Dutch Hex Signs Style & Symbolism Guide

When early Swedish and German Dutch settlers first came to Pennsylvania in the 17th century, they brought with them a rich cultural tradition of creating Hex Signs to commemorate special life events. Dutch Hex Signs can be seen painted on barns, sheds, and displayed across many homes in the northeast and the southern United States.

While the original meaning and purpose of the signs are open to interpretation, this has not affected their popularity over the centuries. The signs have become so popular that they are now a major tourist attraction in Pennsylvania. Very few decorative items hold such significant meaning with so much cultural heritage, so their value is still very much on the rise as time passes.

I have been studying the signs and the meanings for years and I still feel like I have only scratched the surface when it comes to creating custom signs and interpreting existing signs for their implied meaning. Information is often fragmented, abstract, and very much open to interpretation so I have been working diligently to create a style guide for traditional dutch hex signs. I would love to see these signs get a makeover for more modern aesthetics because they make wonderful gifts and heirloom quality keepsakes. With all of the advances in color printing technology today, there isn’t any reason why the tradition could not continue for centuries to come.

Implied meaning of symbols.

Many of the shapes and symbols here have been used for symbolic purposes across a wide variety of cultures and religions throughout human history. I have tried to relay the meaning implied by the Pennsylvania Fancy Dutch, which is rooted in the Christian faith. Independent research into the meaning of the older symbols, especially those of stars, will turn up some very questionable material pertaining to the occult. The important thing to keep in mind is the context in which these symbols are being used.

Fancy Dutch vs. Plain Dutch

Also, it is important to differentiate between “Fancy Dutch” and “Plain Dutch” as the communities are not synonymous. The Amish and Mennonite communities are considered “Plain Dutch” and did not participate in hexology as early “Fancy Dutch” settlers did. From what I have read, the Amish really don’t like being asked about Hex signs, so please approach the communities respectfully if you are touring popular Hex sign tourism routes.

Fancy Dutch groups for the most part have assimilated into other groups in the United States. Some Fancy Dutch communities are still thriving in the rural parts of Pennsylvania including; Reading, Allentown, York, and Lebanon.

Hex Signs are not the same as Barn Quilts.

Dutch Hex signs are always shown in a circular format or painted on circle plaques. In the last 20 years, there has been a rise in a similar art style: Barn Quilts. While the art style and symbolism is similar, it should not be confused with any affiliation to hex signs. Barn quilts originated in Ohio in 2001. This tradition is spreading rapidly and though I don’t have any evidence to support the theory, I believe the established popularity of hex signs may be the reason it has so quickly spread.


Colors are a subtle way to add additional symbolism and variance to traditional hex designs. 9 colors are predominately used and each color has a different symbolic meaning:

Black: Protection, Blends & Binds Elements Together

Blue: Protection, Peace, Spirituality, Calm

Brown: Earth, Friendship, Strength

Green: Growth, Fertility, Success, Ideas

Orange: Abundance

Red: Emotions, Passion, Charisma, Lust, Creativity

Purple: Royalty, All Things Sacred, Religion

White: Purity, Moon Power, Free Flowing Energy

Yellow: Health, Love, Sun, Connection To God

Birds: See “Birds” Section Below

Hereford Cow: The Hereford cow protects farm animals and pets. The Hereford also highlights the important role that food and food animals play in our lives.

Horse: Ensures protection for farm animals and pets. Protects against disease and lightning. Commonly placed in 5 point or 8 Pointed Stars. Original livestock hexes and barn blessings used horses as the horse played a major role in early farm life of the Pennsylvania Dutch settlers.

Lambs: Represents children. Commonly used in “Bless This Child” hex signs with child’s name enclosed in a heart. Lambs can also symbolize wonder and innocence. Lambs are commonly painted on hex signs with distelfinks (luck), tulips (faith, hope, charity), and a heart border to represent everlasting love.

Snakes: Represents temptation. Commonly shown in proximity to trinity tulips on marriage hexes.

Unicorn: The mythological white unicorn had a horn and a lion’s tail. Unicorns symbolize piety and virtue on Dutch Hex Signs. Placing unicorns close to each other on the sign is designed to show how all of God’s creature’s, even “wild animals”, can live in peace and harmony.

Unicorn signs are often decorated with hearts and trinity tulips. Unicorns are commonly shown facing each other. Overall this design represents piety, virtue, peace, and contentment. It is often designed to place on hope chests of young women. This unconquerable animal was also believed to become tame when confronted by a maiden. He would lay his head in her lap and was easily taken by hunter.

Bird of Paradise: Symbolizes beauty, wonder, and mystery of life on earth.

Distelfink: Symbolizes good luck and happiness. The distelfink was a bird that ate thistle seed and thus called the “Thistlefinch”. The Pennsylvania Dutch referred to it as a “Distelfink”. It is a stylized version of the common gold finch, though some believe its features are more heavily borrowed from European varieties of gold finches.

Using 2 distelfinks together on a hex represents “double good luck.” Depicting 2 Distelfinks crossed over each other or intertwined means “true friendship”.

Doves: Doves represent friendship and peace in marriage. Referred to as the “Doves of Peace”. When doves are shown turned away from each other, this is also said to represent peace and trust in marriage.

Eagles: Eagles symbolize strength, courage, and protection. Double headed eagles are also commonly used in marriage signs. Double headed eagles are paired with laced or scalloped hearts to represent Strength and Courage in marriage. Eagles may also be paired with trinity tulips to represent faith, hope, and charity.

Some rare and older hexes depict a more Germanic Double Headed Eagle seen in German heraldry as well as versions akin to the “Albanian Eagle”.

Roosters: Like the eagle, roosters also symbolize strength, courage, and protection.

Leaves: Leaves represent long life, strength, and nature. Maple and oak leaves are the most common leaves shown on Dutch hex signs and are often embellished with acorns as well. Leaves can also represent diversity and beauty of life on earth.

The oak leaf seems to carry heavier symbolic weight than the maple leaf. Oak leaves are also used to symbolize strength in body, mind, and character. Can also symbolize smooth sailing in autumn years of life or the representation of strength of masculinity.

Pineapple: Represents warmth and hospitality for all. The pineapple is often used in Welcome signs and home blessings.

Pomegranate: A rare symbol used to symbolize abundance and fertility (due to the number of seeds it contains).

Shamrock: Represents luck and the “luck of the Irish”.

Tree of Life: A different kind of hex sign that uses a tree with many branches containing different symbols. The symbols on tree represent God’s bountiful fruit. The symbols inside circles on tree are hearts, tulips, rosettes, stars, and similar geometric designs.

Tulips: Tulips represent faith, hope, and charity, and can also be used to represent Holy Trinity. Tulips are frequently shown in multiples of 3 and are shown to represent a form of a lily. Another implied and eloquent meaning can include: “Faith in yourself, faith in what you do, and faith in your fellow man.”

Sometimes, a snake is shown on or around a trinity tulip in marriage signs to serve as a warning to resist temptation.

Wheat: Wheat stencils represent abundance. Signs depicting wheat are not as popular as other motifs, but can still be easily found.

Stars generally representluck and protection.

Please note I had a difficult time finding the specific meaning of the points on stars (4 point-12 point) from any documented Dutch hexology material, so I had to research the symbolism of stars by relying heavily on accepted numerology in the Christian faith.

4 Point Star: The Morning Star,The Christian Cross, Star of Bethlehem. Native Americans also believed the morning star is a sign of courage and purity of spirit.

5 Point Star: Good Luck, Compass, Nautical Star

6 Point Star “Hexagram”: 6 Days of Creation, or the 6 attributes of God (Wisdom, Power, Majesty, Love, Mercy, and Justice)

8 Point Star: Star of Redemption or Regeneration. Represents baptism in Christian faith.

10 Point Star: Harmony in natural kingdom, Spiritual well being. Could also represent 10 of the 12 apostles. (Judas is omitted due to his betrayal of Jesus and Peter is omitted because of his denial of Jesus.)

12 Point Star: Represents completeness. Also used to represent the Epiphany (12th Day of Christmas)

Triple Star Motif: Good Luck, Success, and Happiness. This motif is comprised of 3 nautical 5 point stars that are layered and rotated to reveal all points of all stars. When a brown outer ring is used, it symbolizes the cycle of the life making this particular sign a wish for a lifetime of happiness.

Barn Wheel: Wheel of Fortune, most common with 32 spokes and often accompanied with a lucky star in the center.

Crescent Moons: Shown in a swirl pattern to represent the 4 Seasons.

Daddy Hex: One of the most popular hex signs used to bring “Good Luck All Year”. Adding a rosette in center circle is for an added measure of good luck during difficult times of the year.

Haus Segen: “Home Blessing” in German.

Hearts: Hearts represent love. When used in circle border it signifies “endless” love. Scalloped, laced, or intertwined hearts represent marriage.

Irish Symbolism: 2 distinct Irish symbols are commonly seen on Dutch Hex signs.Shamrocks are seen for luck and the Claddagh Ring is shown to represent love, loyalty, and friendship.

Raindrops: Represents water and crop abundance. Raindrops are depicted in a paisley shape and can be large or small.

Rosettes (Oldest Symbol): Good Luck. Six Petal rosette is most common. Red hearts are commonly placed between rosette’s blue, red, and gold petals to ensure luck in love. 12 point rosettes represent good luck all year. Red is used to symbolize strength and green for life. Enclosed in scalloped border and means “Good Luck In Life”. Wards off evil, disease, and pestilence

The rosette is one of the most basic and most ancient designs in western culture. The rosette appears on buildings, furniture, graves, and pottery dating all the way back to the Egyptians.

Scallops: Representocean waves and “Smooth Sailing Through Life”.

Swastika: Symbolizes good fortune and well being. Hitler has tainted the well meaning symbolism of the swastika in modern times, but I’m sure it will far outlast Hitler’s reign of terror.

Swastiaks can be seen in “Sun Wheel” designs and may also be called “Swirling Ray Swastikas”. Sun wheels are somewhat of a stylizied swastika and represents warmth and fertility.

Swirling ray swastika motifs are rare. When they are used, modern signs are not commonly depicted with more than 4 rays. It is believed that 5 and 6 ray swastikas were once much more common.

Sun, Rain, & Fertility Motif: This motif is an 8 Pointed star with sun center. It has a substantial meaning: “Sun warms mother earth and lights our lives. Raindrops are shown in an endless circle, providing unending moisture critical to life. Together they provide all God’s people with a bountiful harvest and renewed life. This design offers abundance in field, barn, and home.”

Wilkommen / Wilkom– Two different way to say welcome in Dutch. Used for signs to display warm greetings to one and all.

