Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 28, 2016

Today’s Chopped-Up Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

After suffering an aortic aneurysm on April 13, 1955, Einstein found himself the subject of an international death watch. He finally succumbed to internal hemorrhaging at 1:15 a.m. on April 18. His body arrived shortly thereafter at a local hospital in Princeton, New Jersey, for a routine autopsy. At this point the pathologist on duty, Thomas Harvey, faced a stark choice.

Any one of us might have been tempted the same way – who wouldn’t want to know what made Einstein Einstein? Einstein himself expressed interest in having his brain studied after he died, and even sat for brain scans. He decided against preserving the best part of himself only because he loathed the thought of people venerating it, the twentieth-century equivalent of a medieval Catholic relic. But as Harvey arranged the scalpels in his autopsy room that night, he knew human kind had just one chance to salvage the gray matter of the greatest scientific thinker in centuries. And while it may be too strong to say stole, by 8 a.m. the next morning – without next-of-kin permission, and against Einstein’s notarized wish for cremation – Harvey had shall we say liberated the physicist’s brain and released the body to the family without it.

The disappointment started immediately. Einstein’s brain weighed forty-three ounces, at the low end of normal. And before Harvey could measure anything more, word of the relic spread, just as Einstein had feared. During a discussion in school the next day about the loss of Einstein, Harvey’s son, normally a laconic lad, blurted out, “My dad’s got his brain!” A day later, newspapers across the country mentioned Harvey’s plans in their front -page obits. Harvey did eventually convince the remaining Einsteins, who were sure peeved, to grant permission for further study. So after measuring its dimensions with calipers and photographing it for posterity with his 35 mm black-and-white camera, Harvey sawed the brain into 240 taffy-sized hunks and laquered each one in celloidin. Harvey was soon mailing the blobs in many jars to neurologists, confident that the forthcoming scientific insights would justify his peccadillo.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing about the whole Einstein fiasco is the paltry knowledge scientists gained. Neurologists ended up publishing only three papers on Einstein’s brain in forty years, because most found nothing extraordinary there. Harvey kept soliciting scientists to take another look, but after the initial null results came back, the brain chunks mostly just sat around. Harvey kept each section wrapped in cheesecloth and piled them into two wide-mouthed glass cookie jars full of formaldehyde broth.

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb

Interestingly enough, you can see pieces of Einstein’s brain at the ever-wonderfulMütter Museum!


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

I know how you are: always seeking attention; disappointed that you’re wee paper cut doesn’t look ominous enough to garner sympathy from your co-workers and friends. How on earth can you get out of doing things you don’t want to do if nobody thinks you’re badly injured?

Well, here’s your solution:  Boo-Boos!

“Boo-Boos are adhesive bandages that make your small cuts and scrapes look so much worse than they really are. If they don’t, get yourself to the hospital, stat!”

I think “Sharp Force Trauma” might be my favorite, aesthetically…

But “Decubitus Ulcer with Maggot Infestation” is definitely the grossest!

See all the horrific designs at Boo-Boos Adhesive Bandages.

Thanks to Kim for the link!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 27, 2016

Today’s Snake-bitten Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Major Raymond “Rattlesnake James” Lisenba (March 6, 1894 – May 1, 1942) also known as Robert S. James, was the last man to be hanged in California. He was charged with murdering his fourth wife, Mary Busch, to collect her life insurance and was also suspected of causing the deaths of his third wife, Winona Wallace, and nephew, Cornelius Wright, to collect their life insurances.

A native of Hale County, Alabama, Lisenba spent his childhood at barber school. In 1921, he married Maud Duncan, but she soon filed for divorce, accusing him of “kinky” and “sadistic” sex. Lisebna moved to Kansas and remarried, but she divorced him after the father of a pregnant young woman ran him out of town. He moved to North Dakota and changed his surname to “James.”

