Author Archives: Comtesse

The Comtesse DeSpair sits in sullen silence in The Castle DeSpair, obsessively reflecting upon the horrible void in which we exist. In her spare time (of which she has nothing but), she collects morbid trinkets and reads voraciously about the history of torture. She stores her trinkets in The Asylum Eclectica (http://asylumeclectica.com/). The Comtesse is hideously disfigured and thickly veiled at all hours. Once, an unfortunate servant caught a glimpse beneath the veil and was driven to madness. The Comtesse loves thunderstorms, darkness, and solitude.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 10, 2017

I know, I’ve hardly even been back, but I must sadly announce a hiatus until after May 21st as I am going to be on vacation with family. Stay morbid while I’m away!

Today’s Starving Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Between February, 1864 and April, 1865 it is estimated that 45,000 Union prisoners were confined in the Confederate stockade, Camp Sumter, near Anderson Station, Georgia, forever to be remembered as Andersonville. Of that number, approximately 25,000 men survived their prison experience and returned home to tell their tale of suffering. It is unknown how many survivors, with their health and lives shattered, died as a direct result of their captivity after returning to civilian life. Close to 13,000 Union soldiers did “give up the ghost” at Andersonville, and it was the ghost of Andersonville that haunted the survivors for the rest of their lives.

The following is an excerpt from the account of Private George Weiser, who arrived in Andersonville on May 25, 1864.

And now it is the last week of August, we have had our hardest thunder storms in this month; it flooded the prison and washed off the filth and dirt; the ground was cold and damp and the men dying off by hundreds, the days were hot but the nights were chilly and all the men beg the Rebs to give them shelter for the sick. The Rebs sent us in two or three wagon loads of boards and we put up two sheds open in the front and closed in the back and ends, these sheds were only for the sick that was helpless which were thousands. Many of the sick men had nothing of any kind to cook with not even so much as a tin cup or a tin plate; many of the sick and well, both, were without anything to cook with for the Rebs gave us nothing to cook in and if the men could not borrow a tin cup or plate from their friends they had to eat their food raw. It was now the first of September, the sheds were completed and the sick was being carried to them. All that could walk was called well and all that could not walk was called sick, the four in my tent was able to walk up to this time. Kay was sick from eating raw meal, Hilyard was failing fast, MacIntosh and I were in good health. In the mud hole or tent behind my tent where three men lived, all were dead. The tent on the right side of my tent where two men lived, one was dead and the other one in good health. The tent on the left side of my tent where three men lived, two were dead and one in good health. This is the way things were about the first day of September, when we heard a strong rumor that the prisoners were going to be exchanged. About this time Phil Hilyard said to us, “do you men ever expect to get out of this prison alive?” I told him that I hoped to get out all right. He said that he was sure that he would die before he got home; he failed fast after this and at midnight on the third of September he died. Kay got so weak that he gave up all hope and said that he believed that he too would soon die. On the seventh of September the Rebs said we would be exchanged and they began to take the prisoners out of the prison. On the eighth of September we carried Kay up and put him in the shed; he was alive when I left the prison. On the ninth of September my old friend MacIntosh got uneasy and slipped out with another detachment and left me alone. On the tenth of September my detachment or thousand was ordered out. We were taken to the railroad and put in boxcars and started North. Now I was very sad indeed; my three comrades gone, my clothes ragged and torn, I did not know what to do.  I soon found two men that had lived along side of me and were in the same car with me, one of these men was Frank Beegle of the Fifteenth regiment, New Jersey Vol., and the other was Orlando Gallagher of my regiment. Both of the men had a wool blanket but I had none; we had only one blanket at our tent and when Phil got sick we sold it to get him something to eat, so these men said that I should go with them and that they would let me sleep in the middle. This was very good news indeed to me, but still I was sad to think that we had left so many behind. It is said that thirty thousand died in Andersonville Prison Pen, but if each man had been truly counted the dead would number many more than fourteen, fifteen or even sixteen thousand.


