Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 11, 2015

Today’s Dreadful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Today we continue the story of World War I veterans coping with horrific, disfiguring facial wounds:

The apocalyptic Battle of the Somme in 1916 – when newspapers had to print not just columns but whole pages of casualties – spurred the British military to open a hospital for facial injuries on a dairy farm in Kent. The head surgeon there, a part-time painter, had seen how slapdash plastic surgery could be: he’d once encountered a young man in a POW camp who had hair growing on his nose because someone had grafted skin from his scalp onto his face. Determined to end such practices, the surgeon emphasized the aesthetics of facial reconstruction, even demanding multiple surgeries to get things right. In all, the Kent hospital performed eleven thousand surgeries on five thousand British soldiers, and often tended them for months between operations. Some victims could swallow only liquids, so the farm also raised chickens and cows and fed the men an eggnog slurry for protein. As part of their rehabilitation, some soldiers tended the animals, while others learned trades such as making toys, repairing clocks, or hairdressing. Many of the men formed deep friendships with their fellow “gargoyles,” while others, being soldiers, also flirted with whatever women happened by. The boldest patients won their nurses as wives, and one exhilarated female visitor declared that “men without noses are very beautiful – like antique marbles.”

Not everyone was so broad-minded. The soldiers felt safe enough while in the wards to tease each other, even call each other ugly; but they always wore red ties and cornflower-blue jackets when visiting the nearest village, to warn people off from a distance. Shopkeepers wouldn’t sell the men liquor because some became unhinged when drunk, and outsiders dreaded eating with them because their food sometimes reappeared through extra holes when they chewed and swallowed. Some hospitals forbade the men mirrors, and when released from the safe cocoon of the facial ward, many patients killed themselves. Others found work in a new industry, enjoying long hours of dark solitude as cinema projectionists. And some of the direst cases, those that surgeons couldn’t salvage, sought out American sculptress Anna Coleman Ladd, who opened up a prosthetic mask studio in 1918 in London.

[To be continued…]

Culled from:  The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery

Here are some examples of World War I reconstructive surgery:

Culled from the excellent BBC iWonder page “How Do You Fix a Face That’s Been Blown Off By Shrapnel?”


Halloween Cometh!

More vintage Halloween fun!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 9, 2015

Today’s Shattered Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Rebuilding a face wasn’t something doctors often worried about before 1914. A few soldiers and brawlers in history – most notably the emperor Justinian II and astronomer Tycho Brahe – had lost their noses in sword duels. Most received silver or copper replacements, and some surgeons did develop “natural” methods for replacing lost tissue. (One involved sewing the face to the crook of the elbow for a few weeks, until the arm skin adhered to the bridge of the nose and provided a cover flap.) But the trench warfare of World War I produced orders of magnitude more facial casualties than ever before, the result of grenades, mortars, machine guns, and other methods of flinging metal at high velocities. Just before going down, many soldiers heard a crack or whistle from a shell, then felt their facial bones explode. One man compared the feeling to “a glass bottle [dropped] into a porcelain bathtub.” Even dense jawbones might pulverize on contact, reduced to sand beneath the skin. And while metal helmets protected the brain, the helmet itself sometimes exploded into shrapnel when struck, gouging into eyes and ears. In all, tens of thousands of men (and a few women) woke up in a mudhole to find their noses torn off or tongues dangling. Some who lost eyelids slowly went blind as their corneas dried out. Other soldiers’ faces looked punched-in, like a Francis Bacon portrait. Officers instructed men on watch duty that, when peeking at the enemy, they should put their heads and shoulders over the parapet, since snipers would aim for the body, a more agreeable place to be shot.

Culled from:  The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery



And here are some of the hideous injuries from World War I. A future fact will describe the method of facial reconstruction used on many of these soldiers.


Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 8, 2015

Seasonal depression has laid me low for the last week, hence the lack of newsletters.  I’m fighting to overcome the demons though.  It’s useful to remind myself, I’ve been here before and it always passes, eventually. I’ll try to be a better Comtesse in the meantime.

