Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 28, 2015

Today’s Resected Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

During the American Civil War, the type of surgical treatment and the timing of surgery represented the chief decisions faced by trauma surgeons.  Records in the South from earlier in the war showed that nearly 65% of all wounds were extremity wounds; twelve separate Union records showed more than 71% of all wounds were of the extremities. Orthopaedic treatment was generally classified into three types: conservative (expectant), excision (resection), or amputation. The philosophy of choosing one of these treatments shifted during the war. As the war continued and surgeons became more experienced, they also became more conservative. There were proponents of resections who felt that life and limb were to be saved by such a surgery. Arguments against resection and for amputation included useless limbs, longer hospital stays, and an increased infection rate. Amputation was regarded as the most aggressive surgical approach. Many surgeons gained the reputation of Saw-bones if their colleagues felt they were quick to amputate a limb. In order to assist surgeons making the decision of whether to amputate or excise, guidelines were distributed in the form of handbooks or in medical journals. These guidelines included amputation if the limb was nearly amputated from the initial injury or if there was extensive soft tissue damage, neurovascular injury of major nerves or blood vessels, or open fractures of the joints or thigh. Recommendations for excision only without amputation included gunshot wounds of the fingers, toes, wrist, shoulder, elbow, and ankle if the major nerves and arteries escaped injury. Resection was only advised if the guidelines for amputation were not met. Also, amputation from gunshot wounds of the upper two-thirds of the thigh and hip joint had such high mortality, surgeons were told not to amputate at these levels. In these areas death from the amputation approached 100%. Amputation was also excluded in cases where the soldier was mortally wounded elsewhere, such as the chest, head or abdomen. The surgical approach also varied based on whether an upper or lower extremity was injured. Surgeons tended toward conservative approaches when treating injuries of the distal upper extremity (hand and wrist) and the proximal lower extremity (thigh region).

Civil War Amputation in progress.  See you, wouldn’t wanna be you!

Culled from: Orthopaedic Injuries of the Civil War: An Atlas of Orthopaedic Injuries and Treatments During the Civil War


Ghastly! – Amputation Edition

June 21, 1865 by Reed Brockaway Bontecou. In this remarkable carte de visite, Private Parmenter lies unconscious from anesthesia on an operating table at Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. To save his patient’s life, Doctor Bontecou amputated the soldier’s wounded, ulcerous foot. Before the discovery of antibiotics, gangrene was a dreaded and deadly infection that greatly contributed to the high mortality rate of soldiers during the Civil War.

Culled from Pinterest.


Ghastly! – Angular Vein Edition

Here’s another excerpt from Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Gretchen Worden.

The Angular Vein (1993) – Shelby Lee Adams

Face demonstrating the angular vein, prepared by Oscar V. Batson, M.D. (1894-1979), Professor Emeritus of Anatomy, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, according to the method of Professor Werner Spalteholz of Leipzig (1861-1940). The tissue is rendered translucent and immersed in a mixture of methyl salicylate and benzyl benzoate, allowing visualization of the vein, which has been injected with a contrast medium.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 27, 2015

Today’s Shocking Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On October 17, 1951, the St. Paul Dispatch, then a flourishing afternoon daily with decidedly tabloid tastes, reported the startling news that a woman had been whipped to death in the small suburban community of Lauderdale. The details were horrifying. Anna Halvorson, 64, was “found in a pool of blood in a bed” at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Marie and Patrick Doyle. Numerous lashes from a brown leather whip had caused her to die of shock and internal injuries, or so it appeared. Another woman, 35-year-old Ardith Lennander, whose husband Curtis had wielded the whip as part of a cult ritual designed to cleanse the devil from sinners, was also discovered in the modest home on Carl Street. Severely injured from a brutal flogging, she would die the next day at Ancker Hospital in St. Paul.

The saga of the “whipping cult,” as it became known in the newspaper shorthand of the day, produced an outpouring of stories in the Dispatch and its morning twin, thePioneer Press, all accompanied by photographs remarkable for their intimacy and their unflinching realism. The most graphic and disturbing picture, taken by staff photographer Jack Loveland, shows Ardith Lennander lying in bed in an apparent state of shock, her eyes open and her lips scarred by bloody cuts.

Culled from: Murder Has a Public Face

A little research online shows that Curtis Lennander pled guilty to two charges of third degree murder and was sentenced to 14-60 years in prison.

Morbid Auction Du Jour!

Ed Gein’s cauldron is going up for auction tomorrow.  Okay, there’s no way to validate this – but someone says this is a cauldron that once contained Gein gore.  However, since there’s no DNA test or certificate of authenticity, I’d be a little wary…

Ed Gein Cauldron Up For Auction In Wisconsin

Thanks to Katchaya for the link.

