Saturday, November 30, 2019

Oct-Nov updates

Haven't done a 19 for 2019 update in a couple months. Our entire list for the year is almost done. One of the last big project on that list was getting my Mayflower shirts designed and up for sale. That got finished in October. I designed them to look like baseball shirts, with all the passengers as team players. One example is here. I was super excited when one sold immediately after publication. But that was a month ago and that's the only one I've sold, other than the ones I bought myself.

For my reading and classic movies...

In October, I don't remember if I read any new nonfiction. But I did read a novel, I guess it's a YA novel, The Green Ember.  For some reason I got to read it for free on my Kindle. I liked the cover.

And I didn't realize it was a series until I got to the very end. So then I understood why they dangled it in front of me for free. I would sort of like to read what happens next but not enough to buy one. I would get at my library.

My classic movie was I Married A Witch, which I watched as research for my new blog and website  I know I've said it before but that project has been an extraordinary effort. I feel like have been working on it for about 2 years now, although my project files say I started in October 2018. So that's only a little over one year. I am not sure. I know for sure I would estimate there is another year to go before the website is complete. When I started the project I don't think I realized how long it was going to take. I wrote the DIY Spa Retreat in 4 months, from idea to publication. I think it took me about 6 months to outline what I was going to write about on CM365. I did not know that fleshing out my outline was going to take so long. I don't mind it, but it is a lot of work for a hobby blog and I just kind of wish I knew in advance that it was going to take so long. I guess I only have one resolution for 2020.

In November my classic movie was the 1974 Murder on the Orient Express. I didn't recognize Albert Finney as the guy from Erin Brockovich. Although with the mustache and hair as Poirot, they hardly look alike. It was bugging me that he played Poirot with sort of a hunchback, without the hunch. But I liked it. The movie, not the hunchy weird acting. Really, Albert Finney, what did your chiropractor say about that? I like that story a lot, as I previously wrote about I read the book recently and also saw the recent Kenneth Branagh version. I almost blanked on his name. Kenneth Branagh. He'd hate that.

I can't quite remember anything I've read in November except I am currently a third of the way through The Santa Klaus Murder which is sort of like Murder on the Orient Express, sort of but not really. I mean what do I know, I'm only 1/3 through it. But there's a murder and it takes place around the same time and there's a big group of people who are all suspects and one detective trying to figure it out. Oh gosh I hope they weren't all in on it. They do all have motives, as the detective points out. Well, I got the audiobook version as well as the Kindle version so it reads it to me and I like the actors' voices. Which is not true of most audiobooks I have gotten to-date, which is, like, 5. Including the Eddie Izzard one, you would think him reading his own audiobook would be enjoyable but it was so boring I could not finish it. I'm going to call that a book review. The Eddie Izzard book is boring!

I will update this post if I remember any other books I read in November. I guess I fell off the nonfiction, probably as I have been researching CM365. Today I did a lot of research about the history of the Robert Bridges poem Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913 which was in fact published on Christmas Eve 1913 (I found the original publication) but only under the title Christmas Eve. I also learned way more about iambic something-or-other than one ever, ever needs to know. But if you are interested in the history you will have to wait 'til my post is published, and I scheduled it for Dec 24.

So that is all for now. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Sep 19 for 2019 update

Still keeping up with my goal of watching classic movies and reading books.

My September non-fiction read was Toni Tennille's memoir. I read it all in one day, I believe. I don't suppose it's a spoiler at this point to reveal that Toni's marriage to the Captain was a heartbreaking disaster. Although she never attempts to diagnose his problems, it reads to me like he had some form of Asperger's and was incapable of expressing love, and possibly incapable of feeling love. Her love for him was unrequited for 40 years. She says that not once in 40 years did he show her any sign of affection. So it would seem that she is/was crazy as well. All he wanted to do was own her and control her, and she allowed it for decades because she hoped it would make him like her. Seriously! Although this reveal was terribly sad, I did enjoy reading about happy times she had in the music industry, and some behind-the-scenes stories from the music industry as well. I hoped she would write about her involvement with Pink Floyd The Wall, and although her stories were brief, she did not disappoint. Still in the end, the disaster of wasting her life on this strange man who was rather hateful and certainly crazy, it is haunting.

My September fiction was Dear Lola, which almost doesn't count because I read it in just a few minutes really, as it is YA fiction that I've read before. I read it because, oddly enough, in my mind I think I had confused it with a creepy VC Andrews novel, and I was trying to figure out the connection. I have not yet figured it out but I have no intention of re-reading any VC Andrews. The movie version of the book is actually better than the book, btw.

My September classic movie was The Trouble With Harry, a 1954 dark comedy by Alfred Hitchcock. I liked it. The story and dialogue were pretty original. I chose this one because I was doing research for my new writing project: a blog called Christmas Magic 365, where I write every single day with some positive prompt for crafting, decorating, journaling, etc. all in the spirit of keeping Christmas-like anticipation and fun. I had heard that The Trouble With Harry was filmed in Vermont during fall and had really beautiful scenery. It does, and I do think it belongs on a fall movie list, but I have seen better fall foliage before.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

{genealogy} War Hero and Deadbeat Dad: the complicated legacy of Ray Derham

Way back in 2007 (!) I wrote an extremely brief biography and blog post about my great-great-uncle, Ray Derham. I am now lengthening his biography for 2 reasons. First, back in 2007 I did not have a lot of information about his military service. I have more information now and it deserves to be published. Second, I was aware in 2007 that Ray had fathered an illegitimate son, while he was married to his wife Reva. Ray then abandoned that son and his mother even though he knew he was responsible. Back in 2007 the son was still living and I did not want to embarrass him. But that is no longer the case and hopefully I do not trouble the living descendants with some of the details that are publicly available on

Ray was born 4 Aug 1888 in Corunna, Shiawassee County, Michigan. This is different from the date I previously reported of 3 Sep 1888, which is what Ray claimed as his birth date throughout his adult life. I don't know why or how he came up with that date. Here is the image of the actual recording of his birth, which I do see was recorded later in 1889, but still. It says 4 Aug 1888. Ray is the bottom entry in each image.

So you can see his parents are Charles Durham, born in England, and Mrs. Mary Durham, born in Michigan. Mrs. Mary Durham is Mary Ann Burbridge. Ray was the youngest of 8 children. Here is a photo of him with his next older brother, Earl.

Regarding the Durham/Derham spelling. Father Charles and Ray used the spelling "Derham". Ray had 6 other siblings who used the spelling "Durham". I would say that this illustrates the stubbornness in both Charles and Ray.

In 1912 we see his engagement/wedding announcement in which we learn a lot about his early years. This was published 8 Oct 1912 in the Corunna Journal. (Transcription below image.)

Ray Durham, of Lansing, to Marry a Detroit Girl Saturday
Invitation(s) are out for the marriage of Miss Reva Treadwell, of Detroit, to Ray Durham, who is now a press correspondent at Lansing, at the home of the bride's parents in Detroit, Saturday, October 9th.
Mr. Durham is a former Corunna boy and a graduate of the local high school in the class of 1906. He studied law at Ann Arbor and after graduating, practiced with his brother, Roy, in this city for some time. A little over a year ago he became connected with the Detroit Evening News and was immediately recognized as their foremost reporter. Last summer he secured a position at Lansing for several of the leading papers of the state. 
Corunna people unite with the Journal in extending best wishes to the couple. They will reside in the capitol city.

And so we know that in the 6 years following his high school graduation, he attended college/law school (he graduated from University of Michigan in 1909), allegedly became a practicing attorney, and a newspaper reporter. In addition to be associated with the Detroit Evening News, I also found a reference to Ray purchasing interest in the Gratiot County Journal (Michigan) in Feb 1913. The part about him "practicing with his brother, Roy" is not exactly true. At the time of his graduation, Ray was too young to be admitted to the bar. So it's more likely that he assisted his brother, Roy, while also writing for the papers.

