Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 18, 2015

Today’s Resilient Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Humans are not particularly temperature-sensitive mammals – not much hair, not much fat. Coordination falters when an individual’s core temperature hits 95 degrees. By 86 degrees, you pass out and, now incapable of regulating your own temperature, require external heat to rewarm. By 82 degrees, liver and kidney failure are likely, as is a heart attack. Drop a few more degrees and most hypothermia victims die from cardiac arrest.

But not everyone who freezes dies, as has been the case on numerous occasions. One of the most memorable recoveries on record occurred near Chicago in 1984, when four-year-old Jimmy Tontlewicz chased his runaway sled onto the frozen surface of Lake Michigan, punched through the ice, and sank like a stone to the bottom. He’d been submerged for nearly half an hour by the time paramedics plucked him from the water – ghost white, pupils fixed, no pulse: clinically dead. But little Jimmy Tontlewicz didn’t die for good that day, despite the fact that his core temperature had bottomed out at 85 degrees. Within a week, doctors had revived him and started him on his way to a slow but full recovery. In 2001, a toddler from Edmonton, Alberta wandered into her backyard on a night that reached nearly 20 below. She was found at three a.m., facedown in a snowbank, with no pulse. After several days in intensive care, she was walking and talking.

Freezing quickly and being small help, but they aren’t a prerequisite. In 2000, a twenty-nine-year-old Norwegian skier named Anna Bagenholm tumbled down a snowy gully and became trapped in an ice-covered river. She fought her way into an air pocket, where she lasted for forty minutes before falling still. It took rescuers another forty minutes to pull her from the water. Bagenholm’s core temperature had plunged to 56.7 degrees Fahrenheit – the lowest ever recorded in a living human being. She spent two months in intensive care, but the only lasting effect was a tingling sensation in her hands.

“In our world, we don’t declare somebody dead until they’re warm and dead,” said Dr. Peter Cox, director of the critical care until at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Culled from: Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season

Little Jimmy Tontlewicz being pulled from Lake Michigan:


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Anna for sharing this one.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 17, 2015

Today’s Mortifying Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The chastity belt dates back to 1400 when it appeared in Italy under Francesco II from Carrara. It was mostly used in Italy but it quickly spread all over France as well. There have always been three different interpretations about its possible use. Some historians even state that the chastity belt was not at all an instrument aimed at inflicting suffering, but, on the contrary, that it was a device aimed at reducing the risk of rape (for example, during long trips when women could run into rapists).

Because chastity belts were mostly made of precious materials (inlaid silver with engravings), some historians assert that, when men needed to go away for long periods of time, they gave chastity belts as presents to their wife or lover to encourage them to be faithful.

However, the tale of the chastity belt being a mere defense instrument is a disgraceful justification aimed at hiding the nature of a real instrument of torture that was designed and intended for female victims. As an instrument of torture, the chastity belt worked very efficiently progressively inflicting greater pain and damage to the wearer. Even minimal, normal movements would lead to the flesh rubbing against he instrument and causing wounds. These wounds would then fester because of infections due to contact with the victim’s excrement. The logical consequence is that this instrument was used to inflict punishment by mortifying the flesh in those body parts involved in carrying out the alleged crime of adultery or sodomy and, as usual, the torment was automatic, progressive and could be controlled.

Furthermore, the chastity belt could be hidden from the sight of those who were not supposed to see, and served to inflict very harsh psychological torture as well, besides mortifying the flesh.

