Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 14, 2021


 Openers:  The clock in the tower of the Record struck two.  Although I didn't know it then, the clock of my destiny struck at the same time.

Hard on the throb of the chime Smithson stuck his head out of the door of his den, and swept his eyes over the local-room.  He found nobody but me.  Every one else was absent.  As for me, I was having a smoke after a light lunch, and waiting for something to do.

"Nobody here but you, eh?" said Smithson.  "Well, c'm'ere."

Smithson was city editor of the Record.  Therefore, I cast aside my cigarette and complied with his request.

He bobbed back into his room, withdrawing his head from the door very much like a turtle drawing into its shell.  I followed him and stood waiting his next remark.  When it came I didn't know just what to make of it after all.

Said Smithson:  "Know anything about Semi Dual?"

-- "The Occult Detector" by J. U. Giesy and Junius Smith B. Smith (first published in three parts -- February 17, February 24, March 7, 1912 -- in The Cavalier)

Ah...Semi Dual, aka Prince Abdul Omar of Persia.  Psychiatist, telepath, mystic, astrologer, and an early "occult detective."

The occult detective mixes the mystery/crime story with the superntural, fantasy,  or horror genres.  Perhaps the first was Fitz-James O'Brien's Harry Escott, who appeared in two stories beginning in 1855.  soon the floodgates were open for the likes of Bram Stoker's Abraham van Helsing, Sheridan Le Fanu's Martin Hesselius, Algernon Blackwood's John Silence, E. and H. Heron's Flaxman Low, William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki, Sax Rohmer Morris Klaw, Dion Fortune's Dr. Taverner, Seabury Quinn's Jules de Grandin, Joseph Payne Brennan's Lucius Leffing, and so many more, leading up to the present day with such characters as F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack, Brian Lumley's Titus Crow, Mike Mignola's Joe Golen, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden.  Even Sherlock Holmes has moved into occult territory by confronting Dracula, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, H. P. Lovecraft's Old Ones in reimaginings written by other authors.

Geisy and Smith wrote 33 Semi Dual adventures from 1912 to 1943.  The character gained his nckname from the dual nature of his investigations -- part material and part occult.  Semi Dual lives and operates in a skyscaper that he owns. A later tenant of the office building is the detective firm of Glace and Bryce.  Glace is Gordon Glace, the former Record reporter who narrates many of the stories; his partner in the detective agency is retired police detective James Bryce.  In most of the storie, it is one or the other of these two who first encounter the mystery or menace du jour; Semi Dual, like Nero Wolfe, seldom leaves his home.

In "The Occult Detector," Grace follows smithson's orders and goes to interview the mhyysterious Semi Dual.  During the interview, the detective learns enough about a recent murder to solve it.  Many of the early stories involve "small-scale" cases, kin which Semi Dual helps individuals.  Later stories have the detective going aginst occult forces that threaten the world, especially the Devil-inspired Black Brotherhood.  Semi dual also takes on criminal gangs in the later stories.

The series, though popular, was never reprinted during the pulp era, perhaps because to their length -- most of the stories were novella-length or greater.  Altus Press is releasing the entire series in nine volumes, and nine of the stories are avaiable to read online at Roy Glashan's Library (

Pro Se Press has revived the character in The New Adventures of Semi Dual, a collection of three stories by I. A. Watson, Kevin Noel Olsen, and James Palmer.

J. U. Giesy (1877-1947) was a physician, astrology enthusiast, and pulp writer, best known for his Json Croft trilogy of fantasy books, beginning with Palos of the Dog Star Pack.  Fellow astrology believer Junius B. Smith (1883-1945) began his fiction career co-writing "The Occult Detector" with Giesy; in addition to the Semi dual series the pair collaborated on at least eight other stories.  Smith published another sixteen stories on his own and contributed a regular column, "My Stars," to Ainslees (later retitled as Ainslee's Smart Love Magazine, and then as Smart Love Stories) beginning in 1934.

