Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 20, 2018

Today’s Rotting Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Perhaps the most absurd psychological delusion – in the Sartre/Camus/existentialist sense of absurd – is Cotard Syndrome, in which victims insist, absolutely swear, that they’ve died. Also known as walking dead syndrome, it usually strikes older women, and often emerges after an accident: they’re convinced that their suicide attempts succeeded, or that they died in the car wrecks that sent them to the hospital. The seemingly blatant fact that they’re sitting there, telling you all this, doesn’t impinge; these are people who can hear Descartes’s cogito ergo sum and say, Not so fast.  Some even claim they can smell their own rotten flesh; a few have tried to cremate themselves. And in some cases, their delusions plumb the very depths of nihilism. As the first doctor to describe the syndrome, Jules Cotard, said: “You ask them their name? They don’t have a name. Their age. They don’t have an age. Where they were born? They were never born.” Neurologists disagree about the explanation for Cotard, although most feel, as with Capgras syndrome (where the afflicted individual is certain that a loved one has been replaced by an imposter), that two parts of the brain must be malfunctioning simultaneously. One theory interprets Cotard as Capgras turned inward: people feel no “glow” about themselves, and that deadness convinces them that they have in fact died, logic be damned. 

Jules Cotard

Culled from: The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons


A Beautiful Poem

I stumbled across this lovely poem while perusing the January 16, 1917 issue of the Chicago Daybook newspaper.  

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 19, 2018

Today’s Overturned Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1959, Eric Fleming found success on the television show Rawhide as cattle-trail boss Gil Favor, with Clint Eastwood as his right-hand man, Rowdy Yates. After seven years on the program, Fleming tired of the role and chose to retire to a ranch in Hawaii that he had purchased with his earnings. He quit the program after the 1964-65 season, with Eastwood taking over as trail boss.

Instead of following through right away with his relocation plans, Eric remained in Los Angeles for a movie role (The Glass Bottom Boat with Doris Day, 1966). Then he was a guest on two episodes of Bonanza. Next, ABC persuaded him to tackle the lead in a projected adventure series, High Jungle. He joined the cast members on location in Peru where they were filming scenes in the headwaters of the Amazon River. On September 28, 1966, the cast and crew were in a remote jungle region three hundred miles northeast of Lima. Fleming and the Peruvian actor Nico Minardos were being filmed in a canoe on the Haullaga River when the craft suddenly overturned. Minardos managed to swim to safety, but Fleming was swept away by the strong current. His remains – there were piranha fish in the area – were not found until October 3.

Eric Fleming prepares for his final ride.

Culled from: The Hollywood Book of Death

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 18, 2018

Today’s Failing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On May 27, 1955, William McCandless and Wayne Wolfe were driving a loaded Mayflower moving van loaded with furniture through the hilly streets of San Francisco. As they started down the steep Nob Hill on the edge of Chinatown, the huge truck’s brakes failed, and the truck was soon careening out of control.

Wayne Wolfe tried to pull the emergency brake but was unfamiliar with this particular truck and couldn’t find it. McCandless pulled a hand brake, which only controlled the trailer’s brakes. The truck roared on, with the trailer “lashing behind it like the tail of a dragon.” After two blocks, McCandless ordered Wolfe to jump from the truck, which he did. Witnesses assumed McCandless would escape too, but incredibly, he slammed the door shut and stayed behind the wheel, fighting to keep his truck in the middle of the narrow street. He continually pounded on his horn, but it too had failed.

The Valiant Mr. McCandless.

The truck was estimated to be going between 80 and 100 miles per hour as it neared the end of its five-and-a-half block run. Light poles were snapped, cars were crushed, and pedestrians were mowed down or crushed by the other wrecked vehicles. Finally the truck plowed into a storefront, overturned and burst into flames that reached as high as the rooftops.

The trail of destruction.

Six people on the ground were killed and many more were injured. McCandless, 50, from Davenport, Iowa, was also killed, trapped in his burning cab. In the last seconds of his life, he was still desperately trying to bring the truck to a stop and avoid the unavoidable.

