Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 11, 2016

Today’s Jealous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On September 10, 1978, Sandy and Duane Johnson hosted an informal gathering at their home in Omaha, Nebraska. Sandy’s parents, two sisters, brother-in-law and nephew were in attendance.

That night, the nephew, Chad Shelton, became violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea. His parents, Sallie and Bruce Shelton, took him to the emergency room, where his condition continued to deteriorate rapidly; he began hemorrhaging from every orifice of his body and his platelet count was far below normal. His liver was failing, and he was dead less than a day later.

He was only eleven months old.

Duane Johnson, 25, was brought to the hospital while his nephew was being treated. Johnson was also vomiting and had an uncontrollable nosebleed. He too died, aged 25. His two-year-old daughter Sheri was admitted with similar symptoms, but a blood transfusion saved her life.

Sallie and Bruce Shelton and Sallie and Sandy’s youngest sister Susan were also sickened but survived.

Doctors suspected poisoning of some kind but were at a loss to pinpoint the source of the poison. One doctor, looking through medical literature, came across a photograph of a damaged liver that looked exactly like the livers of the two victims. The liver pictured had been that of a German woman poisoned by her husband.

The poison in question was dimethylnitrosamine, a powerful carcinogen used in cancer research and not available to the general public. The Johnson/Shelton family were asked if they knew anybody who worked in a cancer research setting who might have access to DMN and who might want to poison them, but drew a blank. On a hunch, a police officer did a search of Duane Johnson’s name in the records and learned that in 1975, there had been a confrontation and shooting incident outside the Johnsons’ home. An ex-boyfriend of Sandy’s, Steven Roy Harper, had been angry over Sandy’s jilting him and marrying Duane, and had reacted badly. He served a year in prison and upon his release got a job at the Epley Institute, a cancer-research lab in Omaha.

Harper was an odd character. He’d been burned badly in a house fire as a child and was very sensitive about his resulting scarring. In high school he was known as a shy, quiet loner who made good grades and hoped to become a veterinarian. He must have been beyond thrilled when pretty, popular Sandy Betten became his girlfriend, and was heartbroken and angry when she left him for somebody else.

Harper had access to DMN at his workplace, and a veterinarian there remembered treating Harper’s dog and cat for unexplained bleeding. Both animals had died. Their symptoms were consistent with having been poisoned with DMN.

The case against Steven Harper was beginning to add up but there was one major problem: DMN breaks down quickly once ingested and excreted, leaving behind no trace. The supposition was that lemonade served at the Johnsons’ house had been doctored with DMN, as only those people who’d drunk it had been sickened; Sandy’s parents drank coffee and Sandy herself had drunk something else. But the lemonade was all gone and the pitcher had been washed and put away.

A scientist in California agreed to try a test that had never been done before on human tissue. DMN was used to induce cancer in lab animals because it acted on DNA in their tissues. A selection of ten different liver and kidney tissue samples was sent to him for DNA analysis; unbeknownst to him, one of those samples was from Duane Johnson’s organs. He performed the test and reported that Johnson’s tissue samples and none of the others showed a characteristic pattern of DNA changes consistent with DMN toxicity.

Harper was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and three of attempted murder. It’s believed he had taken the DMN from a locked refrigerator at the Epley Institute, tried it out on his own pets, and once he saw that it would be fatal, slipped into the Johnsons’ house a few days before the party and added the chemical to a pitcher of lemonade he found in their fridge.

Harper was convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair, but he never had to face his punishment: he committed suicide in his cell.

Sheri Johnson survived her brush with death, but sustained permanent liver damage as a result. Bruce and Sallie Shelton also recovered, but Bruce Shelton was so distraught over his son’s death and his own fears that he would develop cancer that he descended into alcoholism and died homeless at the age of 38. Sallie remarried but refused to have any more children, fearing that she would die of cancer and leave them motherless.

The final irony is that Sandy Johnson, Harper’s presumed intended target, did not become ill. Harper was clearly obsessed with her, but apparently either didn’t know or had forgotten that she didn’t like lemonade.

Here are the victims –

Duane Johnson:

Chad Shelton:

And here’s the killer, Steven Roy Harper:

Culled From: Forensic Files
Submitted by: Aimee

Jealousy is maybe the ugliest of human emotions. – Aimee

You can watch the Forensic Files episode here.












