Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 10, 2016

Today’s Dreadfully Gored Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

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

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

A Dreadful Day

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


Creepy Tales Du Jour!

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

Graveyard Shift Staff Tell the Scariest Things They’ve Seen

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 7, 2016

Today’s Addictive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

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

Isn’t it just the cutest little parasite?

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

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

Life goals…

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

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

Deathbed Photo Du Jour!

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

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

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 5, 2016

Today’s Thuggish Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

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

Thugs in Action

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

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

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

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

Thug Life, 19th Century Style

Culled from: The Big Book of Thugs


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Katchaya for this one.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for May 3, 2016

Today’s Urbane Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Reputedly modeled on the fifteenth-century monster Gilles de Rais, the folktale character Bluebeard is a sinister nobleman who murders a succession of wives and stores their corpses in a locked room in his castle. In real life, the term is used to describe a specific type of serial killer who, like his fictional counterpart, knocks off one wife after another.

There are two major differences between a “Bluebeard” killer and a psycho like Ted Bundy. The latter preys on strangers, whereas the Bluebeard type restricts himself to the women who are unlucky (or foolish) enough to wed him. Their motivations differ, too. Bundy and his ilk are driven by sexual sadism; they are lust murderers. By contrast, the cardinal sin that motivates the Bluebeard isn’t lust but greed. For the most part, this kind of serial killer dispatches his victims for profit.

The most infamous Bluebeard of the twentieth century was a short, balding, red-bearded Frenchman named Henri Landru (the real-life inspiration for Charlie Chaplin’s black comedy Monsieur Verdoux). In spite of his unsightly appearance, Landru possessed an urbane charm that made him appealing to women. It didn’t hurt, of course, that there were so many vulnerable women around – lonely widows of the millions of young soldiers who had perished on the battlefields of World War I. An accomplished swindler who had already been convicted seven times for fraud, Landru found his victims by running matrimonial ads in the newspapers. When a suitable (i.e., wealthy, gullible) prospect responded, Landru would woo her, wed her, assume control of her assets, then kill her and incinerate the corpse in a small outdoor oven on his country estate outside Paris. He was guillotined in 1922, convicted of eleven murders – ten women, plus one victim’s teenaged son.

Would you marry this man?

Culled from: The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers

Arcane Excerpts: Male Menstruation Edition!

Here’s a very strange case of “menstruation” from Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle (1896):

Menstruation in Man. – Periodic discharges of blood in man, constituting what is called “male menstruation” have been frequently noticed and are particularly interesting when the discharge is from the penis or urethra, furnishing a striking analogy to the female function of menstruation. The older authors quoted several such instances, and Mehliss says that in the ancient days certain writers remarked that catamenial lustration from the penis was inflicted on the Jews as a divine punishment… Gloninger tells of a man of thirty-six, who, since the age of seventeen years and five months, had had lunar manifestations of menstruation. Each attack was accompanied by pains in the back and hypogastric region, febrile disturbance, and a sanguineous discharge from the urethra, which resembled in color, consistency, etc., the menstrual flux. King relates that while attending a course of medical lectures at the University of Louisiana he formed the acquaintance of a young student who possessed the normal male generative organs, but in whom the simulated function of menstruation was periodically performed. The cause was inexplicable, and the unfortunate victim was the subject of deep chagrin, and was afflicted with melancholia. He had menstruated for three years in this manner: a fluid exuded from the sebaceous glands of the deep fossa behind the corona glandis; this fluid was of the same appearance as the menstrual flux. The quantity was from one to two ounces, and the discharge lasted from three to six days. At this time the student was twenty-two years of age, of a lymphatic temperament, not particularly lustful, and was never the victim of any venereal disease. The author gives no account of the after-life of this man, his whereabouts being, unfortunately, unknown or omitted.

