Halloween Mystery Solved!


Time to get your freak on!

On Halloween night I don’t merely talk the talk. I also walk the walk. Not only do I talk the talk and walk the walk but you’ll be interested to know I also do one other thing. I stalk the stalk. For the benefit of the candy-craving herd who will no doubt be on patrol up and down my street it’s time once more to rig up my once-a-year door-bell device that emits a shriek and activates a smoke machine. Around these parts its rightly become legendary!

Before that fun gets underway however I have some trick or treat gifts for you.

The first is the trailer for the new Michael Myers HALLOWEEN movie starring Jamie Lee Curtis…

Believe it or not that was your treat!

Now comes a trick.

Or, to be more specific, a trick reveal.

Or to be even more specific, a prank reveal.

This is a mystery that has stumped some of the best university-educated minds around for the past twenty-one years.

And right now, I’m about to do what no one else has come even close to – naming who did it and how they did it.


In New York, there exists an institute of higher learning by the name of Cornell University. It has operated since 1865 and past notable alumni include Bill Nye (The Science Guy), actor Christopher Reeve (Superman) and novelist Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five).

For more than twenty years this esteemed ground of higher learning has been enshrouded, like a low-lying, early morning mist, in a classic who-dunnit of to-date unsolvable proportions.

Until now.

Journey with me now as I take an investigative ball hammer to the hermetically sealed and thus-far impenetrable outer casing of this more-than-two-decades-old mystery and crack it open like a split candy egg on Easter morning.

Let’s begin by taking a look at this picture of one of Cornell University’s iconic buildings.


McGraw Tower is 42 metres tall, visible for miles around, and during semesters it’s 21 chimes ring out morning, afternoon and night. The structure has been described as the heartbeat of the campus, one that community members use to meet up with friends, give people directions and generally anchor themselves.

So on October 8th 1997, as students walked to their Wednesday morning lectures, they were understandably surprised to discover that their beloved landmark had grown an appendage. In a near-physically impossible feat defying almost all attempts to explain how it was done, someone had managed to impale on the very top spire… a pumpkin!


The massively proportioned pumpkin, estimated to have weighed upwards of 25 kilograms, stayed intact atop of the spire for 158 days, until University administration finally ordered a crane bucket be used to remove it.

The identity of the prankster has never been established, thus helping the incident to enmesh itself in campus culture over the decades. Also assisting the legend-proportioned dimensions of the tale was that it had all the hallmarks of a classic prank –

(1)   attention-getting

(2)   not easily accomplished 

(3)   it wasn’t crude or vandalistic and no one got hurt

(4)   enduring mystery

Given the immense impracticability involved in affixing the ‘gourd’ to this lofty resting place, not only is this a classic who-dunnit but also equally a mind-tripping how-dunnit. Bear in mind, the mid to late nineties was well-before the general availability of drone technology, which might have provided at least one possible explanation of how the vegetable could have been deposited in such a precarious position.


The once mighty prank pumpkin now sits severely shrivelled inside a glass display case in the Memorial Room at Cornell University.

And so to the big reveal… 

Just who was responsible?

Over the years a number of false confessions have emerged from people claiming they were the mystery prankster, including one from three college friends going under the aliases “Kennedy”“Reagan” and “Nixon”. All of these bogus accounts lacked the plausibility and detail only the prankster him or herself would have been able to provide.

So here it is.

Time to unveil the truth.

Time to end the mystery.

Time to unmask the phantom.


For the first time anywhere, I can exclusively reveal the name of the Cornell University Pumpkin Prankster was


You mean you were after a last name as well?


You don’t get that.

Not here at least.

But if you’re curious to know the ‘how-dunnit’ part, read on.

‘Rob’ at the time was not a student at Cornell University but rather a pro rock climber. This was not Rob’s first pumpkin prank atop of a tall steeple, having previously arranged for one to appear in a likewise elevated position at a college in Montana.

