Category Archives: Garretdom

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 13, 2016

Today’s Fishtailing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On June 14, 1986, the Galaxyland Amusement Park, located inside the huge West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, was packed. A concert was in progress and the Mindbender, the world’s largest indoor roller coaster, was doing a brisk business.

Twice during that day, a ride operator heard metallic banging noises coming from the coaster, but when the four 16-passenger trains were run empty, maintenance crews couldn’t locate the source of the noise, and the ride was again opened to the public.

Ron Chayko and his best friend David Sager were visiting the park that day and had wanted to go on the Mindbender, but when they first arrived, the ride was shut down, so they visited the nearby arcade till an announcement was made that the Mindbender was back up and running. They sat in the final, yellow car of the train, which then began its looping, climbing and diving ride.

No one knew that some bolts on the left side of the final car had fallen off, and this suddenly caused the final car to derail. The yellow car fishtailed wildly, knocking the lap-bars loose and hurling passengers out and down. The train was still running, heading into an uplift for the next drop, but had lost momentum and slid back down the incline, crashing into support pillars along the way.

Ron Chayko remembers flying over David Sager and falling below the track, behind a pillar. When he tried to sit up he saw that both his legs were broken, he was unable to move his left arm, and he had great difficulty breathing due to a punctured lung. He lay in agony for 15 minutes till a man jumped down to him, calling to other rescuers “I found him!” When paramedics lifted him onto a stretcher, Chayko’s entire left side folded in on itself due to his broken shoulder, pelvis and ribs. He survived, though he suffers from chronic pain as a result.

David Sager, Tony Mandrusiak and Cindy Sims were all killed instantly, and a more than a dozen others were injured. The Mindbender was shut down for seven months while investigations were made. It was determined tthat the axle assembly was faulty, and that the problem was exacerbated by problems translating the ride’s maintenance and repair instructions from German into English and the fact that the
manufacturer went bankrupt during installation of the coaster.

When the Mindbender was reopened in 1987, it had been redesigned to have only three 12-passenger cars, and safety belts and over-the-shoulder padded head restraints were added in addition to the standard lap bars. The ride has been completely accident-free ever since.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

And here’s a nice little clip about the accident.  It’s worth it just to hear Canadians describe the incident: “It was pretty scary cuz we were sitting upside down and we didn’t know what was happening and like we seen people laying on the ground, eh.”


Garretdom: Frightfully Mangled Edition

More proof that newspapers were better before.  Check out the detail in that final paragraph!  Oh, if only modern papers were so colorful…

July 22, 1865
Shakopee Argus

Fatal Accident.

Fatal Accident. — On last Monday a most shocking accident occurred at Spring Lake, in this county. The victim was a Mr. Ringrose, who was employed in the sawmill at that place, while engaged in adjusting a belt on one of the wheels, was caught and dragged into the machinery and instantly crushed to pieces. — There was no one near at the time, and he was found a few minutes afterwards by another of the employees of the mill, a frightfully mangled corpse. He was a returned soldier, and had been at home but a few days when he was thus torn from family and friends, just as his security from death seemed to have become the most perfect. He leaves a wife and several children to mourn his untimely fate.

Since the above was in type we have learned some of that particulars of the sad affair. — It appears that the belt wheel had no flange and the belt frequently ran off the wheel as it did in this instance, and had to be put on again while in motion; the deceased upon seeing the belt come off, went to put it on, and did so, but just as it snapped on to the wheel it caught his left arm, when he was instantly rolled in between the belt and the wheel, which was going at the rate of sixty revolutions per minute. The owner of the mill, Mr. Turner, was upstairs at the time, and noticed a curious action in the machinery and heard an occasional thud, but attributed it to some trifling cause; in about fifteen minutes after he had first noticed it he determined to go below and see the occasion of the noise, when he found the body in the position described. —  He immediately stopped the mill and, with assistance, extricated the body of the unfortunate man. His arms and legs were broken into twenty or thirty pieces, and the flesh literally stripped therefrom, pieces of which were found in every direction; his body was ground to a pumice and blood was thrown thirty feet. One of his feet was found the next day, and pieces of flesh were picked up for several days after in and about the mill.

Culled from Coffee Made Her Insane

More frightfully mangled news stories can be read at Garretdom.