Culled from: Torture – Inquisition – Death Penalty

Here’s a fancy rich person’s chastity belt:

And here’s the bargain basement poor person’s flesh mortifier:



I’ve decided that if a photograph is particularly ghastly, I probably shouldn’t put it in the newsletter, just in case you’re reading it at work or something.  So instead, when it’s a truly ghastly image, I’ll put our Aghast! man from the old days of Typhoid Mary’s Asylum (my first, ridiculously awful, website) in as a place holder and you can click on him to get to the ghastly photo.
This ghastly photo is of a shotgun suicide.  It’s pretty messy.  And it’s culled from Trauma Code : On the Scene with Fire and Rescue.  And as with almost everything in this terrible excuse for a book, there’s no additional information to go along with it.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 16, 2015

Today’s Brief and Brutal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Prior to the implementation of nitrogen production plants, Germany relied on shipments of nitrate from South America for fertilizer and for weapon production. This led to one of the stranger moments of World War I when, on November 1, 1914, the first major sea battle of the war began – halfway around the world from Germany and France, off the coast of Chile. It was brief and brutal. In heavy seas, with darkness falling, a squadron of Germany’s most modern warships led by Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spee engaged and sank several older, badly outgunned British warships. The battle continued by moonlight, with the Germans aiming at the fires that were burning on the British ships. The British lost two cruisers and sixteen hundred sailors and officers. The Germans did not lose a ship; their casuaties totaled two wounded. It was the Royal Navy’s first significant defeat since the days of Napoleon.

More important than the blow to British pride was the practical result: The Germans, during the critical early months of the war, cleared the British navy from west coast of South America. Germany, at least for the moment, controlled the shipment of nitrates from Chile. Spee’s success was so total, the German danger to British shipping so great, that insurers refused to extend coverage to British nitrate ships. The British depended on the Chile trade for their gunpowder and explosives too, and Spee’s imposition of what amounted to a German blockade started exerting a slow stranglehold on the United Kingdom’s war-making capability. As a U.S. military expert of the day said, “To strike at the source of the Allied nitrate supply was to paralyze the armies in France. The destruction of a nitrate carrier was a greater blow to the Allies than the loss of a battleship.”

It provided Germany a respite while the government raced to get its own nitrate plants started. But it did not last long. Within weeks the Allies dispatched a powerful squadron to hunt down Spee. Knowing that superior forces were en route and that any help from home would arrive too late, the admiral tried to make a dash back to Germany while he still could, leading his ships around Cape Horn, heading for the north Atlantic. On the way he needed fuel, which led to a raid the British coal bunkers in the Falklands. It was a move the British had foreseen. On December 8, 1914, the British opened fire and blew the Germans from the sea. Among the nearly two thousand dead were Spee and two of his sons.

Culled from: The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific Discovery That Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler

Here’s the somewhat sinister looking Admiral Maximilian Graf von Spree himself:


The Worst Of Germany

And speaking of old Deutschland, I finally finished my travelogue on the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany which I visited last July.  As I was putting the finishing touches on the travelogue, I stumbled across this photograph in a book:

This image depicts SA men publicly humiliating Hermann Weidemann, a local council member for the SPD (Social Democratic Party – i.e., enemies of the Nazis) who had been taken into “protective custody”, Hofgeismar, May 2, 1933.  Like many of his political co-horts, Hermann was sent to the Oranienburg Concentration Camp (which later evolved into the larger Sachsenhausen Camp) in 1933. Unlike many, he survived his incarceration – having endured over a decade (1933-1944) in unimaginable horror.  As someone who doubts I could survive even a week in such conditions, I am impressed by his strength and character – as well as the strength and character of every survivor of concentration camps. It’s to those resilient survivors that I dedicate this travelogue. “Enjoy.”

European DeSpair, Day Four, Part Two: Nineteen Thirty-Sick! 16

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 15, 2015

I tend not to be competent enough of a Comtesse to plan anniversary facts but this one just happened to accidentally fall on the 103rd anniversary of the fateful dive of the R.M.S. Titanic.