When his mother died and left her life insurance to him, James got the idea of committing fraud. In 1932, he opened a barber shop in La Cañada Flintridge, California and married his third wife, Winona Wallace, and set a pair of $5,000 insurance policies for both from Prudential Insurance.

On September 21, the couple was driving on Pikes Peak Highway near Glen Cove, Colorado, with Wallace at the wheel when the car left the road and fell down a mountainside. James told investigators he managed to jump free, but Wallace remained trapped in the vehicle until it stopped against a large boulder about 150 feet below the road. When rescuers got to the scene, they found Wallace alive with relatively minor injuries despite the intensity of the crash. She also smelled of liquor and had a massive wound behind her ear. They later found shreds of a bullet in her head during the autopsy. Winona was released from the hospital on October 8 and recovering at a cottage in Manitou Springs when about a week later, James and a grocer found her lying on her back in a half-filled tub. At the coroner’s inquest, medical examiner George B. Gilmore testified that James told him his wife had ignored physician’s orders to avoid washing her hair because of the head wound and drowned as a result.

Prudential eventually paid off on Wallace’s policy. Following the death of Busch, an autopsy was made on Wallace and the medical examiner testified that she suffered two skull fractures caused by a hard, moving object projected against in it.

James took out insurance on his nephew Cornelius Wright, a young sailor, invited him to visit while on leave, and let him use his car. Wright later died when the car drove off a cliff. The mechanic who towed the wreck back to James told him that something was wrong with the steering wheel.

in March 1935, Ray James met Mary Emma James, who would become his second wife. In June 1935, Ray asked Charles Hope, one of his loyal customers struggling financially, to help him kill Mary for her $5000 life insurance, offering $100 plus expenses for rattlesnakes, which he planned to use to poison Mary.

Hope brought the snakes to the James’ house on August 4 to find Mary Emma, who was pregnant at the time, strapped to the kitchen table with her eyes and mouth taped shut. James that he managed to get his wife on the table by telling her a doctor was coming to “perform some kind of operation on her for pregnancy.” Hope watched as Ray put Mary Emma’s foot in the box with the two snakes, which bit her, then left the house to return and pick up his wife.

Returning to the house at 1:30 a.m. Hope found that Mary was still alive. Drunk and outraged, Ray took her to the bathtub, drowned her, and put her body by the fish pond in their backyard in an attempt to make it look like an accident. Hope left, having refused James’s order to burn down the house.

Mary’s death was ruled a drowning until a drunken Hope bragged at a bar about his involvement in her murder. The bartender reported this to police and Hope was arrested. Under intense questioning, Hope explained the plot thoroughly and James was arrested in 1936. A snake bite on Mary’s toe overlooked during the autopsy confirms this. Both were found guilty of their crimes with James receiving the death penalty and Hope life in prison.

On May 1, 1942, Rattlesnake James was executed by hanging at San Quentin State Prison in California. The rope was the wrong length and it took over ten minutes for Rattlesnake James to die.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Generously suggested by: Eleanor

I found this most excellent account of James’ death at Capital Punishment UK:

Clinton Duffy who was the warden [at San Quentin] from 1942 to 1954 described the execution of Major Raymond Lisemba as follows: “The man hit bottom and I observed that he was fighting by pulling on the straps, wheezing, whistling, trying to get air, that blood was oozing through the black cap. I observed also that he urinated, defecated, and droppings fell on the floor, and the stench was terrible”. (This is not abnormal in death by slow hanging as the person slowly strangles). “I also saw witnesses pass out and have to be carried from the witness room. Some of them threw up.”

It took ten minutes for the condemned man to die. When he was taken down and the cap removed, “big hunks of flesh were torn off” the side of his face where the noose had been, “his eyes were popped,” and his tongue was “swollen and hanging from his mouth.” His face had turned purple.

(Was it worth that money, Rattlesnake?)


