The Hard Call

The Russian Flu, 1888-1889, reached North America in 1889-90. About a million people globally died in total.

In the 1918 Flu , millions of people died from "influenza".  Nearly every community in the U.S. was impacted, churches, schools, and public events, such as Halloween parties, were canceled by civic decrees.

An Asian Flu epidemic broke out in 1956-1958 and in the U.S. just under 70,000 died. I was one who was lucky and escaped death but was rushed to the hospital .

In March of 1976, soldiers at Ft. Dix in New Jersey were suffering from an illness with few symptoms other than just feeling bad.  One solder reported feeling ill but still made a hike only to die within hours of returning. Although others were ill and in the hospital by that time, base doctors were disturbed by the fact that there was an apparent illness without major symptoms capable of causing death.  Perhaps because it came from the military their report zoomed up the channels leading to what is sometimes called the "Swine Flu Fiasco."   In a daring move President Ford ordered mass inoculations to avoid a WWI style outbreak which was believed to have been Swine flu.

In 2009 a related version of swine flu, but one with a bit more 'umph' cut a swath through parts of the globe.  The 'umph' was the flu strain was a mixture of both swine and avian flu.  In truth the WW1 variety had been more avian flu than swine flu but this was not learned until later.  Apparently, the more avian the strain is the more dangerous the flu becomes.

Although, people died and came down with disastrous side affects following the 1976 immunizations and the pandemic was a 'no show', history warns us it could have been.  Recent history also shows that our quick transportation can create a disaster in hours rather than the months or years of earlier times.  If faced with another 'hard call' will we be able to move swiftly to counteract death or be bogged down with indecision?   People should be given the choice to participate (there is always a some who may die or become ill) but the small number who may become ill should not hamper work to save literally millions of lives in the event of a real pandemic outbreak.




In the sultry southern Texas community of Austin over the course of one year, a killer stalked the sidewalks.  His victims are thought to number seven and if all the victims were the work of one man, they were generally young and of the servant class. With the exception of a few victims most were African-Americans. 
The method was usually to drag his usually young victim from bed, rape them and then brutally slashing or hacking them to death with an axe. A couple may have also been stabbed in the ears and face by a spike or similar instrument. The dates for these atrocities were Dec. 1884 through Dec. 1885.
The axe will figure prominently in various other American killings across the continent between 1890-1920.  Logically, it was a weapon of convenience found in nearly every home for chopping wood, doing yard work, and similar tasks.  As a murder weapon, it is a weighty, awkward tool depending on brute force but deadly enough even a young person could use it effectively.  In certain regions, where it might be a standard tool of some profession or job, a man might be seen carrying one over his shoulder and none would think anything about it.  The wounds with a spike or other sharp object could be a railroad spike, a pipe, or an awl.

In 1888, in London’s Whitechapel district, someone working ‘from hell’ terrified the city by the butchering of at least five prostitutes.  His method was to silence his victims with a thrust across the throat and then to post-mortem indulge in invasive acts to the inner organs and flesh.  He is described by a witness as being dressed in a style which inferred he was a professional man or a dandy and not a “working man.”  Although it may have been a costume to disguise his identity, seeing such a man in the area seeking drinks, drugs, and prostitutes was not uncommon.  After his last victim, he simply disappeared.
 Some refuse to believe a killer who had escalated to such a level could easily slack off or simply stop. He had to have been killed or jailed on some other charge to halt the bloodshed so sharply.  Some firmly hold to the belief he fled to other killing fields.  As a result, in diverse locations ranging from Switzerland to Nicaguara to Wisconsin to New Jersey a trail of bodies is often cited to prove the “Ripper” continued to work. 
There are similarities.  In each case a particular class of society is targeted because they would be easy victims. Prostitutes in London were as invisible as African-American servants in Austin.  In both cases, several of the victims were involved in the world’s oldest trade.
 In truth, the London Ripper was merely a new class of an old crime which may have been hidden previously through regular European wars, New World conflicts, isolation, the racism of southern bigots, the migrations of several men with violent tendencies, and the beginning of the century of serial killer.

A recent theory has emerged about Jack the Ripper being a German sailor who was put to death in 1896 in the U.S. for a murder and was in areas, according to some, during the time of similar Ripper murders.  It can be pointed out that Austin is an inland community but is only a short distance from Houston, Galvaston and New Orleans.   In the 1911-1912 axe murder sprees the killer was obviously using the railroads to travel and may have traveled as far north as Iowa and Colorado.  At least one of the 1884/85 murders used something which might match the description of a rail spike.   

As more details emerge, more theories appear and the cycle goes on and the cases remain ice cold.  For now...

If you have personal information related to any of these crimes and would like to contribute to a book on the subject send your email to marilynahudson@gmail.com

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