Episode 209 - My Ancestor Was America’s First Serial KillerOct 08, 2017
Host Scott Fisher opens the show with David Allen Lambert, Chief Genealogist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. David starts out “Family Histoire News” with a disturbing story out of New York where the Department of Health wants to make a few changes concerning access to records. Hear what they would like to do. Then, a century after the fact, a World War I submarine’s wreckage has been found in water near Belgium. David will tell you what is known about it. Next, a pair of World War II soldier twins celebrate their 99th birthdays! Who are they and what’s their story? David has the details. Finally, it’s a strange tail from Laguna Beach, involving a wedding, a camera, and a rogue wave. Wait until you hear the twist! David’s Blogger Spotlight this week shines on Mags Gaulden’s site, GrandmasGenes.com/blog.
Next, Fisher visits with writer Jeff Mudgett. At around the age of 40, over twenty years ago, Jeff learned from his grandfather that his second great grandfather was a man known to the world as H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer. Jeff has spent years researching his paternal line ancestor. His book Bloodstains goes through it all. Jeff recently hosted a series on the subject on History called “American Ripper.” Hear what Jeff has to say and why he believes that H. H. Holmes was also “Jack The Ripper!”
Next, Preservation Authority Tom Perry takes questions on broken cassette tapes and what one New York man should really be looking for in a home movie transfer.
That’s all this week on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show!
Transcript of Episode 209
Host: Scott Fisher with guest David Allen Lambert
Segment 1 Episode 209
Fisher: Boy, this is painful, all these growing pains. Hi, it is Fisher your Radio Roots Sleuth on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show, the program where we shake your family tree and watch the nuts fall out. We are growing so fast and I love this! We just got picked up by our latest affiliates. First of all, WDWD Faith Talk 590 AM in Atlanta, Georgia, so thrilled that you have us on in the deep South and also, WOKR 1310 AM in Canandaigua and Rochester, New York. I am sure there are lots of family history stories to come out of both of those places. So thrilled to have them on, and this segment is brought to you by 23andMe.comDNA. Boy, do we have a show for you today. I’ll tell you that right now. We have an amazing guest on for two segments starting in about 8 or 9 minutes or so. His name is Jeff Mudgett and Jeff is the author of a book called Bloodstains. It’s about his ancestor, his second great grandfather, a man he says made Jack the Ripper look like an amateur. Yes, H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer was his ancestor and you’re going to want to hear Jeff’s journey to learn about him and many of the stories associated with that, unbelievable stuff. Hey, we’ve got to give a little love to our Extreme Genes Patrons Club members too. We had our very first “Ask Me Anything” live session on YouTube about a week and a half ago. We were having a lot of fun there giving people early access to the podcast and bonus podcast too for certain levels of membership. So, if you want to sign up, it’s easy to do. Just go to the upper right hand corner of our ExtremeGenes.com website or go to Patreon.com/Extreme Genes, easy stuff. And by the way, you can also sign up for our “Weekly Genie” newsletter, comes out every Monday morning. Lots of great stuff in there, great stories and of course a column from me. We’d love to have you on there. Sign up at ExtremeGenes.com. But right now we’re heading out to Louisville, Kentucky. I always have to say that, David, like I’ve got a mouth full of marbles. Looville, Kentucky. He’s David Allen Lambert, the Chief Genealogist of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and AmericanAncestors.org. What are you doing there, sir?
David: Well, twice a year the SAR has what we call a Leadership Conference, and basically we make all the rules and regulations and help out the tens of thousands of SAR members. So, I’m on the genealogy committee, the 250th committee and a couple others. They keep me out of trouble while I’m here in Kentucky.
Fisher: [Laughs] Well, let us begin with our Family Histoire News for this week and David, what do you have?
David: Well, I want to offer all of our listeners a chance to finally volunteer for World War I so to speak.
David: [Laughs] Well, you may have heard, Fish, the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress are looking for volunteers to actually go through the digital newspapers to identify, get this, comic strips to give the lighter side to World War I.
