Category Archives: Updates

Update: Sisyphus pushes them rocks…

Hey all just a quick update. Sorry I’ve been a little sketchy on the release dates of late. I think owing to feeling more than a little like Sisyphus pushing that rock up the same hill, day in day out for weeks now – I’ve been feeling more worn out than usual of late. This’ll sound very first world problem-ish, it’s mostly lockdown fatigue. As a work from home person anyway the big difference has been the inability to escape ’the office’ for 13 weeks now, but it was more of a difference than I’d planned on.

I’ve got the final episode in the Hollywood Silent Era trilogy set to drop next Wednesday, and a podcast episode. I’ve got two subsequent podcast episodes set to go after that for 2021, a rough draft for the following blog post (we finally make it to ancient Mesopotamia) – and I’ve got a clear plan for an Xmas blog this year.

I’ll look to drop a couple of mini blog posts on the in-between weeks.

Sorry again all, hit the wall and needed a breather – Simone.

Update: Under Construction…

Hey all just a quick update. This week’s blog post (on the Roscoe ’Fatty’ Arbuckle, Virginia Rappe case) is running a little behind schedule. The architect (me) drew up the blueprint, only for massive amounts of scope creep to sneak into the build… The minutiae around the case was more than the project manager (also me) was bargaining for – and I’m now arguing with the owners (yours truly) over why we can’t have the room for a piano they want, let alone that precarious looking toilet on the upper floor….

I was expecting to do this one in 2,000 – 2,500 words. To do it justice I probably need to double that. I’m happy to aim for maybe 3,000 words, but don’t want to create a monster like in the featured image (stolen from a Google image search ”House falls on Buster Keaton” if you were wondering. I have no idea what the photo relates to.)

Add to the mix, Auckland, NZ has been in a lockdown for just over 2 months now. As, well prior to COVID I was a work from home person, it hasn’t bought me much extra time in the week. This time has felt like hard time – no complaints about our leadership over here from me, but I am feeling a little drained of late… many of you all have experienced this with ’quarantimes’ too right? (to borrow a phrase from a friend.)

I don’t have some random historical factoid or mini Tale to shoehorn in here so let me awkwardly insert this guy into the mix by pointing out on the upside, my chronic insomnia has more or less disappeared this lockdown, which has been nice.

aaaand… Paul Kern is a Tale I came across a couple of years ago, and put way on the back-burner – as when I began to dig around the story I just couldn’t find anything much by way of reliable sources. I’ve had a Google alert set to his name for just on two years however, as I think his life must’ve been awful, if true.

Paul was allegedly a Hungarian soldier during the First World War. Stationed near Chlebovice, modern day Chechnya in July 1915 (on first glance the Austro-Hungarians fought the Russians around there at this time), he was shot in the head – losing much of his frontal lobe.

Paul Kern survived, but was alleged to have never slept again. A military Wiki page dedicated to him states he returned to Budapest, and lived till 1943… Something not backed up by any Guinness Book of Records, no Jstor or Academia articles. Nothing in the Lancet.

What do y’all reckon? A man who, due to a traumatic brain injury, which it’s implied destroyed the part of his brain which needs sleep, never slept for close to 3 decades? I’m inclined to file it alongside Old Tom Parr and the theft of a 5 tonne wrecking ball from an American construction site in 1973 as wildly inaccurate, but entertaining Forteana right?

Let me know your thoughts below.
I should be back with the next tale before the week’s out.

Update: Moving Pictures…

Hey all, just a quick update. 

Tales of History and Imagination have a YouTube channel – we have for a while, but I’ve held off on advertising it as it previously was a mess. 

The podcast episodes Podbean loads to YouTube have always sounded tinny to my ears, possibly due to a low bit-rate? I haven’t looked into the whys and wherefores of them…

Last weekend, while I was working on other projects, I made my own videos, by creating thumbnails – then altering them slightly to look like Audiograms, on iMovie. 

I then added the podcast episodes to the videos and uploaded. 

Please show the YouTube channel some love and hit the button below – we currently have a quality over quantity five followers over there. If video is your thing, I’d love for you to join them.

