Summer “Fun”

Summer vacation means trips to the shore and theme parks for most normal people. Well, I’m not completely normal. Fascinated with anything creepy or dark, when you’re trying to find the perfect spot to lay your beach blanket, I will be looking for another kind of plot, the unmarked grave of America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes (a/k/a Herman Webster Mudgett and Dr. Henry Howard Holmes).

H.H. Holmes

H.H. Holmes

Holmes was the mastermind behind the hotel at the Chicago World’s Fair, known as the Castle. The good doctor’s own drugstore was located on the first floor of the Castle, but the upper floors harbored something far sinister. The guests were never intended to leave, at least not alive anyway. Each room was designed to kill by suffocation, rooms fitted with gas lines to choke people locked in their rooms. Holmes sold some of the victims’ skeletons to medical schools. For more about H.H. Holmes and his connection to Philadelphia, see here.

America’s first serial killer was buried on May 8, 1896 somewhere in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania after being hanged at the Moyamensing Prison. I say somewhere because his grave is unmarked. However, thanks to findagrave.com (yes, there is such a thing) I have the GPS coordinates for his final resting place. Holmes’ coffin is encased with cement because he feared grave robbers would remove his remains for medical purposes. The irony of this is not lost on anyone.

Another local monster was Gary Heidnik, the madman who was convicted of  the kidnap, torture, rape, and murder of women he held prisoner in his basement. I’ve read Cellar of Horror, and Heidnik was a despicable human being who became the last person executed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more on his crimes, see here.

gary

While the house itself, once located at 3520 North Marshall Street in Philadelphia, is long torn down, I want to see the lot where it once stood. I’m not sure why, maybe it has something to do with my interest in things closed and abandoned. Viewing the site where the crimes occurred will make it seem more real, rather than just a horrific story I read.

Another place I would like to visit involves a bit of a road trip, to Baltimore to be exact. I want to tour Westminster Burying Grounds and Catacombs, with Westminster Cemetery the final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe. This is something I have wanted to do for a while but have never had the opportunity, and I’m hoping I can check it off my list soon.

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

In August I will be appearing in the annual reenactment of the murders at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts on the anniversary of the crime. More on that at a later date.

Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden

Aside from these unconventional warm weather plans, I will participate in activities that are more traditional to the summer months, such as trips to the shore and concerts. What are your plans for summer vacation?

To Ozzy, with Love

When we moved into our house with our cranky tabby Annie, it wasn’t long before I wanted to add a second cat to the family. By then Annie was three, and her personality was set. We thought bringing home a kitten would bring out her softer side, assuming she had one. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It turned out that Annie had the maternal instincts of Joan Crawford.

We acquired Ozzy in much the same way we did Annie. It was another unplanned litter, this time the mother cat belonging to someone working temporarily in my office. This person lived on the street behind our house, and one day brought over two kittens for me to choose from. Their mother was a Russian Blue, and their father a tabby. Both kittens were male, with handsome dark gray coats, one solid and the other with marble stripes. I sat on the floor, the solid boy aloof while the other was more curious, climbing on my lap. He was adorable and I was smitten. I chose the tabby-striped kitten, and because the owner had more kittens at home that looked like him, we put a drop of nail polish on his body to be sure I would get the right little guy when they were old enough to go to new homes.

Ozzy as a Kitten

Ozzy as a Kitten

When that day finally arrived, Annie was less than thrilled. She showed him no kindness, the only thing she wanted to show him was the door. She puffed up to twice her size and must have resembled a tiger to tiny Ozzy, who tried his best to puff up and look formidable. Their meeting can be compared to the scene in Jaws when Quint crushes the beer can and Hooper responds by crushing the paper cup. They hissed and cursed each other and with one quick swipe from the aggressive female, Ozzy was down the stairs.

I guess Annie didn’t expect her kid brother to ever grow. Eventually his 18 pounds eclipsed her 14 pounds, and her bullying wasn’t as effective. To this day he will instigate her into a reaction by getting close to her, almost purring, “I’m not touching you.”

Ozzy was a happy, robust cat until he was about three years old. He was having difficulty using the litterbox and appeared to be in distress. The vet took x-rays and saw that he was backed up. The vet performed a procedure to unclog him, but the issue became a chronic condition. He was going to the vet weekly, still unable to use the litterbox with any regularity. Ozzy was finally diagnosed with chronic constipation due to a low-functioning colon. This vet put him on two medications, a stool softener and a motility drug for his colon. We had hope that this would put an end to the problem, but unfortunately, it didn’t. We tried other ideas suggested by our vet, but nothing worked. When holistic methods failed, our vet told us there was nothing that could be done for him. Without saying it, the vet indicated that euthanasia was looking like our only option.