At that time, reporters weren't given obvious bylines the way they are now, but starting in January 1917 you can find various articles with a Ray Derham byline in the Lansing State Journal and The Times Herald (both in Michigan).  Since Ray liked to report and write letters, and since he served in both World Wars, I will reprint lengthy examples of his writing later.

On 20 Jul 1917 Michigan newspapers reported that Ray had been drafted.

Ray served in the US Army during both world wars. He was a first lieutenant in the 339th infantry, in command of company D.  In WWI this company participated in the "Polar Bear Expedition" of 1918-19, which was an Allied intervention in Northern Russia at the end of the war.

The photo above was uploaded by "Ken Coin" to Find A Grave. I don't know who owns the original. (I say that because all of the other photos on Ray's Find A Grave page are in my possession but were uploaded by other people.) The caption by "Ken Coin" says this photo of Ray was taken "in France, 1918, on his birthday." Initially I questioned both the date and the place, as the Wikipedia article describing the Polar Bear Expedition says that the regiment left Michigan 14 Jul 1918 and originally were intended for France, but then were re-routed to Archangel, Russia after stopping briefly in England. The regiment is said to have arrived in Archangel on 4 Sep 1918. However, I later learned from Ray's own letters that he was not immediately with company D, but states that he joined them from France about a month after they arrived in Russia. 

Ray wrote to a friend in Michigan 7 Nov 1918, and his friend published Ray's letter in the Detroit Free Press 28 Dec 1918. The full article including Ray's letter is transcribed below. Ray is 31 years old.


339th Custer Regiment Shows Up Well Against Reds; Men on Four Fronts
Michigan Boys In Good Health; Think Allied Armies Should Police Russia

Lansing, Mich., Dec 27 - Given a carton of smoking tobacco apiece, members of the 339th infantry, better known as "Detroit's Own," could just about buy the whole of northern Russia, judging from a letter received here from Lieutenant Ray Derham formerly of Dewitt.

According to Derham, a former newspaperman, money is about worthless on the steppes. Rubles, once catalogued as worth 51 cents, are now passed over the bars as legal tender at the rate of 5 and 10 cents each, the fluctuation being due to where you trade. Despite these handicaps, the men in the regiment, cooped up as they know they are until next spring and summer, are having a good time, and when Derham's letter was written, November 7, had just heard by wireless that Austria had quit the war and that there were some rumors in Berlin that the kaiser would abdicate.

Lieutenant Derham's letter, which came to a local newspaper crony of the days gone by, gives many interesting sidelights on the country in which Detroit's own is fighting.

The letter in part follows:

Americans on Four Fronts

"When the Allied expedition arrived here early in September, several battalions of the Americans were immediately dispatched to the fronts to drive out the bolsheviki. They are now scattered over four fronts, but I am not at liberty to tell you where.

It seems our company [Company D] has hiked over most of north Russia since it left Archangel. It hiked for days along these trails in knee deep mud. They left expecting to be absent about two days and for six weeks our men have been without a change of socks and had but one blanket each. Despite all the hardships and meager rations (the British are feeding us) very few men were sick.

The company was in two small 'shows' and did well each time, although it was the first time under fire for a great majority of the men. Our casualties were very few. One thing the men learned was to get down when fired upon."

More Troops Needed

"The other day another lieutenant and myself were scouting around. Our company is now resting in reserve. An aeroplane came along which we thought was an Allied machine. Whether it was an Allied plane that thought our party was a Russian patrol or whether it was a Russian plane, I cannot say. At any rate it flew low enough to knock off our caps with its propeller. About 200 yards off it opened with its machine gun.

We get very little news here, a single telephone line being our only avenue of information. It connects up with a small wireless.

Our men our billeted in the log huts of the villagers. Three other lieutenants and myself are quartered in two rooms in the 'mayor's house.' We are busy drilling each day and erecting blockhouses and wire entanglements.

It is questionable what effect peace will have on the situation. We are hoping it will result in the sending of enough troops to thoroughly police the country and set up some sort of stable government, otherwise there will be another Mexico on civilization's hands. It is easy to see that Germany could have overrun the world had she been allowed to work her will with this human putty and great natural resource."

Natives Are Primitive

"We are within the shadow of the Arctic circle. Things are very primitive here. There is but one city of any size between Archangel and Petrograd - Vologda - and that is miles south of us. It isn't very likely we'll be there for a long time yet.

The province of Archangel is one of the four old provinces of European Russia. It was formerly inhabited solely by Eskimos, but Peter the Great forced colonists to come here and their descendants are now pondering the strange ways of the 'Ataeriks'. Innumerable villages dot the shores of the Dvina River and its tributaries. The Dvina is navigable several hundred miles south of Archangel."

Farming Very Limited

"These villages have several hundred population each. Occasionally one has the distinction of having a store. All have churches and many two - Greek and Roman Catholic.

The roads have but one characteristic of roads - their width. They have cut wide strips through the forests and called it a job.

There is little farming done here. Every seven years the natives meet and draw lots for the farm land. Thus the farmers have little interest in soil conservation and other theories of agriculturalists. Marsh grass, rye, flax, wheat, and potatoes result from the farming.

The houses usually consist of two rooms and but one floor. The barns are attached to the rear of the houses. Log ramps run alongside of the houses and lead to the floor of the barns. For some reason the barn floors are several feet above the level of the ground. Moss is stuffed between the logs in lieu of plaster in the houses."

Stove Serves Also as Bed

"Each house has a brick and mud stove, large enough for a bakery in the States. They are about six feet high, six feet wide, and eight feet long. They serve as cooking stove, heating stove, and bed. A fire is built in them in the morning and is withdrawn after the bricks become hot. If it is desired to cook that day, the dough is placed in the fire box and it is sealed up. The thick brick walls retain the heat for hours, keeping a small sized house very warm, especially Russian homes which are none too lavish with ventilation. Another fire in the evening results in enough heat for the night. Bedtime sees the entire family from grandfather down clamber to the top of the stove.

I believe the people live chiefly on fish which they catch in the spring or early summer."

Great Wealth of Timber

"There are very few chickens, cows, or horses. There are no other domestic animals unless the half-wolf, half-dog creatures that skulk about can be considered as such.

There is plenty of wild game here. Our men have reported deer and bear, but I have yet to see any personally. As for the latter, I hope I see him first. There is no end of wild turkey, wild duck, and partridge. A shotgun would be a very nice thing to have here. No legislators bother about the (? illegible) as near as I can make out, and John Baird would be all out of luck here.

About 95 percent of this country is primeval forest. The fir trees stand so thick in many places it would be a good thing to cut many of them down so that their brothers might attain greater stature. There are a few sawmills at Archangel and millions of logs are floated down to them annually. Fuel is the cheapest thing here. You are doing the natives a favor to burn lots of wood. What do you civilized people of Michigan, with your coal strikes, car shortages, and coal rationings think of that?"


