Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 4, 2017

Today’s Rebellious Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Although Julius Caesar had attempted to conquer Britain in 55 and 54 BC, the Romans did not mount a successful invasion until AD 43, under Claudius. Arriving at the south coast, the Romans made their way up the Thames Estuary. Finding a spot where the tidal river proved deep enough for shipping but narrow enough for a crossing, they immediately grasped its strategic significance and created a makeshift settlement of forty acres along the waterfront. ‘Londinium’, capital of the Province of Britannia, was born. But Londinium soon became a target for the oppressed Britons.

In A.D. 60, the Britons, led by Queen Boudicca, rebelled. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Boudicca hated the Romans as they had stolen her land when she was widowed, flogged her and raped her daughters. Intent on wiping out their oppressors, Boudicca’s army descended on London and burned it to the ground. This first Great Fire of London was so intense that it melted bronze coins, scorching the earth so profoundly that archaeologists discovered a seared layer of soil centuries later. Boudicca took no prisoners. Tacitus recorded that over 70,000 Romans and their allies – men, women and children- perished in the massacre; they were lynched, burned and even crucified. Romans were beheaded and thrown into the river. The number of skulls recovered from the Walbrook near Finsbury Circus, and the Thames around Battersea and Mortlake prompted the Victorian archaeologist Henry Syer Cuming to name the river ‘our Celtic Golgotha’.

Don’t fuck with Boudicca!

The Romans soon retaliated, however, crushing the insurgents and, once they had regained control, set about creating London in the image of a Roman city. A defensive wall, nine feet wide, eighteen feet high and nearly two miles long was constructed – sections of which survive to this very day. Inside the wall was the Forum (on what is now Gracechurch Street in the City), a combination of low court, council chamber and shopping mall. With their passion for town planning, the Romans laid out streets, villas and temples. In a policy shift which the historian Guy de la Bédoyère has compared with modern Western Imperialism, the Romans converted militant Britons to their way of life with consumer enticement, introducing them to the urbane pleasures of hot spas and fine dining, encouraging them to wear togas and speak Latin.  

Culled from: Necropolis: London and Its Dead

Sadly, badass Boudicca died shortly after the failed uprising (either from illness or suicide), but they’re still finding the (possible) skulls of her victims!

Roman Skulls Found During Crossrail Dig In London May Be Boudicca Victims 


Aghast!  Gang Gun Edition!

DECEMBER 13, 1935
Photographer: Detrick
Samuel Mandel, racketeer. Victim of gang guns in Paterson.  

Culled from: New York Noir: Crime Photos from the Daily News Archive

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 3, 2017

On May 19, 1845, the 59-year-old explorer Sir John Franklin set off to search for the supposed Northwest Passage around the top of Canada, which was seen as an alternative route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. His two ships Erebus and Terror were well provisioned with five years’ supply of food for the 129 officers and crew, whose quarters were equipped with central heating. In August the ships were seen in Baffin Bay, in north Canada, but then they disappeared. By 1848, when nothing had been heard of the expedition, other ships were sent to look for them but they returned without finding any trace, and it was not until 1850 that the graves of three crew members were discovered on Beechey Island. The bodies were those of John Torrington, John Hartnell, and William Brain who died in 1846. The ships had clearly spent some time on the island because they had discarded more than 700 empty cans. 

The Intrepid Explorer Sir John Franklin

Terror and Erebus

The provisions for Terror are still on record and included thousands of cans of meat, soup, vegetables, and potatoes. Most of the food they took consisted of flour (30 tonnes), salted meat (14 tonnes), biscuits (7.5 tonnes), sugar (5 tonnes), spirits (2300 gallons), chocolate (2 tonnes), and lemon juice (2 tonnes), and these were regarded as sufficient to supply this ship of 67 men for three years. 

