Archive for the 'Mysterious History' Category

Subway Lore: The 1870 Beach Pneumatic Transit

It was merely an experiment (one car, one station) but it lead to a future of subway transport.


Wouldn’t it be fantastic to find one of these old cars or the line itself somehow intact? Imagine a story about the Pneumatic Transit existing in a time warp right beneath our feet, complete with busy travelers from 1870… (and were there really fragile lamps balanced on little tables inside the cars?!)


Interior of the car - from "Illustrated Description of the Broadway Pneumatic Railway"

Interior of the car – from “Illustrated Description of the Broadway Pneumatic Railway”



The Broadway Pneumatic Underground Railway - View of car in motion.

The Broadway Pneumatic Underground Railway – View of car in motion.


The Beach Pneumatic Transit


“The Interborough Rapid Transit subway, which broke ground in 1900 after many years of political maneuvering, was not the first attempt at transit tunneling in New York City. Several other groups attempted to build tunnel lines with varying degrees of success.


Probably the most well known of these early attempts, at least in terms of subway lore, was an 1870 demonstration line, the Beach Pneumatic Transit. Alfred Ely Beach, inventor and editor of Scientific American, had designed a pneumatic (air-driven) system which he demonstrated at the American Institute Fair in 1867, and he thought it viable for transit operation in underground tunnels. He applied for a permit from the Tammany Hall city government, and after being denied, decided to build the line in secrecy, in an attempt to show that subterranean transit was practical. (He actually did receive a permit to built a pneumatic package delivery system, originally of two small tunnels from Warren St. to Cedar St., later amended to be one large tunnel, to “simplify construction” of what he really intended to build.)


The Beach tunnel was constructed in only 58 days, starting under Warren Street and Broadway, directly across from City Hall. The station was under the south sidewalk of Warren Street just west of the Broadway corner. The single track tunnel ran east into Broadway, curved south, and ran down the middle of Broadway to Murray Street, a distance of one block, about 300 feet in all. The subway opened to the public on February 26, 1870.


Operated as a demonstration from 1870 to 1873, the short tunnel had only the one station and train car. While frequently mentioned as an important early development in New York City’s transit history, it was merely a curiosity. It is unclear that such a system could have been practical on a large scale. Smaller tube systems are used in buildings for mail delivery, but a rail-car sized system has never been developed. The perfection of electric multiple-unit traction and electric locomotives came about so quickly after this experiment that it wasn’t deemed worthwhile to even try an expanded pneumatic system…”


For the rest, click here to go to


Dolly, her murdered husband, and her lover: the “garret ghost”

“The story of how the three were intertwined is worthy of the era’s most lurid pulp novels.”




The Married Woman Who Kept Her Lover in the Attic
Dolly Oesterreich, her “Bat Man,” and one of the strangest sex scandals ever.
by Addison Nugent



Dolly Oesterreich, c. 1930. (Photo: Public Domain)


“In April 1930, the Los Angeles Times began publishing what would end up being months’ worth of eye-popping details from an exceedingly strange court case. It involved a “comely” woman named Dolly, her murdered husband, and her lover, a man known as the “garret ghost” who, at Dolly’s behest, lived a “bat-like life in hidden rooms.”


The story of how the three were intertwined is worthy of the era’s most lurid pulp novels.


Born in 1880, Walburga “Dolly” Korschel was a German immigrant who grew up on a poor Midwestern farm. In her early 20s she married Fred Oesterreich, the wealthy owner of a successful apron factory. The couple settled in Milwaukee but marital bliss was elusive—Fred drank too much and Dolly was sexually unsatisfied. “Her eyes and her appetites would bring a long line of men into her life—and send one to his death,” wrote the LA Times.


One uncharacteristically hot autumn day in 1913, Dolly asked Fred to send one of the factory’s repairmen to the house to fix her sewing machine. When 17-year-old Otto Sanhuber knocked on the Oesterreichs’ ornate double entry door, Dolly, then 33, answered wearing stockings, a silk robe, and nothing else. In the master bedroom the dusty old Singer machine remained untouched; the same could not be said for Mrs. Oesterreich. Their tryst that day marked the beginning of a multi-decade sexual relationship…”


For the rest, click here.


What if a photograph could “collapse time”?

Exploring the space/time continuum with photographs…


Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 12.33.06 PM


From Ted,


“Photographer Stephen Wilkes crafts stunning compositions of landscapes as they transition from day to night, exploring the space-time continuum within a two-dimensional still photograph. Journey with him to iconic locations like the Tournelle Bridge in Paris, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and a life-giving watering hole in heart of the Serengeti in this tour of his art and process.”


Watch and see…



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