The Legacy Of Pittsburgh Magician Harry Albacker

Nov 2, 2015
Joe Wos

Magician Harry Albacker claimed to have been born a few minutes after famed illusionist Harry Houdini died in 1926, even suggesting that he was the reincarnation of the long-adored magician. But Albacker's greatest claim to fame was not through slight-of-hand; he is the credited inventor of polka-dot paint. Pop culture contributor Joe Wos joined us for a look at this little-known Pittsburgher.

David Trawin / Flickr

  The Pennsylvania Medical Society won’t support medicinal marijuana legalization until further research better proves its viability as a treatment option. That position was one of several adopted at the group’s annual House of Delegates meeting late last month.

Sheila Sund / Flickr

  By a 26-20 vote, the State Senate has approved a measure that would amend the Cemetery and Funeral Merchandise Trust Fund Law in what proponents call an attempt to better protect consumers. /

State Sen. Matt Smith's surprise announcement in May that he would leave office in June to become the head of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce has resulted in this week’s special election pitting Democrat Heather Arnet against Republican Guy Reschenthaler.

Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

Duquesne University laid off nearly all its part-time English faculty last week prompting criticism from union organizers who cast the move as both retaliatory and possibly illegal.

The department is at the center of a labor battle still being adjudicated by federal regulators more than three years after faculty voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

What happens when a neighborhood is gentrified? Who leaves the neighborhood and what cultural influence do they take with them? In neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and the South Side, many young, native Pittsburgh residents are having trouble finding an affordable place to live.  Michael Eichler, playwright and University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work graduate, reflects on these questions in his new play, Repulsing the Monkey.   A staged reading of the play premieres this week at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dan Moyle / Flickr

More homes sold and more quickly in the Pittsburgh region in the third quarter of 2015 compared to the previous year, according to the latest residential real estate report from West Penn Multi-List, Inc.

Compared to the 2014 third quarter, the number of homes for sale increased by 8.8%, the number of homes sold increased 8.2%, and average sales price increased 1.7%. The number of days on the on the market decreased by 2.8% to an average of 70 days.

Fishhawk / Flickr

Competition from foreign markets and struggles in the global economy are causing a drop in milk prices in Pennsylvania and across the United States.

The price for milk in 2014 was the highest in Pennsylvania history, but this year farmers are facing a 28 percent price drop. In Allegheny County, a gallon of milk currently costs a minimum of $3.70, compared to last November’s price of $4.36, as established by the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board.

RikkisRefuge Other

Pennsylvania students might graduate high school without being taught how to balance a checkbook, what a credit score is, or how to establish savings.

That is according to a study conducted by Vermont's Champlain College, which tested the finance education requirements of all 50 states. Pennsylvania tied with ten other states for last place.

Rebecca Devereaux / 90.5 WESA

  Ceramic sculptor, printmaker and mosaic artist Laura Jean McLaughlin has welcomed patrons to her Penn Avenue studio for 14 years.

She was an early investor in Garfield, a newly re-imagined Pittsburgh neighborhood. But that wasn’t always the plan.

Susanne Nilsson / flickr

Seemingly, the scariest thing that can happen to a road in Pennsylvania is closing for construction. But author and Duquesne University archivist Thomas White has made driving in Pittsburgh much more frightening with his new book “Haunted Roads of Western Pennsylvania.” White sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to talk about the book and its ghastly contents.

Nanograms is 90.5 WESA's new technology and culture podcast. 

Season One, 'Borg in the USA, launched September 24, 2015.

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Episode #6: Vital $igns

Psychic Mediums Use Their Gifts To Help Police And Families

Oct 30, 2015
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

For over 25 years sisters Suzanne Vincent and Jean Mackenzie Vincent have used their psychic abilities to help others. We’ll learn how they’ve been helping law enforcement and families solve cold cases. And in time for Halloween they’ll tell us about their experiences as ghost hunters.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 It would be easy to breeze past the mountain goats on their sliver of vertical cliff in the Hall of North American Wildlife or to step around the black rhino milling about in the hallway. But these are not just any animals: they’re animals remade by humans.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Drivers can now reach for their smartphones to pay for city parking rather than coins or credit cards.

The Pittsburgh Parking Authority launched a mobile payment option Thursday. Users download the Go Mobile PGH app on their smartphone and register their license plate and credit card numbers. Drivers enter the zone number found on a sign located at the nearest kiosk and how long they want to park there. Then the countdown on their phone begins.

Ryan Loew / For Keystone Crossroads

In a two-chair barbershop in Clairton, Roger Mount shapes clients’ beards and hairlines. He does what he calls old school barbering, using a straight razor. “When you’re cutting hair like this it’s like an art, you try to make the bad look good,” he said while working on a client last week. 

The build-up of anticipation of Halloween finally comes to a peak this weekend! Pittsburgh has a spider web of events to choose from for you holiday celebration.