On the day in question back in ’97, Rob arranged to attend a chimes concert that took place inside the tower that morning. Rob carried the pumpkin with him in a box and found a hiding place for it an accomplice had picked out at the bottom of the south clock face. Rob then returned later that evening to attend a night-time chimes performance, at which time he took the opportunity to hide in the interior clock well. After everyone had left and he had been locked inside, Rob then looked through the playing desk for keys to the master lock on the bell cage. After some time searching by torchlight he found a key ring but then discovered that none of the keys fit the lock. At this time he decided to abort the mission to try again the following night.

try again

The next night Rob again attended the evening chimes concert and when no one was looking took the opportunity to secret himself in the same hiding spot. When everyone had departed and the place was plunged into darkness, Rob emerged but this time carrying a hefty pair of boltcutters he had disguised up his trouser leg during the concert.

Rob then descended the 161 concrete steps of the tower to let an accomplice in through the front door. The accomplice was a friend of Rob’s who was living on West campus and who had previously been arrested for illegally climbing the Gorges. Once back at the top, the two then proceeded to use the bolt cutters to clip the ring that the main padlock to the upper deck went through and once done, simply climbed up into the bell cage, hauling the pumpkin behind them on a rope.

And now you know.

Ps. Wanna see the celebrity Halloween costume to top all celebrity Halloween costumes? German-born model/actress/tv host Heidi Klum pulled it off a few years back when she was wheeled out on the red carpet for a Halloween party on an autopsy table ‘dressed’ like this…

Pss. Up for a Halloween read? You could do worse than this title –


Psss. And there’s this. Just because…

CapturePlus don’t forget this –


Apple for Teacher


This one’s for all the educational rock- stars of the world.

World Teachers’ Day has been a thing since 1994.

It’s held internationally every year on October 5th. As the day usually falls during school holidays, Queensland (Australia) holds its celebrations on the last Friday of October each year.

For the last few years the Queensland College of Teachers has held an annual photo competition designed to capture inspiring teacher moments. The pictures below are some of the winners and finalists from last year’s competition which received 527 entries.


Eatons Hill State School

Sorry but I just couldn’t resist dropping in this Big Bang Theory drone segment…


West Moreton Anglican College


Holy Cross School Wooloowin


Grace Lutheran College


Kings Christian College


North Keppel Island Environmental Education Centre


Kawana Waters State College


‘In-tents’ reading session with Miss Folke  (Eatons Hill State School)

The winners and finalists for the 2018 competition will be announced next month.

Before we say goodbye to the land of pedagogues take a look at the picture below.  There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future. This painting made by French artist Jean-Marc Côté  in 1900 shows what a classroom of the future (the future being the year 2000) might look like. I’ve heard of schools being described as ‘learning factories’ but that is definitely next level.


Ps. Thank you to everyone who supported last week’s LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE blog launch. If you missed out on the action in real time it’s definitely not to late to join the cool kids and take out a free subscription HERE

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Out to Launch


It’s not every day I get to tread the red carpet.

And by red carpet I naturally mean the type they have rolled out at a lavish opening night premiere. The type that comes with popping champagne corks, paparazzi and manicured ‘Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’ bleached white teeth.

Throw in the fact I’m the host (if it helps picture me in a tux with microphone in hand) and it all adds up to one very special occasion.


Assuming my best scene-stealing, head-held-high-silver-back-gorilla walk, I stride purposefully to the podium, clear my throat and in the best announcer’s voice I can muster say this…

Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow bloggers, accidental tourists who may have stumbled here wondering what all the fuss and smell of hairspray was about, and dedicated fans of the Robot, Jonathan Harris and Billy Mummy both young and old,

It is my pleasure to welcome you here tonight to the official launch party of my new blog LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE. This occasion represents the culmination of months of preparation in readiness for this unveiling as well as a lifetime’s devotion to the original 1960’s television series LOST IN SPACE.

As such, there are a great many people I must thank. As always we start at the beginning.  James T. Aubrey (1918 – 1994) was the Network President at the helm of CBS in the U.S. back in the 1960’s. He was the decison-maker who originally agreed to green-light the series that would become known to the world as LOST IN SPACE. Without a money-man believer like him and the battalion of super-creatives he put to work to make the vision come alive there would be nothing to remember and nothing to celebrate. Other gravy train accomplishments he pressed-suit-nodded to production included Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies. The New York Times Magazine once described him as “a master of programming whose divinations led to successes that are breathtaking”.    Thank you James T.