Update: This Lime Tree Bower My Prison…

Hey everyone, just a quick update today. 

As you may know, I’m based in Auckland, New Zealand – the land (one of several) who beat COVID. As some may know, the Rona is back over here for a sequel – and we’re all in lockdown again. 

If anyone is wondering, seeing I held up the Belzoni blog and podcast episode because I lost my voice due to a nasty cold – I was tested just before the lockdown. One of my flatmates brought some kind of virus into the house, then claimed his doctor told him he didn’t need a COVID test. Figuring either he was a liar, or his doctor incompetent – I got myself checked out. It was just a cold.

All the same, as the locations of interest have come up in the news this time, I’ve had six close calls (being at places COVID infected people were at hours before) and am, it appears, surrounded by what the media has dubbed ‘The Birkdale Social Cluster’. 

I feel a little silly when writing about COVID. New Zealand has had a comparatively easy ride compared to much of the world. In the scheme of things I’ve got little to complain about… 

But I did post that update with the plague mask picture a few weeks ago… So I figured some kind of update was in order. And yeah, following the example of Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley (pictured getting his polio shot on the set of the Ed Sullivan Show in 1956) I’ll be getting my first vaccine shot in a little over a week (New Zealand has been slow to roll the vaccination out)

Anyway, the lockdown does give me a little bit of extra time – no weekend shopping expeditions, or meals over at my parents’ place. No Thursday night foodcourt Chinese meal followed by grocery shopping. Certainly no Wednesday night pub quizzes till we’re a couple of lockdown levels down. 

The day job just ticks along, however. I’ve been a work from home person for almost three years now, so the 9 to 5 is very much business as usual. 

Given all that, I’m working away at a couple of extra things. 

First, I’m spending weekends building up a stockpile of podcast episodes. I suffer from seasonal hay fever, so it’s guaranteed I will lose my voice again – some time in the future. I’m looking to record around two dozen of the older blog posts – will keep a handful in reserve + mix the others in with new episodes as we go. 

On that I’m getting the sense those of y’all following the blog are as a rule not following the podcast – and vice versa. On those weeks where I drop an old episode I’ll generally drop a completely new blog post for my readers. 

Second, I’m going to look to get weekly blog posts back up again + start stockpiling a few of those Tales, once I’ve got the podcast episodes well ahead. I’m putting a temporary hold on my ‘Today in history’ one minute video series. When I put the ‘pilot’ up on my personal Facebook, I got some really positive feedback from friends who aren’t history buffs – I can see a place in the world for that project – but it is taking away from this project at the moment so…  

I’m still trying to work out how to get those Patreon episode scripts on here, please stay tuned for that. Next week’s Tale, and Patreon bonus episode are well on track for release. I’ll look to get a non-podcast week blog post in for the week after that – I want to try something a little different on those in between weeks. 

Stay safe out there everyone. I’ll have a new Tale out next week – Simone.


Oh, the silly post title and picture? In 1797 the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge – trapped in his bedroom with a blistered foot due to his wife dropping a pot of hot milk on him – wrote a wonderfully melodramatic poem about not being able to go out on a trek with his friends. I believe there is more to it, truthfully – Mrs Coleridge had just suffered a miscarriage and I always got the sense the two were fighting at the time. If no underlying story it does make Mr Coleridge a rather melodramatic guy I’d dare say…

Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
Had dimm’d mine eyes to blindness!….. “

The picture is of his library, from an article from some time back. His former mansion was up for sale last year for £7 million. The Devon property also of note as it was where Oliver Cromwell planned his revolution.

Update: The Dreaded Lurgy…

Hi everyone just a quick note, I should’ve really posted here first as most of Tales traffic comes directly here – sorry little fluey and not thinking clearly. 

On that count, apologies – this week’s content is going to be a little late. I’ve caught a nasty cold and can barely speak outside of my vocal fry register at the moment. This week’s blog post is written. All the art is done. Most of the music for the podcast too. 

Same for the Patreon episode. 