Ghastly! – Chicago Edition

One of my favorite books is Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective’s Scrapbook.  It is exactly what it says it is: a bizarre and oft-disturbing scrapbook collected over the years by Los Angeles area police detective Jack Huddleston, whose career spanned from 1921 to the early 1950’s.  Here’s a particularly grim entry.  (Thanks to Anna for the image.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 26, 2015

Today’s Miscued Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1997, during a stag party in Consenza, Italy, revelers were puzzled as to why the evening’s entertainer, stripper Gina Lalapola, 23, failed to jump out of a wooden cake as planned. When they were able to get the cake open, they discovered that she had suffocated inside it, apparently while waiting for her cue.

Culled from: 5 People Who Died During Sex: and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists
Submitted by: Aimee

Doesn’t that just take the cake? – Aimee


More Eastland Disaster Footage!

Additional footage of Chicago’s infamous Eastland Disaster has been discovered!  And this is much more graphic than the last footage – as it shows bodies being recovered. What a grim task that must have been…

Body of Girl Taken From Deck


A Lovely Bone House

Howard sent me an article about Austrian photographer Paul Kranzler who has been documenting a beinhaus (“bone house”) in the village of Hallstatt.   Why can’t we have nice things like this in America???

The Bone House

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 25, 2015

Today’s Hairy yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Hair can provide crime investigators with important clues. Apart from burning, hair is virtually indestructible. It remains identifiable even on bodies in an advanced state of decomposition or attached to objects after a crime has been committed.  The forensic scientist using a microscope can make even a single head hair yield information about the race, sex, an age of its owner, and while hair does not have the same individual character as a fingerprint, it can provide vital evidence.

For example, in August 1951, a woman’s body was found in a rural spot near Nottingham. The victim, Mabel Tattershaw, a 48-year-old housewife, had been strangled. Minute inspection of her clothing revealed some hairs which were immediately sent to the forensic laboratory, where microscopic examination showed them to be identical with the head hair of Leonard Mills, an 18-year-old clerk and the chief suspect. Together with other damning evidence, these hairs helped to take a murderer to the scaffold.

Culled from: Crimes and Punishment, the Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 11


Morbid Sightseeing: Taphophile Edition!

Here’s a fascinating bit of cemetery lore from Edinburgh, Scotland:

“Amid the cracked, moss-covered gravestones of Greyfriars Kirkyard, an Edinburgh church cemetery established in the mid-16th century, sit two large iron cages. Each covers a grave, and each is secured with a chain and padlock. These cages are known as mortsafes, and they were installed in the early 19th century to deter resurrectionists—otherwise known as body snatchers.”

Grave Cages and Medical Murder: The Body-Snatching Era in Scotland

Thanks to Teelo for the link.


Ghastly! – Sucky Edition

This is a sucking chest wound.  It’s creepy.  I hope I never have one.

Thanks to Anna for the suggestion.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 24, 2015

Today’s Miscalculated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Dwain Weston was an Australian skydiver, BASE jumper and wingsuiter.Weston, who was originally from Sydney, Australia, worked as a computer analyst. He made over 1200 BASE jumps in ten different countries, including a jump from the 73rd floor of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and was considered one of the best and most experienced BASE jumpers in the world. In 2002, he won the world title in BASE jumping. He served as president of the Australian BASE Association (ABA). He was among the first BASE jumpers to introduce acrobatic elements in the jumps, and was a pioneer in various jumping techniques.

On 5 October 2003, while participating in the inaugural Go Fast Games, Weston was killed attempting to fly over the Royal Gorge Bridge near Cañon City, Colorado. Weston was wearing a wingsuit, a skydiving suit with fabric extended below the arms to the body and between the legs to catch air allowing for horizontal travel when skydiving. Weston was to go over the bridge while fellow skydiver Jeb Corliss was to go under it. Just prior to the jump, Weston said to Corliss, “Whatever happens happens”.

Miscalculating the winds and his distance from the bridge, Weston struck a railing while traveling an estimated 120 mph (190 km/h), killing him instantly and severing one of his legs at the hip. Weston then fell onto a rock face about 90 m from the bottom of the gorge.

Culled from: Wikipedia

And here’s a video of the accident.  (Thanks to Katchaya for the link.)


Do You Tumbl?

The Comtesse just started a Tumblr page and she’s rather lonely out there at the moment.  If you have a Tumblr too, why not friend her and make her feel slightly less pariah-like?  It’s going to be more of a personal blog and eventually an avenue for sharing original photos and less of a morbid treasure-chest.  But right now it’s just an early mish-mash.

Comtesse on Tumblr

Incidentally, this silent film blog is my current biggest obsession on Tumblr.  So lovely.

