Morbid Fact Du Jour for April 13, 2015

Today’s Liberal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Frederick III (18 October 1831 – 15 June 1888) was German Emperor and King of Prussia for 99 days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl, known informally as Fritz, was the only son of Emperor Wilhelm I and was raised in his family’s tradition of military service. Although celebrated as a young man for his leadership and successes during the Second Schleswig, Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, he nevertheless professed a hatred of warfare and was praised by friends and enemies alike for his humane conduct. Following the unification of Germany in 1871 his father, then King of Prussia, became the German Emperor. On Wilhelm’s death at the age of 90 on 9 March 1888, the throne passed to Frederick, who had by then been Crown Prince for 27 years. Frederick was suffering from cancer of the larynx when he died on 15 June 1888, aged 56, following unsuccessful medical treatments for his condition.

By the time he ascended the throne, Frederick was 56 years old and suffering from a debilitating cancer of the larynx. He viewed his illness with dismay, crying “To think I should have such a horrid disgusting illness … I had so hoped to have been of use to my country.” He received conflicting medical advice regarding treatment. In Germany, Doctor Ernst von Bergmann proposed to remove the larynx completely, but his colleague, Doctor Rudolf Virchow, disagreed; such an operation had never been performed without the death of the patient. The British doctor Sir Morell Mackenzie, who had diagnosed the cancer, advised a tracheotomy, to which Frederick and his wife agreed. On 8 February, a month before his father died, a cannula was fitted to allow Frederick to breathe; for the remainder of his life he was unable to speak and often communicated through writing.  During the operation, Dr. Bergmann almost killed him by missing the incision in the trachea and forcing the cannula into the wrong place. Frederick started to cough and bleed, and Bergmann placed his forefinger into the wound to enlarge it. The bleeding subsided after two hours, but Bergmann’s actions resulted in an abscess in Frederick’s neck, producing pus which gave the new Emperor discomfort for the remaining months of his life. Later, Frederick would ask “Why did Bergmann put his finger in my throat?” and complain that “Bergmann ill-treated [me]”. The diagnosis and treatment of Prince Frederick’s fatal illness caused some medical controversy well into the next century.

In spite of his illness, Frederick did his best to fulfill his obligations as Emperor. Immediately after the announcement of his accession, he took the ribbon and star of his Order of the Black Eagle from his jacket and pinned it on the dress of his wife; he was determined to honor her position as Empress. As the German Emperor, he officially received Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom (his mother-in-law) and King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway, and attended the wedding of his son Prince Henry to his niece Princess Irene. However, Frederick reigned for only 99 days, and was unable to bring about much lasting change. An edict he penned before he ascended to the throne that would limit the powers of the chancellor and monarch under the constitution was never put into effect, although he did force Robert von Puttkamer to resign as Prussian Minister of the Interior on 8 June, when evidence indicated that Puttkamer had interfered in the Reichstag elections. Dr. Mackenzie wrote that the Emperor had “an almost overwhelming sense of the duties of his position”. In a letter to Lord Napier, Empress Victoria wrote “The Emperor is able to attend to his business, and do a great deal, but not being able to speak is, of course, most trying.” Frederick had the fervour but not the time to accomplish his desires, lamenting in May 1888, “I cannot die … What would happen to Germany?”

Frederick III died in Potsdam on 15 June 1888, and was succeeded by his 29-year-old son Wilhelm II. Frederick is buried in a mausoleum attached to the Friedenskirche in Potsdam.After his death, William Ewart Gladstone described him as the “Barbarossa of German liberalism”. Empress Victoria went on to continue spreading Frederick’s thoughts and ideals throughout Germany, but no longer had power within the government.

Culled from: Wikipedia

And, of course, we all know what happened to Germany…  🙁

How I Spent My Saturday

Here in Illinois, deadly tornadoes have become an annual thing, what with Mother Nature’s increasingly violent mood swings. Living close to the lake shore here in Chicago, I haven’t had any close calls with any tornadoes, but people living in the middle of the state have not been so lucky. A pair of tornadoes touched down last Thursday, resulting in two deaths and many shattered lives. I’ve always wanted to see tornado damage first hand, so when a friend mentioned she was going to be volunteering to help with the storm clean-up on Saturday, I offered to go with her.

