Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 26, 2015

Today’s Gummy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

21-year-old Shanice Clark was found unresponsive at three A.M. on Sunday, January 18, 2015, in her residence on the campus of California University of Pennsylvania. She was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Preliminary autopsy results indicate she choked to death on chewing gum while asleep.

Culled from Associated Press
Submitted by: Aimee

I guess she didn’t want her chewing gum to lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight. Cause when you chew it in the morning, it gets much too hard to bite. So her chewing gum she kept a-chewin’ overnight. This story’s really crazy, won’t somebody set it right? – Aimee


Morbid Art Du Jour!

Project Facade is a fascinating art project by Paddy Hartley that attempts to tell the stories of the men who were grievously disfigured during World War I and who benefited from the groundbreaking work of pioneering facial surgeon Sir Harold Gillies.  Hartley’s website tells the tale of several of the men covered in the project.

Walter Fairweather: Lose His Nose at the Battle of the Somme.
Henry Ralph Lumley:  Severely Burned and Doomed Airman.
Arthur Frederick Soole: Chinless Canadian.
William Spreckley: Aged Well Into His Replaced Nose.
Victor Topping: Massively Burned Face.
William Vicarage: A Burned Sailor and a Turning Point in Surgical History.
Norman Eric Wallace: Severely Burned In France.
Walter Ernest O’Neil Yeo: Questionable Aesthetics.


Memorial Photograph Du Jour!

Here’s another memorial photograph culled from the classic of the genre, Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America.

Mother and Father with Dead Daughter,
Useless Medicine Bottles on Table
2 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ Daguerreotype
Circa 1848

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 25, 2015

Today’s Silently Pleading Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On December 20, 1786, a crowd gathered behind New London, Connecticut’s old meeting house to witness the execution of a convicted murderer. The condemned had beat and strangled 6-year-old Eunice Bolles (the daughter of a prominent New London family) as she walked to school 5 months earlier. Stepping up to the gallows, witnesses said Eunice’s killer, Hannah Ocuish, appeared afraid —seeming to silently plead for help with her eyes — as the realization hit that she was about to die at only 12 years old.

On the morning of July 21, 1786, Eunice Bolles left her home and headed to school, but she disappeared somewhere along the way. Around 10:00 am, local residents discovered her body lying face down next to a stonewall on the road leading from New London to Norwich. She had a fractured skull, bruises on her arms and face, and signs of strangulation. Her killer covered her head and torso with rocks to make it appear as if Eunice had died from the tragic collapse of a stonewall, but the ruse proved unconvincing.

Local residents began hunting for Eunice’s killer. They questioned young Hannah Ocuish, who said she saw 4 boys near the crime scene earlier in the day. When authorities found no evidence to support Hannah’s story, they took her to the Bolles home, and in the presence of Eunice’s dead body, Hannah broke down and confessed.

Hannah Ocuish was an orphan. Believed to suffer from a mental disability, she lived her life shuttled through a series of foster homes. In June of 1786, Eunice Bolles accused Hannah of stealing strawberries during a harvest. Hannah is said to have plotted her revenge against Eunice and, 5 weeks later, lured the younger girl into the woods with the promise of a gift of calico. Once the road was out of view, Hannah beat and strangled Eunice Bolles.

Because of Hannah’s disability many questioned whether she was fit to stand trial, but a judge saw value in using her conviction to send a message to the local community and sentenced her to hang. Reports described Hannah as seeming unconcerned by her death sentence until just hours before standing on the scaffold, when the enormity of the day’s events seemed to overtake her. Her death remains the last documented execution of a female in Connecticut.

Culled from: ConnecticutHistory.Org


Self-Righteous Sermon Du Jour!

So, it may seem bad enough that Hannah Ocuish was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, but to make matters even worse for her, she had to endure a sermon from Yale minister Henry Channing before her execution.  He ranted for well over an hour, illustrating the fate of children with poor church attendance with readings of every Bible verse involving a naughty child, a spared rod, and a nasty end. Not neglecting his younger listeners, he pointed to Hannah and said:

“There behold, my young brethren, the fate of one, who, with a mind not below the common level, has been left unrestrained to the guidance of guilty passions and a corrupt heart…”

Oddly enough, he directed much of his wrath at blasphemy. At one point, he almost shrieked the text of Exodus 20:7: “THE LORD WILL NOT HOLD HIM GUILTLESS THAT TAKETH HIS NAME IN VAIN.”

