Category Archives: Library

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 25, 2017

Today’s Emasculated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On the afternoon of July 23, 1997, an attractive young woman came into San Francisco’s Pinecrest Diner, sat down at the counter, and asked for poached eggs, which were not on the menu. Short-order cook Hashiem Zayed began to make them for her, but the waitress on duty, Helen Menicou, intervened, chastising Zayed in front of the customer. (The Pinecrest is a small place with an open kitchen, where most everything takes place in front of the patrons.) Menicou also served as the diner’s daytime manager. Zayed later said he was embarrassed and felt emasculated, but not long after his reprimand he happily shared a table with Menicou and others at the diner. At the end of their shift, the cook and waitress went their separate ways.


The Pinecrest Diner

Menicou, who was 47 years old, lived with her husband and one of her two sons in Millbrae. Zayed lived in a residence hotel a few blocks from the Pinecrest and worked evenings at the Market Street Cinema. Most of his life took place within about a half-mile radius. He also gambled in card rooms not far away. In fact, on this particular evening, he stayed up all night gambling and lost several thousand dollars.

Hashiem Zayed came in to work the next morning, having had no sleep, carrying a .380 semiautomatic handgun. Menicou sat down at the counter with a cup of coffee. Zayed brought up the poached eggs again. And again they argued. The two had been arguing off and on for the better part of two decades about one thing or another. Sometimes Zayed, who spoke limited English, would mix up orders and Menicou would lose patience with him. But between the arguments, Menicou loaned Zayed money, and he made her lunch. That’s just the way things were at the Pinecrest. Except on that morning in July.

Zayed got up and walked toward the door, and then stopped, turned around, and shot Menicou in the right arm. She screamed and ran around the counter. He followed and fired a handful of shots into her at close range. And then Zayed walked out the front door and waited for the police to come and arrest him.

Hashiem Zayed never really could explain why he shot Helen Menicou that morning. A jury convicted him of first-degree murder, and the judge sentenced him to spend what amounted to the rest of his life incarcerated. By all accounts, Zayed was a peaceful prisoner, absent any hint of the violent act for which he was locked up. He made friends with his cellmate, a man who spoke Zayed’s native Arabic tongue, and prison staffers who took care of him.

In early 2000, Zayed was diagnosed with a tumor in the rear of his brain. He declined treatment and eventually slipped into unconsciousness. On the evening of Sunday, Aug. 13, Hashiem Zayed died from what was officially noted as respiratory cardiac arrest due to brain tumor. He was buried in a public cemetery in Livermore, along with the answer to why he killed Helen Menicou.

Culled from: SF Weekly

 

Arcane Excerpts: Self-Pollution Edition!

Girls would be wise to heed this timeless advice from Sex Searchlights and Sane Sex Ethics: An Anthology of Sex Knowledge by Dr. Lee Alexander Stone (1926):
 

Masturbation or self-abuse is a term applied to a bad habit which consists in handling and rubbing the genitals. It is a bad habit because it is apt to injure the health and future development of the child. The more frequently it is practiced, the more injurious it is. It is more injurious than when practiced by boys, because the effects are usually more permanent. Girls who indulge in the habit of masturbation to excess only weaken themselves, become anemic and get a dingy, pimply complexion, but they lose their desire for normal sexual relations when they grow up, and are unable to derive any pleasure from the sexual act when they get married. In fact, many girls who masturbated excessively get a strong aversion to the normal sexual act, and their married life is an unhappy one. Their husbands often have to ask for a divorce. Fortunately, the habit is much less widespread among girls than it is among boys. While about 90 percent of all boys – nine out of every ten – masturbate more or less, only about 10 or at most 20 per cent of girls are addicted to this habit. But whatever the percentage may be, the habit is an injurious one, and if you value your health, your beauty and proper growth and mental development, you should not indulge in it. If you are already indulging, if you are used to handling your genitals, if a bad companion has initiated you in the habit, you should give it up. And mothers should watch their children, guard them against developing the habit, and do everything possible to cure them of it, if prevention comes too late.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 23, 2017

Today’s Explosive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Monongah mining disaster of Monongah, West Virginia, occurred on December 6, 1907, and has been described as “the worst mining disaster in American History”. The explosion occurred in Fairmont Coal Company’s No. 6 and No. 8 mines.

On Friday December 6, 1907 there were officially 367 men in the two mines, although the actual number was much higher as officially registered workers often took their children and other relatives into the mine to help. At 10:28 AM an explosion occurred that killed most of the men inside the mine instantly. The blast caused considerable damage to both the mine and the surface. The ventilation systems, necessary to keep fresh air supplied to the mine, were destroyed along with many railcars and other equipment. Inside the mine the timbers supporting the roof were blown down which caused further issues as the roof collapsed. An official cause of the explosion was not determined, but investigators at the time believed that an electrical spark or one of the miners’ open flame lamps ignited coal dust or methane gas.

During the early days of coal mining, time was of the essence to bring people out alive. The first volunteer rescuers entered the two mines twenty-five minutes after the initial explosion. The biggest threats to rescuers are the various fumes, particularly “blackdamp”, a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen that contains no oxygen, and “whitedamp”, which is carbon monoxide. The lack of breathing apparatus at the time made venturing into these areas impossible. Rescuers could only stay in the mine for 15 minutes at a time. In a vain effort to protect themselves, some of the miners tried to cover their faces with jackets or other pieces of cloth. While this may filter out particulate matter, it would not protect the miners in an oxygen-free environment. The toxic fume problems were compounded by the infrastructural damage caused by the initial explosion: mines require large ventilation fans to prevent toxic gas buildup, and the explosion at Monongah had destroyed all of the ventilation equipment. The inability to clear the mine of gases transformed the rescue effort into a recovery effort. One Polish miner was rescued and four Italian miners escaped. The official death toll stood at 362.


After the explosion

As a result of the explosion, along with other disasters, the public began demanding additional oversight to help regulate the mines. In 1910 Congress created the United States Bureau of Mines, with the goal of investigating and inspecting mines to reduce explosions and to limit the waste of human and natural resources. In addition the Bureau of Mines set up field officers that would train mine crews, provide rescue services, and investigate disasters when they do occur.

Officially, the lives of 362 workers, including children, were lost in the underground explosion, leaving 250 widows and more than 1,000 children fatherless. In October 1964 Reverend Everett Francis Briggs stated that “a fairer estimate of the victims of the Monongah Disaster would be upward of 500”. This estimate was developed by averaging selected estimates – an unorthodox methodology. This estimate is corroborated by the research of Davitt McAteer, Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Administration at the United States Department of Labor during the Clinton administration. The exact death toll remains unknown.