Fisher: [Laughs] That’s because there was such a light side to World War I, so much humor, but you’re right, the cartoons were pretty fun. Some of the things were pretty interesting. We actually posted one of them on ExtremeGenes.com. So, how do we do this if we want to be part of this project?
David: Well, I would say the easiest way is go to ExtreneGenes.com and go right to the link and it will give you all the information that you need. And I know I’m signing up for it. I’m going to look for some Massachusetts papers. I need a little laughter repopulated onto the digital age.
Fisher: Now, they’re looking not only for cartoons but illustrations, I think and there are some other things that were on there.
David: Right. I think they are also looking in the kind of catalogue between the lines because advertisements, believe it or not, had a lot to do with overtones, especially not just buying Liberty Bonds but also for things that were in the common culture back then, especially with everything going on with the Spanish flu. I’m sure they are out looking for those type of advertisements as well in the medical. Besides a light hearted life, state side for families and the veterans were over in the trenches.
Fisher: Sounds like a fun project.
David: Well, I know you can sign me up. But remember “The Smithsonian wants you!”
Fisher: That’s right. [Laughs]
David: My next story goes across the pond over to Ayrshire, Scotland. I actually was there with my daughter over the summer but I wish I knew back then that they were going to uncover a house older than Stonehenge. This building was built 4000 BC. They found it while putting in water pipes and this place is post-holed moulds with pottery of a Neolithic time when they went from hunter gatherer to farming and is part of Scotland. This is the oldest example found in recent years of something this early.
Fisher: Wow! That’s incredible. And this is something that people will be able to see in the not too distant future? They’re going to make it into a public place?
David: I would imagine they are probably going to stop a lot of the water pipes going through it.
Fisher: Yeah. [Laughs]
David: Make it so people can visit. And who knows who else lived nearby. If there was one house I’m sure it wasn’t a lone settlement out in the wilderness.
David: Probably there were many, probably a community.
David: Our next story is about a person who isn’t underground. Do you know she is still a pensioner from the Civil War?
Fisher: Yeah, we touched on this back in April about this lady, Irene, right?
David: Irene Triplett of North Carolina who is the ripe old age of 87 but if her dad was alive he’d be 171!
David: Her dad, Mose Triplett was both a Confederate and Union Veteran. And because he fought for the Union at the end of the war he was entitled to a pension. Her mother died in the 1960s and this daughter has now been recorded by the US Department of Veteran Affairs as the last pensioner from the Civil War.
Fisher: Can you imagine we’re still paying out money from the Civil War to people in benefits?
David: It’s amazing to think 152 years later and it’s still being paid. $73 a month I think it is?
Fisher: Yeah, it’s down to 73 bucks a month and 13 cents.
David: Oh, can’t forget that.
David: Well, my “blogger spotlight” is for Becky Campbell who has a very “hip” blog. In fact, it’s called the hipsterhistorian.com. Becky goes on to talking in this recent blog post about her ancestors named, well not Becky, but Rebecca. She’s gone into talking about ancestors have lived a long time including a child named Rebecca who lived only nine days. So, it’s a really interesting way of looking at the names in your family. The other thing I would like to say of course is if you’re not a member of NEGHS, you can become a free guest member. Each week I like to toss out either a database or something special. If you want to join remember the checkout code “Extreme” will save you $20 on the annual membership.
Fisher: All right, thanks so much David. Good to talk to you. Coming up next, the guy who got into his genealogy and discovered something most of his family didn’t want to talk about, America’s first serial killer, his second great grandfather. He’s written a book about it. I’ll talk to Jeff Mudgett in 3 minutes on Extreme Genes America’s family History Show.
Segment 2 Episode 209
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jeff Mudgett
Fisher: And welcome back to America’s Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. It is Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth. This segment of the show is brought to you by LegacyTree.com. And you know, so many of us run into ancestors when we get into the research that we might look at and go, “Oh boy, that doesn’t look like one I want to share with the rest of the family.” [Laughs] Jeff Mudgett the Author of Bloodstains is one of those people, except he’s made another decision, he’s sharing his story with the world because Jeff is the second great grandson of America’s first serial killer, Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as H. H. Holmes. Jeff, welcome to Extreme Genes. How are you?
