Section of CIA trove of declassified material reveals research into psychic phenomena.
The Central Intelligence Agency has just published 800,000 formerly classified files online. The data dump, comprising some 13 million separate documents, isn't technically new. The files had been declassified years ago, but had only been available at the National Archives in Maryland, on only four computers tucked away at the back of the building which were accessible only during business hours. A freedom-of-information group called MuckRock sued the CIA and forced it to upload the collection, and the process took more than two years. Among the discoveries in the trove are documents related to the Stargate Project, which was tasked with examining psychic phenomena. A subset of those investigations involved celebrity paranormalist Uri Geller in 1973.
For those who don't know, Geller is a guy who used to show up on television programs like The Tonight Show and perform various paranormal tricks. His fame drew the roving gaze of the CIA, and they had him come in for a series of tests. No word on whether he had a choice in the matter. The testers ultimately reached the conclusion that Geller was legit, stating in the declassified dox that he had, “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.” How did they reach that conclusion? Through doubleblind experiments, one of which involved sealing Geller in a room, having a worker make a drawing, and asking Geller to recreate the drawing without having seen it. The images above and below show three of the original drawings, and Geller's eerily accurate renderings.
Geller made a nice career for himself finding hidden objects, bending spoons, and reproducing hidden sketches, but the really interesting part is he may have been a spy. In 2013, a BBC documentary titled The Secret Life of Uri Geller–Psychic Spy? claimed Geller worked for the CIA, was recruited by Mossad, and performed such missions as using only the power of his mind to erase floppy discs carried by KGB agents. Geller allegedly spent years in Mexico working as security for President José López Portillo, and the aforementioned documentary suggests he was also involved in some capacity in the famed Israeli hostage rescue in Entebbe, Uganda in 1976. It may take a few more CIA declassifications before we get to the bottom of all that.
Geller is still around at age seventy (looking about fifty, which might the most convincing evidence yet of his paranormal ability) and he still appears in news reports for antics such as purchasing Lamb Island, off the eastern coast of Scotland, which was the site of many witch trials, and for building a 12 foot-tall statue of a gorilla made from40,000 metal spoons. We aren't believers in psychic ability or any form of the paranormal. And we won't be unless we see evidence proving these realms exist. But the CIA said Geller was the real deal, so that's worth something. Of course, they also said Iraq had a nuclear weapons program, so maybe their opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.
Ice is nice, but harder than water.
British skater and actress Belita, who was born Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, frolics in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles for a cover of Life that hit newsstands today in 1945. We've shown you this pool before. A window from a swanky hotel bar known as the Zebra Room provided a view through one wall, which meant patrons could watch swimmers while enjoying cocktails. The hotel put together a group of women called Aqua Maidens who performed swim shows, but Belita was not a Maiden. She was already famous for skating in the 1936 Olympics (though she had finished only sixteenth), and had established a Hollywood career with 1943's Silver Skates and 1944's Lady, Let's Dance. She would also make 1946's Suspense, which was unique for combining skating with film noir. In addition to being an ace skater Belita was an accomplished dancer, and the Life photos show her demonstrating her underwater ballet skills. She even wears a tutu in a couple of shots. Interestingly, Picture Post, a British Life-like magazine that was considered imitative, had already featured Belita on its cover, also at the Town House, two months earlier on June 16, 1945. Doubtless both sets of photos were from them same session. So in this case Life was the imitator.
Belita wasn't the most famous ice skater in Hollywood during the 1940s—Sonja Henie was a huge star, and Vera Ralston was probably better known as well. That may be one reason why Belita managed only eight or nine films before moving on to other pursuits. She eventually retired to the village of Montpeyroux, France, where she died in 2005 at age eighty-two. But the photos below are eternal.
Sometimes staying after school isn't a punishment.
Above is a poster for Onna kyōshi: Shiseikatsu, aka Female Teacher: Private Life, a Nikkatsu roman porno flick that starred Ayako Ichikawa and Hitomi Kozue in the story of an obsessive affair between teacher and student. Interesting fact about this movie: Nikkatsu staged a contest for roman porno scripts and Onna kyōshi resulted from the winning entry, submitted by Mari Abe, who benefitted screenwriting credit, a cash prize, and a college scholarship. Thanks to her stroke of genius Nikkatsu was able to milk the Onna kyōshi concept for a sequel, followed by an eight film series. Just goes to show how mainstream these racy movies were. Of course, Onna kyōshi explores scenarios that would be considered criminal today. In fact, there's debate in 2016 whether teachers should be allowed to have private lives at all—i.e. whether they should be role models both in and out of school, and if they fail whether their actions are fair game for judgment and discipline. Ichikawa and Kozue are ready to judged and disciplined below. Onna kyōshi: Shiseikatsu premiered in Japan today in 1973.
And they say nobody walks in L.A.
Ingrid Bergman takes a stroll near downtown Los Angeles in this promo photo made in 1967 for a Life magazine feature titled “Ingrid Bergman: A Day on Bunker Hill.” At this point Bergman wasn't acting much, but she was featured in Life several times that year and, as one of the transcendent movie stars of the 1940s, was never out of mind, even when she was out of sight.
You ever wonder what nuns wear under their habits? Neither do we. But some people do.