The Makeshift Morgue after the disaster

Today a granite marker in the Mt. Calvary Cemetery commemorates those who died in the blast, most of which were Italian immigrants.

Culled from: Wikipedia

 

A New Addition to the Library Eclectica!

When my friend Carson sent me a photo of this circa 1908 book,  which he spot at an antique store, I knew what I had to do.  I searched it out and am now the proud owner of the most beautiful cover I have ever laid eyes upon.  Isn’t it spectacular?  

Here’s the full title page:
 

“LEST WE FORGET”

Chicago’s Awful Theater Horror

By THE SURVIVORS AND RESCUERS

WITH INTRODUCTION BY
BISHOP FALLOWS

Presenting a Vivid Picture, both by Pen and Camera, of One of the Greatest Fire Horrors of Modern Times.

Embracing a Flash-Light Sketch of the Holocaust, Detailed Narratives by Participants in the Horror, Heroic Work of Rescuers, Reports of the Building Experts as to the Responsibility for the Wholesale Slaughter of Women and Children, Memorable Fires of the Past, etc, etc.

PROFUSELY ILLUSTRATED WITH VIEWS OF THE SCENE OF DEATH BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE FIRE.

Oh, I can hardly wait to read this one! 

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 8, 2016

Today’s Crackling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

(Yes, I know, I just featured the Iroquois Theatre a few weeks ago but…  I just finished reading a book on it, and it feels topical with the recent Ghost Ship fire, so … why not?)

On December 30, 1903, a fire broke out at the brand-new “absolutely fireproof” Iroquois Theater in Chicago as a packed, standing-room only audience, mostly women and children, were watching the popular comedian Eddie Foy perform in the musical fantasy Mr. Bluebeard. A short circuit in a single backstage spotlight touched off a small fire that, in minutes, erupted into an uncontrollable blaze. More than 600 people died. This is the story of how the fire started and its first casualty.


As the music was swelling and the young performers were beginning their entrances, McMullen’s light suddenly began to sputter and spark. He heard “a slight crackling sound” moments before a few inches of orange flame appeared and began to spread out, ever so slowly, along the fringe of the tormentor. On the stage below, the chorus girls and boys were into their up-tempo song, swearing their love “by the pale moonlight.” McMullen tried slapping at the tiny flame with this hands, but within seconds the quivering light had grown, consuming the material above his head and beyond his reach, and was beginning to catch on to the heavier curtains. He shouted to the man on the catwalk above to help.

“Put it out,” he cried, “put it out!”

“Damn it, I am, I am!” The fly man too began slapping at the burning material with his hands.

On stage, the cadets sang, “We love you madly,” begging the maidens for a kiss: “So make no noise but come join the boys, on condition that the moon is shining bright.”

The girls responded, “The reason we allow this liberty, is because you wear a smile that says it’s right.” And together they sang, “Let us swear it by the pale moonlight.”

The audience was engrossed in this romantic musical scene, but on either side of the castle garden set, stagehands, grips and those on the catwalks above were pointing and a voice from beneath the light bridge called out with some urgency, “Look at that fire! Can’t you see you’re on fire up there? Put it out!”

What had been small orange-yellow flickers were beginning to spread to the draperies above those already dissolving into flame.

In front of the footlights the double octet had begun its dance.

“Look at that other curtain,” someone yelled. “Put it out!” But the flames had suddenly grown larger and were beyond reach. Black smoke was starting to rise.

Another light operator, W. H. Aldridge, heard no crackling sound but thought he saw “a flash of light, about six inches long, at the place where the 110 volt line connected” to McMullen’s lamp. “As I looked,” he said, “a curtain swayed against the flames… in a moment the loose edges of the canvas were ablaze…”

[… cut details of the flames spreading further and the audience beginning to notice something was amiss… ]

High above the stage, Charles Sweeney, assigned to the first flying gallery, had seized tarpaulins and, with some other men wielding wooden battens, was slapping at the flames.

“It got out of our reach,” he said, “It went along the border toward the center… then it blazed all over and I saw there was no possibility of doing anything.” Sweeney dashed up six flights of stairs to a roomful of chorus girls whom he led down to the small stage exit. In the rush to escape, most of the girls dropped everything, including their purses, and left the building wearing only flimsy costumes or tights. Other men raced downstairs to rescue girls in the dressing rooms below the stage level.

High up in the theatre’s gridiron, the Grigolatis, sixteen young German aerialists – twelve women and four men – who operated their “flying” wires, had a frightening bird-eye view of the scene. Clouds of thick black choking smoke were rising towards them and some blazing pieces of canvas the size of bed sheets were falling over the stage and the footlights.


The Grigolatis Aerial Dancers

The Grigolatis had only seconds to act. One, Floraline, some distance away from the others, suddenly found herself engulfed in flames from a burning piece of scenery. Before the others could reach her, Floraline panicked, lost her grip on the trapeze, and fell with a sickening thud onto the stage behind the burning castle garden set, nearly sixty feet below.  She lay there unmoving. By the time her companions could unhook themselves from their harnesses and scramble down some metal scaffolding to the stage, Floraline had vanished and the could only hope that someone had carried her out to safety.  In all the confusion, no one had thought about aerialist Nellie Reed, still attached to her wire.

[To Be Continued…]

Culled from Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903

There’s a lot of controversy about whether Floraline was Floraline, a woman, or Florine, a man, and whether he or she lived or died, but I found a newspaper snippet from the Indianapolis Journal stating that he or she died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Oh, and It turns out that the Chicago History Museum has in its collection the spotlight that supposedly started the fire.  Why, here it is on their website!

But is it on permanent display at the museum??? Oh no, of course not. Which proves, yet again, why this is the most disappointing museum on Earth.  (Hey, don’t try to tell me how they have only a limited space and so many artifacts that they have to pick and choose what to display, yada yada… THIS should be on permanent display, don’t question me!)

 

Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903

by Anthony P. Hatch

This is an excellent overview of Chicago’s infamous 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire.  Unlike many books about tragedies, which usually peter out quickly after the tale of the tragedy, I actually found the chapters detailing the legal aftermath every bit as interesting the fire itself.  Reading about this tragedy, which resulted in the death of over 600 people, made me think about large-scale fatal fires and how rare they are in America in this day and age.  So many tragic 20th century fires – the Iroquois, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the Cocoanut Grove, the Circus Fire, Our Lady of the Angels – resulted in improved safety regulations and inspections which have significantly reduced the number of such tragedies in modern life.  The Station nightclub disaster is one of the few in recent history I could recall.

