Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 30, 2016

Today’s Gliding Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

When, in 1895, the Wright Brothers read of the gliding experiments being conducted by Otto Lilienthal, Germany’s first and foremost contributor to the conquest of the air, they sought every piece of information they could learn about him. Between 1891 and 1896 Lilienthal had made over 2,000 glides – some of them several hundred feet – down a large hill he had constructed near Berlin. His early gliders were monoplanes with fixed tails. The pilot’s head and shoulders were above the cambered wings, his hips and legs dangled below. What limited directional control Lilienthal achieved he managed by shifting his hips and weight from side to side or back and forth. Photographs and published reports of Lilienthal’s experiments fascinated the Wrights. He had effectively demonstrated that air could support a man in winged flight.

Otto Lilienthal with one of his gliders

Otto in flight.

Ever since 1891 Lilienthal had been designing and constructing gliders with the hope that when a suitable means of propulsion was developed, it could be added to his wings. In 1896 he had built a small compressed carbonic acid gas motor. Unfortunately, before Lilienthal had an opportunity to test it, he was killed in one of his standard gliders when a sudden gust of wind forced the glider upward into a stall. The craft crashed to earth and broke the German aviation pioneer’s back. He died the next day.

Sad Remains

Culled from: The National Air and Space Museum


Morbid Mirth Du Jour

Generously submitted by Jessie.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 29, 2016

I’ve been MIA for awhile because life got too busy once again.  I’m currently visiting family in Catatonia, so I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to produce facts regularly, but I will do my best! While I’m here, I’ll be using some books from my Dad’s collection as sources, so expect a lot of World War II tidbits!

Today’s Not-Very-Friendly Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In common with many other European armies, the Soviet Red Army maintained a number of ‘war dogs’ for various military purposes such as sniffing out explosives or even delivering messages and medical supplies in front-line areas, but there can have been few roles more bizarre for dogs to play than the Soviet dog mines that were used for a short period during World War II. Exactly how the idea of using dogs as mobile anti-tank mines came about has yet to be determined, but the idea was simple and seemed to offer great things for the hard-pressed Soviet forces during 1942.

The basic idea of the dog mine was that the dogs were trained to dive under enemy tanks whenever they appeared. Each dog carried on its back a wooden box (or packets secured to its body by a harness) and from the top of the box (or packets) protruded a vertical wooden post. When this post was pushed backwards as the dog moved under the tank it detonated the explosives contained in the box (or packets) to the detriment of the tank and the unfortunate dog. Some accounts talk of wire sensors in place of the wooden post.

Poor Puppy.

For all its simplicity the idea of the dog mines did not last very long. The Red Army soon discovered that there were two main disadvantages to the idea. One was that in order to train the dogs to dive under tanks they were always given food under a tank. This was all very well, but to most dogs the familiar smells and sights under a Soviet tank were very different to those under German tanks. Thus in a battlefield situation once they were released with the explosives attached the dogs often tended to make for the familiar smells and sounds of Soviet tanks rather than the intended German tanks, with obvious results. The second snag was that the Germans soon learned of the Soviet Hundminen and spread the word through the efficient German military media machinery that all Soviet dogs likely to be encountered were rabid and were to be shot as soon as they were spotted. This alone caused the virtual disappearance of dogs all along the Eastern Front within a matter of days, making the further use of dog mines that much more unlikely. One other factor that now seems obvious was that on any battlefield the noise and general chaos in progress would unhinge any normal dogs’ behavior, making them run amok in any direction other than towards tanks of any kind, and so hazardous to anyone in their vicinity.

The Soviet dog mines did have a few successes, but their period of ‘action’ was short once their two-edged nature became apparent. The idea was not used after 1942, but there were some reports of the Viet Minh attempting to use dog mines during the fighting in Indo-China during the late 1940s. Some reports on the Red Army after 1945 still contained references to the dog mines, no doubt just in case they were used again.

Culled from: Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II


Footage Du Jour

Here is heartbreaking footage of the faithful dogs being betrayed by their humans. More proof that humans are the absolute WORST.
Rare WWII Footage - Anti  Tank Dog Mine - Eastern Front Battlefield
Man’s Best Friend, Betrayed.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 16, 2016

Today’s Crushing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Heysel Stadium disaster occurred on May 29, 1985 when escaping fans were pressed against a collapsing wall in the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, Belgium, before the start of the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus of Italy and Liverpool of England. 39 people—mostly Italians and Juventus fans—were killed and 600 were injured in the confrontation.