Jeff: Scott I’m doing great and I want to thank you so much. When you first contacted me about coming on your show and I did some research about what you do on the air my first impression was this show is perfectly matched to my story and the story of my ancestor.
Fisher: Yeah absolutely. And you know I was thinking about this, as you grew up, you know most people, if there’s a bad ancestor back there the story just doesn’t get passed down. Did you hear about this when you were young?
Jeff: No. No, I didn’t find out about this horrible monster until I was about forty years old when my grandfather decided to lift the weight off his shoulders. He’d kept it a secret from the entire family including my grandmother for his whole life. And you know one dinner party he decided, “Hey everybody, I need some help on this, we’re related to probably the most evil man in American history.”
Fisher: Wow! And had he known him?
Jeff: I don’t think so. I write about it in the book. There’s gaps and timelines which I fill in, and I alert my readers that I’m using some speculation to do so. But I never was told by my grandfather that he had actually shaken the man’s hand or anything.
Fisher: All right, let’s talk about a little history here, about Herman Webster Mudgett aka H. H. Holmes. Where did the H. H. Holmes thing come from? Was that his own alias?
Jeff: Oh he had thirty one of them, Scott. He was fascinated with Sherlock Holmes, and he just thought one was kind of cute and fit his lifestyle and he hung with it. As a matter of fact he even had it engraved on the gravesite, that we will get into later that we exhumed earlier this year.
Fisher: Unbelievable. So, when was he born, when did he die, how did he die, and then let’s talk about what all happened in between. [Laughs]
Jeff: Yeah. He was born in 1861. He went to the University of Michigan and received a degree in medicine. The archivist there at Ann Arbor helps me with new material all the time about Holmes and he was an amazing student, incredible intellect, high IQ, and pretty much played with his professors. He’d show up the day of a test and pass. They didn’t like that.
Fisher: [Laughs] Of course not.
Jeff: He paid for his tuition robbing graves and selling the skeletons.
Jeff: He learned about life insurance fraud, decided that was his career rather than saving children from the flu, and then went on to build the famous murder castle factory of death in Chicago before the World’s Fair. Which so many stories have been written about, and movies, there’s going to be a new movie I think within two years, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio is going to star as my great, great grandfather. And then finally he made a couple of slip ups and got caught by the law and arrested and was tried for the murder of his assistant, not one of the innocent victims at the castle. And the trial is one of the great jurisprudent stories in American history. Also, his lawyers quit him. They didn’t want to defend him. They were so disgusted with him.
Jeff: He defended himself and every major newspaper there reported on it. And some of his tactics, you know I’ve been to law school myself, some of his tactics are still talked about in law schools today, you know, about this amazing orator that he was. Well he was found guilty and the judge sentenced him to death. He was imprisoned in Pennsylvania, and supposedly executed by hanging.
Fisher: Okay. [Laughs]
Jeff: Well, you know the legends and lores went on.
Fisher: Right. It’s like Batman isn’t it right?
Jeff: Oh it never stops. We use that old term “the rabbit hole” anything you do with Holmes it’s going to expand into something else.
Fisher: Wow! Any idea, psychologically, have you talked to some people about what would cause somebody to go in this direction?
Jeff: Yes I have. But I am hesitant to go there, Scott, because this man, his mind was so, and I hate to use the word amazing because then you think of these geniuses like Einstein.
Fisher: Right. But there are evil geniuses.
Jeff: He was. He was. And when you try to predict why he did things because of how he thought, I was on a show the other day and they asked me, “Jeff, can you imagine if Holmes were alive today, he was arrested, and you were the prosecutor and you had your great, great grandfather on the witness stand?” And I said, “You know, I’ve thought about that a few times but quite frankly I don’t think I could have kept up with him, Scott, and his intellect and how far he would have been ahead of my questioning of him to establish guilt.
Fisher: Well, so let’s go back and talk about some of these crimes. Now you said he went from the medical field into this idea of life insurance fraud, what did he do?