At the end of his sermon, he brought his heavy ecclesiastical cannons to bear on the quivering prisoner. “Hannah,” he thundered, “the time for you to die is come.” And that would be far from the end of her troubles.

“You will soon see that there is a great GOD who… is angry with the wicked every day, and will punish forever those whose sins are not pardoned before they die.”

And apparently ignorance of God was no excuse.  He warned the cringing girl:

“If he is not more merciful than you, your soul cannot be saved… He sees nothing in you but wickedness – a poor wicked creature covered with the innocent blood of a helpless child crying to you for mercy…”

Here are a few more choice selections from Channing’s gallow-side sermon:

“The cry of innocent blood hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabbath; but this day will silent its claims. Yes; in a few hours, will be executed the fatal, the tremendous sentence which puts a period to the life of one, who had never learned to live. — In the beginning of life, a murderer…”

“Yes; my brethren, this poor prisoner, when committed to gaol, appeared to have no higher principle than the pleasure of gratifying her ungoverned passions. And so far from having the fear of GOD her eyes — Oh tell it not in Gath! — she hath repeatedly declared to me, that she did not know that there was a GOD, before she was told it after her imprisonment.”

“Children that have but just learned to speak are heard lisping forth horrid oaths and impious curses.”

“We have here a striking evidence of the depravity of human nature; that we are indeed transgressors from the womb.”

Striking evidence of depravity, indeed, minister! By the end of all this, I would think Hannah would be welcoming death!

(Culled from Murder Can Be Fun #17 by John Marr.)


Wegman Du Jour?

One of the oddest photos in the book Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Gretchen Worden is this photo of Siamese Twins Chang and Eng Bunker taken by dog photographer (well, he is, isn’t he?) William Wegman.

Chang and Eng Get Together (2000) – William Wegman

“Plaster cast of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811-1874), the original Siamese Twins, made after their autopsy was performed in the Mütter Museum by members of The College of Physicians. In the background are Chip, Battina, and William Wegman.”

Look at how they were barely connected.  In this day and age, they’d just snip ‘em apart and there would be no “Siamese Twins”.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 24, 2015

Today’s Massive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

During World War II, Port Chicago, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, was developed into a munitions facility when the Naval Ammunition Depot at Mare Island, California, could not fully supply the war effort. By the summer of 1944, expansion of the Port Chicago facility allowed for loading two ships at once around the clock. The Navy units assigned to the dangerous loading operations were generally segregated African-American units. For the most part, these men had not been trained in handling munitions. Additionally, safety standards were forgotten in the rush to keep up frenetic loading schedules.

On the evening of July 17, the SS Quinault Victory and SS E.A. Bryan, two merchant ships, were being loaded. The holds were being packed with 4,600 tons of explosives–bombs, depth charges and ammunition. Another 400 tons of explosives were nearby on rail cars. Approximately 320 workers were on or near the pier when, at 10:18 p.m., a series of massive explosions over several seconds destroyed everything and everyone in the vicinity. The blasts were felt as far away as Nevada and the resulting damage extended as far as San Francisco. Every building in Port Chicago was damaged and people were literally knocked off their feet. Smoke and fire extended nearly two miles into the air. The pilot of a plane flying at 9,000 feet in the area claimed that metal chunks from the explosion flew past him.

Nearly two-thirds of the 332 people killed at Port Chicago were African-American enlisted men in the Navy–15 percent of all African-Americans killed during World War II. The surviving men in these units, who helped put out the fires and saw the horrors firsthand, were quickly reassigned to Mare Island. Less than a month later, when ordered to load more munitions, but still having received no training, 258 African-American sailors refused to carry out the orders. Two hundred and eight of them were then sentenced to bad conduct discharges and pay forfeiture. The remaining 50 men were put on trial for general court martial. They were sentenced to between eight and 15 years of hard labor, though two years later all were given clemency. A 1994 review of the trials revealed race played a large factor in the harsh sentences. In December 1999, President Clinton pardoned Freddie Meeks, one of only three of the 50 convicted sailors known to be alive at the time.

The Port Chicago disaster eventually led to the implementation of far safer procedures for loading ammunition. In addition, greater emphasis was put on proper training in explosives handling and the munitions themselves were altered for greater safety. There is now a national memorial to the victims at the site.

Culled from: History.Com


Arcane Excerpts!