Handsome George Weiser, Before…


and Ragged George Weiser, After.

Orland Gallagher’s Partner that he had at Andersonville died and left him with a silver watch valued at fifty dollars. I had a gold ring worth about two dollars which I had not parted with. On the fifteenth of September we landed at a place called Florence, South Carolina. Here we were taken from the cars and put in a large field and a strong guard put over us. About eight or ten thousand prisoners had now arrived here and it was two days since we had eaten our last food. I now traded off my ring for a peck of sweet potatoes, Orlando bought some meat and corn meal, Frank hunted up some pieces of wood and we soon had a good feed. The Rebs said that they did not know that we were coming and that nothing had been prepared to feed us, so that night and the next day made three days since we had food. The men began to starve and die and we commenced to carry the dead up and lay them on the ground near the guards, some of the guards would say “what’s the matter with that man.” We would say that the man has starved to death and every one of us will starve to death if we are kept without food another day. The Rebs thought that there were some truth to this and they started out through the country and gathered up three or four wagon loads of corn cake and sweet potatoes; this was divided with the men and the next day the Rebs began to give us our corn meal and meat regular. It was in this place that I saw three men lay on the ground and crying, “o’ for a spoonful of meal to save my life!” and the next morning I went to see if they were still there and the three men lay cold and stiff in death.


Photo of George Weiser.

George Weiser eventually made his escape near Wilmington, N.C. on February 22, 1865.  He died in 1928.

Culled from: Andersonville Giving Up the Ghost: Diaries & Recollections of the Prisoners

 

Morbid Sightseeing!

If you’re a long-time reader, you’ve probably seen my travelogue to Andersonville before, but if you’ve never taken a gander, perhaps you’ll find it subtly entertaining?

Anderson Vile!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for May 4, 2017

Today’s Nekkid Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

There was a time when 85% of insane asylum inmate patients were attired in “state clothing”. There was nothing wrong with the quality of the garb, but a lot of sameness was evident. Undergarments were a particular problem in that the heavy material was too much for the thing elastic. As a result, the clothing was tied at the waist, leaving a bulge. Many wore denim jackets and trousers (overalls) and chambray shirts. On some wards, when patients were put to bed at night, all of their clothing was wrapped in a bundle and placed in the clothing room. Those patients then slept in the nude. Clothing bundles were made up the night before bath day and distributed for that event.

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

 

Morbid Report Du Jour!

Marco sent me a link to an article in Popular Mechanics about the Gerry Report: 

“In 1887, the state of New York published what became popularly known as the Gerry Commission Report. This is one piece of bureaucratic prose that is neither dull nor boring. In fact, it may be among the most macabre and gruesome in the annals of American writing.

“And it was important. The ramifications of this execution encyclopedia—officially titled “The Commission to Investigate and Report the Most Humane and Practical Method of Carrying into Effect the Sentence of Death in Capital Cases”—echo still in the courts and prisons of America.”

“In all, the commission evaluated 34 different methods of execution, listing them in alphabetical order. Some methods were described in a single paragraph, while others—which presumably the authors found more interesting—took several pages to illustrate. They are:

  1. Auto da fe (burning to death for heresy)
  2. Beating with clubs
  3. Beheading
  4. Blowing from a cannon
  5. Boiling (“Usually in hot water but sometimes in melted sulfur, lead or the like.”)
  6. Breaking on the wheel
  7. Burning
  8. Burying alive
  9. Crucifixion
  10. Decimation (a military punishment for mutineers)
  11. Dichotomy (cutting a person in half)
  12. Dismemberment (like dichotomy but even messier)
  13. Drowning
  14. Exposure to wild beasts
  15. Flaying
  16. Flogging
  17. Garrote (strangling with a cord)
  18. Guillotine
  19. Hanging
  20. Hari Kari
  21. Impalement
  22. Iron Maiden (A machine in the image of the Virgin Mary equipped with spring loaded knives)
  23. Peine forte et dure (placing heavy weights to stop breathing)
  24. Poisoning
  25. Pounding in a mortar (like it sounds)
  26. Precipitation (throwing from a cliff)
  27. Pressing to death
  28. Rack
  29. Running the gauntlet (being made to walk between two lines of men, each of whom has a club.)
  30. Shooting
  31. Stabbing
  32. Stoning
  33. Strangling
  34. Suffocation

(More delightfully gruesome details at the link.)

