Category Archives: Cool & Odd-Mostly Odd

Guest Blogger: Anne Trager: Alchemy 101—Can You Make Your Own Gold?

Alchemy 101—Can You Make Your Own Gold?

Anne Trager, translator
The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

Can you actually make your own gold? I uncovered the truth recently while working on a fun thriller by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne called The Lafayette Sword. The plot has gold fever, Freemasonry, murders, and the quest for a stolen, priceless sword. It also has alchemy. It’s fiction, but to write it, the authors did a lot of research, and to translate it, so did I.

What exactly is alchemy?

Alchemy dates back four millennia, spans three continents (China, India and Europe), and includes a lot of symbolic mumbo-jumbo. But in short, it was part science, part magic.

Medieval European alchemy set out to make a substance called the philosopher’s stone—it was not actually a stone, but similar to wax in consistency. It was supposed to transform base metals into gold. Perfect for the greedy and power hungry, you may think. In fact, alchemy was more than a quest for a money-machine. It was also a symbolic journey of self-realization and the precursor to chemistry.

Magnum Opus

At the time, people thought everything was made up of fire, air, water and earth. If a common metal like lead was made of these elements, then gold was too. Thus, in theory, one could be transformed into the other.

The alchemical world view also included the idea of progression or maturation. Gold was considered the most mature metal because it had a perfect balance of these four elements. In some traditions, it also symbolized the most advanced stage in a person’s spiritual refinement. The transmutation of lead into gold was like the transmutation of the physical body into a higher energy—that is, becoming immortal.

The key was in the philosopher’s stone, which not only transformed metals, but also had healing powers, and was an essential ingredient in the elixir of life.

So, the alchemical Great Work, or Magnum Opus, was the process of working with the prima materia to create the philosopher’s stone. It ultimately led to gold, a perfect body and soul, and enlightenment—an enticing promise.


Not so fast. As an article in Scientific American states,

“Alchemists have often been dismissed as pseudoscientific charlatans but in many ways they paved the way for modern chemistry and medicine. The alchemists of the 16th and 17th centuries developed new experimental techniques, medicines and other chemical concoctions, such as pigments. And many of them ‘were amazingly good experimentalists,’ says Lawrence Principe, a chemist and science historian at Johns Hopkins University. ‘Any modern professor of chemistry today would be more than happy to hire some of these guys as lab techs.’ The alchemists counted among their number Irish-born scientist Robert Boyle, credited as one of the founders of modern chemistry; pioneering Swiss-born physician Paracelsus; and English physicist Isaac Newton.”

Isaac Newton, who was a Freemason and practiced alchemy throughout his life, even played an important role in the gold market. In 1696, he was appointed to the Royal Mint. At the time coin counterfeiting was rampant. He managed to recall all the coins in circulation, manufacture and issue new secure coinage and introduce the gold standard. Go Isaac!

Perhaps the most famous alchemist of all times was Nicolas Flamel, who figures in The Lafayette Sword, as readers follow his quest for the philosopher’s stone. The legend around him grew during the seventeenth century, when alchemy was all the rage, and continues to this day. He’s quoted in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, he figures in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, he’s mentioned in The Da Vinci Code. (Now, that’s an odd combination of titles to have in one sentence.)

Yes, you can

Today alchemy is actually possible. We have the technology, and it’s been done. Nobel laureate Glenn Seaborg tranmuted tiny quantities of bismuth into gold in 1980. What you need, again according to Scientific American is: “a particle accelerator, a vast supply of energy and an extremely low expectation of how much gold you will end up with.” The current consensus is that it would cost way too much (a quadrillion dollars per ounce) to be worth it.

Find out more

¥ For an in-depth examination of gold from antiquity to modern times, read Peter Bernstein’s The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession.

¥ The World Gold Council,, provides information about current prices, mining, supply and demand and research.

¥ For more about gold market manipulation, and the inspiration for the worldwide gold conspiracy in The Lafayette Sword: Gold Anti-trust Action Committee

¥ On the science of turning lead into gold:

¥ More on Newton: Newton and the Counterfeiter by Thomas Levenson

¥ More on alchemy:

Gold. Obsession. Secrets.


Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne rank at the top of France’s best-selling thriller writers list. They owe their international renown to their series about the Freemason Inspector Antoine Marcas, which made its U.S. debut last year with Shadow Ritual. Now, The Lafayette Sword is available in English.

Following the murder of a Freemason brother, Antoine Marcas uncovers unsettling truths about gold and its power to fascinate and corrupt. A priceless sword is stolen and deaths ensue setting the Freemason detective on a case of Masons turned bad. A clue points to mysteries and conspiracy about elusive pure gold, launching a frantic, deadly race between two symbolic places—the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. A captivating plot weaves alchemy and the Middle Ages into a modern-day thriller.

Web page:

Praise for the series

•“Vivid characters, evocative international settings, and a history darker than midnight. I highly recommend!” —Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling coauthor of the famed Pendergast series of novel

•“A race against the clock.” —Le Figaro

•“A superbly esoteric blend of history and adventure.” —Glenn Cooper, internationally bestselling thriller writer

•“Giacometti and Ravenne’s series kickoff has abundant visceral appeal.” —Kirkus Reviews

•“Brilliantly plotted and well researched.” —Le Parisien

The authors


Eric Giacometti studied biochemistry and genetics in Toulouse, France, before going into journalism. Then, at the height of his career as an investigative reporter, Eric Giacometti was contaminated by the thriller virus. His life took on another dimension: journalist by day, writer by night. In 2013, he left his full-time reporting job with a French daily newspaper to work freelance and write. He teaches journalism and writing.

Jacques Ravenne is a high-level French Freemason. He is also a literary critic, known for his work on the writers Paul Valéry, Yves Bonnefoy, Gérard de Nerval and Stéphane Mallarmé. In addition to his academic work, he was also a local elected official for a number of years, and contributes regularly to Freemason publications. He discovered the Marquis de Sade’s château in 1985, beginning a

long fascination with the man, which has resulted in an anthology of his correspondence and a novel based on Sade’s life.

Book Info:

Anne Trager
Le French Book
French books you’ll love in English!


Anne Trager is the founder of Le French Book, a publisher dedicated to hand-picking, translating and publishing top crime fiction from Europe. Their recent release The Lafayette Sword is by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne, who rank at the top of France’s best-selling thriller writers list. They owe their international renown (over 2 million copies sold) to their series about the Freemason Inspector Antoine Marcas, which made its U.S. debut last year with Shadow Ritual. Now, The Lafayette Sword is available in English. Following the murder of a Freemason brother, Antoine Marcas uncovers unsettling truths about gold and its power to fascinate and corrupt in a captivating plot that weaves alchemy and the Middle Ages in to a modern-day thriller. Find out more here. Or read an extended sneak preview here.


Father’s Unborn Twin Is the Genetic “Father” of His Son

A couple of years ago a happy couple in Washington welcomed a new baby boy. All was good until a paternity test showed that the father was not the father. Uh-oh. Well, it’s not really that bad. Turns out that genetic testing revealed the father was a chimera and the genetic testing was confused by his unborn twin’s DNA, which the father had absorbed in utero. Chimerism is an odd and interesting medical entity.


Greek Chimera

In Greek Mythology, the Chimera was a fire-breathing female that was part lion, part goat, and part dragon. Fortunately, human chimeras, which result from the combining of two or more human embryos in utero, are typically normal in every way—-except for that DNA stuff.

I’ve blogged and had Guest Bloggers comment on chimeras before:

Q&A: How Could My Sleuth Recognize a Chimera?

Guest Blogger: EE Giorgi: I Am My Mother’s Chimera. Chances Are, So Are You

Guest Blogger: Human Chimerism: Mindboggling DNA Tests Gone Wrong


Billy The Kid: Amazing New Photo Found

Only one photo of William H. Bonney, AKA Billy The Kid, was known to exist. But now a new photo has been found. Purchased a few years ago for $2 in a Fresno, CA shop, the photo has been authenticated and its value estimated at $5 million. Pretty good find.

And an amazing slice of American History. Below are two photos—one of Billy and friends playing croquet before a home in New Mexico in 1878 and a close up of Billy from the same photo. He was 17 at the time.

The photo and Billy will be the subject of a NatGeo special this Sunday 10-18-15. Can’t wait to see it.

Tin Type Full 9Kx12K b, 12/20/13, 12:37 PM,  8C, 9000x12000 (0+0), 150%, Custom,  1/40 s, R106.2, G84.2, B103.2

Billy the Kid NM 1887-2 copy


Suicide By Text

You can’t think about it.

You just have to do it. 

You said you were gonna do it. 

Like I don’t get why you aren’t.

Michelle Carter

So texted Michelle Carter to Conrad Roy, her 18-year-old boyfriend. And there were many other texts to follow. She goaded him to commit suicide, or at least that’s what prosecutors are alleging. And now she faces trial on an involuntary manslaughter charge. This will be an interesting trial particularly in regards to who is responsible for Conrad Roy’s death. There’s no doubt it was by his own hand, but is Michelle Carter culpable because she encouraged him to commit the act?

But this isn’t exactly new. In 1816, long before there was texting, George Bowen was charged with “murder by counseling.” It seems he was an inmate and convinced Jonathan Jewett, a convicted murderer who occupied the adjacent cell adjacent, to hang himself. Apparently Jewett did and Bowen was charged with encouraging his suicide.

So it seems there is nothing new after all.


Preacher Killed By Poisonous Snake—-Again.


Mark 16:17-18 (King James Version)

17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Luke 10:19 (King James Version)

19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

Biblical passages such as these serve as the justification for some church congregations to take up the serpent. This is not a relic of the past; the practice is alive and well in the US. Maybe not well, but alive none the less. Though most such churches are along the Appalachian chain, they can be found literally from coast to coast.

From time to time, stories of snake-handling deaths pop up in various media sources. Witness John David Brock of Bell County, KY. He took a hit to the arm, and as is often the case, refused medical help. He didn’t make it. I do wonder if he treated his bite with sips of strychnine as this is the treatment in many such communities.

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My third Samantha Cody thriller ORIGINAL SIN deals with such a church and its followers. During my research I stumbled on an National Book Award nominee and many useful sites. Such as:

National Book Award Finalist SALVATION ON SAND MOUNTAIN by Dennis Covington:

Holiness Serpent Handling Website:

Rev. John Wayne “Punkin” Brown Jr’s Death:



Could You “Remember” a Crime You Didn’t Commit?


Could You “Remember” a Crime You Didn’t Commit?

Yes, you could. It’s a strange phenomenon in humans that they will erroneously “remember” events, or create memories from whole cloth, and, at times, even confess to things they did not do.

Here is an excellent article in The New Yorker written by investigative journalist Douglas Starr.

Doug was our guest on Crime and Science Radio and his interview was fascinating and insightful.

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Crows Are Very Giving Creatures


Crows are clever, smart, and natural-born scavengers. They tend to collect objects that catch their eye—usually things that shine or reflect. Eight-year-old Gabi Mann knows this all too well. Crows seem to love her Seattle backyard garden and bring her all sorts of interesting objects.

Gabi Mann

In my Dub Walker thriller series, I visited Dub with a pair of crows, Kramden and Norton, who bring him stuff all the time.

SF200X300 copy


As T-Tommy fed fresh fettuccine into a pot of boiling water, he said, “Your birds are

attacking your ex.”

My birds were Kramden and Norton. Two crows that I had rescued from a neighbor’s

pine tree after their mother disappeared. Probably killed by a hunter. Dropper feedings, then mushed-up worms and grains, and they grew into annoying young adults. That’s when I opened the walk-in cage I had built for them and let them take to the sky. They now roamed all over the county with others of their kind but managed at least one visit a day here. Usually for food or to bring some shiny object they had picked up. Crows are natural thieves and love anything with a gloss to it. Norton was the best thief; Kramden was the fat one. And the noisy one.

I looked out the window. Kramden hung his head over Claire’s computer screen as she

worked the keyboard. Norton stood to one side, eyeing her.

“She can handle them.”

She did. She scratched Kramden’s head and gave Norton a cracker from the tray of

cheeses and crackers I had prepared earlier. Norton snatched it and bounced across the table and out into the yard. Kramden followed and a squabble erupted. Once they devoured the cracker, they swirled into the sky, still going at each other, and headed west, their silhouettes starkly black against the red-orange sky, their cawing echoing off the trees. Time for them to find a roosting spot.


Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Cool & Odd-Mostly Odd, Writing

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