Hiatus with a Cause

I regretfully announce that the Morbid Fact Du Jour will be on hiatus until November 3rd as the Comtesse works to put the finishing touches on the e-mail newsletter format. Stay tuned for an opt-in link here in the near future that you can use to sign-up to have the newsletter delivered by e-mail. You will also be able to access the newsletter here too, if you’d prefer it that way.

Thank you for your patience – it will be worth it. The newsletter format is much more interesting, since you always get at least 3 snippets of morbidity for the price of… well, nothing! It’s free, though I will be selling limited edition prints or other ephemera to try to fund raise the cost of running the newsletter. Anyway, look forward to it – it will be great!

However, I won’t leave you completely morbidity free. It’s the Halloween season, after all! Let’s count down the days by celebrating vintage creepiness du jour!

Depression-era Costumes.

Depression-era Costumes.


Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 8, 2014

Today’s Blasphemous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

There is at least one serial killer who added blasphemy to his staggering list of outrages.  After murdering his final victim – an eighty-eight-year-old grandmother named Kate Rich – Henry Lee Lucas carved an upside down cross between the old woman’s breast.  Then he raped her corpse.

Culled from: The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers

What a dick, huh?

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 7, 2014

Today’s Therapeutic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Mental therapy in the 18th century was not what we would call therapy today.  When an individual exhibited strange or disordered behavior, “treatment” included isolation, jailing, banishment, confinement, restraint, or beatings.  As time went on, such forms of treatment were “improved upon” to legitimatize their use.  For example, the Rush Chair was designed by Benjamin Rush to immobilize the patient and deprive him of the use of his senses.  After being secured in the chair and having a box placed over his head, the patient was incapable of any type of movement and unable to either see or hear.  This immobilization and sensory deprivation was thought to enable the patient to achieve an inner calm and therefore be restored to reason.  Similar logic was extended to dousings with cold water or dunkings into pools – again, the goal was to stimulate recovery.  Before the advent of organized treatment settings (and sometimes after), people considered to be insane were subjected to severe beatings.  It was believed that such beatings would restore these unfortunate people to their reason.  As explained in the History of the Flagellants, or the Advantages of Discipline (DeLiome 1777), flagellation was used throughout Christian tradition as a means of penance for sins committed, and by various religious orders as a way to draw closer to God.  During the Middle Ages and beyond, the use of beatings of the mentally ill stemmed from the premise that the source of the patient’s disorder was the presence of the devil.  It was assumed that these beatings would draw the person back to God and thus restore reason.

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

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 6, 2014

Today’s Ambushed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Mountain Meadows massacre was a series of attacks on the Baker–Fancher emigrant wagon train at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. The attacks culminated on September 11, 1857, with the mass slaughter of most in the emigrant party by members of the Utah Territorial Militia from the Iron County district, together with some Paiute Native Americans.

The wagon train—composed almost entirely of families from Arkansas—was bound for California on a route that passed through the Utah Territory during a conflict later known as the Utah War. After arriving in Salt Lake City, the Baker–Fancher party made their way south, eventually stopping to rest at Mountain Meadows. While the emigrants were camped at the meadow, nearby militia leaders, including Isaac C. Haight and John D. Lee, made plans to attack the wagon train.

Illustration from the August 13, 1859 issue of Harper's Weekly.

Illustration from the August 13, 1859 issue of Harper’s Weekly.

The militia, officially called the Nauvoo Legion, was composed of Utah’s Mormon settlers (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS Church). Intending to give the appearance of Native American aggression, their plan was to arm some Southern Paiute Native Americans and persuade them to join with a larger party of their own militiamen—disguised as Native Americans—in an attack. During the militia’s first assault on the wagon train, the emigrants fought back and a five-day siege ensued. Eventually fear spread among the militia’s leaders that some emigrants had caught sight of white men and had likely discovered the identity of their attackers. As a result militia commander William H. Dame ordered his forces to kill the emigrants.

By this time the emigrants were running low on water and provisions, and allowed some approaching members of the militia—who carried a white flag—to enter their camp. The militia members assured the emigrants their protection and escorted them from the hasty fortification. After walking a distance from the camp, the militiamen, with the help of auxiliary forces hiding nearby, attacked the emigrants. Intending to leave no witnesses and thus prevent reprisals, the perpetrators killed all the adults and older children (totaling about 120 men, women, and children). Seventeen children, all younger than seven, were spared.

Following the massacre, the perpetrators hastily buried the victims, leaving the bodies vulnerable to wild animals and the climate. Local families took in the surviving children, and many of the victims’ possessions were auctioned off. Investigations, temporarily interrupted by the American Civil War, resulted in nine indictments during 1874. Of the men indicted, only John D. Lee was tried in a court of law. After two trials in the Utah Territory, Lee was convicted by a jury, sentenced to death, and executed by Utah firing squad on March 23, 1877.

Today historians attribute the massacre to a combination of factors, including war hysteria about possible invasion of Mormon territory, and hyperbolic Mormon teachings against outsiders which were part of the excesses of the Mormon Reformation period. Scholars debate whether senior Mormon leadership, including Brigham Young, directly instigated the massacre or if responsibility lay with the local leaders in southern Utah.