Culled from Gendisasters
 Submitted by: Aimee
I have it on good authority that the failing-brakes scenario is the ultimate nightmare of anybody who has ever driven a big rig. And to have his horn fail too must have made McCandless’s situation even more terrifying. – Aimee


Short Story Recommendation

Here’s a short story recommendation from David:

“For fans of the macabre, I recommend Jack London’s short story ‘Moon Face’ (1906), in which the narrator uses a trained dog to blow up a neighbor. It’s probably the first work of fiction (or nonfiction) to feature an exploding dog, and I found its portrait of a deranged mind to be reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ (which, for better or for worse, did not feature an exploding dog). It’s available online.”

Moon Face

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 17, 2018

Today’s Dark, Cold, Smelly Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In this story from Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI, our hero Dana gets herself in a difficult position:
“Sooooo, Dana.” Chittenden was peeking around the body. “Just how new are you?” I didn’t want to answer him. “How long have you been with us?” I was silent. “C’mon! Tell us!”
“I’ve been with the department for six whole months.” I was working quickly so that I’d be finished by the time the Medical Examiner arrived.
“How long have you been processing scenes all by yourself?” The tone in Chittenden’s voice sounded suspicious. I didn’t want either of them to know how new I was for fear they’d think I didn’t know what I was doing. He asked again.
“Four days. I was cut loose four days ago.”
“Are you serious?” Chittenden sounded surprised, which  made me feel better. “Is this your first body flying solo?”
I didn’t answer.
“It is, isn’t it?” Chittenden and Caret high-fived each other. “Your first body done solo is with us. We’re honored!”
“Is this your first hanging?” I poked my head around the body and just smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
“You haven’t had one, have you?” They snickered for a minute and then retreated back into the hallway.
I continued about my business taking photos, recording notes, and make a rough sketch. Not long after, the forensic investigator arrived at the scene. I heard Caret and Chittenden talking to him before he entered the apartment. They were all laughing about something.
A few moments later they appeared in the doorway. The forensic investigator was an older heavyset guy with a Fu Manchu mustache. “So, this is your first hanging, eh?”
I shot Chittenden and Caret a look.  “They seem to think so.”
The forensic investigator snapped a few pictures and gathered some information before turning to me. “Why don’t you glove up and hold onto him while I cut him down.” He flipped over the chair that was lying next to the body and climbed on top as I wrapped my arms around the dead guy’s waist. I didn’t like it one bit and he really was beginning to stink, but I wanted to prove that I wasn’t afraid or squeamish and I could do this job.
He cut the leash and I went down faster than the Titanic.
Everything was dark and cold and smelly and I couldn’t move. I felt something wet on my neck. Oh my God, No! Please tell me I’m not pinned under the body!!  I managed to get an arm free and reached up only to feel the wife beater. My worst fears were confirmed! I screamed and kicked. The dead guy was on top of me and was drooling down my neck! I heard the three pranksters somewhere nearby, “Get him off! Get this guy off me!”
I couldn’t get the corpse to budge but managed to cock my head to the side and free it from the dead guy’s furry armpit. “Get him off me now!” My voice resonated throughout the apartment stairwell and I was certain even the junkie in the grass could hear me. The neighbors had to be wondering what the tell was going on. In what seemed like an eternity but was probably only six seconds, the forensic investigator, Chittenden, and Caret rolled the body off me and helped me to my feet.
I ran for the sink and started scrubbing with dish soap.  I had a big wet spot on my shoulder from the dead guys’ dripping mouth and I smelled sour, like an old sock. I was disgusted. That had to have been the grossest thing that could ever happen to me and the smell of my shirt made me dry heave. I scrubbed and scrubbed and heaved again.
They all stood nearby, watching, not quite sure what to say. Finally, Chittenden spoke.  “We’re sorry, Dana, really.” I was silent. “We never thought you’d fall down. We just wanted you to get a good jolt, that’s all.” I didn’t utter a word. “We never intended for you to get trapped under him.”
When I was as clean as I could get, the three misfits scurried about, eagerly helping me gather my equipment. On the way back to the van, all I had to carry was my clipboard. It was their pitiful attempt to make amends. I didn’t say a word.
I sat in my van packaging evidence, trying to decide just how angry I really was. I became infuriated when Caret drove away without offering a final apology, but he returned a few minutes later with Slurpees. He handed me a red one. “Here, on us.”
“On us?” I pointed to the 7-11 logo on the cup. “Nice try. How ‘bout on Seven-Eleven?” I sucked it down until I had a brain freeze. “Thanks.”
I saw the same forensic investigator on a hanging the following week. I told him, ‘Mama didn’t raise no fool, ‘ as I reached for my knife and cut through the rope. This time he held the body.

