Category Archives: Mirth

Morbid Fact Du Jour For May 5, 2016

Today’s Thuggish Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The word “thug” referring to a ruffian or hoodlum is derived from the name of one of the worst gangs of murdering thieves the world has ever known: the Indian hoodlum band known as the Thuggees. The English term originally came from the Hindustani word thag meaning “cheat” or “rascal”. But the Thuggees were much worse than mere cheats and rascals. Through the course of their existence, dating back to the 1550s, the Thuggees were credited with murdering more than 2,000,000 people, mostly wealthy travelers. The killer secret society plagued India for more than 350 years. The Thuggees traveled in gangs, sometimes disguised as poor beggars or religious mendicants. Sometimes they wore the garb of rich merchants to get closer to unsuspecting victims.

Thugs in Action

One of their chief principles was never to spill blood, so they always strangled their victims. Each member was required to kill at least once a year in order to maintain membership in the cult. But they killed in the name of religion. The deaths were conceived of as human sacrifices to Kali, the bloodthirsty Hindustani goddess of destruction.

The most lethal practitioner of the cult of Thuggee was the thug Buhram. At his trial it was established that he had murdered 931 persons between 1790 and 1840. All had been strangled with his “ruhmal” or waistcloth. Buhram was executed in 1840. Appropriately enough, he was hanged until he strangled.

It came to pass that the Thuggees began to kill using pickaxes and knives. According to legend, the Thuggees believed that Kali devoured the bodies of their victims. The story goes that once a member of the society hid behind a tree in order to spy on the goddess. The angry goddess punished the Thuggees by making them bury their victims from then on. Their pickaxes became murder weapons as well.

Both Muslims and Hindus made up the Thuggee sect. The ruling British government tried very hard to stop the Thuggee religion and its practices. Between 1829 and 1848 the British suppressed the Thuggees by means of mass arrests and speedy executions. In 1882 the British government deemed the problem solved with the hanging death of the last known Thuggee.

Thug Life, 19th Century Style

Culled from: The Big Book of Thugs


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Katchaya for this one.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For March 31, 2016

The lull in facts this week has been regrettably unavoidable as this has been a feverish week of activity for The Comtesse. She is heading overseas tomorrow and will be away until April 20th.  She will try to keep the facts coming regularly while she’s away but you know how life can sometimes interfere with our best intentions. In the event her internet access is limited, please stay morbid until her return!

Today’s Severe Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Monty Atwater was a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division which utilized explosives to create strategic avalanches during World War II.  After the war he was immediately hired to research and control avalanches at Alta, a ski resort in the middle of one of the most notoriously dangerous mountain chains in North America, Utah’s Wasatch, just east of Salt Lake City.  Needless to say, working with avalanches is dangerous business, and Atwater did not manage to retire unscathed.

In the early 1950’s, during research at Berthoud Pass in Colorado with Dick Stillman, another avalanche hunter, the two began jumping on a slab to try to cut it loose with their skis. Suddenly, the heard a “Crrrrump!” and the slab broke. Stillman made it the safety of the trees, but Atwater got caught. Tumbled end over end, he was dragged over a sharp rock, got a sharp knock on the head, and ended up wrapped around a tree; he remembers only losing his temper and hitting the avalanche with his fists on the way down. The air temperature was ten below zero, and since Atwater was buried in snow, he figured that it must have been the cold that kept his legs from working. They looked straight, and he could wiggle his toes, she he wasn’t paralyzed. It was only later that he realized that one third of the way from his hip to his knee, his leg had been 70 percent severed, probably as he was dragged over the rock. Once he had come to rest, the snow had acted as both a good coagulant and an anesthetic; later, Atwater was told by his doctor that there was no other place on the human body where he could have sustained a cut that big and lived to tell about it.

The Full Monty

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


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Morbid Fact Du Jour For March 25, 2016

Today’s Two-Faced Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The same process that produces Siamese Twins is responsible for the births of many other kinds of twins who are even more strangely joined: One-and-a-Halfs. The crudest form lives as a cyst within its larger twin’s body. The larger twin may live its entire life without ever knowing what’s resting inside – unless the smaller twin signals its presence – by means of agonizing pain. Thanks to modern surgery, the cyst containing the twin – known by the scientific name of “teratoma” or “monster tumor” – may be easily removed.

