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Newsmaker: Thomas White

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Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010

Thomas White

Age: 35

Residence: West View

Family: Wife, Justina; son, Tommy; and daughter, Marisa

Education: Bachelor of Arts in history, La Roche College, 1997; master's in public history, Duquesne University, 1999

Background: As an archivist at the Heinz History Center from 1999-2005 and now Duquesne University, White took an interest in the strange tales and legends of the region, including ghost stories, urban legends and "news of the weird," he said. He collected some of those from the Pittsburgh region into three books: "Legends and Lore of Western Pennsylvania," "Forgotten Tales of Pennsylvania" and "Ghosts of Southwestern Pennsylvania." With most stories, he tries to find the grains of truth to them, or the social fears, trends and attitudes that created them, he said.

Notable: White recently published his fourth book, "Forgotten Tales of Pittsburgh," which focuses specifically on stories from the Pittsburgh region and is meant to be a lighter read than some of his other books, he said. The tales he collected include the "Evil clown panic" of 1981 -- second- and third-hand accounts of men in clown or superhero costumes abducting children -- and famed inventor Nikolai Tesla's attempts to sell Westinghouse Corp. his designs for a "death ray," which disappeared into government hands after his death.

Quote: "Legends have a 'half-life,' and some legends tend to disappear. I want to record a lot of those before they do."

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