So which method would you choose?  I think beheading or shooting would be my choice.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for May 3, 2017

Today’s Grateful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Among the earliest known accounts of a photographer taking a corpse photograph is James F. Ryder’s 1873 recollection of his days as a daguerreotypist in central New York State in the 1850s. In recounting the attitudes of the townsfolk to his practice, Ryder states:
 

I was regarded with respect and supposed to be a prosperous young fellow. All were friendly and genial – save one. The blacksmith, a heavy, burly man, the muscular terror of the village disapproved of me. Said I was a lazy dog, too lazy to do honest work and was humbuggin [sic] and swindling the people of their hard earnings. He, for one, was ready to drive me out of the village.

The greater my success the more bitter his spleen, and in the abundance of his candor denounced me to my face as a humbug too lazy to earn an honest living. He said he wouldn’t allow me to take his dog; that I ought to be ashamed of robbing poor people. Other uncomplimentary things, he said, which were hard to bear, but in view of his heavy muscle and my tender years, I did not attempt to resent. 

Well, I left that quiet town and brawny blacksmith one day and moved to another town a few miles distant. A week later I was surprised at a visit from him. He had driven over to the new place to find me. He had a crazed manner which I did not understand and which filled me with terror.

He demanded that I put my machine in his wagon and go with him straight at once. I asked why he desired it and what was the matter. Then the powerful man, with heavy chest, burst into a passion of weeping quite uncontrollable. When he subsided sufficiently to speak he grasped my hands, and through heavy weeping, broken out afresh, told me his little boy has been drowned in the mill race and I must go and take his likeness.

A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind. My sympathy for the poor fellow developed a tenderness for him in his wild bereavement which seemed to bring me closer to him than any friend I had made in the village. To describe his gratitude and kindness to me after is beyond my ability to do. 

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

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

So I recently took up alcohol as a hobby (it had to happen eventually). Each payday I pick a random cocktail from an app and purchase the ingredients for the cocktail (and force myself to drink it, regardless of how repulsive it might be – last Friday I suffered through something called “Bloody Frog Cum”). Anyway, over time I’ve been building up a lovely bar and I’ve also acquired some nifty mid-century barware.  Recently I was looking into getting some fancy large ice cubes to kick my presentation up a notch (even though only my cats will ever lay eyes/paws on my drinks anyway, lonely misbegotten soul that I am). And then I stumbled upon this – and, I thought, what better presentation could there possibly be? 


Giant Skull Ice Cubes!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for May 2, 2017

Today’s Scalp-less Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1864 13 year old Robert McGee was headed west on  the Santa Fe Trail with his parents. They died along the way and the boy, orphaned, continued the journey with a wagon train bringing supplies to New Mexico. Somewhere in the western reaches of Kansas the soldiers tasked with guarding the wagon train got delayed and the civilians were set upon by a band of Brule Sioux Indians, led by their chief, Little Turtle. 

The drivers and teamsters of the wagon train were no match for the Indian warriors, and they were all tortured and killed. Young McGee watched helplessly as their blood was shed, and then he was taken before Little Turtle. The chief decided that he would kill the boy himself, and he put a bullet in McGee’s back. The boy fell to the ground, still alive and conscious, and Little Turtle put two arrows through him, pinning him down. And then the chief took out his blade and removed sixty four square inches from McGee’s head, starting just behind the ears. As he lay on the ground more Indians came upon him and poked him full of more holes with knives and spears.