Caught in the crush

Approximately an hour before the Juventus-Liverpool final was due to kick off, Liverpool supporters charged at Juventus fans and breached a fence that was separating them from a “neutral area”. This came after a period of hostility between the two sets of fans which saw missiles thrown from both teams’ supporters. The instigators of violence are still unknown, with varying accounts.  Juventus fans ran back on the terraces and away from the threat into a concrete retaining wall. Fans already standing near the wall were crushed; eventually the wall collapsed. Many people climbed over to safety, but many others died or were badly injured. The game was played despite the disaster, with Juventus winning 1–0.


The tragedy resulted in all English football clubs being placed under an indefinite ban by UEFA from all European competitions (lifted in 1990–91), with Liverpool being excluded for an additional three years, later reduced to one, and fourteen Liverpool fans found guilty of manslaughter and each sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The disaster was later described as “the darkest hour in the history of the UEFA competitions”.

At approximately 7 p.m. local time, an hour before kick-off, the trouble started. The Liverpool and Juventus supporters in sections X and Z stood merely yards apart. The boundary between the two was marked by temporary chain link fencing and a central thinly policed no-man’s land. Fans began to throw stones across the divide, which they were able to pick up from the crumbling terraces beneath them.

As kick-off approached, the throwing became more intense. Several groups of Liverpool fans broke through the boundary between section X and Z, overpowered the police, and charged at the Juventus fans. The fans began to flee toward the perimeter wall of section Z. The wall could not withstand the force of the fleeing Juventus supporters and a lower portion collapsed.

Contrary to reports at the time, and what is still assumed by many, the collapse of the wall did not cause the 39 deaths. Instead, the collapse relieved pressure and allowed fans to escape. Most died of suffocation after tripping or being crushed against the wall before the collapse. A further 600 fans were also injured. Bodies were carried out from the stadium on sections of iron fencing and laid outside, covered with giant football flags. As police and medical helicopters flew in, the down-draft blew away the modest coverings.

Despair in the Aftermath

In retaliation for the events in section Z, many Juventus fans then rioted at their end of the stadium. They advanced down the stadium running track to help other Juventus supporters, but police intervention stopped the advance. A large group of Juventus fans fought the police with rocks, bottles and stones for two hours. One Juventus fan was also seen firing a starting gun at Belgian police.

Victims of the Crush

Despite the scale of the disaster, UEFA officials, Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens, Brussels Mayor Hervé Brouhon, and the city’s police force felt that abandoning the match would have risked inciting further trouble and violence, and the match eventually kicked off after the captains of both sides spoke to the crowd and appealed for calm.

Juventus won the match 1–0 thanks to a penalty scored by Michel Platini, awarded by Swiss referee Daina for a foul against Zbigniew Boniek.

At the end of the game the trophy was given in front of the stadium’s Honor Stand by the confederation president Jacques Georges to Juventus captain Gaetano Scirea. Due to collective hysteria generated by the massive invasion of the pitch by journalists and fans at the end of the match,[ and the chants of fans of both teams in the stands,[ some Italian club players celebrated the title in the middle of the pitch among them and in front of their fans in the M section, while some Liverpool players applauded their fans between the X and Z sections, the stadium’s section affected.

Bodies Laid Out in the Car Park

Culled from: Wikipedia


Footage Du Jour

Here’s footage of the disaster as it unfolded.
HEYSEL  disaster 1985

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 13, 2016

Today’s Defective Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In Nazi Germany, “Hereditary Health Courts” were set-up to make decisions on sterilization of genetically “defective” individuals. Although it was possible to petition the courts for exemptions (which were occasionally granted for the artistically gifted), the regime discouraged this and employed a rhetoric of medical emergency to hasten sterilizations.  “Dangerous patients” and “urgent cases” were people with hereditary taints in the prime of life. Among “urgent cases” were mentally deficient but physically healthy men and women between the ages of sixteen and forty, schizophrenic and manic-depressive pateints in remission, epileptics and alcoholics under the age of fifty, etc. Once a petitioin was heard before a sterilization court, the die was pretty well cast. More than 90 percent of petitions taken before the special courts in 1934 resulted in sterilization (though a screening process eliminated some before they got to court); and fewer than 5 percent of appeals against sterilization, made to the higher courts, were upheld. But the principle of legality was nonetheless extremely important, and the strict secrecy surrounding court deliberations lent power and mystery to this expression of medicalized authority.

