“The Pale Blue Eye” and the “Real” Edgar Allan Poe.

The Netflix movie The Pale Blue Eye is a murder mystery that takes place at the United States Military at West Point.

The Movie

By Netflix – Netflix., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72253321

The Pale Blue Eye is a gothic mystery thriller film written and directed by Scott Cooper, adapted from the 2003 novel of the same name by Louis Bayard.[1] The film features an ensemble cast that includes Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, Harry Lawtey, Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, and Robert Duvall. Its plot follows veteran detective Augustus Landor in 1830 West Point, New York, as he investigates a series of murders at the United States Military Academy with the aid of Edgar Allan Poe, a young military cadet.

In 1830, alcoholic retired detective Augustus Landor is asked by the military to investigate the hanging of Cadet Leroy Fry at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Landor is a widower who lives alone since his daughter Mathilde ran off a few years previously.

After Fry was hanged, his heart was removed from his body. In the morgue, examining the corpse, Landor finds a small fragment of a note clutched tightly in Fry’s hand. Also, marks on Fry’s neck and fingers suggest that he did not hang himself, but was murdered.

With the officers’ permission, Landor enlists the help of Edgar Allan Poe, another cadet at the academy who has expressed an interest in the case. Poe and Landor deduce from the writing on the note fragment that it was summoning Fry to a secret meeting. After a cow and a sheep are found in the area, butchered and with their hearts removed, it is deduced that the murder could be linked to black magic rituals.

Another cadet, Ballinger, goes missing and is later found hanged, with both his heart and his genitals removed. A third cadet, Stoddard, who was a colleague of the two victims, then disappears, and it is presumed by Landor that this man had reason to believe he was next in line to be killed.

Landor and Poe begin to suspect the family of Dr. Daniel Marquis, who was first brought into the investigation to perform the autopsy on Fry. Particular suspicion is placed on his son Artemus and his daughter Lea (who suffers from random seizures).

While visiting Dr. Marquis’s house, Landor finds an old officer’s uniform; a man impersonating an officer had been involved in the mutilation of Fry’s body. Landor confronts Dr. Marquis, who admits that he had resorted to black magic to cure Lea of her seizures, and initially she appeared to improve.

Poe is enchanted by Lea and volunteers to do whatever she wants. However, he is drugged and wakes to find that Artemus and Lea are about to cut out his heart, in accordance with the ritual to cure Lea. Landor manages to arrive in time to rescue Poe, but the building catches fire and Lea and Artemus die.

Thinking that the case is now solved, the military thanks Landor for his service. However, Poe, recovering from his near-death experience, notices that the handwriting on the note fragment found in Fry’s hand matches that of Landor. Threading together all the information that he has gathered, it becomes apparent that Landor was in fact the killer of the cadets. Poe confronts Landor with his conclusion.

It transpires that two years previously, Landor’s daughter Mathilde was raped by Fry, Ballinger, and Stoddard after attending her first ball. Traumatized by the experience, she later killed herself by jumping off a cliff. Landor did not disclose this to anyone but pretended that she had run away.

Distraught, Landor set out to avenge his daughter. He left the note for Fry, luring him to a lonely spot before hanging him. However, a patrol happened to walk by, so Landor was forced to leave the body there. Lea and Artemus later stole the heart for their ritual. After killing Ballinger, Landor mutilated his corpse to make it appear that the cadet had been murdered by the same “madman” who had desecrated Fry’s body.

Poe tells Landor he has two notes with handwriting samples that can link Landor directly to the murders, but before leaving, Poe burns them. Landor is later seen standing at the cliff where his daughter leapt to her death. He lets her hair ribbon float away in the wind, saying “Rest, my love”.

West Point References

Although the story is fiction, it does contain accurate references to West Point.

The “Real” Edgar Allan Poe at West Point

The following is an excerpt from Teacher of Civil War Generals – Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant:

By Unknown author; Restored by Yann Forget and Adam Cuerden – Derived from File:Edgar Allan Poe, circa 1849, restored.jpg; originally from http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=39406, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77527076

