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cliffhanger

There’s a reason I keep writing no matter what speed my life may be running at on any given day. Words strung together in books have always given me the ability to dream of bigger things and even the courage to go out and try.
I’ve been blessed to have four books published, www.WallisJones.com and each time there have been plenty of readers who have said that I helped them let go of what no longer worked for them and dream, too.

We talk a lot about our purpose for being here in this life and yes, you can even do that with a thriller. Maybe even have a little fun. I’ve come to believe mine is to be of service in whatever ways I can figure out. So far, translating the common man’s dream into something worthwhile, something doable and something that’s even full of a little God-magic wrapped up in a page-turner has been mine. Not the big, change a country, build a corporation dreams. The smaller moments that stay in your heart.

It’s a message that I took in from the very start.

My first experiences with books and stories are three of the strongest memories I have as a child. The very first one was the first time I walked into a library, the Philadelphia library and found out they let you check out as many as you could carry, a parent’s rule, read them all and bring them back for more. My world opened up that day and I found out there were a thousand possibilities when it came to living a life.

The second has to be explained a little bit. We were so poor when I was growing up that my father talked a friend of his who worked at a local bank to lend him a hundred dollars so he could buy us a used black and white television. We screamed with delight when Dad brought the set home. So, when a Reading is Fundamental bookmobile came through our neighborhood and the driver told us we could pick out any new book and keep it, I felt like a little big of magic had settled over us that day. I took my time and tried to choose a book that I could read over and over again. I still have it and read it to my son when he was little.

The third memory is my brother, Jeff and myself when we taught ourselves to read, Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss. We had the book read to us so many times we knew what part of the story went with what pictures and on our own figured out which words went with the sounds. That’s when I understood a secret about books. They have their own power to transform. They don’t know if you’re rich or poor, beautiful or an ugly duckling, a wealthy doctor or a poor cabdriver, and they don’t care. A book will take you on an adventure whenever you’re ready, regardless of how you see yourself and as a bonus may even change the definitions.

Books made it possible for me to envision a way to become someone I couldn’t even define yet. They gave me the faith to set out when I couldn’t find it anywhere else and the hope that somehow things would all work out.

I’ve seen it happen just often enough. A lost human being feels like they’re the only one who has ever felt this much pain. They don’t know how to reach out for help but then, inside of a story some writer concocted out of whole cloth they see every emotion or secret or hope-for happy ending that they’ve kept bottled up inside, acted out, and they start to believe – maybe there’s more to this world.
That’s why I keep writing and that’s why I’m so grateful for every writer out there who struggles to tell a good tale. It’s why I’ve started a series, The Wallis Jones Series so that I can get to know the characters better right along with the readers and keep on writing.

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William Desmond Taylor

Martha Note: This week’s Little Mystery comes to you from LAistory

Another suspect was Mabel Normand, who may have been having an affair with Taylor. She was the last to see him alive the night before he died. She was known as the “female Charlie Chaplin.” She starred in a bunch of Keystone Kops films and did a few with Fatty Arbuckle as well. The police eventually declared her innocent, but there were still rumors that her former fiancé, Mac Sennett or her drug dealers had offed him.

There was a theory involving an old army buddy of Taylor’s, and even a hitman (which could have been anyone.) So soon after the Fatty Arbuckle scandal, people began to see Hollywood as a den of sin. The studios responded by putting morals clauses into their contracts. We were out of Eden.

Though there are still avid conspiracy theorists, most people haven’t heard of William Desmond Taylor, though his death contributed to the way our city and its premiere industry is still seen today. Most of his films are gone, vanished in the river of time. The theories are nearly all we have left and they are all deeply flawed, stories like the ones Taylor told himself and others. There’s only one thing that remains certain, in the midst of all the rumors, innuendo, lies and obfuscations, Taylor died as he lived, one foot in the mist.

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Actress Mary Miles Minter

Martha Note: This week’s Little Mystery comes to you from LAistory

There were many suspects in the murder of Taylor, including both of his butlers. The first was a man named Edward Sands, who was working under an alias (and a fake cockney accent) who stole money from Taylor and ran off. Some people though that he killed him because he was his brother, Denis Deane-Tanner, bearing a grudge over a stolen fiancé. The other butler (who found Taylor prone on his living room floor) was Henry Peavy.