When hand painting or creating a digital rendering of a hex sign with traditional Dutch features, using appropriate lettering can add additional authenticity to the design. Early Dutch settlers used Fraktur, which is a type of blackletter calligraphy deeply steeped in European folk cultures. It is very similar to old english fonts, but has a very distinct style. Comparing fraktur to old english side by side, fraktur seems to contain more solid lines and less filigree details. Dafont has a great selection of free blackletter fonts to experiment with on your own signs. My personal favorites to use when making hex signs are Augusta and Perry Gothic.

This style guide will be continuously updated and revised as new information is found.

Very few things in modern times are as meaningful or as steeped in history as the Dutch hex sign. As time passes and the world changes, I would love for the long legacy of these signs to continue to grow and change with us. Humans, despite how advanced we like to think we are, will always find comfort and contentment in symbols that conjure luck and happiness in a chaotic world. The human connection to abstract symbols may be one of the very few ways we can maintain a sense of wonder about the beautiful world around us. I don’t believe that these signs or any other talisman has mystical powers or the ability to change the course of my life. I do believe that the signs are meant to inspire love, hope, happiness, and compassion in ourselves and to those we care about the most. That, my friends, is a beautiful message and is as relevant today as it was when the first Dutch settlers came to this country full of hope and wonder.

Dumplin’ Book Discussion and Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Willowdean is a plus-sized Texan teen who loves Dolly Parton and deeply misses her aunt who recently passed away. Her mother, a former local beauty pageant queen, is also the director for the event, and consumed by it. Will couldn’t possibly care less, her hands being full with her best friend Ellen’s love life, and stealing glances at the handsome cook she works with at Harpy’s burgers named Bo. But then she finds an entry form for the pageant in her aunt’s old room, shocking, because her aunt was plus-sized too, and didn’t seem interested in such things.

Then, Will’s car and source of freedom breaks down, and while her mother is dropping her off at school, she calls Willowdean her childhood nickname, Dumplin’, in front of the whole school, including its worst bully. Trying to navigate love, the gap her aunt left in her and her mother’s relationship, and the challenges of friendship as both girls grow into young women with different interests, Willowdean endures more losses, gains new friendships, meets drag queens, and even comes to terms with her own stubbornness and learns the definition of the word loyalty.

Dumplin’ is about deep loss, first love, friendship, finding your compass and accepting yourself, no matter your shape or talents. It’s a perfect read for teens or those who remember those challenging years, especially the struggle of trying to chase that elusive “shadow of perfection.”

  • Young Adult fiction
  • Young Adult romantic comedies
  • teen fiction
  • teen romantic comedies
  • misfit teens
  • plus-sized teen struggles
  • friendship obstacles
  • teen romantic drama
  • Dolly Parton
  • Texas
  1. What is Willowdean’s mother’s single greatest accomplishment?

  2. Why couldn’t Willowdean picture herself in college or think about life after high school?

  3. What was the connection between Dolly Parton, Willowdean, her aunt Lucy, and Mrs. Dryver and her daughter Ellen? Why did they all love Dolly so much?

  4. Why did Will think she and Lucy were being pulled in different directions or had outgrown each other? What was the catalyst for their fight? What or who added fuel to the fire?

  5. What are some of the ways to react to bullies? What did you think of how Willowdean reacted to Patrick Thomas bullying her?

  6. How was it that Willowdean would go from not caring what anyone thought of her body, to hating it herself? Were there any triggers that made things swing one way or another?

  7. Being a guy in a town like Clover City, TX meant that people had certain expectations. What were some of those things expected of guys like Mitch? Did that explain his friendship with Patrick? How did societal expectations help him relate to Will’s claustrophobia, even at home?

  8. What were the rules for the Sadie Hawkins dance? How did Willowdean ask Mitch? Why didn’t she ask Bo?

  9. What kind of place did Willowdean, Hannah, Millie, and Amanda go to for a Dolly Parton impersonators night? How were they shocked, and how was it connected to Lucy? How did meeting people that night help them later with the pageant?

  10. Willowdean’s favorite song was “Jolene,” but what was it a reminder of for her?

  11. Why did Will hate Halloween, when El and Mitch loved it? What did Mitch do to try to change her mind?

  12. What did it say of Willowdean’s regard for Mitch that she wanted resented him for showing up at her job on Halloween night in a costume? Why did she want him to “stay on his side of the plate”?

  13. What was Will’s original talent for the pageant going to be? Who suggested it? What did she actually do instead, and why?

  14. Why didn’t Willowdean care about winning? Who did?

While debating the pros and cons of a certain aspect of Ellen and Tim’s relationship, El and Willowdean were snacking on candied pecans.

Bo’s favorite candy, and a gift he left in Willowdean’s work locker on several occasions, was cherry lollipops. She once called it “a cherry-flavored olive branch.”

When Willowdean was going through her gross, lazy week, she found and ate a bag of mini chocolate chips (from a few holidays ago).

To combine these three main ingredients, I created a recipe for a:

Cherry Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookie

(The white bag of candy pictured at the top of the article also represents the bag of toffee someone gave Will for her birthday).

Other books by Julie Murphy include the sequel to this book: Puddin’, Side Effects May Vary, Ramona Blue, The Secret Language of Light, April May June, One Summer, The Record Keeper’s Duty, and more.

Fat Girl on a Plane is another glimpse of the world through the eyes of a plus-sized teen trying to find her way in the world, the world of fashion, filled with humor, sarcasm, and inspiration to love ourselves. Another book about a plus-sized girl is Future Perfect by Jen Larsen.

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods is a humorous contemporary fiction about friendship and a woman in desperate need of finding joy in life again, and discovering her new identity in the face of tragedy, with the help of an eccentric friend with cancer who is determined to find things that restore their happiness while she still has time.

For more YA and teen romantic comedies, try Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars or Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, or Me Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.

For books about teenage bullies and misfits, read Wonder by R. J. Palacio, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten, or Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina.

“The word fat makes people uncomfortable.”

“I sit down to eat and liberally spread salad dressing across my plate, because on the eighth day God created ranch dressing.”

“I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life. I’ve thought too much about what people will say or what they’re gonna think. And sometimes it’s over silly things like going to the grocery store…But there have been times when I really stopped myself from doing something special. All because I was scared someone might look at me and decide I wasn’t good enough. But you don’t have to bother with that nonsense…You owe yourself the chance.”

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on. Fat Skinny. Short. Tall. It doesn’t matter.”

“I hate seeing fat girls on tv or in movies, because the only way the world seems to be okay with putting a fat person on camera is if they’re miserable with themselves or if they’re the jolly best friend. Well, I’m neither of those things.”

“…That’s when I decided that being good at something didn’t mean you had to do it. Just ‘cause something’s easy doesn’t make it right.”

“No matter who you are, there will always be someone prettier or smarter or thinner. Perfection is nothing more than a phantom shadow we’re all chasing.”

“Maybe Lucy wasn’t supposed to be your compass forever. Maybe she was there for you just long enough so you could learn how to be your own compass and find your own way.”

“I think you gotta be who you want to be until you feel like you are whoever it is you’re trying to become. Sometimes half of doing something is pretending that you can.”

“Life is not a river and we’re not all headin’ in the same direction.”

“Sometimes good things happen to you at the absolute worst time.”

“I guess things are less scary if you know what to call them.”

“You don’t deserve to win anything or be in any pageant until you make the effort and do the work.Maybe fat girls or girls with limps… don’t usually win beauty pageants… But the only way to change that is to be present.”

Developing Your Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills for Everyday Living

Learning to think and reason critically and analytically on a continuous basis is not easy. Everyday living is a series of decisions and choices that always revolve around what we want versus what we need or should do and it can be difficult to separate the two.

Our experiences, our observations, our wants and our needs all influence our decisions; the trick is to prioritize these things to come to the best decision for us – to decide what will be the most advantageous to our own situation.

To be successful in life, whether you define success as happiness, financial gain or through your children, requires learning to think and reason critically and analytically in many cases. The more we can do that the more successful we will be.

The very young among us have not learned how to reason critically – their wants are the only thing that matters to them. An infant considers only that they are hungry, not that Mom is busy. Slightly older children learn that there are consequences to their actions and begin to think some about those consequences, but still take action mostly on what they want at the moment. Even teens haven’t learned the skill yet – they want to drive fast, so they die doing it. They want to be accepted so they take street drugs from their peers. They have not developed those critical and analytical thinking skills yet.

Older seniors often go the other way. They have had their noses rubbed into bad consequences so many times that their experiences play an overwhelming part of their decisions. The seniors on a fixed income from a nest egg knows how fast money can disappear; they often won’t spend a dime of that nest egg even for their needs, let alone their wants.

Somewhere in between is where we all need to be; balancing our wants and needs with good, informative analytical thinking.

Our wants play a large part in coming to decisions that we make, and this is right and proper. At the same time, those wants cannot be allowed to guide our critical thinking to a preordained conclusion.

What we want is very often the very reason we are making a decision at all. What do we want for breakfast today? We need a new car; which one do we want? These wants must not be left out of our decision making processes.

Critical thinking, however, dictates that these wants do not have very much priority in the reasoning process. Many people begin the analytical reasoning process with the desire to make that particular want a part of the final decision and that desire often makes the entire analytical reasoning process invalid. If you take a new job based on a want for more money to play with and find you really hate the job because it takes a lot more of your time than the one you liked but left you have probably made the wrong decision based solely on your desire for more money.

As an example, consider that you have decided to buy a new house, and have narrowed the choices to two. One you really like and want, but it is more than you can afford, will require a 50 mile commute to work and needs a new roof. The second choice is less desirable, and after seeing the first you don’t really want it, but the commute is short, it is affordable and needs no repairs. Reasoning with your wants, you decide that the first house is the way to go; the commute is only 20 minutes longer (if you drive 100 mph), you will save money somewhere to pay for it (with no idea just where that might be) and somehow don’t see the roof at all.

You have now decided to buy the house using faulty reasoning. Your decision is based on lies to yourself (driving 100 mph indeed!), ignoring consequences of your actions (no more of the eating out that you enjoy so much) and intentional blindness (the bad roof doesn’t exist).

By using truly critical and analytical thinking on the other hand, you decide to make a 50 mile commute to work each day for a week (test the hypothesis that it’s OK) and discover you don’t like it at all. You make a serious budget and find that all your entertainment must disappear to afford the new house and you don’t ignore that fact but rather consider the consequences seriously. You get a ladder and take a hard look at the questionable roof, and realize it will cost an additional $5000 to fix it. Final conclusion; house #1 is not for you in spite of the fact you really want it. Your wants have not been allowed to interfere with your critical reasoning process and you will be happier for it. You have correctly analyzed your problem, using all the data available, testing new procedures or theories, and you have not conveniently forgotten or ignored anything in order to produce the answer you want. You may dream of house #1 for months afterward, (and may eventually find one you like just as well) but you have made the right choice for you and will understand that in a few days when the disappointment fades some.