There are many stories, anecdotes, and fantasies about Poe’s exploits at West Point. He became notorious for cutting mandatory drills, skipping classes, and making “nocturnal visits to Benny Havens.” One night Poe stumbled back to his barracks and sprawled on his back on the steps of his tactical officer’s quarters. “When the tactical officer awoke and inquired as to who might be outside his door, Poe allegedly responded in verse: On Linden when the sun was low/All bloodless lay the untrodden snow/And dark as winter was the flow/Of I SIR, rolling rapidly!” Cadet Poe was eventually court-martialed and dismissed from the Academy. Some attribute his discharge to his frequent trips to Benny Havens or his “uncontrollable urge to hurl baked potatoes across the Academy mess hall.” Another story blamed his dismal on reporting to a parade naked except for his crossed white ammunition belts and hat. One account said that Poe, in a fit of rage, threw his tactical officer off a cliff into the Hudson River and was subsequently charged with murder.[i]

[i] William F. Hecker, editor, Private Perry and Mister Poe, The West Point Poems, 1831, Facsimile Edition (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005), Introduction xvii-xviii..
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Sam’s Club Awards Grant to Plano Kiwanis

The Plano Kiwanis’ “Books and Buddies” program received a $500 grant from Sam’s Club. The grant, along with Plano Kiwanis funds, will be used to purchase bilingual books that will be given to Head Start children at an open house in February. Over the past two years, the Books & Buddies project has supplied bilingual books for school events, after-school programs, and libraries.

The program’s goal is to support efforts to connect parents and children with books.

Some medical offices have also received bilingual books through the program, which presents an opportunity for a parent to spend a few minutes reading a book with their child.

To learn more about this program, please contact the Plano Kiwanis [http://www.kiwanisplano.org/]

Also, please check out the other programs supported by the Plano Kiwanis [http://www.kiwanisplano.org/what-we-do-new.html]

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Charlotte the Elf

As some of you may know, Charlotte is a mischievous elf. She is employed by Santa Claus in his North Pole workshop. During the Christmas season, Charlotte makes unannounced visits to children around the world. Experts have not determined whether there is one elf with magical powers or many elves to cover the earth. The CIA and MI6 are also investigating how many wonderful Charlottes are out there.

Charlotte has been staying with my great-granddaughter in her home in North Texas. My five-year-old was enjoying her time with the playful elf until this morning.

The little girl could not find her friend. She looked in her room, the kitchen, the living room, and even in the backyard. She could not find Charlotte. She called her mother to help her in the search. The child became upset and started to cry. Her mother suggested that they go to Starbucks for breakfast. The distraught little girl fought back tears and decided to go. On the drive to the coffee shop, she asked her mom to call the police to report the missing elf.

Upon arriving at Starbucks, the child saw a policeman. She said, “I want to report a missing person er elf .”

The policeman opened his notepad and wrote down the particulars … height, weight, color of hair, and clothes the elf was wearing. He asked when the last time the elf had been seen. He assured the child.

“She will probably turn up at home. If she is not there, I will submit my notes and authorize a missing persons er missing elf report.”

The five-year-old was comforted by the officer’s sincerity and promise.

By this time, the breakfast order was ready. The little girl went to the counter to get her hot chocolate. There she found Charlotte with her arms around the cup. She approached the elf cautiously, thinking it might be another child’s elf. Her mother assured her that it was her Charlotte.

Of course, the first my precious great asked was, “How did Charlotte open those heavy doors into the Starbucks. Her quick-thinking mom said a customer must have opened the door for her.

I called her later that morning to see if she was okay. “You know that Charlotte is so mischievous,” I began. Great Grandpa, she is right here and you must be careful not to hurt her feelings.” I apologized and said I loved my sweet little girl. She said goodbye and went off to play hide-and-seek with the playful elf.

A huge thank you to the police officer who treated my great grand baby with such tenderness and to the thoughtful Starbucks employees who helped locate Charlotte. A very big hug to my granddaughter and her mom who welcomed Charlotte to her home.

Love to all. Seasons Greetings.

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Season’s Greetings

I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday and a happy new year.

I thought that I would share with you some pictures I took of animals on my recent trip to Alaska.

I hope you have the opportunity to visit Alaska and enjoy its wonderful beauty.

Seasons Greetings

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The Third Rebellion

The Third Rebellion is a novel about political and social unrest in the United States of America. The book is a work of fiction. The Third Rebellion is not a prediction of future events, a political manifesto, a condemnation of American society, a denunciation of a political party, or a call to action. It is a story about an American revolution or rebellion which the author created from personal observations during the past 10 years. As I considered writing a novel about a possible third Civil War, I sought events that could lead to such an uprising.

Headlines like these inspired writing of The Third Rebellion.