Of course, before I could finish the book, news came in of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, killing 36 vibrant young artists who found themselves trapped upstairs with a blaze raging through their only escape route below them. Naturally, in the wake of this disaster, there has been a lot of finger pointing, both at the city of Oakland for not performing inspections on the makeshift warehouse residence and on the Ghost Ship owner for not providing a safe environment for his artist community.  (Of course, this overlooks the real culprit – unchecked Capitalism that has resulted in a lack of affordable housing options in the Bay Area.  Sometimes you take unnecessary risks because… they actually ARE necessary!)

In any event, the blame game reminds me of the Iroquois Theatre disaster, when a battle of public opinion was waged between the theater owners (for not ensuring the building was complete and safe before opening for business), contractors (for not completing the ventilation system and fire escapes), management (for locking exit routes and not providing adequate fire extinguishers), architect (for designing a grand promenade that resulted in a log-jam of patrons trying to exit and for disguising emergency exits so they looked prettier) and the City of Chicago (for an inadequate safety inspection).

Ultimately, as with so many American atrocities, there were so many to blame for the fire that NO ONE was legally held to blame for it.  It was a perfect storm of incompetence, greed, and poor decisions that doomed the audience of mostly women and children who attended a matinee performance of the musical Mr. Bluebeard on December 30, 1903.  Much like the Titanic disaster which would follow nearly a decade later,  the fate of the crowd in the “absolutely fireproof” theatre was largely dependent on social class, with a majority of victims residing in the balcony and gallery “cheap seats”.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that the panicked balcony patrons found their exit corridor had been blocked by an accordion gate (which had been locked by theater employees to prevent the peasants from trying to sneak down to the more expensive floor seats during the show), they were also doomed by the construction company, struggling to meet an oft-delayed deadline, neglecting to finish installing the ventilation system in the roof.  And they were doomed by the installation of an “asbestos curtain” designed to protect the crowd that turned out to neither be made of asbestos nor lowered properly. It caught on some equipment about 20 feet from the stage floor, and when the backstage doors were flung open to allow crew to escape, the suddenly influx of oxygen turned the inferno into a fireball that shot beneath the curtain, straight up into the balcony, incinerating those in its path.

Some of the balcony patrons were able to make it to the upper level fire escapes… only to discover that they had never been finished; there were no stairs. The rush of people behind them pushed many to their deaths.  Students in Northwestern University across the alley saved some people by putting long boards and ladders across the chasm, but many people fell to their deaths trying to cross the slippery, rickety escape route.   The area became known as “Death Alley” as at least 125 died on the cold cobblestones.

Those who shelled out the extra money for floor seats had much improved odds of escape, since the fireball blew over their heads and they didn’t have to contend with the unfinished fire escapes, but the confusing layout of the dark, smoke-filled theater lead to many tragedies there as well.  There were emergency exits with confusing locks that could not be opened, mirrored ornamental “doors” that were not actually exits, dead-ends, bottlenecks where multiple corridors converged into one, and inward-opening doors that could not be opened due to the pressure of the panicked crowd crushing behind them.

A lot was learned about fire safety in the aftermath of the Iroquois Fire disaster, but as The Station nightclub and Ghost Ship warehouse fires prove, despite all our safeguards, we’re all still just a stray spark away from disaster. As I sit here typing, I look around at my studio apartment with both exit doors placed right next to each other.  Were a fire to start in that section of the building, I’d have nowhere to go except out a third story window, just like those who jumped into Death Alley. How many of us can say the same? Ultimately, for all the safety measures we take, we’re all just delicate fleshy creatures at the mercy of the elements.  And sometimes we end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

More books about fire tragedies can be perused at The Library Eclectica’s Intense Infernos aisle.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For November 6, 2016

Though the Black Death ebbed away from Europe, war and the movements of migrants ensured that epidemic disease did not go away, and Spain, as one of the great crossroads, formed a flashpoint of disease. Late in 1489, in its assault on Granada, Islam’s last Iberian stronghold, Spain hired some mercenaries who had lately been in Cyprus fighting the Ottomans. Soon after their arrival, Spanish troops began to go down with a disease never before encountered and possessing the brute virulence typical of new infections: typhus. It had probably emerged in the Near East during the Crusades before entering Europe where Christian and Muslim armies clashed.

It began with headache, rash and high fever, swelling and darkening of the face; next came delirium and the stupor giving the disease its name – typhos is Greek for ‘smoke’. Inflammation led to gangrene that rotted fingers and toes, causing a hideous stench. Spain lost 3,000 soldiers in the siege but six times as many to typhus.


Typhus gangrene.  Shudder.

Having smuggled itself into Spain, typhus filtered into France and beyond. In 1528, with the Valois (French) and Habsburg (Spanish) dynasties vying for European mastery, it struck the French army encircling Naples; half the 28,000 troops died within a month, and the siege collapsed. As a result, Emperor Charles V of Spain was left master of Italy, controlling Pope Clement VII – with important implications for Henry VIII’s marital troubles and the Reformation in England.

With the Holy Roman Empire fighting the Turks in the Balkans, typhus gained a second bridgehead into Europe. In 1542, the disease killed 30,000 Christian soldiers on the eastern front; four years later, it struck the Ottomans, terminating their siege of Belgrade; while by 1566 the Emperor Maximilian II had so many typhus victims that he was driven to an armistice. His disbanded troops relayed the disease back to western Europe, and so to the New World, where it joined measles and smallpox in ravaging Mexico and Peru. Typhus subsequently smote Europe during the Thirty Years Way (1618-48), and remained widespread, devastating armies as ‘camp fever’, dogging beggars (road fever), depleting jails (jail fever) and ships (ship fever).

It was typhus which joined General Winter to turn Napoloen’s Russian invation into a rout. The French crossed into Russia in June 1812. Sickness set in after the fall of Smolensk. Napoleon reached Moscow in September to find the city abandoned. During the next five weeks, the grande armée suffered a major typhus epidemic. By the time Moscow was evacuated, tens of thousands had fallen sick, and those unfit to travel were abandoned. Thirty thousand cases were left to die in Vilna alone, and only a trickle finally reached Warsaw. Of the 600,000 men in Napoleon’s army, few returned, and typhus was a major reason.


Napoleon’s Troops, Depleted.

Culled from: The Greatest Benefit to Mankind

 

Wretched Recommendations!