Today’s Heroic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

As the Titanic was filling with water and sinking on the early morning of April 15, 1912, although the captain had ordered some of the lifeboats to “stand by” in the water, most rowed away quickly from the ship for fear that “suction” would drag them under as the ship sank. Afloat in their tiny boats on the immense sea, lifeboat passengers watched as the Titanic’s lights blazed at an unreal angle and her bow plunged beneath the surface at 1:15. On board the sinking ship, as water crept up foot by foot, the gymnasium instructor was, incredibly, still helping passengers on the mechanical exercise equipment. The orchestra continued to calm the crowd with waltzes, ragtime, and music hall tunes, and last drinks were “on the house” in the first-class smoking room.

The reality of the disaster, however, was keener in the boiler and engine rooms below, where workers bravely stayed at their posts to provide enough power to keep theTitanic’s lights burning and the great ship’s wireless operating. In boiler room 5, a few firemen were helping two of their fellow crewmen, Herbert Harvey and Jonathan Shepherd, handle the pumps when Shepherd stumbled into an open manhole and broke his leg. The injured engineer was made as comfortable as possible while the others returned to their tasks. Suddenly, sea water rushed in as the bulkhead between boiler rooms 5 and 6 collapsed.Most made it up the safety ladder, but Shepherd and Harvey perished in the flood.

Culled from: Titanic: Legacy of the World’s Greatest Ocean Liner

Point of (dis)Interest: Titanic’s 29 boilers were each 15’9″ in diameter.  See how big?



Titanic Trinkets

And of course, no anniversary of the Titanic sinking is complete without looking at some of the incredible artifacts that have been salvaged from the ocean floor.  Here’s a lovely collection on Pinterest which includes this photograph of what surely was at one time human remains (though the body has long since rotted away).

Titanic: Artifacts

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 14, 2015

Today’s Repetitive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One of the punishments used by jails in England in the 19th century to keep the prisoners from getting into idle mischief was the crank, a drum filled with earth or sand, which the convict had to turn by a crank handle. Another was the shot-drill, which required prisoners to stand in rows round a square with about nine feet between each man. On order a 24-lb. cannon ball had to be picked up and carried to the next man in the line, dropped before him, and back to the original stance where another ball was waiting.

Culled from: Crimes and Punishment, the Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 16

Prisoners engaging in the Shot-Drill:



Needles and Pins-uh!

The following is culled from Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters:

“Needles taken from the body of an insane woman after her death.  From the collection of the Warren Museum, Harvard University.”

BTW… The Warren Museum?  A new morbid sightseeing destination!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 13, 2015

Today’s Liberal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Frederick III (18 October 1831 – 15 June 1888) was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl, known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor Wilhelm I and was raised in his family’s tradition of military service. Although celebrated as a young man for his leadership and successes during the Second Schleswig, Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, he nevertheless professed a hatred of warfare and was praised by friends and enemies alike for his humane conduct. Following the unification of Germany in 1871 his father, then King of Prussia, became the German Emperor. On Wilhelm’s death at the age of 90 on 9 March 1888, the throne passed to Frederick, who had by then been Crown Prince for 27 years. Frederick was suffering from cancer of the larynx when he died on 15 June 1888, aged 56, following unsuccessful medical treatments for his condition.

By the time he ascended the throne, Frederick was 56 years old and suffering from a debilitating cancer of the larynx. He viewed his illness with dismay, crying “To think I should have such a horrid disgusting illness … I had so hoped to have been of use to my country.” He received conflicting medical advice regarding treatment. In Germany, Doctor Ernst von Bergmann proposed to remove the larynx completely, but his colleague, Doctor Rudolf Virchow, disagreed; such an operation had never been performed without the death of the patient. The British doctor Sir Morell Mackenzie, who had diagnosed the cancer, advised a tracheotomy, to which Frederick and his wife agreed. On 8 February, a month before his father died, a cannula was fitted to allow Frederick to breathe; for the remainder of his life he was unable to speak and often communicated through writing.  During the operation, Dr. Bergmann almost killed him by missing the incision in the trachea and forcing the cannula into the wrong place. Frederick started to cough and bleed, and Bergmann placed his forefinger into the wound to enlarge it. The bleeding subsided after two hours, but Bergmann’s actions resulted in an abscess in Frederick’s neck, producing pus which gave the new Emperor discomfort for the remaining months of his life. Later, Frederick would ask “Why did Bergmann put his finger in my throat?” and complain that “Bergmann ill-treated [me]”. The diagnosis and treatment of Prince Frederick’s fatal illness caused some medical controversy well into the next century.