I wasn’t able to lay down narration, however, before the dreaded lurgy struck. FYI I’m based in New Zealand, where we’ve had no COVID in the community since late February. It is a cold of some description. 

In the meantime I’m doing the things I can – writing for the next couple of posts. I’ll bulk record a load of stuff when my voice returns, and try to use some upcoming annual leave to get an episode or two ahead so I’ve always got a little slack in the timeline moving forwards… And of course drinking lots of fluids, taking my medicine. Thumbing through a Selwyn Raab book from the dining room table – if you need a clue to the podcast topic/s for the second part of this month. 

I’ll be back soon with Giovanni Batista Belzoni- Tomb Raider (and Otzi, for the Patrons). 

Simone. 

Update: Back July 28th

Hey all just a quick update – I hope everyone’s well out there. I’m back with some new content on July 28th. First up is a podcast/blog episode on the guy I dropped a few months back – Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. 

In the first script – the one I binned – I played the Tale like Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. A western saga following groups of irredeemable bad men facing off against other irredeemable bad men … well, except the Wild West was in fact the Wild East – Russia’s untamed frontier. Beyond the comparison, nowhere did I put a tin badge on Ungern, or make him out to be – keeping with movie comparisons – Will Munny in Eastwood’s The Unforgiven. 

But, well you know, we’re conditioned to look at Westerns as binary – men in ‘white hats’ vs men in ‘black hats’. I didn’t wants to put a white hat on a monster, especially one who killed thousands of Chinese invaders (Xu and Duan’s army). Not at a time, especially when violence against Chinese is up in many places.   

So… my revised Ungern is a very different tale. Same facts, very clear perspective on what he was. Stripped of all that fun cowboy stuff. Yeah, maybe a little preachy at times – I am very careful to point out the guy is a monster, and should not be idolised. I’m hoping I’ve hit the right tone for it this time…

Now, on 28 July I’m dropping my first Patreon only bonus podcast also … It’s just the extended version of the ‘Puyi’ tale I told on my (for now abandoned) personal blog. I’ve set the Patreon to $2 US a month. If some of you wish to support the show, and can spare the change, I’d love to have you onboard. If not, again – I won’t be offended… I appreciate you all for taking the time to read my diatribes. 

But it does bring up a question. Most of the bonus episodes will be new material. I’m currently working through bonus tales on Ozti the Iceman, Jorgen Jorgensen (a man who fascinates me endlessly)… a wild tale on the last days of Idi Amin’s rule in Uganda. The beginnings of an on-again-off again series on Hollywood’s Hays Code and the scandals which led to it… 

Is there an appetite here for the blog posts of those episodes? If so, what feels a fair price (per month/year/episode?) for those pieces as ‘premium content’? 

Surely it has to be less than the podcast versions right? I’m providing less with a blog only post. 

I’d love your thoughts on that, if anyone has any to share. Either shout out on the social links, or the contact form on the About/Contact page… Or below. 

Now, all that said – From the 28th, till I’ve completed my proposed ‘Today in History’ videos, I’m going to be taking those ‘blog post only’ weeks off to work on those. I’m less active on social media than I’d like to be at the moment, and those pages are beginning to feel like nothing more than episode spam. Some people also just want some quick factoid or other from their pop-history sites. This, hopefully kills two birds with one stone. To give you a sense of time spent on those – I spend maybe 10 – 15 hours producing a podcast episode (on top of writing etc). The one minute Today in History pilot I made took me 20 minutes to record, mix and cobble together – so I’m hoping to have that project up and running in a few months’ time.    

I’ll be back soon – Simone. 

Update: Downtime….

Hey all just a quick note today. I’m taking four weeks off publishing the blog posts so I can get ahead of other parts of this channel. In the meantime I’m hoping to get the podcast episodes back on Wednesdays.

I’m planning to record two already published blog posts to podcast this afternoon, once the neighbours have all put away their lawnmowers, and two further episodes for the next four week break (I’m sticking to my ten weeks on, four off schedule for now).

In the next block I’m going into Austrian pre-history, a convict king, some Mesopotamian history, circus strongmen, a murder mystery, and Benito Mussolini’s hat… among other things.

