If I were a super psychic, every one of my posts on this blog would have thousands of views and, better yet, people clicking through to look at my Amazon author’s page, my website, and the books mentioned at the ends of the posts.
Alas, as a blogger, I don’t have a clue.
I started this blog in 2008 after having been on Blogger and other sites for a while. In ten years, nothing stands out as a niche. I asked people on my Facebook friends list a week ago if anything had been on the news about the herb called Holy Ghost Root because a post I wrote about that was suddenly getting lots of hits. Nobody was sure why.
Naturally, some of the posts I spend the most time researching and writing often get the fewest hits and no comments. I believe in whatever Murphy’s law applies.
About ten of my posts have received over a thousand views. My home page has almost 24,000 views. Surprising to me, here are the top two posts since 2008:
Heave Out and Trice Up – -5,010 views – I’m less surprised about this because the title is a bit of Navy slang that makes no sense to people who haven’t been in the Navy. A lot of people probably search on the terms I listed in the post.
Other posts get readers while an event is in the news. For example, my post about several books written by survivors of Florida’s Dozier School (The White House Boys) kept getting hits while the state investigation was ongoing.
Overall, I’m happy with readers’ response to my posts and appreciate every one of you who stops to read one of them. I don’t have a niche, because I don’t like being confined to a narrow area of subjects. And, I make no attempt to compete with the top writing and publishing sites even though you will see writing ideas here. (Yes, I know, those posts are probably a “who needs it” for non-writers.
When it comes down to it, I’m just shooting the breeze.
Aw shucks, folks, thanks for all the visits and for putting up with the fact I haven’t felt the need to place this blog squarely in one niche or another.
The all-time favorite post is: The Bare-bones structure of a fairy tale. Even though that post is a little over two years old, it still out performs every new post from week to week. I have no idea why, but at over 7,000 views, it’s well ahead of the rest of my 1,065 of posts since 2007.
The second most popular post is: Heave Out and Trice Up. This, I understand. A lot of people search for the meanings of navy jargon and slang, most especially what “heave out and trice up” actually means. This post was written in 2010 and still gets hits every week.
I’ve done a lot of reviews on this site, a few author interviews from time to time and talked about writing (including my own). Those posts are in the majority. However, when north Florida’s notorious Dozier School was in the news, my 2012 post about the White House Boys got a lot of hits. So did my 2013 (and frequently updated) post about the fate of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger that was scrapped rather than turned into a museum.
Since my books are mostly set in Montana’s Glacier National Park and the Florida Panhandle, I’ve written posts about my stories’ settings. Those get more hits over time than they do on the day they appear. I’m glad you find them whenever you find them.
I’ve appreciated your comments over the years as well. One never knows what people will say. I do know it takes time for you to write them.
Want a chance at a free Kindle Fire?
For those of you who’ve enjoyed reading my books and short stories, I want to mention that my publisher is starting a newsletter. I hope you’ll sign up. It’s free. Better yet, one subscriber will receive a free Kindle Fire Tablet. Deadline is 16 days from now. Click here to subscribe and enter the random drawing for the Kindle.
As for heaving and tricing
Now, for those of you who are curious about heave out and trice up, it has nothing to do with throwing up while seasick or drunk. I don’t know if navy ships still use the phrase as a wake-up call over the ship’s public address system. It means get up and raise your bunk (rack) or hammock up away from the floor (deck) so that the compartment cleaners can sweep out your berthing (sleeping, not having babies) area.
Malcolm R. Campbell writes magical realism, contemporary fantasy and paranormal novels and short stories.
When I blogged about the USS Ranger, the Glacier National Park Centennial and the White House Boys (at Florida’s Dozier School), I wasn’t surprised to see lots of folks stopping by to read those posts while the stories behind them were in the news.
Then, when there was suddenly an upsurge of interest in those posts, I often found out I’d missed a news event and people were out looking for information again. So then I updated the posts and even more people read them!
Of course, there are always those posts I write, thinking they’ll be popular and nobody reads them. Shows what I know!
It’s kind of fun trying to figure out why people read what they read. If I knew the answer to that question, I’d probably write more follow-up posts and get some real conversations going in the comments section.
This summer marks the 100th anniversary of Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. Along with various centennial events, there will be an employee reunion which–sorry to say–I’m not able to attend. Perhaps this is why I’m suddenly getting more hits on my 2011 post Many Glacier Hotel 1963, where the fantasy began.
I figure there must be some Floridians following this blog, or possibly people planning a trip there, because I randomly get slews of hits on some of my “On Location” posts about locations in the panhandle such as Location Settings: The Other Florida, featuring Panacea and St. Teresa. I’ve written a lot about Florida settings and, since most of them are in the panhandle rather than the primary tourist sections of the state, it’s nice to see people stopping by to read them.