Label from a soup can from the expedition

In 1988, Dr. Owen Beattie and researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, were allowed to exhume and analyze the perfectly preserved remains of the three men and they found such high levels of lead that it seems almost certain that the men died of lead poisoning, probably exacerbated by scurvy, despite the lemon juice that had been taken on the expedition to prevent this condition developing.  The researchers were able to prove that the lead in the bodies came from the solder of the canned food that they ate, by analyzing empty cans found nearby. The ratio of lead isotopes in the victims was the same as that of the lead solder, and quite different from the ratio of lead isotopes in local Inuit people. The body of Petty officer John Torrington, which was extremely well preserved, revealed levels of 600 ppm in his hair, proving that exposure to lead was high during the months preceding his death. The other bodies had slightly lower lead levels of 300 ppm but even these indicate a dangerous level of exposure.

The exhumed men as seen in life.  

The lonely graves

(The far more interesting exhumation photos are included as a gallery below!) 

Were these seamen really victims of the canned foods they had eaten? It is quite possible. These were the early days of this kind of food preservation and the process and technology of canning was poorly developed. The first commercial food cannery was that of Messrs Donkin & Hall of Bermondsey, London, and it began to supply the Royal Navy with canned meats, vegetables, and soups from 1812 onwards. Indeed Donkin & Hall’s ‘Preserved Meat’ and “Vegetable Soup’ were part of the provisions of the 1814 expedition to explore Baffin Bay. By 1818 the Admiralty was ordering more than 20,000 cans a year, mainly of beef, mutton, veal, various soups, and vegetables.

Soup can from the Expedition

The cans were filled through a small hole at the top, which was then sealed by having a disc soldered over the hole. They were then heated for an hour or so in boiling water but sometimes the cans were not heated long enough to kill off all the bacteria within them, and then they were found to be putrid when they were opened. The cans preserved their contents by remaining airtight but they slowly leached lead from the solder into the food they contained. In 1824 an expedition, captained by W.E. Parry, had earlier been sent to search for the Northwest Passage and he took several thousand cans; in 1936, 112 years later, two unopened ones were found and returned to England for analysis. These were a four-pound can of roast veal and a two-pound can of carrots. They were opened and their contents found to be in good condition, although they had a metallic taste.  They were then fed to rats without these rodents showing any adverse affect. 

What remains…

Nothing more was found of the Franklin expedition until 1859 when a cairn of stones was discovered on King William Island. In it was a bottle and a note to the effect that the ships had become icebound on September 12, 1846 and that they were unable to free themselves the following summer, 1847, and were still locked in the ice at the end of the following winter, 1848. Franklin had died on June 11, 1847, and by the spring of 1848 another 20 men had also died.

At this point the remaining crew decided to abandon the ships and walk the 150 km across King William Island, pulling a boat with them in which they would then row to mainland Canada to the nearest fur-trading fort. According to the note found in the cairn they set off on April 22, 1848. When the lifeboat was eventually found it contained two skeletons and an assortment of articles that defy explanation: button polish, silk handkerchiefs, curtain rods, and a portable writing desk. Were the member of the expedition just behaving irrationally, maybe thinking these were things they could trade with the natives? Possibly. Or were they simply mad and no longer even able to think straight?

The local Inuit told stories of thin and gaunt-looking white men they had met, who, they reported had been reduced to cannibalism, and indeed some of the bones from the skeletons that were discovered bore knife marks suggesting that flesh was cut from them. Of around 400 bones that have been found, almost a quarter of them have multiple cut-marks. A less gruesome explanation is that the marks were from wounds caused by Inuit who attacked them. Beattie analyzed the bones for lead and measured levels of more than 200 ppm although this could only indicate a lifetime exposure to this metal. 

Dem Bones Don’t Lie!

Lead may not have caused the deaths of the members of the expedition but it must have seriously weakened them and there is evidence that they also suffered from scurvy. The lemon juice that they took to prevent this would retain its vitamin C for only a certain period, and after a year would be virtually useless as a means of preventing the disease. Whatever happened, the members of that ill-fated expedition certainly suffered from lead poisoning. 