In spite of his illness, Frederick did his best to fulfill his obligations as Emperor. Immediately after the announcement of his accession, he took the ribbon and star of his Order of the Black Eagle from his jacket and pinned it on the dress of his wife; he was determined to honor her position as Empress. As the German Emperor, he officially received Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (his mother-in-law) and King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway, and attended the wedding of his son Prince Henry to his niece Princess Irene. However, Frederick reigned for only 99 days, and was unable to bring about much lasting change. An edict he penned before he ascended to the throne that would limit the powers of the chancellor and monarch under the constitution was never put into effect, although he did force Robert von Puttkamer to resign as Prussian Minister of the Interior on 8 June, when evidence indicated that Puttkamer had interfered in the Reichstag elections. Dr. Mackenzie wrote that the Emperor had “an almost overwhelming sense of the duties of his position”. In a letter to Lord Napier, Empress Victoria wrote “The Emperor is able to attend to his business, and do a great deal, but not being able to speak is, of course, most trying.” Frederick had the fervour but not the time to accomplish his desires, lamenting in May 1888, “I cannot die … What would happen to Germany?”

Frederick III died in Potsdam on 15 June 1888, and was succeeded by his 29-year-old son Wilhelm II. Frederick is buried in a mausoleum attached to the Friedenskirche in Potsdam.After his death, William Ewart Gladstone described him as the “Barbarossa of German liberalism”. Empress Victoria went on to continue spreading Frederick’s thoughts and ideals throughout Germany, but no longer had power within the government.

Culled from: Wikipedia

And, of course, we all know what happened to Germany…  :(

How I Spent My Saturday

Here in Illinois, deadly tornadoes have become an annual thing, what with Mother Nature’s increasingly violent mood swings. Living close to the lake shore here in Chicago, I haven’t had any close calls with any tornadoes, but people living in the middle of the state have not been so lucky. A pair of tornadoes touched down last Thursday, resulting in two deaths and many shattered lives. I’ve always wanted to see tornado damage first hand, so when a friend mentioned she was going to be volunteering to help with the storm clean-up on Saturday, I offered to go with her.

We started out trying to volunteer at the Summerfield Zoo, which had lost most of its fences during the storm. However, when we were very rudely yelled at for saying hello to the caged wolves (who, it must be noticed, wagged their tails and seemed very happy to see us), we decided to head to the city of Rochelle (Middle Of Nowhere, Illinois) to join their volunteer efforts instead. There were about 650 volunteers there, being led by something called Operation Blessing. Though I could care less who is overseeing the efforts, being an atheist, I wasn’t too thrilled to see that they were handing out free ‘Operation Blessing’ t-shirts to the participants, but I was relieved to find that they had run out of shirts by the time we arrived. Whew!

We made friends with a few people who arrived at the same time we did and split off into groups of 20.  As we awaited our captain to return with our marching orders instructing us which disaster zone we were to head to, we visited with the golden retriever “comfort dogs” supplied by the Lutheran Church.

Eventually, we got our orders: we were to report to duty at Grubsteakers Restaurant.  We split off from the group to drive over and meet them there.  However, when we arrived, our group was nowhere to be found.  We wandered all over the area, but we could not find a single member of our group. In the end, we just kind of became adopted members of a couple of other groups.

