Category Archives: Facts

Morbid Fact Du Jour For July 23, 2017

Today’s Unprofessional Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

At the beginning of the American Civil War, the Union Army consisted of 16,000 officers and men – less 313 officers whose consciences compelled them to go with the South. The Confederate Army started with zero, of course. A “regular” army – the Army of the Confederate States of America – was established by act of the Confederate Provisional Congress on March 6, 1861. But this “regular” army never came into existence as such. The “Rebel” troops the Federal Army fought were soldiers of the volunteer or Provisional Army that had been established by acts of February 28 and March 6. Until April 1862, when the Confederate government passed a conscription act, soldiers entered the Provisional Army not directly, buy through the individual states.

By the end of the war, 2,128,948 men had served in the Union Army (395,528 are known to have died). Of these, only 75,215 were regulars – that is, soldiers by vocation. Just under two million were volunteers, 46,347 were draftees, and 73,607 were substitutes (for the conscription laws of both sides permitted a draftee to hire a surrogate soldier to serve in his place). The average strength of the Union Army, according to one prominent authority, was a little over 1. 5 million.

The Confederate forces kept poor records, and much of what little was recorded burned in the fires that ravaged a conquered Richmond. Estimates of the strength of the Confederate Army range from 600,000 to 1,500,000, the most generally accepted figure is a little over a million, about 200,000 who died.

From these figures, it is not difficult to understand why the generations following the Civil War have all felt such kinship with the warriors. The combatants were not professional soldiers. They were not hirelings of a warlike state. They were citizens, born and raised with no intention of taking up arms. The professions and trades they left were ours: doctor, lawyer, farmer, clerk, broker – over one hundred different occupations are listed on Southern muster rolls, three hundred on Northern. The relationships they suspended are familiar to us: husband to wife, lover to lover, brother to brother. Their lives were our lives – interrupted by a long and deadly storm. 

Culled from: Portraits of the Civil War: In phootgraphs, Diaries and Letters


Ghastly: Nagasaki Edition

The aftermath of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, August 10, 1945. 

Culled from:  Nagasaki Journey: The Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata, August 10, 1945

Morbid Fact Du Jour For July 19, 2017

Today’s Most Unnatural Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Joan Petersen, a healer, was suspected of being a witch. She was “searched again in a most unnatural and barbarous manner by four women” supplied by her accusers, who found “a teat of flesh in her secret parts more than other women usually had.” After bribed witnesses testified against her, she was executed. 

Searching an accused women’s body for the devil’s teat was one of the chief proofs of witchcraft. Though the investigation was normally done by women (and not done gently, as Joan Peterson’s case demonstrates), the sessions were often witnessed by male court officials. When the constable of Salisbury, New Hampshire, undressed Eunice Cole to be whipped for witchcraft, he saw “under one of her breasts… a Blew thing like unto a teat hanging downward about three quarters of an inche longe not very thick.” Men standing by saw him “rip her shift down”; moving in closer, they affirmed that Eunice “violently scratched it away,” implying that she tried to remove the evidence from her body. When women were appointed to examine her further, they found instead “a place in her leg which was proveable wher she Had bin sucktt by Imps.”

Culled from: Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts


Corpse Du Jour!

Miss Elizabeth Cooper in Coffin
Anonymous, Geneva, New York
2 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ Daguerrerotype
circa 1843

Culled from:  Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America

Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 10, 2017

Today’s Badly Hit Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The first large-scale avalanche catastrophes in the United States occurred with the advent of commercial development, which especially early on meant that the highest number of victims were those looking for silver and gold. Extracting the Comstock Lode, some miners acknowledged the damage they were doing to the mountains. “It was as if a wondrous battle raged in which the combatants were man and earth,” wrote a visitor to Virginia City, Nevada. “Myriads of dust-covered men are piercing into the grim old mountains, ripping them open, thrusting murderous holes through their naked bodies.” The mountains often reaped this violence in kind. The Avalanche Book, quoting nineteenth-century newspaper reports, recounts the story of the winter of 1883-84, in which 100 people were killed in Colorado, including 20 in the San Juan Mountains in the southern part of the state. Badly hit was the Virginius Mine, perched on a steep, 12,000-foot mountain above the town of Ouray. December 1883 had brought continuous snow for three days; late in the storm an avalanche barreled into the mine’s boarding house, “carrying death and destruction in the mighty embrace,” according to a newspaper account in The Solid Muldoon. Four men were killed, and rescuers took twenty-four hours to find the last two survivors. The following day, 32 men from nearby mines came to Virginius to help; recover the bodies; as they pulled the “sled hearses” beneath a particularly steep slope, they were engulfed in another avalanche, this one a quarter of a mile wide. 