In the meantime, typewriters away! (I don’t really use a typewriter), microphones out! (I use an USB mic). The next two podcast episodes will be on Nellie Bly and eden ahbez.

August You Choose Topic: The ‘Real Indiana Jones’

Hey all, the You Choose episode for August will be a choice from one of the following.

 The newspapers tell me Indy is turning 40 this year – Raiders of the Lost Ark of course released in 1981. My understanding is, while Spielberg and Lucas have spoken at length on the fictional influences on the character (everything from Charlton Heston in The Secret of the Incas, to early Scrooge McDuck.. in both cases check out that hat and jacket!), it’s always been assumed several real life adventurers were also in the mix. 

Sooner or later I’m bound to write on Percy Fawcett and his Lost city of Z, so I’m taking him out of contention… Roy Chapman Andrews, Hiram Bingham III, Carl Akeley? etc I don’t know. Maybe we’ll get to those guys if Tales runs long enough… In a couple of decades maybe? 

Ok, Carl Akeley in less than a paragraph. Akeley was the taxidermist who stuffed Jumbo the elephant, after Jumbo was killed by a train. He went on safari with Teddy Roosevelt; and once choked an attacking leopard to death with his bare hands – not getting at all wounded in the exchange (see picture).. A lot of the ‘real life Indy’s’, I think, could be similarly covered… Most of them are interesting, but few of them have ever struck me as being as interesting as a Henry Morton Stanley, Richard Francis Burton or even a Mungo Park. 

Some characters however, seem very worthy of this own short Tale.

One – Frederick Russell Burnham. 

 Not only did he literally teach Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, a thing or two, and serve as an inspiration for H.Rider Haggard’s Allan Quartermain, he got into a load of scrapes across the globe. Burnham was involved in the Pleasant Valley War (a Wild West feud mentioned briefly in the post on Tom Horn), and the Apache Wars before moving to South Africa where he… well, vote to find out. 

Two – Giovanni Batista Belzoni.

An Italian giant, and one time circus strongman with a formal education in civil engineering – Belzoni made one hell of a grave robber. Among the items he stole away with is that famous 7 tonne bust of Ramesses II everyone has probably seen at some time or other. He had many adventures in Egypt, before travelling to West Africa… Want to know more? Vote Belzoni.  

Voting Closes midday NZ time 21st June 2021.

Update: My upcoming ‘Today in History’ project

Hi all just a quick update.

First, apologies ahead of time – this week’s blog + podcast post on rocket pioneer and occultist Jack Parsons may run a little late. It ran longer than expected and will be a two parter. Part one is written up. The podcast episode is recorded and waiting for second pass editing tonight.
All going well I’ll release both on Wednesday… otherwise it’ll be a Thursday release?

Second, I’ve been thinking about doing a series of one minute ‘Today in History’ videos on YouTube. My plan is to do three or four month’s worth on my next break from the blog (in 6 weeks’ time) with a new video for every day of the year.

Check out the ‘pilot’ below. Please leave me some feedback on the video – Simone

Moving the Update Page

Hey all I’m just doing some admin – setting up a category page made up of all blog posts with ‘Updates’ ticked. I’m then deleting the Updates page I built in January….
Hence the email full of old podcast/blog news.
Sorry for the email tonight. The next real blog post is set for next week. – Simone.

P.S. The cover picture is just the fourth or fifth random image which came up when I typed ‘Giovanni Battista Belzoni moves heavy things’…. should the next You Choose be a narrative source for Indiana Jones, like Belzoni vs a source for Sherlock Holmes… say, Joseph Bell… or Walter Scherer (providing I can find sources on Scherer?)

Let me know in the comments?

Hi everyone, as Tales is picking up a number of followers who just come directly to the site every week – more than our total number of social media followers – and certain social media sites (I’m looking at you Facebook) are terrible at sharing updates to everyone anyway …. this page will be for updates for all things Tales of History and Imagination.

Blog posts drop 10am every Tuesday (New Zealand time) on 10 week cycles with a 3 week interlude.
Podcast episodes drop fortnightly, 6pm Wednesday (New Zealand time), currently planned for a 10 fortnight cycle with 4 weeks’ downtime.