Culled from: Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI


Garretdom: Dangerous Blacksmith

October 3, 1886

A Young Jerseyman Murdered.

NEW YORK, Oct. 3.—Brazilla Vanderveer, aged twenty-six years, a native of Red Bank, N.J., but lately living in this city, was brutally murdered to-day by John Hughes, known as the “Dangerous Blacksmith.” Hughes and some friends went into an oyster saloon to get some chowder. Young Vanderveer went into the place and sad down to eat. The roughs refused to pay for their meal and assaulted the cashier, who grappled with his assailant. The cashier was a little man and Vanderveer went to his assistance. Hughes struck him a terrible blow on the forehead, felling him to the floor. Vanderveer was picked up and a physician called. Before he arrived the young man was dead. His skull had been fractured by the blow. Hughes escaped. A general alarm was sent out to all the precincts.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1886 Morbid Scrapbook


Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 16, 2018

Today’s Treasonous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Tiberius became Roman emperor in AD 14 at the age of 56. At first Tiberius seemed a model ruler, sometimes stern but always fair. This semblance of honor cloaked his debauched private life in which he had sex with women, men, boys, and girls. He was also something of a sadist. If boys spoke out against the sodomy inflicted upon them he had their legs broken.

I would imagine Tiberius killed the sculptor for making his nose so authentic.

His closet adviser was Sejanus, a clever man who safeguarded his own position by undermining the status of others. Sejanus planted, in Tiberius’ mind, the seeds of doubt about the loyalty of eminent figures of the day. A series of denunciations resulted in the deaths of entire families. In some cases children were compelled to kill their parents before being murdered themselves.

Bolstered by his success, Sejanus set-up the arrest and death of Tiberius’ adopted son  and likely successor, Germanicus. After his other son was poisoned, Tiberius was persuaded by Sejanus to move away from Rome and the adviser was Emperor of Rome in all but name.

Sejanus, plotting his next move.

Tiberius was probably insane by this stage – but lucid enough to spot the maneuverings of his lieutenant. From his hideaway he sent a letter condemning the activities of Sejanus to the Senate. On the day it was read aloud to the politicians Sejanus was carted off to jail and strangled. His body was dragged through the streets and left to rot. His skull was later taken to a public baths and used for ball games.

Characteristically, the bloodshed didn’t end there. Livilla, a mistress of Sejanus, was locked in a room by her own mother and starved to death. His children were slaughtered. The slightest whiff of treason was now enough to spark a wave of killing. A paranoid Tiberius ruled for another five years unchallenged. 

Culled from: The History of Punishment and Torture


Arcane Excerpts: Illustrative Case Edition

From his 1908 (reprinted in 1949) book Mental Deficiency, here’s a case study of “Idiocy” from A.F. Tredgold:

E.J. female, aged thirty-two years.  A pronounced history of insanity and epilepsy on the maternal, and alcoholism on the paternal side. Has been in the mental hospital since seven years of age. A repulsive-looking woman, with a muddy, freckled face, coarse red hair, and numerous stigmata; cranial circumference, 21 inches. She can walk, but spends the day sitting in a chair turning her head from side to side, rocking herself to and fro, and biting her hands. She is of unclean habits and unable to do anything for herself. She is quite deaf in the right ear, but listens attentively to the ticking of a watch held close to her left one. She seems to have no knowledge of time or place, and no understanding of anything said to her. But when the piano is played, she at once ceases  her rhythmic movements and listen attentively. She cannot speak, but she will hum the tunes she has heard so accurately that they are readily recognized. As a rule she is harmless, but upon any attempt at examination she makes violent resistance and tries to bite; she is spiteful at times and interferes with the other patients.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 15, 2018

Today’s Confessed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The following is an excerpt from the witch-hunting guidebook Malleus Maleficarum (1486) on how to perform the first stage of torture upon the suspected witch, called the ‘preparatory question’:

First, the gaolers prepare the implements, then they strip the prisoner (if it be a woman, she has already been stripped by other women, upright and of good repute). This stripping is lest some means of witchcraft may have been sewn  into the clothing – such as often, taught by the Devil, they prepare from the bodies of unbaptized infants, that they may forfeit salvation.

And when the implements of torture have been prepared, the judge, both in person and through other good men, zealous in the faith, tries to persuade the prisoner to confess the truth freely; but, if he will not confess, he bids the attendants prepare the prisoner for the strappado or other torture. The attendants obey forthwith, yet with feigned agitation. Then, at the prayer of some of those present, the prisoner is loosed again, and is taken aside and once more begged to confess, being led to believe that he will in that case not be put to death…

But if, neither by threats nor by promises such as these, the witch cannot be induced to speak the truth, then the gaolers must carry out the sentence, and torture the prisoner according to the accepted methods, with more or less severity as the delinquent’s crime may demand.

However, the law allowed torture to be repeated only if new, unconfessed indications of guilt were expected, and so this preliminary stage was often considered not to be torture at all. Many court records contain the phrase ‘the prisoner confessed without torture’. In any case, the lawyers came up with the excuse that further torture was not a repetition, but merely a continuation of the inquiry, designed to make the confessed witch reveal the names of accomplices.For example, in 1597 Clara Geissler, a 69-year-old widow of Gelnhausen in Germany, withstood torture by the thumbscrews, but:

… when her feet were crushed and her body stretched out to greater length, she screamed piteously and said all was true that they demanded of her: she drank the blood of children whom she stole on her night flights, and she had murdered about 60 infants. She named 20 other women who had been with her at the sabbats, and said the wife of a late burgomaster presided over the flights and banquets.

When she was freed from the rack, Clara retracted her confession saying that she had reported rumors spread by other people. Nevertheless, the judges arrested those she had named, and duly tortured them. One woman confessed even worse crimes than Clara had accused her of, so the widow was submitted to torture once more, to force her to admit the truth. But on her release she again denied her confessions, and was put on the rack again. She was tortured ‘with the utmost severity’, and died from the agony: the inquiry concluded ‘the Devil would not let her reveal anything more, and so wrung her neck’.

Culled from: The History of Torture


Wretched Reviews: Beautiful Death

Beautiful Death: Art of the Cemetery
by David Robinson

This is a collection of photographs taken of monuments/headstones in European cemeteries.  That’s pretty much all it is.  There are no  explanations of the photos or information about the different cemeteries;  there is just a strange forward by Dean Koontz that talks about his deceased parents, and an afterword by the photographer, David Robinson, that talks about his discovery of Pere Lachaise, his photographic motivation, and a brief discussion of cemeteries and headstones and what it all means

The images themselves are nice but largely documentary in nature rather than artistic, so it would have been nice to have some information to go with them.  What it amounts to is just a bunch of photos of really cool monuments.  If that’s enough for you, then you’ll enjoy this book; however, if you want any sort of background information on what you’re seeing you, like me, will find it frustrating. 

2/5 – Beautiful but Empty

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 14, 2018

Today’s Contagious Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Between August and November 1873 Shreveport, Louisiana lost one-quarter of its population (or about 2,500 out of 10,000) to the third greatest epidemic of yellow fever to strike the United States. About half of these died and the other half fled, never to return. Almost all of the roughly 1,200 victims are buried at Oakland Cemetery, 759 of them in a mass grave called the yellow fever mound, in the cemetery’s southwestern quadrant. The number of victims in this mound may be lower than the true figure, since the number was calculated from newspaper accounts which were not completely accurate.

Marker from Oakland Cemetery.