Morbid Fact Du Jour For March 8, 2016

Today’s Misguided Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On May 31, 2013, an EF1 tornado touched down near Oklahoma City and traveled on the ground for 10 minutes. KFOR-TV meteorlogist Mike Morgan warned viewers to head for shelter, recommending that they go underground.

Timothy Shrum, 21, had survived a tornado three years earlier by hiding in the drainage tunnel behind his apartment building, and he urged his friends and family to accompany him there now. His sister Virginia had a bad feeling about the tunnel, and friend Alvin Hennington told Shrum “No, no, no, let’s go in the closet. I don’t trust the tunnel.” But eventually they all agreed to leave the apartment.

The eleven people were in the half-mile-long tunnel, which runs from behind their building, under a parking lot and empties into the Oklahoma River. And that river was now flooding. In an instant, the water in the tunnel rose from knee-high to waist-high, and adults and children alike were unable to resist its tremendous force and were swept away into the river.

Virginia Shrum’s two daughters, Destiny Love Shrum, 4, and Terra, 3; her adoptive mother’s two children, Cory Johnson Jr., 4 and Alexis Johnson, 5 months; and Timothy Shrum, were all drowned. Alexis’s body has never been found.

And the apartment building they’d fled was undamaged.

The Tunnel of Doom

Culled from: NewsOK
Submitted by: Aimee

And you just have to go to the NewsOK website and watch the interview with Virginia Shrum. I’ve never seen anyone so nonchalant while discussing the death of her children. Something ain’t right about that woman…


Garretdom: Baby in a Basket Edition!

Years ago, some scrapbooks were sold on Ebay. They had been discovered at an estate sale and had been compiled in the 1880’s by a morbid kindred soul.  He or she had cut articles out of newspapers and pasted them over old textbooks (“The Latin Reader,” etc.). Each article was about death or mayhem. The collection was magnificent, but each individual book sold for huge sums on Ebay. I  was able to convince the seller to make copies of the scrapbooks for me before he sold some of them.  This article is taken from one of the books – hence the lack of an attributable newspaper.  I store these crazy articles at Garretdom.  I hope you enjoy today’s weird little story.

December, 1886


How a Wretch Abandoned a Helpless Infant Yesterday Afternoon.

“Say, there’s somebody left a basket in the cabin here.”

It was Billy Hughes, the handsome deckhand of the ferryboat Wenonah, on the Camden and Philadelphia Ferry, to whom these words were addressed by a woman who was leaving the boat early yesterday afternoon. Billy dropped the rope with which he had just pulled the gang-plank down from the Camden slip, and dove for the cabin.

“Look here. There’s a basket some one has left on one of the seats.”

It was a man who spoke to Hughes this time, and he paused in his plunge for the cabin just long enough to wonder how it happened that there were two honest folks on one ferryboat. Then he stepped into the cabin and picked up a little split basket over which a towel was carefully spread and without examining its contents took it to the ticket collector’s office and left it, in the full expectations that somebody would come tearing down through the slush and mud in about two minutes and ask for it. But nobody came.

David Moore, the genial collector, hadn’t time to spare from hauling in little bronze shekels for the company to examine the package, even if he had been disposed to do so.

“Kee-wah, kee-wah.”

Mr. Moore’s face assumed a more surprised look than usual.

“Look into that basket and see what’s there,” he said in as off-hand a manner as possible. “I believe it’s a poll parrot.”

Nobody wanted to look, but in a minute someone plucked up the courage to turn the towel down, and there was the face of a new-born baby. It was already growing purple with cold. Examination showed that the little thing was carefully wrapped up in very plain garments.

“I’m absolutely unable to perform the duties of a wet-nurse!” shouted the collector, as he began to make frantic passes at imaginary pennies in order that it might be seen that he had no time to nurse the baby.

“Anybody that would do such a thing ought to be tarred and feathered,” growled Johnnie Middleton, as he tugged ferociously at his strawberry blonde moustache. Then the telephone was put in operation and arrangements were made to send the little thing to the Almshouse.

“I’ll bet that man and woman had something to do with that,” remarked Hughes as the boat pulled out from the slip, and a passenger sat in the cabin and told blood-wodling [sic] tales all the way over of how he had seen seventeen babies’ bodies taken from the Fairmount reservoir when it was cleaned, and how he had seen blood on the sumps there, where the little bodies had been sucked in and crushed to fragments.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1886 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 11, 2016

Today’s Jealous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

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

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

He was only eleven months old.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the victims –

Duane Johnson:

Chad Shelton:

And here’s the killer, Steven Roy Harper:

Culled From: Forensic Files
Submitted by: Aimee

Jealousy is maybe the ugliest of human emotions. – Aimee

You can watch the Forensic Files episode here.