Here’s an excerpt from another of my beloved crazy old vintage books:  Plain Facts for Young and Old by John Harvey Kellogg (of Corn Flakes fame), 1877.   In this excerpt, we learn that special care must be taken during menstruation!

“The reckless manner in which some young women treat themselves at the menstrual period, is quite appalling to one who is acquainted with the painful and inveterate character of the evils which arise from such abuse. It is no uncommon thing for young ladies to attend balls, visit skating rinks, and otherwise expose themselves to the influences in every way the best calculated to do them the most harm at this particular period, observing not the slightest precaution. Such recklessness is really criminal; and the sad consequences of physical transgression are sure to follow. A young lady who allows herself to get wet or chilled, or gets the feet wet, just prior to or during the menstruation, runs the risk of imposing upon herself life-long injury.”


Grave Defroster!

Mike M. sent me a link to an image of a grave defroster.  Apparently, many people were not aware such a thing existed.

Neatorama: This Is A Grave Defroster

I, however, was aware of this device because I have a vintage copy of “Everything for the Cemetery” by the long-defunct J. Oliver Johnson, Inc. of Chicago.  As you can see, the ground thawer has been around for a long time!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 23, 2015

Today’s Surging Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On Saturday, January 2, 1971, more than 80,000 fans attended an Old Firm (the collective name for the Glasgow association football clubs Celtic and Rangers) match at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. In the 90th minute, Celtic took a 1–0 lead and some Rangers supporters started to leave the stadium. However, in the final moments of the match, Colin Stein scored an equalizer for the Rangers.

As thousands of spectators were leaving the ground by stairway 13 [of course! they should have skipped 13 and then this wouldn’t have happened! – DeSpair], something happened to cause a massive chain-reaction pile-up of people. Like so many similar mishaps, exactly how it started remains unclear. Most popular accounts place the blame on those less than loyal fans who’d left after Celtic scored. Supposedly, when they heard their fellow Billys roaring over the Rangers’ goal, they’d reversed field, only to run headlong into the exiting mass.  However, this scenario contradicts eyewitness testimony.

One witness claimed to see a young man carrying a raincoat trip halfway down the stairs. Another blamed a small boy taking a tumble. A third said the first to fall was a man carrying a small boy on his shoulders. Whatever the case may be, all agreed on what happened next. The surge of humanity that had all but filled the stairway to the bursting point was suddenly transformed into a raging torrent of people tumbling and pouring down the stairs. “I saw them falling just as if a hole appeared in the ground,” said one witness.

One fellow, at 190 lbs no lightweight, told the inquiry:

“There were bodies to the front of me and to the back of me and bodies on top of me… we were all pressing down and you could feel yourself getting lifted off your feet. I felt myself going and I got my arm up, then the next minute there was a bang and a banister to my left went. Everyone flew forward. I seemed to fly through the air and I landed on top of the bodies. I went 15 feet through the air.”

Another described the chaotic scene as “… like a river that burst its banks.”  According to yet another survivor, “The pile of human beings was four people deep, bursting the sides of the railing.” The pressure of the cascading bodies had twisted the heavy metal handrails like spaghetti and torn and uprooted them from the concrete. 53 people, mostly men in their 20’s and 30’s, were dead at the scene. Another thirteen would be DOA at the hospital, bringing the total of what would be the worst UK soccer disaster for 19 years to 66 dead, and 145 injured. [Yes, I know – it’s crazy to think this record was actually BROKEN!  But never doubt the insanity of British football fans! – DeSpair] Rangers supporters all, they had died of suffocation and/or asphyxiation. Many of the bodies were so battered and bruised they were identified by their tattoos.

Culled from: Murder Can Be Fun, Issue #18 by John Marr

Can you believe this is actually the SECOND disaster at Ibrox?  Of course you can!  The first was documented in the March 16, 2012 Morbid Fact Du Jour.

I couldn’t find any photos of the actual crush as it unfolded, but here’s an image of infamous Stairway 13 after the fact showing the collapsed and bent railings:

And here’s a documentary about the disaster.  It’s a bit long, but has lots of eyewitness accounts (if you can decipher the brogue, that is).


Wretched Recommendations: The Faithful Executioner

The ever-helpful Mike M. wrote to tell me about a book:

“Of interest: a book book about capital punishment, drawing heavily from the life experiences of one Meister Frantz Schmidt, an executioner from 16th Century Nuremberg.”