The Sound of Silence


Post-Mortem Photo Du Jour!

Here’s a creepy photo from the Costică Acsinte Archive:

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 23, 2015

Today’s Infamous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Here is another little tale of Christian Martyrdom from the classic of the genre, Fox’s Book of Martyrs (1848).  This act allegedly occurred during the The Seventh Persecution, under Decius A. D. 249:

Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, “I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish.—No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers.” Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded.

Culled from: Fox’s Book of Martyrs
Generously suggested by: Louise


Confluent Smallpox Stars In “Ghastly!”

Confluent Smallpox

Confluent Smallpox was a particularly atrocious variation of the fatal disease.  With all the anti-science nonsense going around these days, it’s worth remembering what life (and, especially, death) was like before science gave us vaccinations.  Check out the gif at the top of the page for a ghastly transformation.

Thanks to Katchaya for the link.


A Better Buddha!

If only all Buddha statues had mummified monks inside them…   (Thanks to Anna for the link.)

CT Scan of 1,000-Year-Old Buddha Statue Reveals Mummified Monk Hidden Inside

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 22, 2015

Today’s Roiling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The earliest known fatal misstep in Yosemite National Park occurred on May 20, 1913, when 21-year-old Austin Ramon Pohil hiked up to Snow Creek with three companions from the San Francisco Bay area. Late May, of course, is about as close as one can get to the statistical peak of Yosemite’s spring melt. On this day Snow Creek, tumbling down the Valley’s north wall toward Mirror Lake, was roaring.

Pohil was a “popular” student at the University of California. With social success often comes confidence, perhaps even over-confidence. Whether any connection exists between this and his next decision remains conjecture. Either way, Pohil tried to cross the swollen stream at the top of the waterfall.  He scrambled over a spray-drenched boulder and lost his footing on the slippery rock. Desperate, he struggled to regain his balance. He failed and fell more than 100 feet. Phil became Yosemite’s first known waterfall fatality.

Pohil’s comrades tried in vain for hours to locate him through the clouds of mist. Two days later, the Park’s Acting Superintendent Major T. L. Littlebrand ordered First Sergeant Louis Dorn, Troop A, First Cavalry, to find Pohil. Why Dorn? Because this incident occurred three years before Congress created the National Park Service, when Yosemite was still managed by the United States Army.

Dorn now instructed his troopers and Native American guides to lower him by rope to the pool below the falls. Courageously, the sergeant dived into the roiling water at the base of the hammering hundred-foot waterfall and somehow located the young man’s body.

Culled from: Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

An Important Public Service Announcement

Thanks to Abigail for the image.


Ghastly!  – Youthful Symmetry Edition

Today’s photo was sent in by Eleanor and culled from another recent edition to the Library Eclectica – Strange Days Dangerous Nights: Photos From the Speed Graphic Era.  Her description of it is perfect:

“It’s a particularly lovely one, don’t you think? The symmetry, their youthful, glossy hair and skin, the two of them so freshly dead, flesh and bone versus metal and glass…the sheer profligacy of it all! If there were gods, they obviously could never be sated by our sacrifices!”

Here’s the information about the photo from the book:

“The 1950s were a time of unparalleled highway carnage because of high-powered cars, overcrowded roads, and the lack of such rudimentary safety equipment as seat belts. Here is a startling photograph of Minnesota’s 71st and 72nd traffic fatalities of the year in 1957.

“Robert and Beverly Maalis were newlyweds from Minneapolis, he 31 and she just 18, on their way home in the early morning hours of February 17. She was behind the wheel, driving on Highway 36 in Roseville near the Hennepin County line.  In those days, the highway made a sharp curve as it passed over the tracks of the Minnesota Transfer Railroad. Mrs. Maalis missed the curve, and the car veered out of control before slamming into an abutment at an estimate speed of 70 miles an hour.

“Photographer Dick Magnuson, prowling the night, went to the scene and shot this picture of the couple, both dead, slumped over in the front seat almost as though sleeping. But the blood and the mangled car – note how the force of the impact wrenched the steering wheel out of position – leave no doubt as to what happened.”

Brief Hiatus

The Comtesse’s life has gotten complicated again so she is going to put the newsletter on hiatus until the end of February.  Don’t despair – she’ll be back soon to bring a daily dose of misery to your lives!

Stay Morbid!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 9, 2015

Today’s Capsized Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

For today’s fact, I’m going to revisit the July 24, 2011 Morbid Fact:
The Capsized Eastland

For an hour, while passengers were boarding the steamship Eastland on this rainy but otherwise calm Saturday (July 24, 1915), the ship slowly rocked back and forth from starboard to port. The motion of the boat, which was scheduled to take employees of the Western Electric Co. on an excursion to Michigan City, Ind., did not alarm the crew.

