What do the dead, a lynching and a spy mission have in common?
They are all intriguing, mysterious, dark, and uncanny topics of conversation at the forthcoming Milford Readers and Writers Festival (MRAWF).
The festival starts on Friday, Sept 22, and continues through Sunday, Sept 24.
These conversations will be held on Sunday at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and are part of the three-author Salon Series, curated each year by Mayor Sean Strub.
The Salon Series is free and is loosely connected by its own theme.
In addition, all three authors and their interviewers are renown professionals in their fields of inquiry and are local to the extended Pike County area.
Barbara Butcher 11 a.m.
What the Dead Know: Learning About Life as a NYC Death Investigator.
Barbara Butcher has been a death investigator for more than 25 years. She was the second woman hired in this role in New York City. As she herself says, “You have to be smart, and brave, and strong.”
Until 2015 she was chief of the Chief Medical Officers in New York City.
“You can learn a lot about a person’s life from a forensic examination of their death,“ Butcher said.
Butcher has seen numerous causes of death. “It is important to keep one’s emotions in check.”
She was on the job on Sept. 11, 2001, and talks about it as a “soul crushing and horrifying endeavor.” More than 3,000 people were killed. They had to keep more than 25,000 body parts in special containers in drawers.
A certain amount of PTSD is part of the job. As a result, Butcher goes to great lengths to surround herself with things of beauty. She has a place in Milford, and it is her retreat.
She has often been called to consult with the police and sometimes gives forensic lessons to TV writers. “It is not all sturm and drang,” Butcher said. “There are some pretty funny memories — even if it’s dark humor.”
Butcher will be interviewed by David Lender, himself a best-selling author of fast-paced thrillers about international spies and white collar crime.
Michael Worden 1 p.m.
“Lynched by a Mob: the 1892 Lynching of Robert Lewis by a Mob in Port Jervis, New York.”
Michael Worden is an award-winning true crime author, a retired decorated law enforcement officer, researcher and author. He is also a long-time paranormal researcher and investigator in the Hudson Valley. Worden’s true crime books include Ghost Detective and The Murder of Richard Jennings (the first murder for hire in 1818 in New York).
His latest book about the Lynching of Robert Lewis tells the complete story of the incident. Worden draws on his 22-year background as a Port Jervis detective and copious research to piece together the true story. He consulted 635 sources.
“History demands we tell this story,” he said by way of explaining the effort. “History deserves to be remembered.”
Worden will be interviewed by Christa Caceres, who is very familiar with the law and local politics. She holds a BA in Jurisprudence and an MS in Law and Public Policy from the California University of Pennsylvania. Caceres is a leader and advocate in Monroe and Pike counties.
Brian Carso 3 p.m.
Brian Carso holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University and is a professor of history and law at Wilkes Barre University.
While researching a chapter on Benedict Arnold, he encountered a little known episode where George Washington ordered a spy mission to capture Arnold in New York City where Arnold joined the British Army after his betrayal at West Point.
Carso expanded this incident into a full-fledged historical spy novel. He meticulously retraced Arnold’s footsteps all over the Northeast and elsewhere in an effort to try to get inside Arnold’s head and his thinking about loyalty, betrayal, and political obligation.
Clearly these matters of allegiance and sedition have resonance in today’s state of our nation.
Joseph Curran, Ph.D., a professor of religious studies at Misericordia University will be in conversation with Darso. Curran has directed the University’s Ethics Institute and there should be many interesting questions about loyalty, trust, betrayal, and treason in today’s environment.
The audience will have an opportunity to interact with these presenters.