23-year-old Elizabeth Killiam, the mother of twins, was sterilized at a health care facility in Weilburg before being transferred to the Hadamar Institute. 

The legal structure cloaked considerable chaos and arbitrariness in criteria for sterilization (especially concerning mental conditions, which resulted in the greatest number of sterilizations) and concerning alleged hereditary factors. Inevitably, too, political considerations affected diagnoses and decisions – as was made clear by a directive from Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary and close associate, instructing that the moral and political behavior of a person be considered in making a diagnosis of feeblemindedness. The clear implication was that one could be quick to label “feebleminded” a person seen as hostile to the Nazis, but that one should be cautious indeed about so labeling an ideologically enthusiastic Party member. Political currrents and whims also affected the project in various ways; and, despite its high priority, there were undoubtedly periods of diminished enthusiasm for sterilization. No one really knows how many people were actually sterilized; reliable estimates are generally between 200,000 and 350,000.

Culled from: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide


Vintage Corpse Du Jour

Luc Sante’s 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.

No Caption. It is winter but his neckwear seems too flimsy to be a muffler; it may be ceremonial. There is no blood nor any indication of how he died. He is lying in a tenement hallway, which is fitted with the universal cheap wainscotting of the time, and a linoleum pattern that looks familiar from tenements today.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 11, 2016

Today’s Scratching and Screaming Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On December 30, 1903, a fire broke out at the brand-new “absolutely fireproof” Iroquois Theater in Chicago as a packed, standing-room only audience, mostly women and children, were watching the popular comedian Eddie Foy perform in the musical fantasy Mr. Bluebeard. A short circuit in a single backstage spotlight touched off a small fire that, in minutes, erupted into an uncontrollable blaze. More than 600 people died. This is a continuation of the previous fact and the tale of the fire’s most famous casualty, British aerialist Nellie Reed, who was fastened to her thin trolley wire in preparation for her soaring sequence at the time the fire began.  We pick up the action as the fire is spreading through the stage area and Mr. Bluebeard‘s star, Eddie Foy, is trying to calm the crowd.

Eleven-year-old Lester Linvonston of Hyde Park, seated down front, was awe-struck. He saw Foy “dashing on stage and catching a piece of burning paper which had sailed down from above.” “See, I’m a good catcher,” the comedian lamely joked to anyone within earshot. “I was so interested in watching Foy,” Lester said, “that I didn’t realize what was happening.”

Heavy black smoke continued to pour from beneath the arch over the stage.

When the double octet’s performance suddenly stopped, the music stopped too. Many in the pit were scrambling to get out, stumbling over chairs, instruments, stands and piles of sheet music. But Herbert Dillea and a handful of his musicians bravely remained.

From the edge of the stage Foy glanced down and urged the musical director to play: “An overture, Herbert, an overture. Play, start an overture, play anything. Keep your orchestra up, keep your music going.” The six musicians struck up the overture to an earlier Klaw-Erlanger fairy tale production, Sleeping Beauty and the Beast.

Alone on the the burning stage, larger pieces of flaming scenery dropping around him, his wig now singed and smoking… [Foy] tried to address the auditorium, but this time he did not tell people to keep their seats. “Take your time, folks,” he pleaded. “Don’t be frightened, go slow, walk out calmly. Take your time.” … But now no one was listening. His eyes swept the semi-lit auditorium. In the parquet, frightened people were moving quickly up the aisles in a somewhat orderly fashion. But what he could make out in the balcony and gallery terrified him. In the upper tiers, people were in “a mad, animal-like stampede.” Under the screaming and yelling a sickening rumble reverberated throughout the house.

The Indomitable Eddie Foy

Lester Linvonston hadn’t budged. In childish wonderment, he could not stop staring at Eddie Foy. Oblivious to the flames and the terrible noise that now reached every corner of the auditorium, Lester stood in an aisle, completely fascinated by the man in the funny costume and smoldering wig, standing on the edge of a burning stage. And then, for a fleeting moment or two, something else caught the youngster’s attention.

“Almost alone and in the center of the house,” he said later, he watched “a ballet dancer in a gauzy dress suspended by a steel belt from a wire. Her dress caught fire and it burned like paper.” It was Nellie Reed, the British prima donna of the aerial ballet.

Nellie Reed

Somehow Lester managed to escape from the theatre. A cousin, sitting a few feet away, never made it out.

