Related to Jack the Ripper? Serial Killer’s Descendant Takes Terrifying Trip Into History

A descendant of one of America’s first – and most infamous – serial killers has a new book and documentary about H.H. Holmes, a notoriously evil doctor believed to have killed as many as 200 people.

In the History Channel’s “American Ripper,” Jeff Mudgett, Holmes’ great-great-grandson, gathers evidence to support a shocking theory: Holmes was also Britain’s infamous Jack the Ripper. Mudgett detailed his journey to discover his murderous ancestor in his book “Bloodstains.” He joined radio Wednesday to talk about the Jack the Ripper theory as well as how he has coped with being the great-great-grandson of a diabolical serial killer.

“I am fascinated and horrified by your [great-great-grandfather],” Glenn said.

Hanged for his crimes in 1896, Holmes made his fortune through a series of scams, fraudulent marriages and fishy business deals. He built a home in Chicago called “The Castle” that contained an elaborate system of secret passageways, false walls, trapdoors, and a gas tank for piping gas to victims’ rooms. Homes would render his victims unconscious before taking them into secret rooms for horrifying experiments, sometimes selling their bodies as cadavers to medical researchers later.

“My life was turned upside-down,” Mudgett said of discovering he was related to Holmes. “I had to find out what was true and what was legend. And as you know … the more you dig into this story about this evil genius, the more strange it gets.”

The body buried in Holmes’ grave was exhumed by researchers earlier this year to see if the man’s DNA matches that of Holmes’ descendants. While little concrete evidence exists to support the conspiracy theory, it has long been rumored that Holmes was not actually executed and that another man’s body was buried in his place. On Wednesday’s show, Mudgett cast doubt on whether or not Holmes was buried in that grave.

You can watch “hiSTORY: Serial Killer in the White City,” a look at Holmes’ life and horrifying murders, on demand with TheBlaze TV.

GLENN: There is a remarkable story in American history that most people have never heard of. It's America's first real serial killer. His name was H.H. Holmes. We did an episode on this, oh, probably about a year or so ago on H.H. Holmes and the blood that he left behind around the time of the Chicago world's fair. Well, there's been a History Channel show, a series that has been going on called The American Ripper. And it was written by the great-grandson of the serial killer H.H. Holmes. He has a theory that our first serial killer was also Jack the Ripper. And last night, in the series finale, they actually exhumed the body of H.H. Holmes. And he's here to tell us what exactly was found and how that's turning out. And we begin there, right now.

(music)

GLENN: Jeff Mudgett is with us. The great-grandson of H.H. Holmes and the author of the book bloodstains. Bloodstainsthebook.com.

Welcome to the program, Jeff, good to have you.

JEFF: Thank you very much. It's an honor, Glenn.

GLENN: So, Jeff, I've been waiting to talk to you for -- I'm fascinated and horrified by your great grandfather.

At what point in your life did you find out you were related to him?

JEFF: You know, before I answer your question, I wanted to make one comment about your -- your story, your narration about Holmes that I spent the weekend going over. I actually think you captured who Holmes was better than has ever been done before, and I wanted to say bravo.

GLENN: Wow. Thank you.

JEFF: Yeah, and I'm totally, totally from the heart.

I found out when I was 40 years old, my grandfather told the family the horrible secret that he had kept to himself, including my grandmother, about our horrible ancestor.

GLENN: Did that screw with you at all? Were you like, holy cow?

JEFF: I was a successful California lawyer, trial lawyer at the time. I gave that all up. My life was turned upside down. I saved my marriage barely. But I had to find out what was true and what was legend. And, as you know, doing work on Holmes, the more you dig into this story about this evil genius, the more strange it gets.

GLENN: Oh, yeah. Yeah, he is -- it is -- it's so strangely tied to the -- one of the greatest, brightest spots of the -- of the 1800s, the Chicago Expedition. That right down the street, we're seeing these incredible feats of what America is accomplishing. Just a few blocks down, here's this incredible serial killer who built this hotel of horrors.

Can you -- do you want to go into that just a little bit so people understand, who don't know who your great grandfather was?

JEFF: Yeah, yeah. He was, as you so accurately stated, he was America's first, quote, unquote, serial killer and first psychopathic -- they invented those terms for him, he was so horrible.

GLENN: Right.

JEFF: And he invented a -- a building they now call the murder castle, or factory of death. Which, as you noted, from the Ferris wheel, you could see the top of the hotel from the world's fair. And he put up lonely ladies that had come from all over the country to visit this spectacle of the world's fair. And what I try to explain to people, explaining what it must have been like -- I consider him like a lion over the Savannah in Africa, watching the herds of gazelle.

And I think that's the mistake people make, Glenn. They -- they try to consider him, you know, one of the normal serial killers, where you read over and over about. This was a different man. This was different.

GLENN: No. He was -- he was -- I mean, I hate to use this word for him, but he was brilliant. He -- he did stalk his prey. He knew exactly what he was doing.

And so cold and calculated. And the way he built this murder castle, he was -- he would turn people away. Women would come in. And they had -- two women or three women or whatever, a guy would come in, and he would say, "We're all full."

But if you were a woman by yourself, you definitely got a room. And can you describe a little bit about the murder castle and the way he set traps up and viewing stations and -- you know, what was going on there.

JEFF: Yeah. If someone would like to go accurately into the actual architecture of the building, my friend John Borowski wrote a book that I think best describes it.