There are more elaborate versions of these incomplete twins. Some have their heads buried in their larger twin’s upper body, with the rest of them dangling in front. Now and then, the upper region twins emerge head first, with their feet buried within their larger twin’s body. A birth of this type took place in the 1600s in Spain. The larger brother was named Lazarus Colloredo. After some discussion it was decided that the smaller brother had a soul, and he was therefore baptized Joannes Baptista Colloredo. As they grew older, it turned out that they both needed regular shaving. Throughout his life, Joannes never once opened his eyes and he never once closed his mouth – and he never once made a single, solitary sound.

The Dashing Duo Lazarus and Joannes

Culled from: The Big Book of Freaks


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

It happens to me all the time too!  (Thanks to Magnoire for the funny!)

Morbid Fact Du Jour For March 22, 2016

Today’s Chain Reacting Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Today we continue the story of Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who was injured by the atomic blast at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.  We pick up the tale after Tsutomu has spent the night under an overturned boat with a burnt, blackened arm:

All the while, beneath his incinerated skin, Yamaguchi’s DNA was nursing even graver injuries. The nuclear bomb at Hiroshima released (among other radioactivity) loads of super-charged x-rays called gamma rays. Like most radioactivity, these rays single out and selectively damage DNA, punching DNA and nearby water molecules and making electrons fly out like uppercut teeth. The sudden loss of electrons forms free radicals, highly reactive atoms that chew on chemical bonds. A chain reaction begins that cleaves DNA and sometimes snaps chromosomes into pieces.

By the mid-1940s, scientists were starting to grasp why the shattering or disruption of DNA could wreak such ruin inside cells. First, scientists based in New York produced strong evidence that genes were made of DNA. This upended the persistent belief in protein inheritance. But as a second study revealed, DNA and proteins still shared a special relationship: DNA made proteins, with each DNA gene storing the recipe for one protein. Making proteins, in other words, was what genes did – that’s how genes created traits in the body.

In conjunction, these two ideas explained the harm of radioactivity. Fracturing DNA disrupts genes; disrupting genes halts protein production; halting protein production kills cells. Scientists didn’t work this out instantly – the crucial “one gene/one protein” paper appeared just days before Hiroshima – but they knew enough to cringe at the thought of nuclear weapons. When Hermann Muller won his Nobel Prize in 1946, he prophesied to the New York Times that if atomic bomb survivors “could foresee the results 1,000 years from now,… they might consider themselves more fortunate if the bomb had killed them.”

Despite Muller’s pessimism, Yamaguchi did want to survive, badly, for his family. He had complicated feelings about the war – opposing it at first, supporting it once under way, then shading back toward opposition when Japan began to stumble, because he feared the island being overrun by enemies who might harm his wife and son. (If so, he’d contemplated giving them an overdose of sleeping pills to spare them.) In the hours after Hiroshima, he yearned to get back to them, so when he heard rumors about trains leaving the city, he sucked up his strength and resolved to find one.

Hiroshima is a collection of islands, and Yamaguchi had to cross a river to reach the train station. All the bridges had collapsed or burned, so he steeled himself and began crossing an apocalyptic “bridge of corpses” clogging the river, crawling across melted legs and faces. But an uncrossable gap in the bridge forced him to turn back. Farther upstream, he found a railroad trestle with one steel beam intact, spanning fifty yards. He clambered up, crossed the iron tightrope, and descended. He pushed through the mob at the train station and slumped into a train seat. Miraculously the train pulled out soon afterward – he was saved. The train would run all night, but he was finally headed home, to Nagasaki.

Here are some photos of the “Bridge of Corpses”. Can you imagine the smell?

(To be continued…)

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Morbid Fact Du Jour For March 2, 2016

Today’s Huddled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

As the Titanic was filling with water and sinking on the early morning of April 15, 1912 frantic activity was occurring. Up on deck, the last wooden life-boat, number 4, was being readied shortly before two-o’clock, and John Jacob Astor handed his pregnant wife into the boat. After the millionaire was refused permission to join her, he helped other women climb aboard, then stood on deck and waved as it descended only 15 feet down to the water, instead of the usual 70-foot distance.  Only the collapsible lifeboats now remained. After assisting passengers, White Star Lines President J. Bruce Ismay made his escape in collapsible boat C, the last boat launched from the starboard side. More than 1,500 terrified men, women, and children remained aboard the doomedTitanic. Realizing their desperation, second mate Charles Lightoller ordered the crew to form a circle around collapsible D, the last lifeboat, and to permit only women and children to board the boat. A Frenchman who had listed himself as “M. Hoffman” passed his two little boys, Michel and Edmond, to the crew, and collapsible D got away at 2:05.