Garretdom: Dreadful Intoxication Edition!

If I was this man’s wife, I would be sooooooooo pissed, for a number of reasons. You too?

December 9, 1887

A Dreadful Result of Intoxication.

NEW YORK, Dec. 9.–The wife of James Colbourne, a painter, living at 119 Sullivan street, gave birth to a child last night and at midnight Colbourne came in drunk. He stumbled about, and finally fell across the bed where the child lay. The child was crushed so that it died, and the father was arrested and to-day was held for examination.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1887 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 6, 2016

Today’s Aspirin-taking Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One thing was certain: This victim would never have opened her door to a stranger.

The dead woman was Catherine Pappas, the 29-year-old wife of a prosperous coffee importer, two decades her senior. Newly immigrated from Alexandria, Egypt, the pretty brunette, known as Kitty, rarely spoke to her neighbors and seldom stepped outside, unless she was heading to the Greek Orthodox church a few blocks from her apartment on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Even shopping could not lure her out of her apartment. She had all of her groceries and clothes delivered.

“The Egyptian Princess” was how her neighbors referred to the quiet, aloof beauty.

Terrified of strangers, Kitty would never dream of opening the door without first scrutinizing the caller through the peephole, her husband, John, told police.

Yet, when he returned home on Feb. 5, 1941, and found his wife strangled in the bedroom, the scene in the living room suggested that she had spent the afternoon sipping coffee and brandy with her murderer.

Two coffee cups and saucers, from the couple’s finest china, were set out on a serving table, next to a plate of cookies and two partly filled wine glasses. A picture from the Pappas wedding two years earlier had been left on a chair. It was usually hanging over the dresser, and police figured that Kitty must have taken it down to show it to her guest.

A bottle of aspirin and a water glass were on another small table.

The killer had apparently attacked her after they had chatted over coffee. There were signs of a struggle – an overturned lamp – in the living room. Then he had dragged her to the bedroom, stuffed his handkerchief in her mouth, and bound her hands with his necktie and her legs with a kitchen towel. The murder weapon was another towel, tightened around her throat. She had not been raped.

He had made off with jewelry, including her wedding ring, a gold crucifix, $50 in cash and a silver cigarette case. But he had left behind a pack of cigarettes and, most importantly, a clear set of fingerprints on the water glass.

It had all the earmarks of a phantom cops were calling “the Aspirin Bandit.” In the past three months, he had attacked two other local women, each time asking for aspirin before he jumped them. Both times he took money and jewels, but no lives.

The first was in November, when a couple had picked up a hitchhiker on the Pulaski Skyway. The young man introduced himself as John Mitchell, and said he was the mayor of Boys Town, the famous Nebraska refuge for youths founded by Father Edward Flanagan. Mitchell told the couple that he was heading north to find his sister, who had been seriously injured in a car wreck in Maine. Along with the ride, the couple offered him some cash. He reluctantly took it, but insisted on writing down their address so that he could pay them back.

A few days later, Mitchell was knocking at their door in the afternoon, when the husband was out at work. After the wife fed her visitor lunch, he complained of a headache. As she was reaching for the aspirin, he slipped his arm around her throat, bound her with her husband’s ties, and raped her.

Another couple that picked up a hitchhiker told an almost identical story. They gave him a ride, money and sympathy. He later showed up at their apartment when the husband was at work, then asked for aspirin before tying her up and stealing her fur coat.

Both couples described a stocky young man, about 6 feet tall, with a scarred lip and pimples. They also said that he had been wearing a garish green striped coat and yellow shoes.

Pappas did not have a car, and so could not have given a lift to a hitchhiker. But everything else matched the pattern of the Aspirin Bandit. Once the Pappas murder hit the papers, and others came forth to tell of other frightening encounters, detectives were certain that he was the killer.

One woman told police that, just before the Pappas murder, a stranger had knocked on her door, said he was a friend of her husband and launched into his tear-jerking tale. She knew the young man had to be lying. Her husband had been in the grave for years.

It was conceivable that Mrs. Pappas had believed that the man at the door was her husband’s friend, and worthy of her hospitality.

New York detectives followed the lead, and found a string of attacks from Maine to Delaware. Some were simple robberies, others horrible assaults. InPhiladelphia, Edward Wagner and his pregnant wife, Catherine, 20, had picked up a hitchhiker shortly after the Pappas murder. The stranger later showed up at his home, ate lunch, then raped Mrs. Wagner, causing her to miscarry.

