Best X-Files Episodes

In anticipation of The X-Files mini-series coming to Fox TV in January of 2016, I decided to immerse myself into a binge watch of most of the important episodes. I was most surprised by how many of the episodes in Season 9 were really good. However, Seasons 3-6 were when this show was turning out a great episode week after week.

Dana Scully is smart, and hot hot hot! Monica Reyes is almost as hot hot hot. The Smoking Man is one the greatest characters ever on TV, and the Lone Gunmen were fabulous. And Mulder is Mulder. Here are some my favorite episodes … in order in which they were broadcast. I gave up trying to rank them. I did make myself leave out another 35 episodes, however.

1. Humbug, Production Code: 2×20 (second season, 20th episode) Wacky and Weird.

humbugMulder and Scully travel to Gibsonton, Florida, a town built and populated by circus and sideshow performers to investigate the death of Jerald Glazebrook, The Alligator Man. While searching for leads on the killer, the agents come across many bizarre characters including the local sheriff who was once known as Jim Jim, the Dog-Faced Boy, Dr Blockhead who performs human feats of endurance and The Conundrum, a tattooed jigsaw man who eats live animals. Scully finds it difficult to find a normal suspect, in a place where nothing is normal.

2. Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, Production Code: 3×04 Guest Star: Peter Boyle.Sad and smart.

x-files-clyde-bruckman-carMulder and Scully are called in to assist in an investigation of a killer who is targeting fortune tellers. The investigators have very little to go on and need all the help they can get. Clyde Bruckman, an insurance salesman, knows so many details about the crimes that Scully suspects he is the killer. Mulder however believes that Clyde Bruckman has psychic abilities and is divining the information that way. Peter Boyle as Bruckman is outstanding.

3. War of the Coprophages, Production Code: 3×12 Funny and weird.

screenshot76Mulder travels to Millers Grove, Massachusetts to investigate reports of UFO sightings in the area. It turns out that the town is suffering from a cockroach invasion, and that these cockroaches have been attacking and killing people. Mulder confers with Scully by phone, she is skeptical of killer cockroaches. In each case Scully has an explanation, the exterminator was allergic to cockroaches and died of anaphylactic shock, the teenage boy was using drugs and suffered from Ekbom Syndrome, a drug induced delusion of insects invading the body causing the sufferer to try to cut them out. And the medical examiner died of an aneurysm while on the toilet. Then Mulder catches one of the cockroaches and discovers it has a metal body.

4. Jose Chung’s From Outer Space, Production Code: 3×20 Funny and weird. 

screenshot12Guest Stars: Charles Nelson Reilly and Jess Ventura.

Fabulous … this may be the best episode of all! Funny and weird like a nightmare. Renowned writer Jose Chung, doing research for his book on alien abductions, interviews Dana Scully, who relates to him the case of a teenage couple, Chrissy Giorgio and Harold Lamb, who claim to have been abducted while on a date in Klass County. The only problem is, the victims and witnesses all have different versions of the events that took place. From Chrissy’s first belief that she had been a victim of date rape, to the re-appearance of Harold with his tale of alien abduction. Jesse Ventura and Alex Trebek as Men In Black is a great cameo, and the casting of Charles Nelson Reilly is absolutely brilliant. But the scene with Mulder in the diner eating plate after plate of slices of pie is true magic.

Feels like the best lost episode of Twin Peaks.

5. Home, Production Code: 4×03: Monumentally CREEPY and disturbing!

the-x-files-home-138888A baby is found buried alive in shallow ground and appears to have birth defects resulting from generations of inbreeding, leading Mulder and Scully to a reclusive family who have a history of inbred children. You will also never listen to Johnny Mathis again and feel comfortable. Truly great!

This episode was so disturbing FOX only aired it on network TV twice.

6. Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man, Production Code: 4×07: Important and compelling.

A Lone Gunmen episode AND a Smoking Man episode all rolled into one! william-b-daviesAn important episode in the X-Files mythology.

Frohike (one of the Lone Gunmen) pieces together and recites to Mulder and Scully what could be the possible life story of the Cigarette Smoking Man; from a young captain in the US Army recruited to assassinate President Kennedy, to becoming the mysterious man in the shadows at the height of a global conspiracy. What measures will the SM take to ensure that he remains a mystery forever?

7. Small Potatoes, Production Code: 4×20: Hilarious and sweet.


Five babies in the same town are all born with tails and the local OB-GYN is blamed for tampering with fertilised eggs. However, Mulder discovers the culprit to be a simple man with a genetic deformity who may have the ability to alter his appearance.

8. Unusual Suspects, Production Code: 5X01: Funny and Important.

x files - lone gunmen

Funny as hell and important to the mythos. In this flashback episode, Mulder meets a straight-laced federal employee, a sex mad AV expert and a nerdy computer hacker who become known as the Lone Gunmen. They bond together to help Susanne Modeski, a strange woman with evidence of a government conspiracy. When their plan to expose the conspiracy fails and Susanne is captured by a group of men-in-black, they soon become a paranoid group of government watchdogs.

9. The Post-Modern Prometheus, Production Code: 5×06: Sweet, odd and sad.


Filmed in glorious black and white with a comic book feel to it, this is a modern retelling of Frankenstein as Mulder and Scully get caught up in a town where the residents live on Jerry Springer episodes and fear a two-faced monster who has been impregnating the women.

10. Bad Blood, Production Code: 5×12: Funny and scary!

Guest star: Luke Wilson.


Another episode that shows different people’s viewpoints of the same story. After Mulder chases down and kills a young man whom he believes to be a vampire, Scully realizes that his fangs are fake. The agents then return to DC, aware of the mistake they just made.

Faced with a lawsuit from the family of the man, they recount each of their sides to the story leading up to the event. Luke Wilson plays the sheriff with the hots for Scully, or maybe not, depending on who is telling the story.

11. Triangle, Production Code: 6×03. Exciting and Romantic


Mulder goes to the Bermuda Triangle when he learns that the Queen Anne, a British luxury liner which disappeared during WWII, has re-appeared in the middle of the Sargasso Sea. Mulder’s boat is wrecked and after floating in the water, he is hauled aboard the ship which has just been hijacked by the Nazis searching for the man who will build the atom bomb. Mulder tries to convince the crew that they have traveled into the future but evidence further suggests that it is he, who is back in the past.

Mulder plants a REAL kiss on Scully in the time warp, knowing she will not remember in the real timeline.

12. Dreamland (1) Dreamland II (2), Production Code: 6×04. Mysterious and hilarious.

Guest star: Michael McKean.

dreamland One of the best! While being detained near the famed “Dreamland” Area 51, a strange craft flies overhead and Mulder swaps bodies with an Area 51 ‘Man-in-Black’. While the other agent has fun in Mulder’s body (seducing Skinner’s secretary and putting the moves on Scully), Mulder himself finds it difficult to fit into someone else’s life, especially a shadowy one. Mulder contacts Scully about the body-swap and tries to get her the Flight Data Recorder from the UFO test flight but his alter ego uses Mulder’s FBI persona to have him arrested.

Mulder is thrown in jail at the Area 51 compound but is released when it is discovered that the flight data recorder he stole was a fake. Scully comes to her senses and realizes that the Mulder she sees isn’t who he really is and heads back to Nevada to help the real Mulder. Meanwhile, the mechanism that caused the body swap is rapidly snapping back, undoing everything in its wake and Mulder and his alter ego must race to put themselves back where they belong.

13. Rain King, Production Code:6×07. Romantic, Sweet and funny. 

Guest Star: Victoria Jackson.

rain king Mulder persuades Scully to join him in an investigation in Kroner, Kansas after being asked by the local Mayor, who believes that the drought they have been suffering from for the past nine months is caused by Daryl Moots. Following an argument with his fiancee Shelia, Daryl lost his leg in a car accident six months earlier, ever since then he has been able to make it rain at will.