Garretdom: Dreadful Intoxication Edition!

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

December 9, 1887

A Dreadful Result of Intoxication.

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

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1887 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 25, 2015

Today’s Infected Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

During the American Civil War, much was written on wound care, and the information provided during the war showed physicians adhered to the miasmatic rather than bacterial theory of infection. Nearly all wounds were “probed,” not only to find the projectile but to define the extent of the injury. Clothing, bullets, or shell fragments were removed from wounds. Secondary to this probing, contamination of all wounds occurred. This makes it impossible to compare infection rates and mortality between various treatment techniques. Sometimes wounds were cleaned with solutions that had mild antiseptic qualities such as bromine. The use of ligatures, rather than tourniquets, to stop major vessel hemorrhage was soon practiced by all surgeons and was a major advancement during the war. Nearly all wounds became infected, and white, creamy “laudable” pus was felt to be a good prognostic sign and part of the normal healing process. Wounds that healed without suppuration were essentially considered abnormal and were reported as curiosities.

Dressings were usually kept wet. Unfortunately, some dressings were reused and infrequently washed, which led to a dramatic spread of infections. Ice was a valuable adjuvant to the cold water dressings and was even supplied in the heat of July following Gettysburg by the United States Sanitary Commission. Suppurating wounds were sometimes treated with a dilute chlorinated soda called Labarraque’s solution, a forerunner of Dakin’s solution, a commonly used antiseptic.

Surgical infections were the leading cause of death after surgery. Tetanus, pyemia, erysipelas, and especially gangrene were feared by patient and doctor alike. Various antiseptic agents were tried. Middleton Goldsmith’s study of washing wounds with bromine instead of nitric acid in cases of gangrene was a major achievement in the treatment of gangrene during the war. The number of cases of erysipelas were reduced in a Louisville hospital by spraying bromine vapor in the hospital wards. Other antiseptic agents used included potassium permanganate, sodium hypochlorite (Dakin’s solution), iodine, and creosote. Carbolic acid was sporadically employed but with mixed results. The problem with the use of these agents was that they were utilized at the wrong time, usually when an infection was in full bloom. Men were further ravaged by disease and malnutrition. J.S. Billings, writing on the operation of excising a hip joint, conceded: “Operating, as I did, upon men whose vital force had been diminished by scorbutus and malaria, and exhausted by transfer from a distance, I had little hope of successful results.”

“My vital force is diminished.”
Culled from: Orthopaedic Injuries of the Civil War: An Atlas of Orthopaedic Injuries and Treatments During the Civil War


Garretdom: Asphyxiation Edition

On this Christmas Day, let us all reflect on a dark time when literally everything could kill you. 

December 12, 1887




Mother and Children Asphyxiated by Coal Gas Through Carelessness.

CHICAGO, Dec. 12.–Mrs. McClure and her grown daughter and son were asphyxiated by coal gas last night at their residence in the suburbs of the town of Maplewood. They closed all doors and windows tightly on retiring and forgot to replace a stove-lid after replenishing the parlor fire. Mrs. McClure appeared to have fallen senseless while trying to get out to the open air. Her daughter was lying lifeless across a chair a few feet from her bed. The son was on his knees before the door and evidently had become unconscious during a stupefied search for the knob of the door.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1887 Morbid Scrapbook

More tales of asphyxiation and woe can be devoured at Garretdom.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 29, 2015

Today’s Swampy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On the afternoon of May 11, 1996, ValuJet Flight 592 pushed back from gate G2 in Miami after a delay of 1 hour and 4 minutes due to mechanical problems. There were 105 passengers, mainly from Florida and Georgia, on board, as well as a crew of two pilots and three flight attendants, bringing the total number of people on board to 110. At 2:04 pm, 10 minutes before the disaster, the DC-9 took off from runway 9L (now runway 8R) and began a normal climb.