Jeff: Well, he’d find a couple, a wealthy couple, he’d seduce the wife, befriend both, sooner or later the husband would have a mysterious death or disappear, he would be listed as the beneficiary on the policy and then lo and behold she would disappear or die as well.
Fisher: Wow! And how many times did this happen?
Jeff: Numerous, numerous times. I don’t know if anyone has ever established the exact number. I do know that he was making serious amounts of money doing this. Holmes liked to dress to the nines. He always had an assistant with him. He had cash in his pocket. He traveled all over. He set aside the normal standards we consider a “good life” and he lived it to the max.
Fisher: Now, was he considered at one time a respectable business person?
Jeff: He actually had a couple of copy writes. He actually had businesses which weren’t based on crime. I think a couple of them were very successful. But he always tended to go back, Scott, to the two things he loved the most, money and women, and mostly money.
Fisher: Okay. And so obviously though he was married at some point.
Jeff: He was married four times.
Fisher: Four times. Okay. And you come through which wife?
Jeff: Number one.
Fisher: Number one. And this is your straight paternal line obviously so you share six and a quarter percent DNA with this man and [Laughs] that had to be quite a shock when you learned about it. You say your grandfather talked about it and eased his mind, what did that do for you that night as you went home and pondered this?
Jeff: My initial reaction was to ask my grandmother when the apple pie was going to be served.
Jeff: Our family is a little bit tough like that. You know my dad is a fighter pilot, flew in Vietnam.
Jeff: My grandfather was World War II. I mean these are tough guys and that’s kind of how our family banter back and forth. But that night when I got home, all of a sudden Scott I started considering you know, I knew growing up I had an idiosyncrasy. I knew I was different than my friends and people around me. Now that’s not to say, I never contemplated murdering anyone.
Jeff: But I was different. And all of a sudden the bell rang, okay, here’s the source, here’s the origin, now let’s try to figure out where our life has gone and what I’m doing right now. And quite frankly Scott I gave up my practice of law in California. I decided I wanted to find out what was true about this and what was not. My wife supported my journey. And I put aside all that and it led to my book, giving Ted talks, going on shows like yours and then a series with history called American Ripper.
Fisher: Yes. That’s another whole issue right there. “The American Ripper.” Now this goes back to you looking at the circumstances surrounding Jack the Ripper, the time period, and the methods that he used, and comparing it to your ancestor. When did the wheels start rolling in your head that maybe he was Jack the Ripper?
Jeff: I was contacted by an amazing man from Pennsylvania named Mark Potts, who had spent decades trying to prove that Jack the Ripper’s identity was H. H. Holmes. And he contacted me, and gave me his evidence, and I reacted he same way that everyone does when a new author comes out with a theory about who Jack the Ripper is.
Fisher: [Laughs] Sure. Well, it’s kind of like the conspiracy theorists; you can never disprove them, right?
Jeff: Never. And Scott I was threatened with violence over my theory that H. H. Holmes was Jack the Ripper. That’s how angry the ripperologist just gets sometimes.
Fisher: How big a crowd is there out there following these people?
Jeff: Well, I think the first fifteen minutes of the last episode of American Ripper set records for history. It was like 2.2 million live viewers. So there is an interest and you know what? Maybe I should ask you this, why is society so fascinated with proving three to five 130 year old murders in Whitechapel, London?
Fisher: That you know is a great question. I think it really comes down to putting the puzzle together. Everybody loves to solve a mystery. I mean, when I was a kid when I learned to read it was because of the Hardy Boys. That was my whole shelf. All the Hardy Boy books and there were dozens of them. And I loved learning how to put the puzzle together and that kind of carried over into my life today, and don’t you think that really is the biggest puzzle of them all?
Jeff: I think there’s something to that in human nature. I agree with you. That ego part of us says, wait a minute, we can figure this out. It doesn’t matter that for 130 years these geniuses haven’t been able to, but we can do it.
