Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 14, 2016

Trust me, I’m trying to be a good Comtesse but my life is still quite chaotic (not in a bad way – just busy, busy, busy!) so I’m failing at getting the facts out regularly.  Sadly, it may not improve until next month but I’ll do my best to keep them trickling out.

Today’s Obscene Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

At first a likeable kid, though a born liar, comedian Lenny Bruce (Leonard Schneider) learned to be a chameleon at a young age. When he was eight years old his parents divorced, and although it was unusual for the time, he was sent to live with his father on Long Island, but was soon after shipped off to an assortment of relatives. His mother, once an aspiring dancer and comedienne, opened a dance studio and was too preoccupied teaching suburbanites the boogie woogie to give Lenny her attention, although she was later credited for encouraging her son to seek a career in showbiz.

Bruce, like many comedians, had an obsession with being accepted and gauged his self-worth by the amplitude of applause, no matter how he got it. After a stint in the Navy, from which he was discharged early for lying about homosexual urges, he started performing, doing impressions When this gig brought only marginal returns he used his talent to impersonate a priest, stealing a robe and white collar, to solicit donations for a leper colony in Africa. This stunt earned him nearly eight grand, two of which he sent to the real missionaries working with the ulcerated. Bruce persisted trying to entertain, doing impressions and half-borrowed jokes for the white patent-leather crowds of the Borscht Circuit, the mostly Jewish resort hotels of the Catskill Mountains, and for retirees in Miami Beach. At age twenty-five, he met a voluptuous, red-haired stripper who went by the name of Honey Harlow. Although in her stilettos she stood a head taller than Bruce, he was in love and together they headed wets to Hollywood, where they worked the brass pole joints and burlesque clubs. It was during this period Bruce started to pepper his often yawned at monologues with curse words that got even this crowd, impatient for the women, to take notice and laugh. Today, it’s hard to imagine how his use of “fuck” (one of the only words that can be used as a noun, verb , or even an adverb) could have gotten him arrested fourteen times for obscenity and ultimately made him villainous, then famous, and finally legendary. During one performance, Bruce was counted using more than a hundred obscene words.

Bruce knew from the first laugh that he was onto something and saw that if certain words were taboo, there were a dozen other taboos that could be dragged out into the open on stage for a laugh. Marriage, motherhood, religion, racism, the Pope, the President, and even Rin Tin Tin became comically fair game and were put into Bruce’s stream-of-consciousness delivery. It soon took him from the seedy joints to established clubs, and even Carnegie Hall. When he was in his prime, Lenny Bruce’s whirlwind monologues were brilliant. His ability to switch to different personalities and impressions, and the content of his insights, were fairly revolutionary for the time. However, it was the obsession to be liked and his thin skin, not to mention the heroin and cocaine habits he picked up years before working in the strip clubs, that pulled the plug on his show before he reached the top.

By 1961, soon after the Carnegie gig, Bruce became ill, the drugs and police trouble taking their toll. Recently released FBI files on “Lennie” Bruce reveal a man consumed by his own legal mishmash. He believed nothing less than that there was a well-orchestrated conspiracy by “the establishment” to destroy him, step by step. The FBI documents noted, with some sarcasm, that the comedian celebrated his fortieth birthday by declaring himself a pauper, and that because of police harassment he could no longer get booked to do his act. Bruce told the FBI that his income went from $108,000 in 1961 to $10,983 by 1965. When he did perform, his monologue was all about his legal battles and filled the rooms with the humorless, bad aroma of a drowning man. His final performance was on June 25, 1966, at the Fillmore in San Francisco and was not remembered fondly by promoter Bill Graham, who later remarked that Bruce killed his own chance at a comeback as “whacked on amphetamines” as he was. Less than two months later, Bruce died, at age forty, of “morphine poisoning” and was found with his pants around his legs and a needle in his arm in the bathroom of his empty house. Authorities allowed access to photographers as the final “we gotcha” on Bruce’s life, and humiliating pictures of his body circulated in the papers. In the end, the country’s class clown was expelled by an overdose. Playboy published the best farewell: “One last four-letter word for Lenny: Dead. At forty. That’s obscene.”