As he rushed back up the stairs to the stage level, … engineer [Robert Murray] saw a young woman whose costume and tights were shredded and burned and whose skin was horribly blistered. Nellie Reed had somehow become unhooked from her wire but was seriously injured and obviously in great pain. She “was up against the wall, scratching it and screaming,” said Murray. “I grabbed her and went out to the street,” where he handed her to some rescuers.

Nellie Reed later died from her burns at Cook County Hospital.

Culled from Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903

Morbid Fact Du Jour for December 8, 2016

Today’s Crackling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

(Yes, I know, I just featured the Iroquois Theatre a few weeks ago but…  I just finished reading a book on it, and it feels topical with the recent Ghost Ship fire, so … why not?)

On December 30, 1903, a fire broke out at the brand-new “absolutely fireproof” Iroquois Theater in Chicago as a packed, standing-room only audience, mostly women and children, were watching the popular comedian Eddie Foy perform in the musical fantasy Mr. Bluebeard. A short circuit in a single backstage spotlight touched off a small fire that, in minutes, erupted into an uncontrollable blaze. More than 600 people died. This is the story of how the fire started and its first casualty.

As the music was swelling and the young performers were beginning their entrances, McMullen’s light suddenly began to sputter and spark. He heard “a slight crackling sound” moments before a few inches of orange flame appeared and began to spread out, ever so slowly, along the fringe of the tormentor. On the stage below, the chorus girls and boys were into their up-tempo song, swearing their love “by the pale moonlight.” McMullen tried slapping at the tiny flame with this hands, but within seconds the quivering light had grown, consuming the material above his head and beyond his reach, and was beginning to catch on to the heavier curtains. He shouted to the man on the catwalk above to help.

“Put it out,” he cried, “put it out!”

“Damn it, I am, I am!” The fly man too began slapping at the burning material with his hands.

On stage, the cadets sang, “We love you madly,” begging the maidens for a kiss: “So make no noise but come join the boys, on condition that the moon is shining bright.”

The girls responded, “The reason we allow this liberty, is because you wear a smile that says it’s right.” And together they sang, “Let us swear it by the pale moonlight.”

The audience was engrossed in this romantic musical scene, but on either side of the castle garden set, stagehands, grips and those on the catwalks above were pointing and a voice from beneath the light bridge called out with some urgency, “Look at that fire! Can’t you see you’re on fire up there? Put it out!”

What had been small orange-yellow flickers were beginning to spread to the draperies above those already dissolving into flame.

In front of the footlights the double octet had begun its dance.

“Look at that other curtain,” someone yelled. “Put it out!” But the flames had suddenly grown larger and were beyond reach. Black smoke was starting to rise.

Another light operator, W. H. Aldridge, heard no crackling sound but thought he saw “a flash of light, about six inches long, at the place where the 110 volt line connected” to McMullen’s lamp. “As I looked,” he said, “a curtain swayed against the flames… in a moment the loose edges of the canvas were ablaze…”

[… cut details of the flames spreading further and the audience beginning to notice something was amiss… ]

High above the stage, Charles Sweeney, assigned to the first flying gallery, had seized tarpaulins and, with some other men wielding wooden battens, was slapping at the flames.

“It got out of our reach,” he said, “It went along the border toward the center… then it blazed all over and I saw there was no possibility of doing anything.” Sweeney dashed up six flights of stairs to a roomful of chorus girls whom he led down to the small stage exit. In the rush to escape, most of the girls dropped everything, including their purses, and left the building wearing only flimsy costumes or tights. Other men raced downstairs to rescue girls in the dressing rooms below the stage level.

High up in the theatre’s gridiron, the Grigolatis, sixteen young German aerialists – twelve women and four men – who operated their “flying” wires, had a frightening bird-eye view of the scene. Clouds of thick black choking smoke were rising towards them and some blazing pieces of canvas the size of bed sheets were falling over the stage and the footlights.

The Grigolatis Aerial Dancers

The Grigolatis had only seconds to act. One, Floraline, some distance away from the others, suddenly found herself engulfed in flames from a burning piece of scenery. Before the others could reach her, Floraline panicked, lost her grip on the trapeze, and fell with a sickening thud onto the stage behind the burning castle garden set, nearly sixty feet below.  She lay there unmoving. By the time her companions could unhook themselves from their harnesses and scramble down some metal scaffolding to the stage, Floraline had vanished and the could only hope that someone had carried her out to safety.  In all the confusion, no one had thought about aerialist Nellie Reed, still attached to her wire.