All the while the boy was awake. 

When the soldiers finally caught up with the wagon train they found a horrible massacre, with everyone scalped. But as the soldiers picked through the bodies they found that McGee and another boy had survived. They were rushed to Fort Larned, where the other boy died. Somehow the scalpless McGee survived his experience… and many years beyond. The picture below was taken in 1890, when McGee told his story to a local newspaper. 

McGee’s survival was almost miraculous, but he wasn’t the only man to be scalped and live to tell about it. Josiah Wilbarger was set upon by Comanche Indians about four miles east of modern Austin, Texas. He was shot with arrows and scalped and left for dead, but the man survived 11 more years. In fact he only died after hitting his head on a low beam in his home, cracking his skull and exposing his brain. 

Wilbarger is quoted as saying that being scalped was surprisingly painless, but “while no pain was perceptible, the removing of his scalp sounded like the ominous roar and peal of distant thunder,” according to James de Shield’s Border Wars of Texas.  

Culled from: Birth. Movies. Death.

 

Memento Mori Du Jour!


Postmortem photograph of unidentified child, ca. 1890-1910. 

Culled from Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 1, 2017

Today’s Pox-like Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The earliest physical evidence for the presence of smallpox in ancient Egypt is a striking rash of yellow pustules on the mummified face and hands of Ramses V, a pharoah who died at age forty in 1157 B.C. and whose well-preserved remains are on display in the Cairo Museum. Traders carried smallpox from Egypt to India, where Sanskrit medical texts describe epidemics as early as 1500 B.C. The disease arrived in China by 1122 B.C., apparently imported by the Huns, since the Chinese called it “Hunpox”.  


A Pox Upon Ramses V

Smallpox had a major impact on the history of the ancient world. According to the Greek historian Thucydides, an epidemic suggestive of smallpox struck Athens around 430 B.C., killing a third of the city-state’s population and contributing to its defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. In the fourth century B.C., Alexander the Great’s army was ravaged by the disease during a campaign in India. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius died of smallpox in A.D. 570, Abyssinian troops on elephants besieging the Arab capital of Mecca were decimated by an outbreak of smallpox, an incident described metaphorically in the Koran.

In the seventh and eight centuries, Arab armies carried smallpox across North Africa and into the Iberian Peninsula. From the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, crusaders returning to Europe from the Holy Land and traders plying the Silk Road to China dispersed the disease widely. In Great Britain in the late fifteenth century, the pustular skin rash came to be called the “small pockes” (from pocke, meaning sac) to distinguish it from syphilis, then known as the “great pockes”.  

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

 

Guess the Malady!

Illustration culled from one of the newest additions to The Library EclecticaThe Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration.

Can you guess the malady depicted here?  (Answer below.)

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Answer: Severe Impetigo.  

Morbid Fact Du Jour For April 30, 2017

Today’s Coffin-like Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

By the early nineteenth century, the city of Boston was already two hundred years old. The great Yankee trades to Europe, the Caribbean, and the Far East were pouring money into the counting houses of India Wharf and into the vaults of new banks springing up on State Street.  Boston, given to calling itself the “Athens of America,” was locked in a grand rivalry with Philadelphia and New York and hooked on new construction. The society architect Charles Bulfinch was remaking the face of the city, planting his distinctive, boxy, brick, federalist mansions along Boston’s main thoroughfares, culminating in his gold-domed masterwork, the Commonwealth’s State House atop Beacon Hill. The city had just built five bridges spanning the Charles River. The first interurban railroad, the Boston and Albany line, was about to begin service. The city fathers trained in 7,700 tons of marble from Quincy quarries to erect the 220-foot-tall Bunker Hill monument, commemorating the famous battle, and imposed upon the doddering Marquis de Lafayette to lay the cornerstone.

And yet Boston lacked a hospital.