There were at least 20 accounts of a young man in a green coat who sobbed out the same hard-luck tale, wormed his way into a home, and attacked, with or without aspirin.

In his attempt to impress his victims, the bandit would talk of his close ties to Father Flanagan, and would sometimes try to prove it by dropping a postcard in the mail to the head of Boys Town. There was, police learned, a stack of these odd messages at the Nebraska refuge. They were easy to identify, because the bandit had misspelled Flanagan’s name.

From these, police gained one of two critical clues – a handwriting sample. The second clue, the fingerprint from the glass in the Pappas’ apartment, had yielded a name – George Joseph Cvek, 23, a petty crook with a long record.

Figuring that their quarry was most likely a vagabond, New York City Detectives Fred Durant, Edward Gillon and Edward Mahon focused their efforts on Salvation Army shelters and cheap hotels, comparing the handwriting on the Boys Town postcards to names in registries.

At the Mills Hotel, on 36th St. and Seventh Ave., they found a match – a guest named Jack Mitchell, one of the aliases Cvek had frequently used.

Disguised as desk clerks, the detectives waited. Around 9 p.m., a strapping youth, with a scarred lip and pimples and wearing a green coat and yellow shoes, sauntered into the lobby, and the cops grabbed him.

Before dawn, Cvek had confessed to dozens of crimes, including the murder of Kitty Pappas. He said that he had picked her address at random, and used the “friend of your husband” lie to gain her trust and entry into the apartment. But he insisted that he didn’t mean to hurt her. Her death was an accident.

“I put my arm around her, she screamed. I grabbed her. We were on the floor,” he told police. “I hit her on the side a few times. When she didn’t move, I knew she was dead.”

Back in his hometown of Steelton, Pa., Cvek’s family couldn’t even pretend to be surprised. “He’s my boy and I don’t want to see him die in the electric chair, but I don’t feel much sympathy for him. He’s always been bad. To me, he’s always been a headache,” said his widowed, worn-out ma, Barbara Cvek. He was just 10 when his father hauled him into juvenile court for the first time, complaining that the boy was disobedient, surly and thieving. None of the clan’s hard-earned money was safe when George was around.

On May 19, 1941, a jury composed of Bronx businessmen took 20 minutes to decide to give the Aspirin Bandit a sentence that would end his pain for good. Cvek died in the electric chair on Feb. 26, 1942.

Here’s a snapshot of Cvek taken by an unsuspecting driver during his crime spree:

And here’s another – what a handsome, dapper fella, huh?

Here is John Pappas and his wife Kitty:

And here’s John and Kitty at her funeral:

Culled from: NY Daily News


Corpse Du Jour!

Here’s a classic photograph by Weegee which shows the body of a gunman lying facedown on a New York City sidewalk on February 3, 1942, after he was shot dead by an off-duty cop.

Culled from: Shots in the Dark: True Crime Pictures

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 4, 2016

Today’s Rabble-rousing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

By 1974 William O. Douglas had become the longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history, having been appointed by FDR in 1939. He’d also become a globetrotting liberal rabble-rouser and a pariah to conservatives: while House Minority Leader, Gerald Ford had tried to impeach him. On December 31, 1974, Douglas touched down in the Bahamas to celebrate the New Year there, accompanied by his fourth wife, a thirty-one-year-old blonde not even born when he’d joined the Court. Within hours of landing, Douglas had a stroke and collapsed.

Airlifted out of Nassau, he arrived at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington and spent the next few months convalescing. In all he missed twenty-one Supreme Court votes, and although his doctors noticed little progress – Douglas couldn’t walk and his left side remained paralyzed – he refused to resign from the Court. Finally, in March, he badgered one doctor into granting him an overnight pass to visit his wife. Instead of heading home, though, Douglas instructed his driver (he certainly couldn’t drive himself) to visit his office. He began catching up that very night and never returned to the hospital.