The Shame of the South

One of the things that always irks me when I visit the South is the lack of acknowledgement of the culture of slavery that shaped it.  This is especially noticeable when you visit plantations in which the lives of the plantation owners and their families are discussed, but there is little mention made of the suffering of the slaves that built the plantations, were entrapped there, and died there.  Lisa sent me a very good article that examines this very topic. Highly recommended.

Why Aren’t Stories Like ’12 Years a Slave’ Told at Southern Plantation Museums?

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 26, 2016

Today’s Pressurized Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A major advance in air travel came in 1938, when the Boeing 307 ‘Stratoliner’ – closely based on the B17 bomber – was launched. It could carry 33 passengers at 20,000 ft, its pressurized cabin enabling it to soar far above the non-pressurized competition. As ever, this progression was not smooth; in March 1939, one of the first 307s built crashed in Seattle in front of representatives of a launch customer, KLM. The co-pilot was attempting to show that the plane could fly with two engines shut down, but when he stamped on the rudder pedal to counteract the inevitable yaw, the rudder locked; the aircraft went into a spin, its wings were torn off, and it crashed back to earth. Everyone aboard, including a host of senior Boeing people, died. The subsequent investigation revealed a a serious structural and aerodynamic problem – plane-makers were learning the hard way how to build the increasingly sophisticated aircraft their customers demanded – but the Stratoliner went on to have a long and illustrious career.

The Doomed Stratoliner.

And a Stratoliner in happier times.

Culled from: Black Box: Inside the World’s Worst Aircrashes


Post-Mortem Image Du Jour!

The following image is culled from the original Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America book:

3 1/4″ x 4 1/4″, Daguerreotype
circa 1854

Morbid Fact Du Jour For August 25, 2016

It occurs to me that I haven’t indulged my Mt. Everest obsession for a bit.  So why not journey back to Everest with…

Today’s Entombed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Climbers of Mt. Everest first viewed the Khumbu Icefall from the Nepal side in 1950, the year that Dr. Charles Houston joined the first group of foreigners to visit Khumbu. The group’s journals, he said, consisted largely of superlatives expressing Khumbu’s beauty and grandeur. But their glimpse of the Icefall itself was sobering. “For a long time we looked at the terrible icefall coming out of the Western Cwm, and decided that the approach would be very dangerous and difficult, perhaps impossible.” This maze of crevasses, seracs, and ice blocks the size of apartment buildings had claimed more lives than any other part of the mountain. Avalanches routinely thunder down from the Lhotse wall and Everest’s Southwest Face, and wash over the glacier; chunks of ice weighing hundreds of tons shift and tumble without warning; seemingly bottomless crevasses open and close, albeit more slowly. Looking up at the Khumbu Icefall from Base Camp, one feels about to be deluged by a tidal wave of gigantic ice cubes.

Ice Ice Baby!

The 1963 American Everest expedition, sponsored in part by the National Geographic Society, experienced the first death of a foreign climber on the Nepal side of Everest. Dr. Gil Roberts was leading the second rope through the Khumbu Icefall, 10 yards behind the climbers ahead, when a 30-foot freestanding wall of ice fell over and entombed his good friend Jake Breitenbach. Gil was partly buried, but freed himself and began digging out others.

With great emotion, Gil had to cut the rope that led to Jake, hopelessly buried beneath the serac. Then, as he helped the injured survivors descend through the Icefall, he heard a cry that sounded nearly human. It was a gorak, the bird believed to be the auspicious bearer of human souls, flying up from a crevice in the ice next to them.

Jake’s body emerged from the Khumbu Glacier in 1970, and a fellow team member, Barry Bishop, took him for burial on the ridge beyond Tengboche.

The Ill-fated Jake Breitenbach

Bishop had summited with the ’63 expedition, and later served for many years on the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration. He and his son Brent were the first American father and son to both summit Everest. In 1995 Bishop died in a car accident en route to receive an award from the American Himalayan Foundation honoring this achievement. At Tengboche, some of Bishop’s ashes are now buried alongside Jack Breitenbach.

