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Listen to the Real Story Behind 'Puff the Magic Dragon'

A song about the adventures of a magical dragon sounds innocent enough, but like many songs written in the '60s, "Puff the Magic Dragon" is regarded by many as a metaphor for drug use. Perhaps this video from Great Big Story will finally put those rumors to bed.

According to the song's lyricist Lenny Lipton, the idea was inspired by Ogden Nash's children's poem "The Tale of Custard the Dragon." The same day he read the poem, Lipton went over to a friend's house and felt compelled to sit down in front of their typewriter and start writing. The poem he wrote would eventually be used as the lyrics for Peter, Paul and Mary's hit song.

Co-writing one of the most beloved folk songs of the '60s isn't Lipton's only claim to fame. He's also an accomplished writer, filmmaker, and inventor. He was the lead inventor of the technology used to project 3D films in theaters, and his work has also been used in the development of 3D TVs.

And for all the "Puff the Magic Dragon" fans who believe the song isn't really about a dragon, Lipton still insists otherwise. But after decades of disputing rumors, he's learned to live with the fact that this one may never die. As he says in the video above, "People want to think it's about pot, that's fine with me."

Header/banner images courtesy of Great Big Story via YouTube.

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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History
Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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