Culled from: Wikipedia

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 5, 2014

Today’s Unusual Yet Truly Morbid Fact!


This unusual postmortem photograph documents a sad tale.  Because of the sensational story it is hard for us to acknowledge that this image was made as a typical memorial photograph, an image mean to hang in the home to memorialize loved ones.  Death by foul play did not preclude taking a postmortem memorial photograph.  Copies of this image were sent to relatives around the country.  On the back of the photograph, the story unfolds:

This is a Photograph of Carrie L. Parsons, wife and three children murdered by Joseph Hamilton about two miles east of Success, MO on Friday, October the 12, 1906.  Parsons had sold his crop to young Hamilton.  On the day of the murder Parsons loaded his Family and house-hold effects in his wagon and started for Miller Co, MO when about two miles east of Success at what is known as the old Vance Place he was murdered this was about 2 o’clock in the day.  The wagon was then driven into thicket of brush and left until about midnight that night when young Hamilton returned hitched up Drove to Piney River and threw all of the Bodies into the water two of the children was found by Fishing Party with in one hour after were thrown in.  Hamilton was arrested two days later trying to make his escape.  He made a full confession of his crime.  He was tried at the November term of Court and Sentenced to be Hanged Dec the 21st.  His Father came here and made quite an effort to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment – but to no avail he was Hanged at 11 o’clock December 21st 1906 at Houston MO. Young Hamilton was 21 years old and a son of J. Bill Hamilton that is said to Preach at the New Church.

This is a true likeness I was Present when it was Taken

[signed] G.W.S.

Culled from: Deadly Intent: Crime & Punishment: Photographs from the Burns Archive

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 3, 2014

Today’s Dual Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Shortly after 400 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato came to the conclusion that there must be fundamental difference between body and soul.  He saw the body as only a temporary housing for the soul.  This school of thought, known as the dualism of body and soul, provided the necessary foundation for preserving human specimens.  The conviction that the soul exists independently of the body made it permissible to open up the body once the soul had departed after death.  It was in this spirit that Herophilos and Erasistratos undertook the first dissections of human bodies in Alexandria, where, following the death of Alexander the Great, King Ptolemy I had established a medical school in 320 BC.  Dissections were performed on the bodies of executed prisoners, probably in public.

Although first expressed by Plato, the philosophical premise of the dualism of body and soul later finds its way into the Bible, where Paul says the following about the new body to come after the resurrection: “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised?  With what kind of body will they come?’ …  But God will give them a body as he sees fit…” (Cor. I, 15:35-38)

Culled from: Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 2, 2014

Today’s Not Right Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

For a long period of time, something had been troubling William Beadle of Weathersfield, Connecticut.  He seldom spoke to his wife Lydia or his four children in the last year of his life, and developed the habit of taking an axe and a carving knife to bed with him each night.  (Ominous as this sign might be, Mrs. Beadle failed to realize that all was not right with Mr. Beadle.)  On the morning of December 11, 1783, Beadle slaughtered his entire family and then slit his own throat.

Culled from: Bloodletters and Badmen

First of all, I’m pretty sure there’s a Nick Cave song based on this story and secondly, I’m pretty sure there’s a British Invasion rock band named after this guy.  Am I right?

The Return Of The Morbid Fact Du Jour Newsletter!

So it looks like you are keen for the return of the Morbid Fact Du Jour newsletter and, luckily for you, so am I!

For those of you who never experienced the e-mail during its existence, it’s a daily newsletter that usually contains three features per day. The first is always the Morbid Fact Du Jour, and then I try to have two other items, like a morbid sightseeing feature, a morbid trinket du jour, a brush with morbidity, a website link, morbid artwork, a book review, a nineteenth century newspaper article, etc. So, it’s really a lot of bang for you buc… oh, did I mention it’s also completely free because I’m a lousy capitalist?

I’m working on getting the details sorted out and doing some test runs on the newsletter currently and hope to have it ready for roll-out soon. Stay tuned!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 1, 2014

Today was a very exciting day for me because a very kind-hearted Asylum patron sent me a first edition copy of the original Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography In America book!   To celebrate this occasion, I thought I’d present the first couple of images from the book as today’s fact.  I’ll slowly work through the rest of the images in both this book and Sleeping Beauty II (which I already have).  Thank you again for your incredible generosity, Bill!

And now…

Today’s Pre-Mortem Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Pre-mortem Photographs of a Woman and a Child
Anonymous Daguerrotypes circa 1845.

“Secure the Shadow ‘Ere the Substance Fade”

In photography’s earliest era, when most Americans had not had their portraits taken, this saying was a popular advertising slogan for daguerrotypists.  It served as a reminder to photograph loved ones even after they had died.  Nineteenth-century America was preoccupied with death, as it was ever present, often reversing life’s natural course by taking the young before the old.

These two daguerrotypes are “pre-mortem” photographs taken just before death.  the look of resignation to coming death is written on these faces.  This universal facial expression, relaxed facial muscles and firm-pressed lips, is a part of the terminal state.  The coming of death was rarely photographed, as it often came quickly, and perhaps the hope of survival prevented acknowledgement.  The child is portrayed with the trappings of death; she is covered with flowers.

Culled from: Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America