Culled from: Everest: Mountain Without Mercy


Cranio-Facial Reconstruction Du Jour!

The Sacred Heart: An Atlas of the Body Seen Through Invasive Surgery is a book of surgery photographs taken by Max Aguilera-Hellweg.  The images are powerful, beautiful, and at times cringe-inducing.  Here’s a collection of photos from a surgery.

Cranio-facial Reconstruction

This forty-one-year-old woman was born with Crouzon’s syndrome [Soon to be starring in a Malady of the Month! – DeSpair], a hereditary birth defect in which the five bones of the cranium grown irregularly – too fast, too slow, or not at all – creating a deformed, if not shrunken, skull and face. Because of the reduced growth of the bones of the orbits, the patient’s eyes bulged out and appeared to operate independently of one another. A CT scan showing the profile of the skull revealed the top of the head rising like a ski jump, then falling off at a sheer 90-degree angle at the top of the brow, so that the common curvature of the forehead was missing. The front of the face was flat, with no visible cheek bones.

Before the procedure, to spare the patient the indignity and embarrassment of having her hair shorn, the surgeon rolled up the hair with rubber bands and put tinfoil over the rolls to keep them away from the surgical field. “It’s one of the small things we do,” the surgeon said. He next made an ear-to-ear incision into the scalp that would be hidden in the hairline. Instead of continuing the incision through the skin of the face, the lower half of the operation was done through the patient’s mouth. Alternately peeling back the face and putting it back on, to confirm his progress, the surgeon restructured the bone and gave the patient a new face.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For August 23, 2016

Today’s Truly Capacious Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Let’s talk a little bit more about brain size!

Without correlating strictly, a bigger brain does generally make a species smarter. And because monkeys, apes, and humans are all pretty sharp, scientists assumed that intense pressure must have come to bear on primate DNA to boost brain size. It was basically an arms race: big-brain primates win the most food and survive crises better, and the only way to beat them is to get smarter yourself. But nature can be stingy, too. Based on genetic and fossil evidence, scientists can now track how most primate lineages have evolved over many millions of years. It turns out that certain species’ bodies, and not infrequently their brains, shrank over time – they became cranial runts. Brains consume a lot of energy (around 20 percent of human calories), and in times with chronic food shortages, the DNA that won out in primates was the miserly DNA that scrimped on building up brains.

The best-known runt today is probably the “hobbit” skeleton from the Indonesian island of Flores. When it was discovered in 2003, many scientists declared it a stunted or microcephalic (tiny-headed) human; no way evolution was irresponsible enough to let the brains of a hominid dwindle that much, brains being about all we hominids have going. But nowadays most scientists accept that the brain of hobbits (officially, Homo floresiensis) did shrink. Some of this diminution might relate to so-called island dwarfism: islands, being severely finite, have less food, so if an animal can tune down some of the hundreds of genes that control its height and size, it can get by with fewer calories. Island dwarfism has shrunk mammoths, hippos, and other stranded species to pygmy sizes, and there’s no reason to think this pressure wouldn’t squash a hominid, even if the cost is a punier brain.

“We love hobbitses!”

By some measures, modern humans are runts, too. We’ve probably all gone to a museum and snickered over the wee suit of armor that a king of England or some other big swinging dick from history wore – what a shrimp! But our ancestors would giggle at our clothes just the same. Since about 30,000 BC, our DNA has diminished the average human body size by 10 percent (roughly five inches). The vaunted human brain dwindled by at least 10 percent over that span, too, and a few scientists argue it has shrunk even more.

