Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 23, 2016

Morbid Fact Du jour will be on hiatus for a few days while The Comtesse entertains family visiting from out of town. She begs you to stay morbid until her return next week!

Today’s Hopeless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Accounts from Soviet prisoners of war in the Bergen-Belsen and Wietzendorf Nazi concentration camps, 1941-1942:

“We were taken to a place called Bergen, I think. But we knew nothing. We didn’t know where they were taking us. Some said they’d take us somewhere to be shot. Others said we’d be taken somewhere to work. But nobody knew anything, nobody explained anything to us. There was nobody to ask and nobody talked to you. I did speak a bit of German, mind you.”
Mikhail Levin, imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen

Blueprint for Bergen-Belsen

“We were taken to an open field. There was a wire fence there, but no huts, nothing. We used spoons and other things to dig earthwork dens. We lived in these dens.”
Semyon Zamyatin, imprisoned in Wietzendorf

“We dug… I had a broken soup spoon, and there were some stones there. That’s what we used to dig a hollow in which we could lie. There we lay on top of each other, covering each other, because there were no huts and it was cold.”
Mark Tilevich, imprisoned in Wietzendorf

“In the morning we heard the order: ‘Line up!’ If one of us had fallen ill or something else happened, they came running and tramped down our dens, filled them up. And the people were still in there.”
Semyon Zamyatin, imprisoned in Wietzendorf

“There was a field there, watchtowers, barbed wire and soldiers. And there were dogs, I remember it well, there were dogs. Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to properly guard the grounds without them. And then there were these masses of people just lying on the cold ground…”
Mark Tilevich, imprisoned in Wietzendorf

The hand-dug holes that served as shelter at Wietzendorf Prison Camp

“The first cases of disease in the camp occurred in autumn, when it got colder and the first frost came. The first cases of dysentery and typhoid fever had occurred a little earlier, and everyone was starving. People started to eat grass. It’s interesting that the bark of the few trees that were there was gnawed off and eaten. People ate belts, too. The belts that held up our trousers, you see? But there weren’t many belts around. They took them from the prisoners. You weren’t allowed to wear belts, I don’t know why.”
Mikhail Levin, imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen

“It was terrible! This terrible, overwhelming feeling of hunger. You have to understand, it’s worse than physical pain. Pain is terrible and you scream, you do something. But this was complete hopelessness. You couldn’t find anything anywhere, you see?”
Mark Tilevich, imprisoned in Wietzendorf

Starving prisoners at Bergen-Belsen

“The winter of 1941/1942 was very harsh. It was one of the coldest winters ever. That was when the mass deaths, the ‘great dying’ started. Typhoid fever and dysentery were raging through the camp and there was the hunger, the starvation. Your body couldn’t even cope with the slightest ailments, and people were dying. Every day, hundreds of them were taken away on the carts. In the morning after reveille, before we had to line-up for the roll-call, there’d already be bodies lying on the bunks. They’d be loaded onto a cart and taken to the cemetery.”
Mikhail Levin, imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen

Victims of starvation and disease at Bergen-Belsen

“This cart was accompanied by German guards. But they didn’t accompany the prisoners all the way. There were some tree trunks lying around there. While the prisoners were unloading the cart, they’d sit there and smoke cigarettes.”
Semyon Zamyatin, imprisoned in Wietzendorf

“In the beginning,loading the bodies onto the cart would really scare me. How old was I in 1941? I was 19 and I’d never seen anything like it. Two or three of us would grab a body. We weren’t particularly strong. We’d hold them by their hands and feet and throw them onto the cart. They were practically naked. Some had dog tags, others didn’t. They were taken there on the cart, and then they weren’t laid into the grave, they were just tossed in.”
Mikhail Levin, imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen

Unloading corpses from the carts at Bergen-Belsen

“A ditch had been dug behind the camp. That’s where they were taken and then tossed in. This ditch would then gradually be filled in. Our comrades, the other POWs, were in charge of filling in the ditch. One day they would still be shoveling soil, and the next day it might be their turn to be buried.”
Semyon Zamyatin, imprisoned in Wietzendorf

Culled from: Bergen-Belsen Wehrmacht POW Camp, 1940-1945


The Morbid Sightseer: Bergen-Belsen

I had the honor of visiting Bergen-Belsen in the summer of 2014. Although the barracks were burned down immediately after the camp’s liberation due to rampant disease, it is still a fascinating and unbearably sad place to visit.  Archaeological digs have recovered many relics from the time of the camp and they are displayed imaginatively in glass-topped cases in the floor of the museum. The museum also includes abundant photographs and information about the prisoners who suffered and died there – the most famous being Anne Frank and her sister Margot who died of typhoid shortly before liberation.