At that moment, the captain told the wireless operators and other crew members that they had done their duty and should look to their own safety. Marconi operator John Phillips, however, stayed at his post, as did thirty-four engineers, plumbers, electricians, and boiler room employees. On deck, a group of men struggled to release collapsible B from its lashings on top of the deckhouse, and a man climbed above the crowd on a chain or coil of rope, his hands stretched out as if in benediction. In steerage, “Hundreds were in a ciricle with a preacher in the middle, praying, crying.” Others fell or jumped from the ship, hoping to swim to one of the lifeboats. At 2:10 the ship’s bow lunged deeper into the water, sending the sea washing over the deck. “When the forward part of the ship dropped suddenly at a faster rate,” recalled a lifeboat passenger, “… there was a sudden rush of passengers on all decks toward the stern. It was like a wave. We could see the great black mass of people in the steerage sweeping to the rear part of the boat and breaking through in the upper decks.” Young Jack Thayer had dived into the water and clung for safety to the overturned collapsible B, which had been washed overboard before it could be launched. From the freezing water, he watched “groups of the almost 1500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky…”

On deck, J. Collins, a cook, saw a weeping woman rushing toward him, carrying a child. “I took the child from the woman and made for one of the boats,” Collins recalled. Seconds later, a huge wave washed the child out of his arms, and he and the woman were swept off the ship into the sea. People were hurled back “in a dreadful, huddled mass,” Lightoller remembered. “Those that didn’t disappear under the water right away, instinctively started to clamber up that part of the deck still out of the water, and work their way towards the stern.” The ship’s orchestra had continued to play as the deck heaved higher in the air. Now, bandleader Wallace Hartley released his fellow musicians, but none of them made a move to leave. Instead, they played a final, solemn tune as the water rolled up the deck. Some said it was “Autumn,” others remembered the hymn “Nearer My God To Thee.”

Culled from: Titanic: Legacy of the World’s Greatest Ocean Liner


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

If the Titanic sank today…

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 21, 2016

Today’s Mutinied Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

An excerpt regarding the slave trade:

Many Africans resisted enslavement at every step in their forced emigration. Conscious of the wrongs they suffered, they began trying to escape on the long march to the coast. Failing this and suicide attempts while still in sight of their native shores, the Africans often mutinied while being transported to the New World and killed their white captors. In spite of their chains and lack of arms, they rebelled so frequently that a number of ship owners took out insurance to cover losses from mutinies. In their study of the slave trade, Mannix and Cowley uncovered fairly detailed accounts of fifty-five mutinies on slavers from 1699 to 1845, not to mention the passing references to more than a hundred others. The list of ships “cut off” by the natives – often in revenge for the kidnapping of freemen – is almost as long. On the record it does not seem that Africans submitted tamely to being carried across the Atlantic like chained beasts.

Middle Passage:

Culled from: The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Sean for the image.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 30, 2016

Today’s Dancing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Dancing Plague (or Dance Epidemic) of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in July 1518. Around 400 people took to dancing for days without rest, and, over the period of about one month, some of those affected died of heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.

The outbreak began in July 1518, when a woman, Mrs Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. This lasted somewhere between four to six days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers, predominantly female. Some of these people eventually died from heart attacks, strokes, or exhaustion.

Historical documents, including “physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council” are clear that the victims danced. It is not known why these people danced, some even to their deaths.

As the dancing plague worsened, concerned nobles sought the advice of local physicians, who ruled out astrological and supernatural causes, instead announcing that the plague was a “natural disease” caused by “hot blood”. However, instead of prescribing bleeding, authorities encouraged more dancing, in part by opening two guildhalls and a grain market, and even constructing a wooden stage. The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would recover only if they danced continuously night and day. To increase the effectiveness of the cure, authorities even paid for musicians to keep the afflicted moving.

Historian John Waller stated that a marathon runner could not have lasted the intense workout that the men and women died from hundreds of years ago.

Culled from: Wikipedia
Graciously suggested by: My Awesome GF Paula


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

So I am kind of obsessed with the skeleton calendars produced by the Antikamnia Chemical Company in the late 19th/early 20th century. I keep thinking someone will surely release reproductions of them as prints so that I can have my favorite (Sep/Oct 1897 as shown below) on my wall.  I did find a few on Etsy, but not the ones I want.  I’m still looking, but I did stumble across a beautiful “reproduction” of one on Ebay.