Friday, October 30th is the Chills, Thrills, and Gills party at the Pittsburgh Zoo at 8 PM. The Pittsburgh Zoo is partnering with the Scare House, so guests can get VIP RIP admission to the haunted house and its horrifying basement (if you dare). The zoo’s aquarium will host a DJ, and there will be snacks and a costume contest. The event is 21+.

An annual commonwealth tradition may take a backseat to state budget negotiations.

Every December, the state’s top politicians head to New York City to see and be seen at a long weekend of fundraisers, parties and one swanky gala collectively referred to as Pennsylvania Society. But some are already talking about skipping the trip if the state doesn’t have a budget by the date of the main event on December 12.

Matt Rourke / AP File Photo

Pennsylvania schools have borrowed at least $431 million since the state’s budget impasse began in July.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his office has now heard from more than half of the state’s school districts in an effort to track the fiscal effects of the state’s budget stalemate.

“It’s bad now, but we go from bad to borderline disastrous if something isn’t done by Thanksgiving,” DePasquale said.

Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are printing 3-D hair.

The three-dimensional printers, which translate objects from a digital file into hard, typically plastic objects, have been harnessed to make whistles, shoes, automotive parts and medical devices. But hair is a new, softer, more pliable frontier.

CMU's development team says producing 3-D hair is similar to and inspired by the way stringy strands come out in small bits when a glue gun is used.

Judge In Jerry Sandusky Case Seeks Info On Grand Jury Leaks

Oct 29, 2015
Gene J. Puskar / AP Photo

BELLEFONTE — The judge handling convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky's appeal ordered Pennsylvania's attorney general on Thursday to provide him and the former Penn State assistant football coach's lawyers any information she might have about possible leaks in the case by state prosecutors and a grand jury judge.

Judge John Cleland gave Attorney General Kathleen Kane one week to provide, under seal, information about "who, what, when and how this information was released."

Associated Press

To this day it is hard to name a band bigger than the Beatles.  At the forefront of the British Invasion, the band gained international fame and millions of fans around the world, remaining popular to this day. But how well do you know them? Brooke Halpin, author of the quiz book “Do You Really Know the Beatles?” sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to share some history and trivia about the British rock group.


NPR Morning Edition host David Greene is bringing NPR Presents Family Matters to Pittsburgh, a live event that examines various topics affecting American families. So what‘s the focus this time?  Personal finances.

Greene sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to talk more about the event.

Travis Swan / Flickr

Children feel better, behave better and their cognitive skills improve when they spend time outdoors, according to Heather Sage, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy director of community projects.

Sage, along with Betty Cruz, manager of special initiatives for the city, and Jamie Beechey, Parks and Recreation deputy director, will represent Pittsburgh at the Connecting Children to Nature Leadership Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota this week.

Integrating Technology In Classrooms Around The Region

Oct 29, 2015
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

One hundred seventy-five school leaders, education experts and other stakeholders from across the country recently convened in Pittsburgh at the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools national meeting to discuss the role technology partnerships can play in enhancing digital learning in schools. The league is comprised of just 73 school districts including three from the Pittsburgh area:  South Fayette, Avonworth and Elizabeth Forward.

Doug Kerr / Flickr

Pittsburgh film fans are invited to attend a festival this week that aims to reflect the natural beauty it's drawn from.

Mary Kate Ranii, program and outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Resources Council, said the 2015 Wild & Scenic Film Festival should inspire locals to protect the environment.

Heroin Overdose Reversal Drug To Be Available Across PA

Oct 28, 2015
Matt Rourke / AP Images

Citing an ongoing heroin epidemic in Pennsylvania, Gov. Wolf issued a standing order to make the heroin overdose reversal drug naloxone available at all pharmacies in the state.

According to the state Department of Health, 2400 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses in 2014.

“We must do all that we can to support those Pennsylvania families suffering from the effects of addiction,” the governor said.  

Wold told Essential Pittsburgh that he previously issued measures to prevent heroin-related deaths, and said those measures were successful.

Returning To Erroll Garner's 'Concert By The Sea'

Oct 28, 2015
Erroll Garner Fans / Facebook

Erroll Garner’s Concert by the Sea is one of the biggest-selling jazz albums. Recorded 60 years ago a triple cd of the concert was released last month. Containing twice as much material as the original record it’s one of the leading sellers on Amazon and I Tunes. Geri Allen, director of Jazz Studies at Pitt, played an integral part in putting the cd. We’ll speak with her about the enduring popularity of Pittsburgher Erroll Garner’s Concert by the Sea.

Israel Pittsburgh / Facebook

The Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic region Yaron Sideman is in Pittsburgh to speak at the Jewish Community Center among other stops. What are his thoughts on the tenuous state of affairs in Israel? And now that the Iran Nuclear Deal is done, how will Israel conduct policy going forward?

There is something special going on in Pittsburgh, according to Sara Schapiro, director of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools

“We’re excited to showcase the region as a hub of education innovation,” she said.