The storm damage was pretty amazing to see.  Everything was covered in brown mud, most of the houses were bare down to the foundation, and the landscape was peppered with pieces of machinery and corrugated metal that had been blown from gawd knows where.  This is what Grubsteakers looked like before the storm:

And this is how it looked when we arrived:

Evidence of the storm’s ferocity was all around us.  The cars were all destroyed in one way or another.  This truck had been impaled by a tree limb.

We went around the back side of Grubsteakers and were getting ready to start hauling debris to the dumpsters when we ran across this adorable little cat.  Someone else picked her up and told us that she was a stray that lived at the restaurant and she had two kittens before the storm. One kitten had already been collected and taken to a vet clinic in Oregon, IL (I know, I didn’t know there was an Oregon, Illinois either!) and they wanted someone to take the cat to be reunited with her kitten. We volunteered to take her and she was a perfect little angel riding on my lap all the way to the clinic (about a 15 minute drive). We took her in and we were told that her kitten was severely injured (a mangled leg) and they weren’t sure if he/she was going to make it or not but they reunited the mother cat with her kitten.

After we returned to Grubsteakers, we wanted to go down into the basement to see if the kitten was down there because that’s where the mother cat was hanging around, but they wouldn’t let us go down there because it’s “too dangerous”.  (“Oh, puh-leeze!” we thought. “We have been in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more dangerous buildings that this!”) When the tornado hit, 12-14 (depending on which number you believe) people rode it out in this basement. (See the entrance at the bottom of the below image. You can see kitchen supplies unscathed too.)

After being foiled in our kitten rescue attempt, we went around to the front of the building and started entering it and removing debris and potentially sentimental items and giving them to the owner. We noticed a huge amount of blood all over the floor and the walls. A teenager told us that someone had smashed through the glass during the tornado in an attempt to rob the place. That makes absolutely no sense to me, but I can’t seem to find the *real* story anywhere, so that’s the best I have. In any event, the bloody hand prints and blood-stained glass was pretty gruesome.

Soon thereafter we were told that we could not enter the building under any circumstance! And a couple minutes later we noticed a huge group of men entering the building to continue to work on the clean-up. Sexist/hypocritical bastards. So we decided to leave Grubsteakers and head down the street to the sad remains of the houses that had once stood there and see if our services could be better used there.

Here’s the first house – before (Google Maps – it’s that white house in amongst the trees) and after shots.

The second house – before and after:

Finally we arrived at a home where we could proceed with assisting the daughter of the man who had lived there. She instructed us to look for salvageable items – and being a staunch sentimentalist I started raking through the debris looking for photographs and other such things. I was happy that I was able to find quite a few. The house was completely gone – down to the foundation. We never did hear the story of how her father survived the storm. I was filled with thoughts of how trivial possessions are and how I needed to finish digitizing my family archives so that a fire could not take the photographs and memorabilia away.



It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me, and while I still would love to be a storm-chaser, I’m definitely a bit more wary of the chase now. And a bit more apprehensive of the devastating power of nature.

A board driven in the earth.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 12, 2015

Today’s Demonstrable Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Salesman Rico Vogt choked to death in Pisa, Italy, when his tie got tangled around the blades of a food mixer he was demonstrating to a crowd in a shopping center.

Culled from: Strange Deaths


Vintage Smash-Up Du Jour!

The following is culled from Strange Days Dangerous Nights: Photos From the Speed Graphic Era.

March 02, 1953

“This startling image may well be the definitive photograph of the Speed Graphic area in the Twin Cities. In its blunt, bloody simplicity it demonstrates the visceral wallop that the best news pictures of the time delivered. The photographer, Dick Magnuson, was thought by his colleagues to have perhaps the best eye of anyone on the staff, but he also had something better – the knack of being in the right place at the right time.