We started out trying to volunteer at the Summerfield Zoo, which had lost most of its fences during the storm. However, when we were very rudely yelled at for saying hello to the caged wolves (who, it must be noticed, wagged their tails and seemed very happy to see us), we decided to head to the city of Rochelle (Middle Of Nowhere, Illinois) to join their volunteer efforts instead. There were about 650 volunteers there, being led by something called Operation Blessing. Though I could care less who is overseeing the efforts, being an atheist, I wasn’t too thrilled to see that they were handing out free ‘Operation Blessing’ t-shirts to the participants, but I was relieved to find that they had run out of shirts by the time we arrived. Whew!

We made friends with a few people who arrived at the same time we did and split off into groups of 20.  As we awaited our captain to return with our marching orders instructing us which disaster zone we were to head to, we visited with the golden retriever “comfort dogs” supplied by the Lutheran Church.

Eventually, we got our orders: we were to report to duty at Grubsteakers Restaurant.  We split off from the group to drive over and meet them there.  However, when we arrived, our group was nowhere to be found.  We wandered all over the area, but we could not find a single member of our group. In the end, we just kind of became adopted members of a couple of other groups.

The storm damage was pretty amazing to see.  Everything was covered in brown mud, most of the houses were bare down to the foundation, and the landscape was peppered with pieces of machinery and corrugated metal that had been blown from gawd knows where.  This is what Grubsteakers looked like before the storm:

And this is how it looked when we arrived:

Evidence of the storm’s ferocity was all around us.  The cars were all destroyed in one way or another.  This truck had been impaled by a tree limb.

We went around the back side of Grubsteakers and were getting ready to start hauling debris to the dumpsters when we ran across this adorable little cat.  Someone else picked her up and told us that she was a stray that lived at the restaurant and she had two kittens before the storm. One kitten had already been collected and taken to a vet clinic in Oregon, IL (I know, I didn’t know there was an Oregon, Illinois either!) and they wanted someone to take the cat to be reunited with her kitten. We volunteered to take her and she was a perfect little angel riding on my lap all the way to the clinic (about a 15 minute drive). We took her in and we were told that her kitten was severely injured (a mangled leg) and they weren’t sure if he/she was going to make it or not but they reunited the mother cat with her kitten.

After we returned to Grubsteakers, we wanted to go down into the basement to see if the kitten was down there because that’s where the mother cat was hanging around, but they wouldn’t let us go down there because it’s “too dangerous”.  (“Oh, puh-leeze!” we thought. “We have been in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more dangerous buildings that this!”) When the tornado hit, 12-14 (depending on which number you believe) people rode it out in this basement. (See the entrance at the bottom of the below image. You can see kitchen supplies unscathed too.)

After being foiled in our kitten rescue attempt, we went around to the front of the building and started entering it and removing debris and potentially sentimental items and giving them to the owner. We noticed a huge amount of blood all over the floor and the walls. A teenager told us that someone had smashed through the glass during the tornado in an attempt to rob the place. That makes absolutely no sense to me, but I can’t seem to find the *real* story anywhere, so that’s the best I have. In any event, the bloody hand prints and blood-stained glass was pretty gruesome.

Soon thereafter we were told that we could not enter the building under any circumstance! And a couple minutes later we noticed a huge group of men entering the building to continue to work on the clean-up. Sexist/hypocritical bastards. So we decided to leave Grubsteakers and head down the street to the sad remains of the houses that had once stood there and see if our services could be better used there.

Here’s the first house – before (Google Maps – it’s that white house in amongst the trees) and after shots.

The second house – before and after:

Finally we arrived at a home where we could proceed with assisting the daughter of the man who had lived there. She instructed us to look for salvageable items – and being a staunch sentimentalist I started raking through the debris looking for photographs and other such things. I was happy that I was able to find quite a few. The house was completely gone – down to the foundation. We never did hear the story of how her father survived the storm. I was filled with thoughts of how trivial possessions are and how I needed to finish digitizing my family archives so that a fire could not take the photographs and memorabilia away.



It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me, and while I still would love to be a storm-chaser, I’m definitely a bit more wary of the chase now. And a bit more apprehensive of the devastating power of nature.

A board driven in the earth.


    1. Well, we didn’t know for sure that the kitten was down there. The kitten could have been killed in the tornado, for all we know. We just suspected because the Mama was hanging around in that area.

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