Taking a load to Virginius Mine

Culled from The White Death: Tragedy and Heroism in an Avalanche Zone


Convincing Wax Model Du Jour!

Arm with Horn, Gangrene Hand – 1994 Rosamond Purcell

Wax models showing a horn (cornu cutaneum) growing from above the wrist, and dry gangrene of the hand., Both models made ca. 1850 by master modeler Joseph Towne (1806-1870) of London, who constructed wax teaching models for the Gordon Museum of Guy’s Hospital, Southwark, London. Towne also made extra models for sale.

Culled from: Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

Morbid Fact Du Jour For July 4, 2017

Today’s Dangling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

95 years ago, a forgotten tragedy occurred in Homewood, a suburb of Chicago.  Here’s how it was reported by the Chicago Tribune on July 3, 1922:



Stunt Leap Lands Him in Propeller.


Swinging on a rope ladder dangling from an airplane 800 feet in the air as he sought to thrill 5,000 Homewood pleasure seekers, Louis James, nationally known “boy aviator,” was cut to pieces yesterday by the propeller of another plane. His body fell to the ground, almost at the feet of his fiancée, Miss Clara Trissman, 17 years old, 5013 Fletcher avenue.

Protegé of Ruth Law.

James, who was but 18 years old, lived at 4250 North Mobile street. He was a protégé of Miss Ruth Law, and of recent months had been employed by the Ralph C. Diggins company of Ashburne field fame.

The occasion was the second day of an aerial celebration under the auspices of the American Legion post of Homewood. A great throng had gathered from Homewood and surrounding communities. A dozen planes were whirring through the air, nose dives, tail spins, barrel rolls, Immelman turns, and all the other hair raisers of the aerial art held the spectators.

From One to the Other.

Then came the feature of the day. James was to perform the stunt made famous by Lieut. Omer C. Locklear – that of climbing from one “ship” to another in midair. 

He was talking to his fianceé and friends when the call came to take to the air. Twice before that day he had tried it and failed. “He didn’t feel well,” he said. His friends advised him not to go up. “I can’t disappoint the crowd,” he answered. 

The planes were under the guidance of Pilot “Jimmy” Curran, chief instructor of the Diggins flying school, and Pilot LeRoy Thompson, also of the Diggins entourage.

Up to 800 Feet.

James climbed to the wing of one plane, and, lying flat upon its surface, grasped two struts and gave the signal to go ahead. The two ships took the air and slowly climbed to a height of 800 feet.

Circling with them was Pilot Diggins in another ship, with several passengers who wished to watch the “stunt” from the air.

Twice the pilot in the upper plane brought the dangling ladder to within a few inches of James’ outstretched hands, not quite close enough.

Again the ships roared over the field, while thousands watched below. The upper plane came lower this time, so near the other that spectators gasped. The ladder, plainly visible, moved nearer and nearer to the man now standing upright on the wing.

He grasped it. He was seen a second later hanging free. And then —

Spectators gave different stories. Most said that the planes seemed to sheer together for a moment. James and the ladder were thrown squarely into the propeller of the lower ship, a heavy bar of wood revolving at 1,500 revolutions to the minute.

Drops Into Crowd.

The body of the man was seen to crumple. A moment later, mangled and bleeding, his hands still clutching a bit of the ladder bar, he dropped into the crowd far below. 

Women screamed and fainted.

Miss Trissman sank to the ground unconscious. She was carried from the field. The crowd rushed madly to the scene of the accident, endangering their own lives as the three planes, now in a mad descent, sought to make a landing.

Died in Air.

James was dead long before his body hit the ground. Physicians in the crowd sought to give him aid to no avail. The two pilots, nerve shaken, both made rough but successful landings.

The body of the dead pilot was taken to a morgue, while other cars bore hysterical and fainting women to the nearest homes for sedatives. [Isn’t it strange that women today just don’t faint like they used to? – DeSpair]

Officials of the Legion cleared the field shortly after the accident. An inquest will be held today. 

In the July 4 Tribune there was some additional information provided in Coroner’s Jury testimony by two of the pilots:

James Curran, a vertain aviator, who was flying the top ship at the time the change of planes was to made, told the story to jury:

“We made three attempts,” he said. “The last time I had decided that the air was too rough for the stunt and was preparing to return to the field when I saw James reach for the ladder. He was riding the top wing of the lower ship. He caught a rung of the ladder. Then a gust of wind hit my ship – the ladder swung out – James swung into the propeller.”

