Sunday, August 24, 2014


Not only has Ronald Hamilton uncovered the real cause of death for Christopher McCandless, we now know that a plant before thought to be perfectly harmless and edible can actually be quite deadly in a certain population and under the right circumstances, both of which were criteria that Mr. McCandless, in his youthful enthusiasm, tragically came to meet.

In his paper "The Silent Fire: ODAP and the Death of Christopher McCandlessHamilton, a Writer and Book Binder by trade, relays the fascinating coincidence he happened upon while reading Jon Krakauer's "Into The Wild" between the information in that book and a Nazi experiment carried out at Vapniarca, a little-known World War II concentration camp in the German-occupied Ukraine, he had once read about in his past.

"In 1942, as a macabre experiment, an officer at Vapniarca started feeding the Jewish inmates bread made from seeds of the grass pea, Lathyrus sativus, a common legume that has been known since the time of Hippocrates to be toxic.

—"but in any case, once the effects had begun, there was simply no way to reverse them …. The disease is called, simply, neurolathyrism, or more commonly, “lathyrism."

It’s been estimated that, in the twentieth century, more than a hundred thousand people worldwide were permanently paralyzed from eating grass pea. The injurious substance in the plant turned out to be a neurotoxin, beta-N-oxalyl-L-alpha-beta diaminoproprionic acid, a compound commonly referred to as beta-ODAP or, more often, just ODAP."  

Hamilton reports, ODAP "affects different people, different sexes, and even different age groups in different ways. It even affects people within those age groups differently …. The one constant about ODAP poisoning, however, very simply put, is this: those who will be hit the hardest are always young men between the ages of 15 and 25 and who are essentially starving or ingesting very limited calories, who have been engaged in heavy physical activity, and who suffer trace-element shortages from meager, unvaried diets." - Jon Krakauer - from his 2013 article in the NewYorker: How Chris McCandless Died

The Seeds of the Wild Potato
"It might be said that Christopher McCandless did indeed starve to death in the Alaskan wild, but this only because he’d been poisoned, and the poison had rendered him too weak to move about, to hunt or forage, and, toward the end, “extremely weak,” “too weak to walk out,” and, having “much trouble just to stand up.” He wasn't truly starving in the most technical sense of that condition. He’d simply become slowly paralyzed. And it wasn't arrogance that had killed him, it was ignorance. Also, it was ignorance which must be forgiven, for the facts underlying his death were to remain unrecognized to all, scientists and lay people alike, literally for decades."  Ronald Hamilton

As Jon Krakauer describes in "Into The Wild" (available here) McCandless had become reliant on the seeds of the wild potato in the weeks before his death, and had made numerous journal entries about them as well as having taken pictures of them collected in Gallon sized plastic bags. And sadly, in one of his last posts, it becomes clear that he has actually understood the deadly mistake that he has made.......  


"Hamilton’s discovery that McCandless perished because he ate toxic seeds is unlikely to persuade many Alaskans to regard McCandless in a more sympathetic light, but it may prevent other backcountry foragers from accidentally poisoning themselves. Had McCandless’s guidebook to edible plants warned that HEDYSARUM ALPINUM seeds contain a neurotoxin that can cause paralysis, he probably would have walked out of the wild in late August with no more difficulty than when he walked into the wild in April, and would still be alive today.  If that were the case, Chris McCandless would now be forty-five years old."
- Jon Krakauer

I would like to thank my friend Mitchell Wilson for making me aware of this article, and the important information it contains, in his post today in his group The Squatcher's Lounge.

Please read the entire article here: The New Yorker


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bigfoot And The Baby

If you are sick of chasing after the seemingly non-existent DNA of "Flesh and Blood Bigfoot", or sorting out all that Mind Speak and Jet Lag from Inter-Dimensional Time Travel, then take a break and read this fabulous new book by Ann Gelder!