In reading the news article and Ray's letter, you can see some disconnect between what Ray actually wrote, and what the news journalist put in the headlines. The journalist makes it appear that morale is high and the boys are "having a good time". Ray doesn't really say that. Nor does he say that morale is particularly low, but one can imagine that being re-routed to an unexpected location that is 60 below zero was not good for morale. Ray's letter was not likely the first letter to his friend. So the journalist did not mention that about 70 men would ultimately die as a result of contracting influenza en route to Russia, as they had been sailing on an infected ship. Now one can really imagine that morale would have been low while only 2 months into what would be an 18-month mission.  On the other hand, when Ray says they have suffered "few" casualties, he is not exaggerating. The final October 1919 report shows an estimated 5% who died either in battle or from illness, and this is consistent with later reports several years later. But switching back to the other hand again, note that the journalist indicates two things: (1) that Ray was aware that the Allied Armistice of 11 Nov 1918 was pending. (2) that the journalist, if not Ray himself, was aware that boys would not be returning until at least spring or summer, despite the Armistice. The Wikipedia article reports that following Nov 1918 morale plummeted as the men had no clear reason for fighting the Bolsheviks after the Armistice, and as the journalist predicted, they would not be retrieved until summer 1919. Photo below is courtesy of US Army. 339th Infantry, Detroit's Own, Northern Russia. I am not sure if this is Company D?

On Armistice Day and only 4 days after Ray wrote the letter to his journalist friend, he was in command of Company D when the Americans came under attack. They were under attack for 3 days before Companies B and D chose to lead a counter attack. The counter attack turned out to be surprisingly successful. This was later referred to as the Armistice Day Battle.

And so it would seem that someone in Michigan managed to get a copy of the article or some similar article to Ray, and he wrote again to the newspaper to dispute the tone that his journalist friend had implied. The Times Herald of Port Huron printed Ray's 2nd letter 14 May 1919, transcribed below:


Michigan Man in Northern Russia Says Life There Far From Pink Tea
(By Gurd M. Hayes)

Under the date of March 24th, letter from Lieut. Derham, in part:

"Having just completed reading an article in a Detroit Sunday paper of ancient date telling what an extremely enjoyable time and comfortable quarters we are enjoying I thought I would unburden my soul. 

Far be it from me to enter into a violent long distance discussion with one sure of his facts gleaned from an exhaustive study of the situation. If I remember alright the author of the article in question spent six weeks in Archangel last fall. Yet quite firmly he stated in his article that the stories of our wounded soldiers carried home were bunk.

Please don't get the impression that I have been misused or that I personally have undergone any extreme discomforts, but my 'Bucks' have been through enough and suffered enough to claim places as soldiers alongside of any that have served our state. And they did well enough to earn the admission of the last British commander that we served under of being 'damned good fighters.' So naturally they and I were a little annoyed to learn that the folks back home were being told that they were enjoying a part in a comic opera war.

I will trace the operations of my company since it landed in Russia and the people can judge for themselves as to whether or not we have been participating in a campaign or enjoying the movies and huge leather coats with fur collars in Archangel. By the way, Archangel is six days' ride from this place and the few American civilians there know about as much what is going on at the various fronts as the people of Lansing. My company and battalion never were in Archangel. Two days after arriving in Russia they were put in dirty old coal barges and hauled upstream. Within 2 weeks they were in their first battle after chasing the Bolsheviks in knee deep mud for several days. They routed the Bolsheviks after a 2 day fight. After holding that position for 10 days this company was relieved by Scots, who were taking over the front a hundred miles away to take part in the offensive being staged there by 2 companies of another battalion. That over, the company was sent to a rest camp. It was there I joined them, having just come from France. We were to have a month in rest camp, but on the 10th day we were hurried to the relief of an American and Scotch company that had been surrounded."

March in Mud

"With 100 men and another officer I marched for 15 versts in knee deep mud and pitch darkness. How the men got through with heavy packs I don't know but they did it and never grumbled. We arrived at midnight and participated in a 3-day battle that seemed strenuous enough for me. The Bolsheviks had long range guns mounted on river steamers and they certainly made merry at our expense from a point out of range of our 2 small guns. We held that front for 2 months. We had no heavy fighting but had constant patrol engagements. Holding the front means manning block houses and patrolling the surrounding forests for signs of the enemy. Frequently we fixed up ambushes for Mr. Bolsheviks' patrols and of course he obliged us along the same lines. Many casualties resulted on both sides. It is no boy's play to man a blockhouse. They are very small buildings and 6 men overcrowd most of them.

The men usually do a 4-day tour of 2 on and 4 off. The strain is very great, because at any minute a horde of Bolsheviks may debouch from the nearby forest and rush our positions. Eternal vigilance in 40 below zero weather for day after day in a cold blockhouse calls for the best there is in a man. Each blockhouse has a makeshift stove but the necessity for loopholes makes it impossible to properly heat them in cold weather. After our 2 months stretch on that front we were again sent back for a rest. I took one platoon to a good-sized village on the line of communications where with a platoon of another company we were to protect the line of communications and furnish convoy guards. We hadn't been there very long before the Bolsheviks organized the disloyal Russians who had been ordered up for service by the Archangel government in surrounding villages, and raided us.

That point was 40 miles back of the front and no one looked for trouble. At any rate, they stalked our outpost and captured one sentinel and killed one. He was on the job and his shots notified the billet guard. The Bolsheviki surrounded them and threw bombs through the window and turned automatic rifles on it. I was sleeping with three sergeants in an adjoining building when awakened by the bombs. Our men got to the machine guns and we soon drove the enemy off, wounding one and killing several. I dislike being awakened in the middle of the night by any cause, but I have a particular dread of being awakened by bombs.

That ended that rest period for we had to start fortifying the town. Three days later the town fell and the weary column came back through our town. The day after their arrival our company went out and fought a rear guard action with the pursuing Bolos, while the column continued its retreat. After an all day action we acted as rear guard. Within 23 hours we marched 50 versts or about 33 miles. Most of the marching was done in the dark. Marching on slippery roads after dark was plumb hell. Most of the men were forced to take off their foot gear and march in their socks but froze their feet. Of course we lost every bit of our equipment except what we stood in. We made several moves within the next week when we were ordered up to take over the front the retreating column had established. We held it for a month, and during the last 5 days the Bolos put on the biggest show they have attempted against the Allies so far.

On the second day our right flank was temporarily surrounded and the Russian garrison fell back during the early morning hours. That left us on the deft side of the river stucking out in the 'blue' for seven versts. We expected to be ordered to fall back as we had but 150 Americans, 100 Russians, 50 Canadian artillerymen, and 25 English artillerymen, but we were not, so we stuck. The Bolos turned all of his numerous guns on us the next day, but we didn't budge. On the 4th day he put 600 men across the river behind us and a battalion on our flank and another in front of us. The flank and frontal attacks were expected to eliminate us and enable the entire force to join for an attack on the next place, so prisoners stated. We broke up their infantry attacks and they left a horde of dead. The failure dispirited them and they withdrew their troops from behind us the next day, letting relief through. English troops made several previous attempts to break through, but were thrown back. Believe me, it is some sensation to be surrounded. I don't care for any more of it. I won't admit that I was scared, for the Bolos kept us too busy. Our men behaved splendidly. The Russians were discouraged, but the Yanks and Canadians weren't. I also believe I can rightfully claim our men took it cooler than the Canadian and English veterans of France. "

All Determined

"We were huddled in the only billet left in the village that night, and I could hear the men in the next room talking. I would give a lot for a phonographic recording of their conversation. Every one expressed a determination and a willingness to make a finish fight of it down the long road to freedom. The next day the Bolo contented himself with artillery activity and that night we were relieved.

The American company that relieved us had very hard luck and lost a lot of men from artillery fire within the next 3 days although the Bolo had about spent himself during the first 4 days. We were sent back for a rest but had only been back 3 days before half the company was again sent forward because the enemy was again attacking in force. The powers that be gave us one day rest next time and then shunted us to this front, our first love. We are now enjoying the ease and comforts of front lines.

I have given the major experiences of one company. The other line companies have had as strenuous a time of it on the other fronts and many of them have had worse luck in the matter of casualties. The Americans and the Canadian artillery are the backbone of this expedition. The morale of our outfit is good but movies and the Red Cross luxuries have had no part in it. We have disabused our minds of 2 things. First we are willing to admit that the Bolo is not the biggest fool in the world. Second we will concede that he is not rotten gunner. Every little while some individual of a missionary nature will sneak in and tell us what a fool the Bolo is and what a rotten gunner he is and what a debt we owe to the poor downtrodden Russian.