Indeed, it does look fascinating and I’ve put it on my reading list!

The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century

Here’s the Amazon blurb:


In a dusty German bookshop, the noted historian Joel F. Harrington stumbled upon a remarkable document: the journal of a sixteenth-century executioner. The journal gave an account of the 394 people Meister Frantz Schmidt executed, and the hundreds more he tortured, flogged, or disfigured for more than forty-five years in the city of Nuremberg. But the portrait of Schmidt that gradually emerged was not that of a monster. Could a man who practiced such cruelty also be insightful, compassionate—even progressive?

In The Faithful Executioner, Harrington teases out the hidden meanings and drama of Schmidt’s journal. Deemed an official outcast, Meister Frantz sought to prove himself worthy of honor and free his children from the stigma of his profession. Harrington uncovers details of Schmidt’s life and work: the shocking, but often familiar, crimes of the day; the medical practice that he felt was his true calling; and his lifelong struggle to reconcile his craft with his religious faith.

In this groundbreaking and intimate portrait, Harrington shows us that our thinking about justice and punishment, and our sense of our own humanity, are not so remote from the world of The Faithful Executioner.

(More books about Execution and Torture can be found at the Library Eclectica.)


Morbid Sightseeing: Ossuary Edition!

Here’s a lovely addition to your bucket list:  the world’s best ossuaries!  Thanks to Mike M. (again) for the link.

These Buildings Are Made With Skulls and Bones

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 22, 2015

Today’s Infectious Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Throughout the ages physicians have given their lives fighting infections, sometimes epidemic, that they neither understood nor could control. Though the general population, especially the wealthy, could flee the area under siege, physicians were expected to remain behind and treat the sick. Hundreds died doing this noble work.

This postmortem daguerreotype depicts such a hero, 22-year-old James Samuel Howe, who graduated from the medical college of the State University of Missouri in Saint Louis in 1849, just as cholera struck in one of the deadliest epidemics in the history of the United States. Photographs of its victims are very rare, as fear of contagion precluded close contact and the dead were quickly buried. This is the only known photograph of a physician who fell victim to this epidemic. Taken at the request of Howe’s father, who wanted it as a memorial, this image has become a visual legacy of the dedication and self-sacrifice of many physicians.

Cholera, an acute infectious intestinal disease, causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, and therefore dehydration. Soon,patients are wracked with abdominal pain, and experience unremitting muscle cramps all over their bodies. They often go into spasmodic asphyxia, which causes them to turn blue and die from lack of oxygen. Death can occur as quickly as a few hours after the onset of symptoms. In that era, the disease proved fatal to more than half of those who contracted it. Today, with proper treatment, the mortality rate is less than one percent.

As a fledgling physician, Dr. Howe was expected to earn his reputation dealing with the epidemic. However, according to his obituary, he died in the service of his patients soon after his graduation, “stricken down with the scourge now afflicting our city [as] he was engaged, with disinterestedness of purpose, in ameliorating such cases and presented themselves to his notice.”

Culled from: A Morning’s Work: Medical Photographs from The Burns Archive & Collection 1843-1939

Of course, our modern examples, as recognized by Time magazine as the “People of the Year”, are the brave physicians and nurses who fight Ebola and other epidemics around the world.  True heroes.

Oh, also – you could graduate a doctor at age 22 once?  Well, I guess they didn’t have as much to learn….


X-Ray Du Jour!

X-Ray of Swallowed Toy Battleship culled from Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Gretchen Worden.

“Toy battleship caught in the esophagus of an infant. Radiograph from the Mutter Museum, taken for Dr. Chevalier Jackson (1865-1958) to locate the object before attempting removal. Dr. Jackson designed an array of specialized retrieval instruments for removing swallowed objects.”

Of course, nowadays we don’t have that problem because we have warning labels on our toys. Right?


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

(Thanks to Katchaya for the image.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 21, 2015

Today’s Good-Looking Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955) was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom, after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely.

From a humble background, Ellis was drawn into the world of London nightclub hostessing, which led to a chaotic life of brief relationships, some of them with upper-class nightclubbers and celebrities. Two of these were Blakely, a racing driver already engaged to another woman, and Desmond Cussen, a retail company director.