Peavy had been previously charged with indecent exposure, but this could have meant a number of things less pervy than the words connote – like gay cruising or having to resort to peeing al fresco after not being allowed in a whites-only bathroom. Because of the charge, it’s been speculated that Peavy was Taylor’s lover, or was, perhaps procuring boys for him.

One enterprising reporter decided he was guilty and took him to a cemetery where a co-conspirator jumped out from behind a gravestone in a sheet and accused him of the crime. Investigative reporting at its best!

A bevy of actresses were also accused, among them Taylor’s protégé, Mary Miles Minter, and her mother. Mary was sixteen, but she’d already been working for years at the behest of her showbiz mom, Charlotte Shelby. At 8, she was playing sixteen. She was in love with Taylor, and may have killed him out of jealousy.

Her mother was a suspect because she may have been angry at him for having an affair (that was never confirmed) with her daughter. The ensuing scandal destroyed Minter’s career, but she never gave it a second thought because she hated being an actress anyway.

Tomorrow: The Conclusion!

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Actor, William Desmond Taylor

Martha Note: This week’s Little Mystery comes to you from LAistory

William Desmond Taylor got pretty lucky but luck in Los Angeles can run out fast. Taylor was found dead in his Westlake Park bungalow on the morning of February 2, 1922. From the start, the investigation was a circus. Before the police arrived, a crowd of people descended on the place.

A man who said he was a doctor examined the body, declaring that Taylor had died of a stomach hemorrhage. Had this “doctor” decided to turn the body over, he would have discovered the fatal bullet wound in Taylor’s back. Authorities never found the man.

There are rumors that an entire troop of people from Paramount came through, removing objects that might have been key in the investigation, including ladies lingerie, all of Taylor’s illegal booze and any letters.

Some things were still evident. Taylor still had a two carat diamond ring, all the cash in his wallet and his pocket watch (among other things).

However, there was evidence that Taylor had taken a substantial amount of money from his bank a few days before and that was never found.

Tomorrow: Part Four!

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Actress Mabel Normand

Martha Note: This week’s Little Mystery comes to you from LAistory

His family thought it was the medical contion when Taylor vanished in 1912, turning up in Los Angeles, replete with his new name and English accent. (Taylor was not the only Tanner to pull this stunt; his brother vanished, abandoning his family as well.)With a change of scene, Taylor’s acting career took off, but before long, he was directing. His first film was The Awakening in 1914. Before he returned to Britain in 1918 (where he joined the Royal Army Service Core (or possibly the Canadian army) to fight in World War I at the age of 46), he made more than fifty films, many starring greats of the age, including Mary Pickford, Constance Talmadge and George Beban. Even as things began to work out, he continued to lie. He told people he had once spent three months in jail for the woman he loved. He cast aspersions on the mental states of many of his high profile friends.

Taylor had his kindnesses as well. When his ex-wife tracked him down (or rather, saw him on a movie screen), he began a relationship with his daughter and made her his heir. When his brother’s family turned up on his doorstep penniless, he promised to pay them fifty dollars a month until his death. He was very worried about his friend, actress Mabel Normand, who was getting increasingly involved with drugs. He picked a fight with her drug dealers.

Tomorrow: Part Three!

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William Desmond Taylor

Martha Note: This week’s short mystery comes to you from LAistory

William Desmond Taylor lived the kind of life that would be tough to live today, in our era of numbers and cards and facial recognition software. In the end, he paid a steep price for that life and so did Hollywood. Maybe he even lived many lives.

He was an antiques dealer, panned for gold, he spent time in either the British or Canadian armies during World War I. He was from Ireland, but he easily morphed into a genteel English gentleman.

Not everything he did was so exciting. He was also an inveterate liar, a deadbeat dad who abandoned his family and a drifter. Like many who flocked to Hollywood in its scandal-free salad days, he invented himself every day.

William Desmond Taylor was born William Cunningham Deane-Tanner on April 26 in Carlow, Ireland. The year is in dispute, though Wikipedia lists it as 1872.