I finished another book last night, this one not nearly as entertaining as the one before it. Here’s my review of…

Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago
by Eric Klinenberg

The first half of this book, detailing the 1995 Chicago Heat Wave that killed 739 people, is actually quite fascinating. The majority of the deaths were isolated elderly people who lived in poverty-ridden areas, and Klinenberg does an excellent job detailing the social causes for their deaths. The elderly poor victims often had no surviving family members in the area to check on them and were socially isolated, often due to high crime in their neighborhoods. Living on meager social security checks, they could not afford air conditioners or the cost of running them, and did not open their windows for fear their homes would be invaded. Living check to check means that they could not afford to lose any possessions because they would not be able to replace them, so they would not take the risk. Instead, they overheated and died in their prison-like apartments.

One contrast that I found especially interesting was between my own neighborhood of Little Village on the West Side of Chicago, and the neighborhood immediately adjacent- North Lawndale. Little Village, a Mexican neighborhood, had a very low rate of heat-related illness, whereas North Lawndale, an African-American neighborhood, had many deaths. The social explanation for this discrepancy related to the Mexican cultural emphasis on family and looking out for the elderly, which resulted in providing care that was not provided in North Lawndale.

However, after the first third or so of the book, I found it very dull – much like reading a thesis paper, with few real life examples and many generalizations about the political structure of Chicago and the media presentation of the disaster. Some people might find that stuff interesting, but I ended up skimming the last half of the book. Overall, though, it’s a worthwhile read – as well as a warning of tragedies that may await many cities in America in our warmer future.

More tragic tales can be found in The Library Eclectica‘s Terrifying Tragedy aisle.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For November 5, 2016

Today’s Obsessed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Kimberly Goytia did not fit the typical cliché of the California girl. She dressed in black and claimed to have worshipped the devil since she first saw the horror film The Omen in 1976. She collected and read books about Satansim and the Black Mass. Her mother, step-father and eleven-year-old sister, Stephanie, did not think much about Kimberly’s obsession. She was thirteen, a perfectly normal age for teens to act out in attempts to distinguish themselves from their schoolmates and family. For many, it is a passing phase, but Kimberly wanted to make it a reality.

February 2, 1981, was a Monday. The weather was cloudy and drizzling, just the way Kimberly would have liked it. Kimberly and Stephanie stood outside on the driveway to their apartment building where they lived at 6330 Havenside Drive, in the Greenhaven Pocket neighborhood of Sacramento. Back from school, they waited for their mother, Carol Summers to come home. The sisters had to kill time until then. Social options were few to preteens in the pre-internet era, and standing around in front of your driveway was one way to watch the world pass by.

Suddenly and without warning, Kimberly pulled out a .32-caliber semi-authomatic piistol that belonged to her step-father and fired two shots at her sister.

One bullet entered her right arm and the second went straight into her heart. Stephanie fell screaming on the sidewalk next to a parked car, and bled to death. Kimberly walked back to the family apartment and called her uncle, who lived a few miles away, and told him what she did. When he got to the scene, he found Stephanie covered in blood. He called the police, as did neighbors who heard the shots and Stephanie’s dying screams. They arrived to find the young girl lying face up, her adolescent features so bloody the police originally thought she was shot in the head. They arrested Kimberly and placed her into juvenile custody.

Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Steve Secrest wanted to throw the book at the sibling-killing Satanist. At the time, a rash of crimes was blamed on Satanism, and it appeared that Secrest had all of his guns on this case. He interviewed the Goytia family, schoolmates, teachers, friends and neighbors about Kimberly’s fascination with the occult and the Omen films and books. Laughably, Secrest pointed out Kimberly had only worn black clothing for the last six months, going as far as retrieving them out of the garbage after her mother threw them away. Defense attorney Betty Rocker opposed the interviews and called them irrelevant hearsay intended to sway the court. Superior Court Judge Mamoru Sakuma dismissed the murder charges because the prosecution had failed to show malice. Kimberly Goytia was charged with manslaughter. In hindsight, it appeared that Secrest relied too much on the films, books, and Kimberly’s inclination to wear black clothing.

The case went to Juvenile Court, where a recently-passed state law was enforced that protects juvenile criminals from media coverage unless they are charged with murder. On April 20, 1981, Superior Court Judge Mamoru Sakuma found Kimberly Goytia guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The thirteen-year-old was taken into the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabiliation – Division of Juvenile Justice for an unknown period of time, and was ultimately released back into society without a word to the press.

Culled from: California’s Deadliest Women: Dangerous Dames and Murderous Moms

 

Wretched Recommendations!

Here’s a review of my latest read – the source of today’s fact:

California’s Deadliest Women: Dangerous Dames and Murderous Moms
by David Kulczyk

This is another very entertaining collection of merciless miscreants from David Kulczyk! This time, David has dredged from the muck a selection of some of the worst women to ever inhabit my home state of California. One thing I really appreciated about the book is that it didn’t cover any of the well-known cases, such as murderous landlady Dorothea Puentes, but instead focused on some of the lesser-known, yet no less evil, villainesses.

As usual, I found the older stories to be the most fascinating, such as the 1940 saga of Lolita Davis, who went on a crazed hammer spree against her children to save them from demons. Or wacky Mary Cox, who attached her bathing daughter, Winifred, with a baseball bat and an axe in 1944. Back in the old days, when guns were less plentiful, murders were just more interesting!  And the stark black and white illustrations by Olaf Jens are an excellent accompaniment to the grim stories.

Although a handful of the case studies felt a bit threadbare, and there were a couple times when some of Kulczyk’s less inhibited descriptions sent my hackles rising (“disease-spreading skank” is something no woman should ever be called, no matter how awful she is!), overall this is another triumphant collection of grim tidings to rest happily on the shelf beside California Justice and Death in California.

I can’t wait to see what rotting remains Kulczyk digs up next!

More monstrous tales can be found in the Murder Most Foul and Maniacal Monsters aisle of The Library Eclectica.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For October 22, 2016

Today’s Incorrectly Navigated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The most publicized crash of the first fully-automatic jet airliner, the Airbus A320, happened on January 20, 1992 when an A320 belonging to the French domestic airline Air Inter careered into the Vosges mountains on a domestic flight from Lyon to Strasbourg, killing 82 of its 90 passengers, and five of the six crew.

The bare facts alone are enough to raise the hairs on the back of the neck. The accident happened after the flight crew – hurrying to get in on time – incorrectly entered navigational information into the plane’s computer. The Aviation Safety Network explains: “While trying to program the angle of descent, ‘-3.3’, into the Flight Control Unit, the crew did not notice that it was in HDG/V/S (heading/vertical speed) mode. In vertical speed mode ‘-3.3’ means a descent rate of 3300 feet/min. In TRK/FPA (track/flight path angle) mode [which the crew believed they were in], this would have meant a [correct] ‘3.3 deg descent angle.”

