Saturday, October 1, 2022

Items Stolen From Hotels—part 2 of 2

Last week I talked about some of the more common items people steal from their hotel and motel rooms. This week it's the most bizarre and unbelievable items people have stolen from hotels.

People have probably been pilfering from hotel/motel rooms for as long as hotels and motels have existed. Whether it's a small souvenir or something bigger, such as a plush robe, theft by guests has cost the hotel industry big bucks over the years.

While most people steal the common items we talked about last week, some don't stop at only stealing the small things. Instead, they go for the gold. This list will probably have you shaking your head in disbelief.

1. Pillows

It is very odd to swipe pillows, but hotel guests do. Who would want to own a pillow that likely thousands of others have slept—and drooled—on? Hotel pillows typically cost enough that hotels do care when guests take them home. Some hotels have even started implanting trackable microchips in hotel linens.

If a guest steals a pillow or two, the hotel will usually send him a letter to the effect of, "Hope you're enjoying the pillows," along with an invoice. If the guest returns to stay in that hotel again, some hotel managers let him know what website he can go to and buy hotel linens.

2. Grand piano

A head shaker. Acting as construction workers, the thieves simply wheeled it out the door. It turned out that three people had strolled into the lobby dressed in overalls and had wheeled the grand piano out of the hotel and down the street, never to be seen again.

3. Televisions

Apparently it was a while before anyone noticed them missing. When one hotel checked the security footage, they saw a guest walk through a busy reception area struggling under the weight of a television set, yet no one batted an eye.

4. Stuffed boar's head

In the billiard room at the Hotel du Vin in Birmingham, UK, one guest tried to steal a stuffed boar's head. He was caught, much to his chagrin and embarrassment. A few weeks later, some of his friends came back and bought the object from the hotel as a wedding present for him. The hotel donated the money to charity.

5. Everything

A couple staying at an American Holiday Inn asked for a room near the parking lot. Next, they emptied the entire contents of the hotel room into a conveniently located U-Haul. They stole the bed, the furniture—everything that wasn't (and likely some things that were) nailed down.

Guests did the same thing at a Forte Group hotel in Bath, UK. They parked their vehicle underneath the room's window and passed the things through. The carpet, bedding, tea pot, and toilet seat were missing when they left. Yes, even the toilet seat!

6. Hotels offered guests amnesty

According to The New York Times, New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel announced on Facebook in 2012 that it was launching an amnesty campaign directed toward those who had stolen or "accidentally packed" items from the hotel. They promised forgiveness to those who returned the stuff.

A psychotherapist who lives in San Diego returned a silver coffee pot to the hotel with a note explaining that her mother and father had a one night honeymoon at the hotel in 1938. They didn't have much money and that one night at the Waldorf was a very big deal for them. She went on to say that her father stole the silver coffee pot and every year on their anniversary, he took it out and served coffee in it.

7. Sex toys

Yes, you read that right—sex toys stolen from a hotel room. The Residence in Bath, UK, used to rent sex toys to guests, no available information on hygiene or sanitizing. Guests often stole the toys, and they were almost always caught. A hotel staff member said he would call them up to explain that they had been caught. A rather long silence would inevitably follow.

8. Curtains

If you've ever stayed at one of the economy type motel chains, you know glamour isn't what they offer. Televisions and hairdryers are often nailed to the wall to prevent theft. But it seems that guests found other things to steal. The no-frills hotel chains reported that thousands of guests stole carpeting, mirrors, light fittings, and yes, even the shower curtains.

9. Room number

Who in the world would want to steal the room number from the door of their hotel room? Someone staying at the Franklin Hotel in Knightsbridge, UK, apparently. The guest unscrewed the number from the door and made off with it. The hotel general manager said no one notice it missing until they found the next guest wandering up and down the hallway looking for his room.

10. Busts

Mayfair is an affluent area in the West End of London, and the four-star Chesterfield Hotel is a popular spot to stay in the area. Someone stole two busts from outside the hotel's entrance. It's almost unbelievable that the person who stole them got away with it. Even stranger, the busts were returned the following morning in the back of a cab. [sounds like a college fraternity prank]

11. Flowers

Luxury hotels typically spend a fortune on fresh flowers to make the lobby impressive. And people love the flowers. They love them so much that they steal them. Again, it's hard to imagine someone just walking out of a hotel with one of those huge floral displays. It looks like the hotel employees need to be a bit more watchful.

