MFDJ 06/01/24: Deportee Plane Crash

Today’s Deported Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Twenty-eight Mexican nationals got into an old, twin-engine DC-3 on the cold and clear Tuesday morning of January 28, 1948. The twenty-seven men and one woman were being deported back to their home country because they were working illegally in California as agricultural workers. The deportees had the choice of taking a bus, train, or airplane back to El Centro, California. The novelty of flying and the speed of the flight sounded much better than a long, cold, and bumpy ride.

The DC-3 was owned by Airline Transport Carriers, an  air carrier that flew only flights chartered by various government agencies. The flight on that cold January day was chartered by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to fly the deportees to the INS Deportation Center in El Centro.

For reasons that remain unknown, Captain Frank Atkinson and co-pilot Marion Ewing took the wrong airplane for the flight. They were supposed to take a DC-3 that was certified to carry thirty-two passengers, but instead took a DC-3 that had seats for only twenty-six passengers and was seven hours overdue for a routine and required safety inspection. The thirty-year-old Atkinson had more than 1,700 hours of flight time and Ewing had more than 4,000 hours. Both had been U.S. Army Air Corps pilots during World War II. Along with the flying crew, Atkinson’s wife Bobbie flew along to serve as a flight attendant. The flight to Oakland was routine, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Greeted in Oakland by INS guard Frank Chaffin, the crew found out that there were more passengers than seats in the plane. It is not known if Captain Atkinson realized then that he had flown the wrong airplane or if he had been aware of the fact all along. He apparently did not care, as the plane was flying light. The flight was to travel to Burbank for refueling before heading off to El Centro. Atkinson loaded the evicted Mexicans and their guard into the plane. Three of the migrant workers had to sit on luggage. The DC-3 was slightly overloaded as it bounded down the runway and over the San Francisco Bay.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., workers at the Fresno County Industrial Road Camp, located twenty-one miles northwest of the town of Coalinga, noticed the DC-3 overhead, trailing white smoke from its port engine. Many of the one hundred men at the camp were veterans of World War II and had seen many airplanes in trouble.

Suddenly, the work crew saw the left wing ripped away from the fuselage along with nine passengers, who had jumped out through the gaping hole in the fuselage. The plane caught fire and spiraled to the ground, exploding in a huge ball of fire. The workmen ran to the scene to rescue any survivors, but the only thing that they could do was put out the fires that the blazing aircraft had sprayed over the dry Los Gatos Canyon.

The fiery wreckage was spewed over a two-hundred-yard area. Bodies—some still strapped in their seats—littered the terrain, along with suitcases and shoes. The wing, together with the bodies of the nine jumpers, was found a half mile from the crash site. The majority of the dead were found in the front of the aircraft’s burnt-out hull.

The investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Authority found that a fuel leak in the port engine fuel pump ignited a fire and, due to the extremely fast-moving in-flight air, acted like a cutting torch, burning through the wing span, causing the wing to be torn away.

The people of Fresno turned out for the mass funeral of the twenty-eight Mexican nationals at Holy Cross Cemetery. Catholic mass was said by Monsignor John Galvin of Saint John’s Cathedral and Father Jose de Gaiarrgia of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Twenty-eight identical gray caskets were laid to rest into an eight-four-foot-long mass grave, flanked by officials from Mexico and the United Sates and their respective flags. Twelve of the victims were never identified.

Legendary songwriter Woody Guthrie read about the disaster at his home in New York City and became infuriated that the newspapers had omitted the names of the deportees. He wrote a poem called “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” that lamented that fact. If Woody had read the Fresno Bee, he would have seen that everyone who was identified was named in the Fresno paper, the closest city to the accident.

Mass Burial

Culled from: Death In California by my friend David Kulczyk



Yosuke Yamahata photographed the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 10, 1945.  Here’s one of his haunting images from the book Nagasaki Journey: The Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata, August 10, 1945.

MFDJ 05/30/24: Lovat’s Crucifixion

Today’s Noticeable Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Matthew Lovat was a mentally unstable eighteenth-century Italian shoemaker.  His mental condition first showed itself when he castrated himself as a young man. The ridicule that this aroused in his native village of Casale forced him to move to Venice. A year later he tried to crucify himself in the street but was stopped when he attempted to nail his left foot to a wooden cross. He returned to Casale and began work making ;a second cross, which he attached to a rope suspended from the ceiling of his third-floor room.

With the cross laid flat on the floor, Lovat stripped off save for a handkerchief girding his loins. He donned a crown of thorns. Slipping his feet into a specially made bracket, he proceeded to hammer a nail through his feet into the wood of the cross. He tied his body securely to the shaft of the cross to prevent him slipping off and imitated Christ’s spear wound by cutting himself with a knife. Next, using his free hands, he edged the cross towards the window ledge, until it overbalanced and fell vertically out into the street. Thus suspended, Lovat used his left hand to nail his right into the cross; predictably he found it impossible to nail his left, despite the fact that he had previously pierced the palm with a nail. Equally predictably,  his actions did not go unnoticed by passers-by, who rushed to his rescue.

Lovat’s third attempt at suicide was successful but more orthodox. He starved himself to death in a lunatic asylum.

Culled from: Death: A History of Man’s Obsessions and Fears


Mütter Museum Specimen Du Jour!

Untitled from the Mütter Series ©2000 Candace diCarlo

Foetus, approximately twelve-weeks, cleared and stained with alizarin, preserved in glycerin.

Culled from: Mütter Museum

MFDJ 05/29/24: Inside the U-20

Today’s Unpleasant Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

German submarine U-20 was the U-boat that sank the Lusitania.  Here is an excerpt about life about the submarine, from Erik Larson’s typically brilliant book, Dead Wake:

Under commander Walther Schwieger, U-20 had at least one dog aboard. At one time, it had six, four of them puppies, all dachshunds, the unexpected product of an attack off the coast of Ireland.

On that occasion, following cruiser rules, Schwieger chased and stopped a Portuguese ship, the Maria de Molenos. After waiting until its crew got away, he ordered his gun crew to sink the vessel. This was his favored mode of attack. He saved his few torpedoes for the best and biggest targets.

His gun crew was fast and accurate, and fired a series of shells into the freighter’s waterline. Soon the ship disappeared from view, or, as Zentner put it, “settled down for her bit of vertical navigation.”

Amid the usual debris left adrift on the surface, the men spotted a cow, swimming, and something else. The bearded accordion player saw it first and shouted, “Ach Himmel, der kleine Hund!”

He pointed to a box. A tiny head and two paws protruded over its edge. A black dachshund.

U-20 approached; the crew lifted the dog aboard. They named it Maria, after the sunken freighter. They could do nothing for the cow, however.

U-20 already had a dog aboard, a male, and in short order Maria became pregnant. She bore four puppies. The accordion player became the dogs’ caretaker. Deeming six dogs too many for a U-boat, the crew gave three puppies away to other boats but kept one. Zentner slept with one on his bunk, next to a torpedo. “So every night,” he said, “I slept with a torpedo and a puppy.”