Today’s Painful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

If any celebrity ever had a strange premonition of her disastrous future, it was the gorgeous Linda Darnell, star of Forever Amber (1947). She had a lifelong fear of fire. InAnna and the King of Siam (1946), her screen role required her to be burned at the stake. The sequence terrified her, but it was necessary to the plotline. While shooting it, she was injured slightly, and she later told reporters, “Never again. Next time I prefer being stabbed or shot. At least that kind of dying is painless.”

In March 1965, after touring in the comedy Janus, she visited her friend and former secretary, Jeanne Curtis, in Glenview, Illinois, near Chicago. Early in the morning of April 9, Linda suggested to Jeanne and her 16-year-old daughter, Patricia, that they stay up and watch one of Darnell’s old pictures, Star Dust(1940). After the movie ended, about 2:30 a.m., the three went upstairs to bed.

About 3:30 a.m. a still-smoldering cigarette ignited on the downstairs sofa, and soon the living room was ablaze. The smoke and heat awoke the three women upstairs. Jeanne and Patricia managed to escape. But Linda, afraid of jumping from a window, tried to make it down the stairs and out the front door. She was caught in the inferno in the living room. A neighbor tried to smash through a downstairs window to rescue the screaming woman, but the flames were too intense. When the volunteer fire brigade broke in, they found Darnell unconscious behind the sofa. She had second and third-degree burns over 80 percent of her upper body.

Darnell was taken to Skokie Valley Community Hospital where she underwent four hours of surgery. The prognosis was bad, and later that day she was moved to Cook County Hospital’s burn treatment center. A tracheotomy was performed to help her breathe. Darnell’s 16-year-old daughter flew in from California to be at her dying mother’s bedside. Linda was barely conscious during their half hour together. However, in her distorted voice (from the tracheotomy), she kept insisting. “Who says I’m going to die? I’m not going to!” She then whispered, “I love you, baby. I love you.” At 3:25 p.m., Darnell mercifully died.

Culled from: The Hollywood Book Of Death


Halloween Cometh!

We’re less than a month away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d share some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!



Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 3, 2015

Today’s Accursed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

It was not until the thirteenth century that the popes began to take a serious interest in witchcraft, and it was 1484 when Innocent VIII published the bull that launched the great witch-hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Known as Summis desiderantes affectibus (‘desiring with the most profound anxiety’) [That sounds like my love life. – DeSpair], it states:

It has recently come to our attention… that in some parts of northern Germany… many persons… have abused themselves with devils, incubi, and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed superstitions and horrid charms, … destroy the offspring of women and the young of cattle, blast and eradicate the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, and the fruits of trees… Furthermore, these wretches afflict and torment men and women, beasts of burden, herd beasts, as well as cattle of other kinds, with pain and disease, both internal and external; they hinder men from generating and women from conceiving… Above and beyond this, they blasphemously renounce the Faith that they received by the Sacrament of Baptism, and at the instigation of the Enemy of the human race they do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and excesses to the peril of their souls, whereby they offend the Divine Majesty and are a cause of scandal and dangerous example to very many…

Wherefore We, as is our duty, desirous of removing all hindrances and obstacles whatsoever by which the work of the Inquisitors may be impeded, as also to apply potent remedies to prevent the disease of heresy and other turpitudes diffusing their poison to the destruction of other innocent souls… decree and enjoin that the aforesaid Inquisitors be empowered to proceed to the correction, imprisonment and punishment of any persons for the said abominations and enormities…

Culled from: The History of Torture

Pope “Innocent”.  Has there ever been a bigger Oxymoron in history?


Halloween Cometh!

We’re a month away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!


Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 1, 2015

I apologize for disappearing on you, but work has eaten my life of late – and then I got a cold on top of that. I’ll try to get back to the morbid routine though, starting with…

Today’s Sacrificial Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Celts had hundreds of gods to worship. Some were considered greater than others although only a few had specific purposes, for example, for war, fertility or cure. Caesar noted of the Celts: ‘They believe that the execution of those who have been caught in the act of theft or robbery or some crime is more pleasing to the immortal gods but when the supply of such fails they resort to the execution even of the innocent.’