The museum is excellent, but my most vivid memory is walking by the dozens of enormous burial mounds, each marked with a month and year of interment.  I still need to write up a full travelogue on my visit, but for now, you can look at some of my photos at my Forlorn Photography Facebook page Bergen-Belsen album.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 21, 2016

Today’s Explosive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The deadliest disaster in St. Paul’s history occurred at just after eight o’clock on the morning of February 8, 1951, when a thunderous butane gas explosion tore through part of the huge Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now 3M, Inc.) industrial complex along Bush Avenue on the city’s East Side. The explosion occurred in a six-story concrete-frame building where minerals were crushed and then heated in huge butane ovens. It left 15 people dead or dying, including a truck driver making deliveries at the plant. Another 54 workers were injured, some with terrible burns.

So powerful was the blast that it knocked over railroad cars on nearby tracks, swept though tunnels into adjacent buildings, and ejected some of its victims through shattered windows while burying others under tons of debris. The first photograph shows the blast-damaged building with the body of an unidentified victim lying on the railroad tracks behind it. The man had been decapitated in the explosion, and the Dispatch’s editors apparently thought it would be helpful to point this fact out with an arrow. This prominently displayed pointer suggested something like perverse journalistic pride in being able to deliver such a gruesome detail to the public. [I can appreciate that! – DeSpair]

Photographers also raced to Ancker Hospital (a predecessor of today’s Regions Hospital and located at Colborne Street and Jefferson Avenue in St. Paul). Many of the blast victims were treated at Ancker. Here, a doctor and nurse tend to a critically injured worker, part of whose face had been torn open by the blast. Meanwhile, Father Francis Turmeyer, a hospital chaplain, reads the last rites over the unidentified man.

Culled from: Strange Days, Dangerous Nights: Photos from the Speech Graphic Era

Morbid Art Du Jour: The Periwig Maker

The Periwig Maker is a beautiful animated short film from 1999 that depicts life during the Great Plague of London in 1665 which is based on the 1722 novel A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Dafoe. Enthusiasts of animation (and pestilence) should have a look!  (Thanks to David for the link.)

The Periwig Maker – Cult of Weird

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 20, 2016

Today’s Deformed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, the offspring of first cousins, had a genetic disorder that stunted his growth and likely influenced the type of art he did as well. With his stubby arms, and with hands he mocked as grosses pattes (fat paws), manipulating brushes and painting for long stretches couldn’t have been easy. This may have contributed to his decision to devote so much time to posters and prints, less awkward mediums. He also sketched extensively. Henri whipped up thousands of drawings of women in intimate or contemplative moments. What’s more, in both these sketches and his more formal portraits of the Moulin Rouge, he often took unusual points of view – drawing figures from below (a “nostril view”), or cutting their legs out of the frame (he loathed dwelling on others’ legs, given his own shortcomings), or raking scenes at upward angles, angles that someone of greater physical but lesser artistic stature might never have perceived. One model once remarked to him, “You are a genius of deformity.” He responded, “Of course I am.”

Unfortunately, the temptations of the Moulin Rouge – casual sex, late nights, and especially “strangling the parakeet,” Toulouse-Lautrec’s euphemism for drinking himself stupid – depleted his delicate body in the 1890s. His mother tried to dry him out and had him institutionalized, but the cures never took. (Partly because Toulouse-Lautrec had a custom hollowed-out cane made, to fill with absinthe and drink from surreptitiously.) After relapsing again in 1901, Toulouse-Lautrec had a brain-blowing stroke and died from kidney failure just days later, at thirty-six.

Genius of Deformity (Band Name? Album Cover?)

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb

Ghastly! – Rodent Edition

Here’s another wax model image from the 1910 medical textbook Dermochromes – III.

Ulcus Rodens.

Rodent Ulcer.

Rodent ulcer is the commonest and most interesting form of primary carcinoma of the skin and occurs chiefly in persons of middle or advanced age. Originating as a small, hard nodule of normal or slightly reddish colour, it spreads at the periphery and breaks down in the centre so as finally to form a flat ulcer with hardened base and margin, which is generally round or kidney-shaped in outline. The border is slightly raised, partially undermined, and, as a rule, renders the nature of the new growth manifest. The ulcer is faintly granular on the surface, and red or livid in colour. The amount of secretion from it is small and soon dries up to form adherent crusts. Healing in the centre occurs pretty frequently; but exceptionally, in cases of long standing, the ulceration extends to the deeper parts. Rodent ulcer is regarded as comparatively benign on this account, and also because involvement of the corresponding lymphatic glands seldom or never occurs. A transformation into malignant carcinoma does, however, sometimes take place. New carcinamatous changes may occur in the apparently healed parts of those comparatively benign forms of epithelioma of the skin (rodent ulcer) which tend to cicatrize in the centre and spread at the periphery. In such the prognosis is less favourable than in the majority of cases. The face is the seat of predilection, especially the nose and the eyelids; the genital region may be attacked , but other parts of the body are very rarely affected. Rodent ulcer has occasionally been observed to originate from seborrheoic warts.