U-20, second from left

That Schwieger was able to conjure so humane an environment was a testament to his skill at managing men, because conditions in a U-boat were harsh. The boats were cramped, especially when first setting out on patrol, with food stored in every possible location, including the latrine. Vegetables and meats were kept in the coolest places, among the boat’s munitions. Water was rationed. If you wanted to shave, you did so using the remains of the morning’s tea. No one bathed. Fresh food quickly spoiled. Whenever possible crews scavenged. One U-boat dispatched a hunting party to a Scottish island and killed a goat. Crews routinely pillaged ships for jam, eggs, bacon, and fruit. An attack by a British aircraft gave one U-boat’s crew an unexpected treat when the bomb it dropped missed and exploded in the sea. The concussion brought to the surface a school of stunned fish.

The crew of U-20 once scavenged an entire barrel of butter, but by that point in the patrol the boat’s cook had nothing suitable on hand to fry. Schwieger went shopping. Through his periscope he spotted a fleet of fishing boats and surfaced U-20 right in their midst. The fishermen, surprised and terrified, were certain their boats would now be sunk. But all Schwieger wanted was fish. The fishermen, relieved, gave his crew all the fish they could carry.

Schwieger ordered the submarine to the bottom so his crew could dine in peace. “And now,” said Zentner, “there was fresh fish, fried in butter, grilled in butter, sautéed in butter, all that we could eat.”

Commander Schweiger

These fish and their residual odors, however, could only have worsened the single most unpleasant aspect of U-boat life: the air within the boat. First there was the basal reek of three dozen men who never bathed, wore leather clothes that did not breathe, and shared one small lavatory. The toilet from time to time imparted to the boat the scent of a cholera hospital and could be flushed only when the U-boat was on the surface or at shallow depths, lest the undersea pressure blow material back into the vessel. This tended to happen to novice officers and crew, and was called a “U-boat baptism.” The odor of diesel fuel infiltrated all corners of the boat, ensuring that every cup of cocoa and piece of bread tasted of oil. Then came the fragrances that emanated from the kitchen long after meals were cooked, most notably that close cousin to male body odor, day-old fried onions.

All this was made worse by a phenomenon unique to submarines that occurred while they were submerged. U-boats carried only limited amounts of oxygen, in cylinders, which injected air into the boat in a ratio that depended on the number of men aboard. Expended air was circulated over a potassium compound to cleanse it of carbonic acid, then reinjected into the boat’s atmosphere. Off-duty crew were encouraged to sleep because sleeping men consumed less oxygen. When deep underwater, the boat developed an interior atmosphere akin to that of a tropical swamp. The air became humid and dense to an unpleasant degree, this caused by the fact that heat generated by the men and by the still-hot diesel engines and the boat’s electrical apparatus warmed the hull. As the boat descended though ever colder waters, the contrast between the warm interior and cold exterior caused condensation, which soaked clothing and bred colonies of mold. Submarine crews called it “U-boat sweat.” It drew oil from the atmosphere and deposited it in coffee and soup, leaving a miniature oil slick. The longer the boat stayed submerged, the worse conditions became. Temperatures within could rise to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. “You can have no conception of the atmosphere that is evolved by degrees under these circumstances,” wrote one commander, Paul Koenig, “nor of the hellish temperature which brews within the shell of steel.”

The men lived for the moment the boat ascended to the surface and the hatch in the conning tower was opened. “The first breath of fresh air, the open conning-tower hatch and the springing into life of the Diesel’s, after fifteen hours on the bottom, is an experience to be lived through,” said another commander, Martin Niemoller. “Everything comes to life and not a soul thinks of sleep. All hands seek a breath of air and a cigarette under shelter of the bridge screen.”

All these discomforts were borne, moreover, against a backdrop of always present danger, with everyone aware they faced the worst kind of death imaginable: slow suffocation in a darkened steel tube at the bottom of the sea.

Culled from: Dead Wake


Vintage Crime Scene Du Jour!

“Homicide, John Flood – July 3, 1917″
6.25″ x 8.25” glass-plate negative


Patrolman About to Buy Funeral Wreath. He Is Called to Flat to Quell Row.


Missing Pugilist Sought—Policeman Was Beaten to Death

Ten minutes after he left his wife waiting at Avenue A and Seventy-eighth street yesterday afternoon while he answered a summons of an apartment house disturbance. Patrolman John P. Flood of the East Sixty-seventh street station lay dead in the kitchen at 602 East Seventy-seventh street with a double fracture of the skull. When the policeman was found his assailant had fled. The police have sent out a general alarm for Milton Blier, a pugilist.

It was only half an hour before Flood’s duty ended, and his wife was waiting with him so they might purchase some flowers for the funeral of a little girl friend, when a hysterical woman rushed up and cried to the patrolman, whose three years in the neighborhood had made him well known:

“Come to my apartment quick, John. There is trouble.”

Patrolman goes to Death

Flood rushed away with the woman, whom beknown as Miss Kitty Mannix of the John Jay apartment house, at 502 East Seventy-seventh street. She explained to the patrolman, so she told the police afterwards, that she believed a prizes fighter, known as Milton Blier (alis Blaha), was waiting for her, and that she was afraid to enter her apartment. After she warned Flood that the man would probably cause trouble, the woman unlocked the door and the patrolman entered.

Miss Mannix said she went down the stairs to wait with her sister. The patrolman did not return, and believing she heard groans, she hurried to the office of Miss Emma Kelcourse, agent for the apartment house, at 510 East Seventy-seventh street who in turn reported to Julius Schneider, superintendent of the row of buildings. He went to the apartment and found Patrolman Flood lying unconscious on the floor, with blood splattered about the room, two or three broken plates, but no furniture upset. A physician of Flower Hospital found the policeman dead when he arrived a few minutes later.

Census Card is Clue

A State military census registration card led to the discovery of Miss Mannix, who disappeared immediately after she had reported to the house agent. On the card her name was Mrs. James O’Connor, and it was learned later that she was the wife of James O’Connor, with whom she has not been living for three years. The police found her in her mother’s laundry on the East Side. With Margaret Haskegen, her sister, of 419 East Sixty-fourth street, with whom she spent the night while in fear of going home, Kitty Mannix (Mrs. O’Connor) is being held by the police as a material witness.

After questioning the two women last night the police sent out a general alarm for Blier, a prizefighter, who is described as 23 years old, weighing 130 pounds, medium height and fair complexion. His home was in the neighborhood of Eightieth street and Second avenue.

The assailant is believed to have taken the weapon with which he killed the policeman with him. Coroner Healy said the wounds looked as if Flood had been struck on the forehead with a hammer and on the back of the head with a small axe.

Patrolman Flood lived at 426 West Fifty-First street with his wife and three children. He also supported the children of his brother-in-law. He joined the force in July 1902. He was known among the fellow patrolmen of the Sixty-seventh Street for his mild manner and good nature.