First, here’s my favorite – the most beautiful baby that has ever existed. If anyone finds a print of this, please let me know!

And then here’s the original of the “reproduction”:

And here’s the amazing “reproduction” on Ebay.  Stunning, isn’t it?

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 26, 2016

Today’s Courteous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

If official records of such events are to be taken seriously, royal patients are a lot braver and more courteous than the rest of us. After George IV had a sebaceous cyst removed from his head in 1821, entirely without the aid of any sort of anesthetic, he casually inquired of the surgeon, Astley Cooper, “So, what do you call these tumors?” Queen Victoria had a particularly nasty axillary abscess drained when she was fifty-one years old. When she came round from the chloroform, she is supposed to have opened her eyes and remarked, “A most unpleasant task, Professor Lister, most pleasantly performed.” The price of failure for a royal medic, however, has always been high, as demonstrated by Bohemia’s blind King John. When his surgeons failed to restore his eyesight he had all of them drowned in the Danube.

“A most unpleasant task, most pleasantly performed.”   What a splendid sentence!  I shall have to remember that the next time I have an unpleasant medical experience.

Culled from: Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

I thought it was incredibly sweet of a friend to post this on my Facebook page and say, “Maybe someday you’ll be so lucky.”  Oh, I’ve no doubt!  (Thanks to Anne for sharing this one.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 19, 2015

Today’s Charming Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

He was the first Chicagoan to be murdered in an automobile. At 9:15 p.m., November 18, 1904, a mint-green Pope-Toledo touring car with a high square back turned south on Michigan Avenue from Congress Street. Wearing a chauffeur’s cap, goggles, and driving gloves, twenty-two-year-old Billy Bate chatted pleasantly with his passenger, who introduced himself as “Mr. Dove” – perhaps a symbol of eternal peace? That is the way Edwin Slavin, a telephone operator at the Auditorium Hotel, and Chicago police detectives duly recorded the name.

The following morning, a farmer named Peter Freehauf found the car parked on a deserted road near his south suburban Lemont home. Billy Bate was slumped over the steering wheel, shot twice in the back of the head with a .22-caliber pistol.

The Ill-Fated Billy Bate

Hours earlier, Mr. Dove had appeared at the registration desk of the Auditorium Hotel, asking the switchboard operator to telephone a Wabash Avenue garage for a car and driver. He said that he required a vehicle that would accommodate two passengers. After some quibbling, Dove agreed to pay the driver $5 an hour. A call was placed to Dan Canary’s garage, where Billy Bate was passing time with the other chauffeurs in a game of coin toss.

Bate, a personable youth who was the son of well-to-do Kentuckians living at 1562 Kenmore (at Buena) on the city’s North Side, asked the night manager if Dove was “all right”.

“I don’t know, and I don’t care. Get your money and pick him up,” came the sharp reply from Edwin Archer, who answered the phone but couldn’t remember much more than the customer’s voice quibbling over the rate.

Eyewitnesses described Mr. Dove as a patrician-looking gent attired in evening clothes and a derby hat. A bystander claimed to have overheard angry words exchanged between Bate and Dove as the car sped away from the curb. Beyond that, not much more could be said.

Later, three miles outside the town of Lemont on Archer Avenue in the distant southwest suburbs, a farmhand on his way home after a date observed three people in Bate’s car, one of them a woman. Around midnight, Peter Freehauf heard a frightful pounding at his door, then two shots fired in rapid succession. Freehauf and his wife huddled in terror, refusing to open the door. At the crack of dawn, they ventured outside and found Bate, stiff in death’s firm grasp. The loyal chauffeur still clutched the levels of his machine. He had been shot in the back of the head on the muddy, deserted road.

Billy’s car

Mr. Dove continued on to Joliet by train, wagon, or some other conveyance, pausing at a boarding house to purchase a bottle of benzine to clean his blood-soaked clothes. A kitchen helper described Dove as a chain-smoking nervous wreck who smelled of women’s perfume. It was noted that Dove’s teeth were small and white, and his voice “as soft as a woman.”

Recalling that Bate had a fiancée in Pittsburgh, the police were most interested in learning that Dove confessed to having a Pittsburgh girlfriend. Was the chauffeur slain by a jilted girlfriend posing as a man? The police eventually concluded that Dove was a man, albeit a very feminine-looking man.

Mr. Dove boarded a train in Joliet the following day, vanishing into the silent mists of time.