Roy Thompson, pilot of the lower ship, also testified.

“I saw James grab the ladder,” he said. “Then he was swept out of my sight. Then I saw his feet dangling down in the path of the propellor. The propellor was shattered and my motor was killed. I landed.”

Incidentally, this was the ruling of the Coroner’s Jury:

“It was established that this was an accident and that the aviators concerned did all they could to avert it, but they had no chance.  

“We therefore advise that immediate legislation be had to prevent all forms of stunt flying. There should be local, state, and national laws. Every pilot should be inspected. Every ship should be inspected. There should be no stunt flying.”

What party poopers, eh?


And Also…

Did you know that the Chicago Tribune used to track moonshine deaths?  This is from July 4, 1923.  

Morbid Fact Du Jour For July 2, 2017

Today’s Anomalous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Peter the Great’s early-eighteenth-century Kunstkammer, the first museum in Russia, included living exhibitions. Peter, a giant himself at 6’7″, had a marked fondness for all anomalies, and in his museum he installed Foma, a boy whose hands and feet had only two digits apiece, and a beloved giant named Bourgeois, whom Peter tried unsuccessfully to breed by procuring a giantess from Sweden to be his wife. Both Foma and Bourgeois displayed both themselves and the objects in the museum to visitors. Although Peter’s monsters were not given curatorial authority, the Czar, who had a tender streak, apparently treasured these men as he did his horse, his dog, and his wife, Catherine. The skeleton of Bourgeois may still be seen in the Kunstkammer of Peter, although the skull on the skeleton clearly comes from another person.

The Beloved Lobster Boy Foma

The Beloved Giant Bourgeois

Although Peter adored Catherine, their relationship was not without conflict. In a moment of fury, he decapitated the head of his own young mistress as well as the head of his wife’s lover and left them properly pickled in alcohol beside Catherine’s bed. According to some accounts, and to Catherine’s credit, she never said a word. The heads, beautifully preserved in the tradition of Dutch anatomists observed by Peter on his travels to the Netherlands, were entered into his collection only to be discarded by Peter’s grandniece, Catherine the Great, fifty years later in a fit of housecleaning. Catherine the Great preferred paintings and sculpture to natural history and decapitated heads, however eternally fresh and however historical.

Culled from: Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters

Damn Catherine the Great, ruining everything with her unreasonable bias against historical severed heads!

And for those of us who doubt we’ll ever be able to make the trip to St. Petersburg to see the Kunstkammer in person, there’s a fantastic online tour that you can take.  Despite Catherine, there are still a few pickled things in jars to be gawked over!

Kunstkammer Virtual Tour

Ghastly! – Free Gasoline Edition

You probably haven’t heard about this because you hardly ever hear about anything impacting the people of Pakistan, but back on June 25th at least 150 people were killed in an explosion following an accident in which a petrol truck overturned on the highway.  The truck was leaking gasoline and many poor locals mobbed the scene to collect the precious fuel from the tank. I haven’t been able to find any footage of the actual explosion, but this video contains a fascinating and shudder-inducing ‘before’ and ‘after’ sequence. 
Bahawalpur Tanker Explosion (Pakistan)
File Under: Ill-Advised Cost-cutting Ventures

Morbid Fact Du Jour For June 29, 2017

Today’s Gradually Excluded Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1930’s Germany, there was wide acceptance from the public to the policies of the Nazi regime.  Broad swaths of German society, whether with indifference or enthusiasm, accepted the gradual exclusion of the Jews from the “Volk community”.  The boycott of Jewish businesses, physicians and attorneys on April 1, 1933, served to stigmatize the Jewish minority and isolate them socially. Such actions may have caused some Germans discomfort, but did not, in the final analysis, fail to achieve their purpose. “Non-Aryans” were marked, intimidated and avoided by most “national comrades” from then on. Those who violated the boycott were publicly denounced and defamed as “jew servants” (“Judenknechte”). On April 7, 1933, a few days after the boycott, the “Laws for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” imposed a professional ban on Jews, Social Democrats and Communists, all of whom were fired from their public service positions. Jews were to be stripped of their professional existence.

The “Nuremberg Laws” announced at the Nazi Party Rally on September 15, 1935, were generally accepted or welcomed. The “Reich Citizenship Law” classified Jews and others that fell under its promulgated definitions as second-class citizens. At the same time, this law provided the decisive judicial foundation for the continuance of the disenfranchisement process. The “Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor,” which forbid marriages between Jews and “Aryans” and criminalized their sexual relations, sought to penetrate even into the Jewish minority’s private sphere, thereby isolating and excluding them from the social life of the “Volk community”.

