Our own National Newspaper award winning author Josh Young, who has penned three editions of
Missouri Curiosities for the same publisher, is author of this new non-fiction book telling true stories which test, often intentionally, a reader’s willing suspension of disbelief.
But a little fact checking will prove this adoptive son of the Show Me State knows his Missouri history and local lore quite well. Implausible phenomenon such as seemingly psychic Jim the Wonder Dog, memorialized in Marshall, or the spooky Ghostlight near Hornet south of Joplin are detailed and presented from a number of provocative angles. These different perspectives encourage readers to muse over the given facts and attempt to achieve elusive understandings for themselves.
“This book is more for adults than any of the editions of my Missouri Curiosities has been,” Josh recently wrote in a letter detailing the imminent release to select fans of his Dang Near Native syndicated humor column, which ran for many years in several newspapers from Branson, Missouri to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
“Whereas the Globe Pequot Curiosities series is aimed at a broad audience, including the bored 10-year-old in the back of the family van, who shouts, ‘Mom! Dad! Pull off on this exit! There’s a weird replica of Stonehenge up ahead!’ Myths and Mysteries of Missouri allowed me to devote entire chapters to my subjects, making it easier to delve into the (sometimes conflicting) historical accounts, and pose more than a few puzzles, for both avid readers and eclectic travelers.
“Folks from elsewhere can’t imagine Missouri, which in places is so flat folks say, ‘you can sit on your porch and watch your dog run away for three days,’ could have experienced the largest combined earthquake events in recorded history, down around New Madrid early in the 19th Century. The so-called Great Quakes rang church bells as far away as Boston, while rocking the floor beneath James and Dolly Madison at the White House in Washington, too. Even more extraordinary, but entirely missed by scientists until recently, is the likely evidence of a cataclysmic meteorite strike which occurred more than 300 million years ago near the present day city of Osceola,” Young recounted as he described chapters briefly for prospective readers.
“I think I prove Missouri can match any state with mysterious myths of hidden caves (look beyond the picturesque flower clock in Neosho) and lost treasure (check out stories of Yocum Silver Dollars around Branson), but we exceed them all when we boast of people such as Ella Ewing from Scotland County, likely the tallest woman to have ever lived in the western hemisphere. Equally hard to top is the insanely adventuresome, sometimes hilarious, and nearly suicidal flight of early aeronauts aboard the antebellum balloon ship The Atlantic, which launched from St. Louis in 1859, crash landing only a few frantic hours later in upstate New York.
Other human achievements the author probes range from the sublime horse training skills of the once legendary, but now nearly forgotten, Tom Bass from Mexico, Missouri, to the murder and banditry of the infamous Jesse James from St. Joseph, whose exploits were heralded so shamelessly in the utterly unreconstructed Kansas City Times shortly after the Civil War.
There are mysterious disappearances, which took millennia, as in the case of Missouri Mastodons, or mere moments, as when three women vanished from a quiet home in Springfield without any sign of a struggle, clue, or trace.
“The book passed through the hands of no less than three editors on its way to final publication,” Young described a process and attention to detail often missing in publishing today. “Each was extremely helpful and complimentary of the text, even when I tested their interpretation of the series’ intent with a chapter detailing a “secret” (and 50 years later, still largely unknown) Missouri summer vacation the legendary Beatles enjoyed along the Eleven Point River at Alton toward the end of their famous first cross-country American tour.”
Maybe the cause for the book’s in-house, pre-press popularity is because the author so cleverly seems to ask throughout the book, “Listen. Do you want to know a secret?” and, as John Lennon would implore us, “Imagine.”
$16.95; 2 or more just $15 each (autographed).