1st May. And the Winner of 2nd June’s You Choose Blog/Podcast is….

Lord Lucan!

4th April. Lucan v Boggs… other things.

Hey everyone, just a quick update.
First, go check out the Lucan v Boggs post of a couple of days’ back. I’m hoping to officially launch the Patreon some time this year, and one of the perks of helping me make ‘Tales’ will be getting to choose a topic (based on a certain theme). Until I have patrons though I’m opening this to all readers and listeners.

The first You Choose topic will be 2nd June, on a figure who vanished without a trace. Your choices – Lord Lucan, the murderous British peer who vanished after attempting to kill his wife, Veronica – and killing his childrens’ nanny Sandra Rivett… or Hale Boggs, the American Speaker of the House, who disappeared flying over Alaska.
Go to the link above and vote. Check out the dodgy YouTube video I made while there.

Second, I’m taking a little time off to get the next few episodes, and blog posts ready to go. The next episode will be on Mithradates, enemy of Rome, ‘poison king’ of Pontus, projected date 21st April. I’m still sussing out a couple of topics for the next ten week run but expect a renegade mobster, a tale from old Hollywood, an obscure tale of men battling a ‘dragon’, an occultist with the party house from hell, a warrior queen, and the story of one of postwar history’s stranger pranks in the mix.

Third, sorry – I ditched on this last season an episode early. I had the script ready to go and podcast episode recorded for the tale of Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg. It seemed insensitive of me to be posting a story of a warlord who killed thousands of Chinese soldiers a few days after the murders in Atlanta…. not that I make a hero out of a monster like Ungern …. If there is a right time to do the Tale at some point I’ll release it. In the meantime, let me point you towards ‘The Bloody White Baron’ by James Palmer – my primary source. I’ll add in the Jstor articles I read on Ungern later.

21st February. Best laid plans….

Hey all just a quick note from me tonight – well it’s tonight – around 11pm – where I’m typing from. 

The week has been a little odd over here – and I’m not talking about New Zealand’s brief re-entry into COVID lockdown. Truthfully, however I’m feeling at any given time during this pandemic, it feels petty and indulgent to be writing anything COVID related… at least while much of the world is so heavily hit by it. 

I’ve been writing largely week to week on the blog in 2021. I used most of my time off over Christmas making a road map for 2021, rather than stockpiling blog posts. This is not the whole story – I had three podcast-able Tales pencilled in where, on doing all the research.

1.On one tale I knew my version would pale in comparison to the source material. To boot I don’t think my perspective on the tale was significantly different to that of the main author, nor could I come at it from a different angle. 

2. On another tale, a true crime piece I picked up on maybe a decade ago – it had everything I could ever hope for ….. except I’d somehow forgotten how unbelievable – and not safe for work – the murder weapon was. Well…

3 doesn’t feel right at the moment. It might do down the line a little. 

But hey, the time was not totally wasted right? I’ve got a plan. I’ve left a little wriggle room with a revamped ‘Gevaudan’ and the John Frum piece… I threw a spanner in the works – While finishing the Henry ‘Box’ Brown piece it struck me I’d mentioned the war between Portugal and the Kingdom of Ndongo – and given Women’s History Month follows – is it not a crazy idea to shelf the subject I had in mind for that, to do a piece on Queen Nzinga of Ndongo instead? We’ve already done some background in the other piece. Nzinga is super interesting. I never normally get to write about Africa, so there’s that too.. 

This caused a butterfly effect. I now had three weeks of blog posts in a row on royals – wildly different royals from different times, but still… and then a blog and podcast episode set for the same day about a mad baron. I’d now have to shelf this coming week’s topic for someone less aristocratic… 

Yeah, I know, dumb stuff only important to myself – but building an online cabinet of curiosities I can’t have groups of similar things together… it won’t look right if things aren’t all jumbled up… 

Well, anyway everything was still on track till I ended up in the A&E one day last week with excruciating stomach pains. The cause is currently anyone’s guess – front runner is a bout of food poisoning a month before that has left my gut very sensitive. This cost me a few nights, as I was too sore to be leaning forwards to write. I lost another day, this week, when my old tablet died. I’ve replaced it, but spent a night getting the new machine set up. 