The resonance that these measures of persecution found among the public was profoundly affected by the fact that many Germans materially profited, directly or indirectly, from the displacement, disenfranchisement, and dispossession of the Jews. Jobs, homes, furniture, companies and real estate changed hands, typically at prices far below their market value – until the Jewish minority was fully destitute.

In an example of the type of social punishment inflicted upon Germans who associated with Jews, two German women accused of intimate contacts with prisoners of war are publicly humiliated by members of the SA and Nazi Party functionaries, Reichenbach/Vogtland, October 4, 1941.  After their heads were shorn they were led on a pillory march through the town. The signs around their necks read: “I was expelled from the Volk community because I consorted with prisoners of war.”

Culled from: Topography of Terror: Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office on Wilhelm-and-Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse


Ghastly!: Powerlines Are Powerful Edition

“Ooh, it captivate and it hypnotize
Hear the power in the lines.”
– Hüsker Dü, “Powerline”

Morbid Fact Du Jour For June 21, 2017

Today’s Pestilent Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1348 much of the population of Florence was wiped out by an outbreak of the Black Death (Bubonic Plague) that eventually spread throughout Italy. In that same year, Pope Clement VI, who was then living in Avignon, proposed a pilgrimage to Rome. Just over a million people went on the journey of about 500 miles. Only 100,000 returned.

At the height of the epidemic, the Rhone River was consecrated to provide a graveyard for victims who could not be disposed of in any other way.

By the end of the 14th century, 25 million deaths had occurred – an estimated 25 percent of Europe’s population. According to one estimate, there were 45 outbreaks of plague between 1500 and 1720. The most notorious reached London in June 1665.

One of the preventative methods used in London against the spread of the plague was to burn cats, dogs, mice, and rats. But this precaution was a case of too little, too late. By 1666 more than 68,000 Londoners had died, and Europe feared another pandemic.

But then, on September 2, 1666, fire broke out in the heart of London’s most populous area. The fire raged for four days, leaving four-fifths of the city devastated. But the great blaze also wiped out the unsanitary conditions that had helped the contagion to spread. 

“Bring Out Yer Dead!”

Culled from: Strange Stories, Amazing Facts


Ghastly! – Oncoming Traffic Edition

Oh, those Russian dashcams!  What would we have to watch on You Tube without them?  This is a particularly deadly moment for a pair of motorcyclists…  (Thanks to Amy for the link.)


Morbid Fact Du Jour for June 19, 2017

Today’s Infested Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

During the American Civil War, osteomyelitis (infection of the bone) was treated somewhat differently by the opposing sides. Both sides used cold compresses, local debridement, drainage, and amputation to treat bone infections. However, a unique form of treatment was developed serendipitously by the South during the war. A group of Confederate surgeons, imprisoned in Chattanooga, had been denied supplies to keep their men’s wounds clean. Subsequently, maggots infested the wounds and, surprisingly, cases of osteomyelitis and gangrene were cured. After their release, the surgeons applied this method in Southern hospitals, which led to improved results. The North continued to have poor responses to treatment because they scrupulously eliminated all maggots from their soldiers’ wounds. Maggot treatment was eventually rediscovered. Maggots bred under sterile conditions were used to treat osteomyelitis during World War I and were reported to have excellent results.

Union Soldier Suffering from Osteomyelitis

Culled from: Orthopaedic Injuries of the Civil War: An Atlas of Orthopaedic Injuries and Treatments During the Civil War

Fine(ly Designed) Wine!

If you’re like me, you buy your wine exclusively based upon the quality of the label.  And there are few labels that are more enticing to me than those produced by Orin Swift.  I want them all – and I don’t even like wine very much!  Well done, Orin Swift!  Here are a few of my faves:

China Doll Rosé 

Mannequin Chardonnay (which comes in a skateboard deck too):

Papillon Bordeaux Blend:

And my favorite, the absolutely stunning Cabernet Sauvignon which made me let out an audible gasp when I saw it at a liquor store in Seattle last month:

Morbid Fact Du Jour for June 18, 2017

Today’s Realistic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1872 war broke out between the American government and the Modoc tribe who lived in a rugged, desolate area near Mt. Shasta in Northern California. The Modoc War was the costliest Indian battle to the U.S. government, both in terms of financial expenditure (over $400,000) and the number of soldiers killed (73 – versus only 17 Modoc).  The Modoc Indians had been forced out of their native lands, had experienced the bad faith of white treaty makers, and had suffered constant encroachment by “American” settlers. They were driven to fight when some of the younger Modocs seceded from their tribe in a display of independence, if not desperation. After brave but mostly symbolic defiance, the Modocs surrendered, and four of them were hanged.