Culled from: The Elements of Murder

I must mention that in recent years there has been a great deal of skepticism regarding the lead poisoning theory for the deaths and it is now believed that malnutrition, starvation, and exposure are a far more likely explanation.  


Aghast!  The Franklin Expedition Mummies!

Have I ever mentioned that my greatest sadness about global warming is that all the fantastic frozen mummies around the world will start to rot? Okay, maybe that’s not my GREATEST sadness, but dammit!  Just take a look at how fantastic the permafrost has preserved the remains of these guys!

John Torrington

John Torrington died on January 1, 1846 at the approximate age of 20.  Here’s an interesting snippet from Wikipedia about his post-mortem fame:

After ensuring that Torrington’s descendants were aware of the plan, Beattie and his team began their work on 17 August 1984. Torrington’s coffin was 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) deep in the permafrost, which the team had to dig through. When the coffin was opened they saw how well preserved the outer parts of Torrington’s body were, apparently not much different from the day he was buried. In order to thaw the body, the team poured water on the ice, to slowly melt it away and therefore not cause any damage to the body. Once thawed, they undressed the body to examine it. They found that Torrington had been very sick at the time of his death—he was so thin all his ribs were visible, and he only weighed about 38.5 kilograms (85 lb). After conducting a thorough autopsy and taking some tissue samples, the team left to analyse what they had discovered.

Tissue samples revealed that Torrington’s body had probably been stored on board ship while his grave was being dug; in almost all areas, significant cell autolysis had occurred, and cell definition was very poor. His brain was almost completely gone, leaving only a “yellow granular liquid”. The lungs showed scarring from earlier bouts with tuberculosis as well as signs of more recent pneumonia. After toxicology analysis showed heightened levels of lead in Torrington’s hair and fingernails, the team concluded Torrington had died from pneumonia, after suffering from various lung problems, which were aggravated by the lead poisoning. Beattie believed that the canned food was the most likely source of the lead. More tests revealed a high amount of lead in all three bodies, and some feel that this was chief cause of the expedition’s failure. Photographs of Torrington, in a remarkable state of outward preservation, were published widely, including in People magazine which named him one of the world’s most interesting personalities in 1984, and the widely-reprinted photograph inspired James Taylor to write a song, “The Frozen Man”, and Iron Maiden to write “Stranger in a Strange Land”. British poet Sheenagh Pugh wrote an award-winning poem, “Envying Owen Beattie”, about the Torrington exhumation. Authors Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler were also inspired by the photograph, and the account of the research provided by Beattie and John G. Geiger in their book, Frozen In Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition. Atwood wrote a short story, “The Age of Lead”, and Richler included references to the research and the Franklin expedition itself in his novel, Solomon Gursky Was Here.

Here’s one of the coffins as it is being exhumed.  Do you think they took coffins with them on the ship? Kinda morbid cargo, huh? 

Heeeeeere’s Johnny!

Torrington, looking like he has the worst toothache ever!

Amazingly preserved feet, complete with toe ties!

Sleep well, handsome!

John Hartnell

The second John to be exhumed was Hartnell, who died on January 4, 1846 at the age of 25.  Here’s what Wikipedia says about Hartnell’s exhumation:

What they found was very surprising. Not only was Dr. Beattie stunned to see Hartnell’s incredibly well-preserved (and mummified) remains through the melting ice, he was even more surprised to see that Hartnell’s body had already been autopsied. Beattie and his team also noticed that John Hartnell’s right eye seemed damaged (an issue beyond the sinking-into-the-sockets impact that would have occurred from prior thawing). Setting aside who did what to the mummy – before Owen Beattie’s examination – when Beattie and his team removed Hartnell’s cap, they saw a great deal of hair. They were able to use Hartnell’s hair to conclude that his body contained large amounts of lead at the time of his death.

