Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ricky McCormick's Mysterious Codes

Click to enlarge/Source: FBI
The FBI needs the public's help in solving Ricky McCormick's code. It may be that in deciphering the mysterious coded messages on papers found in McCormick's pockets, federal investigators will find a key to solving a larger mystery.

Ricky McCormick was a 41-year-old ex-con on disability when he died at the end of June, 1999. He was last seen alive on June 25. He had lived in St. Louis and Belleville, Illinois, and he was found on June 30 on a stretch of land in West Alton, IL, along Highway 67. His body had begun decomposing, but it was determined that Ricky's throat was probably slashed. Authorities told local reporters that Ricky was into drugs.

Two slips of paper were found in Ricky's pockets. From the FBI:
Click to enlarge/Source: FBI
The more than 30 lines of coded material use a maddening variety of letters, numbers, dashes, and parentheses. McCormick was a high school dropout, but he was able to read and write and was said to be "street smart." According to members of his family, McCormick had used such encrypted notes since he was a boy, but apparently no one in his family knows how to decipher the codes, and it’s unknown whether anyone besides McCormick could translate his secret language. Investigators believe the notes in McCormick's pockets were written up to three days before his death.
The brief article about Ricky McCormick is carefully worded. It seems to indicate their goal is simply solving the mystery of what happened between the time Ricky left his last doctor's appointment and someone finding his body 5 days later.

There may be a larger mystery to solve than simply understanding what was going in McCormick's head prior to his death.

Articles published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2001, almost 2 years to the day after the discovery of McCormick's remains, indicated McCormick's was just one of several bodies found in the same area over the course of a 6-year period between 1995 and 2001.

View Larger Map

The female victims found in the area seen on the map above were likely victims of serial killer Maury Travis. Travis was nabbed after taunting police via letters and a map of where one of his victims was found in 2002. Investigators traced his use of Mapquest and showed up at his door on June 7 that year. He never quite confessed to his crimes after arrest, but authorities seemed satisfied, based on evidence that included videotapes, that Travis was responsible for the deaths of up to 20 women, many of them involved in drugs and prostitution.

Travis hanged himself in his jail cell at the St. Louis County Justice Center on June 10, 2002.

Ricky McCormick would have been out of serial killer Travis's typical zone of comfort, victim-wise, but could the FBI suspect a connection between the men? If they don't, why the interest? No homicide is insignificant, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation rarely gets too involved in cases such as the one-time homicide of an unemployed ex-con. It's hard to believe their desire to solve Ricky McCormick's puzzles is just based in wanting to solve one lone, cold case.

Does the ghost of Maury Travis lurk among McCormick's "maddening" letters, numbers, dashes and parentheses? Try your own hand at the ciphers and see.

[ WSJ]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bar Keepers Friend

When I was a child I would get angry at older people who mangled the proper names of certain commonly-used items or popular television programs. Damn, old people, I said as I struck them repeatedly over the head with the nearest blunt object, why can't you remember "Good Times," or the word "lawnmower?"

I was a kid. I did not know that old people had other worries, such as alien abductions.

Earlier this evening I mistakenly referred to Bar Keepers Friend as Bartender's Friend. This is a common household item I use on a near-daily basis. I realized, upon discovering my error, that I have become that old person I often beat senseless for forgetting that it was "K.C. and the Sunshine Band," not "Casey's Sunshine Band."

Later tonight I will go to one of the more dangerous parts of the city and wait on a street corner for a fresh-faced youngster to come along. When this happens, I will say something about "Them Googles" and await my punishment.

It's called the Oval of Life.

 It's called Poetic Justification.

[Bar Keepers Friend]

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Big Creek Dayum!

Photo 1. "Why can't we swim here? It looks so gentle and unassuming!"
Photo 2. (Made 10 feet from Photo 1) "HOLY SHITBALLS!"

Friday, March 25, 2011



NO OUTLET SIGN: Nice hat, douche.

STEVE: Shut up, you're just a road sign.

NO OUTLET SIGN: True. I could be some shady dude hanging out by a road sign looking ready for some redneck, bro-on-bro cosplay.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Thing I May Actually Do This Time

Richard Sharp, Flickr
Back in late 2004 I started writing a blog about true crime, on a lark. I was unemployed and a gig had fallen through; I needed something to occupy me. As I was angry about the gig, tales of murder--already a long-time fascination--seemed appropriate.

I guess I ended up being pretty good at what I was doing, because by mid-2005 I was writing for truTV's Crime Library. I would go on to do a bunch of true crime-related stuff on TV and write for Radar Magazine, Village Voice Media, the New York Observer and several other pretty damn good publications. Well, good until they took my work. Anyway, I got paid for that stuff, so that's good.

In 2009, about the same time I received the most notice I'd ever had for my crime reporting--an appearance on CBS' 48 Hours Mystery and a couple of articles on their website--I realized that I was really fucking sick of writing about true crime. The reasons were many but overall it was a malaise, I guess. A broad cloak of depression that settled over me like a big, wet, wool blanket that I was sure would never dry or stop smelling like a half-dead dog just in from the rain.

So I kind of just stopped. I didn't stop writing. I wrote even more, in some respects. But I started avoiding crime. I didn't want to deal with it. I didn't want to read about any more dead children or missing women. I have enough trouble maintaining my sanity as it is, I thought, why the fuck am I adding rocks to the steadily smothering Giles Corey of my soul with this stuff?

It may have been a bad decision in some respects (read: money) for the writing career I'd begun, but I guess I figured I'd live with it. So I kept writing, even about crime--but only sometimes. I also wrote about politics and pop culture for The Observer. I did write a crime article for The Daily Beast--and while it was fine, I look back at it now and think my heart wasn't in it.

Thing was, I had no doubts about my decision to commit to being a writer. I just had doubts about the subject to which I'd tethered myself. People like their pigeonholes, they like boxes, and anyone who was aware of me as a writer pegged me as that true crime guy. That was the part I had to tie off, let wither and die, as it were. While there are genres of writing I really love--and true crime is among them--I just couldn't lock myself into any  one genre. What's wrong, really, with just being a fucking writer, and writing shit? Nothing. If a writer can wield words and make their peculiar fascinations and thoughts about those fascinations entertaining for a reader, who cares where that writer wants to go with it? I like to try my hand at writing a lot of things, like humor. I also love horror, and most of the fiction I've written (I've yet to publish any of note) has been at the very least "strange," if not plain old horror.

And when it comes to non-fiction, I'm interested in everything from history and sociology to the peculiar histories of major disasters and odd and eccentric historical figures. And mysteries, whether they're paranormal, crime-related, whatever--I love them all.

(I realized, in fact, during the dish-washing break I took midway through this post, that I could do a whole rant about how sick I am of the way writers who are able to publish anything become slaves to genre. If you like to write, you just like to write about stuff. That might be making up stories. It might be musing on pop culture and or politics. It might be all the above. Whatever, it's all writing, and some of us are stricken with the compulsion to just do it. We'd do it on bark with charcoal if the world went to hell tomorrow. Stop pinning us to one type, one flavor of writing, and let us just fucking write.)

(Whoops, guess I had to let some of that rant out after all. Sorry, because it's delayed my point--this blog right here.)

The one thing established true crime writers like Gregg Olsen and Ann Rule told me when I was contemplating writing a true crime book (about 5 years ago)  was that within the true crime genre, one type of story doesn't often sell as well as others: the unsolved, still open-ended mystery. Epic stories like that of the Zodiac Killer aside, publishers seem to believe readers are children who require a resolution, an ending, preferably one that can at least be spun as reasonably happy.

I clearly remember responding, at least in my head, "But I LOVE unsolved mysteries. I love the show Unsolved Mysteries. And hey, there you go--there's even a whole TV show about unsolved mysteries."

Then I kind of gave up on the idea of writing a book about unsolved stuff. Even a compilation of various unsolved crimes.

But the desire to really write about various unsolved riddles, stories without precise endings, has never left me. It has persisted, hung on like a burr in the sock of my brainflesh.

Hence The Mystery Report.

Here's what this blog will not be:
  • True crime blog. Plenty of crime is going to come up when you write about vexing true tales of terror or woe. I'd say a majority of, the sister site to the legendary show, contains stories about unsolved crimes or possible crimes. But if you've arrived here thinking it's my new true crime blog, please know: it is not.
  • Personal blog. Personal notes may creep in, but I will do my best to make each blog post as professional as anything I've submitted to the New York Observer (for example).
  • News blog. At least not breaking news.
  • Unsolved Mysteries fan blog. I am a huge fan of that show from way back and I'll probably link it plenty, but that's not the purpose of this blog.
  • Updated every day. I just have to give myself the option to not do this sometimes because I suspect it will be work and I need to do work that pays too. 
  • About fictional mysteries. There are a ton of blogs out there for that, I'm sure.
  • Humor, per se. If you've only ever read my true crime writing, that may sound funny, but there's about 3000 or more people on Twitter who might come here expecting jokes. I'll throw them in where possible, sure, but these aren't satirical or parody posts (unless marked). 
OK, this list of what this blog isn't could go on, so that's just the big ones. 

What I will cover here: current (last 10 years) and historic unsolved mysteries. These may include unsolved crime, paranormal events, missing persons and even unanswered questions such as those covered by the show Unsolved Mysteries, such as the question of reincarnation.

The main thing I want to do here is have fun with it. That way, hopefully, anyone who reads it will have fun too. And just write. Write whatever the fuck I want.

And that's enough from me. For now. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making do

My laptop is pretty much on its way to being dead so I'll have to share various family computers for a bit. During the school/work day that's not a problem, but in the evenings I'm mostly stuck on my phone.

So I'm going to see just how much a guy can do from an iPhone 4, just for kicks.

It's called making do with what you've got.

I'm already annoyed by the experience!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I've never heard of an Evangelical preacher obsessing over effeminate men

YouTube - Dudes and Skinny Jeans

Pastor Dale (or Tim, or Brent, or who the hell knows) is down with the kids. And with the chicks and the dudes. In fact, he's extremely passionate about the subject of what's masculine--and not--in dudes. Really masculine dudes. In... skinny jeans. And drinking "decaf herbal tea." Because the bible had an opinion on skinny jeans. And Celine Dion. And Ellen Degeneres.

Pastor Dale (or Brad, or Skip) is from a scary universe, known to some as "Illinois."

My favorite thing about this video, though, was the view count on it when I clicked through from Buzzfeed:

I think God's trying to tell me something.

This is what it would look like if Tim & Eric made your campaign commercial...

YouTube - World's creepiest candidate for school board

This is probably satire. But it's so much more epically fun if we pretend it's not.

[via Reddit]

Monday, March 14, 2011

Goddammit, Steve Jobs...

In Keeping...

... With my usual tendencies towards capriciousness, I think I'll use this again for a while. I feel like the URL became available for a reason, might as well.