Fisher: Right, because I’m special! [Laughs]
Jeff: Because I’m special! And so I worked with Mark back and forth regarding his evidence and all of a sudden I said to myself, all right, let’s look at this as a prosecutor would at a trial for murder. And when I did that, the evidence is overwhelming. I got to tell you, if Holmes was alive now, I could take the evidence I have of his being Jack the Ripper, to a court. I could achieve an arrest warrant, we could have him put in jail and stand trial for the murders of Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride.
Fisher: All right, and we’re going to find out what that evidence is Jeff, when we return in five minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 3 Episode 209
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Jeff Mudgett
Fisher: Welcome back, it’s America’s Family History Show Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here your Radio Roots Sleuth and this segment of the show is brought to you by MyHeritage.com. We are continuing my conversation with Jeff Mudgett, he is the author of the book “Bloodstains” you can get it at Bloodstainsthebook.com. It’s about his second great grandfather, a guy by the name of Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer. And we were just talking about this idea that H. H. Holmes could very well be Jack the Ripper. And Jeff, as a former prosecutor you’re thinking that you could get him to trial on this very issue. What do we know? What’s the evidence that connects him to the Jack the Ripper case in London?
Jeff: Well, I don’t think many people realize this and I hope the American Ripper open their eyes to that there were thirteen eye witnesses to Jack the Ripper in London. And the people in history did an amazing job in compiling all that evidence and then presenting it to a profilist who made an image of the whole face based on that evidence, and lo and behold you drop your jaw when you see it on TV with the likeness of the Holmes photo. And then you dig a little deeper and all of a sudden you’re at 5’7, 150 pounds, 25- 35 years old, expert anatomical knowledge, surgical fields.
Jeff: Who was writing letters to his lawyer that he didn’t like London because he couldn’t find a New York Herald there, and all of a sudden I started breaking off into evidence about handwriting comparisons. And Scott, when you conduct trials, criminal trials and you have handwriting as a piece of evidence the prosecutor will bring in an expert who says, “Yes! That’s an exact match.” The defense will bring in an expert who says, “No, no, no that doesn’t match.” And then the jury has to be process considerable opinions and come up with their own conclusions. Well, I decided I was going to take it to an organization at the University of Buffalo, who had created a computer program that without bias or preconceived notions would look at handwriting comparisons, and they did so for the FBI and the CIA. And they came back with this number that left me astounded, about the similarities between the Dear Boss letter, the famous Jack the Ripper letter where he says he’s going to go out and kill two women and he’s going to cut their ears off and then the Holmes’ handwriting back to his lawyer. So I started considering this isn’t just something some guy is making up in Pennsylvania.
Fisher: Right. Wait a minute, what’s the number though Jeff? What was the percentage that they said was the likelihood?
Jeff: Oh they came up with 77 percent.
Fisher: That’s pretty good.
Jeff: And they said if I gave them time they would create a new program based on the font that was being used in the 1800s in England and their number was going to be way higher than that. So, what History decided to do, they hired these two famous English linguists to look at the Dear Boss letter, Saucy Jack and the From Hell letter. And these two linguists came up with a conclusion which fit Holmes to a T. It said, “This was an American trying to sound English, of immense education and an ability in literature which was remarkable.” And that’s Holmes.
Fisher: Yeah, that sure describes him, doesn’t it? Now, do you have any evidence that he actually went over to England? Not a lot of people traveled internationally in those times.
Jeff: You know, that’s a great question. That’s what I’m challenged on repeatedly. What we did on the show was, Amaryllis my co-host who was trained at the CIA in forensics, a wonderful lady who is now one of my best friends. She took over that portion of the show to go check the passenger lists on the liners from New York to London. And about episode 3 or episode 4 she comes up with the H. H. Holmes name on a ship that fits the timelines.
Fisher: Wow! Are we talking about the timeline that Jack the Ripper was in England?
Jeff: Yeah, for him to have been able to have committed those two murders I talked about he had to have been there a certain time and when he left a certain time after. We know when he was in Chicago, Scott. We know when he returned to Chicago, when he was there again. So that gap in time is what we were playing with and lo and behold it fits the murders that were committed in Whitechapel.