On Easter Sunday 1955, Ellis shot Blakely dead outside the Magdala public house in Hampstead, and immediately gave herself up to the police. At her trial, she took full responsibility for the murder and her courtesy and composure, both in court and in the cells, was noted in the press. She was hanged at Holloway Prison.

The following is the excellent first chapter of the long article about Ellis at Crime Library (the entirety of which I highly recommend reading):

“To the living we owe our respect, to the dead we owe nothing but the truth.” – Voltaire.

Like all statistics, they serve a purpose of sorts. Like most statistics, they only hint at a deeper, unseen truth, hidden from view behind the dry, formal and dialectic structure of numbers.

  • She was 28 years old. Her height was five feet two inches and she weighed 103 pounds. She was well nourished and her body showed evidence of proper care and attention.
  • She was also very dead with a fracture-dislocation of the spine and a two-inch gap and transverse separation of the spinal cord. Just to make sure, there was also a fracture of both wings of the hyoid and the right wing of the thyroid cartilage. The larynx was also fractured.

She had died of injuries to the central nervous system, consequent to judicial hanging. She was a healthy subject at the time of her death. So said Doctor Keith Simpson, pathologist of 146 Harley Street and Guys Hospital. He was a reader in forensic medicine at London University, so he would know all about the statistics of death, especially as he had carried out the post-mortem examination on her, just one hour after she had been executed.

He knew nothing of the menage a trios that had brought her to the pathologist table. He could not know that her death would result in two people killing themselves and one dying of a broken heart. Or of the lawyer, so despairing of his faith in the law and the way it treated her that he would give up his career. Or the man who travelled half way around the world to escape from the certainty that he was partly to blame for her being here on this cold, metal table.

The small, slight cadaver stretched out before him was all that remained of a true tragedy of British justice. She was a statistic, one that would haunt the conscience of the British judiciary system for the next forty-five years.

Ruth Ellis was the fifteenth, and the last woman hanged in England in the twentieth century. She was also the unluckiest. She did not kill for gain and, had the judge allowed her defense to be put to her jury, they may well have found her guilty only of manslaughter. She, however, never thought so. She never doubted in her own mind that she deserved to die for killing the man she loved.

Her death would be the final exclamation mark in a sad and tortured tale.

Culled from: Wikipedia and Crime Library

Of course, the excellent film Dance with a Stranger is about the life of Ellis, and it’s rumored that the  Morrissey song “The Boy Racer” (“We’re gonna kill this pretty thing”) is about Blakely.

Here’s a photo of the doomed couple themselves.  I dunno – I don’t think Blakely was all that good-looking! I think he’d be flattered that Rupert Everett played him in the movie!


Sideshow “Freak” Du Jour!

The Ohio Big Foot Girl (1880s)

Fanny Mills came from Sandusky, Ohio, where her father was a farmer. Active on the circuit in the ’80s, she was advertised as having the largest feet on earth. Her “size thirty shoes” were almost twenty inches in length and required three goatskins to manufacture. The promotional material accompanying her appearances used a rather cruel come-on directed at single young men of little means. The copy claimed that her father, desperate to marry off his blonde, fat-footed daughter would hand over $5,000 cash and a “well stocked farm” to any respectable man who’d take her away.

In spite of her big feet Fanny was actually quite small and weighed only 115 pounds. She had Milroy Disease, a hereditary lymphedema and enlargement of her legs and feet resulting from the non-development of the lymph vessels of the lower extremities. Poor lymphatic drainage of body fluids led to swelling as the fluids pooled in her limbs. Although Fanny would most probably have had other associated abnormalities such as spinal cysts, asthma and double eyelashes, she was otherwise physically and mentally normal. Eisenmann made a considerable number of plates at this session, including an unbearably pathetic nude portrait that destroyed the calm dignity she maintained through the rest of the sitting.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann


Morbid Sightseeing: Lucerne, Switzerland

A chapel with a mural that has real skulls laid into the plaster?  What a fantastic idea!  And as you can see, the execution is very nice as well!


(Thanks to Howard for the link.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 20, 2015

Today’s Nazi-Loving Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Nazi-lover and amateur weightlifter Freddie Cowan shocked the New Rochelle, New York community on Valentine’s Day, 1977, when he shot 10 people at the Neptune Worldwide Moving Company. Five died on the spot, a sixth person died weeks later.

From all accounts, people thought that Freddie was a regular guy with a couple of chips on his broad shoulders.