Culled from: Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages

Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 11, 2016

Today’s Comforting Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One of the most bizarre consequences of the wholesale rape that took place at Nanking, China in 1937-1938 was the response of the Japanese government to the massive outcry from Western nations. Rather than stifle or punish the soldiers responsible, the Japanese high command made plans to create a giant underground system of military prostitution – one that would draw into its web hundreds of thousands of women across Asia. “The Japanese Expeditionary Force in Central China issued an order to set up comfort houses during this period of time,” Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a prominent history professor at Chuo University, observes, “because Japan was afraid of criticism from China, the United States of America and Europe following the cases of massive rapes between battles in Shanghai and Nanking.”

The plan was straightforward. By luring, purchasing, or kidnapping between eighty thousand and two hundred thousand women – most of them from the Japanese colony of Korea, but many also from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia – the Japanese military hoped to reduce the incidence of random rape of local women (thereby diminishing the opportunity for international criticism), to contain sexually transmitted diseases through the use of condoms, and to reward soldiers for fighting on the battlefront for long stretches of time.  Later, of course, when the world learned of this plan, the Japanese government refused to acknowledge responsibility, insisting for decades afterwards that private entrepreneurs, not the imperial government, ran the wartime military brothels. But in 1991 Yoshimi Yoshiaki unearthed from the Japanese Defense Agency’s archives a document entitled “Regarding the Recruitment of Women for Military Brothels.” The document bore the personal stamps of leaders from the Japanese high command and contained orders for the immediate construction of “facilities of sexual comfort” to stop troops from raping women in regions they controlled in China.

The first official comfort house opened near Nanking in 1938. To use the word comfortin regard to either the women or the “houses” in which they lived is ludicrous, for it conjures up spa images of beautiful geisha girls strumming lutes, washing men, and giving them shiatsu massages. In reality, the conditions of these brothels were sordid beyond the imagination of most civilized people. Untold numbers of these women (whom the Japanese called “public toilets”) took their own lives when they learned of their destiny; others died from disease or murder. Those who survived suffered a lifetime of shame and isolation, sterility, or ruined health. Because most of the victims came from cultures that idealized chastity in women, even those who survived rarely spoke after the war – most not until very recently – about their experiences for fear of facing more shame and derision. Asian Confucianism – particularly Korean Confucianism – upheld female purity as a virtue greater than life and perpetuated the belief that any woman who could live through such a degrading experience and not commit suicide was herself an affront to society. Hence, half a century passed before a few of the comfort women found the courage to break their silence and seek financial compensation from the Japanese government for their suffering.

“Comfort Women” during the war:

Some of the brave “Comfort Women” who have come forward to tell the truth about their abuse in recent years:

Culled from: The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II

Here’s an updated on the fight for compensation from Wikipedia:

On December 28, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye reached a formal agreement to settle the dispute. Japan agreed to pay ¥1 billion (₩9.7 billion; $8.3 million) to a fund supporting surviving victims while South Korea agreed to refrain from criticizing Japan regarding the issue and to work to remove a statue memorializing the victims from in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. The announcement came after Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida met his counterpart Yun Byung-se in Seoul, and later Prime Minister Shinzo Abe phoned President Park Geun-hye to repeat an apology already offered by Kishida. The Korean government will administer the fund for the forty-six remaining elderly comfort women and will consider the matter “finally and irreversibly resolved.”[

However, the Korean comfort women and the majority of the Korean population regarded the resolution as being unsatisfying. The Korean comfort women stated that they were not protesting for money and that their goals of formal and public apology from Abe and the Japanese government, the correction of Japanese history textbooks, etc. have not been met. The comfort women and some citizens accused the Korean foreign ministry of working with the Japanese government.


Morbid Fantasy Du Jour!

So I read this article entitled “Wyoming teenager finds dead body in river while playing Pokémon Go app” and I got so jealous that I decided to try PoGo myself.  I have found it amusing, but not interesting enough to hold my interest.

You know what WOULD hold my interest? A game like this where you discover the sites of tragedies and collect the ghosts of the victims or kill the perpetrators. And places like cemeteries and funeral homes would be the power portals. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I wish I had the time and/or skillz to do something like that. Although we all know the Normal People would shout “bad taste” and “appalling” and “exploitative” yada yada. I hate them.