U.S. soldiers inspect Captain Jack’s cave in the Lava Bed (1873 Edward Murbridge photo)

The German immigrant photographer Louis H. Heller made small, card-mounted photographs of the renegade Modoc leaders and their captors, which Carleton Watkins sold in his San Francisco gallery. These pictures reveal the Indians to be complex figures and are in no way sensationalistic. Rather, these sad, ambiguous photographs must have been made for their newsworthiness and documentary value more than for any racial stereotyping of the outlaw “wild” Indian. Captain Jack (Kintpuash), their leader, wears the modest clothing of a farmer, his hair is short, and his most distinguishing characteristic is an expression of profound melancholy. 

Culled from: Police Pictures: The Photograph as Evidence   

And after death, the disrespect continued, unsurprisingly. From Wikipedia:

They severed the Modocs’ heads after the executions at Fort Klamath, sending them on October 25 by train to Washington, DC, to the Army Medical Museum for study.

In 1898, the Army transferred the skulls to the Smithsonian Institution. In the 1970s, descendants of Captain Jack learned that his skull was at the Smithsonian and appealed for its return. In 1984 the Smithsonian returned Kintpuash’s skull to his relatives, who acted as tribal representatives to receive also the skulls of Boston Charley, Black Jim, and John Schonchin, and of an unknown Modoc woman whose remains had been recovered from the Lava Beds.


And Speaking Of Heads Stored for Study…

Here’s another excerpt from Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital.

Study No. 206
This label breaks from the collection’s convention with only a case number alluding to the date. This brain’s hemispheres are severely asymmetrical.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For June 16, 2017

Today’s Systematic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Sick and disabled people were systematically registered by the Nazi regime starting in the autumn of 1939, and murdered beginning in January 1940. The organizational headquarters of this campaign was located at Tiergartenstrasse 4, Berlin. The address of the murder headquarters provided the code name of the operation: “T4”. The operation was classified as “Secret Reich Business”, and its management involved the Reich Ministry of Internal Affairs and later the Reich Ministry of Justice, as well as the regional government agencies that were responsible for overseeing the institutions.

The murders were carried out in several phases. In 1940 and 1941, over 70,000 people were killed by poison gas in specialized institutions under “Operation T4”. From 1942 on, still more people were killed in institutions by hunger, poison, and systematic neglect. At least 5,000 children and adolescents were murdered in “pediatric wards”. Meanwhile in Poland and the Soviet Union, the armed task forces called the “Einsatzgruppen” killed tens of thousands of patients.

Registration forms were collected and evaluated to decide who was to be gassed in the killing centers. Beginning in October 1939, the registration forms sent by the Reich Ministry of Internal Affairs were filled out in the institutions, usually by doctors or directors. All patients with certain diagnoses, all patients who had been institutionalized for five years or more, all those who were not of “German or related blood”, and all the “criminally insane” who had been committed to institutions by the courts were to be registered. Based on these registration forms, outside consultants recommended the deaths of more than 70,000 people. The consultants rarely saw their victims in person.

On August 24, 1941, the Nazi government stopped “Operation T4” because of spreading uneasiness among the population.

Here are two of the victims of Operation T4:

Xaver Rager (shown above in 1910) was born in 1898 in Jengen, Ostallgau district. He lived thirty years in the Catholic institution in Ursberg. In 1940 he was transferred to the Kaufbeuren mental hospital; in 1941 he was murdered in the Hartheim killing center.  

Leopoldine Schlager (shown above in 1920) was born in 1898. She lived in Müzzuschlag, Styria, until 1928, when she was admitted to the Am Feldhof state mental hospital in Graz. She was murdered in the Hartheim killing center in 1941.

Culled from: registered, persecuted, annihilated. The Sick and the Disabled under National Socialism


Morbid Sightseeing: Tiergartenstrasse 4

Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin and what came up on street view (from way back in 2008 – get it together, Google!) was an obvious memorial to the victims: a statue of one of the buses that transported the victims to the killing centers where they were gassed.  

I looked it up and sure enough, a memorial has been built on the spot. Next time I’m in Germany, I will have to visit.  

T4 – Memorial and Information Centre for the Victims of the Nazi Euthanasia Programme