A hardworking ex-GI, Freddie lived with his parents and fantasized about being “like Hitler.” He kept a collection of Nazi weapons and other memorabilia and enjoyed wearing his German tanker helmet and pretending he was in the SS. In one of his Nazi books found by authorities in his attic bedroom he had written “There is nothing lower than black and Jewish people unless it’s the police who protect them.”

Once, when he was drunk, he kicked a puppie to death because it was black. On another occasion he smashed a TV in a bar after finding out the woman he was talking to was Jewish. He also threatened a neighbor with his rifle for dating a black man. Freddie claimed to have no interest in women and told an acquaintance, “If you want to be a man, buy a gun.” Surprisingly, people were stunned when this bigoted maniac went on a killing spree.

The rampage started at 7:45 when he arrived at the moving company, gun in hand, looking for Norman Bing, a Jewish supervisor who previously had him suspended. On his way through the lobby and the cafeteria of the office complex, Cowan killed three black employees and a dark-skinned Indian immigrant. Bing, the object of his anger, saw the crazed white supremacist entering the building, left his office and hid under the table in another room.

Within 10 minutes of the first shot being fired a police officer arrived at the scene. He was shot and killed by Cowan, who also wounded three other officers. By noon, surrounded by 300 officers, Cowan called the New Rochelle police headquarters and asked for a potato salad. “I’m not going to hurt anyone at this point. I get very mean when I’m hungry.” He apologized for what he had done. A couple of hours later, he committed suicide. Police, unsure whether he had any hostages, waited until dusk until entering the building. Inside they found 14 scared employees hiding for their lives along with the dead rampager.

Culled from: Murderpedia


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

This winter classic is courtesy Nordic Storms Bizarre World.


Mug Shots Du Jour!

Howard sent me a link containing some wonderful Old Portraits of Criminals in Newcastle City Gaol from 1871-1873.  More proof, as if we need it, that people were more stylish before!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 19, 2015

Today’s Vengeful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On June 22, 1918, four people were arrested and over one hundred waiters taken into custody over the apparent widespread practice of poisoning by waiters in Chicago. Guests who tipped poorly were given “Mickey Finn powder” in their food or drinks.  Chemical analysis showed that it contained antimony potassium tartrate, a well known emetic drug that besides vomiting can cause headaches, dizziness, depression and can be lethal in large quantities. W. Stuart Wood and his wife were arrested for manufacturing the powder, and two bartenders were arrested for selling the powder at the bar at the waiters’ union headquarters. Wood sold packets of the powder for 20 cents and referred to it as “Mickey Finn Powder” in a letter to union bartender John Millian. A follow-up article mentions the pursuit of a man named Jean Crones who was believed to be responsible for poisoning over 100 people at a Chicago University Club banquet at which three people died.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Generously submitted by: Aaron

There’s old Chicago for ya: Take that, you cheap bastards!


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Do you aspire to be a serial killer, but you aren’t quite asshole enough to kill a real, living human being? Then the SynDaver Synthetic Human may be perfect for you!  It’s the most life-like synthetic human ever created!

“The full-body SSH is a head-to-toe synthetic physical representation of human anatomy, including skin with fat and fascia planes, every bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament in the body, fully articulating joints, a functioning respiratory system including trachea, lungs, and diaphragm, a complete digestive tract from the esophagus to rectum, the urinary tract (kidneys, bladder, and urethra), visceral organs (liver, gall bladder, pancreas, spleen), reproductive organs, a circulatory system with heart and coronary arteries, aorta, vena cava, and the primary arterial and venous trunks leading to the extremities.”

(Granted the price, which isn’t even listed, might scare you away, but it’s still a nifty trinket. Thank you to Mike for sending it my way!)


Corpse Du Jour!

Here’s a classic of Memorial Photography culled from the classic of the genre, Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America.  I wonder how many times this mother had to go through this experience in her life?

Albert J. Beals, New York City
2 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ Daguerreotype
circa 1852

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 18, 2015

I apologize for not sending this out yesterday.  I suffered an unexpected attack of crippling ennui.  You know how life can be…

Today’s Incapacitated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In slang, a Mickey Finn (or simply Mickey) is a drink laced with a drug (especially chloral hydrate) given to someone without their knowledge in order to incapacitate them. The Mickey Finn is most likely named for the manager and bartender of a Chicago establishment, the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant, which operated from 1896 to 1903 in the city’s South Loop neighborhood on South State Street. In December 1903, several Chicago newspapers document that a Michael “Mickey” Finn managed the Lone Star Saloon and was accused of using knockout drops to incapacitate and rob some of his customers.  Moreover, the first known written example (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) of the use of the term Mickey Finn is in 1915, twelve years after his trial, lending credence to this theory of the origination of the phrase.