[To Be Continued…]

Culled from Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903

There’s a lot of controversy about whether Floraline was Floraline, a woman, or Florine, a man, and whether he or she lived or died, but I found a newspaper snippet from the Indianapolis Journal stating that he or she died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Oh, and It turns out that the Chicago History Museum has in its collection the spotlight that supposedly started the fire.  Why, here it is on their website!

But is it on permanent display at the museum??? Oh no, of course not. Which proves, yet again, why this is the most disappointing museum on Earth.  (Hey, don’t try to tell me how they have only a limited space and so many artifacts that they have to pick and choose what to display, yada yada… THIS should be on permanent display, don’t question me!)


Tinder Box: The Iroquois Theatre Disaster 1903

by Anthony P. Hatch

This is an excellent overview of Chicago’s infamous 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire.  Unlike many books about tragedies, which usually peter out quickly after the tale of the tragedy, I actually found the chapters detailing the legal aftermath every bit as interesting the fire itself.  Reading about this tragedy, which resulted in the death of over 600 people, made me think about large-scale fatal fires and how rare they are in America in this day and age.  So many tragic 20th century fires – the Iroquois, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, the Cocoanut Grove, the Circus Fire, Our Lady of the Angels – resulted in improved safety regulations and inspections which have significantly reduced the number of such tragedies in modern life.  The Station nightclub disaster is one of the few in recent history I could recall.

Of course, before I could finish the book, news came in of the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, killing 36 vibrant young artists who found themselves trapped upstairs with a blaze raging through their only escape route below them. Naturally, in the wake of this disaster, there has been a lot of finger pointing, both at the city of Oakland for not performing inspections on the makeshift warehouse residence and on the Ghost Ship owner for not providing a safe environment for his artist community.  (Of course, this overlooks the real culprit – unchecked Capitalism that has resulted in a lack of affordable housing options in the Bay Area.  Sometimes you take unnecessary risks because… they actually ARE necessary!)

In any event, the blame game reminds me of the Iroquois Theatre disaster, when a battle of public opinion was waged between the theater owners (for not ensuring the building was complete and safe before opening for business), contractors (for not completing the ventilation system and fire escapes), management (for locking exit routes and not providing adequate fire extinguishers), architect (for designing a grand promenade that resulted in a log-jam of patrons trying to exit and for disguising emergency exits so they looked prettier) and the City of Chicago (for an inadequate safety inspection).

Ultimately, as with so many American atrocities, there were so many to blame for the fire that NO ONE was legally held to blame for it.  It was a perfect storm of incompetence, greed, and poor decisions that doomed the audience of mostly women and children who attended a matinee performance of the musical Mr. Bluebeard on December 30, 1903.  Much like the Titanic disaster which would follow nearly a decade later,  the fate of the crowd in the “absolutely fireproof” theatre was largely dependent on social class, with a majority of victims residing in the balcony and gallery “cheap seats”.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that the panicked balcony patrons found their exit corridor had been blocked by an accordion gate (which had been locked by theater employees to prevent the peasants from trying to sneak down to the more expensive floor seats during the show), they were also doomed by the construction company, struggling to meet an oft-delayed deadline, neglecting to finish installing the ventilation system in the roof.  And they were doomed by the installation of an “asbestos curtain” designed to protect the crowd that turned out to neither be made of asbestos nor lowered properly. It caught on some equipment about 20 feet from the stage floor, and when the backstage doors were flung open to allow crew to escape, the suddenly influx of oxygen turned the inferno into a fireball that shot beneath the curtain, straight up into the balcony, incinerating those in its path.

Some of the balcony patrons were able to make it to the upper level fire escapes… only to discover that they had never been finished; there were no stairs. The rush of people behind them pushed many to their deaths.  Students in Northwestern University across the alley saved some people by putting long boards and ladders across the chasm, but many people fell to their deaths trying to cross the slippery, rickety escape route.   The area became known as “Death Alley” as at least 125 died on the cold cobblestones.

Those who shelled out the extra money for floor seats had much improved odds of escape, since the fireball blew over their heads and they didn’t have to contend with the unfinished fire escapes, but the confusing layout of the dark, smoke-filled theater lead to many tragedies there as well.  There were emergency exits with confusing locks that could not be opened, mirrored ornamental “doors” that were not actually exits, dead-ends, bottlenecks where multiple corridors converged into one, and inward-opening doors that could not be opened due to the pressure of the panicked crowd crushing behind them.