Douglas had some good reasons not to resign. His old enemy Gerald Ford had become president, and Douglas feared that Ford would “appoint some bastard” to take his place. Plus, the court would hear important cases that term on campaign finance and the death penalty. But mostly Douglas refused to resign because in his own mind there was nothing wrong. At first he told reporters that, far from having had a stroke, he’d merely stumbled, Gerry Ford-like, and gotten a little banged up – never mind the slurred speech and the wheelchair. When questioned about this, he claimed that the stories circulating about his paralysis were rumors, and he challenged naysayers to go hiking with him. When pressed further, he swore that he’d been kicking forty-yard field goals with his paralyzed leg that very morning. Hell, he said, his doctor wanted him to try out for the Redskins.

If anything, Douglas’s performance away from reporters was more pathetic still. He started sleeping through hearings, forgetting names, confusing facts on important cases, and whispering to aides about assassins; because of chronic incontinence, his secretary had to drench his wheelchair in Lysol. The other eight justices, although bound by omertà not to pressure Douglas publicly, agreed to table all 4-4 ties until the next term and not let Douglas cast deciding votes. In a small concession to reality Douglas did seek specialized stroke treatment in New York during the summer recess in 1975, but he failed to improve. The other justices finally forced Douglas to resign in November – and even then Douglas kept returning to work, calling himself the “Tenth Justice,” commandeering clerks, and attempting to cast more votes. Nothing’s wrong with me, he insisted. It was a bewildering end for an eminent jurist.

Nothing’s wrong with me!

Culled from:  The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery


Arcane Excerpts: Cynical Homophobic Ex-Cop Edition

Here’s some more fun-filled homophobia from the introduction to The Sexual Criminal: A Psychoanalytical Study (1956), written by Eugene D. Williams, former chief deputy district attorney, Los Angeles County. Here he’s talking about the author of The Sexual Criminal and the head of the Sex Offense Bureau of the LAPD, Dr. J. Paul de River:

Thousands of individuals have been examined by Dr. de River in the Los Angeles Police Department and in conjunction with cases in our courts. Every type of pervert from the apparently least obnoxious [that’s the kind of pervert I fancy myself – DeSpair] to the most vicious and dangerous has come under his observation. I believe that he has examined carefully and scientifically [Ooooh, I say! – DeSpair] more sex perverts than any other person in the United States at the present time. Added to a complete knowledge of the literature on the subject [I bet! – DeSpair], he has the benefit of the thousands upon thousands of cases which he has personally examined. He has had under his observation some of the very few cases of congenital homosexuality, some cases wherein endocrine imbalance is suggested, many where combinations of causes have produced homosexuality, and other types of perversions; but he has reached the conclusion that most sex perverts are not the products of hereditary stigmata nor of endocrine imbalance, but of their environment and association. He adopts the view, rather unusual for a psychiatrist, that sex perverts, as well as other person, are endowed with free will, having equal opportunities to decide that they either will or will not commit certain unlawful and perverted acts and should be held accountable to the law for their conduct.

… Most sex perverts are inferiors, not necessarily in mentality or physique, but in personality and character. They most frequently, however, in an effort to cover up their own mediocrity and inferiority, and as a defensive reaction, have developed a sort of super-ego, which leads them to be proud of their degeneracy and to feel that in their perversion they have found something more satisfactory in satisfying their sex urge than that which God has provided. [… Well? – DeSpair] The semi-hysterical, foolishly sympathetic, and wholly unscientific attitude of many individuals engaged in social work and criminology to regard these sex perverts as poor unfortunates who are suffering from disease and cannot help themselves, has a tendency merely to feed their ego. They will tell you that they are different from other persons [am I not? – DeSpair], that they are sensitive [am I not? – DeSpair], that you cannot understand them [who can? – DeSpair], and will draw for you a picture that would lead you to believe that they had been especially chosen by the Creator and put in a special category because of some extraordinary qualities which are not shared by mankind in general. [I rest my case – DeSpair] The attitude of those who encourage such ideas upon the part of sex perverts is not conducive to the proper handling of the situation or its cure. A sterner attitude is required; an attitude which requires that they should be brought to a realization of their own degeneracy and to an understanding of the contempt in which a normal person holds the practices of which they are so proud. They should understand that they are not laboratory cases to be studied and admired but criminals to be gbrought to account for their crimes, who are expected to reform, and the means and ways of reformation should be provided for them.

This is Dr. De River. I know what you’re thinking – I’m thinking the same thing: “It takes one to know one.”