12. Pet dog

What kind of person would steal someone else's pet? At one hotel, it was reported that guests stole the hotel owner's dog. There isn't any information on whether the owner recovered his pet. Hopefully, it was a case of the dog getting out one day and eventually finding his way back home.

13. Famous artwork

At Hong Kong's W Hotel, a guest stole a piece of Andy Warhol artwork worth $300,000 which was never recovered. In addition, guests at Hong Kong's Shangri-La stole chandeliers, and someone took an entire minibar from the old Parkroyal in Kuala Lumpur. At the old Crowne Plaza in Bangkok, guests frequently stole showerheads.

15. Fireplace

A guest at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., stole an entire marble fireplace. There are no details regarding how he got it out of the hotel, but he really upped the ante when it comes to being an audacious thief.

16. Concorde model

A housekeeper at a Best Western hotel reported a seriously strange theft. The guest swiped a 12-foot model of the Concorde, the British-French turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner that operated until 2003. How on earth did no one notice that on its way out?

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Items Stolen From Hotels—part 1 of 2

Lots of jokes abound about the things people feel compelled to steal from hotel and motel rooms when they check out.  There's even the unconfirmed tales of people changing their name to correspond with their newly acquired monogrammed bed and bath linens.

There are items in your hotel room that the hotel is happy to have you take—free souvenirs, mementos of your trip, a keepsake from a special occasion.

And then there are the items that at the least can result in a hefty additional charge on your credit card and possibly even something as serious as criminal charges.

Pens and Pencils:  Stationery, pens, pencils, and the postcards in the room are yours to take.  Every time you use them, it's free advertising for the hotel.

Towels and Linens:  Towels are the top item to disappear from hotel rooms.  Hotels and motels have literally millions of towels disappear each year.  But to also take the bed linens?  Just how big does your suitcase need to be to have that much extra room in it?

Lotions and bathroom items:  All those little bottles of shampoo, hair conditioner, body lotion, and soaps are there for you to use and take with you whether they've been opened or not.  They're the perfect travel size and take up very little room, not to mention that they're sized to meet the airline 3 oz. rule. However, of late some hotels/motels are changing from these little individual bottles to dispensers attached to the wall. You still have the availability of having the product to use but not the bottles (whether opened or new/unused) to take with you.

Laundry Bags:  We've all helped ourselves to the plastic laundry bags in hotel rooms to use for dirty clothes and a still damp swim suit.  No problem there.  However, if the hotel uses cloth or canvas bags, you can expect to see a charge on your bill.

Docks and Clocks:  It's safe to assume that a room's clock radio and iPod dock are not there for you to take home with you.  Boston's Onyx Hotel takes a simple approach.  "You can take anything you want from the room, but we'll charge your credit card for replacement."

Robes and Umbrellas:  It can occasionally be confusing, but most hotels will bill you if the robe goes missing.  Some hotels will provide package rates that include such items as monogrammed robes, slippers, branded totes, books, and even bottles of premium liquor.  But beware, those complimentary items can come at a steep price as some of the package rates can be as much as twice the regular room rate.

Gideon Bibles:  Bibles have been a long time amenity in hotel rooms.  Even though they are slowly being edged out, Gideon International still places more than ten million copies in hotel rooms annually to replace those that are taken.  They claim they're happy to have people break the eighth commandment.

There have been lots of strange items taken from hotels over the years.  The following are some true tales.

A woman from San Jose, California, took the "C" from the coat check sign in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel and was pursued through the hotel by men in blazers shouting, "Madam, the 'C'…give us the 'C!'"

A Geneva lawyer admits being caught by a receptionist of a Hamburg hotel while trying to make off with "an entire display of apples in a rather large fruit bowl from the hotel lobby."

A huge piece of blown glass by Dale Chihuly was once stolen from a table in the lobby of The Alexis hotel in Seattle. (I would love to have one of Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures, but I'm not willing to go to prison for it.) The price on his art pieces makes it far removed from petty theft.

Bill Babis of 70 Park Avenue said the most outrageous things stolen from the chic hotel were the thermostats.

So the next time you're tempted to slip a little keepsake from the hotel into your suitcase you might want to ask yourself if it's really a freebie or if you'll end up paying more for it than if you had bought it at a store.