Poor melancholy man.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 2, 2016

Today’s Shocking Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Today we continue the story of the Northern Michigan Asylum (also known as Traverse State Hospital), which between 1885 and 1920 followed “the moral treatments” of kindness, exposure to beauty, and voluntary work as espoused by Dr. James Decker Munson, the first superintendent. Alas, the beauty and kindness didn’t last…

By 1918 the quiet life and moral treatments inside the asylum were slowly slipping away. Worn and soiled rugs were no longer replaced, and wall hangings, houseplants, and small tables were eventually destroyed by patients. The plaster walls of the wards that were once decorated with phrases of encouragement such as “Kindness keeps friends” and “After Clouds, Sunshine,” were painted over with layer upon layer of institutional lead paint. In the 1920s, new patient therapies began to take the place of moral treatments. These well-intentioned therapies were uncomfortable at their best and deadly at their worst. Bizarre by today’s standards, therapies implemented over the years at the Northern Michigan Asylum included drinking a tonic made of “proto-iodide of mercury and the fluid extract of cocoa.” In other treatments, consuming various amounts of valerian root, belladonna, borax, arsenic, opium, and morphine were reported to be helpful in the treatment of “insanity.” One gentler treatment – hydrotherapy – involved long baths in deep, warm water, but most therapies were not so benign. One of these was “fever inducement,” a short-lived treatment for syphilitic insanity used between 1935 and 1940. It involved a patient being heated inside a metal cabinet until a fever was induced. Other temperature-related treatments included wrapping ice-filled tubes around a patient’s head, and “neutral pack” – a treatment in which a patient was wrapped like a mummy and dipped into cold water.

Treatments became more invasive in the 1940s and 1950s when doctors used therapies such as induced insulin shock, induced metrazol shock, lobotomies, and the most feared, yet widely used treatment, electroshock therapy. By March 26, 1947, more than thirty thousand electroshock treatments had been administered at the Traverse City State Hospital. Induced insulin shock was a particularly unusual treatment because it produced miraculous results that, sadly, were only temporary. To induce insulin shock, a doctor would inject a patient with insulin until the patient went into shock. During this procedure a nurse would always be near with a hypodermic needle full of adrenaline in case the patient’s heart stopped. Once the patient was in shock, the doctor would inject glucose, and as the patient was coming out of shock he or she would experience a few moments of complete lucidity – complete “sanity.” Nurses recall how amazing this transformation was to observe, even though it was painful to watch their patients, after a short time, slowly slip back to their previous state of mental illness. By the 1950s nearly all of these “therapies” were replaced – except electroshock, which was used into the 1970s – with psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin, Thorazine, and Serpasil.

Insulin Therapy.  What could go wrong?

With the success and gradual increase of drug therapies, more patients in the hospital improved or cured. This exodus, combined with accusations of civil rights violations and severe cuts in state funding, caused the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital to close in 1989, despite bitter resistance from employees, patients, and local residents. In the months and years following the hospital’s closing, many former patients with continuing mental health problems were found to be homeless, in the jail system, or in inadequate and unaffordable private care. Groundskeepers encountered former patients revisiting the abandoned institution and attempting to enter the buildings again, not as vandals, but as people who missed the only place many of them had called “home”.

Culled from: Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum


Kirkbride Buildings

If you’re an enthusiast of the beautiful old Kirkbride Asylums, you might want to check outKirkbride Buildings.  They are a dying breed, sadly.

Kirkbride Buildings

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 30, 2016

Today’s Idyllic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Northern Michigan Asylum (also known as Traverse State Hospital) opened its doors in 1885 and by the time it closed in 1989, it had affected 50,000 patients, approximately 20,000 employees, and more than 250,000 visitors. Throughout the century the asylum and its inhabitants witnessed hardships as well as tremendous societal and medical changes. The Northern Michigan Asylum withstood and even thrived during the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Overcrowded wards were exposed to deadly epidemics and diseases such as typhoid, smallpox, diphtheria, influenza, syphilis, tuberculosis, polio, and epilepsy. Between 1885 and 1989, approximately 14,000 patients died due to these and many other illnesses that are now treatable and even curable.