A -3.3 deg descent angle equates to a rate of descent of just 800 feet per minute – so the aircraft was dropping almost four times quicker than the pilots believed. At 7:20 p.m. it was dark – and in any case the peaks were swathed in cloud. Uniquely for major airlines, Air Inter did not equip its aircraft with ground proximity warning systems. Blind and unsuspecting, the crew flew straight into the side of the mountain.

The authorities’ initial reaction to the accident was woeful – astonishingly so, according to a local television journalist, Jean-Pierre Stucki. When he and his crew arrived at the nearest village, they say they saw “hundreds of men in uniforms near the gendarmerie and the fire station not doing anything – just waiting.”

Unable to get any official information, Stucki spoke to the villagers, who confirmed the plane had gone down nearby – they had heard it happen, and the smell of smoke and kerosene was filling the air. The reporter followed his nose to the site of the crash, arriving there after a mere quarter of an hour. There, he found badly-injured survivors calling desperately for help. The first rescuer to arrive – a further 15 minutes later – was a gendarme, whose initial reaction was to tell Stucki and his crew to leave the scene. There was total chaos, according to the journalist. “The first survivor to be taken away from the site was a little girl of 18 months,” he said. “A gendarme took her in his arms to an ambulance on the road and then, little by little, the survivors able to walk were evacuated.”

But it took hours to rescue the more seriously injured, and, in the meantime, at least two people had died who might otherwise have lived. Of 96 people on board, 9 survived.

Photos of the crash site:

Culled from: Black Box: Inside the World’s Worst Plane Crashes

I don’t know… I kinda think that not having the ground warning system might be better in cases like this. I mean, if they had heard the “Pull Up!  Whoop Whoop!  Pull Up!” warning – would they have been able to do anything to avoid the accident anyway?  And at least this way their last few seconds of life weren’t spent in a panic. Oh, BTW, after the crash, they changed the flight system so that you have to enter the two different modes in different numeric formats, to avoid confusion.  Die and learn time, again!

 

Arcane Excerpts: Polluted Edition

Here’s an illuminating excerpt from What A Young Boy Ought To Know (1897) by Sylvanus Stall. In this “Cylinder” we have the most ridiculous reproductive analogy ever written, and a dire warning to young boys!

CYLINDER X.

The Sexual Member a Part of the Reproductive System—The Reproductive System Defined.—Illustrated By a Watch.—The Different Parts of the Digestive System.—God Gave Us a Reproductive System for the Wisest and Most Beneficent Ends.—By Wrong Thoughts of Them, We Dishonor God.—To Be Held in Purity and Honor.—Our Bodies the Temples of the Holy Ghost.—The Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies.—The Wonderful Mystery of Creative Power.—How the Mind, Imagination, and Heart Are Polluted.—What the Bible Says Upon These Subjects.

MY DEAR FRIEND HARRY: Last night I told you how some young boys, and older boys also, pollute and degrade their own bodies by unnecessarily and injuriously handling or scratching and chafing the sexual member. God gave us this member to serve us in the removal of the wasted or worn out fluids of the body, and also made it one of the parts of the human reproductive system. What the reproductive system or organs are to plants I told you on a previous cylinder. They are the organs in the male, and also in the female plant which are engaged in the production of the seeds from which life is to be reproduced.

Something of the nature and office of the reproductive system may be learned by supposing that a watch could be built and given power to keep its own wheels, and all its works in repair, so that it would not have to be taken to the jeweler’s to have any worn parts replaced by new parts. Then suppose that in addition to this renewing power it should also be endowed with a power to reproduce other watches; so that while it was keeping accurate time, renewing its own wear and wasting of the wheels and all the parts, it should also have the power to reproduce other watches; little baby watches, which should also have imparted to them the power to grow and, when they became fully grown and were large watches, then also in turn, from time to time, they also should produce other watches. This new power by which the watch would produce others would be called the reproductive power, and if there were certain parts in the watch which were devoted wholly to the production of these little baby watches, such portions of the watch would together be called the reproductive organs.

Now the sexual member is only one part of the reproductive system: the same, as in our bodies, we have a digestive system composed of several members or parts. The food is taken into the mouth and, after being chewed or masticated, as we say, is passed into the stomach, where it undergoes changes which fit it to be received by the intestines, so that it may be converted into blood, and thus strengthen the body and maintain life. Now the mouth, the passage-way into the stomach, and such portions of the intestines as are engaged in the work of digesting and preparing the food for use in the blood – all these different members together constitute the digestive system. So the sexual member is one portion of the reproductive system, and the other portions in men are partly without the body and partly within the body. So, when taken together, we speak of the sexual organs and their functions as the reproductive system, and this portion of our body has been created by God Himself for the wisest and most beneficent ends. Sometimes boys think of their sexual parts in a very low and degraded way, and thus greatly dishonor God and wrong themselves. Whatever God has created deserves to be held in honor and esteem. God has endowed us with no holier or more sacred duty that that of reproducing our species, and we should receive and accept this high and holy office from the hands of our infinite Creator with reverence, and maintain these members of our body in purity and honor. R. Sperry, a Christian physician, says “The propagation of our species is the highest, the divinest act of our physical life.” And no man, with a pure heart and a thoughtful mind, can come to any other conclusion.

I am glad, my dear friend Harry, that your parents often study the Bible with you, that they may make its truths plain to your mind. It is therefore very proper in talking with you to-night upon this subject of self-pollution, that I should refer you to First Corinthians, sixth chapter, eighteenth and nineteenth verses, where Paul, in writing upon this very subject, says, “Flee fornification… He that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” Now the Temple at Jerusalem was one of the most sacred buildings in all the world. The entire structure was sacred, but within the building there was a place called “The Holy Place,” and in the interior of that Holy Place there was a still more sacred inclosure [sic]called “The Holy of Holies.” Here dwelt the unapproachable divine presence, and toward this Holy of Holies the Israelites throughout the entire nation and throughout the world, never turned faces but in devout reverence. So our entire bodies are holy, and are to be held in perpetual honor, but I am sure that no thoughtful person can properly study this subject of the human body without thinking of the reproductive system as the holy of holies in which God dwells within us in the wonderful mystery of reproductive power.

Before saying good-night to you I want to remind you that the body may not only be outwardly polluted by the hands, but the mind, the imagination, and the heart may be polluted by means of the eye when we look upon improper things and upon indecent pictures; and we may also produce the same bad results with the ear, by listening to vile stories, bad words, and evil suggestions. The eye and the ear are gateways into our minds and hearts, and we should guard them with great care. These are some of the avenues by which the sacred temple of our bodies is entered by evil influences, and we should remember that the Bible also says in First Corinthians, third chapter and nineteenth verse, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” I am sure that you do not desire to be banished from the presence of God, and therefore you should also remember what it says in another place (Matthew v. 8): “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

To-morrow night I shall tell you what are the consequences in boys of the misuse of the reproductive organs.