Check back next week for part 2, a look at the most bizarre and unbelievable items stolen from hotels. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

9 DANGEROUS SCIENTIFIC WORK LOCATIONS

When you hear the word scientist, it usually conjures an image of a sterile room with a person in a white lab coat surrounded by test tubes, Bunsen burners, and beakers with bubbling lab experiments. But in reality, there are many scientists working in various fields of discovery whose lab is far removed from that stereotypical image—scientists who do their work in the field. I read an article about scientists who work on location rather than in a lab…the ones whose labs are out there, in dangerous places and situations where most of us would never go.

So, in no particular order, here are nine of these dangerous scientific work locations.

1)  Inside Volcanoes

When you think of geologists your first thought is usually the study of rocks and various landforms, something safe and basically stable. But for the branch of this particular science known as volcanology, things are definitely less stable and a certainly a little hotter. Having been to Mt. St. Helens, Washington, not long after the explosive eruption and viewing the devastation first hand, I'm very familiar with the story of David Johnston, the thirty-year-old volcanologist who was on duty at the time and was one of the fifty-seven people who died in the eruption. Volcanologists study the intense heat and chaos inside active volcanoes, and recently a team of three researchers descended inside the Marum Volcano on Ambrym Island off the coast of Australia to study lava flows inside. Wearing a heat-resistant suit, one of them descended 1200 feet into the volcano's crater to capture video footage of the lava's movement. Normally, scientists use robotic cameras mounted to small helicopters or drones to do this extremely dangerous work.

2) Tornado Country

The movie Twister gave us a good look at what storm chasers do, and those who live in the part of the U.S. referred to as Tornado Alley see the results of their work on the news when the storm conditions are present that produce tornadoes. Collecting data on storms is a tough process. Getting close to a tornado is risky even on a good day, and self-proclaimed storm chasers run that risk all the time. Even with technology such as Doppler radar giving us the overall picture of a severe storm, some scientists claim there is some data that can only be gathered at ground level. One of the most noted tornado researchers, Tim Samaras, routinely drove in front of tornadoes to place cameras and pressure sensors to record the velocities of objects swept up by the storm. Unfortunately, in 2013 Samaras, his son, and another storm chaser died in an Oklahoma tornado.

3) Biosafety Level 4 Labs

All the news for the last couple of years has been about the Coronavirus/COVID which was elevated to the status of a pandemic with ultimately, millions of people dying worldwide. Laboratories that deal with germs and diseases that can be dangerous or fatal to humans are given a biosafety rating from one to four. Facilities that deal with Level four are where the really bad stuff happens. One of the most notable is the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) integrated research facility located at Fort Detrick, Maryland (pictured here). The laboratory is housed in a three-story office building—an airtight, pressurized environment restricted to only a select number of researchers. The facility has airlocks that separate it from the outside world and anything that leads outside the building, such as light fixtures or electrical outlets, is sealed in epoxy to prevent even a single germ from escaping. Scientists are given a seven-minute showering with virus-killing chemicals before they leave.

4)  Underwater Caves

The ocean is a massive mystery to humanity, covering the majority of the Earth's surface. Even though it's part of our planet, we seem to know more about outer space than we do the depths of our oceans. One of the most interesting areas under the ocean's surface are what are known as blue holes, underwater caves that can reach as deep as six hundred feet below sea level. These caves have difficult topography. They vary in size from massive, sprawling caverns to holes barely big enough to admit a human. Diving there can be very dangerous with unpredictable currents. Despite the dangers, scientific rewards are huge with both biological and archaeological finds waiting to be discovered.

5)  Tree Canopies

Forest ecosystems are made up of distinct layers, each with its own climate and variety of plants and animals. It's a simple task to study the layers nearest the ground, but botanists have lots of questions about what's happening up above. And that's where canopy research comes in. Scientists at Humboldt State University climb to the top of trees that can exceed 350 feet in height, anchoring their bodies to the trunk. From that risky perch they can observe the canopy ecosystem…as long as they don't lose their balance. At the top of the trees, researchers have discovered a whole ecosystem of moss, lichens, and even whole new trees and bushes growing from dead stumps.

6)  Amundsen-Scott Station

Originally built by the United States government in 1956, the Amundsen-Scott Station sits squarely on the south pole. With temperatures ranging from minus 13.6 degrees Celsius (minus 56.48 Fahrenheit) on a nice day to minus 82.8 degrees Celsius (minus 181.04 Fahrenheit) when winter is in high gear, it's one of the most inhospitable regions on the planet. Even though blizzards and intense winds are common, astronomers spend months at the station because the six months of total darkness during winter makes Amundsen-Scott a perfect place to observe the night sky. Other researchers study the movements of the Antarctic ice sheet—the station itself moves about thirty-three feet a year as the ice drifts.

