I’m just a medium to deliver the message to the masses, as I respect their right to have access to information of their own choosing. I do not seek to go beyond that.

10) Having worked on BG for so many years, are you still shocked by some videos? What’s the most gruesome/otherwise memorable video you’ve ever seen?

What operating Best Gore has thought me is that there will never any lack of content to post, as there is so much violence in the world. After running for 10 years, the content shared on Best Gore so far in 2018 has been the most graphic in the website’s history. I have seen so much, there is little to still shock me, yet it still happens. I think the two recent videos of flaying in Mexico have taken their solid place among the most memorable videos so far.

11) You’ve been in trouble with the law over your site. What’s the situation with that at the moment?

After more than 3 years of persecution, I escaped Canada but was threatened with assassination by the Canadian police so am presently seeking political asylum in a neutral country.

12) Do you have any future plans for BG? (personal question: ever thought of writing a book?)

I’m far too dangerous and inconvenient for the powers that be for any mainstream publisher to consider publishing my books. That being said, don’t let the books by other seemingly dangerous and inconvenient people trick you. Those were written by controlled opposition as part of what’s known as “Limited Hangout”. Other than that, I do not have any long term plans, whether with websites or my personal life. I choose to live in the moment.

13) Is there anything you would like to add that I perhaps forgot to ask you about?

Thanks for your interest in speaking with me.

And finally, my regular questions:

14) Your top 3 books?

Lord of the Rings
Think and Grow Rick by Napoleon Hill
Body by Science by Dr. Doug McGuff

15) your top 3 films?

Lord of the Rings trilogy

16) what model phone do you use? (I’m a collector, so I always ask interesting people this question)

I have a Samsung S5 without a sim card. I use it because I have offline maps and translators on it, and it’s also became the replacement for a camera I used to always have in my pocket to take pictures with. For phone calls I have an old (nigh indestructible) pre-smart-phones Nokia, but hardly ever buy a sim card for it. Unless absolutely necessary, I restrict my communications to emails.

Interview with Kendall Carver, founder of International Cruise Victims and father of a missing woman.

Mr Kendall Carver is the founder and chairman of International Cruise Victims (ICV), an organization established in 2006 that addresses the issue of crimes and disappearances at sea. His own daughter Merrian disappeared from a cruise ship under bizarre circumstances in 2004.

He has testified before House and Senate Committees five times, giving testimony on injustices suffered by people at the hands of cruise line corporations.  He also consults on the issue around the world.

In 2017 Mr Carver received the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award. The award is given to people whose work has led to major changes in public policy, and improvements in practices that serve victims of crime.

Below is my interview with Mr. Carver.


kendall

(Kendall Carver)

1) What is the “International Cruise Victims” organization? What does it do?

ICV was formed on January 1, 2018 by four families who had lost family members on Cruise Ships. The organization was formed to give victim and their families a united voice. The group offers support to new victims of crimes on cruise ships plus work towards passing legislation to give victims rights on cruise ships and improve safety of cruise ships.

2) Your involvement with this issue began with your own daughter going missing. Can you tell us the full story of how your daughter disappeared?

I could probably write a book to cover the full story of her going missing. The following link is a detailed summary from our web page:

http://www.internationalcruisevictims.org/LatestMemberStories/Merrian_Carver.html

merrian

(Merrian Carver)

3) I hope you don’t get offended by my asking, but was she suicidal? How likely do you think it is that she jumped off the ship?

After three years, the cruise line admitted there was a video which they review and kept for several months. They had indicated when we first contacted them three weeks after she went missing, that there was no video. If they had a video, why did they indicate that there was no video which only after three years they admitted there was a video. If there was a video of Merrian going overboard, that would have been the end of the story.

In fact, they had lied to us. Crew members later contacted us to say that some crew members were involved in her disappearance. In fact, we will never know what happened.

4) What happened next, after your daughter had gone missing? Who did you contact? What did they do to help you?

We first contacted the cruise ship then turned the investigation over to private detectives and two law firms. Our only initial goal was to speak to the steward who had taken care of her room. It took four months, court action in two states at a cost of $75,000 to finally get a deposition from the steward. He then indicated that he had advised his superior two days into the trip that her room was not being used. He was advised to forget it and just do his job. At the end of the trip, he was advised to put her items in the room in a bag and give them to his boss. The cruise line them disposed of her belongings, and told no one.

merriankendall

(Merrian and Kendall Carver)

5) There was a massive problem with getting CCTV security camera footage in the investigation. Can you tell us more about this?