The gorgeous old asylum…

During the asylum’s one hundred years, doctors used many well-meaning but mostly ineffective and often cruel therapies for patients. Psychotropic drugs were not invented until the 1950s, which means that patients in the early years of the asylum were offered no curative drug treatments. Opium and morphine were the only drugs available, and they were used in small amounts primarily as sedatives for agitated patients. Between 1885 and 1920, “the moral treatments” of kindness, exposure to beauty, and voluntary work were considered the primary therapy for all patients. Restraints were strictly forbidden, and sincere attempts were made to incorporate every comfort and pleasantry into asylum life, with the purpose of inducing patients’ recovery. There were pianos or organs on every floor, nightly sing-alongs in the dayrooms, and well-used fireplaces in the cottages. Freshly cut flowers, provided by the asylum greenhouses, were supplied to the wards year-round. Therapeutic patient treatments included going to picnics, local fairs, and circuses, and playing shuffleboard or croquet on the asylum lawns. Though they may sound idealized, these kindnesses were carefully planned treatments based on the Kirkbride plan and the “moral treatments” dutifully implemented by Dr. James Decker Munson, the first superintendent of the Northern Michigan Asylum. Munson believed that voluntary work would benefit the patients by giving them a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Patients engaged in work ranging from building furniture and fruit canning to farming and flower-growing.

Culled from: Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum

I tell ya, THOSE were the days!  Being insane sounds like a non-stop vacation.  I could definitely live out my days like that.  But if you sense that life at the ol’ asylum is going to take on a much darker tone in tomorrow’s MFDJ – you’re psychic!


Traverse Today

Unlike many old Kirkbride buildings which have been demolished, Traverse Hospital is one of the poster children for redevelopment.  Obviously, I wish I’d gotten to see it before it was redeveloped, but it’s great to know that it’s going to be around in the future.  There are historic tours too that take you into the creepy tunnels beneath the complex – maybe I’ll get up there to take one this summer?

The Village at Grand Traverse Commons

Morbid Fact Du Jour For April 26, 2016

Today’s Territorial Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

This chair was present in almost all 19th century American psychiatric hospitals. It had a number of names. Some referred to it as the “strong chair,” while others called it the “neuropsychiatric hospital chair,” and there were those who called it the “NP chair.” It was this type of chair that replaced the bench arrangement already commonly in use at mental hospitals. Some of the chairs had solid bottoms while others had slats or holes for the incontinent. These chairs, constructed of heavy wood, were used for all throughout the hospital, including those patients who required some type of restraint. An obvious plus of a heavy chair was that it could not be tossed a great distance, and it was not easily broken. Chronic patients tended to be territorial, compelled in some unknown way to “control” some space in the ward. It was common for a patient to consider a specific NP chair as his or her personal domain. On returning from a meal, for example, each patient went back to the chair he or she had occupied before the brief absence. Anyone occupying that chair and not giving it up immediately was likely to be challenged. Fights started over such matters on many occasions. These chairs, with patients sitting in them, would line the walls. There was a day when it was considered a good ward if patients would line the walls in their NP chairs and not cause too much disturbance – or, as they say, “not rock the boat.”

Culled from: America’s Care of the Mentally Ill: A Photographic History


Comic Du Jour!

Here’s a morbid little excerpt from The Big Book Of Losers.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 24, 2016

Okay, I admit today’s MFDJ is too long but I found it all so fascinating that I just kept going and going and this is where I stopped. So, I hope you can take the time to read it all and find it interesting too. And I will try to behave myself where length is concerned in the future!

Today’s Vitamin-Saturated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Today’s MFDJ continues yesterday’s fact and the story of the Dutch ship navigated by Willem Barentsz, which had a nasty encounter with a polar bear who was killed by the sailors. That particular journey was aborted and in 1596 Barenstz set out on another journey, determined to push further north this time. During this trip, Barenstz learned that polar bears can be just as dangerous dead as alive.

… This time Barentsz pushed too far. He reached the northern tip of Novaya Zemlya and rounded it at last, but as soon as he did so, an unseasonable freeze swept down from the Arctic. The cold stalked his ship southward along the coastline, and each day it became harder to shoulder out room between the floes. Pretty soon Barentsz found himself checkmated, marooned on a continent of ice.

For my fellow Americans who have no clue where Novaya Zemlya is!

Abandoning their floating coffin – the men could no doubt hear the ice expanding and splintering the ship beneath their feet – the crew staggered ashore to a peninsula on Novaya Zemlya to seek shelter. In their one piece of good luck, they discovered on this treeless island a cache of bleached-white driftwood logs. Naturally the ship’s carpenter up and died immediately, but with that wood and a few timbers salvaged from their ship, the dozen crewmen built a log cabin, about eight yards by twelve yards, complete with pine shingles, a porch, and front stairs. With more hope than irony, they called it Het Behouden Huys, the Saved House, and settled down to a grim winter.