'Tis Himself:  Today, Flag Day, we also celebrate the birthday of my late father-in-law, Harold A. Keane.  More than one person has said that you could tell Harold's family came from County Cork because he was built like a fireplug.  I don't know what happened on that long-ago day in County Cork when three brothers decided to emigrate the same day -- one to Canada, one to Australia, and one -- Harold's father -- to America, but I suspect someone was close on their heels.  Harold's father ended up in Rockland, Massachusetts, working in a shoe factory.  He evidently once had a chance to become a partner in a new shoe company, Thom McAn, but felt it was too risky,  

Harold was one of eight kids.  There was not much money and Harold's youngest borther Don (who passed away several months ago in his nineties) always felt close to Harold because Harold has scrimped and saved to buy Don a bicycle in the days when Don thought his family would never be able to afford one for him.  When World War II broke out, Harold dropped out of high school and joined the Navy with his cousin Eddie.  Harold and Eddie switched temporarally identities so that each would pass the parts of the physical the other couldn't.   Harold fell in love with Eileen, whose fiance had been killed earlier in the war.  When Harold proposed, Eileen put him off by saying she would marry him once the war was over, and -- son of a gun! -- the war was suddently over within a week, so with a wife and a Bronze Star, Harold went off the Georgia Tech, studying engineering.  Soon , there were three of them (Michael had been born), living in a trailer while Harold studied and sold newspapers outside of Sunday mass to get along.  (He had had a chance to run bootleg liquor but Eileen put the kibosh on that, despite the easy money.)  Shortly before he graduated, the school tried to kick him out when they discovered that he had never graduated high school, saying that Harold had entered Georgia Tech on false pretenses.  Harold made them dig out the original application he had made to the school, pointing out that the space for year graduated from high school was blank.  Harold was scrupulously honest and had made no false pretenses.  They allowed him to graduate.

Harold worked for various companies subcontracted to the defense industry one rockets and the space program.  Because of security concerns he could never really say what he did and Kitty and her brothers used to make up extrvagrant stories about what he did.  One night, while they were living in Cocoa Beach, Florida, Harold woke the kids up and said it was a beautiful night for a walk.  They ended up on a sand bar watching the original Gemini rocket take off; he just could not tell them why they were really out that late at night.

Harold was quiet, patient, and good-humored, but he remembered the time when "no Irish need apply."  He could be feisty and quick to anger when he felt someone was taking advantage of him; I once saw him walkout on a shady car dealer just moment before the deal was to close.  (And it was a sight to see when the woman who was making Kitty's wedding dress decided she couldn't/wouldn't make the dress agreed upon.  Kitty got married in wedding dress she wanted, one that was as perfect as she is.  Thank you, Harold.)

It was pancreatic cancer that got Harold.  We suspect it might hve been a result of radiation from the various secret places he worked.  (Toward the end of each week, he and many of the other workers would remove the radiation counter all employees were requred to wear to ensure they were not exxposed to dangerous levels.)   Harold appeared to beat the cancer twice, but that evil, evil disease kept coming back.  He passed away just weeks before the birth of his first grandson, Mark.  For that reason I have also considered Mark as living proof that the circle continues.

It's a blessing Harold never knew he shared a birthday with Donald Trump.  He would have hated that son of a bitch.

Flag Day:  Today has always been an important holiday to me.  It's a time to reflect on what the promise of our imperfect country is and what we can do to come closer to achieving that promise.  The flag, and what it stands for, and the people who have sacrificed to stand behind it are all part of the core of who I am as a human being.  I hold no truck with idiots who demean the flag by mugging while hugging it on stage, just as I hold no truck with those who selfishly and stupidly use it as an excuse for their own deplorable actions.  For me, the flag and what it stands for is sacred, which is why I support the protester's right to burn it -- but not to desecrate it.

Here's a ten-minute documentary from 1939 that tells The Story of Our Flag:

And somewhat off topic:  Here's a 1917 film titled Betsy Ross, a totally non-historic melodrama whcich includes a "blink and you'll miss it" scene where Betsy creates the flag.  The rest is the film is a silly, but somewhat enjoyable, love triangle between Betsy, her sister, and a British soldier.