The Diagnosis must be founded upon the localization, the age of the patient, the hardness of the base and margin, and the very slow spread of the disease; and it is usually easily made. Sometimes the differential diagnosis from syphilis is difficult, especially when the lesion spreads at the edge and heals in the centre, as frequently takes place also in that disease. In dubious cases the result of microscopical examination of an excised portion, or the failure of antiseptic remedies, along with the absence of other syphilitic phenomena, will decide the matter.

The Prognosis is favourable in very localized cases in the early stages, but afterwards malignancy may set in.

Treatment. — In view of the comparatively benign character of the disease at its beginning, scraping, thermo-cauterization or the use of various caustics are often successful. But such cases must always be kept under close observation, and if any extension of the disease occurs, only energetic surgical procedures are of avail. The efficacy of the internal or subcutaneous administration of arsenic is very doubtful.  [I’d be doubtful of the efficacy of arsenic too! – DeSpair]

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 19, 2016

Today’s Automated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One of the biggest leaps forward in jet airliner technology came with the arrival of the Airbus A320.  This plane was introduced by the French-German-British-Spanish Airbus consortium in 1988 in an ultimately successful attempt to compete with Boeing, which had been the dominant force in commercial aircraft for the previous 35 years. To reduce the cost of the aircraft, the fuel and the numbers of crew required to fly it, Airbus went much further in automating the flying process than ever before, introducing what is known as a ‘flight management system’. In essence, this was the world’s first fully-automated plane.

‘This is a kind of machine partner,’ said Professor David Woods, author of Behind Human Error, ‘which rides in the cockpit with the flight crew and manages the flight path of the aircraft. It’s what the pilot talks to, giving instructions through a keyboard. This system is on all modern airplanes.’

The Airbus was more thorough in its approach than any aircraft before and, as a result, attracted the majority of the unfavorable attention accorded to modern flight systems, notably the ill-named ‘fly-by-wire’ concept in which the pilot has no direct physical contact with the operating systems.

In the first few years after the A320 was launched in 1988, it was involved in at least five accidents, as well as numerous other ‘incidents’ in which man and computerized machine clashed. In several of these, the Airbus unaccountably reared up during the approach to landing and then stalled. The trouble was that, although the computer was doing what it was supposed to, the pilot was either not sufficiently trained or aware enough to work out what that was.

The earliest incident – on June 26, 1988, at Habsheim in eastern France – came shortly after the first of the aircraft had been delivered, and sent shockwaves through the aviation world. Air France 296 was a demo plane packed with 136 crew and passengers – the latter being the winners of a competition organized by a local newspaper. They were supposed to be making a one-hour flight on the evolutionary new airliner, taking in Mont Blanc and two passes over Habsheim air show. The first of these flyovers was to be at low speed, with the landing gear down, at just 100 ft.

A huge crowd had gathered to watch as the A320 made its approach; but their appreciative shouts changed to gasps of horror as the jet labored over the runway towards the forest surrounding the airport. To the onlookers’ disbelief, the Airbus did not climb but simply flew into the trees. It disappeared from view, and second later there was an enormous explosion and fireball. A number of amateur videos of the whole thing were shot and can be seen on YouTube, and perhaps the most astonishing thing, from that footage, is that only three people were killed. A boy was impaled through his chest on wreckage, and a young girl died from smoke inhalation, along with a woman who was trying to free the child from her seat.

Sacre merde!

Zut alors!

Unfortunately, the crash investigation was marred by a series of rows involving the investigators, the French authorities and the pilot, Michel Asseline, on such points as the height of the trees into which the plane crashed, the possibility of altimeter failure, the theft of some television film of the accident, the engines’ alleged poor restart rate at low altitude, and the fact that the DVR and DFDR went off four seconds before impact. The crash was blamed on cockpit confusion over altitude, but outside observers have said that the on-board computer believed the aircraft to be landing, and thus was in landing mode. Consequently, it took too much time for the engines to throttle up to avert the crash. The A320’s on-board computers were later programmed to maintain more power on the final approach.

Culled from: Black Box: Inside the World’s Worst Plane Crashes

Wanna hear French people watch a plane crash? Oh ya?  Oh non! Oh non! Oh non! Oh non! Oh non!

Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

When people encourage me to exercise, I shall just remind them of this one bullet-proof fact.

Thank you to Magnoire for the funny!

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 17, 2016

Today’s Mediocre Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Patrick Henry Sherrill was a mediocre postman. After 16 months as a part-time letter carrier for the post office in Edmond, Okla. (pop. 47,000), Sherrill was still receiving complaints from his managers about misdirected mail and tardy performance. Last week, after two supervisors reprimanded him, Sherrill told a local steward for the American Postal Workers Union that he was being mistreated. “I gotta get out of here,” he said.