At 7:25 a.m., the list to port became more severe. A refrigerator behind the bar toppled over with a crash, and the 2,573 passengers and crew suddenly realized that disaster was upon them. As it was being cast loose from its moorings on the south bank of the Chicago River between LaSalle and Clark Streets, the Eastland slowly settled on its side. The ship was only a few feet from the wharf, where a large crowd of horrified spectators watched, and it was in only 20 feet of water. That, however, was deep enough to drown 844 people who were trapped or trampled below decks. Although most were young factory workers from Berwyn and Cicero, 21 entire families were wiped out.

“The screaming was terrible,” one man told the Tribune, which devoted 11 pages of coverage to the disaster. “I watched one woman who seemed to be thrown from the top deck. . . . I saw her white hat float down the river, and that was all.”

Of the many Great Lakes shipping accidents, the Eastland disaster was by far the worst; the sinking of the Lady Elgin in 1860, in which 279 people perished, is a distant second.

Court decisions blamed improperly weighted ballast tanks for the disaster. But transportation historian George W. Hilton argued in a 1995 book that the international reaction to the sinking of the Titanic three years earlier ultimately doomed the Eastland, which had almost capsized in 1904 with 2,370 people aboard.

Because there were lifeboats and rafts for less than half the Titanic’s licensed passenger capacity, an international furor arose. Sen. Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin introduced a bill that required ships to have enough lifeboats for 75 percent of their passengers.

On July 2, 1915, the owners of the Eastland added three lifeboats and six rafts, weighing 14 to 15 tons, to its top deck. A boat that had already exhibited stability problems became top-heavy. Three weeks later, the next time it was loaded to capacity, the Eastland capsized.

Culled from: Chicago Tribune

Here’s a photograph I took of the site of the disaster a couple years ago. More information on the disaster can be found in the description of the image on the linked Flickr page:
Eastland Disaster Site



Eastland Footage!

And I revisited the Eastland disaster because news came in today that the first known motion picture footage of the Eastland disaster has been discovered!

First Known Archived Footage of the Eastland Disaster



The latest book in the Library Eclectica is Murder Has a Public Face by Larry Millett.  It is a collection of crime and punishment photos in the Speed Graphic era taken in the St. Paul, Minnesota area.  I thought I’d share some of the images with you.  Here’s the first excerpt:

Photographers of the Speed Graphic era seldom tried to soften the visceral impact of violent death. The woman here, her hair tangled in a thick pool of blood, is 50-year old Mable Person of Shafer, Minnesota . She and her husband, Emory, along with their 23-year old daughter, Lois were bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer at their family farm home in March 1957. The couple’s son Douglas, 22, was later arrested and charged with the murders. Reporter-photographer Don Spavin’s picture, which also shows a blood-smeared door behind Mrs. Person, is among the most gruesome  images in the Pioneer Press and Dispatch archives.  Dispatch, Don Spavin, March 1, 1957.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 8, 2015

Today’s Nearly-Headless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Forthman Murff was a logger by trade, and in May of 1984 he was still going strong at the age of 74. On this particular day, Murff was cutting down a tree in Gattman, Mississippi when a branch eighty feet above him broke and fell, striking him in the shoulder and knocking him into a ten-foot-deep ditch. His bad luck didn’t end there, because on its way down, this branch knocked a branch off a nearby tree, which fell on Murff and broke his leg and foot. Murff passed out briefly but woke up to find that he’d fallen onto his chain saw, and the chain saw was still running. The saw sliced almost completely through Murff’s neck; literally the only things keeping his head attached to his body were his carotid arteries, his spine, and some skin and muscle at the back of his neck.

Murff managed to shut off the chain saw and get to his feet. Hobbling on a broken leg and foot, he made his way to his truck 150 feet away. As he struggled along, he could feel his blood pouring into his lungs and so was forced to bend over frequently and let the blood drain back out. This kept him from drowning in his own blood.

Once he’d made it to his truck, Murff drove a half mile to the home of a neighbor, who then drove him 17 miles to the nearest hospital. His injuries were too severe to be treated there so he was rushed by ambulance to a bigger hospital 30 miles away.

Miraculously, Forthman Murff made a full recovery after extensive surgery.

He continued to work cutting trees and lived another 19 years, dying in 2003 at the age of 92. He always said the three things he loved most in life were “Jesus, music and chain saws.”

Culled from: Mental Floss
Submitted by: Aimee


Morbid Art Du Jour!

Kathleen Sawyer is a fascinating South African artist who creates morbid masterpieces out of moleskine notebooks. Check out these beauties!  (Thanks to Anna for the link.)

Book Autopsy

The Little Book of Horrible Death