Patrolman John Flood

Culled from: Murder in the City

Incidentally, last year a street was named in honor of Flood, and in 2019 his unmarked grave was given a proper headstone:

MFDJ 05/27/24: Taeko After the Bomb

Today’s Damaged Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

At exactly 8:15:17 a.m. on August 6, 1945, the ‘Little Boy’ atomic bomb was released from the bomb bay of the Enola Gay as it passed over Hiroshima.  The following is an eyewitness account of the aftermath of the bombing.

Taeko Teramae had the Tsurumi Bridge and Hijiyama Hill on her mind from the moment she jumped out of the second-floor window of the telephone exchange 600 yards from the hypocenter. Taeko, fifteen, had just returned from her 8 a.m. tea break and was waiting in line to resume her 8:15 shift along with some of the 120 teenage students rotating as switchboard operators in the concrete building. She had put her earphones and speaker around her head when she saw a blue flash. Boxes of telephone equipment tumbled on her. She crawled to the stairs. They were blocked by the bodies of other operators. A few cried, “Mother!”  Most were dead.

From the window facing City Hall, Taeko saw that the entire city was being engulfed by flames. Only the Hijiyama Hill area to the east seemed unaffected. If the Tsurumi Bridge was standing she could reach the hill and save herself. She climbed on the window sill, jumped without hesitating into the street, scampered across some burning telephone poles, and ran toward the Bridge. She became aware that she was barefoot, that blood was streaming from her right arm and face, and that she could not see out of her left eye. But she felt no pain.

No one else seemed to be running. The street was packed with charred, swollen bodies, shuffling slowly, silently, sometimes vomiting, away from the flames, away from the city, arms and hands aloft, patches of skin flapping in the rising wind. Taeko ran past two school friends, neither she nor they giving any sign of recognition. Out of breath, she stopped and saw a boy of about ten bending over a much smaller girl. “Mako! Mako! please don’t die!” cried the boy. The little girl remained silent. “Mako, are you dead?” The boy cradled his sister’s body in his arms.

Nobody paid attention. The fires were closing in. Taeko resumed running. All her life she would feel that she should have given help to less fortunate survivors that morning; she blamed herself for having shown no kindness, no ordinary humanity.

Hiroshima, post-bomb

When Taeko reached the Tsurumi Bridge toward 11 a.m., it was packed solidly with people, some lifeless, some sitting, some crawling toward Hijiyama Hill. No one was pushing them along because fires were blocking the bridge entrance.

At the seawall Taeko found one of the two female teachers who supervised the student operators in the telephone exchange. The teacher, who had stayed behind to help any of her charges who might yet reach the bridge, showed shock at Taeko’s left eye and her face wounds, and tried to staunch them with the only material at hand: cigarette tobacco. Still Taeko felt no pain.

Since the heat of the spreading fires was constantly rising, the teacher decided to help Taeko swim across the river. Taeko was an excellent swimmer and they were able to dodge the bodies and debris floating in the water. But soon Taeko was exhausted and called out that she felt herself sinking. “Take courage, child!” her teacher said. “You can’t die here!” With the teacher pulling at one arm she was able to continue. On the Hijiyama side of the river the teacher told Taeko, “Be strong!” Then she plunged into the water and swam back toward the fires in search of other students. Taeko never saw her again.

Trudging up Hijiyama Hill sometime after noon, Taeko still felt no pain. The asphalt was very hot and soft under her feet. Bodies of people, living and dead, lined the roadside, but the first sign of civilization was in evidence. Bodies no longer littered the road where the fleeing masses would step on them. Fewer people were on the move now and they were advancing very slowly, quietly, like sleepwalkers, occasionally urged on by a policeman.

Halfway up the Hill, Taeko, her face now so swollen that she could only peek through a tiny slit of her right eyelid, found a long line of injured people sitting in front of an emergency aid station under a suspension bridge. They were shouting, “Mizu! Mizu! Water! Water! Give me water!” and “Hot! Hot! I’m hot!” Several kept screaming, “Kill me! Please kill me!” The nurses and soldiers who ran the aid post were bent over the wounded and paid no attention to the waiting line.

Taeko sat down with the others. Her face was beginning to be painful. She could no longer see anything, but she heard people call weakly, “Go back! Go back!” Evidently some of the people in line were trying to cut in ahead of their turn. The line seemed hardly to move at all. When Taeko’s turn finally came, the soldiers stitched her cuts without giving her a painkiller and bandaged her head so only her nose and mouth remained uncovered. When she winced one of the men said, “You should be stronger, otherwise we cannot win!”

Taeko survived and recuperated at home. She suffered from all the radiation symptoms, including bleeding gums. Her mother treated her condition with a dried weed, a home remedy that had to be burned on the back of Taeko’s neck. Her family had hidden all mirrors in the house, but when her bandages were removed and she saw her deformed face reflected in a plateful of soup, Taeko learned that she had lost her left eye. She did not cry. Her hatred for Americans did not abate for many years, but Taeko slowly recovered reasonably good health.

Taeko Teramae

Culled from: Day One: Before Hiroshima and After


Arcane Excerpts: Lithotomy Edition

Sometimes it’s good to put things into perspective and realize no matter how bad things are, they probably aren’t 1812 lithotomy bad.  This article about a most unfortunate man is full of colorful and mysterious phrases and was culled from the 1813 Eclectic Repertory and Analytical Review.

An Account of a Case of Lithotomy; with Practical Remarks
by James Barlow, Surgeon, Blackburn, Lancashire.

[From the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, for July 1812.]

… About five years ago, I was consulted by Richard Holden of this neighbourhood, a stout, corpulent, robust man, then about sixty years of age, on account of great pain when passing his urine, accompanied with very frequent provocations to propel it. He informed me, that, for some years past he had occasionally discharged both blood and mucus from the urethra, and that any violent bodily exercise was usually the forerunner of the former indication of calculous affection. These, together with other ordinary symptoms, led me to suspect a stone in the bladder, and I proposed passing a sound into that viscus, in order to adjust the opinion I had preconceived on the nature of the case; this proposal was, however, rejected, from an idea entertained by the patient of the pain which the introduction of an instrument into the bladder must unavoidably occasion. In this state of incertitude my patient absented himself from me, and continued with frequent intermissions of pain till the sixth of November 1811, a lapse of five years, when I was requested to visit him. On my arrival, I was informed that he had not been able to evacuate his urine for nearly two preceding days and nights. On laying my hand on the abdomen, the patient complained of a considerable degree of pain in the region of the bladder, which was connected with tension, and the scrotum and ambient parts were of a dark livid colour. The catheter was immediately introduced, and my former opinion fully confirmed by the instrument striking against a stone, as was also notified by the sound emitted to the ear very distinctly. Nearly two quarts of dark-coloured urine were drawn off, which afforded temporary relief; the warm bath was recommended, a laxative glyster was administered, and an aperient mixture directed to be taken in divided doses, which produced several copious evacuations by stool, and reduced the tension, and considerably relieved the soreness of the abdominal region. Nevertheless, the retention of urine still continued, caused, I apprehend, by a calculus lodged in the vicinity of the neck of the bladder; for every time the catheter was passed it was resisted by the presence of a stone, and little or not water could be extracted without first pushing the point of the instrument against it, and raising the stone from its situation, and keeping the instrument in this position till the bladder was emptied. By this manoeuvre the impediment was surmounted, and the urine evacuated once or twice every twelve hours during several succeeding days, by the use of the common silver catheter, until I prevailed on my patient to be removed to the town (Blackburn) where I had an opportunity of paying more particular attention to the urgency of the case. On his arrival, I introduced a small flexible metallic catheter into the bladder, fitted with a small cork to plug up the end; the fore-finger being passed into the rectum, served to bend the apex of the instrument under the arch of the pubes, where it was permanently fixed, so that he could evacuate his urine ad libitum.