Thanks to Strabo, the Greek writer and geographer who was alive at the same time as Christ, we know something of how those sacrificed were dispatched. ‘(The Celts) used to strike a human being whom they had devoted to death in the back with a sword and then divine from his death-struggle.’ After gleaning clues to the future from the death throes the entrails would be examined for omens.

Alternatively, Celts might shoot victims with arrows or impale them at the chose holy site. In common with other races, the Celts also burned their sacrifices. Humans were committed to the flames in a giant wicker cage in the form of a god. Dozens of young people might be crammed into such a colossus before a spark ignited the pyre. In attendance were the Druids, the highly organised priest and soothsayer network which inspired the Celts in France, Britain and Ireland at the time.

By Celtic rite, some women were sacrificed by immersion in water so that no blood was spilled. Alternatively, their breasts were cut off and put over their mouths before they were impaled to honor the goddess Adastra.

Culled from: History of Punishment and Torture 


Halloween Cometh!

We’re a month away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!



Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 20, 2015

Today’s Shoulder Warming Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Whipping Act was added to the English state book during the reign of Henry VIII in 1530. It was designed specifically to put down vagrancy, and it provided that any vagrant detected in the act should be haled to the nearest town possessing a market-place “and there tied to the end of a cart naked, and beaten with whips throughout each market town, or other place, till the body shall be bloody by reason of such whipping.”

Men and women were whipped unmercifully for such trivial offenses as peddling, being drunk on a Sunday, and participating in a riot.A search of historical records reveals that in 1641, at Ecclesfield, the sum of fourpence was paid to a woman for whipping one Ellen Shaw, accused of felony; in 1680, a woman was whipped at Worcester; in 1690, at Durham, Eleanor Wilson, for being drunk on a Sunday, “was publicly whipped in the market-place, between the hours of eleven and twelve o’clock”; in 1759, according to the Worcester Corporation records, a fee of 2s. 6d. was paid for whipping Elizabeth Bradbury, but, says a correspondent in Notes and Queries (October 30th, 1852), this sum probably included “the cost of the hire of the cart, which was usually charged 1s. 6d. separately”; in 1699, there is an entry in the Burnham Church register which records the whipping of “Benjamin Smat, and his wife and three children, vagrant beggars”. According to the writer of the article on “Whipping” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (eleventh edition) “at the quarter sessions in Devonshire at Easter 1598 it was ordered that the mothers of bastard children should be whipped, the reputed fathers suffering a like punishment.” On the occasion of the trial of Lady Alice Kyteler for witchcraft, in 1325, one of her associates was whipped until she made a confession involving Lady Alice as well as herself, The town council of Great Staughton, Huntingdonshire, in 1690, authorized payment of the sum of 8s. 6d. for guarding and whipping a female lunatic; and in this same town’s records some twenty years later appears the entry of a payment of 8d to one Thomas Hawkins, “for whipping two people yt the smallpox.”  There is an element of humor, grim though it be, in this apparent belief in whipping as a universal panacea for ailments as well as misdemeanors; but there is no grain of humor discernible in the brutal directions issued by the notorious Judge Jeffreys to the executioner charged with the whipping of a woman upon whom this monster in human form had passed sentence:

“Hangman I charge you to pay particular attention to this lady. Scourge her soundly, man; scourge her till her blood runs down! It is Christmas, a cold time for madam to strip. See that you warm her shoulders thoroughly.”

Culled from: The History of Corporal Punishment


Halloween Cometh!

We’re a few weeks away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!



Arcane Excerpts: Indian Liver Edition!

Have you ever heard of “tropical liver”?  Neither had I, until I started reading a 1924 book entitled Health Knowledge: A Thorough and Concise Knowledge of the Prevention, Causes and Treatments of Disease, Simplified for Home Use by J.L. Corish, M.D.  Here, let’s learn all about this affliction!


This is not a common condition in temperate climates, but in hot countries, and particularly in India, it gives rise to the condition popularly known as “tropical liver,” which is of great importance because of the frequency with which Europeans, who have been resident in that country, are affected by it.