But you would have a building where someone would walk in the lobby as a normal hotel and be giving a room if the doctor considered her his next victim. They would place her in a room where there were gas vents that he could either render her unconscious or asphyxiate her.

And then his assistants -- and he would send her down a chute to the basement, where he would proceed to work on them in fashions that I -- that I try to explain as our real American Frankenstein.

And people, as you know, Glenn, they deny that thing was possible in America. Well, it was. It was.

GLENN: What do you mean, our American Frankenstein?

JEFF: He would invent methods of surgery on these victims. He would conduct experiments on torture. He actually had a rack where he strapped a young lady to it, tried to impregnate her, so that he could see if he could evolve a taller race of human beings. That's what we're dealing with.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

So can I go back to the first question? Jeff, when you have somebody like that in your gene pool, did you go through periods where you're like, am -- is there any of that in me?

JEFF: Yeah. And I knew I was different, Glenn. I never had -- I never thought of murdering anyone.

But I knew that, you know, I had a temper. I had angers. I had visions that weren't wholesome. I tended to write those off as just normal reactions of an American male. But then when my grandfather told me the secret and I started researching, you know, the hundreds of books written about Holmes, those -- those tendencies I had, I could see -- they had a basis, there was an origin to them.

Now -- now, I dealt with them in choices. He obviously made different choices. And that's what I tried to capture in my book, Bloodstains.

GLENN: So the guys who were -- the people that were helping him in the murder castle, tell me about them.

JEFF: Right. Well, and that's one of the most interesting parts of the whole story that hasn't been captured. He had assistants, law-abiding citizens who he turned into felons, co-murderers, that actually carried on some of his actions, even after he was dead.

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

JEFF: And I think that's -- that's one of the things I admired about your synopsis of Holmes, how we need to dig a little deeper into the story.

I -- I think, Glenn, if we studied Holmes more precisely, we might be able to prevent this from happening in the future.

GLENN: Why? Why do you say that?

JEFF: I don't think we understand his mentality. We tend to write it off as a psychosis. Or he's a psychopath. Those terms that we use that mean very little in my opinion.

GLENN: That, again, literally were invented for him.

JEFF: Yeah. Yeah. Because they couldn't describe him.

And this -- this mind of his -- why we want to believe he was sick, quote, unquote, I think it's more towards the evil side of the equation. And that as he said himself, he was born with the devil in him.

GLENN: So he, if I remember, because it's been a while since I did that episode, but if I remember right, he had piercing blue eyes and was quite the charmer.

JEFF: Oh, he had hundreds of mistresses. As you said, three or four wives.

He could seduce almost any woman he laid his eyes on. And these women, while -- besides being seduced, often became parts of his cons around Chicago. And I -- I've often thought of digging a little deeper into the story and writing about the women that fell in love with Holmes. And one of the New York Times' articles at the trial, as the jury came back, rendered him guilty, and the judge determined he was to be put to death, the -- the reporter mentioned that four or five of these women stood up in the jury audience and actually had crocodile tears rolling down their cheeks as he was led off, even when they knew what he was, Glenn.

GLENN: So there's -- there's -- one more thing, before we leave and go into a different chapter, his death -- you just had his body exhumed. And it's fascinating when we get into that.

But also, you have a theory that he is the literal Jack the Ripper over in London. We'll get into that. But let me make one more stop.

He owned several buildings in Chicago. And one of them was a concrete factory. And it never sold any concrete. Why do you think he owned that?

JEFF: I know exactly why he owned that. He used it to dispose of bodies. He would put a body into a block of concrete and dump it into the Chicago river. And as you correctly stated, he never sold any concrete, despite owning a factory which made concrete.

GLENN: How many people do you think doing your research -- because they've never been able to put a number to it. How many in your research do you think he was actually responsible for killing?

JEFF: You know, that's -- that's a question that will go on forever. You have historians say eight, nine, 13. He admitted to 27, although some of those were bound to be still alive after.

I think -- and when you get into his memoirs, Glenn, he lied about everything he said.

GLENN: Yeah.

JEFF: And that's the hard part to take to accuracy and fact. But in my opinion, he killed over 200 -- 200 people.

PAT: Whoa.

GLENN: And how many -- how many people were tortured, and how long did some of those last?

JEFF: I have no idea.

GLENN: Okay. So you start your journey, and it takes you to some pretty amazing places. Places like my great grandfather may not have actually been hung. That may not be his body in the crypt underneath the ground. We'll get to you exhuming the body and what you found, because it's pretty stunning here in a second. But it also took you across the ocean to London. And you found some pretty solid evidence. Nothing rock solid, but some pretty solid circumstantial evidence that Jack the Ripper, who people believed at the time may have been an American, was actually your great grandfather. And we'll talk about it here in a second, when we come back.

GLENN: We are having a -- just a fascinating conversation with Jeff Mudgett. He is the great-grandson of H.H. Holmes, America's first serial killer, who if you do not know who H.H. Holmes is, I'm running the -- the His Story episode that we did over a year ago on H.H. Holmes tonight on TheBlaze, 7:00 p.m. It is bone-chilling, but fascinating.

You've never heard an American story like this one. You can find the book Bloodstains. Bloodstainsthebook.com.

There was an eight-episode title -- show called the American Ripper. And this goes to the great-grandson's theory that maybe my great grandfather was Jack the Ripper.

What made you think of this first, Jeff?