The following is a circa 1935 account of the epidemic by Mrs. Geo. T. Martin, one of Shreveport’s pioneer citizens:
“It was in August of 1873 when the fever began to rage in Shreveport.  Some of
the families moved away temporarily but those of us who could not leave went
through the most horrible time that Shreveport has ever known.
“I was married on Saturday, Sept. 10, 1873.  On the following Monday my
husband was taken sick with the fever and I nursed him until Thursday
following, when I, too, went to bed with chills and fever.  There were at the
time about fifty people dying each day from this disease.  Dr. Dalzell, one of
the finest men our city has ever known, worked night and day among the sick
trying to check the death rate.  What we would have done without him and the
others who helped him, shall never be known.  Businessmen who could not leave
their work died by the score.  A newspaper clipping of one issue of the
Shreveport Times told of the heavy mortality in the business district.  The
business district was bounded by the levee, Crockett, Spring and Milam Streets
on one day, 12 men were listed as having been claimed by the fever.  Their
names were: Nathan Hoss, Willie Elstner, Jr., John Mundy, O.T. Collins, Henry
Prescott, James Hoss, Paph La Cossit (who married my foster sister), Chas. W.
Pomeroy, H.C. Silver, W. W. McCain, T.L. Walker, and a restaurant man.
“Graves were filled as fast as they could be dug.  All during the night horses
could be heard carrying the dead, and the moans and weeping of the bereaved
families swept over the town.  Girls who were well today were dead from the
terrible fever in a week’s time.  My husband was in the upper story of the
house where we were living at the time and I was downstairs.  ‘There were days
when I watched for them to carry up a casket for him, or maybe bring one to
me.  We were so sick, the plans had been made for our burial together.  As
fast as victims died, they were buried without much ceremony to ease the pain
of those left.  When entire families were swept out by the fever, their
clothes and everything in the house was burned.
“I shall never forget the day Whit McKeller died, I could hear him groaning
and crying out in his fever.  Nothing could be done to ease him.  He was in my
Aunt’s house at the time, and I ask Auntie often if he was dying.  She told me
that he was not, but I knew from her tone of voice that she did not mean it.
He died that day after he moaned and called out all day.  It was a fearful

Caring for the sick
“We lived on Spring Street at the time, and at night I could hear the distant
street car, with its strong horses pulling it, as it went down the street.
The fever continued well into the latter part of September and I remember how
joyful every surviving Shreveport was at the time to see cooler weather
approach.  My husband and I survived the sickness, but it was many months
before we were strong.  Nothing before or since has ever come to Shreveport to
leave such a trail of grief and suffering.”

Culled from: US Gen Web Archives and Oakland Cemetery
Generously submitted by: Jason Cole


Arcane Excerpts: Monsters

Here is another excerpt from Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s (of Corn Flakes fame) 1877 book,Plain Facts for Young and Old.


Monsters. — Defects and abnormalities in the development of the embryon [sic] produce all degrees of deviation from the typical human form. Excessive development may result in an extra finger or toe, or in the production of some peculiar excrescence. Deficiency of development may produce all degrees of abnormality from the simple harelip to the most frightful deficiency, as the absence of a limb, or even of a head. It is in this manner that those unfortunate individuals known as hermaphrodites are formed. An excessive development of some parts of the female generative organs gives them a great degree of similarity to the external organs of the male. A deficient development of the male organs renders them very similar in form to those of the female. Redundant development of the sexual organism sometimes results in the development of both kinds of organs in the same individual in a state more or less complete. Cases have occurred in which it has become necessary, for legal purposes, to decide respecting the sex of an individual suffering from defective development, and it has sometimes been exceedingly difficult to decide in a given case whether the individual was male or female

Such curious cases as the Carolina twins and Chang and Eng were formerly supposed to be the results of the union of two separate individuals. It is now believed that they are developed from a single ovum. It has been observed that the primitive trace… sometimes undergoes partial division longitudinally. If it splits a little at the anterior end, the individual will have a single body with two heads. If a partial division occurs at each end, the resulting being will possess two heads and two pairs of legs joined to a single body. More complete division produces a single trunk with two heads, two pairs of arms, and two pairs of legs, as in the case of the Caroline twins. Still more complete division may result in the formation of two perfect individuals almost entirely independent of each other, physiologically, but united by a narrow band, as in the remarkable Siamese twins, Chang and Eng.

In a curious case reported not a great while ago, a partially developed infant was amputated from the cheek of a child some time after birth.

The precise cause of these strange modifications of development is as yet, in great degree, a mystery.08

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 13, 2018

Today’s Brutal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On penal flagellation in 18th century England:

Perhaps one of the most brutal floggings on record was Jeffreys’ sentence of Tutchin to seven years’ imprisonment during which he was to be whipped every year through every Dorsetshire town, a sentence which, it was computed, “amounted to a whipping once a fortnight for seven years”. Then there was the whipping of Dangerfield all the way from Aldgate to Newgate, and with such ferocity that he succumbed some days later; there was the flogging of Titus Oates with a six-thonged whip, in accordance with another brutal sentence ordered by the aforementioned sadistic Judge Jeffreys, a flogging which was continued until the prisoner was unable to stand on his feet.