The indispensableness of the finger in the rectum, while passing the instrument, afforded me an opportunity of ascertaining the morbid indurated state of the prostate gland, which was greatly enlarged, and in a very rigid condition.

Notwithstanding the antiphlogistic regimen was rigorously adhered to, there remained a considerable degree of soreness on the region of the pubes, attended with quick pulse and fever, insomuch that I did not then propose the operation of lithotomy, being aware of the consequences that might ensue from the attendant symptoms, excited by consequent irritation, the frequent effects of calculi, and a long distended state of the bladder; nevertheless, these unfavourable symptoms gradually abated, together with the tension of the abdomen, and the operation became admissible; and after being determined on, and the preparatory regimen adopted, I performed it on the seventeenth instant (November), in the presence of two assisting surgeons and the necessary attendants. The patient being placed and secured in a horizontal position upon a steady table of commodious height, and supported by pillows with the breech projecting over the edge of the table, the first stages of the operation were conducted in the usual manner, and with tolerable facility. On the membranous portion of the urethra being laid open with the scalpel to the commencement of the prostrate gland, the beak of the bistouri caché was inserted into the groove of the staff, the handle of the staff was taken hold of with the left hand, and raised from the right groin of the patient to nearly a right angle with the body; the bistouri was then carried gently forwards into the bladder and the staff taken out; the cutting edge of the bistouri being turned laterally towards the left ischium of the patient, and raised from its sheath, it was withdrawn nearly in a horizontal direction; and in executing this step of the operation, I perceived an unusual resistance and grating sensation, as if cutting through a cartilaginous substance. The fore-finger of the left hand was now passed as high as possible into the bladder, through the opening made by the bistouri, and with difficulty the surface of a stone was felt; for owing to the man’s state of corpulency, the greatest part of the hand became buried in the wound. The forceps were then carefully introduced by the side of the finger, which served as a guide to detect the stone. The finger being withdrawn, the stone was seized by the blades; but from the great expansion of the handles, I was led to believe that the calculus was either very large, or otherwise taken hold of in an unfavourable direction. To ascertain this incident, I endeavoured to reach the stone by insinuating the finger betwixt the extended blades of the forceps, but was opposed by the bulk of the prostate gland; for it appeared to occupy so considerable a space, that its extent could not be wholly traced by the finger in any direction. I therefore judged it expedient to let go the stone, and attempt to seizes it in a less diameter, and after using every possible means in my power, I was obliged to abandon this project; and the extent and rigidity of the prostate, and its unyielding condition, induced me to enlarge the incision; for on every attempt to extract the stone, the body of the gland was brought forwards into sight, and appeared to completely wedge up the space betwixt the two rami ischii. Thus situated, and whilst the left hand was employed in gently drawing forwards the forceps along with the stone, the right was engaged in dilating the wound with the scalpel in a line with the external incision, where the resistance opposed the chief obstacle; in this manner sufficient room was made, and the transmission of the stone effected. It was of an oval shape, and its long diameter 2.25, and its short 1.75 inches. A female sound was immediately passed into the bladder, and another stone detected larger than the first, and which was extracted with proportionate difficulty. It was also oval, but measured 2.6 inches one way, and 2.1 the other. From the different situations in which I had an opportunity of recognizing the prostate gland of this patient, both by the finger passed up the rectum and through the wound in perineo, its lateral lobes evidently projected considerably on the rectum, and it appeared the shape and size of the gizzard of a goose. Several arteries were divided in the operation, which required the ligature; and there was a considerable oozing of blood, which appeared to come from the divided edges of the prostate gland. A canula was introduced into the wound, which by its pressure on the incised portions of the gland, prevented the blood from making its way into the bladder, and soon stopped the bleeding.

A plaster of lint, spread with cerate, was applied to the wound; the patient was then conveyed to bed, and his knees brought together, and secured by means of a tape passed round his thighs. A draught composed of sixty drops of tintc. opii was administered, and the patient left to take repose. On calling in the evening, I was informed that the medicine had not produced sleep; he appeared restless, with a quick pulse. There was no tension or pain about the region of the bladder, nor any hæmorrhage from the wound, and the urine flowed guttatim through the canula without interruption.

A warm bath was immediately procured in the room, into which he was put and remained twenty-five minutes, which afforded some temporary relief, but without producing syncope or diminishing the vibratory force of arterial action. On being removed to bed the opiate draught was repeated, but did not induce the least inclination to sleep the whole of the night. In the morning the canula was removed and the wound dressed as before. A saline mixture, with antimonial wine, was directed to be taken. An aperient glyster was administered. for several succeeding days, and occasional purgatives exhibited to stimulate the torpid disposition of the intestines, all which produced their desired effects. The warm bath was repeated twice every twenty-four hours for ten days successively, and the antiphlogistic plan was strictly enjoined till the symptoms of fever and irritation subsided.

