The Johnstown Horror!!! Or, Valley of Death, Being a Complete and Thrilling Account of the Awful Floods and Their Appalling Ruin - James Herbert Walker Gutenberg book link - I'd definitely choose the version with illustrations to get an idea of what people were seeing in newspapers at the time. A sign of what's to come is that the first illustration is titled: RECOVERING THE BODIES OF VICTIMS.(I read the ebook version but the pages for the ebook in Goodreads seem error-ish, so I'm leaving this filed under paper.)In May of 1889 the the South Fork Dam situated on the Little Conemaugh River failed and burst. The result was The Johnstown Flood or Great Flood of 1889 (wikipedia link there, also see Johnstown Flood Museum pages.). It's actually a good idea to read that wikipedia page before reading The Johnstown Horror, because this book, published around 1889, reads like something out of the newspapers of the time (because it probably was). And by saying that, I'm not meaning it as a compliment, because those news articles were a lot less information and a lot more purple prose than we're used to now. Also a lot more repetition. The sensationalism is on par with many tabloids currently in print (though the UK has the daily tabloid market cornered).SHORT VERSION for those not wanting to read all my drivel: LOTS of repetition here. Same passages are used over and over, only slightly rewritten - author really padding the length. Also questionable stories used (Paul Revere figure, etc.). Read this only with skepticism and look for other sources to back up the accounts. One star for the repetition annoyance, but I don't consider it horrible or a waste of time - just an example of flawed journalism often seen in that era.I never was able to find more information about the author James Herbert Walker. From the context he seems to be a news writer/reporter (though never mentions a paper he works for), and the book appears to be a combination of reporting from the event. You are able to get a very good idea of how few ways there were to gather information in an area where all roads in are destroyed and a huge area was isolated by the flood damage. But you also get the feeling that the author just crammed all his articles together for publication here, without any editing for content.[If you're wanting a straightforward history of this event rather than a sensational, period tabloid version: 1987's The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough is probably a better bet. It's still on my wish list, as this story deserves a better telling.]The word I keep coming back to to sum up the book: repetitious. Yes, I'm repeating myself by noting that again, but wow, LOTS of the same stories over and over. Can not stress this enough as it's very annoying. It's hard to tell whether some of them are the exact same "drowned body of mother with dead baby in her arms" story or whether this sight was seen more than once, with different victims. There's detail given in some of the stories, but not enough to make any accuracy calls. Also because of the repetition this is pretty boring reading - which you'd not think I could say of a story that involves such huge losses of life, struggles to find survivors, looting and lynching, and attempts to try and clean up and rebuild a normal life. But yes, if you repeat the same lines over and over (with a few new dead body stories here and there) you can indeed make this into boring reading.Random Quotes:To give you a better idea about the sensation level of this - here's the full title page blurb:THE JOHNSTOWN HORROR!!!ORVALLEY OF DEATH,BEING A COMPLETE AND THRILLING ACCOUNT OF THE AWFUL FLOODS AND THEIR APPALLING RUIN,CONTAININGGraphic Descriptions of the Terrible Rush of Waters; the great Destruction of Houses, Factories, Churches, Towns, and Thousands of Human Lives; Heartrending Scenes of Agony, Separation of Loved Ones, Panic-stricken Multitudes and their Frantic Efforts to Escape a Horrible Fate.COMPRISINGTHRILLING TALES OF HEROIC DEEDS; NARROW ESCAPES FROM THE JAWS OF DEATH; FRIGHTFUL HAVOC BY FIRE; DREADFUL SUFFERINGS OF SURVIVORS; PLUNDERING BODIES OF VICTIMS, ETC.TOGETHER WITHMagnificent Exhibitions of Popular Sympathy; Quick Aid from every City and State; Millions of Dollars Sent for the Relief of the Stricken Sufferers.By JAMES HERBERT WALKER, THE WELL KNOWN AUTHOR.FULLY ILLUSTRATED WITH SCENES OF THE GREAT CALAMITY.You'd think, after that bit about being well known, I'd be able to find out more about the author....Example of text that I'd consider decent, nothing over the top or sensational. (8% in, around pg 44ish)"...In Pittsburg there was but one topic of conversation, and that was the Johnstown deluge. Crowds of eager watchers all day long besieged the newspaper bulletin boards and rendered streets impassable in their vicinity. Many of them had friends or relatives in the stricken district, and "Names!" "Names!" was their cry. But there were no names. The storm which had perhaps swept away their loved ones had also carried away all means of communication and their vigil was unrewarded. It is not yet known whether the telegraph operator at Johnstown is dead or alive. The nearest point to that city which can be reached to-night is New Florence, and the one wire there is used almost constantly by orders for coffins, embalming fluid and preparing special cars to carry the recovered dead to their homes.What you note here, and elsewhere, is the lack of any information about where this info is coming from. Was the author there? Was this information passed on via someone who was, or on a train (conductors, engineers, etc. were still having to travel the area) or other reporters or in other newspapers? (The last sentence was via New Florence wire service, but that's a rare bit of citation.)...Here's an example of both sensationalism (in the gore, death, etc.) and purple prose. It was really easy to find examples of this, and this seems typical so far. (9% in, near the start of Chapter 2, around pg 51):"...The very greatness of the destruction prevents the possibility of an accurate estimate. Beneath the ghastly ruins of the once happy towns and villages along the pathway of the deluge, who shall say how many victims lie buried? Amid the rocks and woods that border the broad track of the waters, who shall say how many lie bruised and mangled and unrecognizable, wedged between boulders or massed amid débris and rubbish, or hidden beneath the heaped-up deposits of earth, and whether all of them shall ever be found and given the last touching rites?Already the air of the little valley, which four days ago was smiling with all the health of nature and the contentment of industrious man, is waxing pestiferous with the awful odor of decaying human bodies. Buzzards, invited by their disgusting instinct, gather for a promised feast, and sit and glower on neighboring perches or else circle round and round in the blue empyrean over the location of unfriended corpses, known only to their keen sense of smell or vision.But another kind of buzzard, more disgusting, more hideous, more vile, has hastened to this scene of woe and anguish and desolation to exult over it to his profit. Thugs and thieves in unclean hordes have mysteriously turned up at Johnstown and its vicinity, as hyenas in the desert seem to spring bodily out of the deadly sand whenever the corpse of a gallant warrior, abandoned by his kind, lies putrefying in the night."