New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and even Williamsburg, Virginia, had been operating large public hospitals for more than fifty years, all of which accepted mental patients as well as the sick and infirm. But Boston maintained only a quarantine station on nearby Rainsford Island and the public dispensary, which gave outpatient care to the poor. The mad or delirious were either cared for at home, packed off to the (Bulfinch-designed) Almshouse for the destitute, or farmed out to specialized boarding houses. In his book The Mentally Ill in America, Albert Deutsch mentions a: 
 

Dr. Willard, who, about the beginning of the 19th century maintained a private establishment for the mentally ill in a little town between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. One of the fundamental tenets in his therapy was to break the patient’s will by any means possible. On his premises stood a tank of water, into which a patient, packed into a coffin-like box pierced with holes, was lowered by means of a well-sweep. He was kept under water until the bubbles of air ceased to rise, after which he was taken out, rubbed, and revived – if he had not already passed beyond reviving!

Culled from: Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America’s Premier Mental Hospital

 

Garretdom: A Fitting End

Here’s another bit of olde news.  Ah, the old days – can you imagine a modern newspaper suggesting that a murder-suicide was a “fitting end” for the participants?  
 

December 6, 1886
A FITTING END FOR BOTH.
A Gambler Shoots the Woman Who Cast Him Off and Then Himself.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6.—A double tragedy occurred to-night in the “Division,” a disreputable part of the city, which, by reason of the prominence in their respective lines of the parties concerned, created quite a little excitement among certain of Washington’s inhabitants. About eighteen months ago John Rowe, a gambler of New York City, came to Washington with a full pocket book. He was accompanied by Minnie Raymond, his mistress, whom he soon established as proprietress of a bagnio south of the avenue. About six months ago he encountered a streak of bad luck and lost all his money. He was discarded by his paramour in favor of another man, said to be the son of a prominent dry goods merchant.

Rowe went on to the house and asked her for money. On being refused, he upbraided her for her ingratitude, and was ejected from the house by the police. He threatened the woman’s life at the time. Luck still ran against him, and to-night, mad with jealousy and his reduced circumstances, he went to the dive and shot the woman through the head immediately on seeing her. He then shot himself through the head causing almost instant death. The woman is still alive, but will probably die. 

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1886 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour For April 28, 2017

Today’s Treacherous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Sachsenhausen prison camp was established in 1936. It was located 35 kilometres (22 mi) north of Berlin, which gave it a primary position among the German concentration camps: the administrative centre of all concentration camps was located in Oranienburg, and Sachsenhausen became a training centre for Schutzstaffel (SS) officers (who would often be sent to oversee other camps afterwards).  

The initial prisoner population at Sachsenhausen consisted primarily of political enemies. On November 10, 1936, the SS murdered Gustav Lampe, a communist and member of the Reichstag. An SS Block Leader had thrown his cap over the sentry fence, and while Lampe was trying to retrieve it, as he had been ordered to do, he was “shot while attempting to escape”.


Sachsenhausen “No Go Zone” as seen during my 2014 visit.

Culled from: Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp 1936-1945

If you’re interested in learning more about Sachsenhausen, please take a look at the travelogue of my 2014 visit.  I need to go back.  It’s a fascinating place.

European DeSpair: Nineteen-Thirty-Sick!

 

Morbid Art Du Jour!

The other day one of my favorite Facebook pages, The Order of the Good Death, kindly posted a link to a collection of morgue photographs taken by Andres Serrano in 1992.  I clicked and was immediately stunned by the emotional beauty of these simple images of corpses, each with a title indicating the cause of death (“Killed by Four Great Dane Dogs” and “Suicide with Rat Poison” being the most colorful).  I was left feeling numbed by the loneliness of death and wondering what the title of my corpse will be (I’m suspecting something drab like, ‘Heart Attack Victim Eaten by Cats’).  Oh, and also – how lucky is Serrano to get to photograph a morgue? I’ll have to move to another country to ever get that lucky!