7)  Aquarius Lab

Operated by the National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration, this deep-sea science station comes with a little twist. The human body is only capable of staying underwater for a short period at a time because decompression sickness (commonly referred to as the bends) can cause incredible damage when gas bubbles form in the body and disrupt tissue. Some scientists have long-term research projects that need to happen in deep water, so they do it at the Aquarius Lab. This facility rests on the sea floor outside of Key Largo, Florida, at a depth of fifty feet. Researchers spend up to ten days underwater at a time, studying the nearby coral reefs.

8)  Inside Hurricanes

Here's another meteorological condition where some scientists like to get a little too close. The National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration employs a number of flight meteorologists who take airplanes into the eyes of hurricanes to gather data on the storm's strength and direction. They use two planes—one is a Gulfstream G-4 that has the easy job of circling the storm's funnel, the second is a smaller propeller plane that actually penetrates the fast-moving wind to fly right to the eye of the storm. In addition to using Doppler radar on the plane's tail, they also release a device called a dropsonde that transmits pressure and humidity data.

9)  Outer Space

And finally…there is literally no environment as hostile to the human body as the vacuum of space. Long-term weightlessness has negative effects on muscle tone, bone density, and the immune system. Exposure to radiation in low-earth orbit comes at levels ten times higher than the normal dose on the Earth's surface. And there's also the fact that outer space doesn't have any of that oxygen stuff our bodies need to function—to literally stay alive. Experimentation in outer space has led to a number of fascinating discoveries in fields as diverse as astronomy and cancer medicine.

And there you have a sampling of dangerous locations some scientists refer to as their lab (minus those white lab coats, of course). 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

THE BILLIONAIRE'S DECEPTION character interview

THE BILLIONAIRE'S DECEPTION by Shawna Delacorte—a contemporary romance novel from The Wild Rose Press available in ebook and print, scheduled for release Monday, September 12, 2022.

Welcome to my blog. My guests this week are Cassie Brockton and Trent Nichols. While both Cassie and Trent live in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington state, neither are from that area originally.

So, how did the two of you end up on an island in the Pacific Northwest at the same time? Who wants to go first? Cassie? Trent?

Trent:  How about you handling this one, Cassie?

Cassie:  Well, I'm from Chicago and had just gone through a bitter and contentious divorce from a cheating, lying attorney—a controlling and over-bearing man who felt his exalted legal career was far more important than my career as a banker.

Trent:  [laughs] I think there might be just a bit of lingering resentment there.

Cassie:  [grins, just a hint of a teasing twinkle in her eyes] I have to admit I had a couple of years where I harbored a serious blind spot about anyone connected to the legal profession. As I was trying to reorganize my life as a single woman, I received the news that I had an inheritance from my great aunt, a small diner and bar on San Juan Island off the coast of Washington state. Just the change I needed, an opportunity to start my life anew. I was a little concerned about being able to acclimate to small town life, let alone on an island, after living all my life in a big city like Chicago. My concerns were unwarranted. After a couple of months, I felt right at home.

How about you, Trent? How did you end up on San Juan Island?

Trent:  I had a very successful career in Beverly Hills as an attorney, high profile clients and as much work as I could handle…successful and financially very rewarding. I had already reached all the goals I had set for my life, both career and financial, while still a year away from my fortieth birthday. But I was feeling the signs of career burnout, more and more with each passing day. I decided to take a three month sabbatical. I headed my yacht north from Southern California toward Canada. An attorney friend of mine from Seattle asked me to do him a favor on San Juan Island and I agreed. That put me in Cassie's diner just in time to catch her when she fell from the top of a ladder.

Cassie:  And, lucky for me, he was there. Otherwise I'm sure it would have resulted in some serious injuries.

Trent:  I was instantly captivated by this delightful woman, so open and honest, without any pretentions. So different from the fast-paced world where I functioned in Beverly Hills. But it didn't take long for me to discover her deep-seated resentment of attorneys. As we talked, I realized she had assumed I arrived on the ferry. I started to correct her assumption, but changed my mind. Like hiding the fact that I was an attorney, allowing her to believe that I arrived on the ferry rather than my yacht was only a little deception—it couldn't hurt anything. After all, I was just passing through. No point in creating a possibly tense situation. Handle the favor for my friend and continue on my trip to Canada.

Uh Oh. The first thing that pops into my mind is that poem written by Sir Walter Scott, "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

Trent:  [nods head in agreement] Exactly. And what I thought of as an innocent little omission turned out to be something so huge that it almost cost me everything I held dear.

That sounds ominous. Do you want to explain?

Trent:  Sorry, Shawna. [grins mischievously] You'll need to read the book.

What about you, Cassie? Can you shed any light on that situation?

Cassie:  Well, I can tell you that there were several times when I felt Trent stepped over the line, was being too pushy, meddled in my business, tried to take over.

How? What did he do?

Cassie:  [scrunches her face up into a thoughtful expression] Well, one morning the breakfast rush was very busy. He decided I needed help. So without even asking me, he stepped behind the cash register and started assisting the customers waiting to pay their bill. I let him know exactly how I felt about that [glances at Trent and grins], but I don't think it made much of an impression.

Are there any other incidents you can tell us about?

Cassie:  Several, but I'm afraid you'll need to read the book.

Trent:  I can tell you that she accidently discovered I was an attorney right before I was going to confess all and clear any possible obstacles to what I envisioned as our life together. I can't speak for Cassie, but that was definitely the worst day of my life.

Since you're still together, you obviously worked everything out. What happened? How did she find out? And how did you resolve the problems?

Cassie and Trent:  [in unison] You'll have to read the book.

[laughs] Thank you Cassie and Trent for being my guests today.

BLURB:

High-powered billionaire Beverly Hills attorney Trent Nichols takes a three month sabbatical to shake his feeling of career burnout and ends up in the San Juan Islands off Washington State. Right away, he encounters a beautiful, down-to-earth owner of a diner/bar and feels an immediate attraction to her. But when she expresses a hostile opinion of attorneys, he decides to keep his profession to himself, a little deception he believes won’t matter. He’s not there to stay.

As a transplanted Chicago banker with a contentious divorce from a lying, cheating attorney, Cassie Brockton loves her new life on the island where she inherited a diner/bar from her great aunt. A stranger in town grabs her full attention, and though he’s not telling her everything, she senses she can trust him and lets down her guard.

But when the island draws him in—just the change his life needs—and his affection for Cassie grows, Trent’s deception has him caught in a web that threatens both their futures.

THE BILLIONAIRE'S DECEPTION by Shawna Delacorte, a contemporary romance novel from The Wild Rose Press.   www.thewildrosepress.com 

Available at:

www.amazon.com/Billionaires-Deception-Shawna-Delacorte-ebook/dp/B0B372PVSF

and other online vendors

More excerpts and other information available on my website:  www.shawnadelacorte.com   

Saturday, September 3, 2022

THE BACHELOR’S DECEPTION—New Release

Monday, September 12, 2022, is release day for The Bachelor’s Deception, a contemporary romance novel by Shawna Delacorte, published by The Wild Rose Press—currently available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other vendors.

Cassie suspects Trent is hiding something but decides to trust him. Will it be the worst decision of her life?

G-Excerpt #1:

Cassie surveyed the shelves, then her gaze landed on the sought-after carton sitting on the top shelf in the storage room. Who put something in constant use way up there? She grabbed the rickety, old wooden stepladder and placed it below the shelf. Steadying herself with one hand against the wall, she climbed up four steps. I should have listened to Mike about buying a new ladder. As she cautiously reached for the carton, she heard the front door open and close.

“Is that you, Mike? I could sure use some help in here.”

Cassie stood a petite five feet three inches, not quite tall enough to reach the carton. She tentatively climbed one more step to the top of the ladder. With both arms stretched above her head, she tried to coax the box off the shelf with her fingertips.

The unstable old ladder swayed and shook. Her heartbeat jumped into high gear. Panic shoved hard at her. She desperately tried to grab something, anything to keep from falling. Almost like a slow-motion scene in a movie, she felt the ladder give way and went tumbling backward out of control.

Shock jolted through her as a pair of strong arms caught her, followed by the sound of an unfamiliar voice—a smooth, sexy male voice. “Mike doesn’t seem to be here. Will I do?”

BLURB:

High-powered billionaire Beverly Hills attorney Trent Nichols takes a three month sabbatical to shake his feeling of career burnout and ends up in the San Juan Islands off Washington State. Right away, he encounters a beautiful, down-to-earth owner of a diner/bar and feels an immediate attraction to her. But when she expresses a hostile opinion of attorneys, he decides to keep his profession to himself, a little deception he believes won’t matter. He’s not there to stay.

As a transplanted Chicago banker with a contentious divorce from a lying, cheating attorney, Cassie Brockton loves her new life on the island where she inherited a diner/bar from her great aunt. A stranger in town grabs her full attention, and though he’s not telling her everything, she senses she can trust him and lets down her guard.

But when the island draws him in—just the change his life needs—and his affection for Cassie grows, Trent’s deception has him caught in a web that threatens both their futures.

THE BILLIONAIRE'S DECEPTION by Shawna Delacorte, a contemporary romance novel from The Wild Rose Press. www.thewildrosepress.com

Available at:

www.amazon.com/Billionaires-Deception-Shawna-Delacorte-ebook/dp/B0B372PVSF

and other online vendors

More excerpts and other information available on my website:  www.shawnadelacorte.com

Saturday, August 27, 2022

History Of Labor Day Holiday

The Labor Day holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in September.  This is the same day that Canada celebrates their Labor Day holiday.  This year, that date is September 5, 2022.

The history of Labor Day in the U.S. goes back to the labor movement of the late 1800s and became an official federal holiday in 1894, celebrated with parties, parades, and athletic events. Prior to 1894, workers who wanted to participate in Labor Day parades would forfeit a day's pay.

Over the ensuing decades, Labor Day has come to symbolize something else, too. In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the official beginning and ending of the summer on the calendar, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the summer season that unofficially started on Memorial Day weekend (the fourth Monday in May in the U.S.).

What led up to the creation of a holiday specifically designated to honor and celebrate the workers and their accomplishments? The seeds were planted in the 1880s at the height of America's Industrial Revolution when the average American worked 12 hour days/7 days a week in order to manage a basic living. Although some states had restrictions, these workers included children as young as 5 years old who labored in the mills, factories, and mines earning a fraction of the money paid to the adults in the same workplace. Workers of all ages were subjected to extremely unsafe working conditions in addition to insufficient access to fresh air and sanitary facilities.

Labor Unions had first appeared in the late 1700s. As America changed from an agrarian society into an industrial one, these labor unions became more vocal and began to organize rallies and strikes in protest of poor working conditions and low wages. Many of these events turned violent. One prominent such incident was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 where several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Other rallies were of a more positive nature such as September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off from their jobs and held the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history when they marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.

It was another 12 years before Congress legalized the holiday. This was primarily brought about on May 11, 1894, when employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. Then on June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars thus crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago. The resulting riots were responsible in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. As a result, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in all states, the District of Columbia and the territories (several of which later became states).

And now, more than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day still hasn't been identified.

So, for everyone enjoying this 3 day holiday weekend, now you know why you have that additional day. And why the banks are closed and you don't have any mail delivery.  :)

Saturday, August 20, 2022

11 FAMOUS FEMALE SPIES FROM HISTORY

 

My blog this week is about female spies from the Civil War, World War I and World War II.  And four of them were genuine celebrities—three of them were famous at the time and one became famous later. They were popular and well known for something other than being spies.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, here's this week's list of eleven female spies.

11)  Violette Szabo—World War II

Ever heard of the video game Velvet Assassin?  The game was inspired by her story as a Special Operations agent.  Born in France, she and her family moved to London where she married a French soldier. When he was killed in battle two years later, she joined the service.  As a secret agent, she parachuted into France and planned the sabotage of a railroad, disrupted enemy communication, and passed along strategic information.  She was captured by the Nazis, tortured, and sent to a concentration camp where she was executed at the age of only twenty-three.  Her story became a book and movie titled Carve Her Name With Pride.

10)  Stephanie von Hohenlohe—World War II

She managed to insert herself into high society wherever she went.  An affair with a member of the Austrian royal family resulted in her pregnancy.  She was quickly married off to a minor German nobleman.  After the marriage ended, she became a fixture in the London social scene and later was a go-between for the Nazi regime and high-placed sympathizers in England.  She was often called upon to offer advice and services to Hitler in spite of the fact that she was Jewish, a fact Hitler knew.  She followed a lover to the U.S. where she was considered so dangerous that she was detained until the end of World War II.