What is it about nuns? We’ve never paid them any mind, but seventies filmmakers sure found them irresistible. We’ve shared a few examples of the phenomenon over the years, such as here, here, and especially here. Educande fuori… femmine dentro was originally made in West Germany, where it was called Die Klosterschülerinnen, and later it appeared in English speaking countries as Sex Life in a Convent. We watched it, and it’s nunsploitation without much in the way of successful humor or eroticism. You've been duly warned. But the Italian poster, which you see above, is pretty cool. Also German actress Astrid Boner—her name kills us every time!—is in a co-starring role. And probably most worth mentioning is the fact that the miraculous Doris Arden gets top billing, and deservedly so. To reiterate, deservedly so. From 1972, this one.
Ekberg as a stripper is a dream come true but she brings a nightmare with her.
Based on a 1949 novel of the same name by Frederic Brown, Screaming Mimi stars Anita Ekberg as a traumatized burlesque dancer who can’t shake the memory of being attacked by a knife-wielding maniac. She’s committed to a mental institution, where her psychiatrist promptly falls in love with her and helps her escape and create a new identity. Now dancing at a club in Laguna Beach, California, she’s the hottest draw in the area and her former doctor is her lover and protector, but also smothers and dominates her. Can the anonymity last? Of course not.
Enter stage right an entitled horndog who won’t take no for an answer. After Ekberg survives another knife attack the horndog—who’s also a reporter—has all the justification he needs to dog Ekberg’s every step, and the doctor tries to protect her fake identity and keep her and the reporter from falling into bed together. Chances of success? Zero. Screaming Mimi is an interesting noir—it was fertile enough to serve as inspiration for Dario Argento’s L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage—but its b-movie budget really shows and we think Philip Carey is miscast as the reporter/hero. Carey has no charm at all in this, which renders Ekberg’s interest in him unbelievable. But his performance will be a treat for patrons of the Noir City fest—most will probably remember him from his twenty-four-year stint as the repulsive Asa Buchanan on the soap opera One Life To Live.
All I really wanted for Christmas this year was Russia. Sigh. This holiday sucks.
Adolf Hitler and cohorts enjoy an uproarious 1941 Berlin Christmas party, where the mood may have been somewhat subdued due to the fact that attempts to crush Russia had so far failed at the cost of more than 800,000 German casualties. The photo was shot by Hugo Jaeger, one of the Führer’s personal photographers, and didn’t come to light until published by Life magazine in 2010.
Aren’t you a little old for this sort of thing?
Bernard Wolfe is known for several reasons, not least of them for being Leon Trotsky’s personal secretary in Mexico City, but he was also a novelist of wide-ranging interests. Come On Out, Daddy was his Hollywood book, about a New York author who moves out west to cash in on an easy screenwriting job. While making a couple thousand dollars a week for doing very little he runs into the usual assortment of jaded Tinseltown characters—from big stars to little wannabes—and trysts with an assortment of disposable beauties before of course meeting the woman of his dreams. It’s episodic due to it being partly cobbled together from short stories published in Playboy and Cavalier, but reasonably well regarded as a cultural satire. Life described it as “garrulously and surrealistically told by a huge cast of people in varying stages of corruption.” 1963 on the hardback, and 1964 on the above, with cool cover art by James Meese.
Ashley Madison hack could lead down road to serious trouble for important people.
Perhaps you haven’t been following the story, but the marital infidelity website Ashley Madison suffered a security breach in July by a hacktivist group called Impact Team in which all its account records were stolen. At first Ashley Madison’s parent corporation Avid Life Media tried to claim its data remained secure, but it later emerged that Ashley Madison’s client database was completely compromised. For the uninitiated, Ashley Madison hooks up marrieds who want to have affairs, and while most sensible people would think that's a terrible idea, the site had generated millions of clients. Impact Team demanded the site be shut down or all the user records would be published, and yesterday the group made good on that threat and posted 9.7 gigs of records from as many as 32 million users in 46 countries.
Generally, we’re in favor of digital civil disobedience, but this latest raid seems a bit out of character for the various anonymous hacker collectives. At least until you dig a little deeper. Impact Team’s proclamation says in part, “Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See Ashley Madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male.” Exposing mass fraud seems more in line with the usual hacktivist modus operandi, but there’s more. Approximately 15,000 Ashley Madison accounts carry a .gov or .mil web address. Yes, you read that right—more than 15,000 of the accounts go directly back to U.S. military or government IPs. Some even carry a White House home address.
Thus, the moral posturing about sexual infidelity (Impact Team writes, “Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends.”) feels a bit like a smokescreen. In reality, this hack has very likely put a major scare into the political class. Some of the addresses are probably fake (the White House ones are good candidates, because we doubt any White House employees are thatdumb, whereas people who hate the government would be more than willing to spend the time and effort to set up fake profiles). But then some of the addresses most definitely aren’t fake.
The account information is only available so far on the dark web, but we’re very curious to see if anyone follows up on the details of those .gov addresses. There’s no telling who’s at the other end, and we can hardly wait for the denials to start. It's just delicious to think that, after passing all sorts of intrusive laws designed to corral and track internet users, the same politicians could end up being the foxes to a bunch of curious citizens' hounds. Could it actually happen? We have no idea, but we can dream can't we? Stay tuned.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
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