Infamous Photographer Captures the Beauty in a Morgue

Morbid Fact Du Jour For April 26, 2017

Today’s Tall Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

When Robert Wadlow was born in February 1918 in Alton, Illinois, he was a bouncing, though very average-sized baby, 20 inches long and weighing in at eight pounds and six ounces. But shortly after his birth, he developed hyperplasia for the pituitary gland and began to grow at a phenomenally accelerated rate. At six months he was thirty pounds, and when he began to walk at eleven months he was the size of a five-year-old. At the age of eight, Wadlow was taller than his five-foot, eleven-inch father and had to have a special school desk made for him. And he kept on growing.

Wadlow graduated from high school and from Shurtleff College, with an eye toward attending law school. But in the mid-1930’s, he took a break to do a few tours with the Ringling Brothers’ Circus, and with the company which custom-made his size 37AA shoes.

Wadlow’s health was fragile due to his extreme, rapid and uncontrollable growth, and he needed leg braces to be able to walk. He had reduced sensation in his legs and feet, and in July of 1940 a misfitted brace rubbed a blister on his ankle. Because he also suffered from autoimmune problems, the minor injury became infected. Despite a blood transfusion and surgery, Wadlow’s health continued to deteriorate, and he died in his sleep on July 15, 1940. He was 22 years old and had been measured at 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall weeks before his death. Incredibly, even during his final, terminal illness, Wadlow was still growing. He holds the record of being the tallest human being who ever lived of which there is irrefutable evidence.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

 

He’s a Melancholy Man

In the Library Eclectica, I have a book entitled The Faces of Madness: Hugh W. Diamond and the Origin of Psychiatric Photography (edited by Sander L. Gilman), 1977.  It contains a wonderful collection of photographs of asylum inmates taken in the 1850’s by pioneering medical photographer and psychiatrist Dr. Hugh W. Diamond, along with engravings that were made of them and used in teaching.  There are also several case studies by Dr. John Conolly (the leading British psychiatrist of the mid-nineteenth century) for some of the patients.  The portraits are beautiful and sad and the text reveals the psychiatric thought processes of the mid-19th century. 

Today we meet a Melancholy man; and, you will note, Dr. Conolly never met a period that he didn’t view with disdain; and, also, can you imagine what he might say about your own countenance were he to view your Facebook profile; further, I endeavor to change my Facebook profile intro statement to say, “The advancing shadow of the dullness of death rests upon me, never in this world to be withdrawn”.  

Without further adieu…

The subject of the illustration accompanying the present paper is one presenting the kind of solemn hopelessness arising out of long and unavailing efforts to keep just above poverty; and out of the diminution of nervous energy which becomes generally perceptible in the working man at his time of life. Probably both circumstances conjoined have brought him to this. He is sixty years old, and has all his life been a working gardener; sober in his habits, conducting himself well in the affairs of life, and reported to be of pleasant manners. But, although his occupation was one which a great authority declares to be the purest of human pleasures, and the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man, it could not ward off the invasion of slowly and obscurely working causes of decay. His power of being industrious died away; his pleasant manners left him; and some months since he fell unaccountably into a state of apathy or of vague despondency; his silence only broken by moaning and lamentation; and yet retaining a capability of making a rational reply to words directly addressed to him. The good form of the head; the shape, especially, of the anterior and upper head, and the submissive expression of the features, where we find no trace of violent passions or of evil habits, are distinctly marked. We read the clear impression the whole face of an honest man. But the eye is sunken into the socket; the grey hair hangs straight, as is usual in age; and, although he is not very far advanced in years, the withered frame and settled hopeless look, and the general expression and attitude; the drooping head, the sight unemployed on surrounding objects, the hands resting on the thighs, and the mental revelations of the eyelids, and of the forehead, and of the protruded under-lip; with the line drawn from the angle of the nose to the mouth, as well that line of age and care drawing down the corner of the mouth itself: all convey to the student of the human face, that, with failing nutrition hope has failed also; that the patient has come to a conclusion that insuperable trouble has fallen upon him, and that, ever meditating upon this, still he finds no way to escape. Dulness [sic], therefore, the advancing shadow of the dulness of death, rests upon him, never in this world to be withdrawn.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For April 24, 2017

