Category Archives: Trinkets

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 2, 2017

Today’s Destructive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The earthquake centered on Hausien in the Shensi (or Shaanxi) province of China on the night of January 23, 1556 is thought to be the worst natural disaster in recorded history in terms of lives lost. Estimated to be of a magnitude 8.0 to 8.3 on the Richter scale, it devastated ninety-eight counties and eight provinces of Central China.

The destruction spanned an area of five hundred square miles, and in some counties the average death toll was sixty percent of the population. A total of 830,000 people lost their lives according to imperial records. This was because many lived in poorly constructed houses whose roofs collapsed or artificial caves dug in cliffs in the plateau of the loess, or soft clay, formed over millions of years by silt blown there from the Gobi Desert 200 miles to the northwest.


Examples of the Shaanxi cave dwellings

The earthquake also struck at night when most people were indoors, ensuring a higher death toll. Survivors of the initial quakes also found themselves victims of subsequent fires, landslides and floods caused, in part, by the quake. The tremor was so big that people felt it in over half of China.

Culled from: 100 Catastrophic Disasters

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

I went wine tasting at the Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi a few days ago and tried their “Old Ghost” wine. While the wine itself was quite nice, I was most taken by the pourer – and I’m sure you can see why!  I think I need this in my life!

Available from Menagerie.  Check out their other pourers too!

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 4, 2016

Today’s Precipitated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Switzerland is known for its snow avalanches, but large rockfalls are also a regular occurrence in the Alps, as they are in other great mountain ranges of the world. One of the worst in recent times happened in September 1881; as with other falls, man’s activities had some part to play in precipitating it.

The Plattenbergkopf is one of the outliers of the Glarner Alpen, and there was extensive slate-mining on the mountain in the 18th and 19th centuries. This activity must have steadily reduced the underlying stability of the hill, and a number of small rockfalls had taken place before 1881.

The great avalanche that September may also have been precipitated by heavy rainfall in the preceding days. There were, again, small rockfalls, and these became so regular that people gathered to watch them. On September 11, a larger fall brought rocks down almost to the valley where the watchers had gathered. Less than half an hour later, another, still greater fall detached a large amount of rock from the side of the mountain.

The top section of the Plattenbergkopf was by now resting precariously on a narrow base, much of its previous supporting rock having fallen. It was plain that this could not continue, and before long the now alarmed watchers saw the whole top part of the mountain begin to move. Gathering speed and accumulating more mass as it came, the rockfall hurtled down the mountain towards Elm.

By the time it reached the valley, the fall probably contained some 10 million cubic yards (7.5 million square metres) of rock and dust. Much of the mass hit another hill, the Duniberg, and ricocheted off. Accompanied by a thunderous roaring, groaning sound, the rock covered a mile in less than a minute, burying much of the valley around Elm and the village itself.


Another September 11th.

Where there had been green fields, houses and crops there was now a grey mass of rock, and the air was thick with dust. the village schoolmaster survived and described what the experience was like. He talked of a great wind which uprooted trees and moved houses bodily. This ‘air blast’ is a common feature of all avalanches, and is often more destructive than the avalanche material itself. The edge of the fall cut one house in two, slicing through it like a knife through butter. People were annihilated in an instant – ‘just as an insect is crushed into a red streak under a man’s foot’ was the vivid analogy used.

Elm lost 150 men, women and children, and all its productive land.

Culled from: Catastrophes and Disasters

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

It’s a bit expensive for me, but isn’t this guillotine necklace lovely?

Available from Gorey Details

Today’s Waterlogged Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Lefortovo Prison in Moscow was built in 1881 and was an infamous KGB prison for isolation of political dissidents. Prisoners here were thrown into solitary confinement for the slightest provocation. The solitary confinement cells were kept at cool temperatures and the floors were covered with water. The cells lacked a bed and sometimes even a bench.

Here is a report from a former prisoner:

“I spent 28 days in solitary confinement cell no. 3 in the basement of Lefortovo Prison. Not having a bed, I had to stand up to my ankles in water the whole time. I was given a daily ration of 300 grams of bread, twice a day a mug of water. After a few days in a standing position, I began to fall over. Soon I found myself sitting in the water and filth on the floor of the cell.”


One of the nicer accommodations in Lefortovo

Culled from: The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

This is surely one of the loveliest USB sticks I’ve ever seen!


Available from Amazon

Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 14, 2016

Today’s Disinterred Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In the 19th century, medical students were sometimes expected to help procure the cadavers used for dissection (and one Detroit student paid his way through medical school in the 1870s as a resurrectionist). But in places where the traffic in dead bodies was extensive, professional resurrectionists largely took over. In a well-organized system, informers – undertakers, graveyard caretakers, doctors who had attended a patient during a terminal illness – would tip off the resurrectionists to promising burials. One Nashville resurrectionist who was vigorously active from the 1890s to the 1920s recalled that grave robbing typically required three men, a wagon, and an hour of labor. Under moonlight or shaded lanterns, they would locate the grave, dig open the top half, break the head of the coffin, and pull out the corpse by a hook or a rope around the neck. They stripped the cadaver and threw the clothing that would have been incriminating back into the coffin, stuffed the body into a sack, and refilled the grave. A careful grave robber replaced any stones, sticks, or flowers placed by the family to detect disinterment. Sometimes caretakers of potter’s fields, almshouses, and prisons sold the bodies before they were interred.


Everyone’s favorite resurrectionist – Dr. Frankenstein!

In tight markets, grave robbers might promise no more than “the first material that dies in getting distance,” but in more lush times they might take standing orders for a steady supply of “good subjects well-packed.” There was also a brisk export trade, an interstate commerce in stolen bodies packed in barrels of sawdust and alcohol, ranging from small shipments among midwestern states to the instance of a northern school that in 1911 was furnished entirely by black bodies disinterred from southern graves. Whatever the source, it was important that deliveries be shielded from public sight, or else, as one anatomist warned, “there will be an unnecessary exposure to the gaze of the curious, or even to the passer-by of what is naturally revolting to the sight of every one, and at times it may be the cause of more or less public comment, excitement or even assault and riot.”

Culled from: Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine: 1880-1930

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Speaking of resurrectionists, I picked up a couple most excellent pillows at World Market the other day for $19.99 each.  Aren’t they lovely?  Of course, this is year-round decor, not “Halloween” decor.  🙂

World Market: Resurrectionist Pillow
World Market: Laboratory Pillow
World Market: Frankenstein Pillow
World Market: Monsters Pillow

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 9, 2016

Today’s Flexible Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Niccolò Paganini (October 27, 1782 – May 27, 1840) was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. He owed much of his gift to a genetic disorder, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. People with EDS cannot make much collagen, a fiber that gives ligaments and tendons some rigidity and toughens up bone. The benefit of having less collagen is circus flexibility. Like many people with EDS, Paganini could bend all his joints alarmingly far backward. But collagen does more than prevent most of us from touching our toes: a chronic lack can lead to muscle fatigue, weak lungs, irritable bowels, poor eyesight, and translucent, easily damaged skin. Modern studies have shown that musicians have high rates of EDS and other hyper-mobility syndromes (as do dancers), and while this gives them a big advantage at first, they tend to develop debilitating knee and back pain later, especially if, like Paganini, they stand while performing.


The Great Paganini

Constant touring wore Paganini down after 1810, and although he’d just entered his thirties, his body began giving out on him. Despite his growing fortune, a landlord in Naples evicted him in 1818, convinced that anyone as skinny and sickly as Paganini must have tuberculosis. He began canceling engagements, unable to perform his art, and by the 1820s he had to sit out whole years of tours to recuperate. Paganini couldn’t have known that EDS underlay his general misery; no doctor described the syndrome formally until 1901. But ignorance only heightened his desperation, and he sought out quack apothecaries and doctors. After diagnosing syphilis and tuberculosis and who knows what else, the docs prescribed him harsh, mercury-based purgative pills, which ravaged his already fragile insides. His persistent cough worsened, and eventually his voice died completely, silencing him. He had to wear blue-tinted shades to shield his sore retinas, and at one point his left testicle swelled, he sobbed, to the size of “a little pumpkin.” Because of chronic mercury damage to his gums, he had to bind his wobbly teeth with twine to eat.

Sorting out why Paganini finally died, in 1840, is like asking what knocked off the Roman Empire – take your pick. Abusing mercury drugs probably did the most intense damage, but Dr. Bennati, who knew Paganini before his pill-popping days and was the only doctor Paganini never dismissed in a rage for fleecing him, traced the real problem further back. After examining Paganini, Bennati dismissed the diagnoses of tuberculosis and syphilis as spurious. He noted instead, “Nearly all his later ailments can be traced to the extreme sensitivity of his skin.” Bennati felt that Paganini’s papery EDS skin left him vulnerable to chills, sweats, and fevers and aggravated his frail constitution. Bennati also described the membranes of Paganini’s throat, lungs, and colon – all areas affected by EDS – as highly susceptible to irritation. We have to be cautious about reading too much into a diagnosis from the 1830s, but Bennati clearly traced Paganini’s vulnerability to something inborn. And in the light of modern knowledge, it seems likely Paganini’s physical talents and physical tortures had the same genetic source.

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb

And tomorrow we’ll examine Paganini’s equally tortured afterlife…

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

C. M. Adams sent me a link to a delightful new coloring book that is being released October 4 that may interest those of you with such proclivities!

The Beauty of Horror: A Goregeous Coloring Book

Welcome to art therapy for the abnormal. With this coloring book for adults channeling The Walking Dead meets The Secret Garden, comics creator/rock star Alan Robert (Crawl to Me, Killogy, Wire Hangers) invites fans of horror to discover their inner-colorist. Through intricate pen and ink illustrations to complete, color,and embellish, readers will meet an onslaught of severed heads, monsters, deadly weapons, and skeletal remains.

Visit burial grounds, the zombie apocalypse, serial killer lairs, and gruesome torture chambers. Horror fans and newcomers alike will welcome this GORE-geous and creative journey into a blood-soaked new world.

 

 

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 28, 2016

Today’s Chopped-Up Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

After suffering an aortic aneurysm on April 13, 1955, Einstein found himself the subject of an international death watch. He finally succumbed to internal hemorrhaging at 1:15 a.m. on April 18. His body arrived shortly thereafter at a local hospital in Princeton, New Jersey, for a routine autopsy. At this point the pathologist on duty, Thomas Harvey, faced a stark choice.

Any one of us might have been tempted the same way – who wouldn’t want to know what made Einstein Einstein? Einstein himself expressed interest in having his brain studied after he died, and even sat for brain scans. He decided against preserving the best part of himself only because he loathed the thought of people venerating it, the twentieth-century equivalent of a medieval Catholic relic. But as Harvey arranged the scalpels in his autopsy room that night, he knew human kind had just one chance to salvage the gray matter of the greatest scientific thinker in centuries. And while it may be too strong to say stole, by 8 a.m. the next morning – without next-of-kin permission, and against Einstein’s notarized wish for cremation – Harvey had shall we say liberated the physicist’s brain and released the body to the family without it.

The disappointment started immediately. Einstein’s brain weighed forty-three ounces, at the low end of normal. And before Harvey could measure anything more, word of the relic spread, just as Einstein had feared. During a discussion in school the next day about the loss of Einstein, Harvey’s son, normally a laconic lad, blurted out, “My dad’s got his brain!” A day later, newspapers across the country mentioned Harvey’s plans in their front -page obits. Harvey did eventually convince the remaining Einsteins, who were sure peeved, to grant permission for further study. So after measuring its dimensions with calipers and photographing it for posterity with his 35 mm black-and-white camera, Harvey sawed the brain into 240 taffy-sized hunks and laquered each one in celloidin. Harvey was soon mailing the blobs in many jars to neurologists, confident that the forthcoming scientific insights would justify his peccadillo.

Perhaps the most disheartening thing about the whole Einstein fiasco is the paltry knowledge scientists gained. Neurologists ended up publishing only three papers on Einstein’s brain in forty years, because most found nothing extraordinary there. Harvey kept soliciting scientists to take another look, but after the initial null results came back, the brain chunks mostly just sat around. Harvey kept each section wrapped in cheesecloth and piled them into two wide-mouthed glass cookie jars full of formaldehyde broth.

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb

Interestingly enough, you can see pieces of Einstein’s brain at the ever-wonderfulMütter Museum!

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

I know how you are: always seeking attention; disappointed that you’re wee paper cut doesn’t look ominous enough to garner sympathy from your co-workers and friends. How on earth can you get out of doing things you don’t want to do if nobody thinks you’re badly injured?

Well, here’s your solution:  Boo-Boos!

“Boo-Boos are adhesive bandages that make your small cuts and scrapes look so much worse than they really are. If they don’t, get yourself to the hospital, stat!”


I think “Sharp Force Trauma” might be my favorite, aesthetically…


But “Decubitus Ulcer with Maggot Infestation” is definitely the grossest!

See all the horrific designs at Boo-Boos Adhesive Bandages.

Thanks to Kim for the link!

Morbid Fact Du Jour For March 23, 2016

Today’s Double Exposing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Today we continue the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who was injured by the atomic blast at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  We pick up the tale after Tsutomu has made his way on a train from Hiroshima to reunite with his family in Nagasaki.

Ill and swooning, Yamaguchi arrived in Nagasaki early on August 8 and staggered home. (His family had assumed him lost; he convinced his wife he wasn’t a ghost by showing her his feet, since Japanese ghosts traditionally have none.) Yamaguchi rested that day, swimming in and out of consciousness, but obeyed an order the next day to report to Mitsubishi headquarters in Nagasaki.

He arrived shortly before 11 a.m. Arms and face bandaged, he struggled to relate the magnitude of atomic warfare to his coworkers. But his boss, skeptical, interrupted to browbeat him, dismissing his story as a fable. “You’re an engineer,” he barked. “Calculate it. How could one bomb… destroy a whole city?” Famous last words. Just as this Nostradamus wrapped up, a white light swelled inside the room. Heat prickled Yamaguchi’s skin, and he hit the deck of the ship-engineering office.

“I thought,” he later recalled, “the mushroom cloud followed me from Hiroshima.”

Eighty thousand people died in Hiroshima, seventy thousand more in Nagasaki. Of the hundreds of thousands of surviving victims, evidence suggests that roughly 150 got caught near both cities on both days, and that a handful got caught within both blast zones, a circle of intense radiation around 1.5 miles wide. Some of the nijyuu hibakusha, double-exposure survivors, had stories to make stones weep. (One had burrowed into his wrecked home in Hiroshima, clawed out his wife’s blackened bones, and stacked them in a washbasin to return them to her parents in Nagasaki. He was trudging up the street to the parents’ house, washbasin under his arm, when the morning air again fell quiet and the sky was once again bleached white.) But of all the reported double victims, the Japanese government has recognized only one officialnijyuu hibakusha, Tsutomu Yamaguchi.

Shortly after the Nagasaki explosion, Yamaguchi left his shaken boss and office mates and climbed a watchtower on a nearby hill. Beneath another pall of dirty clouds, he watched his cratered out hometown smolder, including his own house. A tarry radioactive rain began falling, and he struggled down the hill, fearing the worst. But he found his wife, Hisako, and young song, Katsutoshi, safe in an air-raid shelter.

Damage in Nagasaki:

(To be continued…)

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Looking for a stunning duvet cover?  Have I ever found the place for you!  Ink & Rags has a variety of stunning skull designs to choose from.

I’m partial to this one:

But then again, this one is lovely too!

Or maybe this basic black and white gorgeousness?

Or maybe something like this?

Go look for yourself – there are so many to choose from!  I think I need to find someone to marry so I can put a couple on my wedding registry…

Ink & Rags

Morbid Fact Du Jour for March 10, 2016

Today’s Delusional Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Schizophrenics can experience severe delusions like “delusional bicephaly” – what you might call Siamese twin disorder, the feeling of having an extra head. In 1978 an Australian schizophrenic killed his wife with his erratic driving. Two years later he suddenly found her gynecologist’s noggin perched on his shoulder, whispering to him. Lord knows why, but the man took this as a sign that the gyno had diddled his wife, so he tried to guillotine the doctor’s head with an axe. When this failed he started shooting at the head with a gun and shot his own brain by accident. (The subsequent brain damage from the bullet did “cure” him of this delusion.)

Culled from: The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

How delightful is this new air freshener from Archie McPhee?


Plague Doctor Air Freshener

Morbid Fact Du Jour For March 7, 2016

Today’s Pus-Laden Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

As a young man, Friedrich Miescher had trained to practice the family trade, medicine, in his native Switzerland. But a boyhood typhoid infection had left him hard of hearing and unable to use a stethoscope or hear an invalid’s beside bellyaching. Miescher’s father, a prominent gynecologist, suggested a career in research instead. So in 1868 the young Miescher moved into a lab run by the biochemist Felix Hoppe-Seyler, in Tübingen, Germany. Though headquartered in an impressive medieval castle, Hoppe-Seyler’s lab occupied the royal laundry room in the basement; he found Miescher space next door, in the old kitchen.


The Comtesse’s Dream Lab.

Hoppe-Seyler wanted to catalog the chemicals present in human blood cells. He had already investigated red blood cells, so he assigned white ones to Miescher – a fortuitous decision for his new assistant, since white blood cells (unlike red ones) contain a tiny internal capsule called a nucleus. At the time, most scientists ignored the nucleus – it had no known function – and quite reasonably concentrated on the cytoplasm instead, the slurry that makes up most of a cell’s volume. But the chance to analyze something unknown appealed to Miescher.

To study the nucleus, Miescher needed a steady supply of white blood cells, so he approached a local hospital. According to legend, the hospital catered to veterans who’d endured gruesome battlefield amputations and other mishaps. Regardless, the clinic did house many chronic patients, and each day a hospital orderly collected pus-soaked bandages and delivered the yellowed rags to Miescher. The pus often degraded into slime in the open air and Miescher had to smell each suppurated-on cloth and throw out the putrid ones (most of them). But the remaining “fresh” pus was swimming with white blood cells.

Eager to impress – and, in truth, doubtful of his own talents – Miescher threw himself into studying the nucleus, as if sheer labor would make up for any shortcomings. A colleague later described him as “driven by a demon,” and Miescher exposed himself daily to all manner of chemicals in his work. But without this focus, he probably wouldn’t have discovered what he did, since the key substance inside the nucleus proved elusive. Miescher first washed his pus in warm alcohol, then acid extracted from a pig’s stomach, to dissolve away the cell membranes. This allowed him to isolate a gray paste. Assuming it was protein, he ran tests to identify it. But the paste resisted protein digestion and, unlike any known protein, wouldn’t dissolve in salt water, boiling vinegar, or dilute hydrochloric acid. So he tried elementary analysis, charring until it decomposed. He got the expected elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, but also discovered 3 percent phosphorus, an element proteins lack. Convinced he’d found something unique, he named the substance “nuclein” – what later scientists called deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.


Friedrich Miescher, Pus-Sniffer Extraordinaire!

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb

 

Morbid Trinkets Du Jour!

Who wants a bat keyholder?  I do!

Available from Design Toscano by way of Amazon.Com.

Oh, and while I’m here… I need this, dammit!

Also available from Design Toscano by way of Amazon.Com.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 22, 2016

Today’s Grotesquely Well-Hung Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The mechanism of heredity – how exactly traits got passed from generation to generation – baffled even the most intelligent thinkers, and the vagaries of this process led to many of the wilder theories that circulated before and even during the 1800s. One ubiquitous folk theory, “Maternal impressions,” held that if a pregnant woman saw something ghoulish or suffered intense emotions, the experience would scar her child. One woman who never satisfied an intense prenatal craving for strawberries gave birth to a baby covered with red, strawberry-shaped splotches. The same could happen with bacon. Another woman bashed her head on a sack of coal, and her child had half, but only half, a head of black hair. More direly, doctors in the 1600s reported that a woman in Naples, after being startled by sea monsters, bore a son covered in scales, who ate fish exclusively and gave off fishy odors. Bishops told cautionary tales of a woman who seduced her actor husband backstage in full costume. He was playing Mephistopheles; they had a child with hooves and horns. A beggar with one arm spooked a woman into having a one-armed child. Pregnant women who pulled off crowded streets to pee in churchyards, invariably produced bed wetters. Carrying fireplace logs about in your apron, next to the bulging tummy, would produce a grotesquely well-hung lad. About the only recorded happy case of maternal impressions involved a patriotic woman in Paris in the 1790s whose son had a birthmark on his chest shaped like a Phrygian cap – those elfish hats with a flop of material on top. Phrygian caps were symbols of freedom to the new French republic, and the delighted government awarded her a lifetime pension.


Viva La Pension!

Much of this folklore intersected with religious belief, and people naturally interpreted serious birth defects –  cyclopean eyes, external hearts, full coats of body hair – as back-of-the-Bible warnings about sin, wrath, and divine justice. One example from the 1680s involved a cruel bailiff in Scotland named Bell, who arrested two female religious dissenters, lashed them to poles near the shore, and let the tide swallow them. Bell added insult by taunting the women, then drowned the younger, more stubborn one with his own hands.Later, when asked about the murders, Bell always laughed, joking that the women must having a high time now, scuttling around among the crabs. The joke was on Bell: after he married, his children were born with a severe defect that twisted their forearms into to awful pincers. These crab claws proved highly heritable to their children and grandchildren too. It didn’t take a biblical scholar to see that the iniquity of the father had been visited upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations. (And beyond: cases ppopped up in Scotland as late as 1900.)


Doin’ It Grady Style!  (Grady Stiles, The Lobster Boy)

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written By Our Genetic Code

 

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

A shirt that hits The Comtesse oh so very close to home!

Available from nihilistmemes.