Reader interest in old book reviews comes and goes, quite often when the author of a book I reviewed has released something new.
The hits on one post, though, really have me puzzled. The highest readership week after week is going to my June 2013 post The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale. In fact, that post has taken over from the White House Boys as the most-read post in the history of this blog. But why? I have no idea. I like fairy tales, myths, and legends: that’s why I wrote the post. I figured nobody would notice it because fairy tales are not exactly breaking news or high on the list of things that are trending on Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook. If you’re one of the people who read that post, what were you looking for?
This really isn’t a niche blog, though it generally has to do with books, writing and the things that catch my fancy. If the NSA is tracking me here, it probably knows more about this blog than I do, what with the various algorithms around for weighing how much space has been devoted to one subject or another.
Whatever prompts you to stop and read, I appreciate it. Hang in there as I bounce all over the spectrum. I’m working on another hoodoo related book, so that means you might be finding out more about folk magic than you want to know. (I spent the morning researching possum bones, but I think I’ll spare you the details of that.)
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of The Land Between the Rivers, the three-story set of folk tales about Panther, Bird and Bear, the first animals (according to the Seminole creation myth) to walk upon the earth. It’s set in Tate’s Hell Swamp in the Florida Panhandle.
Updates are collected at the end of the post. As you’ll see, the updates focus on the school rather than on the books. Most recent update is July 2019.
A writer friend of mine in Florida who knows I’ve been working on a series of short stories set in the Florida Panhandle, sent me this link as an idea for a story: Mystery surrounds graves at boys’ reform school. Here’s how it begins: This Florida panhandle town is the home of a mystery that has been lost to time. A small cemetery buried deep into the grounds of a now-defunct boys reform school dates back to the early 1900s. Rusting white steel crosses mark the graves of 31 unidentified former students. (See updates at the end of this post.)
When I read the story, I didn’t initially recognize the school because its most recent name, Arthur G Dozier School for Boys, didn’t connect in my brain with the name, Florida Industrial School for Boys, used for the Marianna, Florida reform school when I was living in Florida in the 1950s and 1960s. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice operated the school between 1900 to 2011.
Several facts became clear as I read the story and then followed links and Google searches to other stories. The use of the word “school” to describe a physical plant that looked Edenic but which contained unidentified graves of former “students” was misleading to the general public, including those of us who lived in the state capital 85 miles away who had no clue that some of the authorities there based their approach to “reform” on the worst techniques for the control of “undesirables” coming out of World War II POW camps.
The White House
Connecting the dots, the boys’ “progress” in the school included a small white house where the rapes, beatings and other horrors occurred after which possibly some of them were buried in the unmarked graves now being investigated. Logically, this is unlikely because, as local historian Dale Cox notes, why would the state murder a student and then mark and maintain his grave? Others contend the graves are for those who died in an influenza outbreak and a fire.
Fortunately, most of the men survived; unfortunately, they have enough haunting memories to last a lifetime.
Some 300 of these survivors have formed an organization called The White House Boys. On their website, you will find news about recent press reports, stories contributed by those who are just now coming forward to tell the world what was happening in Marianna, and links to recent press reports about the State of Florida’s investigation that began several years ago.
I got through high school without any brushes with school authorities or police. Some of those who had problems, many of them trivial, were packed off to reform school. I don’t know if any of the White House Boys were in school with me at Tallahassee’s Leon High School. I haven’t yet seen any names I know. The “problem” students just went away: expelled, dropped out, or joined the service. If they caught the State’s attention through what (for them) was called “the justice system,” news stories in the local paper often said they were being sent to “reform school.”
Then, I had no concept what was supposed to happen at a reform school. Remedial classes? Encounter groups? Campfire sings? Rape and beatings never crossed my mind as mainstays of the curriculum. Right now, I’m too angry about it to remotely consider writing fiction.
I’m angry because it happened in a nearby town I visited often (due to the Florida Caverns State Park there), and I’m angry that it happened right under the noses of state lawmakers and they were either blind or indifferent to it, and I’m angry that even now the story about the investigation, the abuses and the graves has been going on across the border in Florida and I heard nothing about it until my friend sent me that link.
If you want to learn more, and you really don’t even though you must, click on the White House Boys link and/or do a Google search and you will find more than you can bear to know.
Two books are among those spelling out the details: The White House Boys and The Boys in the Dark.
The White House Boys: An American Tragedy, by Roger Dean Kiser, publisher’s description:
Hidden far from sight, deep in the thick underbrush of the North Florida woods are the ghostly graves of more than thirty unidentified bodies, some of which are thought to be children who were beaten to death at the old Florida Industrial School for Boys at Marianna. It is suspected that many more bodies will be found in the fields and swamplands surrounding the institution. Investigations into the unmarked graves have compelled many grown men to come forward and share their stories of the abuses they endured and the atrocities they witnessed in the 1950s and 1960s at the institution.
The White House Boys: An American Tragedy is the true story of the horrors recalled by Roger Dean Kiser, one of the boys incarcerated at the facility in the late fifties for the crime of being a confused, unwanted, and wayward child. In a style reminiscent of the works of Mark Twain, Kiser recollects the horrifying verbal, sexual, and physical abuse he and other innocent young boys endured at the hands of their “caretakers.” Questions remain unanswered and theories abound, but Roger and the other ‘White House Boys’ are determined to learn the truth and see justice served.
The Boys of the Dark: A Story of Betrayal and Redemption in the Deep South, by Robin Gaby Fisher, Michael O’McCarthy, and Robert W. Straley, publisher’s description:
A story that garnered national attention, this is the harrowing tale of two men who suffered abuses at a reform school in Florida in the 1950s and 60s, and who banded together fifty years later to confront their attackers.
Michael O’McCarthy and Robert W. Straley were teens when they were termed “incorrigible youth” by authorities and ordered to attend the Florida School for Boys. They discovered in Marianna, the “City of Southern Charm,” an immaculately groomed campus that looked more like an idyllic university than a reform school. But hidden behind the gates of the Florida School for Boys was a hell unlike any they could have imagined. The school’s guards and administrators acted as their jailers and tormentors. The boys allegedly bore witness to assault, rape, and possibly even murder.
For fifty years, both men—and countless others like them—carried their torment in silence. But a series of unlikely events brought O’McCarthy, now a successful rights activist, and Straley together, and they became determined to expose the Florida School for Boys for what they believed it to be: a youth prison with a century-long history of abuse. They embarked upon a campaign that would change their lives and inspire others.
Robin Gaby Fisher, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of the New York Times bestselling After the Fire, collaborates with Straley and O’McCarthy to offer a riveting account of their harrowing ordeal. The book goes beyond the story of the two men to expose the truth about a century-old institution and a town that adopted a Nuremberg-like code of secrecy and a government that failed to address its own wrongdoing. What emerges is a tale of strength, resolve, and vindication in the face of the kinds of terror few can imagine.
I thank my friend for sending me the link. I don’t have the knowledge to turn this into a gripping novel. But then, I don’t need to, for those who were there are already telling their stories. I can’t so better. I wouldn’t presume to try. And, as a 1968 newspaper story about the school (Hell’s 1,400 acres) suggests, Florida didn’t just learn about this problem.
UPDATE: (March 8, 2016) State offers to rebury victims of Dozier School abuse – “A measure intended to help heal a community and people who suffered at a former reform school where the remains of 51 boys have been unearthed is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.”
UPDATE: (November 5, 2016) Special Report: Dozier School, What’s Next? Talks are underway about what should be done with the school’s property so that it can transition into another use that would have a positive economic impact on the community. But first, the state has to relinquish the property.
UPDATE: (May 23, 2018) “White House Boys’ Tour Dozier Campus” – “MARIANNA, Fla. – Friday, the ‘White House Boys’ toured the Dozier School for Boys Campus and held a memorial service, for closure.The tour was private and members of the group would not talk with the media.”
UPDATE: (October 11, 2018) – Author Colson Whitehead’s latest novel, The Nickel Boys, will be released next summer. According to the New York Times, “Colson Whitehead was set to write a crime novel set in Harlem. But he couldn’t stop thinking about a story that haunted him, about the abuses — beatings, torture, neglect, suspicious deaths — that took place at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a reform school in the Florida panhandle that operated for more than a century.”
UPDATE: (April 12, 2019): More ‘possible graves’ found at Dozier School for Boys – Tampa Bay Times: “A company doing pollution cleanup at the old Dozier School for Boys property in Marianna, 60 miles west of Tallahassee, has discovered 27 ‘anomalies’ that could be possible graves.”
UPDATE: (July 17, 2019): Researchers to look for more graves at Florida reform school – “University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle will be back at the former Dozier School for Boys on Monday, the same place where she spent four years researching and unearthing the remains of boys buried on the massive 1,400-acre site in Marianna, located about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Tallahassee.” – Associated Press 7/23: No new graves were found.
UPDATE: (July 17, 2019) Rooted In History, ‘The Nickel Boys’ Is A Great American Novel (Review) – “It’s pretty rare for a writer to produce a novel that wins the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and, then, a scant three years later, bring out another novel that’s even more extraordinary. But, that’s what Colson Whitehead has done in following up his 2016 novel, The Underground Railroad, with The Nickel Boys. It’s a masterpiece squared, rooted in history and American mythology and, yet, painfully topical in its visions of justice and mercy erratically denied.” – NPR. See also, this review: For The ‘Nickel Boys,’ Life Isn’t Worth 5 Cents.