Fisher: That is unbelievable. And you know, I don’t know if I want to get too much into what he did at this castle at the time of the Chicago World’s Fair [Laughs] just for the sake of stomachs here, but how many people has he believed to have murdered in this house?
Jeff: You know, the number of murders that Holmes committed, Scott, is a huge debate now in literature and history and in science. There was a man who was a master in reducing human remains after a murder, to zero. And the basement of the castle had an acid vat, had a furnace, gas blinds to the furnace to raise the temperature to reduce the ashes. He had a concrete factory in Chicago where he could dump a body into a block and then take it out into the Chicago River at night. So, for anyone to argue they know how many he killed is silly. Those innocents need to be identified and that’s my destiny. That’s what I want to do with my life.
Fisher: All right, Jeff, we are running out of time which I hate because this is just one of those things we could talk about forever. But, I know that you had Holmes exhumed some time back because of the fact that you wanted to know if that was really him buried in the crypt after he was hung for his crimes. What year was he hung, by the way?
Jeff: Oh, 1895 or 1896.
Fisher: Somewhere in there, and you went to a judge and said, “Look, I’m the second great grandson of this monster. I want to know if that’s really him in there.” What did the judge say?
Jeff: Well, he asked me the basis for my question and I raised the Holmes curse, the story that New York Times had written about him. The Holmes curse, Scott, is based upon, after the alleged execution anyone who had irritated Holmes in his arrest, at the trial, in his incarceration and execution. Was visited after and either died or suffered a terrible misfortune. And it was 30 or 40 people.
Jeff: And one of the newspaper articles, you’ll love this. During the trial they’re watching Holmes and they’re talking about how he has a list of names that he’s writing down as witnesses are testifying against him and he couldn’t be bothered. But he’s writing down this list of names.
Fisher: [Laughs] Oh man.
Jeff: So I told the judge, “Listen, there’s stories about him not being executed, about him escaping and that there was a switch made, and that Holmes is not in the grave as the record states. Let me take a look. We’ll use the greatest scientists there are at the University of Pennsylvania. We’ll use the laboratories in London who studied the ancient DNA to the match. We’ll prevent this from being a media circus. Let us do this scientifically and professionally and we’ll put it all back when we’re done.” And the judge finally agreed.
Fisher: Wow. And you did the test. You got the DNA extracted and the results were?
Jeff: Well, that’s still in question Scott. I’ve got my DNA test results to a number of experts right now. They were only partial and as you’ll be able to explain to our listeners, a partial DNA profile is difficult to establish as an inclusion, an exclusion, or just flat out inconclusive. And while I have the lease regarding what the DNA says, I’m not expert enough to make a conclusion yet which would be contrary to anything which we’ve seen on television which the major media sources reported on after the show.
Fisher: Unbelievable. He’s Jeff Mudgett. He’s the second great grandson of the serial killer H. H. Holmes. He’s been investigating him for years. He’s written the book “Bloodstains” you can go to Bloodstainsthebook.com, to get yours. Of course you can get the e-version of it also through Amazon.com. Jeff, thank you so much for this and by the way, for people wanting to hear more about this story from Jeff you can catch that bonus podcast we do for our Extreme Genes Patrons Club members. So make sure you get signed up for it and listen to what Jeff has to say. Thanks for joining us!
Jeff: Scott it’s been a pleasure. I hope you have me on again one day.
Fisher: I do too Jeff. And coming up next we talk to Tom Perry, he’s our Preservation Authority in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America’s Family History Show.
Segment 4 Episode 209
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: Welcome back, its America's Family History Show, Extreme Genes and ExtremeGenes.com. Fisher here, your Radio Roots Sleuth, and this segment is brought to you by FamilySearch.org. They're getting ready for Roots Tech already! And right now, it’s time to talk preservation with our Preservation Authority, Tom Perry from TMCPlace.com. You can ask him questions by the way at [email protected]. How are you Tom? Nice to have you back!