There is a third possibility as well; perhaps you decide that you can sell the car you don’t really like, buy a cheaper one and have enough left to fix the roof. You find you can raid your retirement fund for enough down payment to lower the monthly payment to a more affordable amount without causing unacceptable damage to that retirement account and discover that a new road is being built that will cut 15 miles off the commute. Now your analytical thinking skills have found the problems that could have made you very unhappy in a few months and found solutions as well – solutions that are an acceptable trade off for you.

In the example above, the third possibility shows how your wants and desires should be used to come to the right decision or conclusion. Not by subverting your critical and analytical reasoning process but by forcing that same reasoning process to find other possibilities or avenues that can provide your wants.

Your wants may well cause you to reason out a decision or conclusion; to have to choose which action to take or product to buy. Those desires, however, should not make the decision or the choice itself. They must be allowed only to cause the decision or choice to be made. Critical and analytical thinking must then be used to make the actual choice with as little interference from your wants or emotions as possible. Once the pros and cons of any decision have been discovered you must weight those against your own want in a very analytical manner to determine exactly what you will be spending (time, money, friends or family, whatever it might be) and what you will gain from that cost. Once more your wants must be set aside and clear, critical thinking used to determine if the want is worth the cost.

A second example: Joe works with a beautiful woman, Jill, who has made advances. Joe wants Jill but must decide if the cost of losing his wife and family, his home and half his bank account, future child support payments are all worth the prize. The internal lie (Only one night, and I won’t get caught) is not allowed; the probability that it will continue and he will get caught must be accounted for. Yet few people apparently are able to think critically or analytically here; over half of American marriages fail, the divorce courts are overloaded and huge numbers of children are from one parent homes. Many of these circumstances can be traced to infidelity. The correct answer is usually obvious, but so many people cannot go beyond a child’s level of reasoning; I want so I get without any attempt at critical or analytical thought. The want is allowed to perform the reasoning process with predictable results.

Your own past experiences can provide an invaluable resource for analytical reasoning, but should be used with caution. Past experience seldom matches exactly with new circumstances and memory is seldom perfect as well. Specifically “common sense” that is based on past experience often turns out to be based on what you were told not what you actually experienced and may not be accurate at all. In addition common sense often changes with time and new information; coconut oil, once thought to be very bad for the heart as it contains saturated fats is now considered quite good for your heart. The common sense declaration about saturated fats has been found to be only partially true. Between old experiences and new data it is quite likely that new possibilities are available; perhaps a different conclusion is in order.

We all know that much of the information available on the internet should be suspect, but few consider that old knowledge from our childhood is also quite suspect. Times change and new discoveries are always being made. Memories fade and change. Something that we absolutely knew to be true 20 years ago may turn out not to be true at all. In the house buying scenario above the hypothetical person knew the roof would cost $5,000 to repair from past experience; an actual bid quote might come in at $2,000. Or $10,000. Use the best information you have available to make decisions, and the more important the decision the better that information needs to be. If you decide to have Cheerios for breakfast and discover you don’t have any on hand it isn’t the end of the world, but if you purchase a house you can’t afford it could well be repossessed. Don’t let your critical and analytical thinking process fail for lack of good, solid information – the best you can come up with.

Defining Dramatic Tragedy: A Discussion of Macbeth, A View from the Bridge, and Rosmersholm

There has been a long-standing debate over the true definition of tragedy in dramatic literature. There is, of course, Aristotle’s definition of tragedy spelled out in the Poetics. Today, many critics still hold fast to Aristotle’s definition as the true definition of tragedy. However, as Arthur Miller said in his essay, ‘The Tragedy of the Common Man,’ “It is now many centuries since Aristotle lived… Things do change, and even a genius is limited by his time and the nature of his society: (Miller 164-165). So just as “Euclid’s geometry…has been amended numerous times by men with new insights,” Aristotle’s definition of tragedy can be amended for the times (164). Rosmersholm, by Henrik Ibsen, A View from the Bridge, by Arthur Miller, and Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, are three plays written in three different centuries, the nineteenth, twentieth, and seventeenth, respectively, and long after Aristotle defined tragedy in the Poetics. Looking at each play and keeping Aristotle’s thoughts in mind, all three can be placed in the genre of tragedy.

Aristotle’s definition of tragedy in the Poetics is quite long and detailed. In summary, it states that a tragedy is an imitation of action and life that must evoke pity and fear in the audience. There are six main elements present in every tragedy. They are, in order of importance, plot, character, thought, diction, spectacle, and song. Also in every tragedy there is a tragic hero, an essential character whom the action surrounds. Often this tragic hero goes through a point of recognition where he, or she, changes from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge which sparks a reversal, or shift in the action of the play.

The plot of the tragedy is the “soul of the tragedy” (Aristotle 42). Plot is the most important element of tragedy because tragedy is an imitation of actions, not individuals. The plot must surround one action of life, and it must be limited to a length that can be wholly grasped by the memory of the audience. F.B. Leavis agrees with Aristotle’s definition in his essay entitled “Tragedy and the “Medium,” where he states that “the tragic… establishes … a kind of profound impersonality in which experience matters, not because it is more… but because it is what it is.” In other words, the experience, or action, of the plot is the most important element of a true tragedy.

The experience that a playwright chooses to write about may change with the times. For example, the plots of Macbeth, A View from the Bridge, and Rosmersholm reflect the important actions or experiences of life at the times that they were written. In Macbeth, the plot surrounds the killing of the king. In the unstable times of the Middle Ages, in which Macbeth takes place, the life of the king and his court and the stability of the crown were most important. Shakespeare couldn’t put the life of the common peasant man on stage because the lives of peasants were insignificant. So the plot of Macbeth follows the action of the royal court. Macbeth, a general in the king’s army and the Thane of Glamis, murders the king to fulfill his desire for power. This quest for power ends in destruction for Macbeth and order is finally restored to the kingdom. In Miller’s A View from the Bridge, the plot surrounds a common man, Eddie Carbone. This is acceptable because the action takes place in New York City in the twentieth century when the lives of ordinary men are the most significant and where royal courts don’t exist. The experience related in this tragedy is the downfall of a man who allows jealousy and desire for unforbidden love to destroy him. In Rosmersholm, the plot also comes out of the experience of ordinary people. Romer is a man who allows his love for a woman to blind him while she destroys his ailing wife. This desire for a woman also destroys him in the end, because he can’t live with the knowledge that his love and desire for another woman ended another human life.

All three plots reflect important aspects of the times that they were written. However, all three also show that the experience of the plot is the most significant element of tragedy. Each plot shows how the quest for desire can lead to the downfall of a man. The man in not necessarily as essential to the tragedy as the experience that he goes through. Another man could easily have gone through the same experience, and the tragedy would be the same.

Diction, which Aristotle placed fourth in order of importance, is the “expression of the meaning in words; and its essence is the same both in verse and prose” (Aristotle 43). The use of language is important in relaying the actions. According to Leavis, “the attainment in literature of this level… would seem to involve the poetic use of language, or of processes that amount to that.” Leavis seems to be disagreeing with Aristotle when it comes to the use of language. Leavis believes that the language must be poetic. Does that mean that it needs to be written in verse in order for the drama to be considered tragedy? The plays being discussed here would demonstrate that this is definitely not the case.

After my first reading of Rosmersholm, I didn’t consider it a tragedy at all. However in my first reading of Macbeth, there was no doubt in my mind that it was a tragedy. Rosmersholm is written in prose while Macbeth is written in verse. Traditional Greek tragedy, from which Aristotle formed his definition of tragedy, is written in verse, therefore it is easier to see Macbeth as a tragedy because it conforms to the poetic tradition of tragedy.

My first experience with A View from the Bridge was a Broadway production of the tragedy. I believe thought that I would have still considered it a tragedy upon a first reading, even if I had not seen it staged. This drama is a special case however. Miller wrote A View from the Bridge in verse before changing it to prose. Does this make a difference? Upon first examination of a piece of drama, maybe. However, if one is to consider whether or not a work is a tragedy or not, a first reading, or examination is not enough. One must get beyond the language to see the meaning that lies behind it. In doing this, a reader may see the poetry of the language, whether it is verse or prose. This examination of the drama may be the ‘process’ that Leavis was referring to.

Aristotle placed character second in order of importance for the six elements of tragedy, because the action, or plot, of the tragedy surrounds a central character. This central character is called the tragic hero. Aristotle states that “there may be [tragedy] without character” because in his opinion “most of our modern poets fail in the rendering of character” (42). Those modern poets were the poets of Greek tragedy whom Aristotle studied in forming his definition of tragedy. In Greek tragedy, the tragedy probably could have been performed without a central character, because the use of the chorus was so prevalent. As tragedy has changed some over the centuries, the use of the chorus is now less common. The importance of character has increased in the absence of a chorus.

The tragic hero is “a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by a vice or depravity, but by some error of frailty” most commonly known as the tragic flaw (Aristotle 46). Rosmer in Rosmersholm, Eddie in A View from the Bridge, and Macbeth in Macbeth, is the tragic hero central to his tragedy. Each man has a similar tragic flaw in that none can see beyond his personal desire.

Rosmer is an ordinary man. He was formerly a parish clergyman. His wife has recently committed suicide by jumping into the mill-race after a long illness. He is in love with Rebekka, a woman who came to live at Rosmersholm to help take care of Rosmer’s ailing wife. Rosmer found that he had many things in common with Rebekka and fell in love with her. He is a good man though and attempted to stay loyal to his wife in appearance by hiding his affair with Rebekka. He fits the mold for a tragic hero by being a man who is not totally good, but at the same time not totally evil. There are many qualities in Rosmer that the audience can identify with. His flaw is that he could not see beyond his love and desire for Rebekka that Rebekka was pushing Beate towards despair.

Eddie Carbone is also an ordinary man. He is an illiterate longshoreman working on the docks in Brooklyn, New York. He is a very good, hardworking man. He has sacrificed his time and energy to raise his niece, Catherine. Eddie is a very likeable character. This is why it is so shocking when the audience discovers his tragic flaw. Like many other tragedies, Eddie is caught up in an incestuous desire. He is in love with his niece who he has been so close to for many years. He seems to enjoy her company more than his wife’s, and he doesn’t want to let her go. When she attempts to gain some independence by taking a job that Eddie doesn’t see as fit for a young lady, and by dating Rudolpho, Beatrice’s illegal alien cousin, Eddie’s true feelings come through to the audience. Like Rosmer, Eddie cannot see beyond his love and desire for Catherine that his love is forbidden by natural law and that he will destroy his family by loving this woman.