Causes. – The cause which renders white people in India so specially liable to inflammation of the liver, is the failure to adapt their habits as to food, drink, and exercise to the new conditions under which they live. Persons who eat the same rich food that can be tolerated or is necessary in a cold climate, and, above all, those who drink strong alcoholic liquors in large quantity, are prone to suffer. Two diseases also lead very specially to inflammation of the liver, viz., malaria and dysentery, the latter of which not infrequently produces abscess. It is said that inflammation of the liver was three times as frequent twenty years ago as it is to-day in India, and this is attributed partly, no doubt, to better modern hygienic conditions and largely to the fact that the heavier wines and stronger spirits are less indulged in now than formerly.

So what is the treatment for this dreadful condition?  Hee hee, let’s find out! 

Treatment. – In the acute attacks, rest in bed, a very simple diet, and avoidance of all alcoholic liquors are the essentials. Counter-irritation over the liver by a mustard plaster applied over the area as designated by the accompanying figure, or painting the space with iodine, gives great relief. A smart saline purge of phosphate of soda or some aperient water in the morning, or a blue pill at night is also of importance, and, as the condition is passing off, various tonics of quinine and iron are prescribed.

In the case of chronic inflammation of the liver, the patient must be careful as to the mode of living. Overeating and the drinking of heavy wines and strong spirits must be abandoned. In fact, persons suffering from this complaint would do well to become total abstainers from alcohol, and to eat only the simplest foods. The drugs which have been specially advocated for this condition are chloride of ammonium and nitrohydrochloric acid.

Do you really think that applying a plaster to the skin over the liver is going to help?  But it does allow us to admire this lovely drawing, and I know that certain helps my health!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 19, 2015

Today’s Fiery Red Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

At exactly 8:15:17 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the ‘Little Boy’ was released from the bomb bay of the Enola Gay as it passed over Hiroshima. The plane lurched upwards as the weight of the 9,000 lb bomb ceased to bear on it, but it still seemed to bombardier Thomas Ferebee as if the bomb was keeping pace with them. He watched through the nose as it began to fall away:

It wobbled a little until it picked up speed, and then it went right on down just like it was supposed to.

As the bomb left, pilot Paul Tibbets needed to get the Enola Gay as far from the bomb as possible:

I threw off the automatic pilot and hauled Enola Gay into the turn. I pulled anti-glare goggles over my eyes. I couldn’t see through them; I was blind. I threw them to the floor.

The bomb continued falling, its in-built radar methodically measuring the distance from the ground as it fell towards the T-shaped Aioi bridge, described by Tibbets as ‘the most perfect aiming point I had seen in the whole war’; its outer casing scrawled with messages from the 509th ground crew, including ‘Greetings to the Emperor from the men of the Indianapolis.’ At 5,000 feet the barometric safety switch operated and, as the ‘Little Boy’ reached 1,900 feet, the proximity fuse fired, sending the U235 bullet down the short barrel of the gun assembly into its U235 target. The super-critical mass was formed, drenched in neutrons by the polonium/beryllium initiator, and an uncontrolled chain reaction went through eighty generations before the expanding uranium core was too large to sustain it.

As Tibbets strained to get Enola Gay way to the south, ‘A bright light filled the plane.’ Watching, stunned, from his position in the rear of Enola Gay, Sergeant Bob Caron, the tail gunner, noticed a strange ripple in the air coming towards him. He tried to shout a warning but was too incoherent; the first shock wave hit them. Tibbets was astonished:

We were eleven and a half miles slant range from the atomic explosion but the whole airplane crackled and crinkled from the blast. I yelled ‘Flak!’ thinking a heavy gun battery had found us.

Ferebee shouted:

The sons of bitches are shooting at us!

Caron saw the second shock wave:

There’s another one coming!

Van Kirk thought that the sensation was:

very much as if you’ve ever sat on an ash can and had somebody hit it with a baseball bat… the plane bounced, it jumped and there was a noise like a piece of sheet metal snapping.

Tibbets realized what was happening:

Okay. That was the reflected shockwave, bounced back from the ground. There won’t be any more. It wasn’t Flak. Stay calm.