JEFF: Yeah. And, you know, to set it straight right off, Glenn. It's not a maybe to me. He was Jack the Ripper. This is what I used to do for a living. And while I can't conclusively prove it, I don't think there's any doubt that probably cause --

GLENN: If you Google right now and you Google H.H. Holmes and Jack the Ripper, I mean, they could be brothers at least. I mean, they look an awful lot alike.

JEFF: You know, and that's -- exactly, and that was a composite done by the BBC and Scotland Yard who came up with an identical resemblance, and then we also did it on the show.

So I can only -- when I was writing my book, I was contacted by a gentleman named Mark Potts from Pennsylvania, who has been studying Holmes and the Ripper his whole life.

And he gave me some information. I had the initial response that everyone has, Glenn, when a new suspect as to the identity of Jack the Ripper is raised: We all doubt it.

But I started looking into the evidence with an open mind. And lo and behold, I now have zero doubt. I even gave a TED talk about Holmes being Jack the Ripper.

GLENN: Oh, I have to watch that.

JEFF: And we put the audience to a vote. I swore them in as my jury, and we came out with 77 percent guilty.

So --

GLENN: So give me the high-level case here, that he's Jack the Ripper.

JEFF: All right. Here we go.

We've got a 5-foot 7-inch 150-pound, 25 to 35-year-old American doctor with expert anatomical knowledge and surgical skills, whose appearance bears a remarkable resemblance to the composite drawings generated from live eyewitness testimonies.

Our suspect is a proven killer, whose MO matches subsequent JTR-like killings in Chicago and New York. He was a remarkable writer with an intricate knowledge of how major media worked, and his handwriting is a likely match to the Dear Boss and Saucy Jack postcard, which in the opinions of expert English linguists, were written by an American trying to sound English.

I -- that is enough -- if Holmes were alive today, Glenn, we could go down and get a warrant for his arrest to have him stand trial for the murders of Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride.

GLENN: Do we have any evidence that he was there in England, that he had ever traveled abroad to England? Do we have anything?

JEFF: Yeah, during the show, my co-host, Amaryllis Fox, who was ex-CIA trained, she went down and researched the passenger list and found two or three with -- one with the Holmes' name, which was an alias, which is hard to establish as direct evidence. And then two other aliases that he likely used on the trip back.

We also have a letter from Holmes to his lawyer, stating that he was irritated with London because he could not find his favorite New York newspaper every day.

GLENN: And that letter was referring to the same time when Jack the Ripper was there?

JEFF: No, it's a different time. But we had already established that Holmes had made two or three trips to London in all likelihood.

Glenn, as you know, when you're dealing with Jack the Ripper and 130-year-old crimes, if you and I went back in a time machine, H.G. Wells time machine, and we filmed Holmes murdering one of the victims. We got blood. We had DNA. We brought -- we brought fingerprints back, the Ripperologist would still doubt my theories. And that's something that's hard to get around when you deal with Jack the Ripper.

Also, I think the show had a number of revelations, including the fact that we've now proven that the Dear Boss and Saucy Jack postcard were not hoaxes, as history has stated for over a century.

GLENN: What's an English lancet? And what role did that play in your work?

JEFF: I'm not an expert on surgical tools. I know -- are those dealt with bloodletting of a victim?

GLENN: I'm not sure. It's one of the artifacts that you found during the -- you know, the American Ripper, that linked Jack the Ripper and H.H. Holmes. It was called a lancet. So I don't know.

JEFF: Yeah, the tools you're talking about were found when we went to Indianapolis, the site where Holmes murdered one of his partner's young children. A horrible death. We found -- we had some people come up with a box of Holmes' artifacts. And inside those -- inside that box of these artifacts was a lancet from London which was a surgical tool.

GLENN: Okay. Okay. When we come back, they just dug his body up. And what they found inside the concrete crypt, next.

GLENN: Jeff Mudgett is with us, the great-grandson of H.H. Holmes. He has written a book called Bloodstains. You can find it at Bloodstains the book. His great, great grandfather was America's first serial killer. He was the guy they literally coined the term psychopath for. They didn't know how to describe him. People couldn't get his arms around him. Because he was so evil, beyond anything that really we have -- you know, I haven't thought of this, Jeff, but I know you have. Can you compare him to anyone in American history? I mean, I wouldn't even put him in with Jeffrey Dahmer, he's much more Nazi kind of Mengele kind of guy.

JEFF: Yeah. He gets into the -- into the leaders of history that we consider evil, the Hitlers and those. The only difference is, I don't know if they murdered with their own hands. They made orders for those to do it.

GLENN: Yes. Yes.

JEFF: Herman enjoyed murdering himself.

GLENN: When he was a teenager in New York, kids started to disappear. They thought later that he had murdered his best friend by pushing -- I think, if I remember right, pushing him out of a window, and then posed his body and watched him die. And that's what started this whole thing.

JEFF: Yeah. We tried to go back and research his childhood, you know, in New Hampshire. And, quite frankly, we were unable to dig up any direct evidence in order to make a -- you know, a statement regarding when he had first started murdering. Although, the legend from the time, as you state, many people associated with Herman went missing.

GLENN: Yeah. So he first went and he started marrying people. And, you know, they would disappear. He would murder their children. He went to Chicago. He built this house of horrors during the world's fair. And that's really kind of where it became untangled.

You, in your book, Bloodstains, you say that here's the -- not conclusive evidence, but some pretty good circumstantial evidence that he was Jack the Ripper. He comes back from London. He's -- was that before he had started building anything in Chicago, around the same time? Can you line that up for me?