Eddie and Rosmer are ordinary men and tragic heroes. According to Aristotle’s theory, an ordinary man cannot be the hero. However, I believe that this is one of the aspects of the definition that has to be amended in the name of progress and change. This amendment is acceptable, because in looking at Macbeth’s tragic flaw, the audience cans see that it is very similar to the preceding characters’ flaws and acceptable in Aristotle’s view at the same time.

Shakespeare’s tragic hero fits Aristotle’s definition more closely. This goes back to the point though that in Shakespeare’s day, just as in Aristotle’s, drama was written about men who are “highly renowned and prosperous” (46). Macbeth is one of these men. When the audience meets Macbeth, he has just own an important battle for the King. He is highly renowned as a general in the King’s army and has been prosperous in battle. Macbeth seems to be quite content with his place in life until he meets the three wayward sisters. He is a fairly young man in love with his beautiful wife. He is the Thane of Glamis and becomes the Thane of Cawdor after winning the battle. Most importantly he is loyal to the King. The three wayward sisters present Macbeth with tempting prophesies. Macbeth’s tragic flaw is that he loses his will to fight the temptation for the power that will come when those prophecies are fulfilled.

The use of the tragic hero, and the three remaining elements, thought, spectacle, and song, are present in tragedy to help evoke pity and fear in the audience. The playwright attempts to place a normal scene before the audience so that when the downfall of the tragic hero occurs, the audience is shocked into fear and feels pity for the fallen man. The playwright does this by giving us a likeable, somewhat good central character, as discussed above. He also uses thought, spectacle, and song to evoke pity and fear, according to Aristotle. The use of current thought and language will add to the normality of the scene that the playwright is creating. If Arthur Miller had kept A View from the Bridge in verse, it probably wouldn’t have been as tragic. The use of prose is important in this play because it is preferred over verse by the twentieth century audience. Also, Miller added to the thought and language of the play by giving the characters an appropriate Brooklyn accent.

The playwright creates spectacle by creating characters for the tragic incident that are close to one another. In Greek tragedy the characters were usually related to one another, such as a mother and her son. This tradition of spectacle has been kept alive. In A View from the Bridge, the tragic incident occurs within the family between an uncle and his niece. In Rosmersholm, the incident occurs between two lovers, Rosmer and Rebekka. In Macbeth, the incident occurs between a man and his King.

The use of song is the last of the elements that is used by the playwright to evoke pity and fear. According to Aristotle, song “holds the chief place among the embellishments” in tragedy (43). Along with the change from verse to prose and the decreased use of the chorus, the use of song has lost popularity in tragedy.

The transformation of tragedy has not changed the importance of the evocation of pity and fear in the audience. According to Northrope Frye in his essay entitled “Tragic Modes,’ “in low mimetic tragedy, pity and fear are neither purged nor absorbed into pleasures, but are committed externally, as sensations” (160). In all three of the tragedies presented here the audience is not shocked and horrified by the action of the tragedy along as they were in Greek times. The increased importance of character use in tragedy has led to an increase in the personal relationship that the audience forms with that main character. The use of common language, or prose, also helps the audience feel closer to him. This closer relationship increases the sensation of shock when the hero falls.

The audience can identify with the hero and feels pity and fear within themselves, because they see the tragedy happening to a man just like themselves on stage rather than to a man who deserves the fate being handed to him. As stated above, the tragedy could happen to any character, and the audience will often mentally place themselves in that role.

In order to have a genre named tragedy, a definition of tragedy must exist to define the genre. Aristotle’s definition seems to be a good basis for defining tragedy, but I don’t believe that it is an absolute. A concrete definition is not really possible for an art that is continually changing. Therefore, every drama needs to be examined individually in being considered for the tragic genre. The change in language use and the importance of character are two of the most obvious changes in the tragedy. When looking at the tragedies written today, one must look beyond the prose and into the character and his experience to see the poetry and meaning of the tragic experience.

Written by Donna Hilbrandt.

Draper, R.P., editor. Tragedy: Developments in Criticism. London: Macmillan, 1980.

  • Aristotle. “Extracts from the ‘Poetics” 41-50.
  • Frye, Northrope. “Tragic Modes” 157-164.
  • Miller, Arthur. “The Tragedy of the Common Man.” 164 – 168.

Leavis, F.B. “Tragedy and the ‘Medium.” The Common Pursuit. London: Penguin, 1993.

Works Referred To

Ibsen, Henrik. Rosmersholm. The Master Builder and other plays. Una Ellis-Fermor, translator. London: Penguin, 1958.

Miller, Arthur. A View from the Bridge. A View from the Bridge / All My Sons. London: Penguin, 1961.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. John F. Andrews, editor. London: Everyman, 1993.

Debunking the Pyramids of Antarctica Myth

Sometimes, the best way to debunk a story is to read it. Case in point: The story about the discovery of ancient pyramids in Antarctica. Recently, this tale of intrepid explorers discovering a series of man-made structures on a continent that has been too harsh to support sustainable human life for millions of years went viral over the Internet.

The story was picked up by many news outlets and blogs throughout the world, and has made its way as a meme on Facebook and other social media sites. By all accounts, this story would sound like the greatest archeological discovery of a lifetime.

However, nearly everything about this article, including the pictures and descriptions of the “explorers” hint that this was merely a hoax. Even the news outlets that ran with the story are suspect. Whatever the case may be, the story is its own undoing.

The only “real” proof of the pyramids comes from a series of photographs supposedly taken during the expedition. Several show mountains with seemingly smooth edges partially covered in snow. Others show a conical shaped mound of snow near the coast. Finally, there appears to be an icy pyramid on a frozen plain.

The photos are not exactly compelling. The giant “pyramids” with clean edges are clearly mountains. In fact, these mountains look like any mountain range existing in extremely cold climates. The smooth edges and sides are more likely the result of two things: natural erosion and the proximity of the photographer from the mountain when the shot was taken.

The icy cone near the coast is impressive and seems like it was made by humans. Then again, it’s near the coast and that portion of its structure appears to be the result of wind, sea, or both (Update: The photo in question was actually cropped from an original photo. It wasn’t the subject of the original photo. See caption for the actual person who took it)

The “snow pyramid” on the plain (also near the coast) is the least compelling. It suspiciously looks like it was photo-shopped (then again, looks can be deceiving). Also, it appears small in scale and closely resembles a pile of plowed snow (remember, there are bases with runways that need to be cleared down there).

There are several clues to the article’s authenticity. Part of the problem is its length. For a story about a new, earth-shattering, history-changing discovery, it is relatively short (at least the one presented by In Serbia News was minuscule). Recently, an article about the discovery of new species in the “lost world” of Australia garnered a very lengthy write-up.

The story is not new, either. It appears that variations of the story have been circulating on the web for nearly a decade. While there are some slight variations, the story hasn’t changed much, either. Most sites have added opinions, rather than updates. In fact, the “new” version of the article has the same lead from its original publication. The original writer –whoever that might be — claimed in the lead that the search was ongoing and that eight researchers are involved. No names are given to the explorers.

This leads to another flaw in the pyramid story. The websites and blogs that chose to print it didn’t bother to validate the story. It appears nobody involved in the expedition were contacted. Any sense of sourcing done in the article was to mention an obscure website known for printing pseudo-scientific-themed articles (no link available). It’s obvious that many sites merely searched the web, found the story and placed it on their sites. This is not exactly investigative journalism at its finest (that is if you dare to give it that distinction).

Most of the news outlets are found on the Internet. Many of them have posted questionable stories in the past. One such website reporting on this matter is Before It’s News.com. This site was once the darling of citizen journalism. Its platform allowed for anyone to post a newsworthy article.

Over the years, Before It’s News has been taken over by conspiracy theorists, cranks, and ideologists who have written articles about such ground-breaking stuff as secret lunar bases, alien infiltration, and shadowy government activities.

When this story was “reported” on their site in late 2012, it took on a whole new dimension. The result was, shall we say, unique. On top of eight unnamed explorers from America and Europe discovering the pyramids, there were hints of hidden Nazi bases and remnants of the lost continent of Atlantis.

The other sites are not better, either. Many will put a political stance to it, while others will run with pseudo-scientific slants. Many center around the theme of the lost continent of Atlantis. It’s not surprising to see some sites adding the line “the government doesn’t want you to know this…”

Interestingly enough, this story’s origin may not have anything to do with Nazis, Atlantis or government cover-ups. Instead, it’s Hollywood. To be precise, a movie that pitted two iconic space monsters against one another.

According to a trailer of Alien vs. Predator (which is based on the movie, as well as the Dark Horse Comic series), a group of explorers uncovers an ancient pyramid in Antarctica. To make a long story short, the aliens and predator battle one another inside it while the humans try to stay out of harm’s way.

Is it a coincidence? The answer is most likely no. The story is just a myth kept alive by the nature of sensationalistic websites on the Internet. Yet, its flaws are so glaring that nearly anyone reading it can spot them. There are websites that have debunked it; however, as long as there are those that use it as affirmation for their beliefs in “alternative news” of the paranormal, conspiracies, or other bizarre matters, this story will not meet the cold and frozen death that it deserves.

It appears the pyramids are not a mystery, after all. For years, climbers heading to Antarctica’s largest peak, Vinsen Massif, have passed by one of these supposed pyramids. Even a National Geographic photographer snapped a few pictures of it from the peak of Vinsen Massif.

There are other photos and videos on the Internet showing climbers ascending this peak, while the pyramid can be seen in the background. And, by all appearance, no one is really paying much attention to it. There’s a reason.

The “pyramid” may well be a natural formation known as nunatak. These are mountain peaks that jut up above massive glaciers. They are found throughout Antarctica and Greenland. It is believed that these formations were formed by years of erosion caused by the shifting glaciers.

Below is a video that examines the photos and explains what these “pyramids” are. Warning: the grammar can be confusing, but the creator(s) behind the video are spot on in their analysis.

Just when the Antarctica Pyramid was starting to fade into obscurity, another article on the matter has gone viral. This time, a name – as well as coordinates – was given. Vicente Fuentes, a Spanish paranormal investigator who writes for Ufotopia.com, posted an image of a supposed pyramid and a Spanish language documentary on the topic in mid-March 2016. Nearly every paranormal blog and internet fringe publication — such as Before-Its-News.com — published duplicate articles.

Fuentes (who was described as a “vivid researcher”) made the claim that Google Earth captured evidence of a pyramid in Antarctica. And, for good measure, he placed the satellite image side-by-side with another satellite image of a pyramid in Egypt. Also, he gave the coordinates that anyone could plug in for Google Earth (79°58’39.25″S 81°57’32.21″W)

Many true believers have touted this as being the best evidence to date. They claimed that it was impossible for mountain ridges and peaks to be nearly perfect in symmetry.

