Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 30, 2018

Today’s Lucky Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Kresty (Russian: literally Crosses) prison, officially Investigative Isolator No. 1 of the Administration of the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments for the city of Saint Petersburg is a detention center in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The prison consists of two cross-shaped buildings (hence the name) and the Orthodox Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. The prison has 960 cells and was originally designed for 1150 detainees.

Kresty Prison, built in the 1880’s.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

Here is an excerpt from the testimony of Z. Nisan on his imprisonment in Kresty in 1979:

I was transferred to cell no. 404, second floor, fourth building. I had refused to talk to my investigator during the pre-trial investigation period. I was not aware at the time of the reason for the transfer. Until then I had been kept in another building. The guard led me into my new cell where I was confronted with three lusty characters. Insults began raining down on me the very moment I entered the cell. ‘Hey, look! We’ve got a kike!’, or ‘Let’s see if he’s been circumcised’, and so on. I tried to answer with restraint, but the ‘jokes’ continued. By the end of the day, the hooligans were openly saying that they were going to rape me. I approached the door, knocked on it, and demanded that I be transferred to another cell. The guard, however, only grinned after having heard my reasons. During the night, my cellmates tried indeed to rape me. We started a fight. No doubt, I would have been unable to defend myself against the three thugs – the guard did not react to my screaming – had I not been lucky. During the fight, one of my enemies slipped and fell, hitting his head against the corner of an iron bed and cracking it in the process. His cry for help was answered immediately. The door opened; behind it stood four guards. They took the injured thug out. Then they put handcuffs on me and led me to the isolation cell. There they put me into a strait jacket and threw me onto the floor. There was no bed in the cell. It was damp and cold. Soon afterwards, I heard a howling sound, like that of a malfunctioning waterpipe. The sound, which continued three days, gave me a headache and even hallucinations. I was then summoned to the investigator and was given a false, self-incriminating statement to sign. I refused, whereupon I was told that I was going to be tried for gangsterism for having crippled my cellmate. My version of the story made the investigator laugh.  In his attempt to get me to sign a self-incriminating statement, he ordered me thrown into the isolation cell three times for seven days at a time. Once he had me put into a ‘slit’ for 24 hours. (A ‘slit’ is a kind of closet, 70 x 70 centimeters, in which it is impossible to sit or move.)  I was given no food or water. I was not even allowed to go to the toilet; I had to let the urine run down my legs. After the torture was over, I was made to clean the ‘slit’.”


Culled from: The First Guidebook to Prisons and Concentration Camps of the Soviet Union


Vintage Crime Photo Du Jour!

Luc Sante‚Äôs Evidence is a compelling collection of crime scene photographs taken by the New York City Police Department between 1914 and 1918. The images are always intriguing, often mysterious, sometimes artistic, occasionally shocking, and reliably graphic. The appendix contains a detailed explanation of all known facts regarding each image (include applicable newspaper clippings) and much reasonable speculation on those images where the facts are lost to history.

“Double homicide #708 6/17/15.” Here, the two bodies, the lack of a weapon, and the clear indication that at least one of the parties died in bed (the bloodied pillowcase) throw conflicting signals at the viewr. It might be a crime of passion, or it might be an anachronistic gangland-style execution. The missing weapon proves a red herring, however, as the date points the way to newspaper accounts, among which the following seems definitive:


Geroge McAghon, an assistant yardmaster of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was the man who killed Mrs. Barbara Cornelius, a 24-year-old bride, in the bedroom of her apartment at No. 90 Hopkinson Avenue, Brooklyn.

The husband, Carman Cornelius, rushed from the room calling for help when he was awakened by McAghon, whom he thought was a burglar. He had never seen the man before.

Evidence of Mrs. Cornelius’s love affair was found in love notes on the backs of picture postcards hidden among feminine keepsakes in a trunk. They were signed only “G.” They carried no postmark, but had been mailed in an envelope addressed to “Bessie”.

Acting Captain Duane and Lieutenant McKirdy accepted McAghon’s signet ring as proof of his identity. Coroner Frank Senior and Coroner’s Physician Dr. Charles Wuest determined that there were two pistol wounds in Mrs. Cornelius’s temple and one in McAghon’s head. McAghon’s hand bore a powder smudge.

One shot, aimed at the fleeing husband, was found buried in the wall opposite the window through which McAghon entered.

Carman Cornelius is connected with a produce house in one of the Brooklyn markets. Not strong physically, he has been home several days recovering from an illness. He usually leaves for work at one o’clock A.M., but was home on account of his health. McAghon entered about 1:30 A.M.

It was his second marriage. The dead woman, nee Barbara Seilein, was named as co-respondent in his divorce case. McAghon was never seen in the neighborhood, but Mrs. Cornelius had often used the pay telephone in a drugstore two blocks away at Decatur and Hopkinson Streets.

McAghon was required to carry a gun at his job. He was 35 years old and lived at No. 160 Erie Street, Jersey City. He had been an assistant foreman at the Harsimus Cove yard of the Pennsylvania Railroad for two years, at $120 monthly.

He was said to have had temperate habits, and attended St. Mary’s Catholic Church. His wife had been dead two years, and his home was kept by his sister, Jennie McAghon. He leaves four children: Elizabeth, 12 years old, Margaret, 10 years, Mary, 7 years, and Jimmie, 5 years.

Identification of McAghon was made fourteen hours after the arrival of the police by William J. Morris of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Captain Duane of the Seventh Branch Bureau had traced the place where the dead man’s clothing had been purchased to a store in Jersey City.

The window was only five feet from the pavement, and was open except for a wire screen. While climbing in McAghon was in full glare of several street lamps.

McAghon had been reported as a burglar in yesterday’s late edition.

[Abridged from the New York American, June 18, 1915]

Despite the slender clue represented by the date, this tangled tale seems persuasive as an explanation for the scene in the photograph. In the picture frame in the center, bright with the glare of the magnesium powder, can be seen the reflection of the door, immediately to the right of the bed, through which Cornelius fled. McAghon’s signet ring is visible on his left middle finer. We seem to be in possession of most of the facts, but we have no idea why the murder-suicide took place. Was it premeditated, or was it a reaction to the husband’s presence? Was Barbara Cornelius as treacherous as her prior career as a co-respondent is pointedly meant to suggest? Was the husband exactly as weak and as unknowing as the husbands in farces? We can wonder, too, about the scheduling of the trysts, which for McAghon must have involved a very long journey that included two ferry crossings and a lengthy streetcar ride all the way to Bedford-Stuyvesant. Of course, crimes of passion are proverbially the easiest to solve, and the most enduringly mysterious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *