Now in Phantomscreen

June 29, 1927
near Cordova, Alaska

Hollywood death came to the far north today, in the loss of stuntman Ray Thompson, 29, a player in a white water rapids stunt gone wrong on the roaring Copper River in remote Abercrombie Canyon. Thompson was on location for the new M-G-M picture Trail of ’98, starring the fiery Dolores del Rio, under the direction of assistant director Harry Schenck. Numerous small boats were in the stream packed with stuntmen and cameramen shooting a thrilling scene of Gold Rush-era peril, when Thompson and F.H. Daughters of Spokane fell into the water. Joseph Bautin of Juneau jumped in to try to save the men, and joined them in death; his was the only body recovered. Also in the water that day, stunt man Gordon Craveth, who managed to swim to shore.

Motion Picture News previewed the film and its innovative projection technique, but made no mention of the blood shed in its production:

"A big picture, easily of roadshow size, and big because of spectacular sequences this is our opinion on The Trail of ’98, directed by Clarence Brown for M-G-M. More pointedly, it is a presentation of the right sort, by which we mean that the presentation is the picture itself, through the "Fantomscreen," of which more later.

As to the artistic greatness of The Trail of ’98, we don’t know. Who does? But big at the box-office it will certainly be, unless we miss our guess.

The story is the Klondike Gold Rush, and is of epic dimensions. The cast- Dolores del Rio, Ralph Forbes, Tully Marshall, Karl Dane, Harry Carey, George Cooper, and others- is, excellent, with Carey in the forefront as to honors, and Dane and Cooper mostly carrying the

The frenzied rush to the Klondike from all corners of America, and what happened to the individual in his or her fight against the perils of the North, form the story background.

The handling of the characters in this screen version of the Robert W. Service story is dwarfed by the spectacular features. These are four in number: a breath-taking snowslide; the running of the rapids in frail boats; the Chilkoot Pass stuff, with big panorama shots; and the burning of Dawson City.

For the snowshoe sequence, the screen is suddenly enlarged to twice normal size, and moved down to the curtain-line. The effect is, of course, electrifying and carries a big punch. The same method is used with the running of the rapids, a remarkable spectacle. The "Fantomscreen" device, which moves the screen forward or back without interrupting the picture, is a great piece of show manship.

The picture will be roadshowed by J.J. McCarthy, who handled the six great roadshows of the industry’s history: The Birth of A Nation, Way Down East, The Ten Commandments, The Covered Wagon, The Big Parade, Ben Hur."

The Mad Gasser of… Fullerton?

June 28, 1927

Scholars of the unexplained in America will be familiar with the legend of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, a possibly imaginary figure who gassed his way across two communities over a decade and thence into the spooky books.

But we’ve found a precedent in the Los Angeles area that beats the first Mad Gasser attacks by six years! This very evening, garage operator Alois Sabinski was asleep in his home at 111 North Nicholas Street when his wife was roused by the distinctive odor of chloroform, and discovered her husband in a swoon. The clever lady threw open all the windows to disperse the poison before she too was rendered insensible, and peeked outside to see a man running away carrying what looked like a bicycle pump. A bicycle pump of doom!

Officer Roy Mills, called to the scene, found footprints under the window and on the porch, and evidence that the gasser had launched his fumes through the open transom. So close those transoms, kids, and beware strange men bearing pumps.

A Short Film About Scoops Gelato

Gentle reader,

If you’ve ridden the Crime Bus in LA, you’ve probably enjoyed Tai Kim’s
extraordinary themed gelato creations, such as Guinness Tiramisu, Bacon Caramel, Black Dahlia, Nicotine and so many more.

Now there is a short film being made about Tai and the Scoops community, and the filmmakers are looking for people to interview. If interested, please visit the film website and fill out their questionnaire.

The Long Distance Murder

 At 1681 E. Manchester Ave., the tenants were lousy and business was bad.  But George H. Ferlin of 8606 Hickory St. had insurance and a scheme to make all his problems go up in smoke.  One night in August 1925, Ferlin doused everything in gasoline and vacated the premises.  Later in the evening his accomplice, 21-year-old Walter Skala, arrived on the scene, ignited the whole mess, and was burned to death for a payoff that probably amounted to a few hundred lousy dollars.

Was it murder?  Some folks thought so.  In addition to charges for arson and destroying insured property, Ferlin was charged with the murder of Walter Skala, despite the fact that he wished him no harm and was over a mile away at the time Skala sustained his injuries.  The charge was issued under an old and little-used California statute that held a person who conspired to commit an unlawful act responsible if another person was indirectly killed as a result of that crime.

At Ferlin’s trial, the judge instructed the jury to deliberate only on the two lesser charges and acquit on murder.  However, the jury ignored him roundly, saying they felt Ferlin was "morally guilty" in Skala’s death and convicted him of murder.  Of course, there were appeals at the District and State level that dragged on for over two years while Ferlin sat in prison.

Meanwhile, there was trouble at home.  Ferlin’s wife, Jean, and her lover, Ivan Hunsacker, appeared in juvenile court on charges of contributing to the delinquency of two minors, Jean’s children.  Apparently, since Ferlin was locked away, Hunsacker had been shacking up with Jean and the kiddies.  The couple pled guilty to the charges.

In March 1927, the State Supreme Court announced that Ferlin’s appeal would be heard, along with three other notorious murder cases.  Faithful 1947project readers will be interested to know that Earl J. Clark, aka the Red Rose Killer, was alongside Ferlin on the docket.  Clark would hang at San Quentin later in the year, but things went better for our arsonist.

