A lobby card showing Olive Thomas in Footlights and Shadows (1920). From Wikimedia (Public Domain).

She had the world at her feet. Olive Thomas became the newest member of a film acting dynasty in 1917, setting the stage for an ascent to dizzying heights of fame, and perhaps beyond. Her independence, fashion sense, and vivacity presaged the growth of the flapper of the 1920s. Her…


A collection of uranium glass under ultraviolet light. By Till Westermayer from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Certain historical practices shock modern audiences. Past technological breakthroughs, with its insistence on speed, created products that could be quite unsafe. This was also true of attitudes towards uranium — 18th and 19th century manufacturers viewed it as just another mineral that could color products. …


A photo from a lobby card from the film No Limit (1931). Clara Bow and Norman Foster. Edited by the author. By Paramount Pictures from Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Fame often appears to be a magic cure. Seen from a distance, the bright floodlights chase away all darkness, but shadows can hide backstage. Movies would play a big part in the creation of this fantastical celebrity image. In the 1910s and 1920s, many girls and boys bought fan magazines…


Tuner car culture conquered the world in the early 2000s. The first two entries of the Fast & Furious franchise, which were car-centric, pushed racing into the mainstream popular culture. …


A facial reconstruction of the Woodlawn Jane Doe. Edited by the author. By Carl Koppelman from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0). Background: a Maryland back road. By harmonydesignsfurniture from Pixabay.

A new force now aids cold case investigators— advanced genetic genealogy technology. Crimes committed in decades past, when detectives didn’t have access to such advances, can kickstart inquiries with the identification of victims. This would also occur during the investigation of a 1976 murder, called the Woodlawn Jane Doe case.

Activity near a cemetery


A photo taken at Sallie Shearer’s brothel, Reading, Pennsylvania (c. 1892). Edited by the author. By William I. Goldman from Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Sex workers are often anonymous in human societies or the targets of scorn. As a result, historical documents that illustrate the experiences of these individuals are not all too common. During the Gilded Age (c. 1870 until 1900), there was a political confrontation between the status quo and a movement…


A caricature of the London Monster (1790). By James Gillray. Edited and colorized by the author. By Wellcome Images from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0). Copper pan image by Hardyplants from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Humanity’s imagination can inflame heightened emotions. Imbued with this quality, alley shadows might look like monsters, or even human movements can cause panic in a tense world. In 1788–1799, Londoners would gossip about a violent mania that struck terror into the hearts of members of the public: the London Monster…


Street art in Dublin, Ireland. Edited by the author. Photo by Michael Coghlan from Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

As a worldview, modern cynicism claims that self-interest is the eventual motive of all human behavior. Philanthropy, love, or camaraderie is looked upon with suspicion, if not outright hostility.

Hardened hearts are a prime goal of this approach. When you let no one in, no one can hurt or fool…


Art of a Margaret Brundage cover of Weird Tales (June 1937). From Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Pulp magazines, printed on pulp paper, became an inexpensive form of entertainment in the first half of the 20th century. The interwar years, 1918-1939, were the golden age of pulps, during which there was a proliferation of titles that sought to meet the public’s increased demand. Weird Tales was just…


We often curate our modern lives in online spaces. In this translucent world, we don’t have the power to control who sees what. Video games, similar to many art forms, have ruminated over this give-and-take. As digital products, it is perhaps even more poignant when a game grapples with the…

C.S. Voll

A scholar and writer wearing many ill-fitting hats, trying to do the best he can with what he has.

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