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OLD WEIRD AMERICA: Peyton Place, the Scandalous Book that Captivated America Thursday, February 13 6:00 PM, Northside Library

Please join us for a look at the most scandalous book of the 1950s—Peyton Place. All about the dark secrets of a respectable New England town, it sold millions of copies, but brought nothing but trouble to its author, a young wife and mother named Grace Metalious—who incited an uproar with her unapologetically outspoken manner and unconventional opinions. Come and learn why filmmaker John Waters said, “When I read Peyton Place at 10-years-old, I knew the world around me was a lie.”


Old Weird America: Jack Parsons, Sex Magic and Rocket Science Thursday, Jan. 9, 6pm Northside Library

Come hear the bizarre story of Jack Parsons--the genius behind the development of America’s rocket program—who also happened to believe he was able to conjure the woman of his dreams through an ancient magic spell. Weird is the word for Parson’s combination of the magic of notorious Satanist Alastair Crowley, the bad science fiction of L. Ron Hubbard, and the rocketry of Werner von Braun, which resulted in the development of the solid rocket fuel that took us to the moon.

OLD WEIRD AMERICA: The Secret Life of Jazz Musician Billy Tipton Thursday, Dec. 12 @ 6 pm Northside Library

Billy made a modest name for himself as a jazz pianist throughout the mid-west in the 40s and 50s, living the unconventional life of an vagabond entertainer.  Leaving only a few recordings and no hit songs, the musician would probably be little remembered today if not for the secret he revealed only in death. Come see and hear about the unique way Billy handled an age-old injustice.

Old Weird America: The Mystery of Writer-Adventurer Ambrose Bierce

Thursday, November 14     6:00-7:00 PM      Northside Library  When author Ambrose Bierce vanished without a trace in 1913 at the age of 71, after joining up as an observer in the army of Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution, he sealed his place in the American consciousness. This time around, we'll explore the life and likely death of the misanthropic satirist known as ‘Bitter Bierce’—who defined a year as: A period of 365 disappointments.

OLD WEIRD AMERICA / Haunting Images Thurs, Oct 24, at 6pm @ Northside Library

Do you believe in ghosts? Seeing is believing.  In a 19thc America awash in civil strife, technical miracles, and outrageous frauds, the development of photography encompassed all 3 in the practice of capturing “ghosts” on film. Was spirit photography proof of life after death, as so many longed to believe—or the mere humbug of an opportunistic entrepreneur? Come see and hear the fascinating story of this curious phenomenon, presented by historian Cathy Polovina.

Old Weird America: The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing, the 1906 "Crime of the Century" (Thurs. Sept.12, 6pm @ Northside Library)

Come see and hear the story of a beautiful but naïve young woman, a talented and prominent New York citizen with a secret life, and the mentally disturbed son of a millionaire who married one and murdered the other in turn-of-the-century New York City. When innocent 16-year-old Gibson Girl model Evelyn Nesbit met 47-year-old architect Stanford White, the stage was set for an explosive sex and murder scandal that brought America into the modern age of celebrity culture. THURSDAY, SEPT.12, 6 PM @ THE NORTHSIDE LIBRARY


Please join me in OLD WEIRD AMERICA this month for a look at the life of model, photographer, and children’s book author Dare Wright--who leaves us with the impression that she lived entirely in her own visual world. Her mother Edith was a painter and photographer who obsessively primped and posed her pretty daughter in hundreds of portraits, while she isolated her from any other family connections. Dare went on to create her own peculiar world in a series of books using still photography to tell the story of The Lonely Doll—a doll she named for her mother, but whom she made over to look eerily like herself. We will explore how Dare managed to enter and live in this virtual world until cruel reality intervened.    Cathy Polovina

Old Weird America

In August 1835, The New York Sun reported the discovery of life on the moon, as seen through the mega-telescope of respected astronomer Sir John Herschel. Why was the public so eager to believe the accounts and images of a moon populated with giant bi-pedal beavers and flying man-bats who built towering temples of sapphire and gold? And what part did author Edgar Allan Poe play in the story? Please join us for the fascinating fake news story that foretold the power of modern media.

TONIGHT! Old Weird America: Devil at the Crossroads

For the 1st anniversary of Old Weird America –I hope you will enjoy this look into the stormy lives of two American musical icons.  By all accounts, Robert Johnson was an average guitar player in the juke joints of Mississippi in 1932 when he dropped out of sight for a time, only to return as the most arresting blues guitarist anyone had ever heard. Could his mysterious midnight trip to the crossroads outside of Clarksdale have anything to do with his miraculous turnaround?  Equally legendary is the story of convicted killer Huddie Ledbetter --known as Leadbelly, who literally sang his way out of prison and went on to introduce America to such folk standards as “Goodnight Irene’ and “Midnight Special.”

Please join me for our next program, The Devil at the Crossroads, on Thursday, June 13 at 6 pm at the Northside Library.


Old Weird America-- Belle Gunness

Come see and hear the wild story of LaPorte, Indiana’s Lady BluebeardBelle Gunness, who could be the first woman serial killer in America.  Belle lured a succession of lonely Norwegian bachelors to her isolated farm with the promise of work or even love— most of whom were never seen again. Just when she suspected she was about to be found out—her house burned down – and a woman’s headless body was found in the rubble—was it Belle, or had the so-called Mistress of Murder Hill just moved on to work her deadly con-game elsewhere?



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