Instead, the angry mailman returned the next morning with a vengeance. At about 7 a.m. he strode into the post office in his blue uniform, toting three pistols and ammunition in a mailbag slung over his shoulder. Without a word, he gunned down Richard Esser, one of the supervisors who had criticized him, and fellow Postman Mike Rockne, grandson of the famous Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne.

The gunman then chased a group of fleeing employees through a side exit, shooting one man, who later died in the parking lot. Bolting several doors, he sought out workers cowering under tables and in cubicles, killing three people in one work station, five in another. Debbie Smith was sorting letters when the shooting started. “I froze. I couldn’t run. He came to shoot the clerks in the box section next to mine. I just knew I was next.” But as she hid, Sherrill passed her by and opened fire on the next section. As Smith ran for the front door, she said, “I could hear all the clerks screaming as they were shot.” Another employee escaped by locking herself in a vault where stamps are kept. Two other survivors hid in a broom closet.

Minutes after the shooting started, police arrived outside the post office. For 45 minutes they tried to communicate with the gunman by telephone and bullhorn. There was no response. When an Edmond SWAT team finally stormed the building at 8:30 a.m., they found Sherrill’s body amid the carnage. After killing 14 people and wounding six, he had pumped a bullet into his own head.

Like so many other mass murderers, serial killers and assassins, Sherrill, 44, was described as a quiet loner. He was unmarried and apparently had no close friends, although he was a ham-radio nut who made calls as far away as Australia. After his mother’s death in 1978, he continued to live in the modest white frame house they had shared in Oklahoma City, 13 miles south of Edmond. An ex-Marine and expert marksman, he served in the Air National Guard as a handgun instructor; two of the weapons he used for his rampage were taken from the National Guard armory.

Over the years Sherrill had worked as an electronics technician and radio- store salesman, but he had never held a job for very long. Around the neighborhood he was known as a Peeping Tom. “Everybody hated him,” says Neighbor Gerald Cash. “He’d prowl around at night, looking in people’s windows.” Children taunted him with nicknames like “Crazy Pat,” and Sherrill would often chase them in a rage.

Culled from: Time
Generously suggested by: Jeff Perkins

Jeff pointed out that August 20th of this year was the 30th anniversary of the shooting and sent me some photos documenting the carnage and the memorial that has been put on the site.

Patrick Sherrill: Bad Postman!

Detective carrying weapons out of Pat Sherrill’s house.

Where the bodies were found.

Sherill’s grave.

The Very Strange Memorial

Urban Legend Du Jour: Playground Edition

Papa Thorn sent me an interesting urban legend that I thought I’d share.

This Local Playground Near a Cemetery Harbors a Dark and Disturbing Secret

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 16, 2016

Today’s Rumbling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

It occurred to me that although I’d shared my review of the book The White Cascade I had neglected to share the full story of the Wellington Train Disaster. This is an excellent summary of that dreadful night in the Cascades. – DeSpair

During the early morning hours of March 1, 1910,  an avalanche roared down Windy Mountain near Stevens Pass in the Cascade Mountains, taking with it two Great Northern trains and 96 victims. This was one of the worst train disasters in U.S. history and the worst natural disaster (with the greatest number of fatalities) in Washington.

On February 23, 1910, after a snow delay at the east Cascade Mountains town of Leavenworth, two Great Northern trains, the Spokane Local passenger train No. 25 and Fast Mail train No. 27, proceeded westbound towards Puget Sound. There were five or six steam and electric engines, 15 boxcars, passenger cars, and sleepers.

The trains had passed through the Cascade Tunnel from the east to the west side of the mountains, when snow and avalanches forced them to stop near Wellington, in King County. Wellington was a small town populated almost entirely with Great Northern railway employees.

The train stopped under the peak of Windy Mountain, above Tye Creek. Heavy snowfall and avalanches made it impossible for train crews to clear the tracks. For six days, the trains waited in blizzard and avalanche conditions. On February 26, the telegraph lines went down and communication with the outside was lost. On the last day of February, the weather turned to rain with thunder and lightning. Thunder shook the snow-laden Cascade Mountains alive with avalanches. Then it happened.

On March 1, some time after midnight, Charles Andrews, a Great Northern employee, was walking towards the warmth of one of the Wellington’s bunkhouses when he heard a rumble. He turned toward the sound. In 1960, he described what he witnessed:

“White Death moving down the mountainside above the trains. Relentlessly it advanced, exploding, roaring, rumbling, grinding, snapping — a crescendo of sound that might have been the crashing of ten thousand freight trains. It descended to the ledge where the side tracks lay, picked up cars and equipment as though they were so many snow-draped toys, and swallowing them up, disappeared like a white, broad monster into the ravine below” (Roe, 88).