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 3, 2016

Today’s Commonplace Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

During the first 40 years of photography (ca. 1840-1880), professional photographers regularly advertised that they would take “likenesses of deceased persons.” Advertisements that state that “We are prepared to take pictures of a deceased person on one hour’s notice” were commonplace throughout the United States. The prominent firm of Southworth & Hawes ran the following advertisement in the 1846 Boston business directory: “We make miniatures of children and adults instantly, and of Deceased Persons either at our rooms or at private residences. We take great pains to have Miniatures of Deceased Persons agreeable and satisfactory, and they are often so natural as to seem, even to Artists, in a deep sleep.”

The practice was sufficiently common that black mats, often decorated with floral patterns, were sold by photographic supply houses. Companies like the Scovil Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Mausoleum Daguerreotype Case Company of New York sold daguerreotype cases designed for “likenesses of deceased persons, and for sepulchral daguerreotypes”.

Here’s a post-mortem image by Southworth & Hawes:

Culled from: Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America


Morbid Twitter Feed Du Jour!

A special thank you to Kevin for letting me know about American Injuries – a collection of tweets from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System!  Full of delights such as, “A 51-YR-OLD FEMALE FELL ON ARM YESTERDAY FROM TOILET FELT LIGHTHEADED ALSO USED COCAINE HEROIN CELLULITIS ARM.”   Fascinating!

American Injuries

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 2, 2016

Today’s Misleading Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Although smallpox was a uniquely human disease, its causative agent, variola virus, belongs to the genus of orthopoxviruses (“true pox” viruses), whose members include buffalopox, camelpox, cowpox, monkeypox, mousepox, rabbitpox, and raccoonpox. These viruses are generally named after their primary host, but some have turned out to be misnomers: Cowpox and monkeypox are actually carried by rodents and only occasionally infect cows or monkeys. The name “chickenpox” is also misleading: The virus infects only humans and is not a poxvirus at all but a member of the unrelated class of herpesviruses. (The word “chicken” in chickenpox may have been derived from the French word chiche, meaning chickpea, referring to the size of the lesion, or from the Old English word gicans, meaning itch; “pox” refers to any rash consisting of pustules, or skin lesions filled with pus.)

The dastardly, yet beautiful, variola virus:

And a man suffering from the dreadful disease circa 1881:

Culled from: Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox


Morbid Trinket… of the Future!

For those of you who are taking advantage of sudden and unexpected acceptability of adult coloring, the Mütter Museum has good news for you: a morbid coloring book will soon be on its way! They released a taste on their Facebook page.

Mütter Museum Coloring Book

Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 1, 2016

Today’s Gaseous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

1963 was a memorable year for many reasons. Beatlemania was just beginning. Thousands marched on Washington DC for the cause of civil rights. John F. Kennedy was cut down by an assassin (or more than one assassin; take your pick of theories as to what “really” happened) in Dallas. And on the very first morning of that exciting year, a mystery unfolded in the land Down Under, one that fascinated Australians for years to come and which would not be resolved for over forty years.

On that New Year’s morning, some kids were walking along Sydney’s Lane Cove River searching for lost golf balls. When they spied a man lying on the riverbank, they assumed he was sleeping off his New Year’s Eve and moved on without disturbing him. But when they came back the same way an hour later, the man had not moved, and now his face was discolored. He was clearly not just passed out, so the golf-ball hunters summoned the police, who quickly determined the man was very dead, and also found a second body not far away.

The dead were identified as Dr. Gilbert Bogle, 38, a physicist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and Margaret Chandler, 28, the wife of one of Bogle’s coworkers. They had last been seen leaving a party in the wee hours of that day. Both victims were partly undressed, but somebody had covered them up: Bogle’s pants were laid over him along with a piece of old carpet, and Chandler was covered with a broken-up cardboard beer carton. There were no signs of trauma to the bodies, but there were minor scratches on them, and these together with footprints and kneeprints showed the two had wandered around in an apparent state of confusion before they collapsed. Vomit and excreta were also present, pointing to the possibility of their having been poisoned.

The story was widely covered in the Australian press. Aside from the mysterious nature of the deaths, there was also the titillating fact that both victims were already married to others, and that they had evidently been trysting at the riverside when they died. Sexy scandal sold as well back then as it does today. Many theories were advanced as to what killed Bogle and Chandler, but the toxicology tests of the day showed no trace of poison in their blood. The case seemed doomed to remain unsolved forever.