In certain instances, and especially as public feeling against the whipping of women began to be aroused, female floggings were inflicted in the confines of the prison or its grounds. Thus we find at Launceston, in 1792, a woman thief was ordered “to be stripped to the bare back, and privately whip’d until she be bloody”, where at the same time and in the same court, a male whipping was to take place “in the public street”. there was, however, no Government regulation respecting the corporal punishment of women taking place in private, this being left to the discretion of the local authorities concerned, and in many parts of the country publicly performed female floggings continued until the Act was passed which abolished the corporal punishment of woman altogether.

Culled from: The History of Corporal Punishment


The Library Eclectica: Wretched Review

Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand: Curious Adventures of a CSI
by Dana Kollmann

Lissa recommended this book for its crazy tales of disgusting crime scene moments, and it did not disappoint in that regard.  There are some disgusting doozies in here!  (I’ve shared one already and I’ll share another soon.)  However, as with most memoirs, there is also a lot of filler that isn’t that interesting to me.  The term “self-indulgent clap-trap” came to mind reading a few paragraphs.  However, considering that my expectations for memoirs are always rather low, and considering a few of the stories are *really* fascinating, it’s definitely worth a read.    


Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 12, 2018

Today’s Golden Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

At exactly 8:15:17 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb was released from the bomb bay of the Enola Gay as it passed over Hiroshima.  The following are some accounts from the ground:

As the clock ticked toward 8:15 nobody was too concerned about the approach of three American aircraft:

We were so used to observation flights of B-29s that at first we hardly paid any attention to this one. However, when the engine hum changed to a shrill whine we instinctively looked up at the sky. One B-29, bathed in the direct rays of the midsummer sun, gives off a dazzling gleam from its mighty flank, and leaving a fleecy white cloud-train across the blue sky, has just completed a sharp turn and goes climbing upward with a terrific roar.
(Tetsuo Miyata, teacher’s assistant)

Pilot Paul Tibbets had thrown the Enola Gay into its evasive maneuver:

I saw a single enemy airplane flying over Hiroshima. It dropped or fired a brilliant object. I thought at first it was an incendiary bomb… 
(Kure dockyard worker)

A flame appeared that was even brighter than the sun. I thought I might get hurt so I fell flat on the ground.
(Kure dockyard worker)

My little brother had just put out his hand to catch [a] red dragon-fly when, in that instant, there was a flash and with my whole body I received a shock as if I had been thrown into a furnace.   
(Shintaro Fukuhara, schoolboy)

As I was above to enter the office, I saw through an open window what looked like a golden lightning flash that had blown up out of the earth. The weird light was everywhere. I immediately thought of the air raid and hurled myself prostrate in the passage. 
(Kenshi Hirata, accountant)

Hiroshima victim.

The flash and the ‘weird golden light’ were accompanied by an instantaneous heat pulse:

Its duration was probably less than one tenth of a second and its intensity sufficient to cause nearby flammable objects… to burst into flame and to char poles as far as 4,000 yards away from the hypocenter… At 600-700 yards it was sufficient to chip and roughen granite… the heat also produced bubbling of tile to about 1,300 yards.   
(US Strategic Bombing Survey)

Witnesses say that people who were directly under the explosion in the open had their skin burnt so severely that it was immediately charred brown or black; these people died within minutes or at most hours. Both in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, burns on exposed skin were very severe up to about 1,500 yards from the center of the damage.  At this distance, some escaped with less severe burns, although very severe burns were occasionally reported at nearly 1 1/2 miles from the center of damage. Mild burns extended to distances of 2 1/2 miles and more. Stories that white people were unharmed in Hiroshima where the darker skinned Japanese received fatal burns were not substantiated.
(British Mission Report)

Within one mile of ground zero, the heat was sufficient to cause… ‘not only carbonization but also evaporation of the viscera’ in humans; in other words, the heat caused the soft internal organs of the victims simply to boil away, whilst their bones became brittle sticks of charcoal. Another grotesque effect of the heat flash was noted by the British mission to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in November 1945; this was that darker-colored clothing would char at much greater distances than light colors.  Examples of this included:

A white cotton blouse, the pale pink sleeves of which were pattered with small sprays, each about a 3/16 inch in diameter, of green leaves and red flowers. This blouse had been worn in the open well over a mile from the center of damage, and was unscorched; except that over an area on the left shoulder the sprays had burnt out and left holes.