On the 20th instant, three days after the operation, a degree of soreness and tension manifested itself in the lower part of the abdomen, which extended along the urethra, and which assumed the appearance of peritoneal inflammation. But, on a minute investigation I was convinced, that the tension of the abdomen was caused by the parts of the wound connected with the operation being distended with inflammation, which wholly prevented the action of the bladder and voluntary power of the abdominal muscles from propelling the urine through the aperture. Without hesitation I passed a female catheter up the wound in perineo into the cavity of the bladder, and evacuated more than a quart of limpid urine of healthy appearance. This unusual mode of assisting nature in relieving herself, was found necessary to be repeated every eight or ten hours for several succeeding days, until the tension and inflammation of the parts connected with the wound had subsided; after which the urine returned through the artificial aperture with comparative freedom. About three weeks from the time of the operation, a little urine made its way, at intervals, by the channel of the urethra, and the man seemed gradually recovering; when on a sudden a new train of symptoms came on, accompanied with inflammation and swelling of the right testicle, attended with violent obtuse pain, which produced a slight degree of fever and constitutional irritation of the system. Ten leeches were applied to the inflamed scrotum, and cloths moistened in a solution of ammonia muriata in vinegar and water were kept constantly applied to the affected part; a brisk purgative draught was administered, and a scanty regimen enjoined: yet every precaution used to disperse the swelling and inflammation proved unavailing, and suppuration was announced by frequent rigours, and the stricture of the testicle becoming less tense. A poultice was then applied, and renewed three times a-day, till a fluctuation of matter became perceptible, which was let out through an opening made with a lancet; the part soon healed, and the tension of the testicle gradually subsided; soon after which the left testicle became enlarged and painful, and assumed the appearance of a smooth solid substance. Leeches and other topical applications were assiduously applied, as in the former affection, and a mixture, apparently of pus and urine, was regurgitated by the urethra which continued for the course of eight or ten days, and then the inflammation and swelling gradually disappeared. From this period the wound in perineo assumed a granulating and healthy appearance, and the urine was voided voluntarily through the urethra in increased quantity; and in the space of ten weeks, from the time of the operation, the wound was completely healed, and the man returned home in a state of apparent good health, being able to retain his urine in considerable quantity, and propel it at pleasure. On a minute examination of the state of the prostrate gland at this period, by the finger in ano, its size appeared very much diminished from what it was prior to the operation.

I have lately had an opportunity of conversing with my patient, and he informs me, that some weeks past he parted with two small pieces of rough calculi by the urethra, and there is a deposit of sabulous matter in his urine, from which it appears probably that the disposition to the formation of stone still exists.

MFDJ 05/25/24: Minnesota’s Frozen Son

Today’s Frostbitten Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Civic disaster requires a hero. Minnesotans found or created one in a young storm survivor they christened “Minnesota’s Frozen Son.” Michael J. Dowling was fifteen when he came within an inch of freezing to death in one of the blizzards of the winter of 1880-81 (known as the “Snow Winter” because of the immense and frequent snowstorms). Dowling’s frostbite was so advanced that he lost both legs below the knees, his left arm below the elbow, and all the fingers and most of the thumb on his right hand. But Dowling was a fighter. He lived on to become a teacher, newspaper editor, and eventually speaker of the house of the Minnesota State Legislature. “It is what one has above the shoulders that counts, ” he always told his fellow amputees.

Culled from: The Children’s Blizzard


Vintage Medical Photo Du Jour!

“A Morning’s Work,” 1865
Reed Brockway Bontecou, M.D., Washington D.C.
Albumen print, 6 x 4 1/2 in.

This photograph graphically documents the devastation of the Civil War. More than 625,000 men died (one of every four who fought), and more than 400,000 were wounded. Chronic diarrhea and infections such as dysentery killed tens of thousands of people in the years following, as a ravaged generation and a young nation continued to pay the costs of the war.

Reed Brockway Bontecou, M. D. (1824-1907), Surgeon in Charge at Harewood United States Army General Hospital in Washington, D.C. was an avid proponent of photography and documented his cases for inclusion in the newly established United Sates Army Medical Museum. This image, labeled “A Morning’s Work” by Dr. Bontecou himself, reflects the typical number of amputations he performed in a single morning.

Culled from: A Morning’s Work

MFDJ 05/24/24: Great Lisbon Earthquake

Today’s Trembling Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

By the mid-18th century, Lisbon was at the center of a considerable Portuguese empire, with possessions in Africa, South America and the Far East. It was a city of some 275,000 people with a major port on the estuary of the Tagus River and had many fine buildings including the royal palace and a splendid new opera house.

Earth tremors were not unusual in Portugal, but there was no reason for the people to fear a major disturbance as they went to Mass on All Saints Day in the great cathedral and the many churches in the city. At 9:30 must have seemed as though the wrath of God had descended upon them: for several minutes the earth shook with a loud sound like thunder. The noise of falling buildings added to the uproar.

After a pause there was a second tremor, then a third. By this time a dense cloud of smoke had risen, darkening the city and alarming the survivors even further. This was bad enough, but there was worse to follow. Fires broke out in many parts of the city, destroying buildings that had survived the earthquake, and shortly afterwards people in the harbor areas were terrified to see the waters rush out, exposing the seabed for over half a mile offshore. This phenomenon has become well-known in earthquakes affecting coast areas.

Those watching this awful unnatural scene had worse to face, however. The retreating waters stopped, turned around and raced back to shore with exceptional force as a vast wave. The Lisbon wave was said to be 50 feet high when it smashed into the waterfront area of the city, destroying everything in its path and drowning hundreds if not thousands of people who had not the slightest hope of escape.

The great writer Voltaire used the Lisbon earthquake as the basis for a scene from Candide. His description is by no mean overstated: “… they felt the earth tremble beneath them. The sea boiled up in the harbor and broke the ships which lay at anchor. Whirlwinds of flame and ashes covered the streets and squares. Houses came crashing down. Thirty thousand men, women and children were crushed under the ruins… the terrified Candide stood trembling with fear and confusion. ‘If this is the best of all possible worlds’ he said to himself, ‘what can the rest be like?'”

Although there is no exact measurement for it, this was clearly a very substantial earthquake. Its shock waves were felt as far away as Scotland, where water levels on major lochs rose and fell by several feet. The same happened in Switzerland, and on the canals of the Netherlands, the disturbance was great enough to cause large barges to snap their anchor cables. Considerable damage was caused to towns and cities in North Africa, particularly around the town of Fez in Morocco, where death and destruction on a large scale was reported. A tsunami wave crossed the Atlantic and struck the islands of the Lesser Antilles, reaching over 20 feet high in places.

Following the main tremors came a whole series of aftershocks lasting for many months. It is estimate that there were as many as 500 of these shocks, keeping the Portuguese people in a state of fear and alarm. In July 1756 the British Ambassador in Lisbon received a letter from his counterpart in Madrid asking: “Will your disturbed earth never be quiet?”

In Lisbon, the effects were catastrophic. Of the 20,000 or so houses in the city, less than 3,000 were left standing. The palace and the opera house were both destroyed by fire. Churches and other public buildings were flattened, and warehouses full of fine goods were burnt to the ground, ruining their owners. The city had virtually to be rebuilt from scratch. Many people were burned alive. Numbers of dead were never accurately recorded, but it is thought that Voltaire’s figure is some way out and that at least 60,000 people failed to survive the disaster—over a fifth of the entire population. Large numbers died in churches where they were attending Mass. Lisbon’s great cathedral was reduced to a ruin, and hundreds died there when huge pillars and sections of roof fell on them.

As it happened on a Sunday, and All Saints Day at that, questions were raised as to how a merciful God could have allowed such a thing to happen, killing so many innocent  people, including children. Many pamphlets, tracts and even books on the subject were produced. The priests, naturally, were telling their congregations that God was angry with them for their sinful lives—Lisbon had been a rich city of many pleasures, Candide’s “the best of all possible worlds”—and that they must repent.