They go to Rain King Inc’s office and meet Daryl’s secretary, she cannot understand why Mulder and Scully are investigating Daryl who is just trying to help people.. Mulder and Scully go to a local farm where Daryl is due to make it rain. When Daryl arrives he claims not to know how he does it, but after a little dancing around, there is a clap of thunder and it starts to pour with rain. That night Mulder is nearly killed by a cow picked up by the wind and dropped in to his hotel room. Next morning Shelia claims to be responsible for the weather. Mulder doubts that she is the one controlling the weather but does believe that she is the key to the case as suspicions focus in on the local weatherman and his unrequited love for Shelia.

14. How The Ghosts Stole Christmas, Production Code: 6×08. Funny and creepy.

Guest Stars: Edward Asner and Lily Tomlin.


Funny and creepy at the same time.Mulder talks Scully into investigating a haunted house on Christmas Eve where several couples have met their fate on that very night. While there they encounter endless tricks and traps set by a ghostly couple who originally made a lovers suicide pact in the house. The ghosts try to convince Mulder and Scully to kill each other.

15. Arcadia, Production Code: 6×13. Hilarious!


In their first official case back on the X-Files, Mulder and Scully go undercover as a married couple at a prestigious planned community where several residents have recently disappeared after failing to comply with the rules and regulations.

A great comic gem.

16. The Unnatural, Production Code: 6×20. Intriguing and thought-provoking

Great! One of the best!

xfiles-the-unnatural-david-duchovny-005It is Saturday afternoon and Mulder is in the X-files basement office leafing through New Mexico newspaper obituaries from the 1940’s looking for anomalies, much to Scully’s dismay on such a beautiful afternoon. But Mulder stumbles across a newspaper picture of agent Arthur Dales with a Negro baseball player and the alien bounty hunter.

Ripping the page from the book, Mulder leaves the office and goes to Dales’ apartment, only to discover that Dales brother, also named Arthur has taken over the apartment. But when he shows the photo to Dales, it turns out that the photo is of him not his brother. In June 1947 Dales was a police office in Roswell, assigned to protect a Negro baseball star Josh Exley from membersof the Klu Klux Klan, bent on keeping baseball white.

Exley played for a Negro team called the Roswell Greys and had hit 60 home runs in the season matching Babe Ruth’s record, and so was being scouted for the major leagues. Only Exley does not want to play for the major leagues, he is quite content to stay where he is and play baseball for the Roswell Greys. Only Dale claims this was because Exley was actually a grey alien who had fallen in love with the game of baseball and that was the reason he did not want to play in the major leagues as reporters would dig in to his background and reveal the truth. A fear shared by Exley’s fellow aliens who send the alien bounty hunter to deal with the problem in his own unique fashion.

17. Improbable, Production Code: 9×14. Weird and slyly funny.

Guest Star: Burt Reynolds


When Reyes uses numerology to connect the murders of several women to an obsessed serial killer, she and Scully become trapped with a mysterious checker-playing man who may or may not be the killer. The question then becomes who is going to be the next victim. Burt Reynolds is very effective as the checker-playing man who may (or may NOT) be Satan.

Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith: A Review

jp-1-editAll-in-all, a well done autobiography of Joe Perry. Gives you a pretty good behind-the-scenes of the formation of Aerosmith and it’s career, ups and downs.

As is almost the case of these books, it’s more about the personal life of Perry with not enough emphasis on the music-making process. The main drawback of these bios is the tediousness of the the drug addiction stories. At this point, we’ve read enough and heard enough about famous musicians’ demons, that, although, it is part of the story, it’s the most uninteresting part. Being told and illustrated that Steven Tyler is a self-centered douch-bag is also not breaking news.

However, the book is filled with dozens of great stories and nuggets that more than make the book worth reading. The revelation of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane story was worth the entire book! 

4 palmettos

Great Mischief: A Review

Great Mischief is a perfectly creepy little book that unfortunately is out of print. I had to buy it used on Amazon.

great_mischief_a_novel_by_josephine_pinckney_book_of_the_month_1948_28ac2b2eThe year is 1895, and much of sleepy little Charleston is still lit by gas. Timothy Partridge operates a rundown apothecary shop, where things have’t really changed much since the glory days of Romeo and Juliet; drugs are still hanging from nails on the walls, such as bat wings, hummingbird feathers and strange, fiery potions. Timothy is supporting his shrewish sister Penelope and has a roguish best friend, the drunken doctor Golightly, who is always encouraging Tim to live a little, stop being such a fussbudget, One creepy stormy evening a young woman enters, dashing into the shop in an urgent, insistent plea for some solanum. Tim knows instantly there’s something “off” about the girl, but he has no idea that she’s actually a witch from hell, who will intertwine herself to his life and change it–forever.

Josephine Pinckney was a novelist and poet and part of the literary revival of the American South after World War I. Her first best-selling novel was the social comedy,Three O’clock Dinner (1945).She was born in Charleston on January 25, 1895 to Thomas Pinkney and Camilla Scott. She attended Ashley Hall School and established a literary magazine there, graduating in 1912. She then attended the College of Charleston, Radcliffe College, and Columbia University, and held an honorary degree from the College of Charleston, given 1935. She received the Southern Authors Award in 1946.

Josephine Pinckney

Josephine Pinckney

As a poet, novelist, and essayist, Pinckney was an active participant in the “Charleston Renaissance.” In 1920, she co-founded the Poetry Society of South Carolina. She was involved in institutions such as the Charleston Museum and Dock Street Theatre and was an early proponent of the historic preservation of Charleston. She was an active member of the Society for the Preservation of Spirituals, which transcribed and annotated African American songs. 

She died October 4, 1957, and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

Charleston: America’s Most Popular Dance

Runnin-Wild-ProgramOn October 29th, 1923, a black musical named Runnin’ Wild opened on Broadway, with songs by James P. Johnson and Cecil Mack. The first act of the show ended with the song “Charleston.” Elizabeth Welsh, as the character of Ruth Little in the show, performed the dance with chorus boys called the “Dancing Redcaps.” Elida Webb, the choreographer, claimed to have invented the dance, which, of course, was not true.

The dance called the Charleston has deep roots that trace back to the Ashanti tribe from the Gold Coast of Africa. As those Africans were enslaved and brought into America, many of their tribal customs were passed down through generations living on South Carolina low country plantations along the coast. By the turn of the 20th century hundreds of thousands of emancipated slaves, called “geechie” – slang for people from the low country, had moved to Chicago and New York for economic opportunity. Their syncopated minstrel-style music of the 1890s became ragtime, blues and ultimately, jazz. The Jenkins Orphanage Band of Charleston performed on the streets of Harlem during the first decade of the 20th century and the description of their dance steps sounds very much like the modern-day Charleston.

In fact, the composer of the song “Charleston,” James P. Johnson, talked about his inspiration for the song.

The people who came to The Jungle Casino [Harlem] were mostly from around Charleston, S.C. They picked their [dance] partners with care that would give them a chance to get off. It was while playing for these Southern dancers that I composed a number of Charlestons, eight of them, all with the same dance rhythm. One of these later became my famous ‘Charleston’ when it hit Broadway.”

 Another Harlem piano player, Willie “the Lion” Smith recalled that“the kids from the Jenkins Orphanage Band of Charleston used to do Geechie steps when they were in New York on their yearly tour.”  What cannot be denied is that by the end of 1923 everybody in America was doing the Charleston.

Nothing else epitomizes the spirit and joyous exuberance of the 1920s as the Charleston. Other dance crazes have had their fifteen minutes of fame: the Waltz, the Tango, the Hokey-pokey, the Twist, the Hustle, the Macarena, and even Break dancing. None of them, however, managed to influence and infect an entire generation so thoroughly the way the Charleston did. Almost 100 years later, the image of the Jazz Age is always a Flapper doing the Charleston. No other American decade can be so neatly summed up in one simple image.