This comparatively dispassionate account neglects to mention the corresponding damage to the skin beneath the blouse.

The US Strategic Bombing Survey noted that:

The large majority of people within 3000 feet of ground zero were killed immediately… Persons in the open were burned on exposed surfaces, and within 3000-5000 feet many were burned to death. In many instances clothing burst into flame and had to be beaten out.

Little Boy’s heat flash caused the instantaneous deaths of thousands of humans and mortal wounding to thousands more:

My little brother was burned on his face and hands and his face was all swollen. He was just three. He was a cute little brother but he died after a week. 
He died calling, ‘Mummy!  Mummy!’
(Ruriko Araoka, aged 5 in 1945)

And at the same time as the people were dying, pet dogs and cats, birds, snakes, spiders, rats and rabbits ‘crackled and were gone’. In many cases, they left behind strange shadows where their bodies had shielded the surface of roads and buildings from the charring effect of the flash. Those who were not destined to die from flash burns had, in many cases, the most appalling injuries from them nevertheless. Michihiko Hachiya:

asked Dr. Koyama what his finding had been in patients with eye injuries. ‘
Those who watched the plane had their eye grounds burned,’ he replied. ‘The flash of light apparently went through the pupils and left them with a blind area in the central portion of their visual fields. 
Most of the eye-ground burns are third degree, so cure is impossible.

Shadow person.

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


Arcane Excerpts

Here’s an illuminating excerpt from What A Young Boy Ought To Know (1897) by Sylvanus Stall. 

My dear friend Harry: No boy can toy with the exposed portions of his reproductive system without finally suffering very serious consequences. In the beginning it may seem to a boy a trifling matter, and yet from the very first his conscience will tell him that he is doing something that is very wrong. It is on this account that a boy who yields to such an evil temptation will seek a secluded, solitary place, and it is because of this fact that it is called “solitary vice.” Because the entire being of the one who indulges in this practice is debased and polluted by his own personal act it is also called “self-pollution.” It is also called “onanism,” because, for a similar offense, nearly four thousand years ago, God punished Onan with death (Genesis xxxviii, 3-10). This sin is also known by another name, and is called “masturbation,” a word which is made from two Latin words which mean “To pollute by the hand.” 

Each of these words tells something of the vile character of this sin. But words are scarcely capable of describing the dreadful consequences which are suffered by those who persist in this practice. I do not believe, my dear friend Harry, that you have become a victim of this destructive vice, and I would be glad to believe that you have never accidentally learned or have been deliberately taught to engage in it. Knowing, however, the dangers to which, like all boys, you are exposed, and also appreciating the fact that intellectual boys, because of a more highly wrought nervous organization and because of keener sensibilities, are much more liable to become addicted to this vice than boys of a lower grade of intellect and with less sensitive bodies, I regard it is important that you should be as intelligent and well informed upon this subject as upon any other. This is necessary so that, by knowing in advance the character and consequences of such a course, you may avoid the evil into which even men, as late in life as twenty-five and thirty years of age, sometimes fall because of ignorance. In this as in other things, “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” Every young boy should be properly informed upon this subject, for even those who may be safely guarded from defilement of thought and life from outward influences are nevertheless exposed to those inward physical conditions which may produce local irritation and disease, and where such a diseased condition is ignorantly permitted to continue, masturbation soon becomes a fixed habit, and is likely to be practiced with such violence that idiocy, and even death, may, and often does come speedily. Nothing so much favors the continuance and spread of this awful vice as ignorance, and only by being early and purely taught on this important subject can the coming boys and men be saved from the awful consequences which are ruining morally, mentally, and physically thousands of boys every year.

As I have already said, one of the first things which a boy does who undertakes to practice this vice is to seek solitude. From the very first his conscience disapproves, and so he cannot engage in the evil which he proposes to himself without violating his moral sense. Indeed, his moral nature is the first to suffer.  This, my dear boy, is an important fact, and if you were ever to fall a victim to this vice, you would find that even with the first sense of guilt there would come a spirit of rebellion against God and against your parents. You would soon begin to call into question the wisdom and goodness of God. Your pleasure in good books, in religious instruction, in the Sunday-school, the Bible, the Church, and all holy things would rapidly diminish. You would soon find in your heart a rebellious feeling which would lead you to be disobedient, cross, irritable, and reproachful. You would begin to lose faith in all that is good, and as you persisted in your sin, you would grow less and less like Jesus and more and more like Satan. In other words the moral nature is the first to suffer from sexual vice, and whenever you hear a boy or man boasting of his doubts and railing against God, against the Bible, against purity and virtue, you may rest assured that this feeling grows out of some solitary or social, some secret or open sin or vice which has affected his moral nature, and is degrading and debasing his heart.