An additional tidbit from MacLean’s:

Hartnell had been buried without pants, but was wearing a shirt embroidered with the letters “T.H.”—his brother’s initials. (Thomas’s body has never been found.) He was evidently respected enough among the crew that they had sewn him a pillow stuffed with wood chips from the coffin. “There was a little frill around the edge filled with these shavings,” says Spenceley. “It was a touching element.”

And, also, heeeeeere’s Johnny!

Dapper Gentleman, isn’t he?

Profile Pic-worthy!  Check out that hair!

Perfectly preserved hands

William Braine

At a worldly 32 years old, William was not only the oldest but also the last of the trio to die, on April 3, 1846. I couldn’t find any detailed info on William, poor guy.  I guess it’s true that the young ones get the most attention. 

Braine as he appeared pre-autopsy

Ready for his close-up

And during the autopsy – all his hair has been lost.  

Rest in Peace on that lonely island.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For February 1, 2017

Today’s Careless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Mine Inspector’s Report




JOSIAH HALL, Mine Inspector.

ACCIDENT No. 16.– January 17th. Louis Hart, by his own carelessness, lost his life while riding up in the skip from the 5th level in No. 5 shaft, at the Baltic Mine. Louis Hart and four miners got into the skip at noon hour to go to surface from the 5th level. Hart was sitting on the northwest corner of the skip. John Norpe, one of the miners, told him to get into the skip, he was in danger sitting there. Hart said: “I am all right.” When they were hoisted to the fourth level, Hart’s head was caught under the timber of the gate piece. John Morpe saw Hart falling off the skip and caught him by the leg and called to stop the skip, and they put him in the skip and brought him to surface. Arthur Caldwell said: “I am a timberman in the Baltic Mine. Louis Hart has been working with me about three months. I have often warned him about riding on the edge of the skip and compelled him to get into the skip for I considered it dangerous to ride on the edge.”

Frank Hart, Jr. a brother of Louis, was present and heard the statements of the men who were riding in the skip with his brother when he was killed, and requested that no inquest be held as it was not necessary.

The oft-doomed fellows at Michigan’s Baltic Mine.

Culled from: Some Fatal Accidents in the Atlantic, Baltic, Champion, Trimountain and Winona Copper Mines

I’m not really sure what killed Louis… it sounds like they stopped him from falling?  I’m guessing head trauma?  Not a very good report, Mine Inspector Josiah Hall!


Ghastly!  Spotty Edition

Illustration culled from one of the newest additions to The Library Eclectica: The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration.

“The head of a child with blisters and other lesions affecting the skin.”

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 31, 2017

Today’s Bacteria-Laden Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A portrait of a Civil War field hospital in 1863, written by a Union colonel wounded at Port Hudson:

I never wish to see another such time as the 27th of May. The surgeons used a large Cotton Press for the butchering room & when I was carried into the building and looked about I could not help comparing the surgeons to fiends. It was dark & the building lighted partially with candles: all around on the ground lay the wounded men; some of them were shrieking, some cursing & swearing & some praying; in the middle of the room was some 10 or 12 tables just large enough to lay a man on; these were used as dissecting tables & they were covered with blood; near & around the tables stood the surgeons with blood all over them & by the side of the tables was a heap of feet, legs & arms. On one of these tables I was laid & being known as a Col. the Chief Surgeon of the Department was called (Sanger) and he felt of my mouth and then wanted to give me cloriform: this I refused to take & he took a pair of scissors & cut out the pieces of bone in my mouth: then gave me a drink of whiskey & had me laid away.

Amputation being performed in a hospital tent, Gettysburg, July 1863.