Anyway, wouldn’t that be so much more fun?  Back to dreaming again…

Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 8, 2016

Today’s Homemade Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Authorities say an eastern Iowa woman was killed when a homemade cannon exploded at a backyard gathering. 55-year-old Lori L. Heims of Edgewood was flown to an Iowa City hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Heims was injured at the gathering with friends in Greeley around 11:40 p.m. Saturday, July 2, 2016. Investigators say the cannon was loaded and fired, and when it went off, the rear portion of the barrel blew out and sent fragments toward Heims. One of the fragments struck Heims in the head. Heims was taken to a hospital in Manchester before being flown to Iowa City, but doctors were unable to save her.

Who has blue eyes, glasses, and dies from a cannon in 2016?
This lady!

Culled From: The Associated Press
Submitted by: Aimee

Always better to go out with a bang then a whimper, right? – Aimee


“Freak” Du Jour!

Charles Tripp

Charles Tripp was a Canadian. He was born armless on July 7, 1855 in Woodstock, Ontario. As a boy he learned to write, shave and comb his hair – all with his feet. He mastered woodworking tools and became an accomplished cabinetmaker and carver. When he was seventeen he prevailed upon his parents to take him to New York to meet P. T. Barnum. When the showman saw what Tripp could do with his feet he hired him on the spot for his circus on Forty-Second Street. Tripp’s subsequent career remained closely tied to Barnum enterprises. He toured the world three times with Barnum & Bailey, Ringling Brothers and various other circuses. In late middle age Tripp married and thereafter restricted his touring to North American carnivals so that his wife could accompany him. She sold the tickets. When he was fifty-four Tripp caught pneumonia in Salisbury, North Carolina, and died on January 26, 1939.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann

Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 6, 2016

Today’s Incapacitated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

United Airlines Flight 624, a Douglas DC-6 airliner, registration NC37506, was a scheduled passenger flight that originated in San Diego, California with stops in Los Angeles and Chicago en route to LaGuardia Airport in New York City. The four-engine propeller-driven airplane crashed at 1:41 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on June 17, 1948 outside of Aristes, Pennsylvania, killing all 4 crew members and 39 passengers on board.

The Douglas DC-6 fleet had been grounded by Civil Aviation authorities for four months as a result of the fatal crash of United Airlines Flight 608 on October 24, 1947. It was determined that the crash had been caused by a design flaw that allowed vented fuel to be drawn into the heater air intake scoop that caused a fire in the cargo compartment. As a result, changes were made and a fire extinguisher system was installed on all DC-6 aircraft.

Flight 624 from San Diego had just completed a routine initial descent as part of its approach into the New York area, when the forward cargo hold fire indicator light illuminated, leading the flight crew to believe there was a fire in that cargo hold. Although this later turned out to be a false alarm, the crew decided to discharge CO2 bottles into the forward cargo hold, to try to extinguish the possible fire.

While proper operating procedure called for opening the cabin pressure relief valves prior to discharging the CO2 bottles, to allow for venting of the CO2 gas buildup in the cabin and cockpit, there was no evidence the crew opened the relief valves. Consequently, the released CO2 gas seeped back into the cockpit from the front cargo hold and apparently partially incapacitated the flight crew. The crew then put the aircraft into an emergency descent, and as it descended lower it hit a high voltage power line, bursting into flames, then smashing through the trees of a wooden hillside.

Ed Darlington of radio station WCNR at nearby Bloomsburg said “there was no sign of life and apparently everyone was killed.” The scene of the wreck was in a sparsely wooded area about five miles from Mt. Carmel, a small town 135 miles from Philadelphia where delegates are gathering for the Republican National Convention. News of the crash brought excited whispering from the delegates. No one knew for certain whether any high Republican officials were on the plane.  [Sadly, they were not. – DeSpair]

Ira F. Roadarmel of Mt. Carmel, one of the first persons on the scene, said “everything was scattered. The largest piece of the plane left was an engine. The rest of the plane was in small parts — so small they could be carried.”

George Minnich, an employee of Midvalley Colliery No. 2, which the plane missed by only 100 yards in its descent, said that he saw the plane bank. “Suddenly there was a horrible crash,” he said. “All you could see was a mass of flames. It sounded as though the end of the world was coming.”

The aftermath of doomed flight 624.