The earthquake was extensively studied by scientists, who tried to point out—without total success—that earthquakes were natural phenomena. In Candide, Voltaire has the character Pangloss pontificating on the subject, saying “the earthquake is nothing new. The town of Lima in America experienced the same shock last year. The same causes produce the same effects. There is certainly a vein of sulphur running under the earth from Lima to Lisbon.”

Lisbon has suffered a number of tremors in the past 240 years, but none nearly as severe as the quake which caused such fearful damage on All Saints Day in 1755.

Depiction of the Great Lisbon Earthquake by Granger

Culled from: Catastrophes and Disasters


Sideshow “Freak” Du Jour!

Unidentified Living Skeleton

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age

MFDJ 05/23/24: Death by Insulin

Today’s Arduous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

At around midnight on May 3, 1957, a doctor was summoned to the Yorkshire home of thirty-eight-year-old Kenneth Barlow. When the doctor arrived, Barlow had a tragic tale to tell. All night long, his wife, Elizabeth, had been ill. At 9:20 p.m., while in bed, she had vomited. Barlow had changed the sheets, then joined his wife in bed. Some time later, she had complained of “feeling too warm” and got up to take a bath. Barlow dozed off to sleep. When he awoke at 11 p.m., he found that Elizabeth was not beside him and hurried to the bathroom. There he had found her submerged in the water. At first he had tried to pull her out, but she was too heavy for him. So he had removed the plug and tried to revive her with artificial respiration.

Elizabeth still lay in the empty bath on her right side. Although there were no signs of violence on the body, the pupils were strangely dilated, a feature that the doctor thought worthy of investigation. For this reason, he listened with interest, all the while wondering how someone who claimed to have made “frantic efforts” to haul his wife from the bath had managed to keep his pajamas so dry and avoid splashing the bathroom floor. Another incongruity was spotted by Dr. David Price, the medical examiner—Elizabeth Barlow still had water in the crooks of her elbows, hardly likely if she had received artificial respiration.

Two hypodermic syringes were found in the kitchen, which Barlow, a nurse, explained by saying he had been giving himself injections of penicillin to treat a carbuncle. He denied giving his wife any injections. Traces of penicillin in the needles seemed to bear out Barlow’s story.

An autopsy revealed that Elizabeth Barlow had been a normal, healthy woman, and there were no visible injection marks on the skin. She was two months pregnant, but Price could find nothing to account for the sudden onset of fainting in the bath. Analysis of the bodily organs told much the same tale: no trace of poison or any other metabolic weakness likely to result in loss of consciousness.

On May 8, still dissatisfied, Price took a magnifying glass and went over every inch of the dead woman’s skin, looking for injection marks of a hypodermic needle. Mrs. Barlow’s freckly complexion made this an arduous task, but after two hours of painstaking inspection, Price found two tiny puncture marks on the left buttock and another two in a fold of skin under the right buttock. Cutting into the skin and tissue around the marks, Price saw the minute inflammation consistent with recent injections.

But what substance had been injected? A council of doctors and scientists from around the country, headed by Dr. Alan S. Curry of the Home Office Forensic Science Service, was convened to consider the baffling facts. Barlow, the nurse, had efficiently described his wife’s symptoms—vomiting, sweating, weakness, and pupil dilation. After much debate the panel agreed that everything pointed to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, a disorder that can, in extreme cases, lead to death. Had Barlow injected his wife with a massive overdose of insulin, then her blood sugar could have plummeted to a lethal level. All of which sounded plausible, except that Elizabeth Barlow’s heart blood had registered a sugar level way above average— completely opposite what might have been expected.

Despite this setback, the panel would not be dissuaded from its belief that insulin—for the first time—had been used as a murder agent. They knew that Barlow frequently injected insulin at work and that he had once joked to a patient: “If anybody ever gets a real dose of this, he’s on his way to the next world.” Another comment was even more enlightening. Barlow had confidentially advised a fellow nurse that insulin was the ideal choice for a “perfect murder,” because it dissolved in the blood and could not be traced.

He was right, there were no prescribed tests for detecting insulin in the body, but eventually the panel was able to solve the conundrum of Elizabeth Barlow’s high sugar level. In several cases of violent death, biochemical research had shown that the liver often flooded the bloodstream with sugar in the last few moments before death as a survival aid. If this reached the heart before circulation stopped, then the blood there would register an unusually high blood sugar level. Which meant that Mrs. Barlow could have been given an insulin overdose.

To confirm their hypothesis, the team conducted an unusual experiment. First, a number of mice were injected with insulin. They trembled, made feeble noises, became comatose, and died. Then, other mice were injected with extracts of the tissue surrounding the injection marks on Mrs. Barlow’s body. Exactly the same reactions were observed. It was noted that mice injected with matter from the left buttock died more rapidly than those given tissue from the right, suggesting that the left injection had been administered last. The data gathered from this experiment confirmed that the quantity of the insulin remaining in the body was eight-four units, although the actual dosage must have been much higher.

But what of the commonly held belief among doctors—and Barlow—that insulin disappeared very quickly from the body? Once again, new research came to the aid of the examiners. it was known that acidic conditions preserved insulin, and it now appeared that formation of lactic acid in Mrs. Barlow’s muscles after death had prevented its breakdown.

Bradford police had already discovered that Barlow was no stranger to sudden death: just a year earlier, his first wife had died in mysterious circumstances at the age of thirty-three. The cause of death was never satisfactorily explained, and he had married Elizabeth soon afterward.

On July 29, 1957, Barlow was arrested and charged with murder. At first he persisted in denying that he had injected his wife at any time, until presented with the evidence. Then he admitted injecting her with ergonovine to induce an abortion. In fact, the forensic experts had already anticipated that very defense—no abortifacient drugs were found.

At Barlow’s trial, the defense suggested that as Mrs. Barlow fainted and slid under the bath water, her body had reacted by releasing a massive dose of insulin into the bloodstream, causing coma and death. This theory was briskly dealt with by Dr. Price. He reckoned that to account for the eighty-four units of insulin found in Mrs. Barlow’s body, her pancreas would have had to secrete an incredible—and unheard of—fifteen thousand units!

Barlow was found guilty and imprisoned for life.

Culled from: The Casebook of Forensic Detection


Vehicular Suicide Du Jour!

A twenty-five-year-old divorced man drowned in his own auto after it plunged into Lake Erie. He had been seen stopping his vehicle by the water and then driving into the lake at a high rate of speed. Despite the fact that the auto floated for a few minutes, the driver did not attempt to escape. Postmortem toxicological studies were negative for alcohol or common drugs. He was suspected of slaying his twenty-two-year-old girlfriend who had been found stabbed to death in their home just before his immersion in the lake. The man also had a police record of juvenile manslaughter, traffic violations, and aggravated robbery.

Culled from: Car Crash Culture

I searched but I couldn’t find this story in the newspaper archive.  If anyone tracks it down, please send it my way!