Tibbets ordered radar specialist Jacob Beser to start recording the crew’s impressions of the blast, starting with Caron, the only one looking directly at the bomb when it exploded:

A column of smoke is rising fast. It has a fiery red core. A bubbling mass, purple grey in color, with that red core. It‘s all turbulent. Fires are springing up everywhere, like flames shooting out of a huge bed of coals. I am starting count the fires. One, two, three, four, five six… fourteen, fifteen… it’s impossible. There are too many to count. Here it comes, the mushroom shape that Captain Parsons spoke about. It’s coming this way. It’s like a mass of bubbling molasses. The mushroom is spreading out. It’s maybe a mile or two wide and half a mile high. It’s growing up and up and up. It’s nearly level with us and climbing. It’s very black, but there is a purplish tint to the cloud. The base of the mushroom looks like a heavy undercast that is shot through with flames. The city must be below that. The flames and smoke are billowing out, whirling out into the foothills. The hills are disappearing under the smoke. All I can see now of the city is the main dock and what looks like an airfield. That is still visible. There are planes down there. 

Tibbets remembered:

Lewis pounding my shoulder, saying, ‘Look at that! Look at that! Look at that!’ Tom Ferebee wondered about whether radioactivity would make us all sterile. Lewis said he could taste atomic fission. He said it tasted like lead.  

Watching, Lewis cried out:

My God! Look at that son-of-a-bitch go!

But in the log that he was keeping of the mission, he wrote:

My God, what have we done?

Culled from: Eyewitness Hiroshima: First-Hand Accounts of the Atomic Terror That Changed the World

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center which is the vastly superior Chantilly, Virginia branch of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  I forgot that the Enola Gay is here so imagine my gasp of delight as I stumbled upon this sight!  What an amazing and odd looking aircraft the B-29 bomber was/is?


Halloween Cometh!

We’re about six weeks away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!

The witch and owl cards are among my favorites – especially the one with the dancing devils and creepy gourd guy!


Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 18, 2015

Today’s Squatting Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to poop while climbing Mt. Everest?  Well, wonder no more with this excerpt from an article by Matt Dickinson entitled “The Other Side Of Everest” which details his 1996 expedition!

Al’s long years of Himalayan expeditions had taught him the enviable knack of pissing into a pee bottle whilst lying on his side. Lacking the confidence to risk a sleeping bag full of urine by getting this wrong, I relied on the surer but less energy-efficient technique of crouching on my knees to perform the act.

The minutes ticked by, and with them came another dreaded bodily demand.

“I need a crap.”

“Me too,” Al was in the same state.

The prospect of putting on the boots and going out into the freezing night wind was extremely depressing. Just the thought was exhausting and demoralising.

“Better do it,” Al advised. “Nothing else for it. No point in taking any excess baggage up. Besides, if you’re shitting yourself now, imagine what you’ll be like on the second step.”

As an avid consumer of Himalayan climbing books, I had always been mystified by the high-altitude mountaineer’s obsessions with bodily functions. What, I had wondered, was the problem?

It took nearly fifteen minutes to prepare ourselves to exit the tent. Taking our oxygen cylinders with us was not a realistic option. Moving carefully to avoid the cookers, I crawled out of the front of the tent. Doing so, I nudged an empty cylinder which had been propped outside. It fell on the ice slope and accelerated away quickly. There was a clanking sound as it hit rocks once – twice – and then cartwheeled out of sight down the North Face to land on the glacier some six thousand feet below.


Stumbling across the ice slope, I realised that what I was doing was extremely stupid. I should have crampons and an ice-axe. One slip and I would follow the oxygen cylinder down the Face. With a shudder I remembered that this was exactly how one of the Taiwanese climbers had fallen on the southern side just days before.

I found a narrow ledge and managed to pull down the down suit and thermal underclothes. Calf and thigh muscles protesting, I squatted for what seemed like an eternity, puffing and panting for air. A few metres away, Al was doing the same. There is no such thing as embarrassment at 8,300 metres.

At the Col and above I found myself experiencing acute pain when going to the toilet. This time was by far the worst, bringing tears to my eyes. My whole system was completely dried up, and it felt like I was splitting inside.

“I’m having a baby here, Al.”

An answering grunt came in reply.

