Category Archives: Ghastly!

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 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 15, 2017

Today’s Anesthetizing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The greatest gift of the United States to surgery was probably the discovery of general anesthesia, the use of which was first publicly demonstrated in 1846 by personnel from Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital.  Four years earlier, however, an unassuming doctor in rural Georgia, Crawford Williamson Long, M.D. (1815-1878), had used sulfuric ether for general anesthesia when operating on a patient with a tumor. Not until 1849 did Long, prodded by friends, announce his deed; the reason for his delay remains unknown; perhaps, being out of medical school only three years, he may not have recognized the importance of anesthesia.

Surgery in rural practice was uncommon even in those days; patients who needed operations were sent to major medical centers just as they are today. Few doctors performed surgery unless presented with emergency circumstances, as the lack of anesthesia made undergoing the procedure excruciatingly painful. Patients had to be forcibly restrained by attendants, and the trauma of surgery was enough to make some go into fatal shock. Thus, one measure of the surgeon’s skill was how quickly he could operate; great surgeons could remove an arm in thirty seconds, and a leg in about a minute. Anesthesia was a great boon in that, in addition to its obvious ability to remove pain from the process, it also permitted lengthy and precise operations.

Dr. Long had used general anesthesia seven times before the Harvard demonstration. Nevertheless, the honors normally bestowed by Congress and other organizations for such an accomplishment never materialized, owing to his own delay in reportage as well as to infighting among the three Massachusetts pioneers, who spent their lives competing for primary recognition. Horace Wells, D.D.S., became a chloroform addict and killed himself with an overdose in a jail cell in New York City. With Wells dead, William T.G. Morton, D.D.S., and Charles Thomas Jackson, M.D., continued to battle for attention and acceptance as the discoverer of general anesthesia. Destitute, battle weary, and embittered, Morton died of a stroke in 1868 after reading an article on primacy by Jackson claiming credit. Jackson himself had a mental breakdown, and died in 1880 at the McLean Asylum in Somerville, Massachusetts. Wells was ultimately declared the prime discoverer of general anesthesia; however, neither he nor the other two men received public recognition or financial benefit for this in their lifetime.

By contrast, after Dr. Long had put in his claim, he simply went back to work in his rural practice. For this tintype (below) Long held the knife for an amputation while his younger brother gave the patient anesthesia and an attendant held surgical paraphernalia. The scene is accurate to its era, the surgeon’s street dress and the overall lack of sterility having been standard. Shy of notoriety, Dr. Long did not have many photographs taken during his lifetime. 

With the exception of daguerreotypes made at Massachusetts General in 1846 and 1847, this is the only extant photograph of an operation taken prior to the Civil War. Thus, it is an important record of the state of surgery in the United States during the nineteenth century.

Culled from: A Morning’s Work: Medical Photographs from the Burns Archive & Collection 1843-1939


What Deadly Diseases Look Like On Your Body

It’s probably silly of me to share this because…  if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time you sickos already know what deadly diseases look like!  You’ve probably spent a fair amount of time gawking over horrible images doing your own research, haven’t you? But, in any event, I found this an entrancing little video with convincing makeup – and a great message to anti-vaxxers to boot!  (Thanks to Kimberly for the link.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour For June 13, 2017

Today’s Psychopathic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The “Sydney Mutilator”, William MacDonald, is considered Australia’s first serial killer. Between 1961 and 1962 MacDonald terrorized Sydney with a string of gruesome murders before being apprehended while working as a porter at Melbourne’s Spencer Street railway station on May 13, 1963. His modus operandi was to select his male victims at random (mostly derelicts), lure them into a dark place, violently stab them dozens of times about the head and neck with a long bladed knife, and finally sever their penis and testicles. 

The Sydney Mutilator.  Doesn’t slip off the tongue quite as nicely as the “Boston Strangler,” does it?

MacDonald described the murder of his last victim, Patrick Hackett, picked up while drinking at a Melbourne hotel. He woke up in the middle of the night and picked up a knife. “As I stood looking at him, with the knife grasped firmly in my hand, a mad rage came over me. I knelt down and stabbed him in the neck… I struck down at him again and again. During the stabbing, I accidentally struck my own hand, and then I lost count of how many times I thrust the knife into his body. Even after I knew he was dead, I kept on plunging the knife into him.”

This description certainly suggests that Macdonald may have had some form of seizure. Many criminal activities are associated with a brain-wave known as the theta rhythm. These waves were first noticed in young children [I’m not surprised – DeSpair], and they became pronounced when the child experienced emotions of pleasure or pain.

