Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 21, 2015

Today’s Good-Looking Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955) was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom, after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely.

From a humble background, Ellis was drawn into the world of London nightclub hostessing, which led to a chaotic life of brief relationships, some of them with upper-class nightclubbers and celebrities. Two of these were Blakely, a racing driver already engaged to another woman, and Desmond Cussen, a retail company director.

On Easter Sunday 1955, Ellis shot Blakely dead outside the Magdala public house in Hampstead, and immediately gave herself up to the police. At her trial, she took full responsibility for the murder and her courtesy and composure, both in court and in the cells, was noted in the press. She was hanged at Holloway Prison.

The following is the excellent first chapter of the long article about Ellis at Crime Library (the entirety of which I highly recommend reading):

“To the living we owe our respect, to the dead we owe nothing but the truth.” – Voltaire.

Like all statistics, they serve a purpose of sorts. Like most statistics, they only hint at a deeper, unseen truth, hidden from view behind the dry, formal and dialectic structure of numbers.

  • She was 28 years old. Her height was five feet two inches and she weighed 103 pounds. She was well nourished and her body showed evidence of proper care and attention.
  • She was also very dead with a fracture-dislocation of the spine and a two-inch gap and transverse separation of the spinal cord. Just to make sure, there was also a fracture of both wings of the hyoid and the right wing of the thyroid cartilage. The larynx was also fractured.

She had died of injuries to the central nervous system, consequent to judicial hanging. She was a healthy subject at the time of her death. So said Doctor Keith Simpson, pathologist of 146 Harley Street and Guys Hospital. He was a reader in forensic medicine at London University, so he would know all about the statistics of death, especially as he had carried out the post-mortem examination on her, just one hour after she had been executed.

He knew nothing of the menage a trios that had brought her to the pathologist table. He could not know that her death would result in two people killing themselves and one dying of a broken heart. Or of the lawyer, so despairing of his faith in the law and the way it treated her that he would give up his career. Or the man who travelled half way around the world to escape from the certainty that he was partly to blame for her being here on this cold, metal table.

The small, slight cadaver stretched out before him was all that remained of a true tragedy of British justice. She was a statistic, one that would haunt the conscience of the British judiciary system for the next forty-five years.

Ruth Ellis was the fifteenth, and the last woman hanged in England in the twentieth century. She was also the unluckiest. She did not kill for gain and, had the judge allowed her defense to be put to her jury, they may well have found her guilty only of manslaughter. She, however, never thought so. She never doubted in her own mind that she deserved to die for killing the man she loved.

Her death would be the final exclamation mark in a sad and tortured tale.

Culled from: Wikipedia and Crime Library

Of course, the excellent film Dance with a Stranger is about the life of Ellis, and it’s rumored that the  Morrissey song “The Boy Racer” (“We’re gonna kill this pretty thing”) is about Blakely.

Here’s a photo of the doomed couple themselves.  I dunno – I don’t think Blakely was all that good-looking! I think he’d be flattered that Rupert Everett played him in the movie!


Sideshow “Freak” Du Jour!

The Ohio Big Foot Girl (1880s)

Fanny Mills came from Sandusky, Ohio, where her father was a farmer. Active on the circuit in the ’80s, she was advertised as having the largest feet on earth. Her “size thirty shoes” were almost twenty inches in length and required three goatskins to manufacture. The promotional material accompanying her appearances used a rather cruel come-on directed at single young men of little means. The copy claimed that her father, desperate to marry off his blonde, fat-footed daughter would hand over $5,000 cash and a “well stocked farm” to any respectable man who’d take her away.

In spite of her big feet Fanny was actually quite small and weighed only 115 pounds. She had Milroy Disease, a hereditary lymphedema and enlargement of her legs and feet resulting from the non-development of the lymph vessels of the lower extremities. Poor lymphatic drainage of body fluids led to swelling as the fluids pooled in her limbs. Although Fanny would most probably have had other associated abnormalities such as spinal cysts, asthma and double eyelashes, she was otherwise physically and mentally normal. Eisenmann made a considerable number of plates at this session, including an unbearably pathetic nude portrait that destroyed the calm dignity she maintained through the rest of the sitting.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann


Morbid Sightseeing: Lucerne, Switzerland

A chapel with a mural that has real skulls laid into the plaster?  What a fantastic idea!  And as you can see, the execution is very nice as well!


(Thanks to Howard for the link.)

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