  • “As Trump refuses to concede defeat, far-right groups plan show of support in Washington” November 13, 2020 – Reuters News Service 
  • “George Floyd’s death was ‘murder’ and the accused officer ‘knew what he was doing,’ Minneapolis police chief says” – June 24, 2020 – CNN
  • “Pride, Black Lives Matter flags burned at Cary church” – August 31, 2022 – WXII News Winston Salem, North Carolina
  • “Was the Jan. 6 Attack on the Capitol an Act of ‘Terrorism?’” – January 7, 2022 – The New York Times

The Third Rebellion is available from Amazon.

Paperback    $10.00

Kindle          $4.00    

Please tell your family and friends about this new novel.

Please post your comment and rating on The Third Rebellion.

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The Forgotten Texas Statesman

The revised and edited version of my biography of Ebenezer Allen is now available from Barnes and Noble Press.

Who was this Man?

  • Appointed Attorney General of the Republic of Texas
  • Served as interim Secretary of State
  • Assisted in the Annexation of Texas to the United States
  • First elected Attorney General of the State of Texas
  • Obtained first railroad charter in Texas
  • A local advocate of Spiritualism
  • Represented engineers and inventors in their dealings with the Richmond government
  • A civilian member of the Confederate Engineering Bureau
  • Died mysteriously in Richmond, Virginia
  • Town in north Texas named after him

Order Book The Forgotten Texas Statesman for $17.00 from Barnes and Noble

Order E-Book The Forgotten Texas Statesman for $2.00 from Barnes and Noble

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The Woman King

The Woman King is a must viewing. Viola Davis is her great self. The Woman King is a true story that confirms that the all-female military regiment existed and was called the Agojie or Mino (Our Mothers). The Woman King takes place in 1823, the year that King Ghezo finally freed Dahomey from its tributary status. While the historically based movie describes how the Agojie saved Dahomey, its themes resonate with us today.

It describes how some African kingdoms provided slaves for European traders. However, General Nanisca (Davis) refuses to enslave people for trade and denounces the practice.

The movie portrays a strong female society of brave and gifted fighters that are superior to the male warriors. It also shows the Agojie as a loving and nurturing sisterhood with an unbending commitment to their country and to each other.

The Woman King has lessons for today’s women.

  • They are just as strong as the men and always have been.
  • They are brave and fearless.
  • They control their lives and bodies.

Please see the empowering movie. Enjoy the songs and dances, treasure the warmth and love, and cheer the bravery and skills..

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Some Thoughts on Reading

I wanted to share some of my wife’s postings on reading.

I Opened a Book|
By Julia Donaldson

By Warren Berger, CreativeHealthyFamily.com
Awesome Librarians

Please pass these thoughts to your family and friends. Even better, read a story to a child.

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“Finest non-fiction writing I’ve ever found”

I read Dave Lieber’s online column today where he quotes from World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle.

Mr. Lieber called the piece the “finest non-fiction writing I’ve ever found.” Dave gave me permission to share this information. I think that when you read this passage, you will agree with Dave and me that this is “great writing.” and perhaps find this quote your “favorite piece of writing by anyone, ever.”

One dreary evening in London a friend and I started out to dinner. We had gone about two blocks when we heard hurrying footsteps behind us. We turned and saw that it was a little bellboy from my hotel. The lad’s name was Tom Donovan, and he was the one who had showed [sic] me my room on that first strange night months before when I arrived in London.

“This telegram just came for you, sir,” he said. “I thought maybe I could catch you.” I thanked him and he started on back.  

I stepped over to the curb, out of people’s way, while I tore open the telegram and read it.

“What is it?” my friend asked. “More good news from home?”

“Read it,” I said, and went on ahead. When he caught up he said, “I’m sorry,” and we walked toward Leicester Square as though nothing had happened.  

It was the cablegram that told me that my mother, far away in Indiana, had come to the end of her life.

That night in London, back in my room, it seemed to me that living is futile, and death the final indignity. I turned off the lights and pulled the blackout curtains and went to bed.

The pictures of my mother raced across the darkness before my eyes. Pictures of nearly a lifetime. Pictures of her at neighborhood square dances long, long ago, when she was young and I was a child. Pictures of her playing the violin. Pictures of her doctoring sick horses; of her carrying newborn lambs into the house on raw spring days. I could see her that far day in the past when she drove our first auto – all decorated and bespangled – in the Fourth of July parade. She was dressed up in frills and won first prize in the parade and was awfully proud….   

I could see her as she stood on the front porch, crying bravely, on that morning in 1918 when I, being youthful, said a tearless good-by and climbed into the neighbor’s waiting buggy that was to take me out of her life.