If this effect upon the moral nature were the only result of this solitary vice, the consequences would be sufficient to turn any intelligent and thoughtful boy from the practice. But its effects upon the mind and body are also of the most serious nature, and of these I will speak to you tomorrow night.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 11, 2018

Today’s Crashing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Canadians Jim Haberl (born in 1958) and Dan Culver attempted K2 via the Abruzzi Ridge as part of a 1993 expedition led by American Stacy Allison. Haberl, Culver and American climber Phil Powers set out for the summit from Camp 4 at 8050 meters (about 26,000 feet). Conditions were perfect.  Here is an excerpt from the descent from the top as told by Jim:

It was 6:15 p.m. by the time I traversed the Bottleneck, only 300 meters above Camp 4. Dan was several minutes behind and I decided this was convenient as we could downclimb the Bottleneck separately. I continued facing out and very carefully began the descent of the gully. Occasionally, as the soft snow gave way and my crampons scraped on the rocks below, I instinctively fought to keep my balance. Fatigue and terrain combined and I had a few awkward stumbles in the Bottleneck, but slowly the worst of it was behind me.

Camp 4 was just below and, as in the morning, my crampons dug confidently into the hard surface. I began the traverse towards Camp 4 and glanced up to see that Dan was entering the Bottleneck. Summit day was almost over. Finally, I wanted to relax and enjoy our success.

The K2 Bottleneck

Seconds later my brain was brutally invaded by a loud, crashing noise, a noise which in an instant shattered the silence and the harmony of the day. I spun around to see Dan cartwheeling violently through the snow, rolling by me at high speed. I stared in horror. All I could see was Dan tumbling faster and faster, his blonde hair in the tangle of the fall. As he hit the hard snow below me his limp body began gaining momentum. Only a miracle would stop him. 

There was no miracle.

I watched Dan hit some small rocks 100 meters below then continue to fall down a broad chute gaining speed with every passing second. He disappeared from my sight. I wanted not to believe.

My throat seized up in a swell of emotion. Weakly I croaked for help. Camp 4 was only 200 meters away. I yelled for help again, hoping that someone would hear. Then I cried out for Dan and listened. Nothing. I followed the line of his fall and carefully picked my way down through the rocks. The marks in the hard snow became farther and farther apart, spans of more than thirty meters, as his body had bounded down the face. 


I found his hat.

My legs were tired and the steepening terrain of the South Face was the last place I wanted to be. I stopped on a ledge an started down the huge expanse of the mountain at my feet. There was no sign of Dan. Nothing. I yelled his name for what seemed the hundredth time. There was no response. I sat down on the ledge in disbelief. 

Dan was dead.

The salty taste of the tears rolling off my cheeks into my cracked lips brought me slowly back to the world of reality. I knew in my head that Dan was gone, yet my heart was yearning to refuse that logic. I was alone, sitting on a ledge just below 8000 meters and looking down the immense South Face of K2, wondering where Dan’s body would come to rest. I took no solace then, in the thin cold air, knowing that Dan’s spirit would remain with many of us forever. Thoughts like that were from another time. For me it was time to brave the descent of K2 without him.

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

Incidentally, Jim would suffer a similar fate six years later:

A well-known Canadian mountain climber and author has died in a climbing accident. Jim Haberl fell to his death when an avalanche swept him over a cliff .

Haberl, 41, of Whistler, British Columbia was climbing in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park with two friends on Thursday morning (April 29, 1999) when a huge slab of snow swept him over the side. He fell 400 metres and died of massive head injuries.


Fetal Skeletons Du Jour!

Skeleton: No 3 1985 Gwek Akin and Allan Ludwig

Cephalopthoracopagus monosymmetros (conjoined twins fused at head and thorax) delivered 1852; talipes calcaneovarus (fetal skeleton with clubfeet); and anencephalic skeleton wiht complete spina bifida (rudimentary brain development with congenital cleft of the vertebral column).

Culled from: Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia