Category Archives: Trinkets

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.

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 January 24, 2016

Today’s Freezing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On March 16, 1945, the Nazis liquidated the death camp at Spaichingen, located in southwestern Germany, about twenty miles north of the Swiss border. Joseph Freeman and thousands of other inmates began a six-week death march ordeal that ended in the city of Fussen in southern Germany. Joseph’s story is documented in the book The Road To Hell: Recollections of the Nazi Death March. This particular excerpt reminded me that even the “minor” ordeals that the survivors had to endure were awful. 

Early on March 16, 1945, the doors to our barracks had been forced open and the SS rushed in shouting in German, “Raus, Raus!” (“Out, Out!”) Frightened, we jumped quickly from our bunks, hurriedly putting on our clothes. My friend, Chaim, was already out of bed, almost completely dressed. In seconds, we straightened out our beds and covered them with blankets. We ran outside and waited for our orders. What next? Afraid, we stood around in front of the barracks, surrounded by SS men. Some of them had dogs on leashes. It was frightening. The SS started to push us toward the middle of the camp, forcing us to run fast. The combination of the barking of the dogs and the voices of the SS hollering for us to move quickly made us feel that our end was near. This would be the last moment before they killed us… It took a while to get all of us in the center of the camp. The SS surrounded us and started to push, to squeeze us close together in one place.

We stood, afraid to move. I started to cry. At that moment I was reliving the liquidation of my ghetto in Radom, the selection of my loved ones to the Death Camp, as the SS with their dogs forced our people onto the cattle trains. The voices calling for help were ringing in my ears. I closed my eyes. A push from Chaim brought me back to the horrifying present. Chaim, trying to cheer me up, assured me this was not Radom. We stood and waited… The Kapos [inmates assigned by the SS to supervise their area], following orders, began to organize prisoners into groups of one hundred, with a Kapo at the head of each column. This was something new for us. This was not the ordinary routine. The SS started to move in from the sides, surrounding each group. It was quiet. Only the voices of the SS shouting “Macht schnell” (“hurry up!”) interrupted the silence.

We followed the orders without talking. It took an hour to completely form the columns. As we looked around, some of us raised our eyes to the sky, praying silently. We were standing, afraid to move, not knowing what was coming next. Seconds turned to minutes, the minutes turned to hours. So long was the wait – an eternity, waiting for the unknown. It was winter. A cold wind started to blow, then, after awhile, it started to snow. The snow covered our tattered clothes. Then the sun came out and snow started to melt. Under our feet the snow turned to water. When the sun went down the water turned to ice. Our wet clothes started to freeze and stick to our bodies. It was terrible. We had been standing in one place for so long. It was getting colder and colder. Those who could not take it any longer fell to the frozen ground, shaking from the cold. The Kapos started to hit them with their short sticks, trying to force them to stand up. Most of us had been standing, quietly, trying not to move. Only waiting and shivering. What else could we do?

Then a noise. From far away, we saw the camp commander with a group of SS coming out of the office building with a paper in hand… The orders required us to go back to our barracks and get our blankets. Also, we had to take our utensils with us, one spoon and one pot. We could take only one blanket with us. We were leaving the camp. This had to be done in a short time. We were given only twenty minutes to return from the barracks to be ready to move out. we ran as fast as possible, grabbing our blankets and utensils. We quickly returned to our groups. Breathing loudly, we stood in one place, waiting to move out. Chaim and I looked at each other. We both shook our heads and started to silently sob. I don’t know why we cried. We were not allowed to talk. We did not have any other way to express our relief. There was so much tension. This was the only way to react. At least we knew what was going on. A Kapo stood at the front of each group of one hundred. Chaim and I were in the first group of one hundred, ready to start our journey into the unknown.

Culled from: The Road To Hell: Recollections of the Nazi Death March


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Isn’t this the most adorable necklace ever?  I wish it weren’t so expensive. And it occurs to me that if Jesus had been guillotined, Christians would be wearing this around their necks and it would probably be a lot cheaper.  But then the crucifix would be expensive, so there’s just no winning that battle.

Available from Gorey Details

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 2, 2016

Today’s Famished Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Nearly half of Ireland’s eight million people were small tenant farmers who depended on the potato crop for their food. A one-acre plot of potatoes was enough to feed a family of four; grain and other crops had to be exported to pay the rent on the farm. But in 1845 a strange new blight caused the potatoes to rot in the ground. Four years of terrible famine had begun.

Millions went hungry as the blight devastated the 1845 crop. In 1846 hopes for a good harvest that would save the people suddenly ended when the plants blackened and withered to the ground overnight. The smell of rotting potatoes spread despair throughout Ireland. Women sobbed in the fields as they realized another year of hunger lay before them.

With the spring harvest completely destroyed, the poor farmers were left with nothing to eat. Millions wasted away from hunger and disease. To make matters worse, the winter of 1846-47 turned out to be brutally cold. Gaunt, starving women wandered through the streets, begging for food. Families with nothing else to eat gnawed on weeds. Landlords evicted thousands of starving families who could not afford to pay their rent.

In Skibbereen, one witness described looking into a hovel where “six famished and ghastly skeletons, to all appearances dead, were huddled in a corner on some filthy straw, their sole covering what seems a ragged horsecloth, their wretched legs hanging about, naked above the knees. I approached in horror, and found by a low moaning they were alive.”