We only grin now for we know that he will be gone shortly and that we will learn he has sailed for other climes. They all make the same cycle. If only they wouldn't rush into print when they get back home and tell such senseless lies.

The British have rationed us well, as well as could be expected. In the matter of supplies they have treated us very well. Much better than they have treated their own troops. Of course some of us are not wild about the idea of being on 'His Majesty's Service.'"

Here is a letter my grandmother wrote to Ray when she was 5 years old. I think it's really good penmanship for a 5yo.

This recent YouTube video describes the Polar Bear Expedition, which historians now refer to as "strange", "bizarre," etc. Reference to the Armistice Day Battle begins around the 5-minute mark. The full report of the Polar Bear Expedition, with modern interpretation of what really happened there, is about 12 minutes long.

Michigan newspapers would later repeatedly report that Ray had been in northern Russia for 18 months, but in reality it was 9 months. Perhaps Ray was gone from Michigan for 18 months. He was in service during this period for a total of 27 months. And although Ray's letter says he has not suffered extreme discomfort, later reports indicate he was both gassed and wounded during 2 separate battles.

12 July 1919: Ray returns to the States. He arrives in Boston, Massachusetts on the ship President Grant, along with a huge number of others from the 339th infantry. He returned to his wife and home in Lansing, Michigan, where his large extended family of siblings, etc all came to greet him as a surprise on 20 July.

14 Aug 1919: Ray accepts a job working for State of Michigan as special assistant attorney general, assigned to investigate the high cost of food. He was to gather evidence and obtain witnesses. In the news report announcing his assignment, they mention that Ray had been cited by US for conspicuous bravery, as well as being recommended for the Distinguished Service Medal. It appears from current evidence available on that these claims are true, though I haven't paid for the official documentation. The photo below accompanied one of the news announcements.

19 Mar 1920: Ray accepts a new position with the Michigan state industrial accident board. I assume the investigation into food prices was complete, but I didn't see the outcome. His job with accident board is to investigate and enforce workers' compensation claims. The news reports that Ray's salary is $2500 per year. According to, that is about $32k today. So he's still considered a junior investigator, it seems like. In 1920 the workers' comp law was only about 7 years old, so many cases were still setting precedent for the future.

Various news reports follow that describe settlements that Ray made possible for accident victims. It is clear that he is using his law background and his arguing skills, and he is also an advocate for the victim, rather than the employer.

Ray continued in this position for 3 years, traveling all over the state and hearing claims. On 4 Jan 1924 the newspaper reports that Ray has resigned the position.

After that, Ray's name stays out of the newspaper until January 1928. What was he doing those 4 years? It looks like he moved from the Lansing/Dewitt area to Iron Mountain, Michigan, and went back into private practice with his brother, Roy. In January 1928 I find a reference to the law firm of "Derham and Derham", which I'm assuming is Roy and Ray.

In June 1928 it is announced that Ray is running for the office of prosecuting attorney, which I believe was a county office. Later in June 1928 Ray is made commander of a group of American Legion posts. The Legion was formed in 1919, so, at the close of WWI. I imagine Ray was a charter member and by 1928 was obviously heavily involved.

July 1928: Ray begins campaigning in earnest. He announces that if elected prosecuting attorney, that "dives, resorts, and crooked officials will be warred on until they surrender." What was a resort in 1928??? At any rate, I believe election day comes and goes, and it doesn't appear that Ray was elected.

June 1929 marks the next  major milestone in Ray's life. It has been 10 years since the Polar Bear Expedition. A Polar Bear Association has been established, and they have been holding biennial reunions in Michigan. Five members of this Polar Bear Association received approval from the US government to return to Russia and attempt to retrieve the approximately 100 American bodies that had been left buried there. One of those 5 men approved to go back, is Ray Derham. The photo below was taken on the S.S. Stuttgard just below it left for Bremen, Germany from New York, 18 Jul 1929. That would be the first leg of their trip back to Archangel. I can only imagine that this was a tremendous honor for Ray to be one of only five chosen to serve in this heroic effort. Ray is now 40 years old.

image credit: The Polar Bear Association files at University of Michigan
The State of Michigan paid the expenses of the five hunters, and the US government paid the expenses to ship the American bodies back to the States. The Lansing newspaper reported great pride in both Ray himself and the state of Michigan for ensuring this expedition could happen, and they printed a rather poetic and emotional tribute to their fallen that remain in the snow in unmarked graves in what was considered enemy territory at that time. The Polar Bear Association interviewed their membership and tried to get as much information from their memories as they could. They were to attempt to locate 114 bodies. The 11 Aug 1929 issue of the Battle Creek Enquirer (Michigan) printed a lengthy article describing the mission. On 27 Aug they reported that the men's boat had accidentally been rammed and sunk on the Dvina River. Ray was rescued from the water by another boat. But they also reported that they had successfully located 70 bodies so far. Four of the men, including Ray, left England to return home, sailing on 18 Sep 1929. The fifth member stayed in Russia with bodies to arrange for their transport back to the States. Ray arrived in Detroit on 26 Sep 1929 and reported that they had found 80 of the 114 bodies they were looking for. He said he considered the expedition a success, and well worthwhile.

The News-Palladium of Benton-Harbor, Michigan published an emotionally-charged feature story on 18 Oct 1929, describing the return of the soldiers, and especially one Raymond Clemens in particular. To be part of the expedition that resulted in that story must have been humbling indeed.

When the bodies arrived in Detroit on 1 Dec 1929, it was said that thousands lined the streets to welcome them home.


In April 1931 the newspaper announces that Ray has been appointed City Attorney, where he lives in Iron Mountain, Michigan.

In May 1932 Ray announces that he is considering running for state senator. He is now 43 years old. In July, he finally announced his candidacy. He would be running against 2 other gentlemen. He said his platform was opposed to Prohibition. In July 1932 Michigan was subject to Prohibition under the Eighteenth Amendment, but prior to the Eighteenth Amendment had also passed a statewide prohibition act as well. (Prohibition was repealed nationwide in 1933.)
He outlined 7 major points in his platform. The one that received the most criticism was Ray's statement that he desired to build a junior college in the Iron Mountain area. This area where Ray had relocated from Lansing, was of very low population, and so it was argued that it was unfair for Michigan taxpayers in other localities to bear the burden of building this college.
Notice then, in later advertising, he does not reference the idea of the junior college.

He gave many speeches, and it paid off. Front page news on 14 Sep 1932:

True to his word, as soon as he was sworn in in January 1933, he immediately introduced 3 bills to the state senate. One, to repeal Prohibition. Second, he also immediately introduced his "old age pension" bill which was successfully approved and adopted. And third, he partnered with another senator to propose reductions in the fees collected on fishing and hunting licenses. This one was passed in late March.

In February 1933 he introduces the Derham Bill to amend the workers' comp law...evidently cleaning up a loophole (or creating one) that he had discovered all those years ago. It increased the rights of employees, and the senate passed the bill later in February.

Never tiring, also in February Ray introduces 2 more bills: one to prevent extortion by government officials (it passes), and another to immediately distribute Army surplus clothing and shoes to the needy (approved unanimously by the senate and the house).

Ray seems tireless. He's arguing and voting daily at the senate. Then in April he is representing the plaintiff in a high profile case. This goes on for months, with Ray's name in the newspapers daily, either for his vocal work in the senate or for his work as an attorney.