However, a closer look reveals that the Antarctic pyramid — possibly a mountain peak known as Schatz Ridge (a better view is the lead photo used for this article) – is not as perfect as many pyramid believers suggests. There appears to be a canyon on one side. Also, as mentioned, this particular ridge is located near a popular mountain routinely used by mountain climbers (who probably didn’t give it much thought about it being anything more than a glacier horn or nunatak).

Additionally, the photo from Fuentes appears to be cropped. The side-by-side image of a real pyramid may trick some viewers into believing they’re seeing two similar structures – when in fact, one is a huge mountain that’s mostly buried under ice (and clearly connected to a half-buried ridge with two other peaks) and the other is a man-made structure that’s less than a thousand feet high.

And what’s the story with Fuentes? He claims to have a degree in Industrial Engineering (with emphasis in chemicals) and mathematics who has an interest in things “that nobody dares to talk about.” He has written numerous articles on the paranormal including one about a “portal” he claimed to have uncovered in Antarctica (which sounds like the centuries-old debunked Symmes Hole).

Back in November 2016, CBS news ran a story about the Internet stories pertaining to the Antarctic Pyramid. In the report (available on the Internet), a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine had been contacted by the Internet science news outlet, Live Science.

Eric Rignot wrote in an e-mail that an unnamed pyramid-shaped peak within the Ellsworth Mountain ranges was the result of nature.

“This is just a mountain that looks like a pyramid.” He wrote.

He further stated: “Pyramid shapes are not impossible – many peaks partially look like pyramids, but they only have one to two faces like that, rarely four.”

Still, the article added something that opens up another interesting – and possibly more plausible – find in the region. In an area within the range known as Heritage Range, fossils from the Cambrian period have been found. Most of them are trilobites that lived more than 500 million years ago and were confirmed by a 1972 USGS (United States Geological Society) report on the region.

Recently, a pro-Antarctic Pyramid Theory documentary entitled, “The Pyramid of Antarctica Conspiracy” surfaced on YouTube. The video was made sometime around 2017 and pushed the concept that pyramids were discovered in Antarctica. However, upon further scrutiny, the video seemed to retread old information from the original article on the topic with a few details from actual studies.

It stated that an international group of scientists (again, the names of the scientists were not given). discovered the pyramids This time, the documentary claimed that this discovery came in 2016 and that they “found evidence of a lost civilization.”

The narrator of the documentary also stated “they found three four-sided pyramids protruding through the tundra.” This was a bizarre statement, considering that the original accounts placed the pyramids jutting out from deep glaciers instead of existing in a region often characterized as dry, barren land with little or no vegetation (Antarctic tundra are not the same type found in the northern hemisphere). The documentary also touched upon the Google Earth findings and the image from it that has become the hallmark of this conspiracy theory.

The seven-minute video data mined actual scientific research of the continent with conspiratorial sources to bolster its claim that the pyramid exists. And, of course, it made the argument that Antarctica was the lost city/state of Atlantis.

Possibly the most striking of all is not so much that more information was added to this theory. It’s that the claims from the original article are still alive and well, despite its glaring flaws.

A Dance to the Death: The Dancing Plague of 1518

1518 was not a particularly interesting or groundbreaking year historically. Most things were going on as normal, and not many events of note took place. Therefore, the dancing plague of this year tends to take center stage as one of the more prominent and strange events.

Quite a different culture existed 500 years ago when our story takes place. It was defined by thatched roofs, dirt floors, lead cups, generalized poverty, the black plague, and scientific mystery. If you were wealthy, pewter dishes were used (which leached lead when anything acidic was served on them.) Often, small houses lodged the family and all the field hands and workers. A small 3-bedroom home could be the resting spot for 45-50 at night. Baths were a luxury taken perhaps once a year, people married young (around 19 on average), and luxuries like indoor toilets and running water were known only to royalty.

These were times of simplicity, hard work, rudimentary science, and much mystery. Perhaps 1% of the population was literate, so stories were either passed down by actual witnesses through oral tradition, or else someone had to be present who could write the events down for posterity. Witnesses would commonly meet someone literate, later, who would subsequently write the details down. The accuracy of these records is often questionable. Luckily for historians, this story takes place in the city where the Gutenberg printing press was developed 80 years earlier. This had attracted scholars, scientists, and those who wished to document history.

Like many things that date back a few hundred years, the details are somewhat hazy. There are many theories as to what may have happened here, but a consensus of opinion has formed on this event, outlined here.

  • The dance plague of 1518 occurred in the Alsation city of Strasbourg, Roman Empire, along the Rhine River, in what is now France.
  • It started with Mrs. Troffea, who danced “fervently” in the streets in July 1518 for about a week straight, all day and all night.
  • In the following month up to 400 others joined her, dancing day and night, as if in a trance.
  • “Physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council” documented these events.
  • Dancers appeared to be “unconscious and unable to control themselves.”
  • Local physicians blamed “hot blood” for all the dancing. It was thought that heated weather caused the blood to heat up, eliciting crazy responses in people.
  • It was thought that this “disease” would eventually wear itself out, but for this to happen, “dancers must be kept dancing” until they wore themselves out. Musicians were hired by the city to keep the party going.
  • Unfortunately, this decision greatly increased the dancing illness, which grew exponentially. Apparently music was an invitation for others to join in.
  • A mere calamity became a scene of nightmares.
  • After many weeks of dancing, up to 15 people per day died due to dehydration and absolute exhaustion.
  • By the end of the summer, dozens had died of heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion due to non-stop dancing.
  • Modern scientists aren’t sure what happened, but there are multiple theories.

Science 500 years ago was in its rudimentary stages, and many things were explained away by magic, incantation, and dark spirits. Since then there have been many theories, none of which fully explain the situation, but many of which make some sense.

It should be noted that the dancing plague of 1518 is not the first or last of such occurrence, but seems to be the most highly-documented.

1. The most common explanation is the ingestion of the hallucinogenic fungus ergot, which commonly grew on wheat and rye. Ergot’s historically believed to be responsible for the Salem witchcraft trials, and happens to be what LSD-25 was synthesized from. However, scientists aren’t sure how people could dance non-stop for weeks at a time, as ergot’s hallucinogenic effects are generally short-lived (a day or two.)

2. Another, and perhaps more likely culprit, is that of Angel’s trumpet / datura / belladonna, which after ingestion has been noted to cause most, if not all, of the symptoms experienced in the dancing plague. Symptoms include: disorientation, hyperactivity, delirium, motor restlessness, over-sexual excitement, incoherent thought, fever, illusions, alternating levels of consciousness, audio-visual disassociation, respiratory distress and weakness, seizures, delayed gastric emptying, and increased urinary retention.

3. Other theories abound. Lack of sleep, communal choreomania (historically, a way for communities to bond through dancing), and prolonged malnutrition, have all been named as culprits. Other theories blame lead poisoning, stress, the intense summer heat, and poverty. Yet another example blames tarantism, in which the victims were said to have been poisoned by a tarantula or scorpion. Tarantism’s earliest known outbreak was in the 13th century, and the only antidote known was to dance to music “to separate the venom from the blood.”

There are many theories. However, there is no true consensus. Many have agreed to pin it down to generic “mass hysteria” affecting the psyche, with no actual physical cause, but historical proof isn’t substantial.

Amazingly, though it’s one of the most documented occurrences of mass hysteria in history, not much is really known about why or how this event happened. Modern physicians agree that it’s almost physically impossible to maintain this type of frenetic dance for days, weeks, and months straight. At the same time, this particular event is extremely well-documented.

Science at the time was rudimentary, and records of the event, while prominent and very descriptive, do nothing to explain the apparent cause. That dancing mania had occurred previous to this, and after, is interesting. This suggests that dance mania was somehow connected to practices at the time, though narrowing it down to one practice in particular has never occurred.

The first recorded episodes of choreomania appeared during the 13th century and persisted on a widespread scale in southern Europe for at least 400 years, reaching a peak in the 1600s, after which it virtually disappeared.

Perhaps we will never know or understand what caused the dancing plagues documented during these years of mystery and magic. Maybe we are so far removed from the mindset and circumstances of that time that the best we can do is guess. However, it’s clear that mass plagues shaped the path to where we are now. It’s important to remember where we come from, how we got here, and the sacrifices (odd though they may be) that our predecessors experienced to get us to this point.

While our science may be better and we know more than we used to, the dancing plague of 1518 will likely remain a mystery forever. What do you think was the cause?

Andrews, E. (2015, August 31). What Was the Dancing Plague of 1518? Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://www.history.com/news/what-was-the-dancing-plague-of-1518

Dancing Mania. (2018, August 23). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_mania#cite_ref-Bartholomew_2-6

Dancing Plague of 1518. (2018, September 05). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancing_plague_of_1518

Pennant-Rea, N. (2018, September 27). The Dancing Plague of 1518. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://publicdomainreview.org/2018/07/10/the-dancing-plague-of-1518/

Printing Press. (2018, September 10). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press

The Dancing Plague. (2017, February 24). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from http://www.historicalblindness.com/blogandpodcast//the-dancing-plague

The Witches Curse. (2014, June 04). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/witches-curse-clues-evidence/1501/

Wallis, P. (2008, August 13). Mystery Explained? ‘Dancing Plague’ of 1518, the Bizarre Dance that Killed Dozens. Retrieved October 7, 2018, from http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/258521

Words, Grammar and Common Mistakes: Conveying Information and Ideas Through Better Writing

Writing blogs and articles? Placing advertisements on the Internet? Writing emails to your friends and relatives? Responding to job postings? Presentation of the written word is extremely important. Spelling, verbiage, grammar and punctuation are all essential, whether your content is informational, casual or conversational.

Have you ever noticed that, as you are reading, a quiet voice in your head is actually reading the content to you? If sentences are not strung together correctly or if too many errors are in the text, the quiet voice we “hear” will trip over everything, causing difficulty for us — the readers — to comprehend the information. Of course, a few spelling, grammar, punctuation or word-usage mistakes in written content won’t necessarily trip up that reader’s voice. But communicating effectively — whether in person, on the telephone or through a computer keyboard — involves articulating the language; in this case, writing in English.

Every word is important. Misspelled words are noticeable. Missing commas cause reader confusion. Readers — and those quiet voices — miss out on a lot when the text they’re reading is missing punctuation.

Take some online refresher courses on grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. Think like a professional.

Words, punctuation, spelling, verbiage; stringing them all together in the proper way is important for getting ideas across to your readers. Although computer programs generally catch wrongly-spelled words, they don’t always correct other grammatical errors or provide the right words to use for particular sentences. Which word is correct? Here’s a look at some common choices:

Affect & Effect

Affect is a verb mostly used to influence something, for example; “too many sweets may affect your health.” Effect is the outcome of an action, for example; “the effect of all this sugar has produced cavities in your teeth.” “Too many sweets can have a bad effect on you.”