“In this case, he was driving home with his family one day in March 1953 when he pulled up behind a semitrailer rig climbing the long hill out of the Minnesota River Valley near Shakopee on old Highway 169. Magnuson was quoted in the Pioneer Press as saying he edged over to pass the truck but pulled back in when he saw a car coming in the opposite direction. Seconds later, the truck’s trailer suddenly broke loose from the cab and swerved across the highway into the path of the oncoming car, driven by a man identified as E.A. Krusemark of Bloomington. Here, Krusemark, blood streaming down his face, staggers from his crumpled car while behind him his wife lies injured in the front seat.

“The story that accompanied this extraordinary picture can only be described as amazingly blasé about the Krusemarks’ fate, with nary a word about how serious their injuries might have been. Instead, it began as follows: ‘When news photographers say their prayers, they usually include a fervent plea to be at the scene when a big story breaks. Pioneer Press photographer Dick Magnuson got that wish Sunday morning. He was so close to the story, he had a narrow escape himself, but he got a dramatic picture.’ There was no further mention of the Krusemarks.”

I did some additional digging on Newspapers.Com and found the following article suggesting that Mrs. Krusemark suffered serious internal injuries.  I couldn’t find an obituary or any further mention of the accident, so let’s hope she recovered.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 11, 2015

Today’s Striking Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Excerpt from the Mine Inspector’s Report for Houghton County, Michigan, for the Year Ending September 30, 1901 by Josiah Hall, Mine Inspector.

ACCIDENT No. 23. – May 24th. Sakri Koupos, a trammer employed in the 4th level, north of “A” shaft, Atlantic Mine, met with a fatal accident by being struck with a rock from a blast. The miners working in the drift set fire to the fuse of two holes, and notified the trammers to get out of the way of the blast. The deceased stood by the side of the car, about two hundred feet from the blast. When the second blast went off it threw a rock which struck Koupos on the head. He was at once taken to surface. He expired just as he was taken to his home. No inquest was held.

Culled from: Some fatal accidents in the Atlantic, Baltic, Champion, Trimountain, and Winona copper mines (A local history series)


Mortuary Photo Du Jour!

The following image is culled from Sleeping Beauty III: Memorial Photography: The Children (and no, the frame isn’t crooked, I just did a poor job photographing it):

Daguerreotype 1/6 Plate, Circa 1845

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 10, 2015

Today’s Shackled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Although a few chiefs sold their own subjects, household slaves, or criminals, most African slaves were prisoners captured in tribal wars or kidnapped by slave raiders. After their capture, the Africans were tied together by a rope and then marched hundreds of miles while suffering from thirst, hunger, and exhaustion. Consequently, many either died along the way or were reduced to a very weak and emaciated condition by the time they reached the sea coast. On the coast, the Africans were made to jump up and down, had fingers poked in their mouths and their genital organs handled by a doctor. Those chosen by the Europeans were then branded.

Taken on board ship, the naked Africans were shackled together on bare wooden boards in the hold, and packed so tightly that they could not sit upright. During the dreaded Mid-Passage (a trip of from three weeks to more than three months) the slaves were let out of the hold twice daily for meals and exercise, and women and children were often permitted to spend a great deal of time on deck. The foul and poisonous air of the hold, extreme heat, men lying for hours in their own defecation, with blood and mucus covering the floor, caused a great deal of sickness. Mortality from undernourishment and disease was about 16 percent. The first few weeks of the trip was the most traumatic experience for the Africans. A number of them went insane and many became so despondent that they gave up the will to live. Slaves in the latter condition were described as having the “fixed melancholy.”

Africans were, not however, totally immobilized by shock. Often they committed suicide (especially while still on the African coast) by drowning, or refusing food or medicine, rather than accept enslavement. One captain made it all the way to the West Indies before the Africans began a mass suicide attempt. He asserted that he:

“thought all our troubles of this Voyage was over; but on the contrary I might say that the Dangers rest on the Borders of Security. On the 14th of March we found a great deal of Discontent among the Slaves, particularly the Men, which continued till the 16th about Five o’Clock in the Evening, when to our great Amazement about an hundred Men Slaves jump’d over board, and it was with great Difficulty we sav’d so many as we did; out of the whole we lost 33 of as good Men Slaves as we had on board, who would not endeavor to save themselves, but resolv’d to die, and sunk directly down. Many more of them were taken up almost drown’d, some of them died since.”