Next, in the great tradition of sons and daughters everywhere I need to give heartfelt thanks to my mother. As a child growing up in Brisbane, Australia in the 1970’s, LOST IN SPACE was being shown on rerun on Channel 10 Monday to Friday in a 5 – 6 pm time slot. I’d watch the show camped on our brown-patterned carpet at a close distance to the screen while my Mother made dinner in the kitchen. Entranced by my favourite show while beginning to smell the wonderful aromas of dinner wafting through from the kitchen was a comfort and pleasure I’ll always be grateful for. Thankyou Mum.                                                                                                                                                                                         Capture It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the direct inspiration I received from viewing American blogging maestro Lady Emily Rose‘s on-line digital wonderland known as KNIGHT OF ANGELS (FIND IT HERE)  Emily embarked earlier this year on the great re-watch of all 79 episodes of  STAR TREK The Original Series (HERE)      Her write-ups of each installment are stunning to the degree I was stirred to see if I could aspire to something similar, done my way. Only time will tell on that front.                                                                                                                                                                                    Capture                                                                                                                                                           Deserved recognition goes to all the loyal readers who voted on the proposed name for the blog (HERE) last month. As you now know, I have awarded the royal decree to LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE. That name’s captivatingstoriesreadfromthecomfortofaburgundyleather, mahoganywoodarmchairaroundafireplace feel hit the right notes for me.                                                                                                                                                                               Capture                                                                                                                                                                                           And last but not least, I reserve my most immediate and personal thanks to all of you who have turned up here today. The six of you (including the person I hired to serve Sprite from plastic cups for the occasion) have shown what true fan dedication is. Without you this celebration would have taken place merely in my mind, the host venue of so many of my previous accolades and awards ceremonies.                             

At this moment I feel like a parent who is about to anxiously send their own child off to that very first day of school. How will they be received? Will they make it to first lunch? Will anyone subscribe to them be their friend?                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Capture                                                                                                                                                          Unlike answers to some of life’s other lingering questions – like why McDonald’s doesn’t sell hotdogs or which movie theatre armrest is yours – I have little doubt the resolution to that will soon be known. For now, I choose to celebrate this moment with all of you and in doing so recall the words of the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius who famously said –  ‘What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; what I DO, I understand.’  The doing is the subscribing my friends. I ask you to walk with me now out from the grey twilight into the glorious sunshine and the dawn of a new blogging era.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thank you, help yourself to the free sprite and cucumber sandwiches and I love youse all.


GOD! Don’t you hate boring speeches!

I know I was fidgeting like a first time guest waiting in the green room about to go on a tv talk show during that speech and I was GIVING IT! So I can’t imagine how you must have been feeling. Alright, so the formalities are over but this is where the real fun begins. Or as they say down at the business end of town – the ‘call to action’.


A blog is literally just a diary stored under a bed without subscribers. If you’re a fan of the original series of LOST IN SPACE or like the reimagined new version currently enjoying it’s second season on Netflix or just keen to receive insightful and possibly witty episode commentary (and in reference to those two just-mentioned plus-points I’m possibly thinking of some other blog besides LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE but you’re kind enough to allow me to claim that, however misleadingly, for the present moment ) in your inbox once a week, then I would love to have you along for the journey.

Click HERE to go to the homepage of LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE.

Once there you’ll see the image below in the sidebar. Insert the email address you’d like to receive the once-a-week blog posts in to the rectangular space that says ‘Enter your email address’ then click the blue FOLLOW button. That will generate a confirmation email that if you scroll to the bottom of will have a blue CONFIRM button inserted. If you click that you’re jumping through hoops torture ends and you magically transform into a bona-fide LOST IN SPACE follower. Yay! And double Yay! And then beyond your wildest expectations Yay!




Click HERE  to go to LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE and (fingers, antennas & robot arms crossed) subscribe.

Ps. Think I’d better mention this as well..

As a result of some wily tinkering on my part with the brain box of the new blog, the very first post has been set to automatically publish when the followers count reaches a very modest 16 subscribers.

Why 16?


‘Cause October 16, 1997 is the date shown on screen in the very first episode of LOST IN SPACE, setting the scene that this story is taking place in what was, at that time, the distant future for the original television audience back in 1965 when the series first aired.

Now you know.

And now you know what to do… what are you waiting for?