In 1918, after a half-century of medical advances, one federal surgeon looked back on the war:

We operated in old blood-stained and often pus-stained coats, the veterans of a hundred fights. … We used undisinfected instruments from undisinfected plush-lined cases, and still worse, used marine sponges which had been used in prior pus cases and had been only washed in tap water. If a sponge or an instrument fell on the floor it was washed and squeezed in a basin of tap water and used as if it were clean. Our silk to tie blood vessels was undisinfected. … The silk with which we sewed up all wounds was undisinfected. If there was any difficulty in threading the needle we moistened it with … bacteria-laden saliva, and rolled it between bacteria-infected fingers. We dressed the wounds with clean but undisinfected sheets, shirts, tablecloths, or other old soft linen rescued from the family ragbag. We had no sterilized gauze dressing, no gauze sponges. … We knew nothing about antiseptics and therefore used none.

In The Life of Billy Yank, historian Bell I. Wiley writes, “Little wonder that gangrene, tetanus and other complication were so frequent and that slight wounds often proved mortal.”

Culled from: Futility Closet
Generously submitted by: Marco


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Courtesy of Anna.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 30, 2017

Today’s Brutal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In April 1920, the seven slaughtered members of the Wolf family, as well as their stable boy, were laid to rest in Turtle Lake, North Dakota. At the time of the funeral, the identity of their killer remained a mystery. The only survivor of the gruesome attack was the youngest member of the Wolf family, eight-month-old Emma.

Then, just three weeks later, a neighbor named Henry Layer confessed to the brutal crime. Layer’s confession was as bizarre as it was ghastly. He claimed he had gone to the Wolf family farm to complain about Wolf’s dog attacking one of his cows. Patriarch Jacob Wolf, 41, told Layer to get off his property and proceeded to load his shotgun. There was a scuffle, and the shotgun discharged, shooting and killing both Mrs. Beata Wolf, 36, and the family’s stable boy, Jacob Hofer, 13, who was standing nearby. Jacob Wolf fled on foot; Layer shot and killed him.

Upon hearing gunfire, daughters Maria, 9, and Edna, 7, ran into the barn, where Layer killed them. Then Layer went into the house where he found the remaining Wolf children, Bertha, 12, Liddia, 5, and three-year-old Martha. He shot and killed both Bertha and Liddia, and bludgeoned to death young Martha with a hatchet. Layer sloppily covered the bodies in the barn with dirt and hay, pushed the bodies in the house into the cellar, then returned to work at his farm.

Two days later, a neighbor noticed that the Wolfs’ laundry was still hanging to dry, and went over to investigate. He discovered the horrid scene, as well as poor baby Emma, still alive but weak from cold and hunger, in her crib.

The Crime Scene

The crime would go down as North Dakota’s most brutal mass murder. Over 2,500 people attended the Wolf family’s funeral in little Turtle Lake, despite the population at the time only being 395. Layer raised suspicions with his odd behavior at the service, opening all eight caskets and “gazing on their faces.”

He was arrested on May 11, and soon signed a confession to the eight murders. Layer claimed the only reason he didn’t kill baby Emma was because he didn’t know she was there. He was sentenced to life in prison, and died in custody in 1925.

Emma: Cunningly Quiet Survivor

As the state’s most notorious crime, historians have oft revisited the Wolf Family murders, raising questions as to whether Layer’s confession was coerced. Indeed, Layer maintained his innocence while behind bars, claiming authorities strong-armed him during their interrogation. When asked by the prison barber, Layer said the police had beaten the confession out of him. He then broke down crying, proclaiming his innocence, and weeping, “Oh, my children. My children.”

The fate of Layer’s children —he had five with his second wife plus one from her previous marriage—is not entirely clear. Some reports have all but one being sent to live with relatives after their mother remarried. Other reports listed them as wards of the state. The eldest, Blanche, eventually married, and died in Seattle in 1981.

Little orphaned Emma Wolf was raised by her aunt and uncle, and went on to live a long life, dying in 2003 at the age of 84.