At 2:10 pm, the passengers started to smell smoke. At the same time, the pilots heard a loud bang in their headphones and noticed the plane was losing electrical power. The spike in electrical power and the bang were eventually determined to be the result of a tire in the cargo hold exploding. Seconds later, flight attendant Jennifer Stearns entered the cockpit and informed the flight crew of a fire in the passenger cabin. Passengers’ shouts of “fire, fire, fire” were recorded on the cockpit voice recorder when the cockpit door was opened. Though the ValuJet flight attendant manual stated that the cockpit door should not be opened when smoke or other harmful gases might be present in the cabin, the intercom was disabled and there was no other way to inform the pilots of what was happening. The CDR indicated a progressive failure of the DC-9’s electrical and flight control systems due to the spreading fire.

Kubeck and Hazen immediately asked air traffic control for a return to Miami due to the increasing smoke in the cockpit and cabin, and were given instructions for a return to the airport. One minute later, Hazen requested the nearest available airport. Kubeck began to turn the plane left in preparation for the return to Miami. At that time, flight attendant Jennifer Stearns entered the cockpit asking why the pilots didn’t lower the oxygen masks for the passengers. The pilots had refused; they knew that oxygen would only make the fire worse.

Flight 592 disappeared from radar at 2:13:42 pm. Eyewitnesses nearby watched as the plane banked sharply to the left, rolled onto its side and nosedived into the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area in the Everglades, a few miles west of Miami, at a speed in excess of 507 miles per hour (816 km/h). Kubeck lost control of the plane less than 10 seconds before impact. Examination of debris suggested that the fire burned through the floorboards in the cockpit, resulting in structural failure and damage to cables underneath the instrument panels; however, it was just as likely that the crew had also become incapacitated by smoke and fumes. As power had been lost to the cockpit voice recorder about 55 seconds before impact, it was impossible to pinpoint either scenario with certainty.[1]

Kubeck, Hazen, the three flight attendants, and all 105 passengers aboard were killed instantly. Recovery of the aircraft and victims was made extremely difficult by the location of the crash. The nearest road of any kind was more than a quarter mile (400 m) away from the crash scene, and the location of the crash itself was a deep-water swamp with a floor made out of solid limestone. The DC-9 was destroyed on impact, with no large pieces of the fuselage remaining. Sawgrass, alligators, and risk of bacterial infection from cuts plagued searchers involved in the recovery effort.

A group of fishermen witnessed the crash and reported that “The plane was flying in a steep right bank, after which it turned so that the nose was facing downward in a nearly vertical angle. It plummeted into the swamp followed by an explosion, shock wave, and a massive geyser of water.” They reported seeing no external damage to the DC-9 or any sign of fire or smoke other than the engine exhaust. A group of sightseers in a small private plane also witnessed the crash and provided a nearly identical account, stating that Flight 592 seemed to “disappear” after impacting the swamp and they could see nothing but scattered small debris and part of an engine near the crash site.

What a mess.

As with all such incidents, the flight manifest makes tragic reading. The ages of those who were killed ranged from four to 84, with many children being orphaned; for instance, the San Diego Chargers running back Rodney Culver died with his wife Karen, leaving behind two young children, Bree and Jada. More unusually, one DelMarie Baker, a 38-year-old waitress, almost certainly escaped the electric chair by dying on the crippled DC9. Baker’s disabled friend, Catherine Holmes, had recently been tortured to death by a would-be thief; the unfortunate woman – who was bound hand and foot, stabbed 20 times and suffocated with a sock – had died clutching a handful of hair, pulled out by its roots from the head of her attacker. Virtually as the flight took off, the police had received the report which matched the hair by DNA analysis to Baker. After her death, they closed the case.

Culled from: Black Box: Inside the World’s Worst Air Crashes and Wikipedia


Garretdom: Paranoid Man With A Gun Edition

Here’s another tale of 19th Century Woe – and one that actually sounds quite familiar. It seems paranoid Americans have always been shooting one another.

December 12, 1887

Shot His Daughter for a Burglar.

PITTSBURG, Dec. 12.–J. C. Hill, a prominent resident of Edgewood, a wealthy suburb of this city, mistook his daughter for a burglar early yesterday morning, and shot her through the neck, inflicting a dangerous and it is feared fatal wound. Mr. Hill made collections of about $5000, which he took to his home to keep over night. His daughter, who had a bad toothache, arose early yesterday morning , and went down to the library to the fire to warm herself. Her father, hearing the noise, thought burglars were in the house, and taking his revolver followed her down stairs. When he reached the door of the library he fired, the ball striking his daughter in the back of the neck and passing through to the front. The young lady is in a critical condition, and her father is almost crazed with grief.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1887 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 27, 2015

Today’s Deeply Betrayed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In May, 1925, a twenty-one-year-old White Plains, New York woman had been rushed to the hospital after eating a fig from a box that her grandmother had sent her as a gift. The sick girl had been carried into treatment still clutching the box of fruit.