Cold was the omnipresent danger, but the Arctic had plenty of other minions to harass the men. In November the sun disappeared for three months, and they grew stir-crazy in their dark, fetid cabin. Perversely, fires threatened them too: the crew almost suffocated from carbon monoxide poisoning one night because of poor ventilation. They managed to shoot some white foxes for fur and meat, but the critters constantly nipped at their food supplies. Even laundry became a black comedy. The men had to stick their clothes almost into their fires to get enough heat to dry them. But the garments could be singed and smoking on one side, and the far side would still be brittle with ice.

For sheer day-to-day terror, however, nothing matched the run-ins with polar bears. One of Barentsz’s men, Garrit de Veer, recorded in his diary of the voyage that the bears practically laid siege to Het Behouden Huys, raiding with military precision the barrels of beef, bacon, ham, and fish stacked outside. One bear, smelling a meal on the hearth one night, crept up with such stealth that it had padded up the back stairs and crossed the back door’s threshold before anyone noticed. Only a lucky musket shot (which passed through the bear and startled it) prevented a massacre in the tiny quarters.

Fed up, half-insane, lusty for revenge, the sailors charged outdoors and followed the blood in the snow until they tracked down and killed the invader. When two more bears attacked over the next two days, the sailors again cut them down. Suddenly in high spirits and hungry for fresh meat, the men decided to feast on the bears, stuffing themselves with anything edible. They gnawed the cartilage off bones and sucked the marrow out, and cooked up all the fleshy victuals – the heart, kidneys, brain, and, most succulent of all, the liver. And with that meal, in a godforsaken cabin at eighty degrees north latitude, European explorers first learned a hard lesson about genetics – a lesson other stubborn Arctic explorers would have to keep learning over and over, a lesson scientists would not understand fully for centuries. Because while polar bear liver may look the same purplish red as any mammal’s liver and smell of the same raw ripeness and jiggle the same way on the tines of a fork, there’s one big difference: on the molecular level, polar bear liver is super-saturated with vitamin A.

Vitamin A stimulates growth and helps convert immature cells into full-fledged bone or muscle or whatever at a fast clip. Vitamin A is especially potent in the various layers of skin. In adults, for instance, vitamin A forces certain skin cells to crawl upward from inside the body to the surface, where they die and become the protective outer layer of skin. High doses of vitamin A can also damage skin through “programmed cell death.” This genetic program, a sort of forced suicide, helps the body eliminate sickly cells, so it’s not always bad. But for unknown reasons, vitamin A also seems to hijack the system in certain skin cells – as Barentsz’s men discovered the hard way.

After the crew tucked into their polar bear stew, rich with burgundy liver chunks, they became more ill than they ever had in their lives. It was a sweaty, fervid, dizzying, bowels-in-a-vice sickness, a real biblical bitch of a plague. In his delirium, the diarist Garrit de Veer remembered the female bear he’d helped butcher, and moaned, “Her death did vs [sic] more hurt than her life.” Even more distressing, a few days later de Veer realized that many men’s skin had begun to peel near their lips or mouths, whatever body parts had touched the liver. De Veer noted with panic that three men fell especially “sicke,” and “we verily though that we should haue [sic] lost them, for all their skin came of[f] from the foote to the head.”

Only in the mid-twentieth century did scientists determine why polar bear livers contain such astronomical amounts of vitamin A. Polar bears survive mostly by preying on ringed and bearded seals, and these seals raise their young in about the most demanding environment possible, with the 35°F Arctic seas wicking away their body heat relentlessly. Vitamin A enables the seals to survive in this cold: it works like a growth hormone, stimulating cells and allowing seal pups to add thick layers of skin and blubber, and do so quickly. To this end, seal mothers store up whole crates of vitamin A in their livers and draw on this store the whole time they’re nursing, to make sure pups ingest enough.

Polar bears also need lots of vitamin A to pack on blubber. But even more important, their bodies tolerate toxic levels of vitamin A because they couldn’t eat seals – about the only food source in the Arctic – otherwise. One law of ecology says that poisons accumulate as you move up a food chain, and carnivores at the top ingest the most concentrated doses.


