Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 18, 2014

Today’s Unintimidated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

¿Quién es más macho?

¿Quién es más macho?

Former policeman Frank Coppola was obviously not intimidated by the thought of his own execution.  “What the hell?” he remarked, “We all have to die.  At least I can say when.”  When the fateful hour arrived and Coppola was strapped into the electric chair, he turned to the execution team and barked, “Fire it up!”

Records show that Coppola had a long history of such tough, gritty behavior.  He once went so far as to swallow spiders and razor blades to demonstrate his manliness.  We’re not sure about the significant of his last meal, but at this point in time there are no regions of the world where eating a cheese and egg sandwich is considered exceptionally macho.

Executed: August 10, 1982 in Virginia by electrocution
Crime: Beat a woman to death during a robbery
Last Meal: A cheese and egg sandwich.  (He asked for a wine recommendation with dinner.)

Culled from: Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals From Death Row

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 17, 2014

Today’s Livid Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), quoted a description of punishment in the prison of New Orleans:

Entering a large paved courtyard, around which ran galleries filled with slaves of all ages, sexes, and colours, I heard the snap of a whip, every stroke of which sounded like the sharp crack of a pistol.  I turned my head, and beheld a sight which absolutely chilled me to the marrow of my bones, and gave me for the first time in my life, the sensation of my hair stiffening at the roots.

There lay a black girl flat upon her face, on a board, her two thumbs tied, and fastened to one end, her feet tied and drawn tightly to the other end, while a strap passed over the small of her back, and, fastened around the board, compressed her closely to it.  Below the strap she was entirely naked.

By her side, and six feet off, stood a huge negro, with a long whip, which he applied with dreadful power and wonderful precision.  Every stroke brought away a strip of skin, which clung to the lash, or fell quivering on the pavement, while the blood followed after it.  The poor creature writhed and shrieked, and, in a voice which showed alike her fear of death and her dreadful agony, screamed to her master, who stood at her head, ‘Oh, spare my life!  don’t cut my soul out!’.  But still fell the horrid lash; still strip after strip peeled off from the skin; gash after gash was cut in her living flesh, until it became a livid and bloody mass of raw and quivering muscle.

Culled from: The History of Torture

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 16, 2014

Today’s Moderate Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Throughout most of Western history, husbands have had the legal and moral right to beat their wives to provide “moderate correction,” according to Untying the Knot: A Short History of Divorce by Roderick Phillips.  The Catholic Church accepted this right of the husband as did most of the courts of Europe.  The key question, though, is: What was considered “moderate correction”?  “The violence should not draw blood,” stated Phillips, citing examples from many law codes, “and if a stick were used, it should be no thicker than a man’s thumb.”  That is actually the origin of the expression “rule of thumb.”  Many everyday proverbs from the Renaissance contain advice such as, “Don’t expect anything good from an ass, a nut or a wife, unless you have a stick in your hand.” Or, “Good or bad, the horse gets the spur; good or bad, the wife gets the stick.”

The basic legal principle – expressed in canon and civil law – was that since a husband was responsible for his wife’s actions, he also had the right to punish her to teach her. The broad acceptance of wife-beating started to change with the Protestant Reformation, which frowned on the practice and made it a crime.  In America, the Puritan colonies in New England outlawed wife-beating as early as 1641, but in merry olde England it wasn’t until 1891 that a husband’s right to “moderate correction” was officially abolished.

Culled from: An Underground Education

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 15, 2014

Today’s Not Proven Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Madeleine Smith

Now is THIS the face of a killer?

Madeleine Smith was the 19-year-old daughter of a wealthy Glasgow architect.  She had fallen head over heels in love with 26-year-old Emile L’Angelier, a shipping clerk from Jersey, whom she had met by chance one day while out walking.  Although they had had a torrid sexual relationship she knew he was totally unacceptable as a husband, and a new man had come into her life so she poisoned Emile with a cup of cocoa liberally laced with arsenic.  He died an agonizing death shortly after an evening tryst with Madeleine on March 22, 1857.  She was brought to trial later that year but saved from the gallows by the curious Scottish verdict of not proven.  Her lawyers had used the Styrian Defense, saying that L’Angelier could have been a secret arsenic-eater, and that Madeleine had bought arsenic to use as a cosmetic.

The Victorian public savored the trial with its prurient details of their relationship although the press portrayed L’Angelier as the seducer and fortune seeker and Madeleine as the victim whose only release was to get rid of him.  After the trial Madeleine moved to the south of England, eventually ending up in London where she met and married George Wardel, who was one of William Morris’s designers, and later his business manager. Soon Madeleine was working for the company as an embroiderer of tapestries.  She became a member of the group of intellectual socialists that included many leading artists and writers of the day, including George Bernard Shaw who knew her well.  Eventually her marriage broke up and she ended her days in the USA, dying in obscurity at the age of 74 in 1912.