Farther and Further

Farther (farthest) refers to distance and is best used that way. We can discuss this further, if you want.

Hear and Here

Hear is what you listen for; can you hear me? Here is here if it’s not there. “Here is the CD you asked for. If you hear something you like, let me know.”

It’s and Its

It’s means “it is” or “it has.” For example, “it’s nice to see you” is the same as “it is nice to see you.” “It has been a great day” is the same as “it’s been a great day.”

Its refers to possession. “The doll is included in the sale — its dress is not.” (This sentence refers to the doll’s dress, which is not included in the sale).

Lay & Lie

First, let’s take a look at transitive and intransitive verbs.

Transitive verbs require direct objects to complete their meanings. For example, “Teri loves Jeff.” Love is the transitive verb that is directed at Jeff. Intransitive verbs don’t need the direct objects to complete their meanings. “Teri laughed.” Laughed is the intransitive verb. Some verbs are both transitive and intransitive, depending on how they are used.

Lay (present tense), laying (present participle) and laid (past tense and past participle) are transitive verbs, they must have direct objects to complete their meanings. “‘I can lay the tile tomorrow,’ the contractor told his customer.” Lay is the verb, the direct object is tile. “I am laying the tile right now.” “I laid the tile yesterday.”

Lie (present tense), lying (present participle), lay (past tense) and lain (past participle) are intransitive verbs; they do not need direct objects to complete their meanings. “Lie down if you feel sick.” “I was lying down when you came to the door.” “While you were gone, I lay down for a nap.” “The cat had lain down with me, purring in my ear.”

Their, There & They’re

Their refers to plural possession. “I went to their house to see my girlfriend’s parents but the housekeeper said they’re on vacation.” “Their daughter is very pretty.” Theirs also refers to possession. “It’s not our fault, it’s theirs.”

There has a several uses … here are a few;

  • Referring to placement: “I want to go there.” “I’ll meet you there.” “It’s neither here nor there.”
  • A stopping point in action: “The man finished the first paragraph of his speech, stopping there to gauge the audience’s reaction.”
  • Referring to specific matters: “Her fear was understandable, there.
  • Calling attention to something: “OK, there you go.”
  • To introduce a sentence or clause: “I think there is too much violence on TV.” “There isn’t anything you can do.” “There has to be a better way.” “There have been too many mistakes.”
  • As an expression:There! I found it!”
  • An Idiom: “Been there, done that.”
  • As an adjective: “Ask that man, there, he knows the way to San Jose.”

They’re is the contraction for they are. “They’re going to the game too.

To, Too & Two

To is the word to use when you want to use to for direct conversation and directional writing. “I’d like to talk to you.” I hate to cook.” “His condition is listed as day-to-day.”

Too has, um, two meanings. One is for something that’s emphasized, for instance: “This test is too hard.” “I am too tired.” “Don’t eat too many sweets.” “This is too much.” But too also means also. “I want to go too.” “I can do it too.” In this way, too can have a comma before it to further stress the meaning of the sentence. “I think so, too.” “I can do it, too.” Either way is acceptable.

Two is the number “two.” Use this cardinal number when you’re talking about two.

It’s easy to confuse these words because sometimes they are too similar. In fact, I’ve done it two times already.

Whose & Who’s

Who’s is a contraction for who is or who was. “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who’s the prettiest of them all?”

Whose refers to the possessive pronoun. “Teri, whose beautiful voice resonated through the room, smiled as she sang the Star Spangled Banner.”

You’re & Your

You’re means “you are.” “You’re very pretty.” Many people mistakenly use your when they actually want you’re. Although Ur is online jargon and has become acceptable for tweets and tidbits, you’re must be used when formally writing “you are.”

Your refers to possession. “I want your phone number.” “I love your dress.” Yours also refers to possession. “I’ll lend you my sweater if I can borrow yours.

Speak the sentence out loud to determine whether you’re using the best word to articulate your intent.


Use it. That’s the best I can offer in this rather short space. Refer to the stylebooks. But OK, here are a couple of reminders …

Apostrophes are used in a variety of ways, the main one being “ownership.” For example, “the watch belongs to Teri” — it is Teri’s watch. Apostrophes are placed before the ‘s’ when writing a singular notion: Teri’s. Teri is one person. Apostrophes go after the ‘s’ when referring to more than one of something. The lawyers’ fees are too high” refers to more than one lawyer whose fees — plural — are too high. If the word is already plural, then you place the apostrophe before the ‘s.’ “The people’s choice.”

§ Apostrophes are used for contractions: isn’t (is not), can’t (cannot), wasn’t (was not), etc.

§ Apostrophes are used to indicate the elimination of a number. For example, ‘69 is the same as 1969.

§ Father’s Day. Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day. Note the position of the apostrophe.

Commas are used to set off ideas and keep things in order. Here are a couple of examples on ways to use them:

§ To list items; “Please buy some sugar, coffee, cream and filters when you go to the store.” Use commas to divide the words.

§ To separate an idea; “When you get to the store, if you don’t mind, could you please pick up a dozen eggs and some milk?” Note the commas.

Capital Letters are used to introduce proper names, trademark names, titles and proper nouns. For example, Google (as in the search engine) should start with a capital G. Unless you’re “googling” something; this has become a catchphrase for using the search engine. If you google “Google” on Google, you’ll find more information on how to use capital letters.

Apostrophes, commas and capital letters have many more uses! Check your favorite style manual for more guidelines on apostrophes, possessives, commas, colons, semi-colons and capital letters.

Articles that aren’t followed correctly. ‘A’ is used before consonants; “a book or a car.” ‘An’ is used before vowels; “an apple.” Sometimes an is used in front of ‘h’ when the letter is silent; an historic occasion or an honorary degree. But not all vowels actually produce a “vowel” sound, especially when it’s a one-time deal.

Run on sentences that go on and on and have no punctuation so even when they go on and on it is hard to figure out what the original idea was because there are so many in one place and then the pattern changes to other directions and tangents and …. Follow me?

Sentences that don’t match their subjects and objects. What? Well, for instance, “they are a living creature.” No. “They are living creatures.” Or, “it is a living creature. “The lady had a great idea.” Singular to singular, plural to plural. Singular to plural also works; “the lady had some great ideas.”

Active Voice and Passive Voice

“Voice” of a verb determines whether its subject is creating the action or having action created upon it. Using ‘active voice’ is generally preferable, if your article supports it. This is especially useful in creating a “How-To” article. “HAMMER the nail into the wood.” “DRAIN the water through a hose.” Writing with ‘active voice’ allows you to accentuate the dynamic of the particular action. If the subject performs the action, the verb is in ‘active voice.’

‘Passive voice’ is used when an action is performed upon the subject. Oftentimes, the words was and were are placed in front of ‘passive voice’ actions. “The nail was hammered into the wood.”

Whenever you can, write in active voice. Or better yet, write in active voice whenever you can.

Take some online refresher courses on grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. Think like a professional.

  • Adequate enoughRepetitive and redundant
  • Advanced planningDitto.
  • Advertisement The word “ad” is short for advertisement. NOT “add.”
  • Afraid – Best used for describing terror or fear. Avoid using this word to describe a negative, for example; “I’m afraid I cannot go with you.”
  • Aggravate – To make a situation worse. “This loud music is aggravating my headache.” Aggravate is not the same thing as annoy.
  • Ahold NO SUCH WORD! The proper way to write it is “a hold.” “I have to get a hold of my husband to tell him about the change in plans.”
  • All ready and Already All ready is two separate words that mean something or someone is prepared. “We are all ready to go to the amusement park.” Already is one word that refers to a previous action; “You’ve cleaned your room already? I’m so proud of you!”
  • All right and Alright – Confusing. But all right is right. Alright is, according to grammarians and style guides, wrong. For example, the Associate Press Stylebook says all right is the way to say all right because it is not at all right to say alright. However, notice how your spell-check does not correct alright, even though it’s not correct.

Some dictionaries have adapted alright as colloquial usage but they may call it “nonstandard.” Random House, for example, says alright is a variant of all right, but it’s “usually considered unacceptable in standard English.” Bottom line is that when you want to say something is all right, just stick with all right and forget about alright. All right?

  • All together and Altogether All together is something being done collectively by a group of people at the same time. “All together, let’s sing this song.” “We were all together when the fire broke out.” Altogether means ‘entirely’ or ‘completely.’ “We are altogether too hungry to wait for Jack to come to the dinner table. Let’s eat!”
  • Alot NO SUCH WORD! A lot is two words. “I’ve eaten a lot of candy tonight.” Unless you want to say allot (which means apportionment). “I’ve allotted each of you an equal share of land.”
  • Because and Since – Something happens because of something else. Since refers to a moment in time. “Because I am a member, I was able to get tickets to the club’s dance at a discounted price.” “I haven’t seen you since last year!”
  • Between you and I – the proper way to say this is “between you and me.” Same thing for any phrase where “you” is before “I” … it should be “me.”
  • Each and every Repetitive, redundant and it means the same thing.
  • End result Isn’t the result the end?
  • Future plans kind of like “advanced planning.”
  • Jewish synagogue/Jewish rabbi Repetitive because synagogues and rabbis are automatically Jewish.
  • Would of/should of/could of, must of ….etc. WRONG! Do not use “of” in this context, the proper word is have. Write it this is way: would have, should have, could have, must have … etc. Or, if you’re using contractions; would’ve, could’ve, should’ve, must’ve … etc. “I would have gotten lost if you weren’t with me.” “I should’ve known better.”
  • Altar and Alter: Altar is, for example, a church’s stage. Alter means to change something.
  • Alternately and Alternatively: When you want to say “one after another,” use alternately. When you want to say “one or the other, use alternatively.
  • Alumni: Alumnus is masculine, singular. Alumni is masculine, plural. Alumna is feminine, singular, alumnae is feminine, plural. The generic word for men and women (plural) is alumni.
  • Amoral, Unmoral, Immoral: If you have no “moral code,” you are amoral or unmoral. If you do something that is against your moral code, you are acting immorally.
  • Apt, Liable, Likely: Apt is the word to use when, based on past knowledge, you know there is a probability that something will happen. “The champion was apt to win another title.” Liable is a prediction of an unfortunate circumstance. “Because of his past record, the man is liable to be a suspect in this crime.” Likely involves probability. “If you eat too much, you are likely to get a stomach ache.” Liable is not to be confused with libel, which is (proven) false information that could injure someone’s reputation.
  • Biannual and Biennial: Biannual means something occurs twice a year. Biennial means something happens every two years.
  • Chord and Cord: Chord is a musical term; three notes played together. Cord is a rope or part of the body’s nervous system; spinal cord.
  • Complement and Compliment: Complement is to add to something, fill a void or bring something to perfection. “‘Your pearls complement that dress very nicely,’ Teri’s husband told her.” “‘Thank you for the compliment,’ she said.”
  • Continually and Continuously: Continually is when something lasts for a period of time but with interruptions. Continuously is when something happens for a period of time without interruptions.
  • Council and Counsel: Council is a governing or organizational body such as “City Council.” Counsel means “to advise” (verb) or “advice” (noun).
  • Fewer and Less: Fewer is used to describe multiple things that can be counted. Examples; fewer dollars, fewer calories, fewer pieces, etc. Less is for multiple things that can be described collectively. Examples; less money, less candy, less than a year, etc.
  • Literally and Figuratively: Literal/Literally means “exactly.” Example; “I have, literally, three cats in my house.” Figuratively involves descriptions, metaphors and exaggerations. “I am (figuratively) the greatest star.” Of course, sometimes figurative forms of speech can be quite literal.
  • Sew and Sow: Sew is about stitching, like on a sewing machine. One can sow the farm fields with seeds during Growing Season. Perhaps the barn contains a sow (female pig; pronounced “sou”). And so, there you have it.
  • That and Which: This one is a bit complicated in that that is a word that may be used or omitted, depending on which phrase you’re using. There are different ways to use these words. Sometimes that is necessary to set off an idea; “I’m disappointed about that show being cancelled.” Other times that needs a restrictive clause — a phrase that restricts a part of the sentence — the meaning of the sentence would be changed if the word wasn’t included. Which can be used with unrestrictive clauses; they stand alone. But which has other uses that describe their sentences. If you can end a sentence without changing the meaning, use which. “This television program, which airs on Tuesdays, is not suitable for children.”
  • Who and Whom: Another one that can be tricky. Who and whom are both pronouns. Who is the subject case — the person who is doing something; whom is the objective case — the person to whom the action is happening.