One of the 23 survivors interviewed three days after the Wellington train disaster stated:

“There was an electric storm raging at the time of the avalanche. Lighting flashes were vivid and a tearing wind was howling down the canyon. Suddenly there was a dull roar, and the sleeping men and women felt the passenger coaches lifted and borne along. When the coaches reached the steep declivity they were rolled nearly 1,000 feet and buried under 40 feet of snow” (Roe, 87).

A surviving train conductor sleeping in one of the mail train cars was thrown from the roof to the floor of the car several times as the train rolled down the slope before it disintegrated when the train slammed against a large tree.

Charles Andrews would not make it to the bunkhouse warmth for many hours. Along with other Wellington residents, Andrews rushed to the crushed trains that lay 150 feet below the railroad tracks. During the next few hours they dug out 23 survivors, many with injuries.

Some of the train wreckage after the avalanche.

In the days that followed, news of the tragedy that reached the rest of the country was inaccurate. On March 1 there were reports of “30 feared dead.” On March 2 there were “15 bodies … recovered … [and] 69 persons missing. One hundred and fifty men, mostly volunteers, are working to uncover the dead.” On March 3 a headline stated, “VICTIMS NOW REACH 118.”

The injured were sent to Wenatchee. The bodies of the dead were transported on toboggans down the west side of the Cascades to trains that carried them to Everett and Seattle. Ninety-six people died in the avalanche, including 35 passengers, 58 railroad employees sleeping on the trains, and three railroad employees sleeping in cabins enveloped by the avalanche.

Slip-slidin’ the bodies away.

The immediate cause of the avalanche was the rain and thunder. But, conditions had been set by the clear cutting of timber and by forest fires caused by steam locomotive sparks, which opened up the slopes above the tracks and created an ideal environment for slides to occur.

It took the Great Northern three weeks to repair the tracks before trains started running again over Stevens Pass. Because the name Wellington became associated with the disaster, the little town was renamed Tye. By 1913, to protect the trains from snow slides, the Great Northern had constructed snow-sheds over the nine miles of tracks between Scenic and Tye.

In 1929, a new tunnel was built, making the old grade obsolete. This 1929 tunnel is still today (2003) used by the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad.

The old grade is now the Iron Goat Trail, a hiking trail through the forest and past various examples of railroad archeology. The name Iron Goat was taken from the Great Northern Railway corporate symbol — a mountain goat standing on a rock. “Iron goat” was applied to Great Northern locomotives climbing mountainous rail line in the Rockies or Cascade mountains.

Culled from: HistoryLink.Org


Arcane Excerpts: Ordinary Drunken Edition

I love reading old medical texts, as much for the social criticisms found within them as for the shaky science.  I was just reading this discussion of Alcoholism from the 1924 opusHealth Knowledge, Vol II by the Domestic Health Society and I just had to share.

Symptoms. – Ordinary drunkenness is too common to need much description. First the person is brightened, his spirits rise, his conversation is witty, and the blood runs joyously through his veins. As he becomes really drunk a phase of depression-excitement comes on; one person becomes angry, resents fancied affronts, and tries to pick quarrels, another becomes melancholy, a third grows maudlin [Guilty as charged – DeSpair], and weepingly recounts the secrets of his family to perfect strangers, while a fourth type assumes a regal manner and gives away his money and valuables or makes promises which he cannot possibly fulfill, and all lose the controlling power of reason. A third stage is that in which all feeling of shame is lost, and there is dullness of sense and loss of power, the drunken man or woman reeling or falling and rising with difficulty. The fourth stage is popularly known as “dead drunk”; the person lies in a state of insensibility, with stertorous breathing and dilated pupils.

Mania a potu is the form which often affects neurotic young men or women with a family taint of insanity. [Oh wait, maybe this is me? – DeSpair] A state of excitement, fury, or violence, sometimes with attempts at murder or suicide, comes on after, it may be, only a few glasses of spirits, and lasts some hours or days, without any tendency to dullness or sleep. [Sounds familiar. – DeSpair]

Delirium tremens is the most serious form, and is popularly known as “blue-devils,” [Duke’s mascot is named after alcoholism?  Makes sense! – DeSpair] because of the hallucinations accompanying the state. It follows on a long course of drinking which had ended in a bout, or may be brought on by an injury or business worries in a heavy drinker; or even, it is said, by the sudden stoppage of excessive drinking, but it does not follow a single “spree.” Tremors all over the body, but especially in the hands and tongue, are the first sign of its onset, then complete loss of appetite, sickness, rise of temperature, weak pulse, and constant purposeless movements. Finally hallucinations come on; spiders, flies, mice, rats are described on  the clothes or floor, or disgusting objects like snakes, toads, and demons [“We’re just as God made us, sir!” – Snakes, Toads and Demons], or the bystanders are taken for policemen, hangmen, etc., and the furniture distorts itself into weird shapes. Lastly, delirium of a terrified or raging type comes on, in which there is more or less danger of suicide or homicide. Pneumonia of a serious type is apt to ensue , and if these two be combined the case is usually fatal. About ten per cent of hospital cases die owing to exposure before admission, but in private practice most cases recover.