We hominids have been learning and relearning this same hard lesson about eating carnivore livers for an awfully long time. After polar bears arose, Eskimos, Siberians, and other northern tribes learned to shun polar bear livers, but European explorers had no such wisdom when they stormed into the Arctic. Many in fact regarded the prohibition on eating livers as “vulgar prejudice.” As late as 1900 the English explorer Reginald Koettlitz relished the prospect of digging into polar bear liver, but he quickly discovered that there’s sometimes wisdom in taboos. Over a few hours, Koettlitz felt pressure building up inside his skull, until his whole head felt crushed from the inside. Vertigo overtook him, and he vomited repeatedly. Most cruelly, he couldn’t sleep it off; lying down made things worse. Another explorer around that time, Dr. Jens Lindhard, fed polar bear liver to nineteen men under his care as an experiment. All became wretchedly ill, so much so that some showed signs of insanity.

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

Nice doctor, huh? “Let’s see what happens if I feed these guys polar bear liver…  Hmmmm, verrrry interesting!”


Scientist Du Jour!

It’s a rare scientist who documents his own death for science, but that’s what Karl P. Schmidt did in 1957. Respect!  (Thanks to Eleanor for the link.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 22, 2016

Today’s Rauenous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1595, lords in four Dutch cities filled seven ships with linens, cloths, and tapestries and sent navigator Willem Barentsz on a journey to Asia. Haggling delayed the departure until midsummer. and once asea, the captains of the vessels overruled Barentsz and took a more southerly course than he wished. They did so partly because Barentsz’s northerly route seemed mad, and partly because, beyond reaching China, the Dutch seamen were fired by rumors of a remote island whose shores were studded with diamonds. Sure enough, the crew found the island and landed straightaway.

Sailors had been stuffing their pockets with the transparent gems for a number of minutes when, as an old English account had it, “a great leane white beare came sodainly stealing out” and wrapped his paw around one sailor’s neck. The polar bear, “falling upon the man, bit his head in sunder, and suckt out his blood.”

This encounter opened a centuries-long war between explorers and this “cruell, fierce, and rauenous beast.” Polar bears certainly deserved their reputations as mean SOBs. They picked off and devoured any stragglers wherever sailors landed, and they withstood staggering amounts of punishment. Sailors could bury an ax in a bear’s back or pump six bullets into its flank – and often, in its rampage, this just made the bear madder. Then again, polar bears had plenty of grievances , too.  As one historian notes, “Early explorers seemed to regard it as their duty to kill polar bears,” and they piled up carcasses like buffalo hunters later would on the Great Plains. Some explorers deliberately maimed bears to keep as pets and paraded them around in rope nooses. One such bear, hauled aboard a small ship, snapped free from its restraints and, after slapping the sailors about, mutinied and took over the ship. In the bear’s fury, though, its noose got tangled in the rudder, and it exhausted itself trying to get free. The “brave” men retook the ship and butchered the bear.

During the encounter with Barentsz’s crew, the bear managed to murder a second sailor, and probably would have kept hunting had reinforcements not arrived from the main sip. A sharpshooter put a bullet clean between the bear’s eyes, but the bear shook it off and refused to stop snacking. Other men charged and attacked with swords, but their blades snapped on its head and hide. Finally someone clubbed the beat in the snout and stunned it, enabling another person to slit its throat ear to ear. By this time both sailors had expired, of course, and the rescue squad could do nothing but skin the bear and abandon the corpses.

Stay tuned for Episode Two: The Bear Strikes Back!

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


Morbid Art Du Jour!

They’ve uncovered the most fantastic mosaic in Turkey. I simply MUST have one installed in The Castle DeSpair forthwith!

2,400 year-old mosaic found in southern Turkey says ‘be cheerful, enjoy your life’

Morbid Fact Du Jour For April 21, 2016

As I’d feared, I ended up being unable to send the facts during my long vacation, so that’s the reason for the lull.  I’m back at The Castle DeSpair now and ready to get back to making your lives intolerable on a daily basis!

Today’s Fiendish Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Apprehended for allegedly killing his white employer, Luther Holbert and his wife found themselves subjected to mob justice in Doddsville, Mississippi, in 1904. Some one thousand people stood and watched as the self-appointed executioners went about their business, engaging in the increasingly familiar ritual of torture, mutilation, and murder. A reporter for the Vicksburg Evening Post described the execution of the Holberts.