Scientists filling skulls with buckshot or millet to measure brain size in the early 1900s didn’t know about DNA, of course, but even with their crude tools, they could tell the brain size-intelligence theory didn’t add up. One famous study of geniuses – it got a two-page spread in the New York Times in 1912 – did find some truly capacious organs. Russian writer Ivan Turgenev’s brain topped seventy ounces, compared to a human average of fifty. At the same time, the brains of statesman Daniel Webster and mathematician Charles Babbage, who dreamed up the first programmable computer, were merely average. And poor Walt Whitman had to sound his barbaric yawp over the rooftops with a command center of just forty-four ounces. Even worse was Franz Joseph Gall. Though an intelligent scientist – he proposed for the first time that different brain regions have different functions – Gall also founded phrenology, the analysis of head lumps. To his followers’ eternal shame, he weighed in at a measly forty-two ounces.

To be fair, a technician dropped Whitman’s brain before measuring it. It crumbled into pieces like a dried-out cake, and it’s not clear whether they found all of them, so maybe Walt could have made a better showing.

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb


Ghastly: Brainy Edition

The following photo was culled from Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Hydrocephalic Foetus – 2002 Mütter Museum Archives, albumen print

This is culled from Barton Cooke Hirst, M.D., A Text-book of Obstetrics, 1898. Hydrocephalus is an enlargement of the ventricles of the brain with an associated increase in the volume of cerebrospinal fluid, usually resulting from blockage in the ventricular system or the subarachnoid. Photographer unidentified.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For August 22, 2016

Today’s Extraordinarily Devastating Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The homeland of the Bubonic plague is generally thought to have been along the Himalayan borderlands between India and China where it was (and is) perpetuated in rodent populations. But it is generally believed that in the sixth century plague somehow escaped the Asian confines of its cradle and marched westward to slaughter the peoples of the Middle East, North Africa, the Roman Empire and western Europe. It was from Justinian, then Emperor of the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, that the plague took its name.

Just as Rome and its Empire had not been built in a day, the Empire had not fallen apart in a day. But it had come apart – cloven into Latin and Greek halves. Although there were numerous reasons for this, two of the more important were assaults by the Germanic kingdoms of western Europe, on the one hand, and devastating onslaughts of pestilence, on the other. This is not to imply that Rome had been especially salubrious prior to this point. Malaria seems to have been ubiquitous, and numerous other diseases frequently hammered the Empire. The Roman historian Livy (59 BC-AD 17) recorded many epidemics during the Republican period and 30,000 people were said to have died in Rome during an epidemic of AD 65. But the plagues that struck the Empire during the second and third centuries were extraordinarily devastating. This was most probably because they were new diseases, against which the population was immunologically defenseless, and, unfortunately for all those vulnerable people, they were also protracted plagues. The first – the so-called Antonine plague – hit the Roman Empire between AD 165 and 180, apparently reaching the Mediterranean with troops returning from the Parthian Wars in Mesopotamia. (Rumor had it that a too-enthusiastic soldier breaking open a casket in the temple of Apollo at Seleucia had released the pestilence.)

The returning soldiers had doubtless been exposed in Mesopotamia to any number of illnesses and the Antonine plague may have been comprised of several of them. However, August Hirsch, the nineteenth-century German epidemiologist and historian, voiced his strong suspicion that, regardless of the number of intertwined illnesses, by far the most important one was smallpox (or a disease ancestral to it), making its first European appearance. Whatever the identity of the pestilence it was so extraordinarily lethal that it was credited with killing between one-third and half of the people in affected areas. A mournful chronicler wrote (apparently with little exaggeration), that everywhere there was desolation. Towns were empty, fields unworked, and estates deserted. [Is it wrong that I sometimes daydream about this happening in modern times, so that I could afford a house in Chicago and have abundant urban exploration material?  You don’t have to answer that…I already know!  – The Bad Comtesse] In fact, it was this pestilential outbreak that is said by historians to have initiated the general decline in the population of the Mediterranean which continued for several centuries.