MFDJ 05/21/24: The Doctor’s Wife

Today’s Bungled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The homes along the 12000 block of Presilla Road would be impressive anywhere. Tastefully ornate iron gates guard the long asphalt driveways leading to spectacularly large homes that cling to the side of the Santa Rosa Valley in Camarillo, California. Doctor Xavier Caro, a renowned expert in rheumatology with a successful practice in nearby Northridge, lived in his five-bedroom, four-bathroom mansion with his wife Socorro, who was known to everyone as Cora. They lived there with their children, eleven-year-old Xavier Jr., eight-year-old Michael, five-year-old Christopher, and Gabriel, their one-year-old. The University of California, Los Angeles, graduate bought the home in 1993 and it was said to be worth over five-million dollars in 2000. Xavier and Cora married in 1986 and enjoyed the success that enabled them to live in luxury.

Dr. Xavier Caro 

Cora worked as the office manager at Dr. Caro’s medical complex for fifteen years, but in 1998 Cora got sticky fingers. She began siphoning money from the business and giving it to her parents, Greg and Juanita Leon. The Leons, who lived in nearby Granada Hills, were a fixture at the house on Presilla Road, and even had their own room at the estate. The couple acted the role of grandparents, with Juanita watching the kids and Greg, a retired bricklayer, puttering around the compound.

When the doctor discovered his wife had embezzled over a hundred thousand dollars from his practice, he fired her from her position, just as he would any employee. She no longer had access to the company’s funds. It is not like she needed the job. Needless to say, the marriage was wobbly, and that was compounded by Cora’s alcohol consumption and a brief affair the handsome doctor had with a colleague. The two worked on their relationship and seemed to be doing much better.

Cora Caro

On November 22, 1999, the Caro family had a light dinner and settled in for a quiet evening at home. Xavier Jr., now twelve, made a sarcastic comment about his parents having an extra Margarita, which angered the doctor.  For punishment, Xavier took away his son’s computer games, which angered Cora, and the couple started bickering. Xavier decided it would be more constructive to head over to his practice to catch up on paperwork, and let Cora cool down.

While at the office, Cora telephoned him three different times, crying so hysterically he could not understand her. He told her he would be home shortly. He left his office around 10:30 p.m., the surveillance cameras at his building’s parking lot dutifully recording his departure in his Mercedes-Benz. When he arrived at his spectacular home he found Cora on the floor of their bedroom. He called police and while talking to the dispatcher discovered a bullet wound on the right side of Cora’s head, and her .38 caliber revolver underneath her body. Panicking, he ran to his son’s bedrooms, only to find Xavier Jr. and Michael in their beds, both shot once in the head. Five-year-old Christopher must have woken up when he heard the gunshots, as it took two bullets to the head to kill him. Cartoon sheets and superhero-themed pillows were soaked in blood and brain tissue. Xavier got back on the telephone to the emergency dispatcher and mournfully cried that his children were all shot, except for the infant Gabriel. For some reason, Cora did not have the nerve to kill her baby.

Cora’s attempt at suicide was bungled. The bullet did not pierce the skull; it instead zipped around under her scalp, leaving her bloody but not seriously injured. A blood test revealed Cora had twice the legal amount of alcohol to be considered intoxicated in the state of California. Also in her blood was Prozac, an anti-depressant prescribed to her. Police arrested Cora and charged her with three counts of first degree murder.

The four-month-long trial started on August 23, 2001, in Ventura County Superior Court, almost twenty months after the murders. Cora’s defense was completely implausible. Her attorneys originally tried to place the murders on the doctor, a theory easily destroyed by Deputy District Attorney Jim Ellison, who established a timeline with phone records and surveillance photos from the doctor’s office and parking garage. Xavier’s hands and clothing had no trace of gunpowder. The prosecution also provided witnesses who described seeing Cora’s violent side on multiple occasions, once giving her husband a black eye. Another witness told the court on one occasion Cora told her she wanted to commit suicide.

Socorro took the stand and blamed Xavier for the murders and that he was framing her for the crimes. Cora cried during her testimony, and twice was removed by the court because of her sobbing. After twenty-four minutes of testimony, Cora was dismissed from the witness chair. Her attorneys changed her plea to “Innocent by Reason of Insanity.”

The jurors deliberated for five days before reaching a guilty verdict. A judge later sentenced her to death for her crimes and she is currently sitting on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

Doctor Xavier Caro and his surviving son, Gabriel, moved to a new house where they have attempted to return to as much of a normal life as they possibly could.

Culled from: California’s Deadliest Women by my friend David Kulczyk


Malformed Brain Du Jour!

Here’s another excerpt from Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital.

M. Alzheimeri,

The few brains in the collection affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia were heavily decayed.

MFDJ 05/20/24: Lawless Jim McKinney

Today’s Lawless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

If Jim McKinney were alive today, he would certainly still be behind bars, serving life without parole from the time he was twenty years old. McKinney was a psychotic punk from Farmersville, a small town ten miles southeast of Visalia, California. When McKinney was a young man, he pistol-whipped a schoolteacher who had paddled his younger brother. After he had beaten the hapless teacher to the ground, he pulled out his Bowie knife and cut off a piece of the unconscious man’s ear. A deputy sheriff witnessed the violent act and ran to stop it. The deputy was successful in arresting McKinney, but was slashed on the arm while apprehending him.

Good for nothing Jim McKinney

Nowadays, McKinney would likely serve a twenty-year stretch in San Quentin for such a crime, but McKinney was acquitted in this incident. In the 1880s, it wasn’t uncommon for a criminal to be acquitted of such straight-out violence, even with a police officer as the witness. California justice was much more arbitrary in the 1800s than it could ever be now, no matter how much politicians and media complain about the current legal system.

After the incident, McKinney wisely left Farmersville and became  aa drifter. There were rumors that he had ridden with the Wild Bunch, of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame. He was also thought to have killed a couple of men in Arizona. One thing is certain: Jim McKinney was never a law-abiding citizen.

McKinney had a hard time staying away from California. He came back often, and he invariably caused trouble while there. In Visalia, he shot a woman in the buttocks when she wasn’t interested in his affections. In 1899, he shot Long Tom Sears because McKinney’s girlfriend told him that Sears had mistreated her. McKinney approached Sears in a Bakersfield alley and tried to provoke him into a fight. Sears, who had been a friend of McKinney, didn’t want to fight, and he threw his gun onto the ground. It didn’t matter to McKinney whether Sears was unarmed or had been a friend. The ferocious killer shot him down in cold blood.

As a bullet passed through Long Tom’s body, Deputy Sheriff John Crawford was relieving himself in a nearby outhouse. Hearing the gunshot, Deputy Crawford ran out of the privy with his pants hanging down and ran directly into McKinney. The psycho shot him twice in the butt. McKinney was arrested and tried, but astonishingly he was acquitted of Long Tom Sears’s murder and of shooting Deputy Crawford.