The nation was so ravaged by hunger, disease, and cold that only about one-eighth of the usual crop was sown in 1847. The harvest of 1848 again was disastrous. Weakened by starvation, the people succumbed to epidemics of cholera and typhus. One witness described Ireland as “one mass of famine, disease, and death.” Emaciated women wandered through the streets, carrying corpses of children in their arms, begging for the money to buy a coffin.

Help from the British government was slow in coming, and what arrived was not nearly enough. Rather than subsidize food supplies for the  starving, the government enacted a scheme to put the hungry to work building roads and canals. But the pay was too little; food prices were generally high because of bad harvests throughout Europe. Meanwhile, exports of grain continued throughout the crisis; the peasants needed the sales of grain to pay their rents.

Scattered rebellions broke out across Ireland. Some looted corn storage bins or broke into bakeries. A few of the starving got themselves arrested so that they could be fed in jail. All who could afford passage left Ireland for Canada or the United States, but the squalid conditions aboard emigrant ships killed thousands en route. Altogether a million and a half people fled Ireland during the famine.

By the time the potato harvest recovered in 1849, Ireland had lost more than a quarter of its population to emigration or death. An estimated one and a half million people had died from starvation, exposure following eviction, or disease caused by the famine.

Them Was Rotten Days!
Culled from: The Pessimist’s Guide To History


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Things I would buy if I were rich #3523. (Thanks to Mike Marano for the link.)

This morbid automaton sold for $13,035.  A wee bit out of my price range.  Alas…

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 14, 2015

Today’s Covert Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Shortly after 11 p.m. on the night of January 12, 1928, the convicted murderess Ruth Snyder was led into the death house at Sing Sing Prison, the first woman ever to face the electric chair. A small crowd of prison officials and reporters who had been gathered to witness the historic execution watched in silence while an ominous black hood was lowered over her head. Her eyes still peering out, she was bound and shackled, and the electrodes were set. This was society’s price for the calculated bludgeoning, poisoning, and strangulation of a husband she no longer cared for. At 11:06 the executioner threw the switch, sending the retribution coursing through her body. At precisely the same moment, however, another device was activated, one that would forever capture the moment and blanket it in controversy. Unbeknownst to prison officials, Tom Howard, a photographer from the Daily News, had covertly raised his pant cuff to uncover a miniature camera linked to a shutter release that snaked up his leg and into his pocket. “DEAD!” was the single word that accompanied the picture he made, which ran on the paper’s front page for the next two days, selling a sensational half million extra copies.

Here’s Ruth as she looked without a black hood over her head:

Here’s a photo of the camera strapped to Tom Howard’s ankle:

Here’s the original photo that he captured, which isn’t very clear:

Here’s the image all gussied-up with contrast for publication:

And here’s the final product:

Culled from: New York Noir: Crime Photos from the Daily News Archive


Frozen Charlotte

My life was so much simpler before I knew that Frozen Charlottes existed. Now I am obsessed with finding one in a tiny coffin. Must! Have!

Don’t Talk So Much: The Macabre History of the Frozen Charlottes

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 30, 2015

Today’s Unidentified Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On September 1, 1894 a huge firestorm, fed by drought conditions and dry debris left behind by lumber companies, destroyed the town of Hinckley, Minnesota, killing over 418 people. After the fire, in outlying areas, the bodies found near railroad tracks were laid along side the tracks to await transportation on handcars or relief trains to the nearest towns. St. Paul mortician O’Halloran came to Hinckley on a work train Sunday evening with a load of 32 caskets. On the way he filled all of them with bodies found beside the tracks. O’Halloran kept descriptions of each of the deceased, saving fragments of clothing and items of jewelry for later identification. The coffins were brought back to Pine City to await burial.

On Sunday James Sargent of the Limited No. 3, which had been stopped at Pine City Saturday afternoon, organized a burial crew that went on handcars north on the St. Paul and Duluth tracks from Hinckley to Skunk Lake. Along the way they recovered thirty-one bodies which were wrapped in blankets and whatever available cloth could be found. They brought them to Hinckley and laid them beside the tracks for burial.

When rescue teams found bodies in remote areas, they buried them where they were found, marking the graves with plain wooden stakes bearing the names of the victims if they were known. Personal effects were collected and marked for later identification.

Culled from: From the Ashes: The Story of the Hinckley Fire of 1894


Morbid Trinkets Du Jour!

I’ve honestly never really seen the appeal of pearls.  Until now!  (Thanks to Erika H. for the link.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 3, 2015

Today’s Suicidal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1823 British Parliament decided to do away with crossroads burial (the burial of suicides at a crossroads outside of consecrated ground, with a stake through the heart) and permit suicides to be interred in graveyards. Such burials were frequently confined to ‘suicides’ corner and were conducted at night, between the hours of nine and midnight, without religious ceremony. It took another half a century before forfeiture of a suicide’s property and lands was finally abolished and for the corpse not to be automatically given over to the medical schools for dissection. In acts passed in 1879 and 1882 suicide ceased to be legally regarded as homicide, and day-time burial was finally allowed.

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

Personal note: when I attempted suicide in 1994, after I awoke in the hospital, a police officer made a point to tell me that I had committed the crime of attempted murder upon myself and that they were keeping me confined to the hospital for 72 hours. I always thought that was A) rude and B) rather melodramatic of the officer. He was probably quite proud of himself for that “scared sane” line.


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Looking for the perfect soap for those unwanted house guests?  Look no further!

Gross Dead Zombie Fingers from justbathandbodystuff.   You’re welcome!