A lot was learned about fire safety in the aftermath of the Iroquois Fire disaster, but as The Station nightclub and Ghost Ship warehouse fires prove, despite all our safeguards, we’re all still just a stray spark away from disaster. As I sit here typing, I look around at my studio apartment with both exit doors placed right next to each other.  Were a fire to start in that section of the building, I’d have nowhere to go except out a third story window, just like those who jumped into Death Alley. How many of us can say the same? Ultimately, for all the safety measures we take, we’re all just delicate fleshy creatures at the mercy of the elements.  And sometimes we end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

More books about fire tragedies can be perused at The Library Eclectica’s Intense Infernos aisle.

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 6, 2016

Today’s Ornery Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Charles Henley was an ornery cuss. The fifty-seven-year-old farmer had taken some guff from his neighbors for allowing his hogs to run wild on his land – and, they also often strayed onto the property of his neighbors. Henley and his wife had lived on their land north of Windsor in Californa’s Sonoma County since the late 1860s. Originally from Missouri, Henley supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, which didn’t make him very popular in Sonoma County after the war was over.

On May 9, 1876, word was passed on to Henley that some of his stray hogs had been rounded up and corralled by his neighbor, James Rowland. The hotheaded Henley grabbed his shotgun and went to Rowland’s Ranch. Finding nobody about on the Rowland property, Henley was in the process of releasing his hogs when Rowland came running from his barn, cursing Henley as he ran toward the corral. Henley responded by blasting holes in Rowland’s head with his shotgun. Henley then went home to his wife and told her that he couldn’t find the hogs.

Later that evening, Henley, obviously regretting the murder of his neighbor, rode over to Robert Greening’s ranch to seek advice on how to handle the situation. Knowing that Greening’s hired hand Bill Goodman was a member of the Odd Fellows, as had been James Rowland, he asked Greening not to say anything about their discussion to his hired hand. But Goodman was a cagey cowboy and he was listening in on the men’s conversation. Henley then rode into Windsor and turned himself in to the authorities.

Back at the Rowland ranch, hired hand Joe Dennigan arrived at the ranch around midnight and found Rowland’s body in the corral. The farm animals had eaten the damaged parts of the rancher, mutilating him almost beyond recognition. Dennigan rode to a neighbor’s ranch and told John Hopper what he had seen.

On May 10, Coroner Kelly Tighe held an inquest, with twelve men in attendance. They decided immediately that Henley had killed Rowland. The remains of Rowland’s body were gathered and he was buried according to the Odd Fellows’ rites.

A preliminary examination was to be held on May 20 in Santa Rosa before Justice James H. McGee, but Henley’s attorneys waived examination until the grand jury was dismissed. Meanwhile, Henley remained in jail.

In the early morning hours of June 9, groups of men began arriving in Santa Rosa. They split into squads and posted themselves in key downtown intersections, detaining anyone who wandered in the area, even policemen.

A squad went to the home of jailer Sylvester H. Wilson and roused him and his family from their beds. The mob told Wilson that they were going to take justice into their own hands and punish Henley for Rowland’s murder, and they needed Wilson to go to the jail and hand over the keys to them. They left a group of men to guard his family so they couldn’t raise an alarm. Wilson did what he was told to do.

The mob unlocked the jail cell, grabbed Henley, gagged and bound him, and carried him out the door. Another group of men took Wilson and R., Dryer, a night watchman they had captured, and loaded them into a wagon. They drove the men to the outskirts of Santa Rosa and released them. On their way back to town, they met the rest of the lynch mob as they were leaving town.

By the time Dryer and Wilson made it back to the jail, word of the lynching had traveled throughout the town. City Marshal Jim M. White, Dryer, Wilson, Frank Carillo, and freed hostage Officer Fuller went back to the country area where Dryer and Wilson had been released and found Henley hanging by his neck from a tree.

The public was outraged that Santa Rosa’s finest would fold so easily, shucking their duties as protectors of the public and allowing armed men to seize a county prisoner for execution. Many people believed that Santa Rosa’s police force was in cahoots with the lynch mob. Officers Fuller, Wilson, and Dyer took most of the heat, but in the end they were not punished for having avoided their duty as peace officers. A reward of two thousand dollars was offered for the conviction of any members of the lynch mob, but it was never collected. Nobody knows what happend to Henley’s body after the authorities cut him down, and there is no record as to what happened to Henley’s wife or his estate.

Culled from: California Justice: Shootouts, Lynchings, and Assassinations in the Golden State


California Lynching Photo Du Jour

There’s no photographic record of the lynching of Charles Henley, so I thought I’d find another photo to feature with this fact.