Doctors recognized signs of an acute poisoning – the skin of her mouth was corroded, and she was vomiting blood. The hospital sent the figs directly to the medical examiner’s office. The next day New York toxicologist Alexander Gettler reported that he’d found a silvery-white powder rubbed into the fruit. The figs were loaded with mercury bichloride.

Detectives discovered that the grandmother had quarreled with the young woman’s parents over money. The daughter had supported her parents and refused to visit her grandmother again; her six-year-old brother had continued to visit. The older woman evidently regarded her granddaughter’s behavior as a deep betrayal. She had bought the figs, laced a basketful with mercury bichloride, and given it to the boy, telling him it was a gift for his sister and “not to eat any himself.”

When detectives came to arrest the grandmother, she’d been waiting for them. “All right” was all she said, as she gathered up her handbag and hat. She was lucky, they told her – the girl would recover, and the charge would be only attempted murder. She didn’t answer them.

Culled from: The Poisoner’s Handbook


Garretdom: Frothing For No Reason Edition

December 12, 1886



A Man and Boy who Bark and Bite Without Any Apparent Cause.

CHICAGO, Dec. 12.–About two weeks ago Harry Gibson, a hotel bell-boy, was taken to the insane department of the county jail suffering from a malady which seemed at times to resemble hydrophobia. It cannot be ascertained that young Gibson was ever bitten by a dog, either rabid or otherwise, yet he snapped his teeth and growled at people, frothed at the mouth, and in every way gave evidence of suffering from rabies. It was at first supposed that his malady was brought on from a serious injury he received from falling and striking his head on an iron staircase. A new and mysterious phase of the case has developed, and is worrying the physicians. Before Gibson’s removal to the jail he was cared for at the hotel, and a porter named John Heilland was detailed to watch him. He would argue with the attendant in a most rational manner, saying there was no necessity for his being watched, but the moment the attendant turned his back Gibson would leap upon him and endeavor to bite him.

After Gibson’s removal Heilland was relieved from the duty of caring for the patient. He went to his room, and spent the next forenoon in sleep. When he went to work he complained to his fellow-porters of feeling ill, but thought nothing serious of it. The day following, however, he was attacked with the same symptoms manifested by young Gibson, and became violently mad and unmanageable. He frothed at the mouth and acted like a person having hydrophobia, though at times he was perfectly rational. He declares he was not bitten by Gibson, and had not been bitten by a dog. The attacks recur at regular intervals each day. The cases will be thoroughly investigated.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1886 Morbid Scrapbook

I tried finding a follow-up article about this case but couldn’t.  If anyone out there can track this one down to find out that they probably both died of rabies, I will send you a special morbid gift.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 26, 2015

Today’s Slippery Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In 1992-1993, three men were not even climbing but simply “goofing-off” in the most ridiculous of locations at the Grand Canyon.  On November 28, 1992, Greg Austin Gingrich, age 38, jumped atop, then over, the rock wall along the Rim Trail near El Tovar. He missed his landing and fell 400 feet. On September 5, 1993, Andreas Zimmerman, age 24, jumped from one ledge to another on the edge at Cape Royal just for the hell of it. He slipped and fell to his death. Two months later, on November 16, 1993, James Hyland, age 21, decided to walk atop the frosty guard wall built to separate people form the abyss below El Tovar Hotel. He too slipped and fell.

The El Tovar Hotel.  It’s a long way down.
Culled from: Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon


Garretdom: Grim Reaper Edition

On this Boxing Day, let us all reflect on a dark time when literally everything could kill you. 

December 12, 1887

The Grim Reaper’s Relentless Work.