But in 2006, an Australian filmmaker humorously named Peter Butt began researching the case, and he presented his findings in a documentary titled “Who Killed Dr. Bogle and Mrs. Chandler?” The solution he proposed was simple and plausible. Butt had come to believe that the couple was overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas emanating from the polluted riverbed. For years before their deaths, residents nearby had complained of a rotten-egg smell that periodically hung about the area. A local factory that dumped its waste in the river was blamed. H2S, as it’s known, smells strongly of rotten eggs at thirty parts per million in air; at fifty to one hundred ppm, it is sickly-sweet in smell. At one hundred ppm, it instantly paralyzes the olfactory nerves and is thus undetectable even though it soon causes breathing difficulty and upset stomach. At two hundred ppm, the gas quickly causes severe respiratory distress, and at a thousand ppm, one breath is immediately fatal.

There were high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide in the bottom sediment of the Lane Cove River near where Bogle and Chandler died. Occasionally underwater turbulence would bring the gas to the surface and into the air. Since H2S is heavier than air, it tended to collect in low places, like the little hollow where the lovers had been. That was a still, calm night, and without a breeze to disappate it, the deadly gas would have settled over them like a blanket. They wouldn’t have smelled it at the high concentration, and by the time they began to feel sick time was already running out for them. They would have been confused due to the displacement of oxygen in their blood, making it difficult to find their way to higher ground and safety in the dark night. And so they succumbed to the noxious gas, and were found a few hours later.

And what of the fact that they had been covered up after death? Hindsight being 20/20, the credit, or maybe the blame, goes to a greyhound trainer who lived nearby and who exercised his dogs on the path very near where the bodies were found. This man denied using that path on the morning in question, but had told a track steward that he had in fact discovered the bodies and had covered them. He was known to be a prude, but his prudishness does not explain why he did not report what he had found, or come forward once he heard that somebody else had done so.

The Unfortunate Fornicators

Culled From: Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

There are, naturally, other theories as to what happened to Bogle and Chandler, most having to do with Dr. Bogle’s national security connections, and most of them fairly predictable and far-fetched. – Aimee


Surgical Photo Du Jour!

The Sacred Heart: An Atlas of the Body Seen Through Invasive Surgery is a book of surgery photographs taken by Max Aguilera-Hellweg.  The images are powerful, beautiful, and at times cringe-inducing – like this image of a Cochlear Implant. I like the little blob of red tissue on the blue cover.

Cochlear Implant

A two-year old girl who was born deaf has an electronic device implanted into her inner ear, where it will directly stimulate the auditory nerve, sending signals to the auditory cortex of her brain. The auditory sensations possible with such an implant are different from those of normal hearing; to those who once were able to hear, the voices are said to sound initially like a record at the wrong speed or like Donald Duck. In time, however, the sounds seem more and more normal. Implants help many deaf adults and congenitally deaf children to understand speech but are controversial in the deaf community, where their use is perceived as a threat to deaf culture.

The white tube visible in the left side of the photograph is a surgical drain, implanted at the end of most surgeries to prevent fluid from collecting postoperatively.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 31, 2016

Today’s Ridiculous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

At Nazi concentration camps, the striped uniforms were deliberately handed out in the wrong sizes to make the prisoners look ridiculous.

Culled from: Sachsenhausen Concetration Camp 1936-1945


All Hail The Pumpkin King!

Look at this adorable, if ever-so-slightly creepy, drawing of veggies.

Then feel somewhat uneasy when you learn that the image is from the wall of the cellar of the kitchen at the Sachsenhausen Prison Camp – from the time after World War II when it was a Soviet prison camp (Soviet Special Camp, 1945-1950).

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 30, 2016

Today’s Dancing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Dancing Plague (or Dance Epidemic) of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in July 1518. Around 400 people took to dancing for days without rest, and, over the period of about one month, some of those affected died of heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.

The outbreak began in July 1518, when a woman, Mrs Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. This lasted somewhere between four to six days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers, predominantly female. Some of these people eventually died from heart attacks, strokes, or exhaustion.

Historical documents, including “physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council” are clear that the victims danced. It is not known why these people danced, some even to their deaths.

As the dancing plague worsened, concerned nobles sought the advice of local physicians, who ruled out astrological and supernatural causes, instead announcing that the plague was a “natural disease” caused by “hot blood”. However, instead of prescribing bleeding, authorities encouraged more dancing, in part by opening two guildhalls and a grain market, and even constructing a wooden stage. The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would recover only if they danced continuously night and day. To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving.