Frankly, it was a cover-up. When we asked for it, they actually had the video and then lied to us that is was erased. It took three years for them to admit that they actually had it. See the Exhibit 2 on the link below in the answer 6.

6) You have mentioned many times that you believe there was a cover-up following your daughter’s disappearance. What do you think the cruise line were covering up?

In the book “Devil in the Deep Blue Seas” that came out in 2005, it was indicated that cover up was the standard procedure. Those pages are shown in my congressional testimony to the Senate under Exhibit 2.

http://www.internationalcruisevictims.org/files/Total-testimoney1a-1-with_titles.pdf

7) What is your own belief/theory as to what happened to your daughter?

While I will never know for sure, the reports from the cruise members that one of them was involved in her disappearance is probably the conclusion I would come to. This was also confirmed by two separate psychics from different parts of the country.

8) Your daughter’s case is eerily similar to the disappearance of Amy Lynn Bradley, a young lady who went missing from a cruise in 1998. What do you think about the Bradley disappearance? Have you been in contact/shared experiences with the Bradley family?

The Bradley family and I have been in contact since the beginning of ICV. Their daughter disappeared with no answers and our daughter disappeared with no answers. This is the 20-year anniversary of losing their daughter, and Amy Bradley’s case is receiving much press, as per the following link.

https://www.fbi.gov/video-repository/wanted-vodcast-amy-bradley-20th-anniversary-032318.mp4/view

9) A popular weekend pastime in my country (Finland) is taking a cruise from Helsinki or Turku to Stockholm (Sweden) or Tallinn (Estonia). We have several cases of people going missing from cruises, and these cases are usually quickly written off as “spontaneous drunken suicides”. While this is probably true in many cases, I’ve always felt like this “one-size-fits-all”-explanation doesn’t apply in all cases. (After all, people drinking in bars and pubs aren’t constantly jumping from rooftops or shooting themselves.) Have you come across this same mentality in the U.S.?

Interesting question.

In the legislation that ICV passed in 2010, it was required that ships improve the video detections and add MOB systems. The cruise lines have failed to add these systems and the following just came out which should force the cruise lines to add these systems. With them, you could start of answer your question.

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180219005540/en/International-Cruise-Victims-Association-ICV-Pleased-Announce

10) When one investigates these disappearances, sooner or later one comes across the issues of human trafficking and kidnappings. Have you looked into the world of human trafficking? What do you think about a potential connection between that ugly trade and disappearances?

We know the that crew members are involved in many of these disappearances, and clearly these crew members could be involved in human trafficking crimes. As an example, they have been found to be moving drugs on these ships, and we have to assume they might be involved in other crimes as well.

11) In trying to get cruise lines to be more open and cooperative in disappearance cases, you’re fighting a battle against huge, rich corporations. How do you wage this battle?

Just as the voice of the students in Florida has been very effective, the voice of victims that are organized with a cause, such as ICV, have been able to make a difference. A passionate victim is a very effective voice for change.

12) How can people going on cruises increase their safety?

First of all, Senate hearings have determined that 1/3 of all sexual crimes aboard American cruise ships are committed on minors. You can’t assume your children are safe when on a cruise. People need to stay together with friends, and realize that there are no police on cruise ships, where unlimited drunken crimes will occur.

13) In case something bad DOES happen, how can families increase their chances of getting answers?

Legislation, like what was passed to give victims’ rights on cruise ships in the United States, needs to be passed in all countries. There is little chance of getting answers from the countries where ships are flagged.

14) I say this only half-jokingly: do you think everyone going on a cruise should leave behind a signed letter saying “I am not suicidal, and do not plan on killing myself on this trip” to ensure their potential disappearance is investigated properly?

I have to say that regardless of what you leave behind, you can’t assume that crimes will be investigated by the country where the ship is flagged.

15) How have you coped with the sorrow of losing a daughter under such sad circumstances? Does the heart ever heal, or does the pain just subside enough to let you get on with your life?

Really, the hurt never heals. I have moved forward with passion against the industry that allows various crimes to occur knowing that little action will be taken.

16) What’s in your future? What are your plans?

Clearly, I will not live forever so my goal is to build an organization that carries on. We are so fortunate to have so many members playing a significant role in ICV every day and am sure this will happen as long as victims and their families continue to come to ICV.

17) If people reading this want to help you and your organization somehow, how can they do it?

Membership is free and people can join to support ICV both in our mission and with donations. They can join at the following link:

http://www.internationalcruisevictims.org/Contact_us.html

Since we are an all-volunteer group, donations can also be make at:

http://www.internationalcruisevictims.org/Donations.html