The Big Chick with the Big Roscoe in the Kentucky Diner:  Just because every once in a while you need a Jean Shepherd fix.  Here's The Jean Shepherd Show from Febraury 26, 1965:

Gowrow:  The Gowrow is a lizard-y thing/With nasty jaws.  It cannot sing./It's horn-like spikes run down its back./A sweet nature it does does lack./So if you're down in Arkansas/Visiting your sister or your Maw,/Avoid the Gowrow. (Note: He or she/Often comes after a moonshine spree.)

R.I.P. Lt. Col. Sam Lombardo:  Sam Lombardo wan an Italian immigrant who cme to America when he was ten and later served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, died Friday at Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  He was just one month shy of his 102nd birthday.  He was one of four World War Ii veterans who, at age 100, participated in the coin toss for Super Bowl LIV in Miami Gardens to commemorate the NFL's 100th season.  The four rolled onto the field in golf carts, passing a group of cheerleaders.  ("They wouldn't let us stop by them," Lombardo recalled with a wink.  "they kept going.  I said 'Why don't you stop for a minute?  I just want to shake some hands.' ")

Lombardo served as the executive officer of an infantry company following the battle of the Bulge in World War II.  As they advanced across the German countryside, Lombardo noted that he had not seen any American flags.  He asked the company commander for a flag but the request ws denied by headquarters.  Well, that got Lombardo's back up.  "If they won't give us one, we'll make one."  That's just what he and his comany did.  They used pieces of white cloth surrender flags hanging from German windows, and found pillows made of red fabric.  A blue curtain was added and the stars were cut from the surrender flags using the medic's scissors.  It took weeks to make the flag, using sewing machines found or borrowed during their march across Germany.  The flag was finished three weeks before the war in Europe ended and was carried proudly by the men in Lombardo's company.  The hand-made flag is now prominently displayed at the Fort Benning museum.

I am of the firm belief that every genertion is the greatest generation, but some may be more "greatest" than others.

Lombardo, an avid golfer, is now Somewhere where there are no greens fees.

Florida Man:   Just one item today because ti happened in mmy neck of the woods.

  • It began when Florida Man Marcus Lavoie of Escamvia County told another man that his tires had been slashed.  When the other man came out to investigate, only to find his tires had not been slashed, Lavoie pulled out a samrai sword and began chasing him down the street.  A deputy arrived and was told that Lavoie was known to also carry a weapon.  Lavoie was told to put down the sword.  He didn't; rather, he threatened the deputy and reached toward his waist. and was tasered for his efforts.  Turns out there was a loaded 9mm handgun in Lavoie's waist, with a bullet in the chamber.  According to WEAR-Pensacola, "Lavoie has a license to carry the weapon."  By weapon, I assume is meant the handgun and not the samarai sword.  Florida may be strange, but even it would not stoop low enough to force its citizens to get a samarai sword license -- that would go against the Second-and-a-Half Amendment, or something.

Some of the Good Stuff:
  • Firefighters get creative to rescue a baby raccoon with its head stuck in a sewer grate     (with the cutest photo of a stuck baby raccoon evah)
  • Rsearchers create AI device to sniff out cancer in blood samples with a 95% accuracy for hard to find cancers
  • Pregnant mom saves four kids from drowning
  • Quick-thinking kayakers save a pait of rare eagles from drowning in the Danube
  • Teacher swaps shoes with student to save him from missing his graduation
  • Now you can download free coloring books from 102 museums, libraries, and collections

Today's Poem:
The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red galre, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner still wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so valiantly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, nor the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spagled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it  is just,
And this be our motto:  "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triump shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

-- Francis Scott Key


  1. When Diane was teaching in a local Elementary School (Grades One to Six), the Principal put Diane in charge of the FLAG DAY celebration. The Principal was a huge fan of FLAG DAY and had organized a parade each year where all the students marched. Diane put on patriotic plays, had her students sing Flag Day songs, and included local personages (the Mayor, various politicians, etc.) in the celebration.

  2. Rick, here's a short list of FLAG DAY songs:
    Red Flag Day - U2
    The Flag Still Flies High - United States Army Band & Chorus
    Flag Day - Didipop
    Flag Day - The Housemartins
    Flag Day / The Mother Stone

    1. And let's add You're a Grand Old Flag to that list.