Culled from: Wikipedia


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Nina for this one!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 5, 2016

Today’s Shrunken Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Shuar, a tribe living in the tropical rainforest of the Andes and the Amazonian lowlands in Ecuador and Peru, shrunk heads by removing the dead man’s skull, and all the flesh and muscle from the skin, before filling it repeatedly with hot pebbles and sand until it was only a little larger than a man’s fist. To the Shuar, these practicalities served to harness the extraordinary power of their victim’s soul and were part of complex ceremonies that lasted many years.

However, in the 1880s, as the trade in rubber and cinchona bark, which provides the active ingredient for the anti-malarial drug quinine, spread into Ecuador, more European settler communities came to the area. The settlers exchanged cloth, machetes, steel lance heads and shotguns with the native Shuar people, in return for local pigs, deer, salt and shrunken heads. But when the settlers began to keep their own cattle, and so eat their own beef, the demand for Shuar pigs and deer declined, and eventually it was only the shrunken heads, or else the Shuar’s own labour, that settlers were interested in. The Shuar who wanted goods like cloth and machetes could trade with local missionaries who offered these things more cheaply than commercial traders, but the missionaries would never sell guns. This meant that the only way to get a gun was to sell a head, and so the ‘heads for guns’ trade became established in South America.

When visitors come to see the shrunken head collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum, what they are really seeing is a story of the white man’s gun. Guns not only provided an economic incentive for the Shuar raiders, they also proved to be the best means for taking heads in the first place. Guns and steel knives were far more efficient weapons for head-taking than spears made from wood and stone, and they gave the Shuar a distinct advantage during headhunting raids. Europeans and Americans bought heads, and they supplied the equipment the Shuar needed to take heads quickly and in greater numbers. Guns were used to take heads, which were, in turn, exchanged for more guns. Well into the twentieth century it was commonly acknowledged that the price of one shrunken head was one gun. There is the story of a Shuar leader who traded some heads for guns, promptly used the guns to ambush another Shuar war party, and used those heads to trade for more guns.

Culled from: Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found

What an absolutely shameful example of capitalism run amok!  And yet… can you blame them?  What delightful trinkets!


Punishment at Joliet Prison, 1895

Among the common punishments in American prisons in the 19th century was restraint. In this example, the prisoner was chained by handcuffs to a prison door. How high up the hands were shackled and how long he was made to stand was determined by the offense. Talking and breaking lockstep were among the infractions that resulted in various forms of restraint or isolation. This artistically composed photograph was issued by Illinois’ Joliet prison in 1895 to document the advanced forms of the criminal justice system practiced at the institution.

Culled from: Deadly Intent: Crime and Punishment Photographs from the Burns Archive

Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 4, 2016

Today’s Totally Sightless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Braille is a system that allows blind and visually impaired persons to read and write by passing their fingers over a code of variously arranged embossed dots signifying letters of the alphabet. The system was created through the dedicated fixation and genius of one man, Parisian Louis Braille, the son of a saddle maker. He was accidentally poked in the eye with a needle in his father’s workshop when he was three. This led to the loss of sight in his other eye as well due to medical phenomena known as sympathetic ophthalmia. By age four, Louis was totally sightless. He was sent to a school where, as the blind and handicapped were treated then, he was fed stale bread, beaten, and locked up in closets for punishment. In addition, the blind were gathered for yearly festivals and made to wear dunce caps and paraded through the streets. In his teens, Braille luckily received  scholarship to a special school founded by Valtin Hauy, an advocate for the blind who had devised a system using dots on paper to signify letters, allowing students to read. In 1821, Braille, at age fifteen, used the sewing needles that made him blind to stitch a vastly improved system of letters that not only allowed students to read but to write as well. Braille eventually became a teacher obsessed with instructing blind children to read at the same school where he had learned. The actual school facility was run down, its air putrid and foul, and he knew staying there was killing him. Yet he persisted, though catching a fatal case of tuberculosis, dying in 1852 at the age of forty-three. He never lived to see his reading and writing system become the standard for sightless people worldwide.

Culled from: Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages


Famous Last Posts

Another 4th of July means it’s time to check out the accident reports!

Ouch, this kid really blew it.  Too bad his family didn’t dissuade him from making his world-famous “sparkler bombs”.

Texas Teen May Be Blinded After Fireworks Accident

And here’s a page with some very gnarly images.  A nice reminder that a big bang isn’t worth losing your hand/eyesight/leg/life over!