Such a decline was surely hastened by the second wave of pestilence. This one washed over the Roman world in 251 and did not fully abate until 266. Again, there are few clues to its identity, though the American historian William McNeill speculates that perhaps this plague, in tandem with its predecessor, announced the arrival of both smallpox and measles in Europe. In any event, this epidemic was at least as deadly as the Antonine plague and at its height it is believed 5,000 people a day were dying in Rome.

The Plague of Justinian: Them was rotten days!

Culled from: Plague, Pox and Pestilence


Trippin’ (and Settin’ Off Booby Traps) Down Memory Lane

Recently I mentioned the Morbid Fact Du Jour is now 20 years old – and the very first fact I ever posted was about New York’s infamous recluses, the Collyer Brothers:

August 1, 1996
On March 21, 1947 police were called to the home of New York City’s most famous recluses, the Collyer brothers (Homer and Langley), to investigate a possible dead body. When there was no response they kicked open the front door to find an ocean of debris – old newspapers piled to the ceiling along with sundry other precious things – which made the downstairs impassable. They used a ladder to access the second floor and eventually came across the body of Homer Collyer, who was blind and paralysed and relied completely upon his brother Langley for support and subsistence. It turned out that the paranoid pack rat Langley had constructed many booby traps from his debris around the house and one day he had accidentally set one of them and buried himself under a huge pile of trash; Homer consequently starved to death. It took police three weeks to find his body – after removing 120 tons of trash from the house. (Another warning to pack rats!)

Well, Eleanor pointed me towards the sweet stench emanating from the Daily Mail’s photo gallery of the Collyer’s house.  I would give my left leg and right kidney to be able to time travel back to explore that glorious mess of a mansion. They even found a skeleton!

Inside the Collyer Brownstone: The Story of Harlem’s Hermits and Their Hoarding

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 19, 2016

Today’s Pumpkin-like Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Early attempts to find the biological basis of intelligence played off the idea that bigger was better: more brain mass means more thinking power, just like more muscles meant more lifting power. Although intuitive, this theory has its shortcomings; whales and their twenty-pound brains don’t dominate the globe. So Baron Cuvier, the half Darwin, half Machiavelli from Napoleonic France, suggested that scientists also examine a creature’s brain-body ratio to measure its relative brain weight as well.

Nonetheless scientists in Cuvier’s day maintained that bigger brains did mean finer minds, especially within a species. The best evidence here was Cuvier himself, a man renowned (indeed, practically stared at) for the veritable pumpkin atop his shoulders. Still, no one could say anything definitive about Cuvier’s brain until 7 a.m. on Tuesday, May 15, 1832, when the greatest and most shameless doctors in Paris gathered to conduct Cuvier’s autopsy. They sliced open his torso, sluiced through his viscera, and established that he had normal organs. This duty dispatched, they eagerly sawed through his skull and extracted a whale of a specimen, sixty-five ounces, over 10 percent larger than any brain measured before. The smartest scientist these men had every known had the biggest brain they’d ever seen. Pretty convincing.

The Big-headed Baron

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb

I know there’s not a lot to this one, but I just love the visual of scientists huddling around eagerly breaking their hero’s skull open.  It’s rather touching really…


Ghastly!  Tiger Edition

I know you’ve spent your fair share of time wondering what a face that was bit in half by a tiger would look like.  Well, it’s your lucky day – now you know!  (Thanks to Katie for the link.)

Fisherman whose face was destroyed by a TIGER says he is desperate for plastic surgery… because his disfigurement means no one will marry his daughter

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 17, 2016

Today’s Untrained Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

By World War II standards, the German Type VIIC submarine was an advanced hunter of the seas. But one unlucky vessel of its class, the U-1206, sank during its maiden combat voyage after its captain used its high-tech toilet improperly.

Yes, this really happened, and was an unexpected and tragic consequence of a real naval engineering problem.

For years. crafty German engineers had been busy developing what they thought was the next generation in undersea plumbing. While Allied subs piped their sewage into onboard septic tanks, German U-boats saved precious weight and space by discharging waste directly into the sea.