When he was 18, he emigrated to the U.S., settling in New York City, where he tried to be an actor and married Ethel May Harrison. He was occasionally subject to some sort of mental lapses where he would just disappear. There is a medical condition where this is known to happen, but it could have just been a clever cover up for his many affairs.

Tomorrow: Part Two!

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Photo by Stillman Brown

Martha Note: This week’s little mystery came from Legends of America.

Other interesting legends also abound about the light that provide a more ghostly explanation. The oldest is the story of a Quapaw Indian maiden who fell in love with a young brave. However, her father would not allow her to marry the man as he did not have a large enough dowry. The pair eloped but were soon pursued by a party of warriors. According to the legend, when the couple was close to being apprehended, they joined hands above the Spring River and leaped to their deaths. It was shortly after this event, that the light began to appear and was attributed to the spirits of the young lovers.

Another legend tells of a miner whose cabin was attacked by Indians while he was away. Upon his return, he found his wife and children missing and is said to continue looking for them along the old road, searching with his lantern.

Others say the Spook Light is the ghost of an Osage Indian chief who was decapitated in the area and continues to search for his lost head, with a lantern held high in his hand.

Sightings of the Spook Light are common, sometimes even reported to be seen inside vehicles. A few people, who have been walking along the road at night, have even claimed to have felt the heat of the ball as it passed near them.

Reportedly, the moving anomaly, growing brighter and dimmer, larger and smaller, can be seen approximately twelve miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri. To get to Devil’s Promenade Road, take Interstate 44 west from Joplin but before you reach the Oklahoma  border, take the next to the last Missouri exit onto Star Route 43. Traveling south for about four miles, you will reach a crossroads which is the Devil’s Promenade Road.

 

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Photo by Stillman Brown

Martha Note: This week’s little mystery comes from Legends of America

The ball of fire, described as varying from the size of a baseball to a basketball, dances and spins down the center of the road at high speeds, rising and hovering above the treetops, before it retreats and disappears. Others have said it sways from side to side, like a lantern being carried by some invisible force. In any event, the orange fire-like ball has reportedly been appearing nightly for well over a one hundred years. According to locals, the best time to view the spook light is between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and midnight and tends to shy away from large groups and loud sounds.

Though many paranormal and scientific investigators have studied the light, including the Army Corps of Engineers, no one has been able to provide a conclusive answer as to the origin of the light.

Many explanations have been presented over the years including escaping natural gas, reflecting car lights and billboards, and will-o’-the-wisps, a luminescence created by rotting organic matter. However, all of these explanations all fall short of being conclusive.

As to the theory of escaping natural gas, which is common in marshy areas, the Hornet Light is seemingly not affected by wind or by rain, and how would it self-ignite? The idea that it might be a will-o’-the-wisp is discounted, as this biological phenomena does not display the intensity of the ball of light seen along the Devil’s Promenade. Explanations of headlights or billboards are easily discarded, as the light was seen years before automobiles or billboards were made, and before a road even existed in the area.

One possible explanation that is not as easily discounted, but not yet proven conclusive, is that the lights are electrical atmospheric charges. In areas where rocks, deep below the earth’s surface, are shifting and grinding, an electrical charge can be created. This area, lying on a fault line running east from New Madrid, Missouri, westward to Oklahoma was the site of four earthquakes during the eighteenth century. These types of electrical fields are most commonly associated with earthquakes.

Tomorrow: Part Three

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Photo by Stillman Brown

Martha Note: This week’s little mystery comes from Legends of America

Bobbing and bouncing along a dirt road in northeast Oklahoma is the Hornet Spook Light a paranormal enigma for more than a century. Described most often as an orange ball of light, the orb travels from east to west along a four-mile gravel road, long called the Devil’s Promenade by area locals.

The Spook Light, often referred to as the Joplin Spook Light or the Tri-State Spook Light is actually in Oklahoma near the small town of Quapaw. However, it is most often seen from the east, near the tiny hamlet of Hornet, Missouri and the larger town of Joplin. 

According to the legend, Indians along the infamous Trail of Tears in 1836 first saw the Spook Light. However, the first official report occurred in 1881 in a publication called the Ozark Spook Light.

Tomorrow: Part Two

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