At the end of October 1933, the bomb drops, so to speak. Martha Danculovic, age 26, sues Ray for $25,000 damages after giving birth to his child and his failure to marry her. She says they had an affair from 1931 to July 1932. She believed he was divorced, and says that he promised to marry her. She gave birth to a baby boy in December 1932. Ray immediately responds to the court and asks for the case to be dismissed on a technicality. He does not deny the affair, and admits he has known Martha for 6 years. The case is dismissed and Martha is forced to resubmit it. In the meantime she says she is receiving threatening letters (not from Ray) which she has to turn over to the police.

The case ends up in a jury trial in Jun 1934. Martha says he first proposed to her in 1927, when she was 19 years old and she knew he was married. They had met "on the tennis court" in Iron Mountain. She went on to teach school, where he kept in touch with her. He told her he was divorced in 1931 and she believed him. She testified that she was friendly with Ray's wife and that the Derhams were also friends with her brother. She had been to Christmas dinner at their house. She said that Ray was aware that she had a child and had stated several times that he was the father. She says he got her drunk for their first encounter. When Ray takes the stand, he admits to the intimacy and to writing 20 love letters to her. Ray's wife, Reva, also takes the stand. She testifies that she knew about the affair in 1932 after finding a letter that Martha had written to Ray. After 6 hours deliberation, the jury, who one journalist noted was 100% middle-aged men, found for Ray.

Martha later tells the press that she has met privately with Ray and that she is confident that he will do the right thing for the child. She said she could not legally claim child support, something about the fact that Ray's residence was Michigan, hers was Ohio, and she had given birth in California. Therefore there was not a state court who would hear a child support case. I do not know if Ray really ended up doing the right thing for the child, who was named Michael Ray Derham. But I do know that we have evidence that Michael Ray grew up very bitter and angry, and this is not the last time we will hear from him.

Martha Danculovic and Michael Ray Derham

Martha Danculovic and Michael Ray Derham

After Ray was acquitted, The Wakefield News published 3 of Ray's letters to Martha. The content of the letters was personal and must have humiliated Ray and his wife Reva to have that made public.

In July 1934, Ray announces that he's running for re-election, but this time he loses, and quite badly.

In April 1935, in a strange follow up, Martha Danculovic sues her attorney and says she never wanted to sue Ray Derham or claim seduction, and that her attorney encouraged her to lie when testifying that Ray had gotten her drunk. She wins $315.

Reva and Ray did not have any children together. Whether this was a medical issue, or just due to Ray's constant traveling, I do not know. One can only imagine the humiliation that Reva had to endure with the publication of her husband's love letters and the knowledge that he had spent 6 years pursuing a much younger woman who ended up having his son.


In Feb 1935, Ray and Reva are traveling in lower Michigan, probably visiting other Derham siblings, when their house at Iron Mountain burns down. I wonder if it feels like a fresh start.

They apparently build a new home in Iron Mountain. Ray continues his legal practice on his own. His brother Roy is now a Judge.


Now it is 1942 and WWII is underway. It seems fitting that Ray would be back involved with the Army. He begins giving speeches for new recruits, and he's named to the draft board. He reads a 15-minute speech on sports radio, criticizing the "use of manpower of military age for sports entertainment." In May 1943 Ray resigns from the draft board because he has been commissioned Major in the US Army. He is 54 years old. He was advanced to Lt. Colonel, and served with the Allied Military Government in Africa and Italy. While in Italy, his legal skills were put to use, as he was helping reorganize their court system and even served as a judge in military courts. He returned to the States in Dec 1945 and was discharged in April 1946.

He re-entered private practice, and then announced his candidacy for Judge.

He wins the primary,

But ultimately loses the election.

He returns to private practice and the only mentions of him in the newspaper for the next few years are all related to his role as attorney.

On 21 Nov 1951 the news reports that Ray has been hospitalized. 3 weeks prior, he had driven himself to court as usual, but became ill and summoned a taxi to take him to the hospital. He was there for 5 days before they decided he needed to be transferred by 'ambulance plane' to a hospital in Minnesota. It took two flights in two days to get him there. Reva went with him, and kept Roy informed by mail. There was no description of Ray's symptoms or diagnosis. I also did not find any mention of when Ray returned home. There is mention of him in private practice again in 1953-1955. After that, the news is quiet.

Ray passed away 28 Nov 1957 at the age of 69. His obituary says he passed at the Veterans Hospital after a long illness. The obituary says "he is survived by his widow." He was buried in his birth town of Corunna on 2 Dec 1957. The obituary is updated to state that "survivors include the widow and a sister-in-law." I imagine Reva provided the information for the obituary, and it is clear she did not care to mention that Ray had a son. I wonder if she also was unaware that one of Ray's sisters also survived him.


And so Ray's story continues as we follow his son. Michael Ray Derham was indeed born in Los Angeles on 5 Dec 1932, as his mother had previously testified in court. Martha Danculovic (his mother) had moved around quite a bit as she was trying to support herself while waiting for Ray to either support her or marry her. She was in California for a few months, then Ohio, then Michigan, then back to Ohio by the time of the trial in 1934. 

A Michael R. Derham who lists a mailing address as a P.O. Box in Iron Mountain, Michigan (same city of residence as Ray Derham Sr.), who was born in California, enlists in the US Army at the age of 18, possibly earlier. It appears he is immediately sent to the Korean War, where he was seriously wounded by a missile on 4 Jun 1951. The casualty report indicates that his home state is California and that his rank is Corporal, and that he is age 19 (he isn't, he would have been 18 on that date). On 9 Nov 1951 he is on a passenger list headed for Travis AFB in California. On that source document he is listed as Sergeant, age 19. That is the document that gives his mailing address as a PO Box in Iron Mountain. Later in 1951 a Reno newspaper reports that Michael Derham, son of Mrs. Martha Vanhorn, has been wounded in Korea. This helps confirm we do have the correct Michael Derham. His mother did in fact marry a Mr. Vanhorn. 

His social security number was issued in Michigan in 1952.

On 26 Jul 1952 Michael R. Derham of Dickinson County, Michigan (where Iron Mountain is located), marries Betty Lee Gelsinger in Jackson County, Missouri. The marriage license did not require them to list parents' names. Michael is 19 years old, which means he again lies about his age because the marriage license indicates that he is "over age 21". Betty is 21, so she's not fudging her age.

So this leads me to a question...does Michael's affiliation with Iron Mountain, Dickinson County, Michigan mean that he ended up having a speaking relationship with his father Ray? It surely is not coincidental that they are in the same small town. What kind of assistance did Ray provide?

Michael and Betty move shortly after their wedding, to California. They have a daughter in late 1953 who is born in Ventura County, California. Then a son in late 1955 is born in Santa Clara County, California.

Michael's father, Ray, dies in 1957. I know that Michael was aware of his father's death as shown by the fact that he later sued a long list of Derham survivors, who were extended cousins of Ray's, and named in probate court. In other words, it appears that Ray did not name his son in his will, and Michael Ray Derham contested the will. I have not found details of the probate records, but I did see where "Ray Derham Jr" as he called himself in the suit, named several other Derhams in his suit, and logic tells me that he was contesting the will or the probate. I do not know the results. I can only imagine this was a very bitter suit for all involved.

1960: Some news accounts report that Michael allegedly moved to Ventura from Boston, Massachusetts, where he was working at an advertising agency. This is supposedly where he met a friend by the name of Wayne Elliot Franson. Wayne is formerly of Detroit and Michigan State University. It may be a typo that Michael was at the ad agency in Boston. We know that Michael had been in Ventura as early as 1953. Perhaps that was only Wayne who had relocated from Boston. What is more certain is that Michael Derham and Wayne Franson owned the San Sousi bar in Ventura.