[I know, you can’t wait, can you? – DeSpair]

Morbid Fact Du Jour For October 8, 2016

Today’s Naughty, Disrespectful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

And today’s cautionary tale originates from Aberdeen, Scotland. The time was April 21, 1934. In a cramped and grim tenement building, Agnes Priestly sent her eight-year-old daughter Helen out to buy a loaf of bread at about one-thirty in the afternoon. Helen duly arrived at the bakery, got her bread and then, seemingly, vanished.

Then as now, when Helen didn’t come home as expected, the neighborhood was galvanized. Helen’s description was broadcast over the radio and flashed onto the screen at local movie theaters. That was as close to an Amber Alert and blanket coverage as could be expected at the time. A nine-year-old friend of Helen’s claimed he saw her being forced aboard a tram by an unsavory-looking middle-aged man, and this man’s description was broadcast as well, but to no avail.

Helen’s father John joined the police, neighbors and friends in combing the streets for Helen, but at two A.M. he was clearly exhausted, and Alex Parker, a family friend who lived in the same building, escorted him home, urging him to try to get a bit of sleep before resuming the search in daylight. Parker then went to his own apartment, noticing nothing unusual on the way. He left his flat again three hours later, and this time he saw a blue sack under the stairs. It had definitely not been there before, and it hadn’t been there very long; it was raining heavily but the bag was nearly dry.

Parker opened the sack and predictably, inside was the body of Helen Priestly. She appeared to have been strangled and there seemed to be clear indications of a sexual assault. The hunt was on for a killer.

Almost immediately, the case began to twist in strange directions. The bag was determined to be one originally containing flour imported from Canada, and there weren’t very many of them in Aberdeen. A local baker remembered a woman asking for some of his empties, and he had given her ten. He didn’t know her name, but he provided a good description. The police leaned hard on Helen’s playmate, and the boy eventually broke down and confessed that he had made up the story of seeing Helen forced aboard a tram.

Meanwhile, suspicion was beginning to fall on a neighbor of Helen’s, Alexander Donald. Donald lived downstairs of Helen with his wife Jeannie and their daughter, who was about Helen’s age and was also named Jeannie. The Donalds were conspicuously the only ones in the building who did not join in the search for Helen Priestly.

Alexander Donald was soon eliminated as a suspect when he proved to have been hard at work in a local barbershop at the time Helen disappeared. So now the police focused on Jeannie Donald Senior. The baker’s description of the lady he’d given the empty flour sacks to matched Jeannie to a T.

It became apparent that Helen Priestly, though an attractive and bright child, was also widely regarded as a thoroughly obnoxious little girl. She was known to be naughty, disrespectful toward adults and something of a bully to other children. One of the children she frequently picked on was little Jeannie Donald. She was also rude to the adult Donalds as well, making abusive remarks, rattling the bannister outside their flat and kicking at their door to annoy them.

The Fatally-annoying Helen Priestly

The Donalds and Priestlys were on bad terms because of Helen’s behavior; the mothers had argued about it frequently, and Mrs. Donald had been seen to shout at Helen more than once.

A search of the bag in which Helen’s body was found turned up a few badly-permed human hairs. DNA technology was of course nonexistent at the time, but the hair bore microscopic similarities to Jeannie Donald’s hair.

The noted forensic scientist Sir Sydney Smith was brought in to examine the bag and the Donald’s apartment. He noted that the house dust found in the flat and in the bag had an identical composition. Marks on the bag were determined to have been made by dishes and pots being placed on it, as if it had been used for a tablecloth. Nine more bags just like it were in the Donalds’ home, and every one of them bore the same marks.

Most damning of all in terms of physical evidence was the presence of human blood traces on a package of soap, a scrubbing brush and some cleaning rags.

The blood was of the same type as Helen’s, but that wasn’t all. Helen had had a rare condition that caused her thalamus gland to be enlarged, which left her prone to fainting. It also caused her to produce a particular type of bacteria in her blood. This bacteria was found in the blood in the Donalds’ home.

Little Jeannie Donald added the finishing touch when she mentioned that the loaf of bread they’d eaten on the night of Helen’s murder had been of a different shape than their usual bread. The Donalds and Priestlys shopped at different bakeries, and the loaves made by each shop were shaped differently.

So Jeannie Donald was charged with the murder of her irritating neighbor, Helen Priestly. As best the police could figure, Helen had been on her way home with the bread and had paused to have a little more fun with the Donalds. Nobody knows what exactly was said or done; perhaps she banged on the door again or said something rude. It was surmised that Jeannie had lost her temper and had grabbed Helen, maybe shook or slapped her, and Helen had fainted, as she was prone to doing because of her thalamus condition.

Jeannie then apparently panicked, thinking she had killed Helen, and decided to try and make it appear to be a sexual assault. Accordingly, she brought the unconscious girl into her apartment, injured her with some object like a broom or hammer handle, whereupon Helen came to and resisted. A roofer working nearby thought he had heard a scream around the time of Helen’s disappearance, and somebody else in the neighborhood confirmed the cry.

Jeannie Donald then panicked further and strangled Helen to death. She may not have intended to kill the girl, but the end result was the same.


Jeannie Donald

Jeannie Donald went on trial in July of 1934. She denied everything but was found guilty and sentenced to hang. She did not expect her appeal to be granted, but it was and she was sentenced to life in prison. She proved to be a model prisoner and when her husband became terminally ill in 1944, Jeannie was released to take care of him. After his death, she remained free, living quietly under an assumed name until her death at the age of 80 in 1976.

Culled From: Murderpedia
Submitted by: Aimee

Let this be a lesson to all you naughty little boys and girls. – Aimee

 

Prisoner Du Jour!

Prisoners: Murder, Mayhem, and Petit Larceny is a collection of seventy portraits of turn-of-the-century prisoners in the town of Marysville, California and the fascinating newspaper and prison accounts from their day describing the crimes of which they were accused. The photos themselves are more fascinating than most of the crimes.  There’s something magical about glass plate negatives that you just can’t reproduce with modern photography.  And I think people just had more character back in the day – or at least it seems that way.  Here’s an example…


ALEXANDER WHITE

GIVEN SIXTY DAYS
A stranger named Alexander White was charged in the Police Court at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon before Judge Raish with petit larceny, having stolen a razor, comb and brush from J.D. Laddell at Phillips’ saloon.

The defendant pleaded guilty to the charge.

Judge Raish stated that he would like to hear some testimony.

George McCoy testified that while Laddell was drunk in the back room he saw White put his hand in his pocket and held him until an officer arrived.

Officer C. J. McCoy told about finding the stolen property, a white handle razor, brush and comb in the defendant’s possession.

The defendant waived time and Judge Raish ordered him confined in the county jail for 60 days.

White was recently discharged from the Sacramento county jail, where he says he served time for battery. He has been working for Hatch & Rock. [August 6, 1905]

Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 6, 2016

Today’s Rampaging Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On the Friday afternoon of February 24, 1984, at 2:23 PM, students of the 49th Street Elementary School in south-central Los Angeles exited the school building onto the playground.

Across the street in a two-story white Victorian house lived a preschool teacher named Mary Lou Hill and her unemployed fiance Tyrone Mitchell. At 28, Mitchell was well-known for his irrational behavior. He had recently threatened his uncle with a machine gun, almost got into a gunfight with another uncle, and his neighbors had seen him shooting at planes heading in to land at nearby LAX, though they were too afraid of him to report this.

Without warning, Mitchell opened fire on the schoolyard, firing 39 rounds from an AR-15 rifle and 18 rounds with each of two shotguns. Students dashed for cover, most making it inside the building, where they were herded to the library on the other side, away from the shooting. Those left outside hid as best they could behind trees and bushes. A squad car was in the area at the time and immediately summoned more police and paramedics.

One ambulance drove directly into the playground, the paramedics pulling injured and uninjured children alike into the vehicle while under fire from Mitchell.

Ten-year-old Shala Eubanks was badly injured, and playground supervisor Albert Jones tried several times to get to her and move her to safety, only to be driven back by the gunfire each time. She was finally moved into the school, where medics attempted to save her, but she died on a classroom floor.
Carlos Lopez, 24, had been walking past the school on his way to go to the park to jog when the gunfire erupted. He was hit in the abdomen and later underwent surgery to remove most of his damaged spleen and pancreas, but he died in the hospital almost two months later.

Police surrounded the house, and when Mary Lou Hill arrived she asked to be allowed to go inside and try to talk her fiance into giving himself up. She was not permitted to enter for fear she would be taken hostage, and just before six P.M., after many canisters of tear gas were thrown into the house, officers stormed the place and found Mitchell in the upstairs bedroom. He had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

No motive was ever established for the rampage. Mitchell was said to be a heavy drug user, but Hill always disputed this and no drugs were found in his system, and only a very small amount of alcohol. Most believe his mental instability stemmed at least partly from the fact that Mitchell’s parents, four sisters and one brother all died at Jonestown in 1978.


Tyrone Mitchell

Culled from: Wikipedia
Submitted by: Aimee

 

Wretched Recommendations: The Knick

Alex sent me a television series recommendation – one which many of you may already know about.  I live in a vacuum, so I did not.

Just wondering- have you watched The Knick on Cinemax? It’s a great little dramatic series that takes place in the fictional Knickerbocker hospital in NYC around the year 1900. Plenty of explicit surgery, medical quackery, and all other kinds of gruesomeness (separating Siamese twins, for example). The fact that it’s mainstream (directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Clive Owen) is surprising, and the production values are terrific.

Thanks for the suggestion, Alex. It sounds fantastic – and I just got the season 1 disk from Netflix yesterday.  I’ll let you know what I think once I have a chance to watch it.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 3, 2016

Today’s Mangled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On locomotives, while the conductor may have been officially in charge, it was the engineer who actually made the train go, an arrangement that often led to intense rivalry between the two men. According to one former railroader, the unwritten law of railroading was that the conductor’s authority ceased at the back end of the tender – that is, at the rear end of the engine and the permanently coupled car that carried its coal and water. In the cab of the locomotive it was the swaggering hotshot known as the engineer who was boss. This “engine runner” (also called a “hoghead” or “hogger” or even “throttle jockey”) was the object of the most intense popular fascination – it’s been said that even Sigmund Freud dreamed of becoming a railroad engineer.

Assisting the engineer – and stationed on the left side of the locomotive cab, as opposed to the engine runner’s right-side post – was the train’s fireman. Also known as the “tallow pot” (since it was his responsibility to grease the engine’s valves), he was the man charged with keeping the locomotive well stoked with coal – a job that tended to leave its performer “so black that his best friends would not know him when washed up.” On a particularly fast or difficult run, at least on engines without mechanical stokers, the fireman could spend virtually his entire long shift “shoveling real estate,” or loading coal from the tender into the firebox. It was overall a thankless, exhausting, and poorly paid job, its only compensation being that it served as an apprenticeship for the far more desirable position of engineer.

The real yeomen of the train service were the brakemen, of which there were usually two or more per train, and the switchmen, essentially brakemen who worked in the confines of a single rail yard. Until the widespread adoption of safety appliances such as air brakes and automatic couplers in the 1880s and ’90s, the brakeman’s job was notoriously dangerous. Early “brakies” had to crawl onto the roofs of moving trains, in all kinds of weather and in any kind of terrain, to apply and release each car’s individual hand brake; when assembling trains in a rail yard, they had to stand between converging cars and deftly slip a metal pin into the primitive link-and-pin couplers. Mistakes were frequent and their consequences often dire. “What’re brakemen for anyway,” a mangled veteran once complained to an early railroad chronicler. “Nothin’ but fodder for cars ‘n’ engines to eat up.” This was not an exaggeration; it was a rare brakeman who still had all ten of his fingers.


Icy train roofs and winding rails? No worries!


Mind those fingers!

Even with the introduction of ever-safer equipment and practices, steam railroading remained an occupation with on-the-job casualty rates that would be unthinkable today – not just for brakemen but for nearly everyone on the payroll. Some of the busier rail yards in the American system, at least in the 1870s, were virtual slaughterhouses, seeing three to five men killed per week. (According to one yard switchman, his sister kept a clean bedsheet reserved at all times, “for the express purpose of wrapping up my mangled remains.”) Even as late as 1907, one out of every eight trainmen suffered serious injury every year. In a difficult mountain area like the Cascade Division, the odds of avoiding casualty were even slimmer. Railroading was, in sum, “a miserable living gained by the hardest kind of work, with almost a certainty of being crippled, or meeting death by some horrible means.” The fact that there was usually no shortage of applicants for most railroad jobs is, under the circumstances, remarkable – a tribute to the industry’s lingering prestige.