 Tin Pan Alley songwriters in New York quickly turned out hundreds of “Charleston” songs. Charleston contests became a regular part of Dance halls and hotels everywhere, from big cities to small towns. One of the most famous scenes in American cinema is the Charleston dancing contest in It’s A Wonderful Life with James Stewart and Donna Reed falling into the swimming pool as the dance floor opens up. Hospitals across America began to admit patients complaining of “Charleston knee.”

Many non-dancing jobs of the day required black employees to be competent to dance or teach the Charleston in order to be hired. There were hundreds of advertisements in the New York papers looking for a waiter, a maid, a cook, or a gardener with the stipulation: “Must be able to Charleston!”

 16b. Charleston - Churns You Up - 28 March 1926However, not everyone was infected with Charleston fever. In London, sixty teachers of ballroom dancing were taught the “Charleston” in July 1925 and pronounced it “vulgar.” That is, until the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, learned it and performed it very skillfully in public. The Vicar of St. Aidan’s however, thought that “any lover of the beautiful will die rather than be associated with the Charleston. It is neurotic! It is rotten! It stinks! Phew, open the windows!”

In 1925, tragedy struck. The press found a physician in Seneca, Kansas, who claimed that “pretty Evelyn Myers,” age 17, had died of peritonitis brought on by dancing the Charleston too violently.Variety Magazine reported that in Boston, the vibrations of Charleston dancers were so strong that it caused the Pickwick Club to collapse, killing fifty of its patrons. The headline screamed:


pickwick club_filtered

 More than 200 people – police, fireman and volunteers – worked for twenty hours digging through the rubble of the building to free the trapped victims. Following the catastrophe, the Boston mayor’s office issued an edict banning the Charleston from public dance-halls. Other cities followed suit, banning the dancing of the Charleston for safety reasons, but nothing could stop the Charleston stampede. The more the authorities preached against it, the more popular the Charleston became.

 Mayor Frank Borden, Jr, of Bradley Beach, New Jersey, outlawed the dance from the city-owned ballroom. He cited “broken shins” as his reason. “I have no objection to a person dancing their feet and head off, but I think it best that they keep away from the Charleston.” Richard Zober of Passaic, New Jersey also banned the Charleston in his town. “I think it would be safer and better for all concerned,” he said. An article syndicated by the International Feature Service read: 

“From coast to coast the ‘Charleston’ has caught the country swaying to its curious rhythm. No dance, since jazz first came into vogue, has created such a furor. Enthusiasts ecstatically stamp to its syncopated measures, while others, equally in earnest, denounce it. But the controversy that is carried on everywhere concerning this latest mania has failed to stem its tide of popularity. America is “Charleston” mad!” 

Emil Coleman, a famous orchestra leader, declared that the “Charleston” is “the most characteristically American of any of the modern dances whose peculiar accent in time is the musical expression of the native (black) temperament.” One female evangelist in Oregon called the Charleston “the first and easiest step toward hell.”

Some dance ballrooms gave up trying to discourage the frenetic Charleston all together and just posted large signs on the dance floor that read: PCQ – PLEASE CHARLESTON QUIETLY! 


Trigger Burke In Charleston

The Great Brinks Robbery 

At approximately 7 p.m. on January 17, 1950, seven armed men walked into the Prince Street entrance of the Brinks Building in Boston. Each man was carrying a pistol, wearing a Navy-type P-coat, chauffeur’s cap and wearing a Halloween-type mask. Each carried a pair of gloves. One man, Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe wore crepe-soled shoes to muffle his footsteps; the other men wore rubber boots.

The men quickly entered the Brinks building and donned their masks. Within half an hour the seven men had looted the premises of $1.2 million in cash and $1.5 million in checks, money orders and other securities. By prior agreement the seven men handed their stolen money over to a Mafia syndicate for safekeeping. Their agreement was to not touch the money for at least seven years – when the statute of limitations for the crime would have passed. The seven men scattered.

It was the largest bank robbery in the United States at the time and came to be known as the Great Brinks Robbery. It took the FBI six years to crack the case. Two motion pictures and countless books have been written about the robbery and its aftermath. What is not well known, however, is Charleston’s connection with the Great Brinks Robbery and some of the mobsters who ended up living down South.


Soon after the robbery, the police were hot on the trail of every known crook and thief in Boston. Some of the early suspects included Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe, Henry Baker, Anthony Pino, Joseph McGinnis and Stanley Gusciroa. Six months after the Brinks job, O’Keefe was arrested in Pennsylvania. The police discovered stolen merchandise in his car, unrelated to the Brinks job. O’Keefe was sentenced to three years in the Bradford (MA.) County Jail for robbery. During O’Keefe’s confinement law enforcement officials keep hearing rumors that O’Keefe was putting pressure on the Boston mob to release his take of the Brinks money in order to pay for his legal problems in Bradford County. The FBI began to put pressure on O’Keefe, hoping he would rat out the Brinks gang. O’Keefe steadfastly denied any knowledge of the Brinks robbery. In fact, in December of 1952, almost three years after the Brinks job, a federal grand jury held hearings and issued a report that there was insufficient evidence to indict anyone for the Brinks robbery. The FBI was more frustrated than ever. 

O’Keefe finished his sentence in Bradford County and he was taken to McKean County to stand trial for burglary and receiving stolen goods. He was released on $17,000 bond. While free, O’Keefe continued his efforts to get his Brinks money. He was becoming bitter toward some of his partners and feared he may never get his money. On June 5, 1954, O’Keefe was driving in Dorchester, Massachusetts when another automobile pulled along side. Immediately suspicious, O’Keefe crouched down low in the front seat just as several bullets shattered his windshield.

 On June 14, O’Keefe paid a visit to Henry Baker, one of the Brinks partners. Baker was getting nervous about O’Keefe’s constant visits. Baker pulled a pistol and shots were exchanged between the two men, but no one was injured.

Two days later, O’Keefe was attacked in his neighborhood, a quiet housing complex off Victory Road. A slender man carrying a machine gun sprayed bullets at O’Keefe, who took off running. For the next half hour, the shooter chased O’Keefe around the neighborhood, over fences, through back yards and alleys, with the machine blasts peppering buildings and trees. When the police sirens finally began to wail in the distance, the shooter fled, leaving O’Keefe lying on the ground, bleeding. He had been shot in the chest and arm, but he was still alive. At the scene the police discovered a lot of blood, a man’s shattered wrist watch and a .45 caliber pistol. They also discovered five bullets lodged in a nearby building. 

On September 9, 2003, Thomas F. Mulvoy, Jr., of the Boston Globe staff, reminisced about the event.

I was eleven years old at the time and living five streets away from Victory Road. I remember well walking down to Victory Road the next day after reading as many newspapers as I could. With scores of other curious onlookers, I tried to come to grips with the awesome shootout that had made our quiet neighborhood temporarily notorious.

 On June 17, 1954, eight days after the shootout, Boston patrolman Frank Crawford arrested Elmer Francis “Trigger” Burke in the exclusive Back Bay section of the city and charged him with possession of a machine gun. This machine gun was quickly identified as having been used in the attempt on O’Keefe’s life. Police assumed that Burke, a professional killer, had been hired by underworld associates to assassinate O’Keefe.

After being wounded in the shootout, O”Keefe disappeared for seven weeks. He was arrested on August 1 at Leicester, Massachusetts and turned over to Boston police for violating parole on a gun-carrying charge. Remarkably, O’Keefe swore out a complaint against Trigger Burke for attempted murder!

Elmer Francis “Trigger” Burke – Machine Gun For Hire  

Elmer Francis “Trigger” Burke was raised in New York by his brother Charlie, who had taken over care of the family after the death of their parents. Soon the two brothers were committing petty robberies in their neighborhood. Trigger was sent to reform school in 1941, but his sentence was reduced when he joined the army. He served in Italy during World War II, became an Army Ranger and became proficient in the use of a machine gun. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the American Theatre and Europe-Africa-Middle Eastern ribbons with three battle stars. Most ironically, Trigger also won the Good Conduct Medal. After the war he returned to New York and during the late 1940s Trigger became a busy hit man for hire, specializing in machine gun killings. He hated his given name, Elmer Francis, and preferred his nickname, “Trigger.”

31 Aug 1954 --- Original caption: The three-day manhunt for Elmer "Trigger" Burke, a New York gunman who broke out of a Boston jail in broad daylight, has extended as far south as Philadelphia, with police in East Coast cities ordered to "shoot to kill." From Massachusetts to the Pennsylvania city, F.B.I. agents and police are seeking clues to the whereabouts of Burke, who is wanted in New York in connection with at least four slayings. Burke had been jailed in Boston after an alleged attempt at machine-gunning Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe, a one-time prime suspect in the unsolved $2,219,000 Brink's holdup. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Elmer Francis “Trigger” Burke. Aug. 31, 1954

In 1946, Trigger was arrested for robbing a liquor store. He was arrested by police while sitting in the car outside the store counting the loot. He was sentenced to two years in Sing Sing Prison.

   During Trigger’s stay in Sing Sing, his brother, Charlie, was killed during a mob gun battle. Trigger swore vengeance for his brother’s death, even though no one ever knew who the killer was. It did not matter to Trigger. Upon his release from Sing Sing, Trigger hunted down the man he suspected of killing Charlie and with a double-barreled shot gun shot the man point blank in the back of the head. With his personal business concluded Trigger went back into the killer-for-hire business. His standard fee for a mob hit was $1000. Trigger soon became known for his efficiency and utter lack of compassion. He also became known for his volcanic temper.

   One night in a New York tavern, Trigger got into an argument with another man. Within a few moments Trigger had beat the man to the floor and was kicking him repeatedly in the head with his boot. The bartender, Edward “Poochy” Walsh stepped in and stopped the fight. Poochy ordered Burke out of the bar.

    “If he’s not dead yet, he might as well be,” Poochy told Trigger. “Now, get outta here!”

    Trigger went outside and smoked a cigarette. Ten minutes later he walked back in the tavern, pulled out a pistol and shot Poochy Walsh in the face twice. He then stepped around the bar and shot the already-dead Poochy again in the face. “He shoulda minded his own bidness,” Trigger told the stunned crowd, and then he calmly strolled out.

   In 1954, the mob hired Trigger to go to Boston and kill Specs O’Keefe before he ratted out the Brinks Robbery gang. After the Victory Road shooting spree Trigger did not leave town. Under the assumption he had killed O’Keefe, Trigger spent the next few days viewing the historic sites: Bunker Hill, the Old North Church and Paul Revere’s house. When he was arrested Trigger was touring the mansions of Back Bay, with the machine gun hidden beneath his jacket.  

    He was held in Suffolk County jail, but on the afternoon of August 28, Trigger escaped. During the regular exercise period, Trigger walked away from the rest of the prisoners toward a heavy steel door that lead to the solitary confinement section. A guard hollered for him to stop, and Trigger began to run. The steel door opened and a masked gunman wearing a prison guard uniform ordered the guard to “Back up, or I’ll blow ya brains out!” Trigger and the gunman fled through the door and escaped in a nearby parked automobile.

    The automobile was later traced to Anthony Pino, one of the original Brinks gang. Police questioned Pino, but he denied any knowledge of Trigger’s escape.   

Trigger Comes South  

Less than a week later Trigger arrived in Charleston and began to look for rental property on the Isle of Palms. During the search for a rental Trigger was accompanied by Thomas “Duke” Connelly, Jr. Connelly had been the getaway driver in the $305,000 robbery of the Woodside branch of the Chase Manhattan bank in Queens, New York. Connelly had made it onto the FBI’s Most Wanted List and he had chosen the Isle of Palms as an out-the-way hiding place in which to spend his share of the $90,000 loot.

  The two men were driving the car of Isaac “Issy” Sabel, a Charleston nightclub owner with New York mob ties, and famous for his Manischevitz Popsicles. As they made their real estate rounds the two men introduced themselves as “friends of Mr. Sabel” and told one agent that “money was no object.” Connelly rented a house under the alias “Mr. Kelly”, using Issy Sabel’s name as a reference, and they moved in with Connelly’s wife, Ann, and their two small children. Trigger and Duke quickly became familiar faces on the Isle of Palms.

    For several months, Trigger and Duke lived the good life – spending their money, fishing, swimming, and boating. The two men even joined the YMCA Health Club where they mingled with the mayor, policemen and other city officials like Judge Ashton Williams. They also spent many evenings hanging out in Issy Sable’s nightclub on Market Street, drinking and being entertained by Issy’s girls. 


Berlins at Broad and King Streets, Charleston

When Trigger mentioned he wanted new clothes Issy sent them to the best store in Charleston, Berlin’s Mens Wear on King Street. Henry Berlin personally outfitted the two mobsters with the best suits, shirts and other attire. When it came time to purchase the shoes Trigger told Mr. Berlin he wore a size 9. Mr. Berlin protested. “A big man like you must have a larger foot.” With an icy glare, Trigger told Berlin he wore a size 9. Months later, talking with the FBI, Henry Berlin related the shoe story. The FBI agent told Mr. Berlin he was lucky. Trigger had been known to kill people for less provocation – like bartender Poochy Walsh.

    On June 27, 1955, Duke Connelly and his family vanished. A month later the two children were discovered abandoned – one in Wilmington, Delaware, and the other in Baltimore, Maryland. No one ever saw Duke or his wife again. Local rumor persisted that Trigger had discovered where Duke was hiding his $90,000 and decided to make some easy money for himself. There was also a rumor that the money was never recovered and for years afterward, people would dig thousands of holes on the island looking for Duke’s money.

Trigger and the Edge of America 

In July, under the name of “Mr. Dean”, Trigger rented a cottage on Folly Beach, at 109 Erie Avenue, diagonally across the street from the Folly Beach police department. Unbeknownst to Trigger, on the next block was the beach house of the Charleston Police chief of detectives and the home of the former county police commissioner. He hired a local black woman, Annabelle Richardson, to keep house for him. She claimed Trigger told her he was from New York and was living in Folly Beach as he recovered from an operation. Annabelle described him as an “avid television fan and a frequent reader of local newspapers and ‘gentlemen’ magazines.” Annabelle later told the FBI that she noticed her boss always kept the doors and windows locked, even during the middle of summer.

   Trigger became a familiar face on the Island, taking afternoon strolls along the beach and boulevard. He made a lot of purchases in town, always paying cash. He bought a 21-inch screen floor model television, a new washing machine, and electric fan and wall clock. Trigger even donated 50 cents to the Jr. Deputies League when they knocked on his door collecting money. 

    On August 27, 1955, Trigger walked into a trap set by the FBI. Local law enforcement had become mildly suspicious of Trigger and finally identified him through an FBI wanted poster. They began a round-the-clock stakeout of his house. He never received mail and the only people who ever visited were the housekeeper, Annabelle, and a “nice-looking blonde of about 26-years old.” When he took his usual afternoon stroll he was met at the corner of Erie and Center Streets. A car pulled up and several FBI agents leaped out, armed with machine guns.  “We’re from the FBI! Are you Elmer Francis Burke?”

   Trigger said, “Yes, I am.” He offered no resistance when he was taken into custody. When agents searched his house they discovered two .38 caliber pistols and two .22 caliber rifles, one equipped with telescopic sights. Agents described his appearance as casually attired with well-manicured fingernails and “deeply tanned.”  

trigger mug

   He refused extradition to New York so a hearing was scheduled in Charleston, presided over by Judge Ashton H. Williams. Williams said he recognized Trigger the moment he was brought into his courtroom. The judge’s Isle of Palms house was three doors down from Duke Connelly’s and he had often talked with Trigger and Duke at the YMCA Health Club.

01 Sep 1955, Manhattan, New York City, New York State, USA --- Original caption: New York: Gunman Elmer "Trigger" Burke, who was returned to New York September 1st to face federal charges of fleeing to avoid prosecution after being captured last week in Charleston, North Carolina, leaves the federal courthouse in Foley Square under heavy guard after being turned over to city police by the federal authorities. Burke faces New York state charges of murder. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Trigger Burke, extradited back to New York,  Sept. 01, 1955

   After the hearing Henry Berlin lamented that no one ever mentioned how good Trigger looked in his fine suit and shoes (the wrong size) from Berlin’s Men’s Wear.

   During his trial in New York Trigger was questioned about the whereabouts of Duke Connelly and his wife, Anne.

  •    Q (N.Y. District Attorney) – Were the Connellys with you at the Folly Beach cottage?
  •    A (Trigger) – I refuse to answer.
  •    Q – What happened to the Connellys and their two children?
  •    A – I refuse to answer.
  •    Q – Who gave you the money to live?
  •    A – I refuse to answer.

Trigger was found guilty of the murder of the bartender Edward “Poochy” Walsh, and given the death penalty. On January 8, 1958, he was executed at Sing Sing prison. Before his execution a reporter asked him why he robbed banks and murdered people. Trigger replied, “That’s where the money is.

  Specs O’Keefe, the man Trigger was supposed to rub out, was sentenced on August 5, 1954, to serve 27 months in prison on a probation violation. As a protective measure, he was incarcerated in the Hampden County Jail in Springfield, Massachusetts, rather than the Suffolk County Jail in Boston. During his incarceration, with eleven days before the statute of limitations was due to run out for the crime, O’Keefe began to cooperate with the FBI against the rest of the Brinks Robbery gang. Due to his cooperation his sentence was reduced. After his release O’Keefe was given a new identity and moved to Los Angeles. After his death in 1976, it was revealed that O’Keefe had spent his last few years as a chauffeur for Cary Grant.

 Author’s Note: Ashley Cooper, columnist for the Charleston News and Courier, (more formerly known as Frank Gilbreath, Jr., co-author of the classic memoir Cheaper By the Dozen and longtime Charleston resident), weighed in on the Trigger Burke caper in his own inimitable way with this poetic little ditty.

Charleston beaches long have been a haven

For lovers and tourists and the poet who wrote “The Raven.”

But the shootingest tourist with the meanest quirk

Was a New York gunman named Trigger Burke.

Trigger had a buddy and shot him dead,

Used a pistol to fill him full of lead

Trigger had another buddy, shady as a spook

Name of Connelly, alias the Duke.

Duke and Trigger preyed upon the yanks,

Took their gold and silver and never gave them thanks.

When the cops put out their big alarms,

Trigger brought Duke to the Isle of Palms.

“Don’t fret, buddy,” Trigger said to Duke,

“Only time they caught me, it was only a fluke.

Don’t fret, buddy,” he repeated with a smirk,

“There ain’t no jail can hold Mr. Trigger Burke.”

Duke must have felt he was in the middle.

What happened to Duke is still a riddle.

But Trigger was afraid the Duke would preach

So Trigger moved over to Folly Beach

Lived all alone, in a cement house,

Minded his manners, quiet as a mouse.

And all the time he was grinning like a pixie,

“Ain’t the cops dumb Down South in Dixie?

“Ain’t the cops dumb? And ain’ they hicks?      

Safest place to be is here in the sticks.

Southern coppers? – Well, by golly

They’ll never dream that I’m hidin’ out at Folly.”

But the cops weren’t dumb and that’s no lie.

‘Cause the cops and the sheriff and the FBI

Crept down to folly, there to lurk,

And trapped like a rat Mr. Trigger Burke.

“Put up your hands,” said the FBI.

“Face the wall, Trigger, ‘less you want to die.

Burke, you’ve been acting mighty regal.

Now lie down, Trigger and do the spread eagle!”

Trigger done just like he was told,

Lay down like he was knocked out cold.

But all the time, only one thought lingered,

“I wonder,” he grated, “who had me fingered.”

“Trigger,” said the cops, “it’s sad to tell,

We got to take you now to Seabreeze Hotel.”

He heard those words and Burke turned pale.

‘Cause the Seabreeze Hotel is the county jail.

There’s not much more of the story to report

The cops brought Trig to the Charleston Court.

When reporters too his picture, he didn’t say “thank ye.”

Covered his face with a spotless hankie.

Burke told the judge with a mealy mouth,

“Please, yur honor, can I stay in the South?”

The judge replied with nary a snigger,

“You’ll like it up North, Mr. Convict Trigger.”

They put Mr. Burke on the train “Champeen,”

And he said with a sneer that was almost obscene.

“What happened to me shouldn’t happen to a collie,

When the Southern cops found me hidin’ out in Folly.”

New Verse (by Mark R. Jones)

Back up North locked away in Sing Sing

In a place where no one could take wing.

Freedom did happen and Trigger finally died.

Not scattered, not smothered, but definitely fried.

South Carolina Entertainment and Music Hall of Fame, or Shame?

Why are there no members of the world famous Jenkins Orphanage Band in the South Carolina Entertainment and Music Hall of Fame?

The Hall has such luminaries as Andie McDowell (we watch “Groundhog Day” despite her being in it), Leeza Gibbons (celebrity-news reader) and Vanna White (the only professional letter-turner in the Hall.)  The Hall also counts as members Rob Crosby, Bill Trader and Buddy Brock. You’ll probably have to Google them to discover who they are like I did.

I am not saying that any of these people don’t deserve to be in the Hall, they most likely do. I argue that they are in the Hall to the exclusion of more deserving artists. I would like to nominate several artists currently not in the Hall who influenced and enriched American culture in more significant ways than interviewing celebrities on “Entertainment Tonight” or being eye candy for a game show.

Jenkins Orphanage Band, Author's Collection

Jenkins Orphanage Band, Author’s Collection

From the 1890s to the 1940s the Jenkins Orphanage Band from Charleston traveled across the United States and Europe performing on street corners, on Broadway and for royalty. Rev. Daniel Jenkins operated the Orphan Aid Society (a.k.a. the Jenkins Orphanage) and his best fundraising tool was a boy’s brass band, a kind of minstrel show on the sidewalks in towns up and down the East Coast. Members of the Jenkins Band were instrumental in transforming the music performed during 19th century minstrel shows into blues, ragtime and ultimately, jazz.  My nominees are:

  • Born – April 9, 1894, Charleston, South Carolina. 
  • Died- September 12, 1926, Paris, France.

The son of Rev. Jenkins, Edmund, called “Jenks” by everyone, received private piano lessons in Charleston as a child. He quickly mastered the piano, clarinet and violin. His father insisted that Jenks work as a music instructor for the Jenkins Band and travel with them. Jenks resented having to lead the group of ragamuffin orphans who played-the-fool during their street performances. He felt it was beneath him. He wanted to play serious music.

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

Edmund Thorton Jenkins

In 1910 Jenks enrolled in Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia to study music. Two years later he was forced by his father to leave college in order to accompany the Jenkins Band to London, where it was a featured act at the Anglo-American Expo. When the Expo came to an abrupt close, due to the outbreak of World War I, Jenks convinced his father to pay his tuition to the Royal Academy of London. For seven years Jenks excelled in his studies, winning awards for composition, and becoming a master in several instruments. During his time at the Academy he composed “Charlestonia: A Rhapsody.”

After graduation he moved to Paris where he became one of the most sought after musicians in the most popular Parisian nightclubs. Paris was “jazz mad” in the 1920s and for several years Jenks embraced the glamorous, hedonistic life of Paris. However, in 1925 he began to compose an opera, “Afram” and expanded and orchestrated “Charlestonia: A Rhapsody” which he conducted successfully in Belgium with a full orchestra.  In July 1926, he was admitted to a Parisian hospital for appendicitis. He contracted pneumonia and died on September 12, 1926, cutting short the career of a promising young black composer. He is buried at the Humane Friendly Cemetery in Charleston, SC. 

“Charlestonia” composed by Edmund Thornton Jenkins


  • Born – April 19, 1905, Charleston, West Virginia.
  • Died – March 24, 1994, Mount Vernon, New York
Tommy Benford in 1978

Tommy Benford in 1978

Benford became the Jenkins Orphanage Band’s ace drummer. In 1920 he was playing in New York City and gave drumming lessons to a young wunderkind named Chick Webb. In 1928, he was the drummer for some of the most influential jazz music ever recorded as part of Jelly Roll Morton’s Victor Records sessions.

During the Depression Benford moved to Europe and for the next 30 years recorded hundreds of songs with more than a dozen bands. His most famous recording session was with Coleman Hawkins, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grapelli and Bennie Carter, released as Coleman Hawkin’s All-Stars.

He continued to play music until his death in 1994, a career that spanned seventy years.

  • Born – December 25, 1908, Pembroke, Georgia.  
  • Died, New York City – January 1991.

Raised in the Jenkins Orphanage, Jabbo quickly became one of the best Jenkins Band musicians during the years of 1915-1924. Brash and flamboyant, he was a natural performer.  At age 17 he was playing in New York City at Smalls Paradise, the second most popular club in Harlem (most popular was the Cotton Club.) He became the hottest trumpet player in the city, which at the time was like being the hottest guitar player in the hottest rock and roll band (think Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen.)

Jabbo Smith

Jabbo Smith

In 1927 he recorded one track with the Duke Ellington orchestra (“Black and Tan Fantasy”) filling in for the ailing Bubber Miley. Duke offered him a permanent job with the Ellington Orchestra, which Jabbo turned down because Duke only offered $90 a week, and Smith was making $150 with the Paradise Orchestra.

In 1928-29 Jabbo played with James P. Johnson (composer of the song “Charleston”) and Fats Waller in the Broadway show Keep Shufflin. When the show closed in Chicago Jabbo recorded nineteen historic songs for the Brunswick Record Company that are still considered some of the most influential jazz recordings. They are considered to be the first cool jazz improvisations and be-bop style playing.  Dizzy Gillespie (who is already in the S.C. Entertainment and Music Hall of Fame) once heard Jabbo Smith’s 1929 recordings and stated: “I don’t know who that is, but he invented be-bop!”

By the 1950s Jabbo Smith was out of music, living in Wisconsin. As a swan song, in the 1980s he returned to Broadway in the show One Mo’Time and became the darling of New York for several months. Jabbo is a key link in the development of modern jazz trumpet playing: Louis Armstrong →Jabbo Smith →Roy Eldridge →Dizzy Gillespie→Miles Davis→Wynton Marsalis.

“Lina Blues by Jabbo Smith (trumpet. vocals)

  • Born – March 31, 1911, Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Died – March 1, 1987, Las Vegas,  Nevada.

Freddie Green had the longest job in jazz history, guitar player for the Count Basie Orchestra from 1937 to his death in 1987 – 50 years.

Freddie Green

Freddie Green

As a child Freddie used to sing and dance on the streets of Charleston and became friends with members of the Jenkins Orphanage Band. Though never an orphan, he played with the Band and remained in New York City during their tour in 1932. Five years later he was discovered playing at the Black Cat Club in Harlem and asked to join the Basie Orchestra, forming what became known as the All-American Rhythm section: Basie-piano, Green-guitar, Walter Page-bass, and Jo Jones-drums.

For the next 50 years Freddie Green became the “left hand” of the Basie Orchestra, the spiritual force that held the music together. Across the world he became known “Mr. Rhythm,” the greatest rhythm guitar player in jazz history. He became a composer and arranger for the orchestra and the arbitrator of good music. Byron Stripling, trumpet player for Basie said, “If an arranger comes in and his work is jive, Freddie just shakes his head and it’s all over.”

Green died in Las Vegas after a Basie Orchestra performance ending one of the quietest but most legendary musical careers of the 20th century. Irving Ashby described Freddie Green’s influence on music as:  “Rhythm guitar is like vanilla extract in cake, you can’t taste it when it’s there, but you know when it’s left out.”

“Corner Pocket” by Count Basie Orchestra (written and arranged by Freddie Green, guitar) 

  • Born: September 12, 1916, Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Died – April 29, 1981, Los Angeles, California.

During the 1930s, Anderson became the latest in a line of hot trumpet players in the Jenkins Band. He developed a technique of playing in high registers, two octaves above the rest of the band. It was Anderson’s way of showing off, and getting the girls in the audience to notice him. Wynton Marsalis called Anderson “one of the best” scream trumpet players ever.

Cat Anderson

Cat Anderson

After leaving the Jenkins Band in 1937, Anderson played for several bands, and performed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. During World War Two, Anderson played in a Special Services Army Band, performing for troops across the world.  

In 1945, he joined Lionel Hampton’s Band and then was hired by Duke Ellington. For the next twenty years Anderson became a featured player for the Duke. Ellington re-arranged many of his classic songs to take advantage of Anderson’s talent for “scream” trumpet playing. Anderson is heavily featured in one of the most popular jazz recordings ever, the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival.

Through the 50s, 60s and 70s, while with Ellington, Anderson recorded several solo classic LPs with various Ellington sidemen. 

Cat Anderson, trumpet solo, with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

In conclusion, these five men are some of the most accomplished musicians with South Carolina connections and should have been placed in the Hall of Fame years ago. After all, these men have made enduring contributions to the only original American art form – jazz.  

Today In Charleston History: August 12

1781 – Births

During a 50+ year career as an architect and engineer, Robert Mills left his legacy across the United States.

Robert Mills

Robert Mills

Robert Mills was born in Charlestown on August 12, 1781, during the British occupation of the city. His father was a tailor, respectable and successful but solidly middle class. Mills is often erroneously referred to as America’s first native-born architect, but Charles Bullfinch of Boston, has a clearer claim to that honor.

When Robert Mills was ten years old, President George Washington visited Charleston for seven days. While in the city Washington inspected the almost completed Charleston County Courthouse and was impressed by its young Irish architect, James Hoban of Philadelphia.

During his time in Charleston (1787-1792) Hoban conducted an “evening school, for the instruction of young men in Architecture.” It is often speculated that Mills attended these classes, but there is no documentation of that fact. If not, then due to the quality of his earliest drawings (1802), certainly Mills would have attended similar classes offered to young men in Charleston. Newspapers at the time advertised that M. Depresseville:

Continues to keep his Drawing School, in different Part of Landscapes, with Pencil or Washed, teaches Architecture, and to draw with method; also the necessary acknowledgements for the Plans.  

Another advertisement claimed that Thomas Walker, a stone cutter and mason from Edinburgh:

opened an evening school for teaching the rules of Architecture from seven to nine in the evening (four nights a week)

In 1800, at age nineteen, Mills moved to Washington, D.C. and was hired by James Hoban. The Irish architect who had so impressed George Washington in Charleston, had won the design competition of the President’s Palace – the White House. In December 1800 Mills was “pursuing studies in the office of the architect of the President’s House.”

Under Hoban, who was also at the same time supervising the construction of the Capital, Mills served as an apprentice or assistant and spent most of his time drawing and sketching wainscot, staircases and doorways, and learning the more rudimentary skills of construction – labor and material management. During the next two years Mills was exposed to more building and design than he could have in any place in America.

Mills also befriended Thomas Jefferson during this time and wrote that Jefferson “offered me the use of his library.” He also wanted drawings of his home, Monticello and he “engaged Mr. Mills to make out drawings of the general plan and elevation of the building.”         

In 1802, Mills submitted designs for the proposed South Carolina College and won the $300 prize, even though none of his designs were ever used. He then spent eight years working for Benjamin Latrobe who had been appointed Surveyor of Public Buildings by President Thomas Jefferson.

Mills wrote that Latrobe was:

Engaged upon the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal and as an architect of the Capitol at Washington, at which time I entered his office as a student under the advice and recommendation of Mr. Jefferson, then President of the United States.

Latrobe later described Mills as possessing:

that valuable substitute for genius – laborious precision – in a very high degree, and is therefore very useful to me, though his professional education has been hitherfor much misdirected.

During this time Mills also submitted plans for two Charleston churches, an alteration of St. Michael’s (never implemented) and a design for the Congregational Church. Dr. David Ramsay presented the idea of a round church in 1803 saying his “wife suggested the idea and sketched a plan.” In February 1804 the church’s building committee thanked Mills:

for his ingenious and elegant drawings which had essentially assisted the Members and Supporters in forming a correct opinion of the form and plan of their proposed building.

Mills plans called for a rotunda eighty-eight feet in diameter and thirty-three feet high, covered by a hemispherical Delorme made of wood and sheathed in copper, capped by a large cupola. His design for the church was severely altered when the church was constructed in 1806, much to Mills’ displeasure

circular ruins 2

Ruins of the Circular Congregational Church, Charleston, circa 1880s. Photograph shows the damage from the 1861 fire that ravaged the city. Courtesy Library of Congress.

In 1819 South Carolina established an Internal Improvements Program for the creation of canals, roads and public buildings. With a budge of $1 million spread out over ten years it was the largest public works improvement project per capita of any state in America. Mills was hired as the Acting Commissioner for Public Buildings. His main task was to design (or redesign) courthouses and jails across the state. However, the state legislature had noted the need for fireproof buildings as repositories throughout the state and appropriated $50,000 for the design and construction.

On May 20, 1822, Charleston City Council voted to pay Mills $200 for a fireproof building on the square behind City Hall to be used for county records. Mills envisioned the building as part of a public square which embraced the park (later named Washington Park), City Hall, the County Courthouse and a proposed Federal courthouse.

In December 1823 Mills lost his post as Superintendent of Public Buildings but was appointed as one of four “Commissioners for completing Fire Proof Buildings.” He was also appointed Commissioner of Public Buildings for Charleston District, even though he was living in the state capital, Columbia.

Throughout 1825-26, under the supervision of contractor John Spindle, the construction of the Fireproof Building continued. All materials were non-flammable – granite, brownstone, flagstone, brick, metal and copper. On December 11, 1826, it was finished and “ready for occupancy.” Final cost of the project was $53,803.81.


Bottom: Fireproof Building, Charleston. Courtesy Library of Congress

In 1836, Robert Mills won a private design competition conducted by the Washington National Monument Committee for a permanent memorial to George Washington in the nation’s capital. His original design called for a 600-foot-tall square shaft rising from a Greco-Roman circular colonnade of thirty Doric columns, 45 feet high and 12 feet in diameter.

By the time the cornerstone was laid on July 4, 1848, the design of the monument had changed considerably to the more stream-lined, elegant structure that is one of the most famous landmarks in the United States. 

washington monument - design and completed

Mills died on March 3, 1855 with more than 50 projects to his credit, which include more than thirty county courthouses and jail buildings in South Carolina. Some of Mills’ most important projects include: 


  • Circular Congregational Church, Charleston, S.C.


  • South Carolina Penitentiary, Columbia, S.C.


  • Franklin Row, Philadelphia, Pa
  • State House (Independence Hall) Wings, Philadelphia, Pa.


  • First Unitarian (Octagon) Church, Philadelphia, Pa


  • Washington Monument, Baltimore, Md.


  • Winchester Monument, Baltimore, Md.
  • First Baptist Church, Baltimore, Md.


  • John’s Episcopal Church, Baltimore, Md.


  • First Baptist Church, Charleston S.C.


  • Colleton County Courthouse; Colleton County Jail, Walterboro, S.C.
  • Columbia Canal, Columbia, S.C.


  • Charleston County Jail (addition), Charleston, S.C.
  • County Records Office – Fireproof Building, Charleston, S.C.
  • Powder Magazine Complex, Charleston, S.C.
  • South Carolina Asylum, Columbia, S.C


  • Horry County Courthouse and Jail, Conway, S.C.
  • Union County Courthouse, Union, S.C.


  • Peter’s Church, Columbia, S.C.
  • Maxcy Monument, Columbia, S.C.


  • Atlas of the State of South Carolina
  • Edgefield County Courthouse, Edgefield, S.C.


  • Elevated railroad, Washington, D.C. to New Orleans
  • Newberry County Jail, Newberry, S.C.


  • U.S. Senate (renovation), Washington, D.C.


  • Marine Hospital, Charleston, S.C.
  • Washington Canal, Washington, D.C.


  • Executive Offices and White House (water systems), Washington, D.C.
  • House of Representatives (alterations), Washington, D.C.


  • Customs House, New London, Ct.
  • Customs House, New Bedford, Ma.


  • U.S. Capital (water system), Washington, D.C.


  • U.S. Patent Office, Washington, D.C.
  • South Caroliniana Library, Columbia, S.C.
  • U.S. Treasury Building, Washington, D.C.

patent office - mills


  • Library and Science Building, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.
  • U.S. Post Office, Washington, D.C.


  • Washington National Monument, Washington, D.C.


  • Smithsonian Institution (supervising architect), Washington, D.C.


  • University of Virginia Library (addition, renovation), Charlottesville, Va.
1863 – Civil War. H.L. Hunley Arrives

The Hunley submarine arrived  in Charleston. James McClintock, one of the designers and builders of the Hunley was offered $100,000 ($1.6. million in current currency) to sink either the New Ironsides or the Wabash, two of the Federal ships in the blockade. With a crew of volunteers, the McClintock conducted a week of safe tests in the harbor between Ft. Johnson and Fort Moultrie, away from the eyes of the Federal blockade. Gen. Beauregard quickly became frustrated by McClintock’s caution. He asked that a Confederate Navy man sail on the submarine. When McClintock refused, Beauregard ordered the submarine seized by the Confederate Navy and a crew of volunteers take over its operation.

McClintock was so disgusted he left Charleston.


Sketch of the Hunley at the direction of William Alexander, depicting the interior design, for his 1902 article “Hunley.” Courtesy Naval Historical Center.

August: This Month In South Carolina History – “Swamp Angel Takes Aim At Charleston

Upon surrendering Fort Sumter on April 15, 1861, the United States military developed a methodical campaign designed to regain control of Charleston harbor. In 1863 an attack by Union ironclad ships failed to retake Ft. Sumter, so Union General Quincy Gillmore approved a plan to reduce Charleston with artillery fire. For that purpose, he ordered the construction of a battery in the marsh between Morris and James Islands.

Swamp Angel

Swamp Angel

Swamp Angel

Swamp Angel

During the summer pilings were driven into the marsh to create a parapet, a grillege (crisscrossed logs) laid on top and covered with 13,000 sandbags weighing more than 800 tons. A platform was built on top of the sand bags to support a 16,500-pound gun – an 8-inch Parrot nicknamed the “Swamp Angel.” The Angel was capable of firing 200 pound incendiary shells (authorized by President Lincoln) four to five miles into the city. The shells were filled with “Greek fire,” a mixture used first in 450 BC which included sulphur, petroleum, quicklime, phosphorus, and saltpeter. It was hoped that the “greek fire” would ignite upon explosion and turn Charleston into a “raging inferno.”  The gun was mounted on August 17.

On the evening of August 21-22, 1863, Captain Nathaniel Edwards took compass readings on St Michael’s church steeple in Charleston for nighttime firing.  For the people of the North, Charleston was a legitimate military target, as well as an emotional target. Charleston was the symbol of the Southern rebellion, where secession and the first military action of the War took place. Charleston’s destruction was considered fair retribution.