Culled from: The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South


‘Till Death Do Us Part

The following is culled from Sleeping Beauty II: Grief, Bereavement and the Family in Memorial Photography.

Pennsylvania/New Jersey Family
Daguerreotype 1/6 Plate, Circa 1845

“The loving bond between husband and wife is rarely depicted as poignantly as in this photograph. This dead woman is firmly held by her husband in their last worldly embrace. Having exchanged vows before photography was discovered, this image serves as the only visual document of their marriage. It is a visual presentation of the marriage vow ‘Till death do us part.’

“This daguerreotype may be considered an extremely unusual representation of the posthumous mourning photograph – depicting the dead as if still living. Here, the husband enters the deathbed scenario to hold his wife as if she is alive. Her facial expression, demeanor and the bible in his hand tell the true status.”

Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 9, 2015

Today’s Cold Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to freeze to death on Mt. Everest, well, here you go!

Death from hypoxic hypothermia comes slow. In the beginning, hands and feet begin to tingle and throb, then ache as if squeezed by a slowly closing vise. Speech slurs. Balance slips. As the brain starves and swells, you’re gripped by persistent dementia. During the 1933 Fourth British Expedition, Frank Smythe, a writer and photographer, imagined pulsating teapots floating in the air at 28,000 feet. Maurice Wilson, the Brit who had made an ill-fated fatal solo attempt to ascend the Northeast Ridge in 1934, described sensing a benevolent presence with him as he withered on the mountain. In 1996, during the lethal May 10 storm, Sandy Hill Pittman, a New York socialite, thought that she was at a garden tea party listening to Beck Weathers play a flute. In truth, they were both trapped on the South Col, desperately trying to stay alive.

As the deep cold intrudes, nerve endings go numb and the pain recedes as circulation retreats toward the core. Often, ironically, it is around this point where freezing feels like being tossed into a furnace. Victims tear at their clothes, throw away gloves and hats, and frantically unzip their parkas, accelerating the slide. Flesh farthest from the heart – toes, fingers, nose, cheeks – freezes first, death advancing from the perimeter. Skin turns pale with frostnip, white during the full throes of frostbite, red and purple with chilblains and blisters, and ultimately black with gangrene – cellular necrosis, doctors call it, the point at which living tissue is permanently destroyed.

In the final stages, limbs become insensate and immobile, freezing into place as your body shunts blood toward the lungs and heart, trying to preserve the vital organs. Vision blurs and darkens. Involuntary shivering ensues, a last-ditch attempt to generate heat through movement. Your mind swirls deeper into the subconscious, a deep dream state. A few who have returned from the brink of hypothermic oblivion have recounted their last conscious moments as almost pleasurable. “You really do start feeling warmer,” Weathers wrote in his memoir Left for Dead. “I had a sense of floating. I wondered if someone was dragging me across the ice.”

The end arrives a few hours later, quietly, in the dark waters of unconsciousness. Your blood runs chilled; most brain activity has ceased. The heartbeat slows, fluttering erratically, a wounded bird. This action might continue for awhile, the vessel destroyed by the encroaching cold while the heart presses courageously on. At last the pump shuts down, and with that the limited circulation ceases. Internally, there is perfect stillness, equilibrium returning between a delicately calibrated but dissonant energy field in the form of a man and the larger energy field around him – the mountain, the air. The only movement now is wind, ice crystals skittering over rock and snow, a jacket flap rustling, a clump of hair, stiff with rime, flicking across the forehead.

Culled from: Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season


Corpse Du Jour!

New York City Homicide Victim, 1915

Culled from: Shots in the Dark: True Crime Pictures