Culled from: The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America’s Deadliest Avalanche

 

Wretched Recommendations: Avalanche Edition!

The last couple of facts (and several in the future) were culled from my latest read: The White Cascade.  Here’s my review of it, if you care.

The White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America’s Deadliest Avalanche
by Gary Krist

The White Cascade takes us back to a different America: an America before the automobile, where railroad companies held incredible power as the primary transit and shipping vessels in our vast country. The locomotive, more than any other invention, opened up the United States, allowing for relatively easy cross-country moves to otherwise extremely remote locations along the West Coast. And the Great Northern Railway was the company that opened up the Pacific Northwest by running a track directly over the imposing Cascade Mountains.

The Great Northern was the creation of entrepreneur James J. Hill and was the only major American railroad system that was created entirely from private funds rather than government land grants.  And the man who was superintendent of the Great Northern’s Cascade Division in 1910 was James H. O’Neill. He was a born railroader that had been working for the Great Northern since he was a 13-year-old water boy. He was directly responsible for the fate of all trains that traveled through the hazardous Cascades.

In February, 1910 two trains left Spokane on their way to Seattle via the Cascade route. Great Northern had a fleet of rotary snow plows – immense trains that could easy clear away most of the snow drifts along the tracks – and a wealth of experience in fighting the winter weather that would otherwise cripple the line. There was little concern when the trains left Spokane in the midst of a typical February snowstorm.  However, along the way the storm gained strength until it piled on 11 feet of snow in one day.  The rotary snowplows became overwhelmed and stuck at various points along the track  and, without them, the trains had to stop near a the little railroad town of Wellington, Washington.

While the passengers were stuck, O’Neill was kept up every night trying to get the snowplows moving again.  He sent troops of men in to dig out the plows but as soon as one would get dug out, an avalanche would bury another portion of the track and they’d have to start all over again clearing debris and snow.

The passengers sat for a day, then two days, then three days, then four.  By the fourth day, the minor annoyances of boredom and missed engagements began to be superseded by fear as they heard avalanches in the mountains around them. The passengers suggested that the trains be moved from their vulnerable position along the tracks below bare, fire-ravaged slopes to a tunnel a few hundred yards away. However, the engineer explained that they would be unable to heat the cars in the tunnels due to the certainty of asphyxiation. Despite the pleas of the most fearful of the passengers, the trains would stay put.

On the sixth night, March 1, 1910, the snowstorm changed to a violent, warmer thunderstorm. In the darkness of the early morning, amid violent thunder, lightning, and rain, the snowfield above the train collapsed sending an enormous wall of snow down the hill. The avalanche engulfed the trains and sent them tumbling into the canyons below.  Ninety-six passengers and crew would die in what became known as the Wellington Train Disaster.

Krist does an excellent job of retelling the various aspects of the story, from the lives of O’Neill, Hill, and many of the doomed passengers, to the difficulties of train travel through the Cascades, to the legal battles that dogged Great Northern after the disaster. When all is said and done, you’re left sympathizing with beleaguered O’Neill and yet feeling like perhaps there was something more that could have been done to protect the passengers. The legal decisions were just as varied, with some holding the railway responsible, and others considering it an “act of God” that was handled as adeptly as possible.

Today, the town of Wellington and the wreckage of the trains are long gone, but a disused railway tunnel and immense cement snow shelters that were built over the rails in the years following the disaster to prevent a repeat still stand as memorials to a train that sat in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Read about more ill-advised adventures at The Library Eclectica!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for May 3, 2016

Today’s Urbane Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Reputedly modeled on the fifteenth-century monster Gilles de Rais, the folktale character Bluebeard is a sinister nobleman who murders a succession of wives and stores their corpses in a locked room in his castle. In real life, the term is used to describe a specific type of serial killer who, like his fictional counterpart, knocks off one wife after another.

There are two major differences between a “Bluebeard” killer and a psycho like Ted Bundy. The latter preys on strangers, whereas the Bluebeard type restricts himself to the women who are unlucky (or foolish) enough to wed him. Their motivations differ, too. Bundy and his ilk are driven by sexual sadism; they are lust murderers. By contrast, the cardinal sin that motivates the Bluebeard isn’t lust but greed. For the most part, this kind of serial killer dispatches his victims for profit.

The most infamous Bluebeard of the twentieth century was a short, balding, red-bearded Frenchman named Henri Landru (the real-life inspiration for Charlie Chaplin’s black comedy Monsieur Verdoux). In spite of his unsightly appearance, Landru possessed an urbane charm that made him appealing to women. It didn’t hurt, of course, that there were so many vulnerable women around – lonely widows of the millions of young soldiers who had perished on the battlefields of World War I. An accomplished swindler who had already been convicted seven times for fraud, Landru found his victims by running matrimonial ads in the newspapers. When a suitable (i.e., wealthy, gullible) prospect responded, Landru would woo her, wed her, assume control of her assets, then kill her and incinerate the corpse in a small outdoor oven on his country estate outside Paris. He was guillotined in 1922, convicted of eleven murders – ten women, plus one victim’s teenaged son.


Would you marry this man?

Culled from: The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers

Arcane Excerpts: Male Menstruation Edition!

Here’s a very strange case of “menstruation” from Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle (1896):

Menstruation in Man. – Periodic discharges of blood in man, constituting what is called “male menstruation” have been frequently noticed and are particularly interesting when the discharge is from the penis or urethra, furnishing a striking analogy to the female function of menstruation. The older authors quoted several such instances, and Mehliss says that in the ancient days certain writers remarked that catamenial lustration from the penis was inflicted on the Jews as a divine punishment… Gloninger tells of a man of thirty-six, who, since the age of seventeen years and five months, had had lunar manifestations of menstruation. Each attack was accompanied by pains in the back and hypogastric region, febrile disturbance, and a sanguineous discharge from the urethra, which resembled in color, consistency, etc., the menstrual flux. King relates that while attending a course of medical lectures at the University of Louisiana he formed the acquaintance of a young student who possessed the normal male generative organs, but in whom the simulated function of menstruation was periodically performed. The cause was inexplicable, and the unfortunate victim was the subject of deep chagrin, and was afflicted with melancholia. He had menstruated for three years in this manner: a fluid exuded from the sebaceous glands of the deep fossa behind the corona glandis; this fluid was of the same appearance as the menstrual flux. The quantity was from one to two ounces, and the discharge lasted from three to six days. At this time the student was twenty-two years of age, of a lymphatic temperament, not particularly lustful, and was never the victim of any venereal disease. The author gives no account of the after-life of this man, his whereabouts being, unfortunately, unknown or omitted.

Poor melancholy man.