 On August 21, 1863, Union General Quincy Gillmore wrote a letter to Confederate Gen. P.G.T Beauregard:

“The United States government demands the immediate evacuation of Morris Island and Fort Sumter within four hours of this delivery or I shall open fire upon the city of Charleston.” The note reached Beauregard’s headquarters at 10:45 P.M. Beauregard was not at the headquarters, and since the message was unsigned, it was returned to Gillmore for verification.

At 1:30 A.M the first shot from the Swamp Angel was fired into the city, its shell landed near the present day intersection of Church and Pinckney streets. British war correspondent and illustrator Frank Vizetelly was staying at the Charleston Hotel on Meeting Street. He described the first shot “like the whirr of a phantom brigade of cavalry galloping in mid-air over the hotel and then a deafening explosion in the street. At first I thought a meteor had fallen, but a moment later … there was another whirr and another explosion. The city was being shelled. There were terrified citizens rushing about in the scantiest of costumes.”

The explosion caused panic and pandemonium among the hotel’s guests, whom Vizetelly described as “shady speculators attracted to the auctions of goods recently run through the blockade by unscrupulous characters from whom the Confederacy expects nothing.”

Over the next hour, sixteen shots landed in the city. One of the guests wrote that “We could hear the whiz of shells before they passed over our heads, and I bet the Englishman [Vizetelly] a thousand to one that the next shell would not hit us.”  The resulting flames of the bombardment could be seen by the Union soldiers and the fire alarm bells rang throughout the night.

The next morning Gillmore’s note, now signed, was re-delivered to Beauregard’s headquarters. Beauregard immediately sent back an enraged reply in which he demanded time to evacuate the city’s civilian population. Gillmore gave Beauregard twenty-four hours. 

On August 23 the Swamp Angel resumed firing, shooting dozens of rounds into the city. On the thirty-sixth shot, the Swamp Angel exploded and fell silent forever, but history had been made. The firing of the Swamp Angel was the first documented firing of an artillery piece using a compass reading, and the distance covered by the shells launched into the city was farther than any previous military bombardment. Even without the Angel, the Federal bombardment of Charleston nevertheless continued until February 1865 when Union troops occupied the city. The siege lasted 587 days, the longest suffered by any American city. Charleston was under Federal occupation for the next twelve years.


After the War, the remains of the Swamp Angel were transported to Trenton, New Jersey, where they were used as part of a Civil War Monument. The gun was restored in 1994 where it remains on display in Cadwalader Park. 

Charleston Firsts: America’s 1st Public Golf Course

From the book Charleston Firsts. 

In 1743 David Deas received the first documented shipment of golf equipment to arrive in the American colonies – 432 balls and 96 clubs sent from the Scottish port Leith to Charleston. The sheer number of clubs and balls is intriguing. During this time in Europe most golfers only carried 5-8 clubs with them, so this would have been enough to outfit more than a dozen local players, which would lead to the logical assumption the equipment was for more than just Deas’ use. That would support the idea that there was some sort of organized golfing culture in the lowcountry.

Fifteen years later, Charleston merchant Andrew Johnston returned from trip to Scotland in 1759 with golfing equipment for use on his planation. When he died five years later the inventory of his estate listed “twelve goof [golf] sticks and balls.”


Golfer and caddy, 18th century

On May 28, 1788, an advertisement in the Charleston City Gazette requested that members of the South Carolina Golf Club meet on “Harleston’s Green, this day, the 28th.” After which they adjourned to “Williams’ Coffee House.” Also in 1788 there was an announcement of the formation of the South Carolina Golf Club was also listed in The Southern States Emphemris: The North and South Carolina and Georgia Almanac.

Harleston’s Green was a parcel of undeveloped pastureland on the Charleston peninsula, between Calhoun and Beaufain Streets, stretching from Rutledge Ave to the Ashley River. The Green was often used by locals as a public “pleasure ground” – a park.

In 1795 a newspaper notice announced that “The anniversary of the GOLF CLUB will be held on Saturday next at the Club house on Harleston’s Green.” The last known announcement of a meeting of the South Carolina Golf Club appeared on October 19, 1799.

Some historians suggest that early golf games were played without a set number of holes, no greens and no designated teeing areas. The players dug crude holes in the ground and, since they were not marked, they sent “finders” (in Charleston they were usually slaves) to stand next to the hole to mark its location and to alert others of an approaching shot by hollering “Be forewarned!” After completion of a hole, the player would “tee off at a distance of two club-lengths away from that hole.”

The equipment used by these earlier golfers was rudimentary, to say the least. Wooden clubs were hand-made, some crude and some more refined – many looking like modern day hockey sticks. The golf balls of the 1700s would have been a round piece of cowhide stuffed with goose feathers. Called a “Feathery” they were manufactured while the leather and feathers were wet, so, as the leather shrunk during drying, the feathers expanded to create a hard, compact ball. The Feathery was often painted and sold for as much as 5 shillings – the equivalent of $20 dollars in current currency. At most a Feathery would have lasted two rounds of golf before having to be replaced.

Charleston legend also states, that part of Harleston Green’s membership fee requirement was used to “maintain the Green,” now called “green fees.”

harleston green - 1788 map

Ichnography of Charleston, South-Carolina: at the request of Adam Tunno, Esq., for the use of the Phoenix Fire-Company of London, taken from actual survey, 2d August 1788 / by Edmund Petrie. “Harleston Green” highlight added by the author. Courtesy Library of Congress

BORN TODAY: Countess Elisabeth Bathory – Serial Killer

Bathory was born in Transylvania in 1560 to a distinguished family. One of her    uncles instructed her in Satanism, while her aunt taught her all about sadomasochism. At the age of 15, Bathory was married to Count Nadady, and the couple   settled into Csejthe Castle. To please his wife, her husband reportedly built a torture chamber to her specifications.

Elisabeth Bathory, the Bloody Countess

Elisabeth Bathory, the Bloody Countess

Although the count participated in his wife’s cruelties, he may have also restrained her impulses; when he died in the early 1600s, she became much worse. With the help of her former nurse, Ilona Joo, and local witch Dorotta Szentes, Bathory began abducting peasant girls to torture and kill. She often bit chunks of flesh from her victims, and one unfortunate girl was even forced to cook and eat her own flesh. Bathory reportedly believed that human blood would keep her looking young and healthy.

Since her family headed the local government, Bathory’s crimes were ignored until 1610. But King Matthias finally intervened because Bathory had begun finding victims among the daughters of local nobles.

On December 29, 1610, a garrison of soldiers stormed the Hungarian castle of Cachtice and arrested Elisabeth (Erzsebet) Bathory. According to the surviving testimonials, she and/or her closest servant/confidants:

  • Kept her victims chained up every night so tight their hands turned blue and they spurted blood.
  • Beat them to the point where there was so much blood on the walls and beds that they had to use ashes and cinders to soak it up.
  • Burned her victims with metal sticks, red-hot keys, and coins; ironed the soles of their feet; and stuck burning iron rods into their vaginas.
  • Stabbed them, pricked them in their mouths and fingernails with needles, and cut their hands, lips, and noses with scissors.
  • Stitched their lips and tongues together.
  • Had them stand in tubs of ice water up to their necks outside until they died.
  • Smeared a naked girl with honey and left her outside to be bitten by ants, wasps, bees, and flies.
  • Kept them from eating for a week at a time, and, if they got thirsty, made them drink their own urine.
  • Stuffed five servants’ corpses underneath a bed and continued to feed them as if they were still alive.

In January 1611, Bathory and her cohorts were put on trial for 80 counts of murder. All were convicted, but only Bathory escaped execution. Instead, she was confined to a room of the castle that only had slits for air and food. She survived for three years but was found dead in August 1614.