Today, the court ruled that Ferlin was entitled to a new trial on the murder charge since the jury had disregarded the instructions of the trial judge.  Ferlin’s sentence of 25 years for his other convictions was upheld.  The murder beef was eventually dismissed in 1928.

I just chopped up someone shaped like a cookie…

Presented for your consideration, a recently unearthed example of the kind of disgusting collaborative work that Kim and Nathan did when they didn’t have laptops at their disposal… a little tidbit we titled "Pee-Nuts." Click to see this mid ’90s artifact in all its grim beauty, or don’t.

Pee-Nuts by Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak

A Woman of Many Names-And Almost A New Face

June 26, 2007
Los Angeles

O! What a tangled web some weave when first they practice to deceive their spouses. A few days ago, Theodore A. Kocotis returned home to an empty house—his wife, Carrie, was missing. Five long days later, there came a telephone call:  Carrie Kocotis was desperately ill in a Santa Monica sanatorium, the result of a “face-lifting” operation. Kocotis made haste, but his wife died before he arrived.

The grieving widower hired Attorney Earl S. Wakeman to start probate proceedings. But instead of a few pennies’ worth of pin money squirreled away here and there, Wakeman discovered $10,000 in chattel (almost $120,000 in 2007 dollars). And then there were the aliases. As Carrie L. Brody, Mrs. Kocotis acted as a housemother in a sorority; she conducted other business under the names of Carrie Sullivan and Carrie L. Williams. Her safety deposit box was rented in the name of Carrie Wright, and it was there she stored her jewels and securities.

Wakeman announced today that he intends to see that the events surrounding Mrs. Kocotis’s untimely demise are fully investigated by the District Attorney.

Cheap Thrills

ten dollar car headline

June 25, 1927
Los Angeles

Johnston car

Mr. H. Johnston has just completed a nine day journey along the National Old Trails Highway from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Amazingly, he made the cross-country trip in his $10 dollar 1919 Ford! His total expenses, including gasoline, meals, lodging, and one minor $3 repair to the Ford was a miserly $55 ($657.31 USD 2007).

Impressive? Absolutely! But, future dwellers, while we shake our heads in wonderment at how inexpensive it was to live in 1927 America, let’s put on our time travel goggles and look at this feat from a different perspective.

If Mr. H. Johnston went out today and purchased an entry level 2007 Toyota Prius ($22,175.00) it would cost him $265,015.46 in 1927 dollars. Gasoline for the hybrid would take a bite out of his budget to the tune of about $35.83 per gallon!

Nine nights at a Motel 6 (at $69.99 per night) would set Mr. Johnston back a whopping $7,528.14. And that’s if he didn’t rent any movies. At these prices he may lose his appetite, but a man has to eat. Let’s give Mr. Johnston a total food budget of $45 to visit a drive-thru of his choice once each day – that translates into $537.80 in current dollars for burgers, fries and sodas.

Get out your calculators and we’ll do a back-of-the-envelope estimate for Mr. Johnston’s trek in the strange 2007 time machine. The nine day vacation would now cost him approximately $275,052.25.

Your mileage may vary.

She Threw Herself Into the Part


eileenbasilJune 24, 1927

Yeah, she threw herself into the part.  She could throw a mean left cross too, apparently.  In fact she went so nuts she broke several straw hats and mussed up the hair of several spectators and managed to bust the nose, teeth, and blacken the eye of some ponce named Basil Webb.

She is Eileen Sedgwick, and she was portraying an excited Swedish servant girl, cheering the home town team in Metro’s Slide, Kelly, Slide.  And now she stands shoulder to shoulder to shoulder with Metro and the United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company, as Basil bemoans his condition before Referee Crowell of the State Industrial Accident Commission.

We are beguiled by the fetching Ms. Sedgwick!  Mr. Webb should consider himself lucky to have be walloped by so charming a creature.

Chicken Tonight

June 24, 1927
Monterey Park
Yeacio Tavary, Isa Magana and Daniel Garcia were brought before Police Judge F. F. Guaiano today on charges of stealing chickens.  It seems last night officer T. J. Neal discovered the gentlemen in an automobile in the hills south of Monterey Park, along with empty sacks with feathers stuck to them, and a headless chicken.

The defendants pleaded not guilty, and to explain the presence of the chicken-in-question, one testified:  “The chicken was hopping along the road with its head off and jumped into our car.”  The others corroborated his statement.

The judge thought it was a good story, but not quite good enough to keep the trio out of jail for ten days.

Great Mysteries of Life

embalmoJune 23, 1927

Fishermen Beryl Adams and Al Huston returned from the waters off Santa Cruz island with something other than tasty comestible cod today, as they had in tow what their salty sea-dog buddies down at the shanty will no doubt label a fish story…for the catch of the day is:  embalmed corpse.  

Seems that bobbing along in the brine was a casket—constructed by Springfield Metallic Co., who furnish such boxes to the government, as opposed to the window’d copper containers favored by civil undertakers—containing a rather well-embalmed gentleman, the only hints to his identity being a necktie bearing the seal of “Lyons, France” and a suit of clothes made by J. Brownstone Company, New York.  Meager clues they, the other clues of note being the corpses’ flowing beard and large aristocratic moustache.

Coroner Reardon is working with the Naval Office at San Pedro but there has yet to be a break in the case, despite, or likely because of, there being every earmark of international espionage.