Today’s Anarchic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Strikes by industrial workers were increasingly common in the United States in the 1880s, a time when working conditions often were dismal and dangerous, and wages were low. The American labor movement during this time also included a radical faction of socialists, communists and anarchists who believed the capitalist system should be dismantled because it exploited workers. (Ah, those were the days… – DeSpair)  A number of these labor radicals were immigrants, many of them from Germany.

The May 4, 1886, rally at Haymarket Square in Chicago was organized by labor radicals to protest the killing and wounding of several workers by the Chicago police during a strike the day before at the McCormick Reaper Works.

Toward the end of the Haymarket Square rally, a group of policemen arrived to disperse the crowd. As the police advanced, an individual who was never identified threw a bomb at them. The police and possibly some members of the crowd opened fire and chaos ensued. Seven police officers and at least one civilian died as a result of the violence that day, and an untold number of other people were injured.

The riot set off a national wave of xenophobia, as scores of foreign-born radicals and labor organizers were rounded up by the police in Chicago and elsewhere. In August 1886, eight men, labeled as anarchists, were convicted in a sensational and controversial trial in which the jury was considered to be biased and no solid evidence was presented linking the defendants to the bombing. Judge Joseph E. Gary imposed the death sentence on seven of the men, and the eighth was sentenced to 15 years in prison. On November 11, 1887, four of the men were hanged.

Of the additional three who were sentenced to death, one committed suicide on the eve of his execution and the other two had their death sentences commuted to life in prison by Illinois Governor Richard J. Oglesby. The governor was reacting to widespread public questioning of their guilt, which later led his successor, Governor John P. Altgeld, to pardon the three activists still living in 1893.

In the aftermath of the Haymarket Square Riot and subsequent trial and executions, public opinion was divided. For some people, the events led to a heightened anti-labor sentiment, while others (including labor organizers around the world) believed the men had been convicted unfairly and viewed them as martyrs.

Culled from: History.Com

 

And Speaking of the Haymarket Anarchists… 

Before I share today’s Garretdom newspaper clip (below), I figured you needed some background on the Haymarket Riot (above) and one particularly wicked anarchist, Henry Jansen (right here, right now):

In November 1886, Henry Jansen, a member of the anarchist “North Side Group”… was arrested after attacking his wife.  It was the second time he had stabbed her, having slashed her in the stomach years earlier. But this time her wounds were deeper and she lingered near death for four days before succumbing. Weak and struggling for breath, Mrs. Jansen told police that her husband took part in the Haymarket Riot and that he had stood near the man who threw the bomb and had told her the man’s name. She couldn’t remember the name distinctly but thought it sounded like “Shurbeld”. 

Culled from: The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists: Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded Age

 

Garretdom: The Starving Anarchist

Which brings us to today’s Garretdom entry:

December 8, 1886
THE STARVING ANARCHIST.
Jansen Placed in an Asylum for the Insane and Forced to Take Food.


CHICAGO, Dec. 8—Henry Jansen, the wife-murderer, was transferred from the jail proper to the insane ward yesterday and his fast, which had continued for some days, was abruptly broken off. He was very weak from lack of nourishment, and could not have survived his course of abstinence many days longer. Superintendent Kiley determined to compel the man to take food, and to that end he prepared a very palatable concoction of brandy, sugar, milk, and eggs. As was expected, Jansen refused to take it. A muscular attendant pinioned the patient, and his clinched teeth were pried apart with a spoon. A spoonful of the mixture was poured into his mouth, and as he spattered and spat in an effort to eject it, a clasp was put down on his nose and as he gasped for breath, down went the life-giving fluid. In this painful fashion, while he writhed and roared between breaths, Jansen was compelled to swallow a gill of the fluid. Twice, later in the day, his heroically-administered meal was given him. His strength rapidly grew, although this improvement put him in an ugly frame of mind, and he denounced his saviors in the most bitter terms.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1886 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour For April 23, 2017

I know, I’ve been away so long, haven’t I?  Mostly work has kept me away, but busy personal life hasn’t helped.  I’m going to try to get back to the regular morbidity now, but I can’t guarantee I’ll get one out every day.  But I will do my best, and I guess that’s all you can ask of a decrepit old Comtesse, right?  