This unfortunate fellow is Clyde Johnson.  He was lynched on August 3, 1935 in Yreka, California. As the caption from this postcard (you’d send it to Aunt Betty, wouldn’t you?) says, “Killer of Jack Daw, Aug 3, 1935, Vengence [sic] in Siskiyou County.”

Here’s more of the story:

At the funeral of F.R. Daw, chief of police of Dunsmuir, Oregon, a number of mourners planned the lynching of his alleged murderer, Clyde Johnson. Early on the morning of August 3, 1935, a masked mob, estimated as large as fifty, forcibly removed Johnson from his jail cell and dragged him three miles south of town, where they hung him from a pine tree.

Local and state officials expressed mixed reaction to news of the lynching. District Attorney James Davis declared that he would open an investigation and “do everything the law requires to apprehend members of the mob.” On the other hand, the California attorney general, referring to the recently delayed execution of an accused murderer, stated that the “uncontrollable unrest” was a natural result of the “apathy of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Culled from: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography In America

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 5, 2016

Today’s Scalped Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The defining car crash of the 1960s was the collision that took the life of actress Jayne Mansfield in 1967. After standing in at a nightclub engagement in Biloxi, Mississippi, as a replacement for Mamie Van Doren, the thirty-five-year-old Mansfield was being driven to New Orleans in the early hours of June 29 to be interviewed on a local television show. She was traveling with her current boyfriend (San Francisco attorney Samuel S. Brody), three of her five children, and four pet Chihuahuas. The 1966 Buick Electra was being driven by Ronnie Harrison, a college student who was working as a chauffeur for the summer. The party set off from Biloxi at about 2:30 in the morning. About twenty miles outside New Orleans on windy U.S. Highway 90 – often known as the Spanish Trail – the Buick smashed straight into the back of a trailer that had stopped suddenly behind a city truck spraying the swamps with anti-mosquito insecticide.

The crash was so forceful that the impact sheared off the top of the Buick, which apparently “crumpled like piece of tinfoil after a cookout” – in fact, crash investigators first assumed the hardtop was a convertible. Jayne, Brody, and Harrison were killed instantly, their bodies thrown out of the wreckage and on to the road. The three children, who were sleeping in the back of the car, received only minor bruises. Most accounts of the crash describe Mansfield as being decapitated; author of Hollywood Babylon, Kenneth Anger, recalls seeing a photograph of the actress’s severed head mounted on the front of her wrecked car, “surrealistically transformed into  a bloody hood ornament.” Other, less lurid reports claim that Mansfield wasn’t in fact decapitated but scalped by the car’s roof, her blonde wig thrown forward on to the hood of the Buick. However, in the clearest photograph of the wreck, Mansfield’s body, covered with a tarp, lies in the foreground, and it’s clear to see that there is nothing where her head should be. No one, however, will debate the fact that two innocent young Chihuahuas also lost their lives in tragic circumstances.

To have a head or to not have a head: that is the question!

Jayne’s wig as hood ornament.

I found this picture online too – I can’t verify it but it *looks* like the same body as the first image… in which case it proves the head stayed attached

Culled from: Car Crash Culture



Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 4, 2016

Today’s Precipitated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Switzerland is known for its snow avalanches, but large rockfalls are also a regular occurrence in the Alps, as they are in other great mountain ranges of the world. One of the worst in recent times happened in September 1881; as with other falls, man’s activities had some part to play in precipitating it.

The Plattenbergkopf is one of the outliers of the Glarner Alpen, and there was extensive slate-mining on the mountain in the 18th and 19th centuries. This activity must have steadily reduced the underlying stability of the hill, and a number of small rockfalls had taken place before 1881.

The great avalanche that September may also have been precipitated by heavy rainfall in the preceding days. There were, again, small rockfalls, and these became so regular that people gathered to watch them. On September 11, a larger fall brought rocks down almost to the valley where the watchers had gathered. Less than half an hour later, another, still greater fall detached a large amount of rock from the side of the mountain.

The top section of the Plattenbergkopf was by now resting precariously on a narrow base, much of its previous supporting rock having fallen. It was plain that this could not continue, and before long the now alarmed watchers saw the whole top part of the mountain begin to move. Gathering speed and accumulating more mass as it came, the rockfall hurtled down the mountain towards Elm.