MOUNT CARMEL, Pa., Dec. 12.–Singular fatality has for the past few months followed the family of Daniel Wertman, residing at Derrs, Columbia county. A few months ago Mrs. Wertman died, and a short time afterward her husband succumbed to the shock. The daughter, Minnie, aged twenty, was taken ill while attending her father’s funeral and died four days later, and yesterday the physicians gave up all hope of the recovery of the son, Freeman, aged twenty-one, who had been prostrated by the sudden taking away of his father, mother and sister.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1887 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 12, 2015

Today’s Severely Beaten Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Let’s have another jolly story of  Christian Martyrdom from the classic of the genre, Fox’s Book of Martyrs (1848).  This allegedly occurred during the fourth persecution, under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, A. D. 162:

Epipodius, being compassionated by the governor of Lyons, and exhorted to join in their festive pagan worship, replied, “Your pretended tenderness is actually cruelty; and the agreeable life you describe is replete with everlasting death Christ suffered for us, that our pleasures should be immortal, and hath prepared for his followers an eternity of bliss. The frame of man being composed of two parts, body and soul, the first, as mean and perishable, should be rendered subservient to the interests of the last. Your idolatrous feasts may gratify the mortal, but they injure the immortal part; that cannot therefore be enjoying life which destroys the most valuable moiety of your frame. Your pleasures lead to eternal death, and our pains to perpetual happiness.” [Sheesh, what a party pooper! – DeSpair] Epipodius was severely beaten, and then put to the rack, upon which being stretched, his flesh was torn with iron hooks. Having borne his torments with incredible patience and unshaken fortitude, he was taken from the rack and beheaded.

Epipodius: No fun, my lord, no fun.

Culled from: Fox’s Book Of Martyrs
Generously suggested by: Louise


Garretdom: Rampaging Tramp Edition!

Garretdom is a regular feature whre I spotlight a morbid or strange 19th century newspaper article. Today we go back to 1887.

December 12, 1887


They Wreck a Saloon, Hack a Man With a Razor and Assault Others.

SHENANDOAH, Pa., Dec. 12.–A band of about thirty tramps, who have been making their headquarters just outside the borough limits during the past few weeks, came into Shenandoah last night, and after getting drunk raised a riot in a saloon and killed one man and fatally injured two others. Four of the tramps were ejected from the saloon for using abusive language, and shortly afterwards returned with eight more of their comrades and attacked the saloon-keeper and a party of miners, who were drinking in the house. James McKeone, a brother of the saloon-keeper, was horribly hacked with a razor in the hands of one of the tramps, and two of the miners were beaten with bottles and glasses into insensibility.

The tramps after clearing out the barroom, withdrew to the street and wrecked the front of the building. Nine of the number were subsequently arrested and four of them were committed to jail. McKeone will die, and the other two men are in a precarious condition.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1887 Morbid Scrapbook

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 15, 2015

Today’s Monstrous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One cold, foggy evening in the late 1860s Sir Frederick Treves, a surgeon at the Mile End Infirmary in east London, was walking home along the Whitechapel Road. Hansom cabs clattered by on the wet cobbles, and Sir Frederick had to walk cautiously to avoid cracks in the pavement. Perhaps this was why he noticed a strip of canvas flapping in the cold wind. By the dim gaslight he could just make out the words: “Elephant Man – admission twopence.”

He pushed aside a greasy canvas flap and found himself in a narrow space between two buildings. In Victorian times these were known as “holes in the wall”: space was so valuable in the overcrowded slums that the gaps between houses were covered with a canvas roof and let out at low rents. There was a single dim light, and the surgeon could see a huddled figure, covered in tarpaulin, and sitting on a packing case. The surgeon gently pulled back the tarpaulin, and the man looked up at him. What Sir Frederick saw made him gasp. The “elephant man’s” face was hardly human; the nose was a swollen, trunk-like mass of flesh, and everything else about him was distorted.

The surgeon drew up a packing case, and sat talking to this human creature who looked like a beast from a fairy tale. The elephant man proved to be a man of mystery. His body was as distorted as his face, so it was not even clear to which sex “he” belonged. He knew that his name was John Merrick and that he was about 20. But he could only speak in an incomprehensible mumble, and could apparently remember nothing of his origins, or where he had grown up. When his “keepers” came back from the pub, where they had been drinking to keep out the cold, they told Treves that they had simply found the elephant man wandering in the street, and had decided that he might bring them in a few pence as a freak show. But he was so horrible that women fainted at the sight of him and children had fits.

When the surgeon offered them five pounds for the monster, they could scarcely believe their luck. The next day Treves took the elephant man to the hospital, and gave him a private suite of rooms, cut off from the rest of the building. Few nurses could bear to see him, and before a nurse was asked to bring him food or help him to dress she was given a preliminary look at him to see if she could bear it without fainting.

Yet the elephant man proved to be gentle and charming. His gratitude touched everybody. Obviously, his life had been hard and miserable; no one had ever been kind to him. Now, at last, he had warmth and comfort, and he found it almost impossible to believe that fate had finally relented towards him.

One of his favorite occupations was cutting pictures out of illustrated magazines. One of these – his most treasured – was of Princess Alexandra, who would be Queen of England when her husband, later Edward VII, came to the throne. The princess was the patroness of the hospital, and she was deeply interested in the elephant man.  One day she told Treves that she wanted to see him. Treves tried hard to dissuade her, but she was determined. She was shown into the elephant man’s presence. She did not flinch as the twisted, monstrous creature dragged himself towards her, or as he took her hand in his own distorted claw and bent over to kiss it. Then she was shown out. As the door closed behind her, she fainted.

Culled from: Crimes and Punishment, the Illustrated Crime Encyclopedia, Volume 27

Garretdom: Brains Beaten Out Edition!

Here’s another vintage newspaper article. The last sentence of this one sums up why I love old newspapers so much. Can you imagine a boring modern news source using a term like “beat his brains out”?

December, 1887


Dead in a Car of Wheat.

PERRY, Iowa., Dec. 13.—At Aspinwall, seventy-five miles west of here, a man was found dead in a car of wheat yesterday. The body was still warm. Later in the day a young man named Ted Stevens was arrested at this place. When taken to Aspinwall he confessed to killing the man with a car pin, and that he relieved the man of $69. The murdered man’s name is Carson, and he is supposed to have friends near Tama City. Stevens is about eighteen years of age. His father lives east of this city and is a highly respected man. Young Stevens ran away from home about a year ago, and was beating his way from the west when he fell in company with his victim, whom he finally murdered by beating his brains out.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
More old articles can be perused at Garretdom.

Halloween Cometh!

More vintage Halloween fun!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for September 16, 2015

Today’s Stiff Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Rigor mortis, a Latin word meaning “the stiffness of death,” begins to take effect as the internal chemistry of the body changes from its normal acid state to an alkaline one, usually about two hours after life has become extinct. This causes muscles that were relaxed at the time of death to begin to tense and stiffen. The process begins with the eyelids and progresses to the muscles of the face and jaw, then to the arms, the trunk, and finally the legs.

Rigor mortis is a progressive condition and is usually fully established about twelve hours after death, by which time the body is as stiff and unbending as a block of wood. The body can remain in this condition for anything between twelve and forty-eight hours, until further chemical changes return the body to an acid state, at which point the muscles begin to relax again. This reverse process affects the muscles in the same order in which rigor mortis originally stiffened them: the eyelids first, then the facial muscles… and finally the legs.

Culled from: Hidden Evidence: Forty True Crimes and How Forensic Science Helped Solve Them


Halloween Cometh!

We’re about six weeks away from the greatest of all holidays, so I thought I’d start sharing some vintage Halloween pics with the newsletter. (Culled from Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics.) Enjoy!



Garretdom: Olde News For Morbid Minds!

December, 1887

Josephine Curry Causes the Death of Her Newly-Born Infant.

Josephine Curry, thirty years old, who has been making her home for a short time at 1414 Cadwalader street, killed her newly-born babe at an early hour yesterday morning by throwing it down a cesspool. The police were notified at once and the body recovered in a short time, but the child was dead. A post-mortem examination was made by the Coroner’s physician, and the result will be made known at the inquest.

Detective Geyer was deteialed to investigate the case and interview the woman. He found her in bed suffering intensely and scarcely able to talk. She said her home was in Williamsport, and that she had been led estray by a commercial drummer whom she met in McKeesport. She last saw him in March, when he promised to care for her, but she had been unable to find him.

She came to this city hoping she could find him, but failing and being penniless and homeleess, she had resorted to the desperate effort to hide her crime. She said she was unable to say whether the child was born dead or alive, but from previous remarks it is believed that she was fully aware that it was living, and being alone in the house at the time, disposed of it before the lady with whom she was staying and who had gone to a neighbor’s for assistance had time to return.

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair

Read more sad stories of olde tyme homicide at Garretdom!