Biannual Roundup: Thanks for following posts to and fro

Haunting the Graveyard: Unearthing the Story of the Coker Settlement

Know it appears suspicious that a post about the author’s book that finally made it into print popped up as the most-read by you during the past year, but you actually were that kind.

Of course, the controversial redevelopment plans for Alamo Plaza still remain of grave concern for those who love San Antonio. Will the plaza be fenced in? Will the Texas General Land Office repurpose the buildings on the west side of the plaza as a new museum or bulldoze those important historic landmarks? So many design issues remain unresolved as we enter 2020.

The author always hope postcards sent back from other places help tease out the boulevardier in you, seducing you into traveling more and serving as helpful guides when you do.

The following list represents the posts you clicked most in 2019, with the number in parentheses representing rankings from six months ago.

  1. Postcard from the Coker Settlement: Following long gestation, book finally due to arrive, 2019
  2. Has Alamo Plaza fallen in the hands of ‘reverential’ caretakers? 2019 (2)
  3. How’s the GLO managing Alamo Plaza? Welcome to the faux Alamo. 2019 (3)

    Hey, GLO. No faux Alamo.

  4. Postcard from Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy: History with a horse hanging overhead, 2019, (5)
  5. The Madarasz murder mystery: Might Helen haunt Brackenridge Park? 2012 (7)
  6. The danger of playing hardball with our Library: Bookworms tend to vote, 2014
  7. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: ‘I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ 2019
  8. Postcard from Mexico City: The Lord of Poison and potent relics, 2017
  9. Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: Foods steeped in tradition, 2019 (11)

    Boquerones, fried anchovies, at El Rinconcillo in Sevilla, Spain

  10. Postcard from Sevilla, Spain: The most celebrated mother in Spain, 2019
  11. Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Street Art, Part I, 2019
  12. Postcard from San Antonio Botanical Garden: Walking across Texas without leaving home, 2019

From the streets of Malaga, Spain, pulpo y vino

Thanks for dropping by. Would love to see comments anytime.

I spy what you are reading here….

A 1911 postcard shows the beauty of the land in Brackenridge Park formerly owned by Helen Madarasz.

A 1911 postcard shows the beauty of the land in Brackenridge Park formerly owned by Helen Madarasz.

Time for the semiannual big-brother spy report on what posts you have been reading most during the past 12 months. As usual, you are all over the map, seemingly encouraging me to continue randomly sending postcards from San Antonio and back home no matter where we wander.

The mysterious murder of Helen Madarasz in Brackenridge Park rose to the top, which makes me wonder why ghost-hunters have not latched onto the story of Martha Mansfield. There are still some who pine to hear the San Antonio Song, a post from five years ago, but a few new posts squeezed into the top dozen. Hope some of you have found your way to dine in our favorite restaurants in Oaxaca, but my personal favorite entry about food in Oaxaca is on grasshoppers.

The number in parentheses represents the rankings from six months ago:

  1. The Madarasz Murder Mystery: Might Helen Haunt Brackenridge Park?, 2012 (2)
  2. Artist Foundation unleashes another round of creative fervor, 2015
  3. The danger of playing hardball with our Library: Bookworms tend to vote, 2014 (1)
  4. Remembering everyday people: Our rural heritage merits attention, 2014 (5)
  5. Seeing San Fernando Cathedral in a new light…, 2014 (7)
  6. Please put this song on Tony’s pony and make it ride away, 2010 (3)
  7. Picturing the City’s Past Just Got Easier, 2014 (6)
  8. How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?, 2011 (10)
  9. That Crabby Old Colonel Cribby Condemned the River to Years of Lowlife, 2013 (11)
  10. Weather Forecast: 11 Days of Confetti Ahead, 2015
  11. Photographs from the 1800s place faces on the names in Zephaniah Conner’s Bible, 2014
  12. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Favorites on the food front, 2015

Thanks for dropping by every once in a while. Love hearing your feedback.

alamo-full-page

 

The Curse of Madarasz Park: Another Ghost Wandering in Brackenridge Park?

Sometimes in the middle of the night, lions and wildcats can be heard crying out from the San Antonio Zoo by people living in neighborhoods more than a mile away from Brackenridge Park. Or so they say. I’m not convinced that some of those cries might not be a woman’s screams….

Shortly before coming to San Antonio to star in a silent film shooting in San Antonio in 1923, Martha Mansfield predicted what fashions stylish women would be wearing that fall:

The straightline frock, slim and narrow, is back for another season…. in lustrous satin of white or pastel shades.

The Hamilton News, July 2, 1923

After breakfasting in the company of friends at the St. Anthony Hotel on the morning of November 29, she unfortunately traded a narrow, fashionable frock for one of yards of fabric billowing over layers of crinolines. She donned the gown for her role as a daughter of the Confederacy falling in love with a Union soldier in The Warrens of Virginia, written by William Churchill de Mille, Cecil’s older brother. Brackenridge Park was selected for the day’s shooting because it:

contained a picturesque group of rag pickers’ shacks that would do very well for the servants’ quarters of the Southern plantation….

The Ogden Examiner, December 30, 1923

Her chauffeur parked the car near the set, and, during a break in filming, Martha retreated inside to relax. Shortly thereafter she emerged “screaming from her limousine, a flaming torch.” Leading man Wilfred Lytell threw his jacket over her head and face to protect her from the flames as the chauffeur frantically flailed to extinguish them. Although she was rushed to the hospital, she died from the severe burns on November 30.

How the fire started and enveloped Martha so quickly remained a mystery; police termed her death accidental. Some say the cause was a match tossed away carelessly by a fellow cast member; others speculated she herself dropped a match while lighting a cigarette. The Ogden Examiner hinted at foul play, perhaps the actress had not been alone:

What was it that turned the picturesque gown into a fiery funeral shroud?…. What started the flames that swept over her crinoline costume and wrapped her in a deadly embrace….

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Born in New York as the new century dawned, Martha Erlich quickly progressed from the Ziegfeld Follies to star in silent films under her stage name of Martha Mansfield. The young starlet quickly was cast in numerous films, with a role opposite John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1920 her most famous.

After her life was extinguished in San Antonio, her body was shipped to New York. Papers reported 1,000 people crowded into the funeral chapel, with another 5,000 held at bay by police outside. Among the films released after her death was The Silent Command, a story of “temptation and disgrace of a naval officer” by a ring of spies led by Bela Lugosi. The Washington Post reported the film was “heartily endorsed by Theodore Roosevelt, assistant secretary of the Navy and by General Pershing.”

So perhaps there is another ghost haunting Brackenridge Park, joining poor Helen Madarasz whose body went up in flames the year Martha Mansfield was born.

I promise I am not actively seeking spirits to populate the park. Helen is the only one I stumbled across on my own. Pursuers of the paranormal based in Austin recently led me to Martha after reading my earlier post about Helen. Just in time for Halloween. And Sarah found an additional four men who all perished in 1906 and 1907 in the portion of the park that bore Helen’s name – Ernest Richter, Otto Petrus Goetz, Sam Wigodsky and William Berger.

Let me know if you see or sense any of them. Or perhaps hear their screams.