9)  Noor Inayat Khan—World War II

Known by the code name Madeleine, Russian-born of Indian and American descent, she served as a radio operator in the French resistance.  When the Nazis raided her communication headquarters, she avoided detection but was later betrayed and interrogated.  She was transferred to Dachau where she was killed at age thirty.  A book about her life, Spy Princess, is being developed into a movie.

8)  Belle Boyd—U.S. Civil War

Known as Cleopatra of the Secession, she ran a hotel in Virginia.  As a girl she began working to defend the South, charming secrets out of Union soldiers stationed near the hotel then delivering them to Confederate officials.  Arrested, then freed, she eventually ended up traveling around the country telling her stories of espionage.

7)  Virginia Hall—World War II

Educated at Harvard and Columbia with a goal of joining the Foreign Service…until a shooting accident on a hunting trip resulted in a partial amputation on her leg and a limp when wearing her prosthesis.  She signed up for the British Special Ops and later for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor of the CIA).  She discovered and passed along important military information and trained resistance fighters.  On one mission she was forced to escape to Spain in winter through the mountains on foot.  A book about her was released in 2008, The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America's Greatest Female Spy.

6)  Krystyna Skarbek—World War II

After the Nazi's invaded her native Poland, she volunteered for British Special Operations.  Under the name of Christine Granville, using her expertise as a skier, she transported information between Poland and Hungary through the mountains.  And she could be considered the original Bond girl—Ian Fleming is said to have based several of his femme fatales on her.  After retiring from Special Ops, she worked on a cruise ship and was killed in 1952 by a coworker whose advances she had rejected.

5)  Marlene Dietrich (movie star)—World War II

German born, she became a U.S. citizen in 1939.  She volunteered for the OSS and, in addition to entertaining troops on the front lines as did many celebrities, she also broadcast nostalgic songs as propaganda to German troops who were battle weary.  She was awarded the Medal of Freedom.

4)  Josephine Baker (nightclub singer/dancer)—World War II

From St. Louis, Missouri, she moved to France to escape the racial prejudice she had been subjected to in the U.S.  She became a French citizen.  As a popular and much loved entertainer in France, she used her celebrity working for the French resistance.  The Nazis were so dazzled by her that they allowed her freedom of movement without thinking to check her sheet music where French resistance secrets were written in invisible ink.  She helped to break down countless barriers for African-American women in her adopted country and also in the U.S. [she was an important figure in the U.S. civil rights movement].

3)  Julia McWilliams Child (TV's The French Chef)—World War II

She wanted to join the WACs or the WAVES but was turned down because of her 6'2" height.  So, she went to work for the OSS in research and development at their Washington, DC, headquarters.  She helped develop a workable shark repellent used by downed flight crews and later for the U.S. space missions with water landings.  She also supervised an OSS facility in China.  She handled countless top secret documents prior to becoming famous as television's gourmet cook.

2)  Hedy Lamarr (movie star)—World War II

Born in Vienna, Austria, she made her film debut in 1933's Ecstasy.  She fled the approaching storm clouds of war in Europe, landing a contract with MGM studios.  But she was more than just a pretty face and an actress.  She was also a brilliant mathematician with a unique ability in problem solving. In addition to using her celebrity to raise millions of dollars in war bonds, she was an inventor.  She teamed with Hollywood composer George Antheil and invented a frequency hopping method for steering a torpedo. Today, her invention is the basis for frequency hopping used for wireless phones in our homes, GPS, and most military communication systems.

And probably the most famous (or infamous) female spy of all time:

1)  Mata Hari—World War I (pictured at top)

A spy legend so evocative that the mere mention of the name says it all.  James Bond certainly falls into that category, but he's a fictional character.  Mata Hari was real.  Born in the Netherlands as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle.  She responded to a newspaper ad seeking a wife, married an older man, and moved to Indonesia.  An unhappy marriage and a fascination with the local culture turned her into a performer named Mata Hari.  After her return to Europe, she became a sensation in Paris with her exotic dancing, skimpy costumes and sexy demeanor…wildly popular with some and scandalous with others.  During World War I she traveled freely throughout Europe and was ultimately accused of being a German spy.  She was arrested and executed by a French firing squad in 1917.  She claimed she was spying for the French, not the Germans.  Neither accusation (French spy or German spy) was ever conclusively proven but current theory says she was working for the French who decided she had become a liability.