McKinney next appeared in the police ledger in April 1902, when he got drunk in Porterville and started taking target practice in Zalaud’s Saloon. He shot the slowly revolving ceiling fan and, after becoming bored, he started shooting the liquor bottles behind the bar. A town marshal ran into the saloon and cracked McKinney over the head with a club. Getting whacked in the head wasn’t enough to put McKinney down, and the marshal was shot through his mouth, cheek-to-cheek. As the lawman laid on the floor in agony, McKinney stalked out of the saloon, but he soon returned, this time armed with a shotgun. He then fired with both barrels at the first person he saw through his booze-clouded eyes. Unfortunately, it was Billy Lynn, one of McKinney’s few remaining friends. McKinney got onto his horse and rode out of town, shooting two men along the way.

McKinney hid out with his friend Al Hulse, who should have known by this time what happens to people who befriended McKinney. They hid out in a Chinese joss house in Bakersfield. It is hard to imagine a couple of hulking Caucasians going unnoticed in a Chinese temple for a year, but McKinney and Hulse managed to do just that.

On April 19, 1903, the police learned that McKinney was hiding out at the L Street joss house. Along with a posse of policemen, City Marshal Jeff Packard and Deputy Sheriff Bill Tibbet raided the joss house. Packard and Tibbet went from room to room while the rest of the posse guarded the exits. When Packard and Tibbet kicked down the door of the room where McKinney and Hulse were hiding, they were greeted by hot lead and gunsmoke. Packard and Tibbet were seriously wounded.

Rifle in hand, McKinney sprinted for the exit, only to run directly into the shotgun barrel of Deputy Bert Tibbet, the brother of Deputy Bill Tibbet. McKinney fired off a couple of wild shots before Bert Tibbet cut him down with his shot gun. Another deputy finished him off with a shot as he hit the ground.

Packard and Tibbet died of their wounds before the day was over. Hulse was arrested for harboring a fugitive. Seeing that most of McKinney’s friends ended up dead. Hulse got a good deal.

Culled from: California Justice by my friend David Kulczyk


Malady Du Jour!

Man with deformed feet, Wendt, New York City, c. 1885

Culled from: Harms Way

MFDJ 05/19/24: Horrible Victorian Hospitals

Today’s Overcrowded, Grimy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Here’s an excerpt from “The Butchering Art” about groundbreaking Victorian surgeon Joseph Lister (for whom “Listerine” is named):

After the first year of medical school, Lister began his residency at University College Hospital in October 1850. Several months later, the medical committee offered him the position of surgical dresser to John Eric Erichsen, the hospital’s senior surgeon. Lister accepted.

The best that can be said about Victorian hospitals is that they were a slight improvement over their Georgian predecessors. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement when one considers that a hospital’s “Chief Bug-Catcher”—whose job it was to rid the mattresses of lice—was paid more than its surgeons.

Admittedly, a number of London hospitals in the first half of the nineteenth century were rebuilt or extended in line with the demands placed upon them by the city’s growing population. For instance, St. Thomas’ Hospital received a new anatomical theater and museum in 1813; and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital underwent several structural improvements between 1822 and 1854, which increased the number of patients it could receive. Three teaching hospitals were also built during this time, including University College Hospital in 1834.

Despite these changes—or because these enlargements suddenly brought hundreds of patients into proximity with one another—hospitals were known by the public as “Houses of Death.” Some only admitted patients who brought with them money to cover their almost inevitable burial. Others, like St. Thomas’, charged double if the person in question was deemed “foul” by the admissions officer. The surgeon James Y. Simpson remarked as late as 1869 that a “soldier has more chance of survival on the field of Waterloo than a man who goes into hospital.”

In spite of token efforts to make hospitals cleaner, most remained overcrowded, grimy, and poorly managed. They were breeding grounds for infection and provided only the most primitive facilities for the sick and the dying, many of whom were housed on wards with little ventilation or access to clean water. Surgical incisions made in large city hospitals were so vulnerable to infection that operations were restricted to only the most urgent cases. The sick often languished in filth for long periods before they received medical attention, because most hospitals were disastrously understaffed. In 1825, visitors to St. George’s Hospital discovered mushrooms and maggots thriving in the damp, dirty sheets of a patient recovering from a compound fracture. The afflicted man, believing this to be the norm, had not complained about the conditions, nor had any of his fellow ward mates thought the squalor especially noteworthy.

Florence Nightingale visiting a Victorian hospital

Worst of all was the fact that hospitals constantly reeked of piss, shit, and vomit. A sickening odor permeated every surgical ward. The smell was so offensive that doctors sometimes walked around with handkerchiefs pressed to their noses. It was this affront to the senses that most tested surgical students on their first day in the hospital.

Berkely Moynihan—one of the first surgeons in England to use rubber gloves—recalled how he and his colleagues used to throw off their own jackets when entering the operating theater and don an ancient frock that was often stiff with dried blood and pus. It had belonged to a retired member of staff and was worn as a badge of honor by his proud successors, as were many items of surgical clothing.

Pregnant women who suffered vaginal tears during delivery were especially at risk in these dangerous environments because these wounds provided welcome openings for the bacteria that doctors and surgeons carried on them wherever they went. In England and Wales in the 1840s, approximately 3,000 mothers died each year from bacterial infections such as puerperal fever (also known as childbed fever). This amounted to roughly 1 death for every 210 confinements. Many women also died from pelvis abscesses, hemorrhaging, or peritonitis—the latter being a terrible condition in which bacteria travel through the bloodstream and inflame the peritoneum, the lining of the abdomen.

Because surgeons saw suffering on a daily basis, very few felt any need to address an issue that they saw as inevitable and commonplace. Most surgeons were interested in the individual bodies of their patients, not hospital populations and statistics. They were largely unconcerned with the causes of diseases, focusing instead on diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Lister, however, would soon form his own opinion about the parlous state of hospital wards and about what could be done to address what he saw as a growing humanitarian crisis.

Culled from: The Butchering Art


Wyoming Territorial Prisoner Du Jour!

The Wyoming Territorial Prison is a former federal government prison near Laramie, Wyoming. Built in 1872, it is one of the oldest buildings in Wyoming. It operated as a federal penitentiary from 1872 to 1890, and as a state prison from 1890 to 1901.

Today we feature prisoner #58, from the Warden’s record book:

#58 Michael O’Brien (real name, John Reddy) – December 12, 1875 – Grand Larceny – Laramie County – 7 years – age 27 – Bartender – Ireland and London, England. Conduct was indifferent and quarrelsome. Remarks: Convict’s second time in the penitentiary, having served a term in 1874, Convict #30 (Assault with intent to kill)/99***-. Taken to Nebraska State Prison on June 24, 1878, Wyoming Convict #15. Comments: Convict was involved in a fight on June 14, 1879, with another Wyoming prisoner #66, Thomas Smith in the stone quarry at Lincoln Prison and was shot by a guard, seriously wounded, but finally recovered. Convict served full time and was released on December 10, 1882.

Michael O’Brien – He just ain’t no good!

Culled from: Atlas of Wyoming Outlaws at the Territorial Penitentiary