Though we may never know with any certainty whether or not Layer committed the Wolf family murderers, the photograph of those caskets, two large and six small, is a haunting image indeed. Locals still ruminate over the story of the Wolf family, whose tombstone reads in German “Die ermordete Famielie,” or “The Murdered Family,” and who now lay side by side in the Turtle Lake Cemetery.

Culled from: Huffington Post
Generously submitted by: Adoxa8


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Who among us does not want a trepanned skull t-shirt? That’s what I thought!  
Available from Gorey Details.  

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 28, 2017

Today’s Kidnapped Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Historians have few sources on the initial reactions of captured Africans who were sold into slavery in the New World. Fortunately, there were a few African-born slaves who lived to recount stories of their enslavement. The most famous and revealing account of the process was written by Gustavus Vassa, or Olaudah Equiano. The son of an Ibo tribal elder, Olaudah was born in 1745 in a part of the Benin empire (located in what is now Eastern Nigeria). Olaudah and his sister were kidnapped when he was eleven. At first, they comforted each other. When they were separated, Olaudah cried and refused to eat for several days. 

Olaudah was sold to European slave traders seven months after his capture. Arriving on the coast, he was terrified by the strange ship and the white men with “horrible looks, red faces, and long hair.” The boat was a veritable devil’s pit. The whites were “so savage” that he was sure they were going to kill and eat him. When he saw a pot of water boiling on the deck, he fainted. The billowing sails and the ability of the whites to make the ship start and stop at will filled him with wonder and convinced him the white men were evil spirits. The groaning men, shrieking women, galling chains, and nauseating, suffocating smell made the hold of the ship “a scene of horror almost inconceivable.” On the way to Barbados, two slaves, chained together, jumped overboard and drowned.Although he was anxious about his fate and terrified by the whites, Olaudah was consoled by some members of his own tribe who were on board. Still, the constant flogging of black slaves and white sailors and men dying daily were oppressive. “Every circumstance I met with served only to render my state more painful, and heighten my apprehensions and my opinion of the cruelty of the whites.” The voyage was a nightmare; the hold a den of horrors. 

When the boat docked in Barbados, a new series of horrors began for Olaudah. Immediately, the blacks were painstakingly examined by the eager merchants. Again, the haunting fear of the cannibalistic tendencies of the whites returned, and Olaudah asserted: “there was much dread and trembling among us, and nothing but bitter cries…” This continued until some slaves came on board and explained that the Africans had been brought to the island to work for the whites. Taken off the ship and herded into a stockade, they were amazed by the brick houses of the whites and the horses they rode. The amazement turned to terror a few days later when the Africans were sold by the “shout” or “scramble.” Olaudah described the spectacle in the following words:

We were not many days in the merchant’s custody before we were sold after their usual manner, which is this: On a signal given, (as the beat of a dream) the buyers rush at once into the yard where the slaves are confined, and make choice of that parcel they like best. The noise and clamour with which this is attended and the eagerness visible in the countenances of the buyers serve not a little to increase the apprehensions of the terrified Africans… In this manner, without scruple, are relations and friends separated, most of them never to see each other again.

Most of the Africans were sold in Barbados, but a small group, including Olaudah, were taken to a Virginia plantation. Soon Olaudah was the only newly imported African left on the plantation. He was mortified by his inability to converse with anyone. “I was now exceedingly miserable, and thought myself worse off than any of the rest of my companions; for they could talk to each other, but I had no person to speak to that I could understand. In this state I was constantly grieving and pining, and wishing for death, rather than anything else.”

On the Virginia plantation he weeded grass and gathered stones for a few days. Then, called to the mansion to fan his master, Olaudah was terrified by the iron muzzle on the face of the black cook, mystified by the ticking of a clock, and convinced that a portrait on the wall watched his every move and would report any of his transgressions to his master who was asleep. Consequently, he performed his task “with great fear.”  He spent “some time in this miserable, forlorn, and much dejected state without having anyone to talk to, which made my life a burden,” until an English sea captain purchased him. 