...When the author is passing on a story of heroism, it is the sort of story that you can't help but be interested in, over the top prose or no.(Ch 10, p. 191)"A Paul Revere lies somewhere among the dead. Who he is is now known, and his ride will be famous in history. Mounted on a grand, big bay horse, he came riding down the pike which passes through Conemaugh to Johnstown, like some angel of wrath of old, shouting his warning: "Run for your lives to the hills! Run to the hills!"...No one knew the man, and some thought he was a maniac and laughed. On and on, at a deadly pace, he rode, and shrilly rang out his awful cry. In a few moments, however, there came a cloud of ruin down the broad streets, down the narrow alleys, grinding, twisting, hurling, overturning, crashing—annihilating the weak and the strong. It was the charge of the flood, wearing its coronet of ruin and devastation, which grew at every instant of its progress. Forty feet high, some say, thirty according to others, was this sea, and it travelled with a swiftness like that which lay in the heels of Mercury.On and on raced the rider, on and on rushed the wave. Dozens of people took heed of the warning and ran up to the hills....The hero had turned neither to right nor left for himself, but rode on to death for his townsmen. He was overwhelmed by the current at the bridge and drowned. A party of searchers found the body of this man and his horse. He was still in the saddle. In a short time the man was identified as Daniel Periton, son of a merchant of Johnstown, a young man of remarkable courage. He is no longer the unknown hero, for the name of Daniel Periton will live in fame as long as the history of this calamity is remembered by the people of this country....Mrs. Ogle, the manager of the Western Union, who died at her post, will go down in history as a heroine of the highest order. Notwithstanding the repeated notifications which she received to get out of reach of the approaching danger, she stood by the instruments with unflinching loyalty and undaunted courage, sending words of warning to those in danger in the valley below. When every station in the path of the coming torrent had been warned she wired her companion at South Fork, "This is my last message," and as such it shall always be remembered as her last words on earth, for at that very moment the torrent engulfed her and bore her from her post on earth to her post of honor in the great beyond."I only left in the one story of a wireless operator (because I'm a junky for history of tech stories) - there were several that worked to pass along the news, even though a lot of people seemed to ignore the warning.The rider rushing to warn the town is a great story. Except that Daniel Periton is a myth, according to that linked source (which is the Johnstown Flood Museum). From that page: "During the hours when this famous hero is said to have galloped through them, there were from four to six feet of water in all our streets; and the housekeepers were engaged in removing carpets and furniture from their lower floors. The impossibility of a horse galloping through Johnstown between noon and 4 o’clock is at once apparent." And frankly, no one reading Johnstown Horror will be surprised, because so much of it screams "this needs fact checking!"...The Walt Whitman poem at the beginning Chapter 16 is called A Voice From Death (The Johnstown, Penn., cataclysm, May 31, 1889.)....Clara Barton doesn't appear until Ch. 16, for those of you looking for her. And not much of her there, either."..."It is like a blow on the head; there are no tears, they are stunned; but, ah, sir, I tell you they will awake after awhile and then the tears will flow down the hills of this valley from thousands of bleeding hearts, and there will be weeping and wailing such as never before."That is what Clara Barton, president of the National Red Cross, said this afternoon as she stood in a plain black gown on the bank of Stony Creek directing the construction of the Red Cross tents, and she looked motherly and matronly, while her voice was trembling with sympathy."You see nothing but that dazed, sickly smile that calamity leaves," she went on, "like the crazy man wears when you ask him, 'How came you here?' Something happened, he says, that he alone knows; all the rest is blank to him. Here they give you that smile, that look and say 'I lost my father, my mother, my sisters,' but they do not realize it yet. The Red Cross intends to be here in the Conemaugh Valley when the pestilence comes to them, and we are making ready with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength. The militia, the railroad, the Relief Committees and everybody is working for us. The railroad has completely barricaded us so that none of our cars can be taken away by mistake." "There's a few more paragraphs besides this quote, but you get the idea....90ish% in (Ch 18), just when I think the author has drawn this out as long as he could and retold the story for the hundredth time, he decides to retell it again as if you were a visitor being led by a tour guide of the scene. Who then tells you about the flood again. Using all the same stories. Some narrative from this imagined tour:"....What is that you have there? A piece of a Bible? Yes, you will find lots of leaves lying around. There is a story — I don't know how true it is — that many people have thrown their Bibles away since the flood, declaring that their belief, after the horrors they have witnessed, is at an end. I can hardly credit this. But there is one curious thing that is certain, and everybody has noticed it. Books and Bibles have been found in the rubbish all over the town, and in a great many instances they are open at some passage calling attention to flood and disaster. I have found these myself a dozen times. It is a remarkable coincidence, to say the least."And since this is an imaginary tour guide we can't tell how real those sentiments were or if the author just heard it from one person - or perhaps made the whole thing up. But then much of this entire book has the same issue.