Causes.– The alcoholic habit is of two kinds: vicious, in which people, often in the lower strata of society, drink because their associates do, because they have no sense of their duties to society and love the stimulating and soddening effect of drink, though they have no absolute craving therefor, or because they are driven by their misery and worries to find the only relief from their woes in drunkenness; and diseased, in which persons often of fine mental and moral feeling, are driven, sometimes irresistibly, always against their wish, to satisfy a craving for the effects of alcohol, regardless of consequences. Dipsomania is the name given to the latter, and it has been ascribed in different cases to (1) a weak mental heredity with family history of insanity, epilepsy, hemophilia, etc.; (2) the fact that father or mother was under the influence of alcohol at the time of conception; (3) long-continued vicious drinking, causing almost a necessity for alcohol in the system; (4) injuries to the head or sunstroke; (5) the use of alcohol when the system was in a weak state; (6) its use for the first time at one of the critical periods of life, as at puberty or the menopause.

Symptoms. – Mental symptoms. One symptom occurs only in the dipsomaniac form of alcoholism, which is that though the person is perfectly aware that his habit is shortening his life, blunting his finer feelings and impulses, and even leading him to ruin and crime, and though he struggles sincerely and vehemently against it, the craving repeatedly overpowers him. This may occur constantly, or the victim may have long intervals with no desire for drink, till at definite periods the craving comes, either with some warning of headache and malaise, or absolutely suddenly, and dipsomaniac rushes, as if possessed, to the nearest bar or saloon to pour alcohol down his throat. All feeling, all morality for the time being perishes, and no crime is too heinous to stand between the slave and his master. Among chronic drinkers the first symptoms are mental. There may be no drunkenness; in fact, the most vicious alcoholics are those who are constantly having “drams” or “nips” and “cocktails” the whole day and every day, with seldom a real “bout” or “spree”. The drinker becomes lazy, dyspeptic, untrustworthy, forgetful. Later he grows tremulous, suspicious, bad-tempered, and develops a special dislike for those who were before nearest and dearest, and, as the case advances still farther, develops fixed delusions that his friends are attempting to rob, poison, or otherwise injure him. Most of the revolting murders of wife and children, followed by suicide, are committed by chronic drinkers who are passing into delirium tremens. Or, if the mental balance be more stable, the result is a gradual loss of all intellectual power, till the tippler, between forty and fifty, becomes weak, silly, and demented, entering on his dotage soon after fifty.

Treatment.-The first thing to do is to give up alcohol entirely. For the person with a dipsomaniac craving or vital organs damaged by excess there is no question of moderate drinking. The treatment of symptoms such as vomiting, dyspepsia, paralysis, is given under these heads. All sorts of drink-cures are advertised and sold; some contain drugs, such as bromides and caffeine, which tide the drinker over the depression caused by an attempt to shake off his habit; others, such as hypnotism, Christian science, religious revivals, active crusades against drunkenness in others, rouse up in unstable persons dormant powers of resistance; but, though a few veritable cures take place when the habit is once broken, in general, relapses occur, and if drugs be injudiciously given more pernicious drug-habits may be learned in addition. The idea that some drug may be given without the drunkard’s knowledge, to cure him, is unlikely.

As a substitute for alcohol, the following may be taken:

Rx Caffeine Citrate …….. one-grain capsules
DOSE: One capsule every three hours during the day. The capsules are to be stopped each night, two hours before retiring.

Doesn’t that sound like a great substitute for alcohol?

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 15, 2016

Today’s Horrible Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

When a mob meted out lynch justice in Fort White, Florida, in 1893, they did so with a ferocity that was becoming all too typical. Trains brought in additional participants and spectators from surrounding cities. After a mock trial, the prolonged execution began. “Every one knew what the crowd meant,” a resident noted afterwards, “but no one expected such horrible butchery.” They sawed at his throat, cut off both his ears, cut out one eye, and stuffed handkerchiefs in the victim’s mouth to stifle his “awful screams”. Stabbing him repeatedly, the lynchers came close to cutting out his backbone. He was then dragged two blocks before the crowd emptied their guns into his body.

One year earlier, near Memphis, the same kind of violence had been inflicted on Lee Walker, removed from the county jail and hanged from a telegraph pole after his skin had been cut to ribbons by the mob. As Walker swung on the pole, blood streaming down his body from the knife wounds, the crowd hurled expletives at him. “The Negro died hard,” one observer wrote. “The neck was not broken… and death came by strangulation. For fully ten minutes after he was strung up the chest heaved occasionally and there were convulsive movements of the limbs.” But the crowd had not finished. Throwing the body into a fire, they watched with “astonishing coolness and nonchalance” as it burned. Finally, the relic hunters moved in to retrieve portions of the rope and what was left of the charred body.