Today’s Compulsory Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In Japan the honor suicide was mainly recourse to committing hari-kiri, the ancient practice of self-disembowelment. There were two types of hara-kiri: compulsory and voluntary. When a nobleman was found to have broken the laws or to have been disloyal, the usual punishment was to commit hara-kiri using a jeweled dagger sent for that very purpose by the mikado (emperor). In an elaborate and dignified ceremony, the suicide would kneel on a red felt carpet raised a few feet above the ground in order to afford the audience a good view. Dressed for the occasion, the victim would take the mikado’s dagger and plunge it up to the hilt into his left side, just below the waist. Slowly the blade would be moved to the right inside the abdomen, being first turned and then drawn upwards. Added honor was bestowed on the suicide if he managed to inflict the fatal wound without flinching. When it was clear that the dagger had pierced the stomach, a friend of the victim would put the man out of his agony by swiftly decapitating him. The practice of hara-kiri was once so common that Montesquieu could comment wryly that the Japanese ‘rip open their bellies for the least fancy’. Compulsory hara-kiri was made illegal in 1868, but the voluntary type has never been completely eliminated from Japanese culture and continues to be a method of dispatch even in our own time – especially to avoid disgrace or humiliation. 

Culled from: Death: A History of Man’s Obsessions and Fears

 

Garretdom: Shot Him While Asleep

For those who are unfamiliar, Garretdom is a feature of the Asylum Eclectica where I share old newspaper clippings that I find suitably grim.  Today we look back to 1886 and a tragic tale of a husband who never used his wife right!
 

December 7, 1886
SHOT HIM WHILE ASLEEP.
A Buffalo Woman Sends a Bullet Through Her Husband’s Heart.


BUFFALO, N. Y., Dec. 7A deliberate and cold-blooded murder was committed in this city at an early hour this morning. At about eight o’clock a boy rushed into No. 8 police station and stated that a man had been shot by his wife in rooms occupied by Emil Penseyres and his wife in the Miller block. Officers immediately proceeded to the place. They were met by a woman who appeared to be in a high state of excitement. She said her husband was in a bedroom , the door of which stood partly open. A cloth had been nailed up over the window. In the bed lay the body of Emil Penseyres. A bullet had penetrated his heart. The shooting occurred at about 6 A.M., according to the best reports, and the man was evidently lying asleep in bed when the murderess fired the fatal shot.

 There were no evidences of a struggle and every indication was that the woman deliberately shot the man in his sleep. The discovery of her terrible deed seemed to drive her into a frenzy of rage. The pistol she had used had been thrown under the bed, and she managed to regain possession of it before the officers were aware of her purpose. She flourished the revolver in the faces of the officers and screamed that she would never be arrested. They rushed at the furious woman and felled her to the floor, and after a severe struggle succeeded in getting the revolver away from her. She still resisted, but in vain, and was informed that she was under arrest and must go to the station-house.
 
She gave her name as Hattie F. Penseyres, and her age as thirty-three years. Her occupation, she said, was that of a housekeeper. The only remark she made on the way to the station was that her husband “never used her right.” He was some years her junior, and was a wood-worker by trade. It appears that he married the woman who took his life in February, 1885. They had no children, but the woman has a son and daughter by a former marriage. It is said that her reputation was not good, and that she was formerly an inmate of a house of ill-fame.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1886 Morbid Scrapbook