JEFF: Yeah, that was before. And the interesting part about that, Glenn, is Scotland Yard followed him back across the Atlantic and actually researched Ripper-style murders in New York and were interested in similar-style killings in Chicago. But I believe didn't have the budget to continue their investigation.

So what we did on the show was to hire a Chicago detective who tracked down all the murders at the time. And as you stated in your narration, hundreds went missing during that time.

GLENN: Yeah.

JEFF: And lo and behold, as soon as Herman was back in Chicago, Ripper-style killings went through the roof. And then when he was arrested finally, they stopped.

GLENN: And it -- what's -- if you missed -- if you don't know who this guy is, tonight, on TheBlaze at 7:00 p.m., we're rerunning an episode of His Story. It's the story of America's first serial killer. And it is mind-boggling. And you don't want to miss it. I don't recommend you watch it with your children. Maybe your teenagers. But your children -- your little children will be freaked out of their mind. Because it is -- it's an amazing story.

So he's in Chicago. While he's in Chicago, he is actually looking for other places. He actually has a tie to Fort Worth, you know, where our studios are. We're in Dallas/Fort Worth.

He was going to build a second hotel down here, but they -- the Texans kind of caught on to him, right?

JEFF: Yeah, Herman. You're right, he was going to build a second -- a bigger murder castle. Except that Herman's cons were finally catching up with him.

GLENN: Right.

JEFF: His assistants were starting to get jealous of the money that he had that he wasn't sharing with them. They were also beginning to grow scared of the fact that if you crossed Herman, you ended up missing.

GLENN: Yeah.

JEFF: And, you know, that can only go on so long, even with assistants that you consider very loyal. So it caught up with Herman, and he was arrested for, quote, unquote, stealing a horse in Texas.

PAT: Wow.

GLENN: So it was actually insurance investigators that eventually nailed him on the murders, right? They were following -- I can't remember exactly. You have to forgive me. It's been a year since I've gone through the story again. But wasn't it an insurance guy who was like, wait a minute. This scam is repeating itself and -- and they seem to be tied to him. Is that right? Is that how he got caught finally?

JEFF: That's absolutely correct. He was the master of insurance fraud. He started out, Glenn, by using skeletons. They would call them resurrectionists. He would dig them up. He would change their facial structure so that they couldn't be identified. And then he would turn them into an insurance company and collect the often as much as 10,000-dollar check.

And he grew tired of the digging up graves in the middle of the night. And he turned to murder more often.

GLENN: So he's arrested.

He goes to prison in Philadelphia. What was his prison time like? Was he -- was he popular? Was he like Jeffrey Dahmer, who eventually was shivved? Was he remorseful? What happened to him in prison?

JEFF: Oh, wonderful question. During the show, we actually interviewed the superintendent of one of the historical prisons in Philadelphia now. And she shocked us by explaining how Holmes ran the show. When he was in prison, he had his jail cell. The doors were open. He had reporters seeing him every day. He had a desk with his clothes hung up on the wall. Much like Al Capone did when he was in prison.

GLENN: So you believe -- if I'm not mistaken, you believe that he was not -- he never paid for his crimes. That he pulled a body double at the end. And it was not him hanging by the neck. There was no -- he was wearing a hood. But I think that's the way they all were hung at the time. Maybe I'm wrong on that. He said that he didn't want an autopsy on his body. That was honored.

And he was buried weirdly. And it was honored as well. Can you take me through what you think actually happened to him?

JEFF: I think you've explained it accurately. I -- and there aren't many that join me in this theory. But I believe he escaped execution and another was buried in his place. And I was hoping with American Ripper, in the final episode last night, that we would be able to answer that question definitively. And, quite frankly, I'm still -- I'm still questioning what we found and how that matches up with the evidence I have that it wasn't Holmes.

GLENN: Okay. So show me -- tell me what you found. You dig him up. He's your great grandfather. You dig him up. You want to have DNA testing.

He was buried in this sarcophagus. This giant, heavy, concrete sarcophagus, which he said, I want to be buried specifically between two plots in the Holy Cross Cemetery, in a concrete encasing. He wanted that because he didn't want anybody to dig up his body and do to him what he had done to others. That's the story. Is that true? And what did you find when you opened -- when you opened the sarcophagus?

JEFF: All right. We had some archeologists and anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania doing the dig, all scientific. The judge that allowed my request for the exhumation demanded that it be done not as a media circus, but in the interest of history.

So we opened it up. We took his remains to the university, where these archeologists set them all out for us.

And, quite frankly, my first impression of the skeleton, Glenn, was that this wasn't Holmes. This was a strange-looking human being on the table, when all of the reporters had written story after story about what an elegant, handsome man Holmes was, that could seduce the ladies at his trial even.

GLENN: Yeah, but -- I mean, I would imagine he didn't look beautiful after being dead for over 100 years. How do you mean it didn't look right? I mean, what were you noticing?

JEFF: Yeah, the -- well, last night, you could -- the archeologist discussed that the skeleton is too short to be Holmes. And that the bone structure represented this muscular mass, which wasn't Holmes at all.

So they went with dental records, Glenn. Which matched those of the physical given to, quote, unquote, Holmes before the execution by the prison physician. And what I tried to raise over and over again was, that wasn't Holmes who was examined by the physician. And those -- those dental records don't match for a reason. It wasn't him.