Tom: I'm feeling so good! I haven't felt this good in twenty years! [Laughs]
Fisher: You know, I don't even want to know why, but. [Laughs]
Fisher: Nonetheless, we've got a lot of questions for you today. We're going to start with this one from Lorna Dee. It’s a great question. She said, "Tom, is it difficult to repair a broken cassette tape? My tape player broke it. I tossed that thing out. I'd like to have the tape repaired if the cost is not very high. Thanks, Lorna Dee.”
Tom: Okay, let's take this backwards, the last part that she asks. One thing that a lot of people have which happened to her, she finds an old tape, gets all excited about it. And then she goes, "Oh wow! Let me go put it in this cassette player I haven't used for eight years and see what happens!"
Fisher: Oh boy.
Tom: That's not a good idea, because what happens is, old machines, whether they're audio cassettes, whether they're video cassettes, anything, you're going to get gunk build up on your heads. In fact, the manufacturers recommend you clean them twice a year. Most people that have ones that are thirty years old, they've never ever done that. So what happens is, you get this gunk on both the heads and on the reels. And so, what happens when you put the tape in, it sticks to that and then it doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go and it breaks. So I really recommend, if you have a tape that's really, really special to you and valuable, you want to take it to some repair place and have them clean it. If you're handy, it’s an easy thing to do. Get me on Facebook or send me a tweet, and I'm more than happy to help you with that, because you can do with Q tips and like 95% isopropyl alcohol and clean it.
Fisher: Right, yeah. We used to do that in the radio business all the time, cart heads.
Tom: Oh, yeah, everyday. Every day we clean this stuff.
Fisher: Everyday. Yep.
Tom: And so these people that have VCRs that are even a year old, they're going to have problems like that. And we get tapes that are damaged, and then the worst thing that's worse than your tape damage is, trying to fix it yourself if you don't know what you're doing. We have people that bring tapes in that they've wrapped Scotch tape around and this is now four times as thick. And sometime they think, "Oh, if I don't tell them, everything will be fine."
Tom: And it causes all kinds of problems. So what you need to do is, be honest with whoever you're taking it to and say, "Hey, I tried to fix this myself, sorry." Or if you haven't already tried to do that, take it to somebody that knows how to fix it, or learn how to fix it properly yourself, because you can bugger up your machine, you can bugger up the place you take it to, their machine and it can cause all kinds of problems, because ignorance is not bliss in this sense.
Fisher: Right, right. Now how would you do it yourself though, to put a splice on that? I've had this happen myself before. I had an interview with my grandfather who was born in 1886. The tape was from 1974 and it broke. And I was horrified, because I hadn't digitized it yet. That was still a new process. And I remember taking it to you and you fixed it for me eventually. And then we were able to digitize it. How did you do that?
Tom: Okay. Basically what you have to do is, if both ends are exposed, it’s not that hard to do. If one of the ends has gone in, that's when it causes all kinds of problems. Because if you don't take the cassette apart just properly, you could have springs fall off. And not only would it not work properly, you might get those caught inside the tape and cause all kinds of problems and lose your entire tape. So if it’s the kind of cassette that doesn’t have screws, don't even try to fix it yourself no matter how good you are. You want to take it to a professional that knows how to take the cassette apart put it in a new shell with screws and splice it back together. So to your question, if both ends are hanging out, you can buy tape. Just go onto Amazon or go onto Google and type in “splicing tape” “splice tape” different things like that and you'll find some company that sells it. And you can get it for usually less than twenty dollars. And then they make ones for audio cassettes, they make ones for reel to reel, they make ones for videocassettes. And sometimes you can even buy a little plan that they will set the tape in, show you how to do it and everything.
Fisher: All right, thanks Tom. Thanks Lorna by the way. And we have another question coming up from New York, from Andrew, coming up in three minutes on Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show.