Culled from: The Slave Community

Olaudah went on to purchase his freedom in 1766 and became an outspoken proponent of the British movement to end the slave trade. His autobiography, published in 1789 helped in the creation of the Slave Trade Act 1807, which ended the African trade for Britain and its colonies.

Olaudah Equiano


Ghastly: Jumpers Edition

The following is culled from Strange Days Dangerous Nights: Photos From the Speed Graphic Era.

Early in the morning on the last day of 1944, 30-year-old Kathleen Bokuske of South Minneapolis walked out onto the Lake Street – Marshall Avenue Bridge, climbed over the railing near the center of the span, and leaped to her death. Her “crushed body,” as the Pioneer Press described it, landed on a thin layer of ice coating the Mississippi River, and it took quite an effort by firemen using ropes, ladders, and toboggans to bring the body back to shore. In the manner of the time, the newspaper used arrows and a circle around the body to show exactly how and where Bokuske, who was said to be suffering from a “nervous ailment,” had gone to her death.

The photograph is grimly straightforward and very sad. Bokuske’s “ailment” would today almost surely be called depression, and as with all suicides, the scene conveys a deep sense of loneliness and loss.

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 24, 2017

Today’s Competitive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In December 1937, the Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking, China. Within three weeks, more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers were systematically raped, tortured, and murdered.  The following is an excerpt from the definitive chronicle of the atrocity, The Rape of Nanking.

Looking back upon millennia of history, it appears clear that no race or culture has a monopoly on wartime cruelty. The veneer of civilization seems to be exceedingly thin – one that can be easily stripped away, especially by the stresses of war.

How then do we explain the raw brutality carried out day after day after day in the city of Nanking? Unlike their Nazi counterparts, who have mostly perished in prisons and before execution squads or, if alive, are spending their remaining days as fugitives from the law, many of the Japanese war criminals are still alive, living in peace and comfort, protected by the Japanese government. They are therefore some of the few people on this planet who, without concern for retaliation in a court of international law, can give authors and journalists a glimpse of their thoughts and feelings while committing World War II atrocities.

Here is what we learn. The Japanese soldier was not simply hardened for battle in China; he was hardened for the task of murdering Chinese combatants and noncombatants alike. Indeed, various games and exercises were set up by the Japanese military to numb its men to the human instinct against killing people who are not attacking.

For example, on their way to the capital, Japanese soldiers were made to participate in killing competitions, which were avidly covered by the Japanese media like sporting events. The most notorious one appeared in the December 7 issue of the Japan Advertiser under the headline, “Sub-Lieutenants in Race to Fell 100 Chinese Running Close Contest.”

Sub-Lieutenant Mukai Toshiaki and Sub-Lieutenant Noda Takeshi, both of the Katagiri unit at Kuyung, in a friendly contest to see which of them will first fell 100 Chinese in individual sword combat before the Japanese forces completely occupying Nanking, are well in the final phase of their race, running almost neck to neck. On Sunday [December 5]… the “score,” according to the Asahi, was: Sub-Lieutenant Mukai, 89, and Sub-Lieutenant Noda, 78.

The Proud Competitors Mukai and Noda

A week later the paper reported that neither man could decide who had passed the 100 mark first, so they upped the goal to 150. “Mukai’s blade was slightly damaged in the competition,” the Japan Advertiser reported. “He explained that this was the result of cutting a Chinese in half, helmet and all. The contest was ‘fun’ he declared.”

Such atrocities were not unique to the Nanking area. Rather, they were typical of the desensitization exercises practiced by the Japanese across China during the entire war. 

Beheading for fun

Culled from: The Rape of Nanking

By the way, you’ll be happy to learn that Mukai and Noda were both executed after the war. 


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

You know you want to drink some poison from this shot glass?  So what are you waiting for?

Available from Wayfair

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:


Chicago’s Awful Theater Horror



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.


Oh, I can hardly wait to read this one! 