Theta rhythms could be easily evoked in a small child by offering a sweet and then snatching it away. [Can I sign-up to run this study? – DeSpair] In adults, these rhythms play a very small part – except in aggressive psychopaths. Dr. Grey Walter comments about this sudden murderous violence towards other people in animals: “These destructive or murderous episodes are often almost or completely unmotivated by ordinary standards.”

This is not, of course, to suggest that psychopathic violence – like Macdonald’s – is caused in some way by theta waves as an epileptic attack is caused by an electrical discharge. Possibly the theta waves appear when the psychopath induces a certain state of mind in himself. Macdonald had decided to kill the man before he went to sleep, and the “blind rage” came over him after he had picked up the knife. He had somehow triggered the attack in the way that a normal person can trigger sexual excitement by directing the thoughts towards sex. 

But all this – like the discoveries about the amygdaloid nucleus in the brain, the source of our aggressive instincts – suggests that many violent killers may be suffering from some physical imbalance of the same kind that makes some people abnormally active and others sluggish and dull [You called? – DeSpair]. And it could be connected with the kind of hormone activity that turns some women into nymphomaniacs and some men into “satyrs”.

Culled from: Crimes and Punishment: The Crime Encyclopedia, Vol 1


Brains Du Jour!

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

Unlabeled teaching brains from unknown donors separated by gauze wrappings.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For June 12, 2017

I apologize for being away longer than intended.  I had a computer failure that contributed to this particular absence, but I think everything should be fixed now, and I should be able to provide a continuous stream of facts for awhile. Knock on desiccated wood!

Today’s Demonically Howling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On the morning of November 2, 1942, Fridolph Trieman was exercising his German shepherd in a remote part of Central Park. As the dog disappeared into some tall grass, Trieman ran to keep up. Puffing and panting, he paused for breath, then stopped abruptly. Ahead of him, beneath the low hanging branches of a dogwood tree, lay the fully clothed body of a young woman. She looked ominously still.

At first the police were uncertain how the woman had died. Apart from a trace of blood at the nose and a faint welt around the neck, there were no other obvious signs of assault. It might even have been natural causes. then a sleeve torn from the coat at the shoulder was found several feet from the body. This raised the prospect of some kind of struggle.

An autopsy carried out by Gonzales confirmed strangulation as the cause of death. Her larynx was fractured, but other than that there was no sign of injury, nor had she been raped. The fact that she had no handbag or money strongly suggested that this was a mugging gone tragically wrong – except the woman still wore a gold chain bearing a crucifix around her swollen neck. No self-respecting thief was going to leave that.

Later that same night, detectives Joseph Hackett and John Crosby of the Missing Persons Bureau identified the woman as Louise Almodovar, a twenty-year-old waitress and Sunday school teacher, who lived with her parents in the Bronx. They had reported her missing the previous day. According to tearful parents, Louise’s recent home life had been abusive and turbulent. Against their wishes, she had married Anibal Almodovar, a diminutive Puerto Rican ex-sailor, just five months earlier, only to leave him after a few weeks because of his insatiable womanizing.

When tracked down and told of his wife’s fate, the twenty-one-year-old Almodovar just shrugged. She had made his life hell, he said. The bitch even had the nerve to beat up one of his girlfriends and swear at another! Good riddance, was his verdict, though he vehemently denied any involvement in her death. And the facts seemed to bear him out. According to Gonzales, Louise had met her death most probably between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. on the night of November 1, at which time Almodovar had been carousing in a dance hall called the Rumba Palace with the very woman whom Louise had attacked. Furthermore, there were dozens of other witnesses who could testify to his presence. In the fact of such an iron-clad alibi, detectives understandably began widening their search for suspects, until Louise’s parents produced several threatening letters that Almodovar had written to their daughter. The bile that dripped off every page convinced detectives to hold the amorous former seaman as a material witness.

Still, they couldn’t get past that seemingly impregnable alibi. Only when detectives visited the dance hall, just a few hundred yards from the murder scene, did they realize that it would have been possible for Almodovar to have sneaked unnoticed out of a back door, gone to Central Park where he might have previously arranged to meet his wife, killed her, and crept back into the Rumba Palace without anyone being the wiser. It was theoretically possible, nothing more. Without a scrap of solid evidence against Almodovar, he was released.

Given the absence of any alternative suspects, this was one of those cases that looked destined for the “Unsolved” cabinet, until Gettler had a flash of inspiration. More out of curiosity than anything else, he happened to glance at the crime scene photographs. He noticed that the body was lying in some very tall grass. This set him thinking. At the time of Almodovar’s arrest, his clothes had been given to Gettler for analysis, and in the trouser cuffs and jacket pockets, he had found some tiny grass seeds. Gettler now sent the crime scene photographs off to be enlarged. When they came back, this higher magnification allowed him not only to identify the individual strain of grass but also to declare it identical to the seeds found in Almodovar’s clothing. When confronted with this evidence, Almodovar blustered that he had not visited Central Park for over two years. Any seeds in his pockets, he said, must have been picked up on a recent visit to Tremont Park in the Bronx. 