Segment 5 Episode 209
Host: Scott Fisher with guest Tom Perry
Fisher: All right, we're back. It’s our final segment of Extreme Genes, America's Family History Show. We're talking with Tom Perry, our Preservation Authority from TMCPlace.com. And boy we've been getting a lot of questions here Tom. Let’s take this one from Andrew. He emails us, "Tom, heard you on Extreme Genes. I have a number of film reels that I'd like to transfer to digital. I'm in New York. And I like the fact that you scan each frame. Does that mean that you're also able to capture the full height of each frame? I know that with 8mm projectors, you had a lever that you would use to frame the image. Basically selecting what portion vertically would be projected. Fill me in! Thanks so much. Andrew."
Tom: You know, that's an awesome question. We haven't really talked about this a lot in the past, because people need to understand, with 8mm film, it was made for basically a normal television. Back in the day, the old CRT tubes, they were like 4x3 format, so its fine, you saw everything. But then when they came out with Super8, they didn't upgrade the televisions, but they made Super8 a little bit wider, so it’s more like 16x9 like you see in a theater.
Tom: But people just shot the film. And when they went and had it transferred to VHS in the day, they just cut off the edges and make it 4x3, and nobody was the wiser. But now with today's technology, if you have a true scanner when you really scan in it in real time, you have all kinds of options. What we generally do, we actually cut a little bit inside the frame so you don't see the black, as most people don't want to see that. They just want to see their picture. So it still is cropped a teeny bit. However, if somebody like Andrew says, "Hey, I want edge to edge." what we can do, not only can we move the frame around, we can totally open the frame as large as you want it to be. When you get your file back to edit on your Mac or your PC, you're going to be able to actually even see the holes.
Fisher: Wow! [Laughs] That's incredible! Do you want to see the holes, though? That's the question. I mean, it’s great to know that you're getting every bit of each frame, but isn't that kind of distracting?
Tom: Well, it depends. For most people, yes, that's why we just kind of go within the frame a little bit. But some people that are professional videographers or doing things for other clients or they're really into restoration and they love Final Cut Pro and these different programs, Premiere and such. They want to have the very best that they can start with. And when they're doing their editing, it’s a really easy process once you're done editing to go in and bring the edge to edge back into where they were when they finalize their DVD. So it’s not a hard thing to do. So those people who want to make sure they don't miss anything. And the thing is, if somebody was taking pictures of a large group and your aunt or your grandmother or whoever was important to you, if she was right at the edge of the frame and they transferred in the old days to VHS, she's not even in the picture!
Fisher: Right. [Laughs]
Tom: But now where we go edge to edge, you can get everybody. And you can even go in a focus just in on her and expand her, it’s like zoom in on her and then you've got a good picture of her. So there's a lot of advantages to doing edge to edge. However, if it’s going to be distracting like you mentioned, you might not want it. We have some people that we do a run both ways, but it’s not that hard to edit that if you use Premiere or Final Cut Pro and even iMovie.
Fisher: Okay. Now I'm thinking though that there must be places in New York that Andrew could take his material to, yes? This is pretty common?
Tom: I would check around and ask, because you would think so. But you want to make sure you ask the correct questions. For instance, "Do you really scan? Do you scan in real time? " If they say "yes, yes." say, "Okay, I want you to scan edge to edge, so I can actually see the holes of the frame, plus I want jpegs of every frame, so I can make photo prints from it." And if they go, "Huh?" or they pause or they say, "Oh, well that's not available," do not go there, because they don't really scan. They've got something that they're doing that they're calling scanning.
Fisher: All right. So if you want to ask Tom a question, you can do that easily, just email him at [email protected] or you can tweet him @AskTomP. Thanks so much Tom. Always good stuff and we've got more questions coming up for next week. Talk to you then.
Tom: Awesome. My pleasure!
Fisher: Hey, that's a wrap on the show this week. And thanks so much to my guests, especially Jeff Mudgett, who came on and talked about his great, great grandfather, America's first serial killer, and what he is doing to uncover the damage that this man did. And the story is just incredible, if you missed it, catch the podcast and if you want to catch the podcast earlier than anybody else, signup for our Extreme Genes Patrons Club. You can do that at ExtremeGenes.com. Click on the Patrons Club button or go to Patreon.com/ExtremeGenes. Talk to you next week. And remember, as far as everyone knows, we're a nice, normal family!