We sought a second opinion with another practice who is now our current vet. They kept our kitty on the same two medications, but added a low residue prescription food. He now had a food that produced less waste, a med to soften what waste he did produce, and other med to help him pass the waste. This combination saved his life, and we follow this regimen 10 years later.

All was well with Ozzy for quite a long time until one day I received a phone call from my mom, who was babysitting our animals. She was very upset, our laidback, loveable boy was howling at her whenever she went near him. Something was very wrong.

Back to the vet we went for more tests. It wasn’t until he had an MRI did we uncover the newest issue—inflammatory bowel disease. We were devastated, this guy has gone through so much, and now another medical problem. We were prescribed prednisone for this condition, which he continues to take.

Ozzy is a lovable lap cat. He is laid back, and never put up a fuss through any of the procedures he endured. From blood draws, enemas, x-rays, and MRIs, he took it all in stride, his sweet personality never changing. It’s a shame such a sweet cat had to suffer so much.

Ozzy has lived with chronic constipation and inflammatory bowel disease for years. He also suffers from arthritis for which we give a supplement, and occasional bouts of vertigo. We had no idea cats could have vertigo, and we were certain that trip to the vet would uncover something horrible like a brain tumor.

Ozzy will turn 14 on December 18, 2015. We have had 11 more years with him than we had expected. His food and medications to keep him with us may cost the equivalent of a car payment, but our little man is more than worth it. I know one day his conditions are likely to take their toll on him, and he may get other problems due to all the long-term medications. We will lose him one day, we’ve come close several times, and we will be devastated. Every day he is still with us as a blessing. I love you, Ozzy.

Ozzy-2015

Ozzy-2015

To Annie, with Love

She wasn’t the cutest kitten I’ve ever seen. In fact, she was quite plain. It was when a little brown tabby ran across the floor did I realize my fiancé had no idea what I meant by a calico cat. I expressed interest in a male calico which I found out doesn’t exist. All calicos are female and I wanted a male, so I got neither. What I got was a female brown tabby.

Annie - 1998

Annie – 1998

It was 1998 when we moved into our apartment. We knew animals were prohibited in our lease, but I couldn’t stand being without a pet. My cat Mitzi stayed with my parents and I missed her. My fiancé and I agreed to get a cat with the caveat that if it were discovered and posed a problem, we would move (cat included) to more animal-friendly lodgings.

How would we acquire a kitten? I wanted to adopt, but that would require telling a falsehood on the application, something I didn’t want to do. Our landlord had a no-pet clause in the lease and there was no way around that.

My fiancé was quite pleased with himself, as he never had a cat before. Someone he knew from work’s cat had a litter of kittens. When he went to see them, there was only one left. If he didn’t take her for free, they would have kept her, but she would have been an indoor/outdoor cat in Philadelphia. That thought is alarming. We keep our cats strictly inside. Not wanting that to happen, my husband-to-be brought home the little brown ball.

She was cute for a brown cat, but not what I had in mind. We named her Annie, but we had no way of knowing that would be short for Annie Christ, a moniker later given to her by my brother.

We had her vetted to discover that she had ear mites. Have you ever given ear drops to a mountain lion? I think administering them to a feisty, biting, clawing kitten is a close second. We could have used falconer’s gloves for the task, she was such a bad patient.

Finally mite free, Annie was spayed and declawed. (Did you know that declawing is akin to amputating up to and including the first joint of human fingers? It’s a surgery we no longer put our cats through).

Annie enjoyed biting our ankles, hiding inside our recliner, and stealing food. She ate strawberry shortcake, Doritos, and once made off with a ham slice as big as her body. You would think we never fed her, but she enjoyed her cat food, weighing 14 pounds in her heyday.

Any paranoia we had about her discovery was unfounded. The no-pet policy was more of a suggestion. It turned out that many people in the complex had cats, management included. As long as kitty wasn’t seen, heard, or smelled, a blind eye was turned to the animal.

Annie was with us the three years we lived there, even tagging along with us to my parents’ house for a long 4th of July weekend when our air conditioner broke, leaving our upstairs unit sweltering. Annie repaid her grandparents’ kindness by peeing on their bathroom floor. I think they were glad to see us go.

Our girl was the last and most precious item we moved from the apartment to our house. Annie is the original grumpy cat. Not only does she look miserable, she is miserable. She cares for us in her own way, but she was never warm and fuzzy. You can pet her for about two seconds before she tries to bite you. We say we coexist and feed her to keep her from killing us in our sleep.

We have been in our house 15 years and during that time Annie hasn’t exactly welcomed 2 dogs and 3 more cats. She tolerates them, but that’s about it. The others know she is the boss, even the cats with claws are afraid of her. If it’s true that only the good die young, she should live forever, and I hope she does. I love you, Annie.

Annie - 2015

Annie – 2015