I couldn’t find any images of the Lee Walker lynching, but this photo of a 1911 lynching paints a similarly sickening picture.

Culled from: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America


Death Bed Photo Du Jour!

Young Girl on Deathbed
Circa 1850 – sixth-plate dauerreotype – 3.75″ x 3.25″
A portrait of a dying girl. She stares back at the camera, her face seeming to show a tired resignation and an acceptance of her fate.

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

Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 14, 2016

Today’s Disinterred Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In the 19th century, medical students were sometimes expected to help procure the cadavers used for dissection (and one Detroit student paid his way through medical school in the 1870s as a resurrectionist). But in places where the traffic in dead bodies was extensive, professional resurrectionists largely took over. In a well-organized system, informers – undertakers, graveyard caretakers, doctors who had attended a patient during a terminal illness – would tip off the resurrectionists to promising burials. One Nashville resurrectionist who was vigorously active from the 1890s to the 1920s recalled that grave robbing typically required three men, a wagon, and an hour of labor. Under moonlight or shaded lanterns, they would locate the grave, dig open the top half, break the head of the coffin, and pull out the corpse by a hook or a rope around the neck. They stripped the cadaver and threw the clothing that would have been incriminating back into the coffin, stuffed the body into a sack, and refilled the grave. A careful grave robber replaced any stones, sticks, or flowers placed by the family to detect disinterment. Sometimes caretakers of potter’s fields, almshouses, and prisons sold the bodies before they were interred.

Everyone’s favorite resurrectionist – Dr. Frankenstein!

In tight markets, grave robbers might promise no more than “the first material that dies in getting distance,” but in more lush times they might take standing orders for a steady supply of “good subjects well-packed.” There was also a brisk export trade, an interstate commerce in stolen bodies packed in barrels of sawdust and alcohol, ranging from small shipments among midwestern states to the instance of a northern school that in 1911 was furnished entirely by black bodies disinterred from southern graves. Whatever the source, it was important that deliveries be shielded from public sight, or else, as one anatomist warned, “there will be an unnecessary exposure to the gaze of the curious, or even to the passer-by of what is naturally revolting to the sight of every one, and at times it may be the cause of more or less public comment, excitement or even assault and riot.”

Culled from: Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine: 1880-1930


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Speaking of resurrectionists, I picked up a couple most excellent pillows at World Market the other day for $19.99 each.  Aren’t they lovely?  Of course, this is year-round decor, not “Halloween” decor.  🙂

World Market: Resurrectionist Pillow
World Market: Laboratory Pillow
World Market: Frankenstein Pillow
World Market: Monsters Pillow

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 13, 2016

Today’s Fishtailing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On June 14, 1986, the Galaxyland Amusement Park, located inside the huge West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, was packed. A concert was in progress and the Mindbender, the world’s largest indoor roller coaster, was doing a brisk business.

Twice during that day, a ride operator heard metallic banging noises coming from the coaster, but when the four 16-passenger trains were run empty, maintenance crews couldn’t locate the source of the noise, and the ride was again opened to the public.

Ron Chayko and his best friend David Sager were visiting the park that day and had wanted to go on the Mindbender, but when they first arrived, the ride was shut down, so they visited the nearby arcade till an announcement was made that the Mindbender was back up and running. They sat in the final, yellow car of the train, which then began its looping, climbing and diving ride.

No one knew that some bolts on the left side of the final car had fallen off, and this suddenly caused the final car to derail. The yellow car fishtailed wildly, knocking the lap-bars loose and hurling passengers out and down. The train was still running, heading into an uplift for the next drop, but had lost momentum and slid back down the incline, crashing into support pillars along the way.

Ron Chayko remembers flying over David Sager and falling below the track, behind a pillar. When he tried to sit up he saw that both his legs were broken, he was unable to move his left arm, and he had great difficulty breathing due to a punctured lung. He lay in agony for 15 minutes till a man jumped down to him, calling to other rescuers “I found him!” When paramedics lifted him onto a stretcher, Chayko’s entire left side folded in on itself due to his broken shoulder, pelvis and ribs. He survived, though he suffers from chronic pain as a result.

David Sager, Tony Mandrusiak and Cindy Sims were all killed instantly, and a more than a dozen others were injured. The Mindbender was shut down for seven months while investigations were made. It was determined tthat the axle assembly was faulty, and that the problem was exacerbated by problems translating the ride’s maintenance and repair instructions from German into English and the fact that the
manufacturer went bankrupt during installation of the coaster.