With the pain came blood – quite a substantial amount. I closed my mind to the implications of this, putting it down to that well-known climbers affliction, piles, even though I was pretty sure I didn’t have them.

Collapsing back in to the tent I strapped on the oxygen mask and gulped hungrily at the clean-tasting air. In the warmth of the sleeping bags I thrust my hands under my armpits to defrost, another surprisingly painful process.

Al came in.  “You all right?”

“Fine,” I replied, not wanting to let on how I really felt.  Close to vomiting, with a skull-splitting headache, I know knew why a visit to the toilet above 8,000 metres inspires such dread amongst mountaineers.

Culled from: High: Stories of Survival from Everest and K2


Halloween Cometh!

We’re about six weeks away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!



Spectral Legend Du Jour!

Situated on the Thames some fifty miles west of London, Bisham Abbey is said to be the most haunted house in Berkshire. In its earliest form, the abbey was the thirteenth century community house of the Knights Templars, a mystical-minded sect of medieval crusaders. Over the centuries, other owners expanded and embellished the mansion, which still stands today.

Resident there during Elizabethan times was the Hoby family, a titled assemblage of scholars and diplomats. Lady Elizabeth Hoby, well educated and brilliant, was a confident of Queen Elizabeth I. According to legend, she was also a child murderer.

Lady Hoby supposedly had six children, among whom her youngest son, William, was an anomalous dullard, averse to any learning. He so angered his proud, ambitious mother with a messy lesson in his copybook that she beat him to death. Variations on the story say Lady Hoby locked the boy in a closet as punishment or tied him to a chair with directions to amend his work; she then went to visit the queen and returned days later to find him dead.

All versions of the brutal tale may be fables; no records exist of William’s birth. Still, during renovations of the abbey in 1840, workmen found between the floor joists in the dining room some faded copybooks that bore signatures of the Hoby family. In one of them, the lessons were smudged and blotted on every page.

If Elizabeth Hoby did kill her son, she lived a long time with the guilt. By some accounts she died at eighty-one; by others she was in her nineties. And perhaps even death did not end her remorse. Among the ghosts reportedly seen at Bisham Abbey, Lady Hoby’s shade is said to walk there with sorrowful mien. Before her floats a bowl of invisible water into which she dips her hands, trying like some spectral Lady Macbeth to wash away her guilt.

Culled from: Hauntings (Mysteries of the Unknown)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 16, 2015

Today’s Stiff Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Rigor mortis, a Latin word meaning “the stiffness of death,” begins to take effect as the internal chemistry of the body changes from its normal acid state to an alkaline one, usually about two hours after life has become extinct. This causes muscles that were relaxed at the time of death to begin to tense and stiffen. The process begins with the eyelids and progresses to the muscles of the face and jaw, then to the arms, the trunk, and finally the legs.

Rigor mortis is a progressive condition and is usually fully established about twelve hours after death, by which time the body is as stiff and unbending as a block of wood. The body can remain in this condition for anything between twelve and forty-eight hours, until further chemical changes return the body to an acid state, at which point the muscles begin to relax again. This reverse process affects the muscles in the same order in which rigor mortis originally stiffened them: the eyelids first, then the facial muscles… and finally the legs.

Culled from: Hidden Evidence: Forty True Crimes and How Forensic Science Helped Solve Them


Halloween Cometh!

We’re about six weeks away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!



Garretdom: Olde News For Morbid Minds!

December, 1887

Josephine Curry Causes the Death of Her Newly-Born Infant.

Josephine Curry, thirty years old, who has been making her home for a short time at 1414 Cadwalader street, killed her newly-born babe at an early hour yesterday morning by throwing it down a cesspool. The police were notified at once and the body recovered in a short time, but the child was dead. A post-mortem examination was made by the Coroner’s physician, and the result will be made known at the inquest.

Detective Geyer was deteialed to investigate the case and interview the woman. He found her in bed suffering intensely and scarcely able to talk. She said her home was in Williamsport, and that she had been led estray by a commercial drummer whom she met in McKeesport. She last saw him in March, when he promised to care for her, but she had been unable to find him.