In 1962, it is revealed that Michael Derham headed up a gang of bank robbers who called themselves the Lavender Hill Mob. They committed 17 robberies of convenience stores, banks, etc. Their total take is reported with wildly varying figures ranging from only $5000 to over $100,000.  The gang of 8 men and women who were associated with the Ventura bar scene followed Michael's lead, and later reported to the court that Michael was violent and sadistic if they didn't go along with his demands. They said he beat them, burned them, tortured them, kidnapped their children. Michael characterized himself as a good father and a war hero.

When the press came to take photos for the story, he always hid his face.

Michael Derham was sentenced to 10 years in prison. I do not know how much of that time he actually served.

Sometime after, Betty divorced him. She moved with her family back to Missouri. Michael is briefly in Missouri in the early 1980s as well, according to city directories. 

In 1983 he marries again, but is divorced for the 2nd time in 1989.

It appears then that he moves back to Long Beach, California, which is near his mother. Martha Danculovic dies in San Pedro in 2002.

Michael Ray Derham died in Arizona in Dec 2013.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Aug 19 for 2019 update

We made a lot of progress on our family list for the year. It's more than half checked off, with a couple more things scheduled this month.

My classic movie in August was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which is currently available to stream on Netflix.

It turned out I knew absolutely nothing about this film, other than its name. This was my 4th Elizabeth Taylor film, I think, and I really like her. I'll probably watch more of her filmography as part of 19 for 2019. Burl Ives was also very good in this film, still reading lines the way he does in comedy films, but in a more serious version of himself. I understand he was the original Big Daddy in the stage version, so it must have been a big honor for him to be in the film version too. I thought the subtext of the film was surprising for the 1950s...

My novel in August was No Fixed Address by Susin Neilsen.

This is a young adult novel, which appears to have been miscategorized by the publisher (or someone) as being for a pre-teen. I say this because at my local library and at the bookstore in the mall, both had this book in the children's section, next to Harry Potter. The main character in the book is 12 years old, and maybe that's why the book keeps getting placed with the lower grade books instead of the older teen books. It is my opinion that the subject matter is more appropriate for older teens and adults. A 12-year-old could certainly understand the language, but some of the innuendo and content would be over some readers' heads. The book addresses the homelessness of 12-year-old Felix and his lying, cheating, thieving, bipolar mother, who he loves and cares for. He is confused by her behavior and is embarrassed by their circumstances, particularly when the author unflinchingly illustrates what it's like to not have access to a bathroom on a regular basis. I would recommend this book.

My nonfiction read in August was the 9th edition of Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun. Since this is the last edition, and it was published in 2012, I wonder if Paula is trying to retire. Her website,, says she is updating her site as of 2019, but there aren't very many posts (maybe 3) updated in 2019. Her sales site is and is current. Despite the fact that 9th edition is outdated, I'd still recommend it if you are unfamiliar with Paula's work. She does recommend products other than her own, though her own products tend to be cheaper than anything else she recommends. The book is an easy read because the vast majority is a list of products in alphabetical order, and whether she recommends them or not. The only real meat of the book is the first 60 pages and the last 60 pages. This series has always been unique and it is unfortunate that she hasn't gotten even more exposure in the last 35 years.  

Saturday, July 27, 2019

June and July novels: Alia Tero and Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop

I just noticed a didn't post about a fiction read in June. Last month I re-read a favorite sci-fi dystopian novel called Alia Tero. The reason I re-read it was because I had heard that the authors had re-written/edited it and I wanted to see what changed. However, I think in my version, nothing changed. That's a problem I have with Kindle books. The changes don't always get pushed to your device. I even checked the list of books that had changes ready, and Alia Tero wasn't on the list. One time I complained to Amazon about this and they said that they don't usually bother when the book is cheap or free. I do think I got Alia Tero for free so maybe I'm not allowed to see changes. And they don't even let you delete the book and then buy it again to see the changes. Then again the page count on Amazon seemed to be the same as the page count in my book. But even that is hard because let's face it, it's an e-book, it doesn't have pages.

At any rate, if you like dystopian novels, I recommend this one. It doesn't have any violence. In this version of earth, it's sort of a socialist society where everyone pitches in to do most everything (except for advanced careers like doctors). One lives life in 4-month rotations, always changing homes and jobs every 4 months. The book follows one character as he goes through several rotations and learns that maybe there could be a different type of life. As you might imagine, some characters are grumbling about the rotations and how they want to rebel and just stay put and have a family. My one complaint about this book is that this part of the storyline is never fleshed out. The rebellion could be a huge part of the story, or maybe that will be a sequel.

This month I realized around July 25 that I hadn't read a novel yet. I'm kind of bored of my monthly free Kindle selections, and in fact this month I didn't even download one because they all looked so bad. So a couple days ago I just searched for Kindle bargains to see what looked good that day. For $2.99 I got a British chick lit (is there any U.S.-based chick lit???) book called Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop.

It was the usual British chick lit but I was happy because in this version, when the main character gets dumped by her cheating husband and she didn't see it coming and then she gets really drunk and does something stupid, well, in this version Rosie buys a camper van and decides to live in it on the road. So I learned about van life, in Europe anyway, and that part was interesting to me.

I might have to read that Bernadette book next month just because at least I know it takes place in Seattle.

Friday, July 26, 2019

July nonfiction: Small Places: In Search of a Vanishing America

This month was a re-read of an old book by Thomas H. Rawls. Small Places: In Search of a Vanishing America. I picked up this book when we lived in Montrose and there was a Saturday market by my house every weekend, including a used bookseller. I really miss Montrose. This book was published in 1990 and now as a re-read I see it is actually outdated. One would think that the subject matter of small towns disappearing would remain current, but in this case there are a lot of references that just don't apply anymore.

At the time of writing, the worldwide web hadn't taken off, and the author suggests that the vanishing of small towns is "new" phenomenon that just started "twenty years ago" which would have been 1970. Therefore reading the book with the idea of small towns disappearing being a "new" thing is an unusual and outdated slant. I also disagree that small towns just started disappearing in 1970. I mean, that's just not true. Look up the history of any mining ghost town.

Chapter 2 covers Antelope, Oregon and the Rajneeshees, a story that has recently fascinated the public thanks to the amazing Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country. But it's now kind of a strange read because in 1990 the Rajneeshees had not yet completely exited Antelope. Bhagwan had been deported by then, and the public was aware that a few of the Rajneeshees had deliberately spread salmonella in The Dalles, but the compound still existed at the time of the book's publication. So, this is not by any means a full story of Antelope, and in fact I can only imagine that the 2018 release of Wild Wild Country has changed the town of Antelope yet again. I say "I imagine" because I have not yet been there (though I want to go), because it really is in the middle of nowhere. This is one example of why I feel that Small Places is sort of outdated in its concepts. By zooming in too close the author seems to miss that places grow and shrink and grow again over longer periods of time than 20 years.

I do like the author's writing style in that he is not overly sentimental or nostalgic about the alleged loss of these places. He traveled to all the places he wrote about, and he interviewed the locals, and just factually reports what they said and what he saw. I liked that he observed that it was not illegal for the Rajneeshees to purchase that land and build a compound, a fact that was also clear from Wild Wild Country. 

In another chapter he observes that people moving from a big city to a small town tend to try to bring the city to the town, instead of changing their own ways to adapt to a small town life. A local laments that the outsiders were sending their children to private schools, indicating that the small town public school wasn't good enough. Complaining. But maybe it really wasn't good enough. How much adapting is necessary and how much is actually making life more difficult or even more dangerous? In another chapter the author interviews a local who makes the comment that what the town really needs is a fire engine. And the author wholeheartedly agrees. Would upgrading the town's fire response system really be so terrible?