As a matter of fact, the physician in his Juma (phonetic) report states, wait a minute. Wait a minute. When he walks into the cell -- his quote is, this isn't the guy in the papers, in the pictures, this isn't him. That's what the physician said, Glenn.

So I tell you what, the mystery hasn't been solved yet.

GLENN: Wow. Have you done a DNA test? Could you not -- I mean, you should be able to see if your DNA is his DNA.

JEFF: The DNA test was done. It was sent to a laboratory in London. They're one of three in the world that can do ancient DNA like we needed.

In my opinion, it's inconclusive. History believes it was conclusive. That's why they ended the show last night as they did.

So I'm going to try to convince them into continuing the series maybe with a two-hour special so that I can sit down with someone like you or maybe Bill O'Reilly. But we need to talk through the evidence piece by piece and see if we can answer it.

GLENN: Well, I'm fascinated by his story. I'd love to help you in any way, even if it is just matching you up with Bill O'Reilly. Because I am fascinated by this story.

The skull still contained brains. Is that unusual for a body this old?

JEFF: One of the scariest moments of my entire life, Glenn. And they didn't show it last night for reasons I tried to get them to explain this morning. At the university, I took the skull in my hand, much like Hamlet, the scene from Hamlet, looked into the eyes. And as I rolled the skull in my hand, it flopped in my hand.

GLENN: Ugh.

JEFF: And I was lucky not to drop it, to break the skull, to tell you the truth. I grabbed the scientist by the collar and pulled her over and said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait. What's flopping in my hand?" She goes, "There's nothing flopping in your hand."

And I said, "Yes, there is. Here, you try." And it flopped in her hand. She looked inside, his brain was still intact, Glenn, after 120 years.

STU: What?

GLENN: Any idea why?

JEFF: I asked her. She had no idea why.

GLENN: This is bizarre.

JEFF: The Holmes' mystery continues.

PAT: Weird. Wow.

GLENN: You ever feel -- is this a blessing or a curse, for you?

JEFF: You know, I used to think it was a curse, Glenn. But now that I get the opportunity to go on great shows like yours and explain to the world that, if we do this right, we can prevent serial killings in the future, I think it's a blessing.

GLENN: Well, that would be a noble, noble goal and a great thing that would come out of this horror. But I agree with you, he was not -- he was -- he was more than sick. And there was something -- you know, he said he was born with evil in him. I believe that to be true. But there's also something else going on inside of him. And if we can figure out anything that would help others, it would make this sad story and horror story -- American horror story -- at least have a happier ending.

The name of the book is Bloodstains. It's Bloodstainsthebook.com.

You were going to say?

JEFF: You know, think about that brain preserved at the University of Pennsylvania, and 50 years from now, science expanding to the level where we can look into that to see what he actually was.

GLENN: Are they preserving his brain?

JEFF: Yes.

GLENN: Jeff, I would love to meet you sometime. Because you are just fascinating. I'm not sure I would want to have dinner with you. But you are truly a fascinating guy.

Jeff Mudgett, the great-grandson of H.H. Holmes. Thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it.

JEFF: Hey, it's been an honor. And like I say, your narration of the Holmes story is the best I've ever heard.

GLENN: Can I just ask you -- and I don't mean this to pile on compliments. I'm confused. What is it that you thought was different or that we captured that was different?

JEFF: Well, I'll explain it like this, I've read everything that's ever been written about Holmes, Glenn, and the way you described it captured the evilness of this man. It's not another Jeffrey Dahmer. It's not that. It was something more than that. And I think you captured it.

GLENN: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it, Jeff. Jeff Mudgett. Bloodstains. In the book -- or, Bloodstainsthebook.com is where you can find more information. And tonight, the episode he was just referencing is going to be rebroadcast at 7:00 p.m., only at TheBlaze.com.

Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in history.

The Allied invasion force included 5,000 ships and landing craft, 11,000 planes, and almost three million allied soldiers, airmen and sailors. Despite such numbers, the location and timing of the invasion was still an enormous gamble. The Nazis fully expected such an invasion, they just didn't know precisely when or where it would be.

Despite the enormous logistics involved, the gamble worked and by the end of June 6, 1944, 156,000 Allied troops were ashore in Normandy. The human cost was also enormous – over 4,900 American troops died on D-Day. That number doubled over the next month as they fought to establish a foothold in northern France.

There were five beach landing zones on the coast of northwestern France, divided among the Allies. They gave each landing zone a name. Canada was responsible for "Juno." Britain was responsible for "Gold" and "Sword." And the U.S. had "Utah" and "Omaha."

The Nazis were dug in with bunkers, machine guns, artillery, mines, barbed wire, and other obstacles to tangle any attempt to come ashore. Of the five beaches, Omaha was by far the most heavily defended. Over 2,500 U.S. soldiers were killed at Omaha – the beach so famously depicted in the opening battle sequence of the 1998 movie, Saving Private Ryan. The real-life assault on Omaha Beach included 34 men in that first wave of attack who came from the same small town of Bedford, Virginia. The first Americans to die on Omaha Beach were the men from Bedford.

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America has a national D-Day Memorial, but many people don't know about it.

America has a national D-Day Memorial, but many people don't know about it. Maybe that's because it wasn't a government project and it's not in Washington DC. It was initiated and financed by veterans and private citizens. It's tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the small town of Bedford, Virginia. Why is the memorial for one of the most famous days in modern world history in such a tiny town? Because, as a proportion of its population of just 3,200 at the time, no community in the U.S. sacrificed more men on D-Day than Bedford.

There were 34 men in Company A from Bedford. Of those thirty-four, 23 died in the first wave of attacks. Six weeks after D-Day, the town's young telegraph operator was overwhelmed when news of many of the first deaths clattered across the Western Union line on the same day. Name after name of men and families that she knew well. There were so many at once that she had to enlist the help of customers in the pharmacy's soda shop to help deliver them all.

Among those killed in action were brothers Bedford and Raymond Hoback. Bedford was the rambunctious older brother with a fiancée back home that he couldn't wait to return to. Raymond was the quieter, more disciplined younger brother who could often be found reading his Bible. He fell in love with a British woman during his two years in England training for D-Day. Like in that opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, Bedford and Raymond barely made it down the ramp of their Higgins Boat in the swarm of bullets and hot steel before they were cut down in the wet sand.

Bedford and Raymond Hoback's mother, Macie, learned of both their deaths from two separate telegrams, the first on a Sunday morning, the second the following day. Their younger sister, Lucille, remembered her mother's devastation, and her father walking out to the barn to cry.

The day after D-Day, the killing field of Omaha Beach was already transforming into the massive supply port that would help fuel the American drive all the way to Berlin over the next year. A soldier from West Virginia was walking along the beach when he saw something jutting out of the sand. He reached down and pulled it out. He was surprised to find it was a Bible. The inside cover was inscribed with: "Raymond S. Hoback, from mother, Christmas, 1938." The soldier wrote a letter and mailed it with the Bible to Raymond's mother. That Bible, which likely tumbled from Raymond's pack when he fell on D-Day, became Macie Hoback's most cherished possession – the only personal belonging of her son that was ever returned.

Of the 23 Bedford men who died on Omaha Beach, eleven were laid to rest in the American cemetery in Normandy.

These men, many of them barely out of their teens, didn't sign up to march to the slaughter of course. They had hopes and dreams just like you and I. Many of them signed up for adventure, or because of peer pressure, and yes, a sense of honor and duty. Many of the Bedford Boys first signed up for the National Guard just to make a few extra bucks per month, get to hang out with their buddies, and enjoy target practice. But someone had to be first at Omaha Beach and that responsibility fell to the men from Bedford.

Over the last several years, the D-Day anniversary gets increasingly sad. Because each year, there are fewer and fewer men alive who were actually in Normandy on June 6, 1944. The last of the surviving Bedford Boys died in 2009. Most of the remaining D-Day veterans who are still with us are too frail to make the pilgrimage to France for the anniversary ceremonies like they used to.

It's difficult to think about losing these World War II veterans, because once they're all gone, we'll lose that tether to a time when the nation figured out how to be a better version of itself.

Not that they were saints and did everything right. They were as human as we are, with all the fallibility that entails. But in some respects, they were better. Because they went, and they toughed it out, and they accomplished an incredibly daunting mission, with sickening hardship, heartbreak, and terror along the way.

So, what does the anniversary of D-Day mean in 2019?

In one sense, this anniversary is a reprimand that we've failed to tell our own story well enough.

In one sense, this anniversary is a reprimand that we've failed to tell our own story well enough. You can't learn about the logistics of the operation and above all, the human cost, and not be humbled. But as a society, we have not emphasized well enough the story of D-Day and all that it represents. How can I say that? Because of an example just last weekend, when common sense got booed by Democratic Socialists at the California Democrats' State Convention. When Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper said during his speech that "socialism is not the answer," the crowd booed loudly. When did telling the truth about socialism become controversial?

Sure, socialists, and communists and other anti-American factions have always been around. America certainly had socialists in 1944. But the current socialists trying to take over the Democratic Party like a virus don't believe in the D-Day sacrifices to preserve America, because they don't believe America is worth preserving. They are agitating to reform America using the authoritarian playbook that has only ended in death and destruction everywhere it is followed.

Ask a Venezuelan citizen, or an Iraqi Christian, or a North Korean peasant why D-Day still matters in 2019.

The further we move away from caring about pivotal events like June 6, 1944, the less chance of survival we have as a nation.

At the same time, the D-Day anniversary is a reminder that we're not done yet. It's an opportunity for us to remember and let that inform how we live.

Near the end of Saving Private Ryan, the fictional Captain Miller lays dying, and he gives one last instruction to Private Ryan, the young man that he and his unit have sacrificed their lives to rescue in Normandy. He says, "Earn it."

In other words, don't waste the sacrifices that were made so that your life could be saved. Live it well. The message to "earn it" extends to the viewer and the nation as well – can we say we're earning the sacrifices that were made by Americans on D-Day? I cringe to think how our few remaining World War II veterans might answer that.

Honor. Duty. Sacrifice. Gratitude. Personal responsibility. These used to mean a lot more.

Honor. Duty. Sacrifice. Gratitude. Personal responsibility. These used to mean a lot more. I don't want to believe it's too late for us to rediscover those traits as a nation. I want to believe we can still earn it.

The challenge to "earn it" is a lot of pressure. Frankly, it's impossible. We can't fully earn the liberty that we inherited. But we can certainly try to earn it. Not trying is arrogant and immoral. And to tout socialism as the catch-all solution is naïve, and insulting to the men like those from Bedford who volunteered to go defend freedom. In truly striving to earn it, we help keep the flame of liberty aglow for future generations. It is necessary, honorable work if freedom is to survive.

The end of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is remarkably relevant for every anniversary of June 6, 1944. This is what D-Day still means in 2019:

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Letter from Corporal H.W. Crayton to Mr. and Mrs. Hoback – parents of Bedford and Raymond Hoback who were both killed in action on June 6, 1944

Álvaro Serrano/Unsplash

July 9, 1944 Somewhere in France

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Hoback:

I really don't know how to start this letter to you folks, but will attempt to do something in words of writing. I will try to explain in the letter what this is all about.

While walking along the Beach D-day Plus One, I came upon this Bible and as most any person would do I picked it up from the sand to keep it from being destroyed. I knew that most all Bibles have names & addresses within the cover so I made it my business to thumb through the pages until I came upon the name above. Knowing that you no doubt would want the Book returned I am sending it knowing that most Bibles are a book to be cherished. I would have sent it sooner but have been quite busy and thought it best if a short period of time elapsed before returning it.

You have by now received a letter from your son saying he is well. I sincerely hope so.

I imagine what has happened is that your son dropped the Book without any notice. Most everybody who landed on the Beach D-Day lost something. I for one as others did lost most of my personal belongings, so you see how easy it was to have dropped the book and not know about it.

Everything was in such a turmoil that we didn't have a chance until a day or so later to try and locate our belongings.

Since I have arrived here in France I have had occasion to see a little of the country and find it quite like parts of the U.S.A. It is a very beautiful country, more so in peace time. War does change everything as it has this country. One would hardly think there was a war going on today. Everything is peaceful & quiet. The birds have begun their daily practice, all the flowers and trees are in bloom, especially the poppies & tulips which are very beautiful at this time of the year.

Time goes by so quickly as it has today. I must close hoping to hear that you receive the Bible in good shape.

Yours very truly,

Cpl. H.W. Crayton

It's not as easy as it used to be for billion-dollar entertainment empires like The Walt Disney Company. It would be more streamlined for Disney to produce its major motion pictures in its own backyard. After all, abortion in California is readily available, as well as a protected, cherished right. And since abortion access is critical for movie production, right up there with lighting equipment and craft services, you would think California would be the common-sense choice for location shooting. Alas, even billion-dollar studios must pinch pennies these days. So, in recent years, Disney, among other major Hollywood studios, has been farming out production to backwater Southern lands like Georgia, and even Louisiana. Those states offer more generous tax breaks than Disney's native California. As a result, Georgia for example, played host to much of the shooting for the recent worldwide box office smash Avengers: Endgame.

But now it looks like it's Georgia's endgame. The state recently passed what is known as a "heartbeat" bill – a vicious, anti-woman law that would try to make pregnant women allow their babies to be born and actually live. It's a bridge too far for a major studio like Disney, which was largely built on creating family entertainment. How can Disney possibly go about making quality movies, often aimed at children, without access to unfettered abortion? It's unconscionable. Lack of abortion access makes it nearly impossible to shoot movies. So, what's a major studio to do? Disney might have considered migrating its business to Louisiana, but that state too has now signed a heartbeat bill into law. It's utter madness.

These monstrous anti-abortion bills, coupled with having to live under President Trump, has led Disney to seek a new home for its legendary movie magic. Last week, Disney's CEO, Bob Iger, announced that all future Disney movies will now be filmed on location in the Sub-Saharan African nation of Wakanda.

"Disney and Wakanda are a match made in heaven," Iger told reporters. "Wakanda was, until recently, a secret kingdom, much like our own Magic Kingdom. With this new partnership, we'll not only get to continue our legacy of making movies that parents and children everywhere enjoy together, but we'll get to do so in a safe space that reveres abortion as much as we do."

Wakanda is one of only four African countries (out of 55) that allow unrestricted abortion.

As home to the most advanced technology in the world – and with the planet's highest per-capita concentration of wokeness – Wakanda offers women painless, hassle-free abortion on demand. As the Wakandan health ministry website explains, the complete absence of any white-patriarchal-Judeo-Christian influence allows women in Wakanda to have complete control of their own bodies (with the exception of females who are still fetuses). As winner of the U.N.'s 2018 Golden Forceps award (the U.N.'s highest abortion honor) Wakanda continues its glowing record on abortion. That makes it an ideal location for Disney's next round of live-action remakes of its own animated movies in which the company plans to remove all male characters.

Iger says he hopes to convince Wakandan leadership to share their top-secret vibranium-based abortion procedure technology so that American women can enjoy the same convenient, spa-like abortion treatment that Wakandan women have enjoyed for years.

Wakanda is one of only four African countries (out of 55) that allow unrestricted abortion. Disney plans to boycott and/or retaliate against the other 51 African nations, as well as any U.S. states, that restrict abortion. Specific plans are being kept under wraps, but sources say Disney's potential retaliation may include beaming Beverly Hills Chihuahua into the offending territories on a continuous, indefinite loop.

When asked how Wakanda's futuristic capital city and distinctly African landscape would be able to double for American movie locations, Iger said, "I guess America will just have to look more like Wakanda from now on."

One potential wrinkle for the Left-leaning studio is the fact that Wakanda has an impenetrable border wall-shield-thing designed to keep out foreign invaders as well as illegal immigrants. Iger said he understands Wakanda's policy of exclusivity, adding, "After all, not everyone gets into Disneyland. You have to have a ticket to get in. Anyone is welcome, but you have to go through the process of getting a ticket." When one reporter pointed out that Iger's answer sounded like the conservative argument for legal immigration under the rule of law, Iger insisted that the reporter was "a moronic fascist."

What if the unthinkable happens and Florida also enacts its own "heartbeat" law? That would be problematic since Walt Disney World is located in Florida. Iger responded that Disney would "cross that bridge if we get to it" but that the most likely scenario would entail "dismantling Disney World piece-by-piece and relocating it to the actual happiest place on earth – Wakanda." As for whether Disney would ever open character-themed abortion clinics inside its theme parks, Iger remained coy, but said, "Well, it is the place where dreams come true."

With the Wakanda solution, Disney may have found a place where Minnie Mouse can finally follow her heart and have true freedom of choice.

When pressed about the cost of ramping up production in a secretive African kingdom that has no existing moviemaking infrastructure (which could easily end up being much more expensive than simply shooting in California) Iger said, "You can't put a price tag on abortion freedom. Wakanda Forever and Abortion Forever!"

With the Wakanda solution, Disney may have found a place where Minnie Mouse can finally follow her heart and have true freedom of choice. And that will be welcome relief to traditional families all over the world who keep the Walt Disney Company in business.

*Disclaimer: The preceding story is a parody. Bob Iger did not actually say any of the quotes in the story. Neither is Wakanda an actual nation on planet Earth.

"Journeys of Faith with Paula Faris," is a podcast featuring conversations about how faith has guided newsmakers and celebrities through their best and worst times. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a much maligned religion so Glenn joined the podcast and took the time to explain what it means to him and how it changed his life.

From his suicidal days and his battle with drugs and alcohol, it was his wife Tania and his faith that saved him. All his ups and downs have given him the gift of empathy and he says he now understands the "cry for mercy" — something he wishes he'd given out more of over the years.

You can catch the whole podcast on any of the platforms listed below.

- Apple Podcasts
- Google Podcasts
- TuneIn
- Spotify
- Stitcher
- ABC News app

One of these times I'm going to go on vacation, and I'm just not going to come back. I learn so much on a farm.

You want to know how things work, go spend a summer on a farm. You're having problems with your son or daughter, go spend a summer on a farm.

My son changed. Over two weeks.

Getting him out of bed, getting him to do anything, is like insane. He's a 15-year-old kid. Going all through the normal 15-year-old boy stuff. Getting him on the farm, where he was getting up and actually accomplishing stuff, having to build or mend fences, was amazing. And it changed him.

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Our society does not allow our kids to grow up, ever. I am convinced that our 15-year-olds could be fixing all kinds of stuff. Could be actually really making an impact in a positive way in our society. And what's wrong with our society is, we have gotten away from how things actually work. We're living in this theoretical world. When you're out on a farm, there's no theory here. If it rains, the crops will grow. If it rains too much, the crops won't grow.

If there's no sun, they won't grow. If there's too much sun, they'll shrivel up and die. There's no theory. We were out mending fences. Now, when I say the phrase to you, mending fences, what does that mean? When you think of mending fences, you think of, what?

Coming together. Bringing people together. Repairing arguments.

I've never mended a fence before until I started stringing a fence and I was like, "I ain't doing this anymore! Where is it broken? Can't we just tie a piece of barbed wire together?"

Let's stop talking about building a wall. Because that has all kinds of negative imagery. Mending fences is what we need to do.

That's called mending fences.

And why do you mend fences? So your animals don't get out and start to graze on somebody else's land. When your fence goes down, your cow is now on somebody else's land. And your cow is now eating their food.

We look at the phrase, mending fences as saying, hey. You know, we were both wrong. Mending fences has nothing to do with that.

Mending fences means build a wall. My neighbors and I, we're going to get along fine, as long as my cows don't go and steal their food, or their cows don't come over and steal my cow's food.

We're perfectly neighborly with each other, until one of us needs to mend a fence, because, dude, you got to mend that, because your cows keep coming over and eating my food.

You know what we need to do with Mexico? Mend fences.

Now, that's a phrase. You hear build a wall. That's horrible.

No, no, no. We need to mend fences.

In a farming community, that means putting up an electric fence. That means putting up barbed wire.

So the cows — because the cows will — they'll stick their head through barbed wire. And they'll eat the grass close to the road. Or eat the grass close to the other side of the fence. And they'll get their heads in between those fences. And they can't get out sometimes. Because the grass is always greener on the other side. You look at these damn cows and say turn around, cow — there's plenty of stuff over here.

No. They want the grass on the other side of the fence.

So you mend it.

And if it's really bad, you do what we do. We had to put an electric fence up. Now, imagine putting an electric fence up. That seems pretty radical and expensive.

Does it really work? Does it shock them? What does that feel like to a cow?

The cows hit it once, and then they don't hit it again. They can actually hear the buzz of the electric fence. There's a warning. Don't do it. Don't do it. They hear the current and they hit it once and they're like, "I'm not going to do that again."

So you mend fences, which means, keep your stuff on your side. I like you. We're good neighbors. You keep your stuff on your side and I'll keep my stuff on my side and we'll get together at the town hall and we'll see each other at the grocery store. Because we're good neighbors. But what stops us from fighting is knowing that there is a fence there.

This is my stuff. That's your stuff. But we can still trade and we'll help each other. But let's stop talking about building a wall. Because that has all kinds of negative imagery. Mending fences is what we need to do.

You can have a tough fence. It could be a giant wall. It could be an electric fence. But you need one. And that's how you come together.

The side that's having the problem, mends the fence.