By the time it reached the valley, the fall probably contained some 10 million cubic yards (7.5 million square metres) of rock and dust. Much of the mass hit another hill, the Duniberg, and ricocheted off. Accompanied by a thunderous roaring, groaning sound, the rock covered a mile in less than a minute, burying much of the valley around Elm and the village itself.

Another September 11th.

Where there had been green fields, houses and crops there was now a grey mass of rock, and the air was thick with dust. the village schoolmaster survived and described what the experience was like. He talked of a great wind which uprooted trees and moved houses bodily. This ‘air blast’ is a common feature of all avalanches, and is often more destructive than the avalanche material itself. The edge of the fall cut one house in two, slicing through it like a knife through butter. People were annihilated in an instant – ‘just as an insect is crushed into a red streak under a man’s foot’ was the vivid analogy used.

Elm lost 150 men, women and children, and all its productive land.

Culled from: Catastrophes and Disasters

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

It’s a bit expensive for me, but isn’t this guillotine necklace lovely?

Available from Gorey Details

Morbid Fact Du Jour For December 2, 2016

Today’s Gasping Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The 1918 Influenza Epidemic which killed between 50 and 100 million people arrived in several waves. The first wave, in the spring of 1918, caused many illnesses, but few deaths. However, a few months later the flu struck back with a vengeance. This version of the flu was still highly contagious but this time it was a killer. Although about 20 percent of its victims had a mild disease and recovered without incident, the rest had one or two terrifying illnesses. Some almost immediately became deathly ill, unable to get enough oxygen because their lungs had filled with fluid. They died in days, or even hours, delirious with a high fever, gasping for breath, lapsing at last into unconsciousness. In others, the illness began as an ordinary flu, with chills, fever, and muscle aches, but no untoward symptoms. By the fourth or fifth day of the illness, however, bacteria would swarm into their injured lungs and they would develop pneumonia that would either kill them or lead to a long period of convalescence.

The second wave of the flu arrived in the United States in Boston, appearing among a group of sailors who docked at the Commonwealth Pier in August. The sailors were simply in transit, part of the vast movement of troops in a war that transformed daily life. By then the war effort had taken over the country. No man wanted to be left behind – the worst thing you could call a man was a slacker. And so a quarter of Americans had signed up to fight, with those men who remained behind embarrassed, apologizing for medical conditions that kept them from the front.

And then some of those sailors in Boston got sick.On August 28, eight men got the flu. The next day, 58 were sick. By day four the sick toll reached 81. A week later, it was 119, and that same day the first civilian was admitted to Boston City Hospital sick with the flu. Deaths soon followed. On September 8, three people died from the flu in Boston: a Navy man, a merchant marine, and  a civilian.

That same day, the flu appeared in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, thirty miles west of Boston. Overnight, Fort Devens became a scene out of hell. One doctor, assigned to work in the camp that September, wrote despairingly to a friend about an epidemic that was out of control. The doctor’s letter is dated September 29, 1918:

“Camp Devens is near Boston, and has about 50,000 men, or did before this epidemic broke loose.” The flu epidemic hit the camp four weeks earlier, he added, “and has developed so rapidly that the camp is demoralized and all ordinary work is held up till it has passed. All assemblages of soldiers are taboo.”

The disease starts out looking like an ordinary sort of influenza, the doctor explained. But when the soldiers are brought to the hospital at the Army base, they “rapidly develop the most viscous type of Pneumonia that has ever been seen. Two hours after admission they have the Mahogany spots over the cheek bones and a few hours later you can begin to see the Cyanosis extending from the ears and spreading all over the face, until it is hard to distinguish the colored man from the white. It is only a matter of a few hours then until death comes and it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate. It is horrible. One can stand to see one, two, or twenty men die, but to see these poor devils dropping like flies gets on your nerves. We have been averaging about 100 deaths a day, and still keeping it up.”

It became a problem just to dispose of the dead. “It takes Special trains to carry away the dead,” the doctor remarked. “For several days there were not coffins and the bodies piled up something fierce and we used to go down to the morgue (which is just back of my ward) and look at the boys laid out in long rows. It beats any sight they ever had in France after a battle. An extra long barracks has been vacated for the use of the Morgue, and it would make any man sit up and take notice to walk down the long lines of soldiers all dressed and laid out in double rows.”

Some of the sick soldiers during the flu epidemic.

Culled from: Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It



China + Department Stores + Elevators = a Recipe for Disaster!  (Thanks to Katie for the link.)

Baby Boy is DROPPED 30ft to his death down the side of an escalator after his grandmother lost her footing