She came to this city hoping she could find him, but failing and being penniless and homeleess, she had resorted to the desperate effort to hide her crime. She said she was unable to say whether the child was born dead or alive, but from previous remarks it is believed that she was fully aware that it was living, and being alone in the house at the time, disposed of it before the lady with whom she was staying and who had gone to a neighbor’s for assistance had time to return.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair

Read more sad stories of olde tyme homicide at Garretdom!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 15, 2015

Today’s Mutinous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

When Captain Cook went on his third Pacific expedition in 1772, his sailing master was William Bligh. Fifteen years later, Bligh was the captain on a ship (the Bounty) that was commissioned to take bread fruit from Tahiti and transplant it to the West Indies. Bligh was a harsh disciplinarian with a quick temper. When the men arrived at Tahiti, he kept them on rations of salt pork, although there was an abundance of fruit. Four men who tried to desert were brought back and flogged in front of the entire crew. But Bligh’s greatest mistake was to make an enemy of the chief mate, Fletcher Christian, who championed the seamen. When they sailed from Tahiti, Bligh “treated them like a dog,” until Christian determined to avenge both himself and those under him.

On April 28, 1789, Bligh woke up to find his cabin filled with mutineers, who tied his hands and dragged him up on deck. Then, with 18 officers, and a supply of food, he was cast adrift in an open boat. What followed is one of the great epics of the sea. For 41 days, Bligh navigated the boat through tropical storms, until he reached Timor Island, some 4000 miles away. But only 12 of the 19 castaways reached England; the rest died as a result of their ordeal and privations.

For the mutineers, the taste of paradise had already gone sour. They made for Toobouai Island, hoping to settle there, but hostile natives drove them away. They then returned to Tahiti, and split into two parties.; one group of sixteen stayed behind; nine other men, including Fletcher Christian, embarked on the Bounty – and apparently sailed into oblivion. As soon as Bligh reached England, the story of his overthrow caused nationwide excitement, and another ship, the Pandora, was sent to Tahiti to try and arrest Christian and his followers.

By the time she arrived, two of the mutineers were dead anyway – one had shot the other in a quarrel, and had been stoned to death in turn by the natives. The captain of the Pandora arrested the remaining 14, and set off in search of the Bounty.  He never found it; instead, he and his crew were wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Four of the mutineers drowned there, so that only ten finally reached England. Of these, four were actually executed for mutiny and the others went free.

Meanwhile, what of the Bounty, the nine mutineers, and the several Tahitian men and women who were with them? It was more than 20 years later that Matthew Folger, an American sea captain, landed on Pitcairn Island, in the middle of the Pacific, and learned the bloody end of the saga. The Bounty had run ashore on Pitcairn Island, and Christian had ordered the ship to be set on fire. Ironically, Christian himself then turned into a tyrant as harsh as Bligh. His companions grew to detest him just as much as they had done their previous captain. Then one day Christian stole one of the Tahitian women from her husband. The husband crept up on the seducer while he was digging in a field, and unceremoniously shot him dead.

The rest of the party quickly split into two warring groups, and the killing went on. One Scotsman named M’Koy discovered how to distill an alcoholic spirit, and he and a friend spent their days drunk, until M’Koy threw himself over a cliff in a state of delirium tremens, and survivors destroyed the still. The Tahitian men killed all but two of the remaining white men in one night. Then, aided by some of the women, the last two whites murdered the six Tahitians.

By the time Captain Folger came on the scene there was only one survivor of the original mutineers –Alexander Smith. But there were 40 descendants. And many of their descendants live on Pitcairn Island to this day. In their search for an “earthly paradise” – one with unlimited drink, sun, and sex – 18 members of the Bounty crew had died violent and bloody deaths.

As for Bligh, he later completed his mission, transplanted the bread fruit to the West Indies, and had a distinguished career in the navy. Later, when he was governor of New South Wales in Australia, he caused another mutiny. But this one ended without bloodshed, and he died peacefully in his bed at the age of 63.

Culled from: Crimes and Punishment, the Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 26


Halloween Cometh!

We’re about six weeks away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!



Ghastly: Red Sox Edition!

New York Crime Scene Photograph culled from Harms Way.