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Almanac – May 26

1647 – Alse Young, hanged in Hartford, Connecticut, became the first known  person to be  executed as a witch in the British American colonies.

Very little is recorded of Alse Young; her existence is only known through her reputation as a witch. She is believed to have been the wife of John Young, who bought a small parcel of land in Windsor in 1641, sold it in 1649, and then disappeared from the town records.

There is no further record of Young’s trial or the specifics of the charge, only that Alse Young was a woman. Early historical record hints at the possibility that there may have been some sort of epidemic in the town of Windsor in early 1647.

She had a daughter, Alice Young Beamon, who would be accused of witchcraft in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, some 30 years later.

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1828 – Celebrated feral child Kaspar Hauser was discovered wandering the streets of Nuremberg.

At first it was assumed that he was raised half-wild in forests, but during conversations with officials, Hauser told a different version of his past life, which he later also wrote down in more detail. According to this story, for as long as he could remember he spent his life totally alone in a darkened cell about two metres long, one metre wide and one and a half high with only a straw bed to sleep on and a horse carved out of wood for a toy.

He claimed that he found bread and water next to his bed each morning. Periodically the water would taste bitter and drinking it would cause him to sleep more heavily than usual. On such occasions, when he awakened, his straw was changed and his hair and nails were cut.

Hauser claimed that the first human being with whom he ever had contact was a mysterious man who visited him not long before his release, always taking great care not to reveal his face to him.

This man, Hauser said, taught him to write his name by leading his hand. After learning to stand and walk, he was brought to Nuremberg. Furthermore, the stranger allegedly taught him to say the phrase “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was” (in Bavarian dialect), but Hauser claimed that he did not understand what these words meant.

This tale aroused great curiosity and made Hauser an object of international attention. Rumours arose that he was of princely parentage, possibly of Baden origin, but there were also claims that he was an impostor.

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1897 – Dracula,  by  Bram Stoker, was published.

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1916 – Moondog born. Blind American composer, musician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments.
 
Moving to New York as a young man, Moondog made a deliberate decision to make his home on the streets there, where he spent approximately twenty of the thirty years he lived in the city.

Most days he could be found in his chosen part of town wearing clothes he had created based on his own interpretation of the Norse god Odin.[citation needed] Thanks to his unconventional outfits and lifestyle, he was known for much of his life as “The Viking of 6th Avenue”.

Native American music, along with contemporary jazz and classical, mixed with the ambient sounds from his environment (city traffic, ocean waves, babies crying, etc.)  created the foundation of Moondog’s music.

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1926 – Miles Davis born. American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer.

 Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century,  Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz fusion.

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Almanac – March 09

1763 – William Cobbett born.  English pamphleteer, farmer and journalist, who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers, and he attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and “tax-eaters” relentlessly. He was also against the Corn Laws, a tax on imported grain.

Early in his career, he was a loyalist supporter of King and Country: but later he joined and successfully publicised the radical movement, which led to the Reform Bill of 1832, and to his winning the parliamentary seat of Oldham. Although he was not a Catholic, he became a fiery advocate of Catholic Emancipation in Britain.

Through the seeming contradictions in Cobbett’s life, his opposition to authority stayed constant. He wrote many polemics, on subjects from political reform to religion, but is best known for his book from 1830, Rural Rides, which is still in print today.

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1895 – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch died.  Austrian writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name.

During his lifetime, Sacher-Masoch was well known as a man of letters, a utopian thinker who espoused socialist and humanist ideals in his fiction and non-fiction.

Most of his works remain untranslated into English. The novel Venus in Furs is his only book commonly available in English… and also (coincidently ?) the name of a song by the Velvet Underground – see John Cale, below.

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1930 – Ornette Coleman born.  American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s

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1942 – John Cale born.  Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of The Velvet Underground.

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1994 – Charles Bukowski died. American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.  It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work.

Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife“.

Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”

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