Gettler decided to test this story. He forwarded the seeds to Joseph J. Copeland, formerly professor of botany and biology at City College. It didn’t take Copeland long to identify the grasses in question all were exceptionally rare and grew only at two spots on Long Island and three places in Westchester County. The only place in New York City where such grass occurred was Central Park. Moreover, it could be further isolated to the very section where Louise’s body had been found.

Almodovar panicked, suddenly recalling a walk he had taken in Central Park two months previously, in early September. Copeland shook his head. The grass in question was a late bloomer, mid-October at the earliest, therefore Almodovar could not possibly have picked up the seeds in September. But on November 1 … ?

After nearly two months of parrying questions, Almodovar was utterly floored by Copeland’s intervention. On December 23, he broke down and confessed. He had arranged to meet his wife in Central Park on the night of November 1; they had quarreled again, and he had killed her in a fit of rage. Later in court, he recanted this confession, saying it had been beaten out of him in the interviewing room. But the jury did not believe a word and after just three minutes’ deliberation, they found him guilty of first-degree murder. When sentence of death was passed, Almodovar, despite being shackled from head to toe, fought like a madman. No fewer that nine guards were needed to restrain him. Howling demonically, he was dragged off to Sing Sing. Six months later, on September 16, 1943, he died in the electric chair.

Culled from: Blood on the Table: The Greatest Cases of New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner


Ghastly!  Baroness Edition

Here’s a ghastly image of the corpse of Baroness Dellard and her killer, Louis Anastay, from a French crime scrapbook used as the basis of fictional tales in the book Crime Album Stories. (The poor quality is in the source material.)

And here’s a newspaper article from the Chicago Tribune (April 9, 1892) detailing the fate of her murderer:


Efforts to Stay the Execution Are in Vain -The Prisoner Down-Hearted.

PARIS, April 8.– Louis Anastay, the ex-Lieutenant who has been sentenced to death for the murder of the Baroness Dellard on the Boulevard du Temple, will be guillotined at daybreak to-morrow (Saturday) morning. 

The condemned man, aware of his fate, is very down-hearted. He has had a long interview with the chaplain of La Roquette prison, but at the same time writes long letters about his positivist theories. His father made a last attempt on Friday to delay the execution by calling for a new medical examination as to his son’s sanity, but in vain.

Anastay has requested his brother, who is a medical student, to experiment on his head as soon as it is decapitated by the executioner. He promised to reply by movements of his eyes to certain questions which his brother will ask regarding the sensations which he experienced when the knife cut his head from his body and matters of a physiological nature. The object of this proposed grewsome [sic] conversation is to afford a test as to whether any vestiges of life remain in a human head immediately after it has been severed. 

(Sadly, it is not believed that Anastay’s brother actually attended the execution.  Darn. – DeSpair)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for March 2, 2017

Today’s Cruel Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A modification of the execution method known as ‘Broken on the Wheel’ was introduced into France in 1534 by Francis I as the punishment for no fewer than one hundred and fifteen crimes, but it was mainly reserved for traitors and murderers.

The most common technique involved binding the felon, face upwards, on a large cartwheel which lay on the scaffold. An alternative device was a St. Andrew’s cross, consisting of two lengths of timber nailed together in the ‘X’ shape. Once secured, the felon would be lifted so that the wheel or cross could be fixed to a post horizontally or inclined at an angle, thereby affording the spectators a clear and uninterrupted view.

The executioner would take up his iron bar, three feet long by two inches square, or a sledgehammer if he so preferred, and, with great deliberation, slowly and accurately proceed to smash to pulp the arms and legs of the victim. Depending on the sentence, the end would be brought about either by a blow to the heart, neck or stomach or by administering the ‘retentum’, a thin, almost invisible cord passed round the victim’s throat and pulled tight, thereby strangling him.

The more serious the crime, the greater the length of time before the coup de grâce was given. In the case of eighty-six-year-old John Calas of Toulouse, who in 1761 was believed to have killed his own son, he was first tortured to persuade him to reveal the names of his accomplices. He was then sentenced to be broken on the wheel, but not to receive the retentum until two hours had passed; and after death his body was to be burned to ashes.

The Cruel Death of Calas

Culled from: The Book Of Execution

Death Bed Photo Du Jour!

Circa 1855 – sixth-plate daguerreotype – 3.75″ x 3.25″
A sad young woman, her head resting on her hand, resignedly waits for death.

Culled from: Beyond the Dark Veil: Post-Mortem and Mourning Photography from the Thanatos Archive