6,865,000 pageviews

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Notable People From West Virginia

West Virginia hasn't produced many famous or historic figures. We can't claim a movie star, a U.S. president, a great inventor, a famous writer, or even a celebrated criminal. We do have from our great state two historic figures in sports: basketball's Jerry West and golf's Sam Snead. While I've often made fun of my home state, there is no other place I'd rather be from. I think the fact that West Virginia hasn't produced a movie star or a U.S. president says something good about the place. Yes, we should be proud of that.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, March 30, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Drying Up As A Creative Writer

Shortly after turning 68, I got an idea for a piece of short fiction. The story involved  a heated argument between two historical contemporaries, Dr. Sigmund Freud and Sherlock Holmes. The master shrink and the master detective have a disagreement over what is less real, the photograph of a dead person or a mirror image of someone who is alive. I thought I could transform this stupid concept into an original piece of literature. But I couldn't get beyond the idea, couldn't pull it off. It was then I realized that my creative juices had evaporated. I had become a dried up writer. I was, creatively, the walking dead. My lifelong self-loathing was suddenly replaced by intense self-pity.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Pocket Knives, Baseball Cards, And Marbles

When I grew up, almost every boy owned a few marbles, a pocket knife, and a small collection of baseball cards that smelled of bubble gum. With our knives we played a game called Mumbley-Peg. We carried our knives to school and carved our initials into our desk tops. No one plays with marbles anymore, baseball cards are for adults, and don't even try taking your pocket knife to school. I'm not sure life for children has changed for the better.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Pennsylvania Soup Nazi

     A Pennsylvania man was sent to jail Wednesday, February 19, 2014 after allegedly burning his wife's face with a hot pan of tomato soup following a drunken argument. Stuart Waterhouse, 55, heated a pan of tomato soup and placed it next to his 61-year-old wife's face as she was sleeping, then used a spoon to pour some directly onto her face--above her nose and between her eyes.

     Barbara Waterhouse had fallen asleep on the couch after a night of arguing and drinking with Stuart. Her face was significantly burned. Stuart was charged by state police in Greensburg with aggravated assault, simple assault and harassment, and was held in the Greene County Jail on $50,000 bond.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Politicians Who Talk To God

I don't mind a politician who communicates with God. People have a right to their religion and their beliefs. I do mind when a politician says God told him to make a certain political decision or policy that affects us all. So many of these government policies turn out bad for everyone. So, who are we supposed to blame, the politician or God? Even if I agree with the policy, I don't vote for people who claim they are acting on behalf of a higher power. Who do these mortals think they are? Well, I know who these people think they are, and that's what scares me.

Thornton P. Knowles 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His Mother

When I was a kid my mother was always dusting, frantically. We lived on a busy dirt road and the dust that got into the house drove her crazy. One of my uncles died of black lung. My mother was killed by dust. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, she was a saint. Dust to dust, as they say.

Thornton P. Knowles

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On His Only Childhood Friends

When I was a kid I had a 26-inch Monarch bicycle and my dog Dusty. As long as I had the two of them I didn't need any friends. The bike outlived my dog, and then my dog died. From there I began my long journey into loneliness. I just couldn't replace them.

Thornton P. Knowles

Murder in Amish Country: The Edward Gingerich Case

     Twenty-four years ago, Edward Gingerich became the first old-order Amish man in history to be convicted of criminal homicide. A year earlier he had crushed his wife's skull by repeatedly stomping her. He next scooped out Katie Gingerich's brain with his hands, then opened her up with a kitchen knife and ripped out all of her internal organs. This atrocious assault took place in the kitchen of the couple's farmhouse located in a remote section of Crawford County in Rockdale Township near Mill Village, Pennsylvania. Two of Edward's children, ages three and four, witnessed the brutal March 19, 1993 killing.

     Edward Gingerich was a gifted young man. Unfortunately, the subjects that excited him were science and technology, disciplines that threatened the Amish way of life. An excellent mechanic, he built engines from scratch and could fix anything that contained a motor. A fish out of water, Edward Gingerich felt trapped in a society at odds with his talents and goals. He eventually built a modern sawmill with a machine shop near his house on property owned by his father. The business put him in touch with a lot of local English people and put him at odds with the local Amish bishop. His estrangement from his family and the Amish community led to depression, anger, and eventually madness in the form of paranoid schizophrenia.

     Prior to killing his wife, Edward spent two, ten-day stints in mental wards in Erie, Pennsylvania and Jamestown, New York. On Katie Gingerich's last day of life, she took Ed to see a chiropractor in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania who specialized in treating the Amish for physical aliments. The chiropractor, pursuant to his regular program of treatment, pulled Edward's toes and sent him home with a jar of blackstrap molasses.

     At the Edward Gingerich murder trial in March 1994, the Crawford County jury, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, refused to find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity. Instead, they found hims "guilty of involuntary manslaughter but mentally ill." This meant Ed would receive psychiatric care while serving a fixed term in prison. Had he been found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would have been treated in a mental institution until the staff psychiatrists declared him well enough to return to society.

     Prior to Edward Gingerich's sentencing, every member of the small Amish enclave put their names on a petition asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence. Since Ed had been convicted of the lesser homicide offense of involuntary manslaughter, the maximum sentence sentence was only five years. The trial judge, noting that Gingerich had already spent a year in the Crawford County Jail, sentenced him to four years.

     Edward Gingerich served his time in a minimum security prison near Mercer, Pennsylvania. He was released from custody, without any strings attached, in March 1998.