Culled from: The Elements of Murder

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 14, 2014

Today’s Pompous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Epitaph on the gravestone of J.N. who died in 1678:

Seek not to learn who underneath doth lie.
Learn something more important:
— learn to die.

Culled from: Eccentric Epitaphs by Michelle Lovric

Don’t you hate one-uppers?  So you died first?  Big whoop!  I’m sure it ain’t THAT difficult!  Everybody does it.  Sheesh.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 13, 2014

Today’s Tidy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

For obvious reasons, bathtubs make a handy place to dismember corpses.  After picking up a female hitchhiker in January 1973, for example, Edmund Kemper shot her in the head, then drove the body back home, hid it in his bedroom closet, and went to sleep.  The next morning, after his mother left for work, he removed the corpse, had sex with it, then placed it in his bathtub and dismembered it with a Buck knife and an axe.

Dennis Nilsen’s tub, on the other hand, was used for a more traditional purpose.  He liked to bathe his lovers in it.  Of course, they were dead at the time.  Like Jeffrey Dahmer, this British serial killer murdered his homosexual pickups partly because he was desperate for companionship.  Turning them into corpses was his way of ensuring that they wouldn’t leave in the morning.  After strangling a victim, Nilsen would engage in a regular ritual, tenderly cleaning the corpse in his tub, then lovingly arranging it in front of the TV or stereo or perhaps at the dining room table, so he could enjoy its company until it became too decomposed to bear.

And then there is the occasional serial killer who turns his tub into a killing device, like the British Bluebeard, George Joseph Smith, the notorious “Brides in the Bath” murderer, who drowned three of his seven wives for their insurance money.

Culled from: The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 12, 2014

Today’s Cleansed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Historically, the treatment of wounds has varied significantly from population to population.  Among some Northern peoples snow was laid on a bleeding wound.  The North American Indians, on the other hand, often applied hot leaves or packed the wound with hot sand, with eagles’ down or with scrapings from the inside of tanned hides.  In certain cases they cauterized wounds with a hot brand.  As they usually kept wounds clean and treated their wounded in isolated lodges, they often obtained better results than the white man.  The Melanesians applied a bandage of tapa cloth tightly to the bleeding part.  The cautery or hot iron was used to control hemorrhage in many parts of the world.  The only tribe known to ligate blood vessels (with tendons) is the Masai.

The natives of Victoria, Australia, looked upon bleeding with favor as it cleansed the wound.  They were in the habit of encouraging the flow by suction, by changes in posture and kneading the tissues.  When the wound had been sufficiently purified by these means, they laid upon it a lump of resin as a dressing.  The same tribe are said to have been aware of the danger of retained wound secretions and when the lips of a wound closed prematurely they would open the wound up again.  The Dacota Indians seem to have used drainage, inserting wicks of soft tree bark into their wounds.  They also washed them out with a kind of syringe made of a bladder and the quill of a feather.

Culled from: The Early History of Surgery

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 10, 2014

Today’s Tumbling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A “posing” tragedy occurred on August 19, 1999, at Moran Point on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Gabriel Comerford, age 25, asked nearby tourists if they would use his camera to take his photo.  These bystanders agreed.  Comerford explained that he wanted to pose out on a precipice where the shot would be dramatic.  The bystanders nodded in understanding.  Comerford then crossed the guard rail, climbed over a retaining wall, and walked out to his chosen, highly exposed position.

Just before arriving at his chosen spot a rock crumbled under his foot.  Comerford slipped off the level Kaibab Limestone and tumbled down a rubble-strewn, bush-clumped talus chute for more than a hundred feet.  Meanwhile the bystander with Comerford’s camera continued to photograph him during his battering tumble.  The bystander snapped the final photo as Comerford slid off the edge at the end of the chute and into vertical air.  Comerford next fell 875 feet.

Culled from: Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon

What a considerate camera person!  Most people might have lost concentration in such a dramatic situation, but not that person!  Now I really want to see the photos, dammit…

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 8, 2014

Today’s Concealed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In the Middle Ages in France, the bodies of some unfortunate suicides were shamed by being dragged head down through the streets, while in Metz the bodies were bundled into barrels and floated down the Moselle to be carried out to sea.  Given the taboo against suicide, it is hardly surprising that suicide was formerly considered to have been rare in the Middle Ages.  More recent authors have suggested that the true incidence was a great deal higher than formerly acknowledged, and that medieval suicide was often concealed by relatives in order that the deceased might receive a Christian burial.  Certainly many cases are recorded of people who committed suicide in order to avoid the protracted agonies of dying of plague.

Culled from: Death: A History Of Man’s Obsessions and Fears