The pictures grew older. Gradually, she became stooped, and toil-worn, and finally white and wracked with age – but always spirited, always sharp. 

On the afternoon that I was leaving London I called little Tom Donovan, the bellboy, to my room. One by one the floor servants had come in, and I had given them farewell tips. But because I liked him, and more than anything else, I suppose, because he had shared with me the message of finality, I wanted to do something more for Tom than for the others. And so, in the gentlest way I could, I started to give him a pound note.

But a look of distress came into his face, and he blurted out, “Oh no, Mr. Pyle, I couldn’t.” And then he stood there so straight in his little English uniform and suddenly tears came in his eyes, and they rolled down his cheeks, and then he turned and ran through the door. I never saw him again.

On that first night I had felt in [sic] a sort of detached bitterness that, because my mother’s life was hard, it was also empty. But how wrong I was. For you need only have seen little Tom Donovan in faraway London, wretched at her passing, or the loneliness of Snooks [her little dog] after she had gone, or the great truckloads of flowers they say came from all over the continent, or the scores of Indiana youngsters who journeyed to her both in life and in death because they loved her, to know that she had given a full life. And received one, in return.

Courtesy of Dave Lieber,
“Watchdog Nation”
The Dallas Morning News

You can contact Mr. Lieber at davelieber@dallasnews.com.

If you haven’t discovered Mr. Lieber’s column, you are missing a great column.

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Allen and Chase – Classmates and Adversaries

Ebenezer Allen and Salmon Chase were classmates and graduates of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. They renewed their friendship in January 1853 in Washington, DC.  Chase was a Senator from Ohio (1849−1855) and later a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was an ardent abolitionist and known as the “fugitive slave lawyer” because he defended so many escaped slaves in court. On the afternoon of January 9, 1853, in Washington, Allen gave Chase an in-depth description of life and politics in Texas. The former Dartmouth classmates talked about the role of slavery in the Texas economy. Although they had different views on the subject, they respected each other’s position.

Anson Jones – The Last
President of the Republic of Texas

In September 1844, Texans elected Dr. Anson Jones president. He made no campaign speeches and refused to state his position on annexation. Jones remained silent even after James K. Polk’s election as president of the United States on a platform of “reannexation of Texas,” and President John Tyler’s proposal of annexation by joint resolution.

After Dr. Jones’s election, he consulted with friends and other Texas politicians to select officers for his cabinet. He chose Ashbel Smith as Secretary of State. For the position of Attorney General, Jones selected a lawyer from Red River County – Ebenezer Allen. Jones’ cabinet served from about December 1844 until February 1846.

After Jones organized his cabinet, France and England demanded Texas send a representative to their courts “with full powers to conclude any arrangement that might be necessary for the safety of the country.” The governments asked Jones to send Secretary of State Ashbel Smith, who was “known and highly appreciated.” Ebenezer Allen was selected to fill this position in addition to his duties as Attorney General. Allen was regarded as “a man of excellent sense, high character, and of the best disposition in this matter.” In addition to his position as attorney general, Allen was “charged with the duties of secretary of state ad interim.”

While Jones was non-committal about annexation, Secretary Allen was strongly in favor of independence. Two months before his appointment he wrote to William Kennedy, the British consul at Galveston, about his position:

You are well aware of the fact that I have from the beginning been decidedly opposed to the Annexation of Texas to the United States. It is my first object to defeat, if possible, the consummation of this most obnoxious measure, so decidedly hostile, as I conceive it to be, and fraught with such evil consequences to the ultimate prosperity and high destiny of this Country. If I am successful in the accomplishment of this great result, I shall consider it the proudest period of my life.

The State of Texas is No More
Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase

Salmon Portland Chase was a Senator from Ohio (1849−1855) and later a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was an ardent abolitionist and known as the “fugitive slave lawyer” because he defended so many escaped slaves in court. On the afternoon of January 9, 1853, in Washington, Allen gave Chase an in-depth description of life and politics in Texas. The former Dartmouth classmates talked about the role of slavery in the Texas economy. Although they had different views on the subject, they respected each other’s position.

After the Civil War, Chase was appointed a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 1869 case Texas v. White, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution did not permit states to unilaterally secede from the United States and that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were “absolutely null.” – United States Supreme Court Ruling

“The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to “be perpetual.” And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained “to form a more perfect Union.” It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?” – Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase.

It is interesting how Ebenezer Allen worked to annex Texas to the United States although he was decidedly against it and Salmon Chase issued a Supreme Court decision to keep Texas from leaving.

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