I’ll have a new post ready for Tuesday, though it’ll be short and sweet this coming week – well, OK short and a little gruesome. Check back in on Tuesday for some new material.

4th February: Yeah…. that thing Barrett Strong said…

Hey all just a quick update about a few things happening behind the scenes.

In coming days I’ll be launching a Patreon for the blog and podcast. I’m currently looking for a quiet day to do a little research on something I want to offer on the higher tier. The plan at present is to start by offering

▪︎an extra Tale each month (in both blog and podcast formats),
▪︎possibly e-books?
▪︎and voting rights (between two or three choices) for one Tale a month – starting from
the next block in April, as I have all tales locked in for the rest of this block, or semester… or whatever a ten week sprint of Tales is called.

As I’ve no doubt it’s going to take a little time to build up patrons, even at my super low prices of $1 a month for the basic tier, $5 for the VIPs, I’m planning to make voting open for all readers and listeners – at least till it isn’t anymore. Keep an eye out for the Survey Monkey polls from around mid April.

Staying on the topic of Patron programmes – first stretch targets will be to help cover the costs of research materials, the rental on the WordPress and Podbean sites, and probably annual e-subscriptions to a couple of resources that keep coming up more in a month than the number of free articles I get from them. If I can get membership up to an amount which allows me less time at a day job I’m not exactly crazy for, I’ll use that time to create some more giveaways – but more on that IF we can reach those targets.

Meantime, folks please show me a little love by sharing a blog or podcast episode which resonated with you with just one person – someone you know will dig it too… which is good for all right? I grow the channel. You may get someone to discuss the channel with … well besides yours truly anyway – Simone.

19th January: The Beast Returns.

Hi all, I’ve written a little bit on my plans for the rebooted podcast on the social media channels. Here’s a quick rundown….. and an explanation why that damn cryptid is back again before Halloween.

The Podcast:
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but my original plan for Tales was primarily to make a podcast, and to have a blog on a separate website, with all the podcast scripts in the feed. Thankfully I had a couple of unexpected expenses crop up, which delayed my purchase of a Blue Yeti mic and a reconditioned laptop just long enough to write and publish a couple of dozen blog posts.

This is important, as it set Tales as a blog primarily, with an attached podcast. I think my writing was serviceable on the blog when I started… the first attempts at podcasting not so much so. They were word salads, my narration not great. By and large I was picking subjects which were episodic and meandering.

I also had a degree of imposter syndrome about podcasting which I didn’t feel about blogging.

As a result, I think I had a few listenable episodes towards the end of the first run – but I never promoted the show to anyone. I was happy to refocus on the blog at the end of season one.

A couple of things happened in 2020. First, my workplace announced they weren’t giving payrises that year – but they would make a series of online courses prepared for the management available to all of us. In one of those courses I think I heard the concept of ‘growth mindsets’ at exactly the right time; deciding I didn’t have the bag of tools needed right this moment for a good podcast – but I could obtain all those skills with a little effort. The second thing was Spotify signing Joe Rogan’s podcast to a contract then advertising they now had podcasts (they always did have them).
My little show went from around 50 downloads to 450 in days, as a result, I guess of people searching their podcast listings. This was the prompt I needed to try my hand at podcasting again.

FYI none of the original run are still up. I’ve started with a clean slate that I’m much happier with. Just like writing, the channel is a work in progress but I think I’ve relaunched something quite listenable.

Why the Beast?
In short the revamped season one will be a collection of existing blog posts. I’m hoping to make episode 9 the sole new Tale (the blog and podcast episodes to be released the same week). Subsequent seasons are likely to contain more synchronized episodes.
Beast of Gevaudan is one of the more clicked on blog episodes, but when I recorded the script it really needed more than a few minor tweaks… so I completely rewrote it. This is why our Halloween staple is back this week.

Next week I’ll have something new; a quirky little tale from recent history.