When the Mindbender was reopened in 1987, it had been redesigned to have only three 12-passenger cars, and safety belts and over-the-shoulder padded head restraints were added in addition to the standard lap bars. The ride has been completely accident-free ever since.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

And here’s a nice little clip about the accident.  It’s worth it just to hear Canadians describe the incident: “It was pretty scary cuz we were sitting upside down and we didn’t know what was happening and like we seen people laying on the ground, eh.”


Garretdom: Frightfully Mangled Edition

More proof that newspapers were better before.  Check out the detail in that final paragraph!  Oh, if only modern papers were so colorful…

July 22, 1865
Shakopee Argus

Fatal Accident.

Fatal Accident. — On last Monday a most shocking accident occurred at Spring Lake, in this county. The victim was a Mr. Ringrose, who was employed in the sawmill at that place, while engaged in adjusting a belt on one of the wheels, was caught and dragged into the machinery and instantly crushed to pieces. — There was no one near at the time, and he was found a few minutes afterwards by another of the employees of the mill, a frightfully mangled corpse. He was a returned soldier, and had been at home but a few days when he was thus torn from family and friends, just as his security from death seemed to have become the most perfect. He leaves a wife and several children to mourn his untimely fate.

Since the above was in type we have learned some of that particulars of the sad affair. — It appears that the belt wheel had no flange and the belt frequently ran off the wheel as it did in this instance, and had to be put on again while in motion; the deceased upon seeing the belt come off, went to put it on, and did so, but just as it snapped on to the wheel it caught his left arm, when he was instantly rolled in between the belt and the wheel, which was going at the rate of sixty revolutions per minute. The owner of the mill, Mr. Turner, was upstairs at the time, and noticed a curious action in the machinery and heard an occasional thud, but attributed it to some trifling cause; in about fifteen minutes after he had first noticed it he determined to go below and see the occasion of the noise, when he found the body in the position described. —  He immediately stopped the mill and, with assistance, extricated the body of the unfortunate man. His arms and legs were broken into twenty or thirty pieces, and the flesh literally stripped therefrom, pieces of which were found in every direction; his body was ground to a pumice and blood was thrown thirty feet. One of his feet was found the next day, and pieces of flesh were picked up for several days after in and about the mill.

Culled from Coffee Made Her Insane

More frightfully mangled news stories can be read at Garretdom.



Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 12, 2016

Today’s Schlepped Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

As promised, here’s part two of the story of genius violinist and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome victim Niccolò Paganini. (Read Part One here.)

Paganini’s afterlife was no less doomed than his life. On his deathbed in Nice, he refused communion and confession, believing they would hasten his demise. He died anyway, and because he’d skipped the sacraments, during Eastertide no less, the Catholic Church refused him proper burial. As a result his family had to schlep his body around ignominiously for months. It first lay for sixty days in a friend’s bed, before health officials stepped in. His corpse was next transferred to an abandoned leper’s hospital, where a crooked caretaker charged tourists money to gawk at it, then to a cement tub in an olive oil processing plant. Family finally smuggled his bones back into Genoa in secret and interred him in a private garden, where he lay for thirty-six years, until the church finally forgave him and permitted burial.

Paganini’s grave at Cemetery Della Villetta, Parma, Italy

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb


Spectral Legend Du Jour!

Halloween is coming soon – so why not indulge in a ghost story?

A White-Clad Baroness Seeks Revenge

Rising in ruined majesty beside the river Danube, the Bavarian fortress of Wolfsegg never fell to enemies in a history reaching back almost a thousand years. But while its walls withstood siege and strife without, they harbored violence within – mayhem said to echo still in the ghostly form of a woman who died there centuries ago.

Built in 1028, the fortress belonged successively to several quarrelsome Bavarian nobles, most of them involved in the region’s incessant dynastic bickering. A Renaissance tale of triple murder surrounds one such aristocratic warrior clan, the Laabers of Wolfsegg. The story tells that in the fourteenth century, a Laaber baron married a lovely woman who became the victim of a nefarious plot. Wanting to take over the valuable estate, the baron’s greedy relatives contrived to put the bride in a compromising situation with a man not her husband. The baron was then told that his wife was having an illicit rendezvous. He appeared at the castle to discover what looked to be a tryst, whereupon he killed his wife and her supposed lover. He, in turn, was murdered by the relatives, who claimed theirs was an act of justice.

Along with the feudal property, the relatives may have also inherited a curse; for some say the slain baroness, dressed in luminous white robes, still walks the halls and stairways of Wolfsegg. Residents of the castle have reported seeing glowing apparitions and hearing phantom footsteps and feeling inexplicable cold drafts.

Skeptics say the luminescences at Wolfsegg are mere will-o’-the-wisps, gaseous exudations from a bat-filled, dripstone cavern underlying the castle. But others believe that the White Lady returns to the site of her betrayal, seeking vindication of her name and justice for her traitorous kin.

Culled from: Mysteries of the Unknown: Hauntings