The first popular account of Mickey Finn was given by Herbert Asbury in his 1940 book Gem of the Prairie: An Informal History of the Chicago Underworld. His cited sources are Chicago newspapers and the 1903 court testimony of Lone Star prostitute “Gold Tooth” Mary Thornton. Before his days as a saloon proprietor, Mickey Finn was known as a pickpocket and thief who often preyed on drunken bar patrons. The act of serving a Mickey Finn Special was a coordinated robbery orchestrated by Finn. First, Finn or one of his employees, which included “house girls”, would slip a drug (chloral hydrate) in the unsuspecting patron’s drink. The incapacitated patron would be escorted or carried into a back room by one of Finn’s associates who would then rob the victim and dump him in an alley. Upon awaking the next morning in a nearby alley, the victim would remember little or nothing of what had happened. Finn’s saloon was ordered closed on December 16, 1903.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Generously submitted by: Aaron 

And this is why I love Chicago.


Wretched Recommendations: Bejeweled Trinkets Edition!

Are you the type who dreams of finding a hidden lair filled not just with jewels and gold, but jewels and gold encrusting skeletal remains?  Of course you are!  But until you make that find of a lifetime, perhaps this book might suffice?

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs

Here’s a great article about the book (thanks to Mike for the link):
Incredible skeletal remains of Catholic saints still dripping in gems and jewellery discovered by ‘Indiana Bones’ explorer

And here is Paul Koudounaris’s website – it’s full of macabre delights!
Empire de la Mort

(More books on Cemeteries and Mourning can be found at The Library Eclectica.)


Danse Macabre!

Please take the time to watch this stunning short video.  You’ll be so glad that you did.  Thank you to Mike for sending me the link.  (NSFW: Nudity!)

Danse Macabre

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 17, 2015

Today’s Sanitary Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1885 the first cremation in Britain took place at Woking. A number of reformers, led by Sir Henry Thompson, Surgeon to Queen Victoria, had campaigned for this sanitary form of disposal of the dead, arguing that it would reduce funeral expenditure, spare mourners from weather and prevent premature burial. Also ashes could be kept in columbaria safe from vandalism. After finally overcoming the objections of the Home Office, a London woman – Edith Pickersgill – was cremated on March 25, 1885, at the Woking Crematorium, established by the Cremation Society of England.

Culled from: The London Way of Death

I like how they list “prevent premature burials” as an advantage of cremation.  Aren’t they really swapping out one unfortunate occurrence (awakening in a coffin) for another (awakening in an oven)?  Oh well, the screaming is over faster in the oven!


Funeral Trains

Here’s some more interesting Chicago history that Aaron sent me: an article about the funeral trains that used to take mourners (and the corpses) out to the cemeteries that were then (early 1900s) on the outskirts of town.

When You Could Ride An ‘L’ Train To Your Grave

I discovered this phenomenon on my own when I explored Rosehill Cemetery on Chicago’s Northwest side years ago.  Rosehill is the biggest cemetery in Chicago and I used to live conveniently close to it and would explore it frequently.  I noticed overgrown steps coming down from the railroad line, which is now used by the Metra trains that run to the suburbs, and I also noticed a narrow, tall building along the edge of the cemetery.

A little sleuthing confirmed what I suspected: these were remnants of the old Rosehill Cemetery funeral stop.  The steps would be descended by the mourners, while the corpse in the coffin would take the elevator down (lazy bum).   Finding these little remnants of the past always makes me happy… even if these particular remnants represent so much forgotten sorrow.

Here are a few photos I took of these remnants.

The Stairway Of Sorrow

The stairway leads down to…
The Ornate Front Gate of Rosehill Cemetery

And around the corner you will find the…
Coffin Elevator:



Brain Du Jour!

Another excerpt from Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital.

Study No. 99:
Agyria lobi.
fron. lat. utr.,

This brain belonged to a patient suffering from lissencephaly. The disorder causes smooth surfaces rather than folds on portions of the brain. A perfectly smooth brain such as this is extremely rare.