Historian John Waller stated that a marathon runner could not have lasted the intense workout that the men and women died from hundreds of years ago.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Graciously suggested by: My Awesome GF Paula


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

So I am kind of obsessed with the skeleton calendars produced by the Antikamnia Chemical Company in the late 19th/early 20th century. I keep thinking someone will surely release reproductions of them as prints so that I can have my favorite (Sep/Oct 1897 as shown below) on my wall.  I did find a few on Etsy, but not the ones I want.  I’m still looking, but I did stumble across a beautiful “reproduction” of one on Ebay.

First, here’s my favorite – the most beautiful baby that has ever existed. If anyone finds a print of this, please let me know!

And then here’s the original of the “reproduction”:

And here’s the amazing “reproduction” on Ebay.  Stunning, isn’t it?

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 27, 2016

Today’s Royal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

King Faisal ascended to the throne of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1964, and became a controversial but popular leader. He was well-educated and well-traveled, a prudent financial manager and an effective diplomat. He instituted many progressive reforms within his country, abolishing slavery, creating welfare programs and providing for female education. He was astute enough to couch his more liberal policies in a religious context to satisfy the most conservative Islamic authorities in the kingdom.

There were widespread protests when Saudi Arabia’s first television network began broadcasting in 1965, with conservatives believing that television was in direct opposition to the Koranic ban of human images. In 1967, Prince Khalid Bin Musa-Id, the king’s nephew, stormed Saudi TV headquarters and was shot and killed by security guards.

Khalid’s brother Faisal Bin Musaid spent several years studying in the United States, where he was known as a likable young man who was a poor student and dabbled in drugs. He returned to Saudi Aarabia and supposedly told his mother of his plan to assassinate his uncle, the king, blaming him for his brother’s death. She in turn told the king of the plot and he replied that if such a thing happened, it would be Allah’s will.

On March 25, 1975, King Faisal was holding a majlis, meaning he made himself available in his palace to hear petitions from his subjects. Prince Faisal approached the king, who recognized him and leaned down to kiss him in greeting. Prince Faisal pulled a gun from his robe and fired three shots, two of them hitting the king in the head and one missing. A bodyguard struck the prince with his golden sword, still in its sheath, and the oil minister, also present, cried out several times not to kill the prince. King Faisal was rushed to the hospital, where he was given a heart massage and blood transfusions. He reportedly asked that his nephew not be executed, and then died.

Prince Faisal was at first declared insane but a team of doctors who examined him found him competent. He was convicted of the regicide and just three months after the murder, he was publicly beheaded in Riyadh. His execution, like the killing of the king, was carried live on Saudi TV. There is a widespread belief in Saudi Arabia and much of the Arab world that Prince Faisal acted not to avenge his brother, but rather was a pawn of a Western conspiracy involving the CIA, over oil boycotts, but nothing has been definitively proven on that score.

Kids these days, eh?

Culled From: Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

I don’t imagine the good king would have been happy to know that his dying request that his nephew’s life be spared was ignored. – Aimee


Holocaust Revisited

In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I thought I’d share my travelogue to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany.

Nineteen Thirty-Sick

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 26, 2016

Today’s Courteous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

If official records of such events are to be taken seriously, royal patients are a lot braver and more courteous than the rest of us. After George IV had a sebaceous cyst removed from his head in 1821, entirely without the aid of any sort of anesthetic, he casually inquired of the surgeon, Astley Cooper, “So, what do you call these tumors?” Queen Victoria had a particularly nasty axillary abscess drained when she was fifty-one years old. When she came round from the chloroform, she is supposed to have opened her eyes and remarked, “A most unpleasant task, Professor Lister, most pleasantly performed.” The price of failure for a royal medic, however, has always been high, as demonstrated by Bohemia’s blind King John. When his surgeons failed to restore his eyesight he had all of them drowned in the Danube.

“A most unpleasant task, most pleasantly performed.”   What a splendid sentence!  I shall have to remember that the next time I have an unpleasant medical experience.

Culled from: Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

I thought it was incredibly sweet of a friend to post this on my Facebook page and say, “Maybe someday you’ll be so lucky.”  Oh, I’ve no doubt!  (Thanks to Anne for sharing this one.)