Firework Injuries (Drastic)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 3, 2016

You have my deepest apologies for disappearing on you for over a month.  There was no dramatic reason for my absence – it was simply life throwing too much at me at once and me not being able to find any time for my hobbies.  Now it’s time to get back on the morbid track! – DeSpair

Today’s Lizard-like Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A developing fetus has to conduct a whole orchestra of genes inside every cell, encouraging some DNA to play louder and hushing other sections up. Early on in the pregnancy, the most active genes are the ones that mammals inherited from our egg-laying lizard-like ancestors. It’s a humbling experience to flip through a biology textbook and see how uncannily similar bird, lizard, fish, human, and other embryos appear during their early lives. We humans even have rudimentary gill slits and tails – honest-to-god atavisms from our animal past.

After a few weeks, the fetus mutes the reptilian genes and turns on a coterie of genes unique to mammals, and pretty soon the fetus starts to resemble something you could imagine naming after your grandmother. Even at this stage, though, if the right genes are silenced or tweaked, atavisms (i.e., genetic throwbacks) can appear. Some people are born with the same extra nipples that barnyard sows have. Most of these extra nipples poke through the “milk line running vertically down the torso, but they can appear as far away as the sole of the foot. Other atavistic genes leave people with coats of hair sprouting all over their bodies, including their cheeks and foreheads. Scientists can even distinguish (if you’ll forgive the pejoratives) between “dog-faced” and “monkey-faced” coats, depending on the coarseness, color, and other qualities of the hair. Infants missing a snippet at the end of chromosome five develop cri-du-chat, or “cry of the cat” syndrome, so named for their caterwauling chirps and howls.; Some children are also born with tails. These tails – usually centered above their buttocks – contain muscles and nerves and run to five inches long and an inch thick. Sometimes tails appear as side effects of recessive genetic disorders that cause widespread anatomical problems, but tails can appear idiosyncratically as well, in otherwise normal children. Pediatricians have reported that these boys and girls can curl their tails up like an elephant’s trunk, and that the tails contract involuntarily when children cough or sneeze. Again, all fetuses have tails at six weeks old, but they usually retract after eight weeks as tail cells die and the body absorbs the excess tissue. Tails that persist probably arise from spontaneous mutations, but some children with tails to have betailed relatives. Most get the harmless appendage removed just after birth, but some don’t bother until adulthood.

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb

Here are a couple of human tails:

And here is a charming case of extra nipples:

And here’s the Creepy, Creepy Cri-du-chat:


Famous Last Posts

Another of the many great things about Facebook is that it allows people an avenue to send photos of their imminent death.  Viva social media!  (And thanks to Anna for the link.)

People’s Last Facebook Posts Before Death


Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 10, 2016

Today’s Dreadfully Gored Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Let’s have another jolly story of  Christian Martyrdom from the classic of the genre, Fox’s Book of Martyrs (1848).  This allegedly occurred during the fifth persecution:

Perpetua, a married lady, of about twenty-two years. Those who suffered with her were, Felicitas, a married lady, big with child at the time of her being apprehended; and Revocatus, catechumen of Carthage, and a slave. The names of the other prisoners, destined to suffer upon this occasion, were Saturninus, Secundulus and Satur. On the day appointed for their execution, they were led to the amphitheatre. Satur, Saturninus, and Revocatus, were ordered to run the gauntlet between the hunters, or such as had the care of the wild beasts. The hunters being drawn up in two ranks, they ran between, and were severely lashed as they passed. Felicitas and Perpetua were stripped, in order to be thrown to a mad bull, which made his first attack upon Perpetua, and stunned her; he then darted at Felicitas, and gored her dreadfully; but not killing them, the executioner did that office with a sword. Revocatus and Satur were destroyed by wild beasts; Saturninus was beheaded; and Secundulus died in prison. These executions were in the year 205, on the 8th day of March.

A Dreadful Day

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


Creepy Tales Du Jour!

I had another in my endless battles with insomnia last night and my friend Jody kindly pointed me towards this list of super creepy Graveyard Shift stories which made for a lovely midnight read!

Graveyard Shift Staff Tell the Scariest Things They’ve Seen

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 7, 2016

Today’s Addictive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Scientists have only recently begun laying out the chemical and genetic basis of addiction, but growing evidence suggests that cat hoarders cling to their herds at least partly because they’re hooked on a parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Toxo is a one-celled protozoan, kin to algae and amoebas; it has eight thousand genes. And though originally a feline pathogen, Toxo has diversified its portfolio and can now infect monkeys, bats, whales, elephants, aardvarks, anteaters, sloths, armadillos, and marsupials, as well as chickens.