     In January 2011, following a troubled post-prison life, Edward Gingerich hanged himself in a barn near Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania. At the time of his death, he was living outside the local Amish community on a small farm owned by his defense attorney. His suicide message, etched in dust in the barn, read: "Please forgive me."

     Today, the Mill Village Amish enclave is less than half the size it was at the time of the murder. The killing, besides costing the life of a young Amish woman, tore the Gingerich family apart and destroyed a once thriving community.

     A detailed narration of this tragic case can be found in my book, Crimson Stain.   

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Poetry Readings

No one reads poetry anymore but a handful of poets and a few English teachers and their poor students. While I'd rather sit through a political speech than attend a poetry reading, it's a decision I hope I'll never have to make. Having said that, I'm not against poetry. I'm guilty of writing a few poems myself, and have purchased books of poetry. I just don't like the pretentious mumbo-jumbo stuff. I enjoying reading Charles Bukowski. He's a bad drunk and unlikable person, but a real poet with a lot of gritty, interesting things to say. I do not, however, recommend his raucous, booze laden poetry readings. In his case, it's best to separate the poet from his work.

Thornton P. Knowles

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On West Virginia

If you took away signs of human life, West Virginia would be the most beautiful place on earth.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, March 19, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Twentieth Century

I was born and will probably die in the Twentieth Century. That span of just one-hundred years will be known as the century of accelerated, world-changing technological progress. It will also be remembered as the century of violent death through wars, oppressive governments, and genocide. I shudder to think what the next century will bring, but fortunately will not be around to experience it. [Dr. Knowles died in 1998.]

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Climbing Trees

As a kid I climbed a lot of trees. I climbed in the winter, you know, for the view. I hoped that if I got high enough, my world would look different. It didn't. I kept climbing though, and never blamed the trees.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Secrets Of The Catholic Confession Chamber

In one of my novels I have several scenes featuring the back-and-forth between a priest and a sinner inside the confessional. I'm not Catholic, but have long been fascinated in what is said inside that dark little chamber. My interest traces back to a Catholic kid I knew in high school who said he dated girls who spent the most time in that secret-inducing box. He'd actually sit outside the confessional with a stopwatch. That kid, interestingly enough, grew up to become a priest. I sent him a signed copy of my novel, thanking him for sparking my interest in church-secured confessions. He didn't get back to me. If I were ever priest-grilled inside that box, I'd confess this was not my best novel.

Thornton P. Knowles

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Funny Names

My uncle lived outside of Elkins, West Virginia on Misdemeanor Lane. He named his son Philonious, and his dog Mugshot. You can't make this stuff up. Well actually, you can. And I just did. Sorry.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, March 12, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Being Different

To be truly different is nothing to be ashamed of. It can be a gift, and certainly does not reflect on one's character or worth. But being different can be difficult because a lot of people either don't like or are afraid of people who are different. Large groups of people who are "different" in exactly the same way are not truly unusual. They are pretenders looking for attention. It takes guts to be really different. That's one thing I know about.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Harry Truman

President Harry Truman made an enormously big and difficult decision when he dripped the A-bombs on Japan. Because of that move, presidential historians will debate and discuss Harry Truman for decades to come. In comparison, most former presidents end up as historical footnotes, and are quickly forgotten. Old "Give-em-Hell" Harry really gave them Hell, and, for better or worse, will be remembered for it.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, March 9, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Lonely Profession

Loneliness cannot be shared, that's what makes it so lonely. Many writers suffer from this form of societal isolation. They live among us, but feel they are not a part of us. These lost souls share their empty lives with imaginary friends, associates, lovers, and enemies of their own creation. It's quite sad, and all the writing, creativity and success in the world won't cure it. You are either alone or you're not, and there's nothing you can do about it. Writing is the work of the lonely.

Thornton P. Knowles

Monday, March 5, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Fear Of Nothing

Before the Big Bang there was supposedly nothing. Doesn't there have to be something? What does nothing look like? What the hell is nothing? Whatever it is, I thing nothing is what we are all afraid of.

Thornton P. Knowles

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Teasers And Practical Jokesters

I'm not a fan of being teased, and therefore have never been a teaser. I suspect that people who engage in prolific teasing are, on the inside, miserable. I believe this is also true of practical jokers. I do not like being the butt of a practical joke, and make a point of avoiding such tricksters. I don't like being made the center of attention, particularly for the amusement of others. Never pull a practical joke on an introvert, that might not turn out well.

Thornton P. Knowles

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On The Overpowering Desire To Write

Once you realize you have an overpowering desire to write fiction, seek immediate psychiatric help. Since this affliction usually raises its ugly head when the victim is in middle school, parents should take action at its earliest signs. Teachers should also be alert to it as well. Crime novelist James M. Cain said it best: "I think the talent to write is a disease, and the fact it produces books that people buy hasn't made it any more healthy."

Thornton P. Knowles 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Thornton P. Knowles On Reality TV Cliches

Pretty much everything that comes out of a politician's mouth is a cliche. Athletes and sportscasters also rely heavily on the trite, overused expression. But nowhere is the cliche more at home than on reality TV shows like "Survivor" and "Top Chef." What follows are just five of the most common cliches uttered by reality television contestants:
1. I'm in it to win it.
2. Go big or go home.
3. I've got a target on my back.
4. I'm not here to make friends.
5. I've got to step up my game.
If a viewer of one of these shows consumed a shot of booze every time a reality TV contestant used one of these cliches, before the first commercial that person would be in an alcoholic stupor. (Mr. Knowles died before the advent of reality TV, but because he wasn't a big fan of television, and hated cliches, I hope he would approve of this attribution.)

Thornton P. Knowles