Chalk this up to my journalism background; I am “old-school.” As a reporter, I’ve covered many news conferences, “spot” news situations, jury trials and just about everything else. Here are some words and phrases I see in writing that sometimes make me cringe.

  • Alleged – Allege a thing, not a person. For example; the “alleged robber” should be “the robbery suspect.” A crime is alleged, not a person.
  • Another You can’t have another cookie unless you’ve had the first one. You’ve had to have at least one look at something before you can have another one.
  • Attorneys GeneralPlural for more than one attorney general. Same idea for words like sons-in-law and daughters-in-law … the plural is on the subject, not on “law.”
  • Author An author writes a book. He does not author it.
  • Awfully Terribly, horribly, dreadfully. Not an “awfully great guy.”
  • Basically Basically, it’s just so overused. Try “mostly,” or “in general.”
  • Close proximity Repetitive and redundant.
  • Controversial issue Ditto.
  • Drug deal gone bad – Is there a good one?
  • InterestingDon’t tell me what I should be interested in, let me — the reader — decide. Same thing for “sell” words that assume readers should see things the same way that writers do. Now, if the article is, in reality, an advertisement, then it’s comparable to commercial copywriting. The advertisement may be interesting or amusing, but it doesn’t mean I’ll actually buy the hype … or the product.
  • Irregardless – Some dictionaries include irregardless although the pretend-word is considered to be “nonstandard.” Spell-checkers underline it in red because irregardless is not a word, regardless of what the dictionary says. The “ir” part is a negative against regardless, which is also negative. Basically (there’s that word again!), use regardless.
  • More than/Over Which is best used to describe collective quantity? More than. “The boy invited more than 30 people to his birthday party.” Over is acceptable but its sound is awkward.
  • Press conference I prefer to refer to a gathering of reporters listening to an official announcement as a “news conference.” News is news, even when it’s pressing.
  • Simple It may very well be simple but I’d like to decide that for myself. When an “expert” tells me how simple something is, it makes me wonder how simple that thing really is.
  • Turned up missing – What?

Proofread before publishing. Read your work out loud … does it sound right? Does the quiet little voice in your head comprehend the written words? Do your sentences make sense? Have you used the proper spellings for the particular words you want? Are there typographical errors in your text that can easily be remedied? If you want your writing to be taken seriously, then you must put time and effort into your work.

Always proofread and edit your articles, advertisements or emails before allowing someone else to see them. USE A SPELL-CHECKER! And yes, one more time … take some online refresher courses on grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence structure.

Active verb! Think like a professional!

For more information about the proper written usage of words and numbers, refer to the Associated Press Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style or other equally acceptable editorial resource. The Learning Express Library is a good resource for reviewing grammar, punctuation, word usage, writing and comprehension skills (you can also brush up on other subjects, too, like math and science). Your local library is a great place to start.

Facts about Concentration Camps

Concentration camps were an integral part of Nazi Germany between the years 1933 and 1945. Without them, Nazi Germany would not have been the threat it had become. Concentration camps were a “camp” where people were imprisoned for being born into a certain family, such as Jewish, Austrian, etc. The conditions in these “camps” were harsh, much rougher than most prisons. People imprisoned were often forced to work, as well as abused. Those who were not forced to work, were put to death.

The first concentration camp was built as soon as Adolph Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in January 1933. Hitler claimed at the beginning that it was for those who opposed the Nazi policy, but it was not long before others were imprisoned beyond their political beliefs. Eventually these “prisons” were built throughout all of Germany, Poland, and other parts of Europe. By 1941, they began to use the concentration camps to kill those who were not the ideal blond haired, blue eyed Christian. He began with those of Jewish descent.

The German Holocaust was a time when 6 million Jews were killed throughout all of the German concentration camps. This began due to Hitler’s belief that Caucasian blond hair, blue-eyed Germans were superior to all other races. Jews, in his mind, were a very tainted race, which caused him to target this group more than any other. Hitler hoped by exterminating the Jews, only the “supreme” race would be left.

Jews were not the only targets during the German Holocaust. Disabled people, Roma or Gypsies, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and others were also deemed unworthy races, although Jews were by far the most targeted. In 1933, Europe had over 9 million people who considered themselves Jews. Less than 3 million survived by the end of the Holocaust. Many lived in countries that Hitler’s Nazi regime overtook during World War II. Many of those who survived had escaped and moved to the United States or other countries.

Along with people of Jewish descent, 200,000 people with disabilities were murdered, during a “euthanasia program” that was enacted. Most of these institutions were within Germany, although some laid outside of the boundary, where Nazi regime had authority.

Concentration camps were used for several purposes, although all were run by those trained by Theodore Eiche’s school.

Theodore Eiche created the concentration camp system, and even ran a school where he trained people towards leading them. Most belonged to the Dead Head’s Unit referred to as the SS’s Totenkopfverbände. Many of the guards were chosen since they also attended the school. These men were trained on several different ways to run the concentration camps, although all were trained on killing innocent human beings, even those who ran labor camps were taught to kill those who had lost their usefulness.

Here are the different types of concentration camps:

Labor Camps: Within these camps, they would sort people based upon ability. Those who were sick or disabled were immediately killed, due to their inability to work. Those who were capable of manual labor would work sunrise to sundown with very little food and water. Once a person showed signs of illness, they would be murdered either execution style or however those in charge felt was fit. Eventually, those who were brought into a labor camp would either contract a disease from those around them or die due to the extraneous labor with little nourishment.

Gassing: Many concentration camps had gas chambers where they would bring a line of unsuspecting people into a room. They would then seal the room off and fill the room with poisonous gasses. Auschwitz, one of the most famous concentration camps, was set up specifically for this purpose. The gas room was actually right underneath the crematorium. Once they gassed the people, they would send the bodies in an elevator straight up towards the crematorium where the bodies would be burned. Chelmno, the first concentration camp, used this method. Most places, in order to gas the people, would use the exhaust from a truck.

Mass Shooting: Another form that SS soldiers chose to do mass killings was by shooting Jews and other groups. One notorious camp who used this method was Majdanek. On November 3rd and 4th, 17-18 thousand people died in one day through this method. It was so notorious that they even named the mass shooting, ‘harvest feast,’ or the German name Erntefest. Erntefest also included other mass shootings in the Lublin area. The total body count was believed to be around 40 thousand. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, and this form was used in other concentration camps as well.

Medical Testing Extermination: Some felt they were taking a nobler way of exterminating what they felt were inferior races. These facilities would do medical testing experiments. In order to test these medical experiments, they would give those who lived in the camps a disease, then try a cure to see if it worked. Obviously, they knew many of these supposed cures would fail, and were not disheartened by the loss of people when these cures did not work. A vast majority of the people within camps like this died of the diseases they were infected with. Throughout all of these medical testings, there were no cures found for any known disease.

The stories of both camps are extremely disturbing and heartbreaking. Before you read the stories below, remember you cannot unlearn anything. As I was studying this, my heart literally ached. Yet, I know this history is important to know. The stories are unbelievable. So read with caution:

Chelmno become an operational killing factory on December 8,1941. At Chelmno they had three trucks that were specifically designed for mass murders. The large trucks had tightly sealed areas where large loads would be able to be carried, but unlike a semi that carries large loads of items, these large loads were of people, specifically those who were Jewish. They then redirected the exhaust of these trucks to enter the enclosed area; therefore, the people would die once the vehicle was turned on.

The first victims, on December 8, 1941, were Jews that lived in the Kolo ghetto. They were asked to line up near the local synagogue in front of the Jewish Counsel. They were told that they could bring one handbag only, and they were going to be taken somewhere where they would be building railroads and working in the fields. This was not the case. The men kept up appearance of good faith, asking the “workers” to place down their handbags once they arrived in Chelmno. The leaders within the camp, then numbered their bags and wrote down their names in a book. They then were told they were going into bathhouses, and asked them to undress. Instead of leading them to bathhouses, all 800 were brutally forced into the deadly vans. All 800 men, women, and children died that day. This was only the first mass murdering to take place, many more were to follow to total a death count of around 350,000 innocent people. This was just one death camp, and not even the worst.

Auschwitz was the largest and most notorious concentration camp. It was made up of three concentration camps within Poland. They chose a variety of means of death from gassing to experimental testing. This one concentration camp took the life of 1 1/4 million people during World War II. Auschwitz’s first killing was earlier than that of Chelmno in September 1941, when 850 people lost their lives, because they were too malnourished and weak to work in labor camps.

437,402 Hungarian Jews were killed between May 14th and July 8th, 1944. This all occurred in less than two months, killing more than Chelmno did in its entire working history. This was the largest single deportation of any concentration camp known to mankind.

The treatment of children is even more appalling. Most children upon arrival to Auschwitz would be immediately killed. There was a camp doctor who did choose select children to be tested on. What he was testing is unknown since his main forms of testing were castrating them, freezing them, placing in pressure chambers, and testing with drugs. In later years, before the camp closed, they chose to “save money,” by changing their procedures. Instead of killing children then cremating the body, they skipped the step of killing these children and sent them straight to the crematory alive.