The book raises a lot of debates or questions such as these, but reading about these towns and knowing that a whole lot has changed in these places, and in the economy, since the book was written left me with a lot more questions and doubt about the judgments that were implied.

However, if you view this as a history book, you can get a 1990 glimpse at the following towns:
Grinnell, Iowa; Antelope, Oregon; Mount Hope, Ohio; Chelan, Washington; Dott, Pennsylvania; Keuka Lake, New York; Lynchburg, Tennessee; International Falls, Minnesota; Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin; Osceola, Missouri; Nye, Montana; Point Reyes Station, California; Palmer, Alaska; North Danville, Vermont; and Stillwater Township, New Jersey.

I thought about donating the book, but I do feel nostalgic for Montrose. Further proof that I bought it in Montrose was the fact that I found an old Hillary Clinton sticker in the book that I had been using as a bookmark. It was from her first campaign.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

June and July classic movies

In June my classic movie was Peter Pan. I didn't realize that I hadn't actually seen it before. The Disney Channel used to show so many clips from various scenes throughout the movie, from beginning to end, that it felt like I had seen it. But there were definitely scenes I didn't remember, most notably the scenes with the Indians. I purchased the movie because I'd like to get my kids to watch it before our next Disney vacation, especially because I would like to show them Fantasmic!

In July, my classic movie was A Letter to Three Wives. This 1949 black and white film was nominated for Best Picture. It didn't win, but did pick up Oscars for Best Screenplay and Best Direction.

I liked this movie a lot. I rented it on Amazon but I liked it enough that I would consider purchasing it so I could watch it again. The plot was relatively unique compared to most movies, and very interesting. The 3 wives are headed to a charity event on an island (without phones) when they receive a single letter addressed to all of them. It is from a divorcee that they are all jealous of, and the divorcee tells them that she is leaving town and taking one of their husbands with her. The women stoically go on with their day and do not gossip much with each other, but each one is clearly fraught with worry or wonder over what they will find when they get back home. The next chapters are a set of 3 flashbacks, one for each wife, illustrating how each of them has a very different type of marriage, and each of them also has a reason to worry that her husband is the one who has left. Every character/actor in the movie is very strong, even the supporting actors. The audience favorite is Linda Darnell who plays Lora Mae. She's the dark-haired one in the picture. But my favorite was Ann Sothern who played Rita Phipps (pictured in the center). 

As for the ending, they do reveal whose husband strayed, but I did not like the ending so much. I hope it is not TOO much of a spoiler to say it is resolved happily. I thought the last minute (literally) happy ending was too nice and I would have liked it to end without the last minute or so.

The film was based on a novel called Letter to Five Wives, and I would have liked to read it but it appears the print version is extremely rare (it was originally published in magazine format). And some readers are saying the movie is much better anyway. Which I guess is why it won Best Direction and Best Screenplay.

Friday, June 28, 2019

June nonfiction: You Are The Placebo by Joe Dispenza

Once again I don't remember who recommended this book to me. You Are The Placebo by Joe Dispenza, published in 2014. As I write this, I see that he has a newer book that just came out a few months ago, called Becoming Supernatural. That title doesn't surprise me, based on Placebo. Here are my book notes.

To summarize in one sentence, I would say that Placebo is "out there" and yet believable at the same time, when Dr. Joe describes what the human mind is capable of doing to the human body. As a skeptic, I was initially put off by the first couple of chapters, but Dr. Joe does well in describing the science behind his claims. I would say that on its own, I don't think this book would convince a skeptic. But knowledge of other studies and the daily discoveries made by quantum physicists lends support to the claims in Placebo. In general, I believe Dr. Joe does a pretty good job of describing the physical changes that happen in the body in response to various outside actions, but my opinion is that not all of those things are "placebo" in the medical sense. For example, we all know that stressful thoughts/emotions trigger the fight-or-flight reaction in the physical body. I do not feel like that reaction is placebo, though it is an example of thoughts/mind controlling the body. But that is just semantics, the advice is still good, so do not get hung up on whether or not an action is a medical placebo or something else.

Here are my book notes.

Preface: Dr. Joe describes a rather unbelievable story of being a 23yo chiropractor when he was run over by an SUV during the bicycling part of a triathlon. He then grows a new spine (I exaggerate somewhat) in 9 weeks, simply by thinking about it. I really have a hard time believing some of the details of this story. I have heard plenty of similar stories on Bulletproof Radio and the like, but not someone getting well in only 9 weeks. The preface made me immediately skeptical of Dr. Joe personally.

Introduction: He explains that a placebo is not about lying to one's self. If you are sick, you don't tell yourself that you are actually well and expect your body to believe the lie. The placebo effect is about believing in a potential transformation, from illness to wellness.

He also clarifies that just because a placebo works, does not mean that other treatments do not also work. In chapter 2 he repeats this with the more specific example of what you may already know, that placebo outperforms antidepressants. I am making up this example: suppose a drug was tested against a placebo sugar pill. And suppose that 40% in the drug group got better, and 45% in the placebo group got better. Some may argue that those who got the drug were only responding to their own placebo effect and that the drug didn't work at all. But Dr. Joe explains that this is a flawed conclusion. We don't know that the drug doesn't work at all. All we know for certain is that 45% in the placebo group got better. I did think it was interesting that Dr. Joe went out of his way to stick up for antidepressants. It was very unbiased of him to point this out, especially since he intended the story to give respect to the power of placebo.

Chapter one: a series of stories that I had mostly heard before, demonstrating the placebo effect. No new information if you haven't been living under a rock.

Chapter 2: more stories illustrating the placebo effect, dating back hundreds of years. Description of the "nocebo" effect. I thought that was a slang word but it's actually a real word. It means when someone is harmed by a harmless substance or event simply because the person believed it would harm him or her. So, the opposite of what a placebo does.

page 32: describes 2 studies from the 1970s that changed what we know about placebo. The first study proved that placebo effect was happening in the body, not the mind (or, not ONLY the mind).

The 2nd study showed that body could be conditioned to have a physiological response to an inert substance, smell, or even thought. It's complicated to explain, but it was a study on rats that ended up with some rather scary results from a nocebo.

page 35-36: an example of laughter as medicine (though Dr. Joe did also note that the patient also was taking massive doses of vitamin C), and then another example of laughter as medicine but studied with gene expression as evidence.

page 36-37: the 'placebos outperform antidepressants' discussion that I mentioned earlier

page 38: we started studying placebo effect with brain scans in 2001, proving brains were reacting to placebo.

page 40: "there isn't just one placebo response...but several." For example there is consciously thinking of wellness (or illness), and there is also proof that the body can be conditioned without you being conscious of it all, e.g. those poor rats from page 32. There are also subconscious effects like what color the placebo pills are (example on page 42).