But pulling off this latter operation posed unique challenges. The system only worked when the submarine floated near the surface, where the water pressure was low. One can only imagine the unpleasant work-arounds forced upon the crew when boats had to stay submerged for prolonged periods.

As the war — and Allied anti-submarine technology — progressed, submarines were increasingly dead meat in shallow water or on the surface. But by 1945, Germany’s toilet technology had matured.

Germany’s top minds had produced a newfangled “deepwater high-pressure toilet” which allowed them to flush while submerged deep below the waves.

Advanced as it was, the toilet was extremely complicated. First, it directed human waste through a series of chambers to a pressurized airlock. The contraption then blasted it into the sea with compressed air, sort of like a poop torpedo.

A specialist on each submarine received training on proper toilet operating procedures. There was an exact order of opening and closing valves to ensure the system flowed in the correct direction.

Now meet U-1206 and its proud 27-year-old captain, Karl-Adolf Schlitt. On April 14, 1945, Schlitt and his submarine were eight days into their first combat patrol of the war. The submarine lurked 200 feet beneath the surface of the North Sea when Schlitt decided that he could figure the toilet out himself.

But Schlitt was not properly trained as a toilet specialist. After calling an engineer to help, the engineer turned a wrong valve and accidentally unleashed a torrent of sewage and seawater back into the sub.

The situation escalated quickly. The unpleasant liquid filled the toilet compartment and began to stream down onto the submarine’s giant internal batteries — located directly beneath the bathroom — which reacted chemically and began producing chlorine gas.

As the poisonous gas filled the submarine, Schlitt frantically ordered the boat to the surface. The crew blew the ballast tanks and fired their torpedoes in an effort to improve the flooded vessel’s buoyancy.

Somehow, it got worse when the submarine reached the surface. “At this point in time British planes and patrols discovered us,” Schlitt wrote in his official account.

After taking damage from an air attack, the only option was to scuttle the sub and order the sailors overboard.

“The crew reached the Scottish coast in rubber dinghies,” Schlitt added. “In the attempt to negotiate the steep coast in heavy seas, three crewmembers tragically died. Several men were taken onboard a British sloop. The dead were Hans Berkhauer, Karl Koren and Emil Kupper.”

Schlitt survived the war and died in 2009. U-1206 rests on the bottom of the North Sea to this day.

Culled from: War Is Boring
Generously submitted by: Marco McClean


The City of the Dead

Eleanor sent me a fascinating article about Colma, where San Francisco moved its dead after banishing cemeteries from the city limits in the early 1900’s.  Can you believe I’ve never visited Colma, despite growing up in California?  I know, unacceptable.  Next time I visit, I’m roadtripping there!

Anyway, do read this article – it’s quite fascinating!

Why Are There So Many Dead People In Colma? And So Few In San Francisco?

For more California Morbid Sightseeing suggestions see the California page of The Morbid Sightseer. Where else?

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 16, 2016

Today’s Scalding 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 incident allegedly occurred in Africa during the Fifth Persecution, commencing with Severus, A. D. 205.

Cecilia, a young lady of good family in Rome, was married to a gentleman named Valerian. She converted her husband and brother, who were beheaded; and the maximus, or officer, who led them to execution, becoming their convert, suffered the same fate. The lady was placed naked in a scalding bath, and having continued there a considerable time, her head was struck off with a sword, A. D. 222.

Cecilia gets it in the neck.

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


Revenge Du Jour!

I applaud her gumption.  However, I question her judgment for ever getting such a horrendous tattoo in the first place!  Also, Daily Mail, I love you… but that’s a terribly unwieldy headline!  (Thanks to Erika for the link.)