Lemont police pulled five love letters from the dead man’s vest pocket. The next morning Hearst’s gossipy Chicago American printed allegations that young Bate was keeping company with a wealthy society matron and had left a trail of broken hearts extending from New York to Chicago. One of the more poignant effusions was from a woman named “Rose,” who wrote:

I understand you have won the love of Bertha, and I presume that you have no further use for me. I hope that your future love will be successful. Of course it is pretty hard on me, but I will let the matter drop and say no more. With Love, Rose.

A posse scoured the countryside for the remains of the second presumed victim in the theory that Bate’s killer had ordered him to pick up the woman outside of Chicago. Dove, it was thought, murdered the woman, then turned the weapon on the chauffeur. Dead men, after all, tell no tales. The drainage canal and the roadside gullies were searched with no success. If there had been a woman slain in this peculiar drama, the killer had artfully concealed her remains.

The Bate murder mystery, forgotten and obscure in the annals of Chicago crime, was a subject of titillating newspaper gossip for many days and weeks to come. A female detective – a rarity in those days – was brought in to piece together the essential facts and draw a conclusion, but her theories lacked evidence and the investigation floundered. It was suggested by some that the crime was the last desperate act of a jilted lover. Others believed young Bate was part of a sinister conspiracy hatched by Dove, who betrayed his friend’s confidence in the still of a late autumn night. Or maybe Bate was just a lazy idler who fell in with a gang of crooks.

In all likelihood, Billy Bate was the innocent victim of a murder plot hatched well in advance. The handsome young charmer happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as is so often the case.

Culled from: Return to the Scene of the Crime


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Leslie for the image.

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 23, 2015

Today’s Vengeful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Genius is awakened by many things. When it’s for revenge, especially of a woman scorned, inventiveness knows no bounds. When the Romans first came ashore in Eastern Britain, the found local Celtic tribes and allowed the various leaders to keep their small kingdoms, as long as they acquiesced to Roman rule and paid the levied taxes on time. When Boudicca’s husband, King Prasutagus of the Iceni tribe, died, the Romans refused to honor the Celtic custom of bequeathing wealth to wives and daughters; instead, they publicly humiliated Boudicca with a flogging and raped her daughters in the village square. Boudicca’s obsession for revenge turned into a rebellion Rome had rarely seen, and through her persistence, she unified neighboring tribes to lead armies across the English landscape. In her short span of military brilliance, Boudicca burned London (Londinium) and other important Roman settlements, refusing to stop even though she had spilled the blood of eighty thousand, and had Roman Emperor Nero on the verge of recalling all troops from Britain. Fixed on revenge more than victory, in AD 62 she charged once again into battle and was killed by a pilum (a long Roman spear) at the age of thirty-seven. Afterward, Roman historians said she poisoned herself to avoid capture. Many believed her sudden transformation and knowledge about battle was a result of divine genius, and considered Boudicca, a once normal woman, a goddess.

Badass Boudicca
Culled from: Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages

Assuming that anyone actually reads these things, you’re probably thinking, “Why does she keep posting articles from the same source over and over again?”  Well, it’s because I’m staying at a different estate this week, one that has possession of this book which I don’t have (yet) in my library. So I’m going with what I got. Don’t worry – I’ll be home soon and then you’ll get a varied selection of misery again.

And Incidentally…

Also culled from Genius and Heroin: The Illustrated Catalogue of Creativity, Obsession, and Reckless Abandon Through the Ages:

As early as the fourth century BC, word was out that the Celts were a people who overindulged in drink. Plato used them as an example of the dangers of excess, and both the Greeks and Romans considered them inferior, because the Celts favored beer while their more enlightened societies preferred wine. When a Celt died, vessels of alcoholic beverages were always placed in the grave. One king was dug up and found to have nine gold-adorned drinking horns by his side, indicating not only his prestige, but evidently his priorities as well. Boudicca’s genius and obsession was no doubt fueled by a potent drink made from fermented barley and honey. During Boudicca’s slash and burn, she was careful not to torch the many wooden barrels of mead or the small breweries that were in every town. The day she was nailed and killed by the luckily tossed spear, she had just come off a three-day Druid feast. Those were classic beer-blasts where drinks flowed nonstop. Chunks of roasted wild boar were eaten from the tip of a knife, washed down with a helmet full of beer. In the end, it was a hangover that changed history.


Morbid (Victorian) Mirth!

I absolutely adore the captions adorning this charming collection of Victorian holiday cards. What miserable little urchins they are!

25 Children Having A Worse Christmas Than You