When the two Negroes were captured, they were tied to trees and while the funeral pyres  were being prepared they were forced to suffer the most fiendish tortures. The blacks were forced to hold out their hands while one finger at a time was chopped off. The fingers were distributed as souvenirs. The ears of the murderers were cut off. Holbert was beaten severely, his skull was fractured and one of his eyes, knocked out with a stick, hung by a shred from the socket… The most excruciating form of punishment consisted in the use of a large corkscrew in the hands of some of the mob. This instrument was bored into the flesh of the man and woman, in the arms, legs and body, and then pulled out, the spirals tearing out big pieces of raw, quivering flesh every time it was withdrawn.

Holbert and his employer had quarreled before the murder, but there was no evidence to implicate Holbert’s wife. Two blacks, mistaken for Luther Holbert, had already been slain by a posse.

Culled from: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America


The Perils of Self-Pollution

Here’s an illuminating excerpt from What A Young Boy Ought To Know (1897) by Sylvanus Stall. The chapter is entitled, “God’s Purpose in Giving Us Hands”.  I think you know where this is going…

MY DEAR FRIEND HARRY: When God gave man hands, He also gave him intelligence, a moral sense, and a conscience that he might use them aright. With his hands God meant that man should lift himself up infinitely above the animals, but some men, and we are sorry to say boys, too, use their hands so as to debase themselves below the level of the most degraded brute. Instead of using their hands as intelligent and moral beings should do, they use their hands so as to pollute their bodies, by handling and toying with their sexual member in such a way as to produce a sensation, or feeling, which may give a momentary pleasure, but which results in the most serious of injuries to the moral, intellectual, and physical powers. God did not give us a sexual member or organ to be used in this way, and such a use of it is called self-pollution or masturbation.

Man is the only animal except one whose sexual organ is exposed on the outside of his body, and the only animal to whom self-pollution is mechanically or physically possible. [I have known some pets who would disagree with this. – DeSpair] The rare instances which are in conflict with this statement are accidental and altogether exceptional. In the care and use of the sexual member God has reposed the greatest trust in man’s intelligence and moral sense. Upon no other animal has God placed such confidence and responsibilities as upon man. But because of the wickedness of the human heart, the temptations of Satan, and sometimes also because of ignorance upon this important subject, even young boys begin to go wrong, and with no one to instruct and warn them, they pursue evil habits which result in great injury, and if the practice is not stopped the individual is plunged into greater vice and degradation.

I wish that I might say to you, Harry, that but very few boys have ever known anything of this vice, but I do not believe that such a statement would be true. I can say, however, that many pure-minded and innocent boys have learned the habit in very innocent ways, and in the beginning to even mistrusting that the habit was either wicked or injurious. Many boys at a very early age have discovered the sensation by sliding down the banisters, or at a little later period in life by climbing and descending trees, by riding on horse-back, and some because of uncleanness of the sexual member have experienced an itching of these parts, and when relief has been sought by chafing or rubbing, the child has been introduced to the habit of self-pollution. Sometimes by constipation of the bowels, or in simply language, a failure to go regularly each morning and pass from the lower portion of the body the worn out and waste matter which has accumulated in the intestines, and this neglect, when often repeated or long continued, results in producing what is called constipation, which often proves very injurious, and, for causes that I need not now stop to explain, produces a tendency to local sensitiveness and leads to self-pollution.

A similar, or even greater sensitiveness of the sexual member is sometimes produced by pin-worms in the rectum, or lowest part of the intestines. But I am sorry also to say that masturbation is sometimes even taught by one boy to another, and during the infancy of children, even nurses, sometimes, in ignorance of the terrible evil and sad consequences of their act, practice this destructive habit upon very young children for the purpose of diverting their thoughts, so that they will not cry, or in order that they may be quieted and fall asleep. It is terrible to think that intelligent people could do such things but on account of the prevalence of these practices it is necessary that we should understand the danger to which children are exposed so that we may be properly upon our guard against the temptations from without and, by the aid or our intelligence, be saved from the terrible consequences which are visited upon many because of the evil practices which they begin in their ignorance.

I trust, my dear boy, that you may be saved form and all other forms of vice.