Woman cuts off a tattoo of her cheating ex-boyfriend’s name with a scalpel and POSTS the skin to him after he told her he was emigrating to Alaska but instead moved in with another woman

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 15, 2016

Today’s Hastily Assembled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Stanislaus Bilansky, a Pole, arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota from Wisconsin in 1842 at age thirty-five. He worked as a tailor, then a storekeeper-barkeeper on what became East Seventh Street. He was a melancholy man, angry, a drinker, and often ill. His second wife, Ellen, abandoned him and their four children in 1856.

Mary Ann Evards Wright (known as Ann), a widow originally from North Carolina, moved to St. Paul in April 1858 at the request of her nephew, John Walker. In September she married Stanislaus Bilansky and took over the care of the Bilansky children. John Walker took up residence in the two room shanty behind their home.

In late February 1859 Stanislaus Bilansky began showing symptoms of stomach illness, including fever and vomiting. He died on March 11.

A coroner’s jury, hastily assembled the next day, ruled the death natural. Bilansky was buried March 12. But that evening one of the witnesses at the inquest, Lucinda Kilpatrick, reported to police that she now remembered having been with Ann Bilansky on February 28. She recalled that on that date, Ann Bilansky bought ten cents’ worth of powdered arsenic and made some odd comments about her husband “drop[ping] away sudden.” On March 13 the coroner exhumed the body; medical examiners found a trace that resembled arsenic. Ann Bilansky was arrested later that day and on March 15 a new coroner’s jury ruled the death a homicide.

The trial began May 23 with Isaac Heard prosecuting and John Brisbin for the defense. The heart of Heard’s case was that Ann Bilansky had bought arsenic on February 28; twelve days later her husband died of arsenic poisoning. The proposed motive was a liaison, or desired liaison, with John Walker.

Brisbin put up a skilled and vigorous defense. The medical evidence was inexpert and ambiguous, and his own expert witness gave a contrary opinion. The evidence of any love affair was slender and speculative. Ann Bilansky had sound reason for buying arsenic: rats infested the house and store. But a jury may choose which witnesses to believe. It convicted Ann Bilansky on June 3.

The case went to the state supreme court, though on narrow and technical grounds. The court denied the defense’s appeal on July 23. Within hours of learning her appeal had been denied, Ann Bilansky escaped from jail by squeezing through window bars. Authorities caught her a week later just a few miles away.

On December 2, 1859, Judge Edward Palmer imposed his sentence: death. Governor Alexander Ramsey set March 23 as hanging day. But Ann Bilansky still had many supporters, a new attorney in former territorial governor Willis Gorman, and two more avenues to pursue.

On March 5 the legislature passed a bill commuting Bilansky’s sentence to life in prison. Governor Ramsey, whose brother Justus had served on the jury, vetoed the bill.

Willis Gorman now turned to clemency. The state constitution gave the governor sole and unlimited power to pardon Bilansky or commute her sentence to any length of imprisonment he wished. Pardon petitions came from citizens deploring the death penalty. Gorman submitted a strong argument for Bilansky’s innocence that lamented many irregularities in the trial.

Minnesota Supreme Court chief justice Charles Flandrau wrote that he opposed the execution of a woman. Ann Bilansky wrote Governor Ramsey a four-page letter asserting her innocence. The most powerful plea came from a surprising source, prosecutor Isaac Heard, who wrote of his “grave and serious doubts as to whether the defendant has had a fair trial.”

Their efforts were to no avail. On March 23, before about a hundred people at the corner of Fifth Street and Cedar Street, Ann Bilansky mounted a temporary platform and was executed. Before she died, she promised that she would find justice in heaven.

She is buried in an unmarked grave in Calvary Cemetery.

Culled from: MNopedia


Ghastly!  Linoleum Edition

New York Crime Scene Photograph culled from Harms Way.

“A woman falls near a bannister on patterned linoleum, her hair outshining the satin of her hat; on her skirt a man’s cap sits like an author’s signature.”

BTW, I love that linoleum. I wanna bring colorful patterned linoleum back!  Who’s with me???