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 22, 2017

Today’s Money-Making Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Maori of New Zealand traditionally took enemy heads during inter-tribal warfare. Maori trophy heads were not shrunken, but preserved with their skulls still inside. Specialists, often tribal chiefs, removed the brains, eyes, and tongue before stuffing the nostrils and skull with flax and burying the head with hot stones so that it gradually steamed or cured dry. These toi moko were usually displayed on short poles, around the chief’s house, but the first English visitors to New Zealand, who arrived with Captain James Cook in the 1770s hardly saw any trophy heads at all.

The first European to acquire a Maori head was Joseph Banks, the naturalist who accompanied James Cook on his first voyage to the South Pacific and who would, years later, refuse to examine Oliver Cromwell’s head in London. While in New Zealand, Banks managed to persuade a reluctant elderly Maori man to part with a preserved head in return for a pair of white linen drawers. At first the old man took the drawers but refused to relinquish the head, but when Banks ‘enforced his threats’ with a musket, that did the trick. Cook returned to New Zealand twice during the 1770s, but he and his crew only saw one other preserved head in all the months they spent there.

Gradually, though, contact with European whalers and sealers led to more trading in preserved heads and, as in South America, as the desire for guns spread amongst the Maori in the the early nineteenth century, the trade escalated. Soon specialist agents were being sent from Australia to pick out the best heads, and the Sydney Customs House began to list these imports under the heading ‘Baked Heads’. Over the course of the fifty years following Cook’s first visit, trade in human heads reached such intensity, and inter-tribal warfare escalated so ferociously, that many believed the Maori would be completely annihilated.

It was the intricate facial tattoos worn by Maori chiefs that made their heads particularly attactive to Europeans. Banks wrote of the ‘elegance and justness’ of these tattoos, with their spirals and flourishes, ‘resembling something of the foliages of old Chasing upon gold or silver; all these finished with a masterly taste and execution’ using nothing more than a bone chisel and burnt tree gum. The best heads as far as Europeans were concerned were those of powerful chiefs who had been heavily tattooed, but these were the hardest to find.

A particularly gorgeous specimen

So great was the demand for tattooed heads that by the early nineteenth century, Maori chiefs were forcibly tattooing their slaves before killing them to sell their heads for a profit. Some chiefs even offered traders the choice of live subjects, who were then tattooed, killed and prepared to order. The Maori tattoo, once an elaborate work of art developed over a lifetime and testament to a man’s courage, honor and social status, had become a decoration designed only to please – or fool – foreign consumers.

Europeans in New Zealand were sometimes killed so that their heads could be tattooed and then sold back to their own unsuspecting countrymen. There are stories of the very same trading agents who had been sent from Australia to scout out the best heads being murdered so that their heads could be preserved and traded back again as ‘Maori warriors’. All this meant that by 1830 the ‘Baked Heads’ arriving at the Sydney Customs House were just as likely to be made to order for Europeans, or from dead Europeans, as they were to be authentic Maori chiefs slain in battle.  

This head has recently been returned to New Zealand.

In 1831, the Governor of New South Wales, Ralph Darling, took action. He passed a law banning the traffic in preserved heads because, as he put it, ‘there is strong reason to believe that such disgusting traffic tends to greatly increase the sacrifice of human life amongst savages whose disregard of it is notorious.’  He set a £40 fine for anyone caught selling a preserved head, and suddenly it became much more difficult (although not impossible) to obtain a Maori head. As one nineteenth century collector, Horatio Robley, observed, the trade in heads had by then stocked the museums of Europe, but ‘considerably reduced the population of New Zealand.’

Gimme Head: Robley with his collection.

Culled from: Severed: The History of Heads Lost and Heads Found

Capitalism: Making the World More Miserable Since Forever!  Incidentally, there’s a movement to return the heads to New Zealand, where they will not be put on display. Of course, as a morbid sightseer, that disappoints me, but I do understand why they are doing it.