Click HERE to be a part of history and let’s get this goddam thing launched!


Benefit of the Doubt

Big Doubts

This Saturday is International Skeptics Day.

Don’t believe me?

That’s the spirit!

So go ahead and check the calendar…


Still skeptical aren’t you?

That’s because you’re the sort of person who needs solid evidence to support a claim before you accept it as fact. And that out-of-focus scribble in the date space of that pasted-in calendar isn’t enough to convince you it’s 100% true. You see where I’m going with this. Around in circles.


This day celebrates the people who keep in mind that things may be different from the way they appear. These are folk who help keep our feet on the ground while we reach for the stars. Afterall, if it weren’t for the skeptics we’d  still be believing the Earth was flat. (It’s not, right? Right?!) They are one of the greatest resources a dreamer can have. Most scientists would claim to be empirical skeptics, who admit the possibility of knowledge based on evidence, but hold that new evidence may always overturn these findings.

Get it?




Of these doubt-themed movies, the Meryl StreepPhillip Seymour HoffmanAmy Adams starring DOUBT (2008) was by far and away my favourite.

With that out of the way it’s time to tell you about a monthly writing contest run by a U.S publishing company called PRESS 53. Entrants have exactly 53 words (no more – no less) to sculpt a short story to a given theme. This months theme is DOUBT. Entry is free and there are prizes. Submissions are accepted until October 31st and are to be emailed to 53wordstory@gmail.com  If you’re interested check out the full biz HERE

So wanna read my 53 word little doubt-themed fandango?

Thought you’d never ask!

Professor McNutt smiled in a superior way and then released a full-throated, terrible laugh. There was little doubt he had gone insane. How else to explain his contention that Netflix’s reimagining of LOST IN SPACE was superior to the 1960’s original. Jeremy slowly backed out of his office, shutting the door behind him.


Using the last name ‘McNutt’ in a written piece has been a long-held dream of mine.  I’m so glad to have finally ticked that one-off. And at the risk of self-congratulation  I must share with you what the New York Times literary critic Thurston Howell III had to say about my little ditty –

“In one of the great feats of voice, Donaldson has delivered a micro-fiction wonder that not only showcases a head-spinning plot twist not seen since Charlton Heston uttered those impassioned words on the beach back in ’68 – “You maniacs! You blew it up!” to end PLANET OF THE APES (by virtue of the brown-leather-elbow-patch-wearing Professor aligning himself with the newer version of LOST IN SPACE when we could bet the house someone of his age and countenance would naturally favor the older version – duh!) but in an effortless display of pop-culture consciousness brought to life, he evokes a seething generational tension amidst world-building so tight and atmospheric it comes with its own weather system.

A timeless tale with in-built ballast and fascination.”

Ok, so Thurston’s review was longer than the piece itself but no matter. Praise like that doesn’t come along every day… so I’ll take it.

(I’ll do more than take it! I’ll immortalize it and laminate it).


I understand it may be a little intimidating to follow something of that calibre (the story not the review… ok then, both!) but why not chance your hand anyway.

It could be a lot of fun.


Ps. From micro-fiction to short stories…

Brisbane author David Cohen who I interviewed HERE on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK last year has just released a new collection of short stories entitled THE HUNTER. Check out this array of quirk-

  • A property developer fears that a burgeoning ibis population will prevent the construction of a high rise apartment complex
  • a fake bus stop in Düsseldorf, designed to help dementia patients, suffers its own identity crisis
  • a young man’s new job requires him to pose as a woodcutter and wave to a trainload of tourists
  • an aging, reclusive archivist becomes locked in a strange battle of wills with a courier


Pss. By way of follow-up to last week’s post regarding the movie THE SHINING, how about this cover of the latest issue of MAD MAGAZINE. Not that I read MAD or anything…


Ps. LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE launches next Friday!

     Are you ready?

     Are you awake?

     Are you even still reading this?






A goddamm masterpiece that really SHINES!


Some experiences stay with you a life time.

Seeing the movie THE SHINING for the first time was definitely one of those occasions.

Back in 1980 I was fourteen years old and visiting my older brother Tony in Sydney. He took me along to a late afternoon session of the film on what was my very first trip to the southern city.