Describes the 2010 study that you may have heard of before, in which participants were plainly told that they were getting a sugar pill and not actual medicine, and still got better. Note that the patients were told they were participating in a placebo study where they were expected to get better on placebo. It's not like they were told "this is a sugar pill that we expect to do nothing." This is important to see the difference. It ties back to Dr. Joe's initial statement in the introduction that placebo requires believing in a potential transformation.

page 41: describes another study I've heard of before in which hotel maids who were told that their jobs gave them lots of exercise, lost weight. Compared with a maids at a different hotel who were not told the same thing and did not lose weight. In my mind this is NOT evidence of placebo effect; it is evidence that awareness leads to outcome. Like how you take more steps when you are using a step counter. However, later in the next chapter Dr. Joe will include this concept as part of placebo, although he concedes that this is a conscious effort.

page 42: "When we put greater intention behind what we are doing, we naturally get better results." Dr. Joe explains that the reason he tells us these studies is so that we (readers) can get better results from the placebo effect. By putting greater intention into achieving the placebo effect.

page 43-44: illustrative examples of what I would call self-fulfilling prophecies. Believing you are going to fail a test so then you fail the test because you behaved as if you were going to fail. I am paraphrasing, he doesn't actually use these words. So then he does suggest that the self-fulfilling prophecy could be taken to a greater extreme if you believe a drug or surgery is going to work or not work...could it be the same concept as your attitude causing you to pass or fail a test? Is the brain so powerful as to make you well or unwell based only on your thoughts?

page 54: If you want change, "you must become conscious of the unconscious behaviors you've been choosing to demonstrate, that have led to the same experiences, and then you must make new choices, take new actions, and create new experiences." This should result in evolution within your brain.

page 57: discussion of how learning and remembering actually alters the physical structure of the brain.

page 63: "The hardest part about change is not making the same choices we made the day before. ...The moment we are no longer thinking the same thoughts...we immediately feel uncomfortable. This new state of being is unfamiliar; it's unknown." "That's the moment we know we've stepped into the river of change."

page 68: "...The conscious mind isn't really in charge. The body has subconsciously been programmed and conditioned to be come its own mind." This part is where Dr. Joe is explaining that our thoughts trigger emotions and our emotions trigger physical reactions in our bodies and that enough repetition of these same thoughts cause the physical reactions to become hardwired. This goes back again to the complicated rats example from page 32. Where a series of events triggers an outcome, until eventually the body memorizes the outcome such that the series of events is no longer required.

page 69: interesting comment linking repetitive thoughts and behaviors with aging. "When the same genes are repeatedly activated by the same information from the brain, then genes keep getting selected over and over again, and just like gears in a car, they start to wear out. The body makes proteins with weaker structures and lesser functions. We get sick and we age." Wow, there are A LOT of claims in these few sentences. Are any of them true??

page 69 again: describes 2 scenarios where the body reacts to repetitive thoughts and emotions. (1) The cell that is consistently receiving the same information, adapts/evolves/modifies itself to accommodate the constant barrage of same information. Comparison made to supermarket opening up additional checkout lanes when lines are too long. In this manner, the body has physically changed to adapt to the mind. (2) The cell that is consistently receiving the same information gets overwhelmed and adapts by ignoring the information. The cell only 'notices' when the lines increase even longer/brain is feeling heightened emotion.

page 70: both scenarios from page 69 mimic addiction. In (1) if the chemicals/emotions are not present, the cell craves them and then our brains notice the craving. In (2) this probably reminded you already of drug addicts who require more and more of a chemical for the same thrill, or a person who "needs" to get angrier and angrier at nothing just for a stimulant.

page 71: Dr. Joe suggests that we are only 5% conscious and 95% subconscious. (This reminds me of the 10% Human theory, which suggests that we are 90% driven by bacteria and microbes.) Therefore it will require some effort for that 5% to override the other 95% if that other 95% is going in the 'wrong' direction.

page 83: discussion of DNA in which Dr. Joe says the concept that our genes pre-determine 'everything' is an outdated concept from 1970 that is repeated constantly in news and other media, but actually is not true. Genes are not eggs that ultimately hatch. Instead, genes may be expressed, OR NOT, and our thoughts or lifestyle trigger those gene expressions, OR NOT.

page 84: Knowledge about genes and DNA changed dramatically in 2003 when the human genome was mapped and the hypotheses that had been put forth by the researchers turned out not to be true. Specifically, in 1990 when the project began, they predicted that humans have 140k genes, but in 2003 they found it is 23,688 and that's it. So this messed up their hypothesis that each gene does only one thing, because our bodies make about 140k different proteins for different things. This led to a new hypothesis that various gene combinations working together, turning on (expressing), or turning off (suppressing) that produces the 140k different proteins.

page 85: Genes are classified by the type of activity that causes them to turn on or off. Some genes are expressed when we are learning, some are expressed during exercise, etc. So they might be classified as experience-dependent, activity-dependent, or behavioral-dependent. Behavioral-dependent genes are activated during stress, emotion, our thoughts.

page 86: references further reading, The Psychobiology of Gene Expression

page 87: gets into deeper scientific explanation of how genes are expressed

page 92: Epigenetics refers to the control of genes from signals coming from the environment and not the DNA. The Human Epigenome Project launched in 2003 immediately after the Human Genome Project was completed. The scale of the Epigenome Project is massively larger than the Human Genome Project.

page 94: good example involving twins. Twins are born with the same DNA but they don't get the same diseases, etc. As the twins get older, researchers find their gene expression gets more and more different, proving that the expression is caused by the environment, and not a 'program' within the body. Twins are like exact copies of the same model of a computer. The 2 computers begin with the same starter software but over time they downloaded different software (epigenetic variations) along the way. The computer itself is the DNA, which does not change.

page 95: examples of medical studies in which epigenetic changes were made very quickly, over 3 to 6 months in the examples given.

page 96: if cells aren't ignited in a new way, they won't change. They don't just magically decide to change, you have to change your thoughts, environment, something.

page 98: stress is super bad, you have to relax

page 105, chapter 5: now taking it a step further by having thoughts based on a future environment that doesn't exist yet. Make your brain think the experience has already happened. Must do this repetitively in order to physically change the brain/body. Examples that you probably heard of before: athletes rehearsing in their minds, professional dancers "practicing" in their heads, musicians practicing in their heads, then when time to perform their bodies react perfectly.

page 132: following a discussion and examples of hypnosis. "Suggestibility combines 3 elements: acceptance, belief, and surrender." "Suggestibility isn't just an intellectual process. [You] can intellectualize being better, but if [you] can't emotionally embrace the result, [you]  can't enter into the autonomic nervous system...which is vital because that's the seat of the subconscious programming..."

page 134: These can't just be any emotions. Negative emotions such as anger, anxiety trigger the fight-or-flight survival reactions in the body. We do not the body to go into survival mode based on past conditioning. Positive emotions such as gratitude and peace will not trigger the fight-or-flight response and will allow genes to express that would not normally do so in fight-or-flight.  Additionally, note that you can't "try" to make something happen with your thoughts. This is a struggle against your analytical mind. You just "allow" or accept/believe/surrender. Yoda reference on this page.

page 135: Dr. Joe suggests that feeling gratitude is the best way to increase suggestibility in your mind/body. Imagine the outcome and feel grateful as if it already happened. When repeated, the body will begin to believe the future event has actually happened.

page 139: "...The placebo works only when the analytical mind is silenced so that your awareness can instead interact with the subconscious mind...eclipse your conscious mind with your autonomic nervous system."

page 141: begin discussion of implicit or procedural memories. Example, the action of reading, typing on a keyboard, or tying your shoes is subconscious, your body has memorized what to do and you don't even have to think about it. Discussion of how these implicit memories are tied to emotions and suggestibility and the difficulty of suggestibility.

page 148: begin discussion of meditation.

page 169: might want to skip this story, it is a troubling study about Cambodian women in the 1980s who were going legally blind. It was found that these women had witnessed unspeakable acts during the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s and their brains apparently reacted by making them go blind. There is some description of the unspeakable acts and it is very disturbing.

page 172: something Dr. Joe will end up reiterating for the rest of the book. "Just changing your beliefs and perceptions once isn't enough. You have to reinforce that change over and over." Examples and discussion follow.

page 181: begin discussion of quantum physics. It's a good chapter, but I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the Nova The Elegant Universe before.

page 199-end: the rest of the book gives examples of "personal transformation", images of brain scans I didn't really understand but he tries to explain, and text for a meditation that Dr. Joe wrote. As he continually states, he says the meditation needs to be done DAILY in order for the placebo effect to work. It is lengthy, he says there is a 45-minute version and a 1-hour version. You can record it yourself or you can purchase a copy of Dr. Joe reading it from his website.


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