Isn’t it just the cutest little parasite?

Wild bats or aardvarks or whatever ingest Toxo through infected prey or feces, and domesticated animals absorb it indirectly through the feces found in fertilizers. Humans can also absorb Toxo through their diet, and cat owners can contract it through their skin when they handle kitty litter. Overall it infects one-third of people worldwide. When Toxo invades mammals, it usually swims straight for the brain, where it forms tiny cysts, especially in the amygdala, an almond-shaped region in the mammal brain that guides the processing of emotions, including pleasure and anxiety. Scientists don’t know why, but the amygdala cysts can slow down reaction times and induce jealous or aggressive behavior in people. Toxo can alter people’s sense of smell, too. Some cat hoarders (those most vulnerable to Toxo) become immune to the pungent urine of cats – they stop smelling it. A few hoarders, usually to their great shame, reportedly even crave the odor.

Scientists have discovered that two of Toxo’s eight thousand genes help make a chemical called dopamine. And if you know anything about brain chemistry, you’re probably sitting up in your chair about now. Dopamine helps activate the brain’s reward circuits, flooding us with good feelings, natural highs. Cocaine, Ecstasy, and other drugs also play with dopamine levels, inducing artificial highs. Toxo has the gene for this potent, habit-forming chemical in its repertoire – twice – and whenever an infected brain senses cat urine, consciously or not, Toxo starts pumping it out. As a result, Toxo gains an influence over mammalian behavior, and the dopamine hook might provide a plausible biological basis for hoarding cats.

Life goals…

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

You may or may not be aware that The Comtesse is a Crazy Cat Lady although she currently only has three, which is showing great restraint.

Deathbed Photo Du Jour!

Girl in Shawl 
circa 1860 – sixth-plate ambrotype – 3.75″ x 3.25″
A very frail little girl poses for the camera. Her arms are extremely thin, likely the effects of a wasting disease, such as tuberculosis, for which there was no vaccination at the time.

Cullled from: Beyond the Dark Veil: Post-Mortem and Mourning Photography from the Thanatos Archive

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 5, 2016

Today’s Thuggish Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The word “thug” referring to a ruffian or hoodlum is derived from the name of one of the worst gangs of murdering thieves the world has ever known: the Indian hoodlum band known as the Thuggees. The English term originally came from the Hindustani word thag meaning “cheat” or “rascal”. But the Thuggees were much worse than mere cheats and rascals. Through the course of their existence, dating back to the 1550s, the Thuggees were credited with murdering more than 2,000,000 people, mostly wealthy travelers. The killer secret society plagued India for more than 350 years. The Thuggees traveled in gangs, sometimes disguised as poor beggars or religious mendicants. Sometimes they wore the garb of rich merchants to get closer to unsuspecting victims.

Thugs in Action

One of their chief principles was never to spill blood, so they always strangled their victims. Each member was required to kill at least once a year in order to maintain membership in the cult. But they killed in the name of religion. The deaths were conceived of as human sacrifices to Kali, the bloodthirsty Hindustani goddess of destruction.

The most lethal practitioner of the cult of Thuggee was the thug Buhram. At his trial it was established that he had murdered 931 persons between 1790 and 1840. All had been strangled with his “ruhmal” or waistcloth. Buhram was executed in 1840. Appropriately enough, he was hanged until he strangled.

It came to pass that the Thuggees began to kill using pickaxes and knives. According to legend, the Thuggees believed that Kali devoured the bodies of their victims. The story goes that once a member of the society hid behind a tree in order to spy on the goddess. The angry goddess punished the Thuggees by making them bury their victims from then on. Their pickaxes became murder weapons as well.

Both Muslims and Hindus made up the Thuggee sect. The ruling British government tried very hard to stop the Thuggee religion and its practices. Between 1829 and 1848 the British suppressed the Thuggees by means of mass arrests and speedy executions. In 1882 the British government deemed the problem solved with the hanging death of the last known Thuggee.

Thug Life, 19th Century Style

Culled from: The Big Book of Thugs


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Katchaya for this one.