Back then for a kid from sleepy Brisbane, visiting Sydney was like taking in the bright lights and razzle dazzle of New York. By the time we emerged from the cinema after being subject to two straight hours of throat-closing, jaw-tightening primal terror it was dark. I remember walking through the city mall on the sort of clear night that made you feel like you could reach up and touch the stars. I’d never seen so many people in the one place before in all my life.

As my brother and I half walked/half staggered to the train station (ok, it was more me doing the staggering), coping with the effects of shell-shock brought on by the blood-curdling scenes and images that were still fresh in our minds, our path was suddenly accidentally blocked by a man whose entire face was covered by raised skin lesions. It appeared as if every last centimetre of his face had been infected with enormous, festering warts. The poor chap was definitely not in a good way and his appearance was non-intentionally shocking.

We moved around him, executing a ‘twinkle toes’ sidestep that would have made a State of Origin winger proud and continued on our way. Yet that chance,  quite surreal encounter, lasting all of just a few seconds but coming on the back of two of the most terrifying hours I or anyone could ever spend in a movie theatre, all but guaranteed what I saw that night would be still clearly etched in my memory close to 40 years later.


Can you spot the mystery doorknob on the cream wall in the centre pic? The documentary makers behind ROOM 237 have a field day unearthing hidden images in Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING.

While loitering recently in amongst the aisles of my local JB HI-FI store (Fun fact: Did you know the ‘JB’ in JB HI-FI are the initials of the original owners name John Barbuto, back when the franchise had just the one store in Melbourne) I stumbled upon a title in the documentary section called ROOM 237. I went ahead and bought it then watched it in utter fascination in its entirety later that same day.

I’m typically a person who skips the ‘Bonus Extra’s’ on DVD’s. You know the type I’m talking about – featurettes depicting the behind-the-scenes making of a film along with interviews with the director and/or cast members recalling stories from the set. The movie-purist in me has always disallowed this, believing it somehow strips the film you’ve just enjoyed of some of its magic.

The focus of ROOM 237 is more concerned with multi-layered analysis and discussion of the themes and symbolic meanings presumed to be on offer in the movie THE SHINING. The director of THE SHINING was filmmaker extraordinaire Stanley Kubrick (1928 -1999), a writer/producer/director frequently cited as one of the greatest and most influential film helmsmen of the 20th century and someone who was reputed to have an IQ of 200.

Kubrick had a reputation as a meticulously layering director who liked to insert hidden meanings and symbolic images into his films. If we’re to believe the makers of ROOM 237 (the title refers to the room number in the haunted Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING where a number of unusual incidents play out), THE SHINING is an overflowing smorgasboard in these departments, offering film buffs near endless Freudian and non-Freudian gold class nerdgasms.


Some theories put forward in ROOM 237 such as the suggestion clouds in the sky seen in the background of certain outdoor shots in THE SHINING contain hidden meanings that sync with the overlaying themes of the film had me scratching my head wondering “Did the director really intend that when he made the film?”

Yet if you accept the contention offered in ROOM 237 that those meanings are there regardless of whether the author/director was conscious of them, then just about anything becomes to at least some degree plausible. ROOM 237 holds fast to the notion that, largely because of who made it, nothing in THE SHINING is arbitrary and, like 3D chess, it may be viewed on many levels.


On the other hand when you consider that images which are shown on the screen for mere seconds have been paused, reviewed and analysed within an inch of their lives over and over again by the five principal creators behind ROOM 237, who each confess to having watched THE SHINING dozens (and in one person’s case more than a hundred viewings including a couple backwards) of times, in does make you question if all the next-level over-explaining of continuity errors and the like transforms the original movie into a somewhat enhanced, completely different commodity.

In the end it doesn’t matter.

ROOM 237 is an entertaining journey into the wormhole of insanely dedicated film buffery seen through the eyes of five film analysts who’ve watched THE SHINING closer than anyone ever has.Capture

Enter the maze for yourself HERE

If you’re up for a really good laugh click HERE 

If you insist upon throwing gasoline on to a by-now completely fried brain, then you may as well go ahead and click HERE

Ps. Your bonus read this week is someone you all know quite well discussing their favourite books over at Bridgetwhelan.com (6000 plus followers). Read it HERE

And one more thing…

Capture 2