The stories of the German Holocaust, the concentration camps, and all the brutality is unbelievable. It will never be understood how such atrocious acts could be acted upon other human beings. The idea that these acts were organized makes it that much more unbelievable. How could so many men gather together, and make decisions on the death of thousands? How could a man go home after a day at work at a concentration camp? How could they not see that what they were doing is wrong, beyond wrong, evil?!? These questions will never be answered.





Why Time Travel to the Future Is More Likely Than to the Past

You might think of time as a progression of events from the present to the future. But where did these events originate? It makes sense to think of the future flowing into the past, but the events of our lives need to have started somewhere.

The way I see it, everything we experience begins at the present moment. We have control over these experiences, but only momentarily. Once our present passes into the past, we no longer have the ability to change it.

So what about the future? Can we change that?

Well, we can indeed plan for it, and make adjustments in the way we handle our lives, in order to attempt to “create” a future that we desire. However, that is with limited capability. There are many other forces that affect the future we will soon experience.

Does this mean that time exists as some kind of entity? Something that we can manipulate?

The question is, does time even exist? It’s clear that humans created a definition of time, and a means to measure it, so that we can all relate to one another in our social interactions. However, does time actually have a reality?

It’s really hard to say if time actually exists or not. Quantum physics tends to show that there is some other means of moving within our three-dimensional space without the passage of time. So time travel might be a mute point. Scientists have been able to make particles move from one location to another without ever existing in-between.

Besides all that, it’s still interesting to consider the possibility of traveling through time. It’s a fascinating subject that has enchanted people throughout the ages.

This explanation should help with understanding why time is the fourth dimension.

  1. Imagine a two-dimensional world (a flat surface).
  2. Now imagine additional two-dimensional worlds, all parallel to the first. The existence of additional two-dimensional worlds implies that there must be three dimensions for all of them to exist within.
  3. Taking this a step further, imagine additional three-dimensional worlds, parallel to the first. This implies a fourth dimension, and all the three-dimensional worlds exist within it.

The fourth dimension represents time. The three-dimensional worlds within it are images of all past time periods, our present, and all future time periods. Each one is a snapshot of a present moment in time, progressing linearly through the fourth dimension.

The existence of a second three-dimensional universe implies that there must be four dimensions for the both of them to exist simultaneously.

I don’t mean simultaneously in space. I mean simultaneously in time.

If this were so then, perhaps there is a connection between the two of them, a path from one to the other. This connection is what was meant by the Einstein-Rosen Bridge,1 a wormhole that connects from one three-dimensional universe to another.

Traveling through a wormhole might transport one backward or forward in time. Although, as I have been explaining, backward would be improbable.

Time travel from one point in time to another is similar to moving from one point in space to another. When we travel from point A to point B, a certain amount of time goes by. We don’t ever end up at the destination at the same instant as when we left. And most certainly, we don’t arrive at the destination before we left.

How does this explanation help us understand traveling through time? You have to expand everything from the three-dimensional world we are familiar with, into the fourth-dimensional world of “time.”

I’ll make it easier to imagine this:

  1. Take a piece of paper. That paper has only two dimensions, length, and width.
  2. Draw two dots on that paper, one on each edge.
  3. Think of those dots as inhabitants of this two-dimensional world.
  4. Now fold the paper so the two dots meet.
  5. You have just bent a two-dimensional world and made the inhabitants of different points in that space meet at a single point.

Are you getting it now? If we were to do the same with time, which is separated in four dimensions, and bend it over onto itself, then we would make the inhabitants of different points in time meet at a single point in time.

I believe I have proof that the human race will never learn how to travel backward in time. No future generation will succeed at this.

Here’s proof that backward time travel will have had never been discovered in the future. (Note the weird grammar when writing about past events in the future).

If it would one day have become possible to travel back in time, we’d probably be aware of visitors from the future right now! Wouldn’t you agree?

If in some distant future humans, or whatever we have evolved into, would have had discovered a method of backward time travel, then we would notice those beings suddenly appearing before us when they weren’t there a moment earlier.

These visitors would have the ability to change our present, and their history. That would mean that we would lose total control of our present, as well as having any ability to plan for our future. We know that is simply not the case.

Anything we do, any small action, can have an enormous effect on the future. If one were to go back in time, anything they do would drastically change the future from which he or she came. Future behavior is highly sensitive to past events.

This sensitivity is known as the butterfly effect2 derived by Edward Lorenz. The flapping of the wings of a butterfly can eventually affect some future event that is much more forceful, such as a hurricane.

Small initial differences can yield widely diverging outcomes many years later. When you step on a bug and kill it, your action may actually cause a whole new variety of species thousands or millions of years later. This is because you eliminated that single insect’s hereditary evolution.

Looking at it the other way around. Every species we have on Earth today evolved due to conditions in the past. Dinosaurs no longer exist because of a major catastrophe, which probably was an asteroid hitting the Earth.

I have my own theory. Dinosaurs had reached a level of high intelligence. They had created a nuclear bomb, and they used it. (Sorry, I just felt a little humorous for a moment).

Getting back to the point I’m making, if one were able to go back in time to our past and stepped on a bug, the world today would be affected. Maybe we’d have different types of mosquitoes. For example, more savage mosquitoes that eat humans. Then we wouldn’t be here today.

So you see, the point is that if we were able to go back in time, it would also be possible that we’d create a change to the past that drastically affects our existence today. This is why backward time travel is impossible.

I think it’s possible that someday our advancing human race will discover how to travel forward in time. That doesn’t interfere with recorded history.

Forward time travel is conceivable. We actually are doing it already. We are always traveling forward to time, constantly leaving the present in the past. If you want to travel to tomorrow, just sit in your favorite comfy lounge chair and wait 24 hours.

Okay, what we want is advancement through time at an accelerated rate. Or better yet, an instant transfer.

A method of quickly moving forward in time may one day be discovered. As I mentioned earlier, quantum physics already shows examples of particles that move from one place to another without ever existing in the space between the two points. This is known as a Quantum Leap.

I propose a new term that I call Quantum Time Travel, a leap into the future. If it were possible for a particle to leap through a three-dimensional space, then why wouldn’t it be possible to leap through the fourth-dimension? That is, through time.

Stephen Hawking spent years trying to prove that time travel can’t be accomplished. However, he couldn’t find any laws of physics that stood in the way. He eventually admitted that it may be possible, even if not practical.

1. Wormhole | Wikipedia

2. Butterfly effect | Wikipedia

Risks of Global Warming Rising

From many unprecedented natural disasters to extreme weather changes occurring lately, scientists over the globe are getting more worried about the catastrophic issue of global warming and its many bizarre effects. According to (Biello, 2009), the risks of harmful consequences brought on by global warming has explicitly marred many potential positive aspects, like the complete melting of ice caps in areas like Greenland and Antarctica has seriously interfered with the duration of growing seasons in countries like Canada and Russia. From the burning of fossil fuels to release of poisonous gases in the atmosphere, variations in climate extremes to rising sea levels, and shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice, the issue of global warming has unequivocally impacted the Earth both environmentally and geographically in a way that no one can remain oblivious to it. 

One of the most distressing issues presented by global warming is that it can do much more than simply melting polar ice and increasing global average temperatures. This is an established fact that global warming can both conspicuously and subtly impact the Earth map. The relation between global warming and the geography can be illuminated by the scientific fact that in the past many years, the extent of Arctic sea ice has been declining and reportedly, millions of square kilometers of sea ice have been lost due to increasing temperatures. Such disrupted Arctic climate patterns have led to increased wastage of the sun’s energy which normally has to be recycled back towards space, but with the ice melting at an aggravated pace in the Northern Hemisphere, the ocean waters absorb most of the sun’s energy and this explains the why the global average sea levels are increasing. 
The picture above shows that Arctic sea ice retreat will not continue at a stable rate in the future. Global warming has casted huge geographical changes in the Arctic sea ice. Most of the ice lost over the past many years owing to global warming has been replaced by thin ice that is being melted by the increasing temperatures at a faster pace. In fact, the Arctic sea ice cover will continue degenerating over the coming years and if the increasing trend in global warming persists, the Earth will be completely swept of the Arctic sea ice by 2050. (marellascience, 2011).

Rising sea levels is also one of the worst consequences of global warming brought on by rapidly melting ice caps and this has led a large number of people to move away from areas near the coasts and settle down somewhere else. According to (Bergman & Renwick, 2005, p. 96), scientific studies have proved that global warming has caused a rise of “1 to 5 meters” in the worldwide sea level. Owing to the fact that sea level is on a constant rise for the past many years, minimal changes in climate can change into deadly storms that can cause flooding farther inland and inflict population on a large scale. 2010 Pakistan floods and 2011 Tsunami in Japan are the recent most disastrous examples of the extreme climate changes.

The sever climate change occurring from global warming can also lead to water shortages in some areas. Small changes in evapotranspiration rates can lead to decreased water flow to the rivers and semiarid and densely populated areas depend on river flow for drinking water, agricultural, and waste removal purposes. In case of increase in evapotranspiration rates owing to an increase in global warming, less water reaches the rivers and extreme water shortage occurs causing huge distress for the local population. (Vastag, 2005) claims that according to a research study done by the US climate scientists, “global warming threatens to leave a billion people high and dry despite the fact that ice caps are gradually melting.”

Global warming has also affects the geographic ranges of some plant and animals, according to (pewclimate.org, n.d.). Changing climatic patterns play a crucial role in determining the geographical distribution of some plant and animal species. With the global warming on a rise, research studies done in the western United States suggest that many populations of the species checkerspot butterfly have vanished completely and while Mexico is nearly devoid of this species, northern areas like Canada are crowded with it. In animals, the red fox is another species that has shifted to the Arctic area, as the temperatures have increased over the last many years. Northern areas are infiltrated by the southern, warmer-water species and such major shifts potentially threaten United State’s biodiversity. 


  • Bergman, E. F. & Renwick, W. H. (2005). Introduction to Geography (3rd ed.). US: Pearson Education Inc. 
  • Biello, D. (2009). Risks of Global Warming Rising: Is It Too Late to Reverse Course? Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=risks-of-global-warming-rising. 
  • Marellascience. (2011). Some scientists say that changes to the Arctic Sea Ice will cause the rate of climate change to increase. WHY? Retrieved from http://marellascience.wikispaces.com/Sea+Ice 
  • Pewclimate.org. (n.d.). Global warming in depth. Retrieved from http://www.pewclimate.org/global-warming-in-depth/all_reports/observedimpacts/execsumm.cfm
  • Vastag, B. (2005). Warming May Cause Widespread Water Shortages, Studies S. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/11/1121_051121_warming_water.html 
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