"A California novel about belonging and belief. It's 1986, and devout homemaker Jackie Majesky knows the world is ending. Apocalyptic portents--famine, war, the Chernobyl meltdown--have been piling up for months. Her comedian husband and punk-rock daughter see nothing amiss, but her new baby, Mollie, won't stop screaming. Jackie decides it's up to her to save the world, and her hapless family, from damnation. Joining forces with a charismatic businessman who knows how to soothe Mollie's cries, Jackie launches a wildly successful salvation-through-shopping program. She leads the most generous consumers to a domed paradise in the Mojave Desert, where she presides as mayor. But when a mythical creature finds his way into her city, Jackie must confront her faith in God, commerce, and the power of love."

Available here:  Bigfoot and the Baby


Ann Gelder's debut, BIGFOOT AND THE BABY, is a delightful black satire. Playing with themes of belonging and belief, Gelder examines the interplay of capitalism and religion in 1980's America. Those disenfranchised with the religion of consumerism will appreciate this tongue-in-cheek novel. ---- ForeWord Magazine

BIGFOOT AND THE BABY is a creative and complex dark comedy. Gelder has crafted a multifaceted, provocative story coupled with an edgy sci-fi vibe that spices the pot. The book focuses on a dysfunctional family mired in crisis and introduces irony and humor from the start. But satire keeps the wheels turning. BIGFOOT AND THE BABY will test your sensibilities and tease your imagination from page one. ---- Gloria Sinibaldi, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A satire of 1980's America, Ann Gelder's BIGFOOT AND THE BABY skewers a culture gone mad with consumerism, religious millennialism, and the obsession with celebrity. Gelder's satire is by turns savage and tender, but in the end she offers even the most misguided characters a tenuous redemption. ----Lawrence Coates, author of The Master of Monterey

About the Author:

Ann Gelder's work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, Flavorwire, The Millions, The Rumpus, Tin House, and other publications. She has taught literature at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked as an online producer and marketing consultant. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ann Gelder

I loved it!  And if you like satire, social commentary, dark humor, punk rock, living in bubbles and of course the mystery and myth of Bigfoot then you will too!  Although I will warn you that there is a lot less about Bigfoot than some of you may wish, "He" only shows up to punctuate and define our beliefs and inner psyche sporadically throughout....

AND another great book I recently read is "Bigfoot Blues" by Pamela Foster a native Humboltian!

"The daughter of a longtime Bigfooter enlists the help of her redneck friends to teach a sweet-talking city slicker a backwoods lesson in this rollicking tale by novelist Pamela Foster (Redneck Goddess, 2011) Samantha is a pretty, spirited bartender who manages VDs with her on-again-off-again boyfriend and business partner, Hawk. When a finely-dressed, big-city author named Mark Nielson wanders in the bar one evening for a meeting of the believers, the locals expect trouble. But Sam can't help but be swayed by the sexy stranger with eyes the color of that variegated moss along a late summer river, especially after the shabby treatment she's received from Hawk. Sweet talk and flowers wear down her quard Full of humorous asides and swelling with redneck pride, Bigfoot Blues blends together an eclectic group of believers and nonbelievers for an offbeat but delightful read."

Available now from

Written by Pamela Foster, who was born and raised in Humboldt County and therefore knows about all things Bigfoot and all aspects of the local culture, "Bigfoot Blues" is the story of Samantha, the daughter of a crusty lifelong "Bigfooter", who was raised in the neighborhood Bar chock full of the numerous colorful locals, and who finds herself on the adventure of a lifetime during which she also unearths her authentic self and the key to love and happiness.  I was hooked from chapter one, and kicked myself for starting it right before I had to head out for the evening! But once home I barely put it down until I finished it a day and a half later.  I can also say that it was highjacked off my nightstand by a non-Bigfooter who read it all in less than a day, and who loved every second of it, so it's allure is definitely not confined to just the Bigfooting crowd.  

Watch the Trailer Here:

Thank you so much for the signed copies of both your Books Pamela!  Click these links to read more about "Bigfoot Blues" and it's wonderful Author Pamela Foster and make sure you check out her other book Redneck Goddess as well!

See my Amazon Review for more.