June, 2008

June 1, 2008

Today's Suicidal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

By popular account, the very worst dive on the Bowery in New York in the late 1890's was McGurk's Suicide Hall, on the East Side just above Houston Street. McGurk's was nearly the lowest rung for prostitutes; hence the suicide craze that gave it its name and, incidentally, its grisly lure as a tourist attraction. Figures are unreliable or uncertain on the total number of self-killings that went on there, but in just one sample year, 1899, there were at least six, as well as more than seven attempts. In October of that year, for example, Blonde Madge Davenport and her partner, Big Mame, decided to end it all, and so they bought carbolic acid, the elixir of choice, at a drugstore a few doors away. Blonde Madge was successful in gulping it down, but Big Mame hesitated and succeeded in spilling most of it on her face; the resulting disfiguration resulted only in her getting permanently barred from the place. Suicide attempts were so common that the waiters, upon getting an indication of same, would form a flying wedge and hustle the party out before she (or occasionally he) succumbed. After a woman named Tina Gordon killed herself, McGurk gave a speech over her body: "Most of the women who come to my place have been on the down grade too long to think of reforming. I just want to say that I never pushed a girl downhill any more than I ever refused a helping hand to one who wanted to climb." This rather chilling bit of equivocation overlooks the fact that by then his business depended on the suicides for a good part of its allure. McGurk was finally shut down once and for all in 1902, and he retired to California with an estate supposed to have been in the neighborhood of $500,000.

Culled from: Low Life

**********************************************************************

Unfortunately, McGurk's was recently torn down for new development. What a damn tragedy. Developers are nothing more than legal vandals.

http://curbed.com/archives/2005/07/08/final_rites_for_mcgurks_suicide_hall.php

I'm sorry I've been away so long. I didn't intend to have such a long hiatus - I was just bogged down by a series of life circumstances and obsessions which I won't bother going into. I hope you were able to stay morbid while I was away, and I'll try to make it up to you with a consistent newsletter in the month of June.

*******

Ghost Hunting Photos!

I mentioned awhile back that I went on a ghost hunting excursion in April at the Mansfield Reformatory - the old prison where they filmed the Shawshank Redemption. It's an amazing structure - it contains the world's largest freestanding cell block (6 tiers tall!) and it has an incredible creepy atmosphere (which I'm sure is the reason why so many ghost stories abound). I took my Holga camera along with me and captured some nice creepy images. I hope you like them!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/comtessedespair/sets/72157604534387857/

*******

Morbid Sightseeing!

Those of us who live close to Michigan might be interested in viewing the website for the Weird Michigan book. Might have to take the Holga on an excursion!

http://www.weirdmichigan.com/


June 2, 2008

Today's Sick Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A woman blames the devil and not her husband for severely burning their infant daughter after the 2-month-old was put in a microwave. Eva Marie Mauldin said Satan compelled her 19-year-old husband, Joshua Royce Mauldin, to microwave their daughter May 10 because the devil disapproved of Joshua's efforts to become a preacher. "Satan saw my husband as a threat. Satan attacked him because he saw (Joshua) as a threat," Eva Mauldin told Houston television station KHOU-TV. A Galveston County grand jury indicted Joshua Mauldin last week on child injury charges after hearing evidence that he placed his daughter in a motel microwave for 10 to 20 seconds. The infant, Ana Marie, remains hospitalized. She suffered burns on the left side of her face and to her left hand. Eva Marie Mauldin, the girl's 20-year-old mother, told the television station that her husband is "not the monster people are making him out to be. That was not my husband; my husband is a wonderful father," she said. "Satan was working through his weaknesses." Eva Maudlin described those weaknesses as an undisclosed mental disability, and that her efforts to get help for him have failed. Police said Joshua Mauldin told them he put Ana Marie in the microwave because he was under stress. The family had arrived in Galveston the day before. Eva Maudlin, who met her husband in an Arkansas church, denied those claims by police. "He would never do anything to hurt her. He loves her," she said. "When she cries he is the one who comforts her. When she is sick, he is the one that takes her to the doctor." Joshua Mauldin, of Warren, Ark., came to Galveston with his wife and mother because he was called to be a preacher, his wife said. While Joshua Mauldin's mother has returned to Arkansas, Eva Mauldin remains in Galveston. She is hoping to be reunited with her daughter, but Child Protective Services is working to have her and Joshua Mauldin's parental rights severed. A custody hearing for the infant is scheduled for later this week in a Galveston district court. Joshua Mauldin faces a charge of injury to a child causing serious bodily harm, which carries a possible prison term of five to 99 years, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. Eva Mauldin has set up a MySpace page, "Joshua Mauldin is not a Monster," in hopes of defending her husband and making pleas for people to help her.

Culled from: Associated Press
Generously submitted by: Magnoire

**********************************************************************

I did a follow-up search and it turns out the moron was given a sentence of 25 years and a fine of $10,000. The article describes the injuries as follows: "the girl's left hand was so burned that there was no skin, no muscle, no fat, only tendon and bone. Ana suffered second- and third-degree burns to her left ear, cheek, hand and shoulder and has required several skin grafts. Part of her left ear had to be amputated." Owie.

*******

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Now, this sounds like a my kind of card game!

Gloom: The Game of Inauspicious Incidents and Grave Consequences
The world of Gloom is a sad and benighted place. The sky is gray, the tea is cold, and a new tragedy lies around every corner. Debt, disease, heartache, and packs of rabid flesh-eating mice -- just when it seems like things can't get any worse, they do. But some say that one's reward in the afterlife is based on the misery endured in life. If so, there may yet be hope -- if not in this world, then in the peace that lies beyond.

In the Gloom card game, you assume control of the fate of an eccentric family of misfits and misanthropes. The goal of the game is sad, but simple: you want your characters to suffer the greatest tragedies possible before passing on to the well-deserved respite of death. You'll play horrible mishaps like Pursued by Poodles or Mocked by Midgets on your own characters to lower their Self-Worth scores, while trying to cheer your opponents' characters with marriages and other happy occasions that pile on positive points. The player with the lowest total Family Value wins.

Printed on transparent plastic cards, Gloom features an innovative design by noted RPG author Keith Baker. Multiple modifier cards can be played on top of the same character card; since the cards are transparent, elements from previously played modifier cards either show through or are obscured by those played above them. You'll immediately and easily know the worth of every character, no matter how many modifiers they have. You've got to see (through) this game to believe it!

For 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up.

Gloom: The Game of Inauspicious Incidents and Grave Consequences

There are a couple of expansion sets too!

Unwelcome Guests Gloom Expansion

Unhappy Homes Gloom Expansion

Or, you can get all three in a handy triple pack!

*******

Morbid Art Du Jour!

Peggy sends a link to a very intriguing artist with a distinctly dark style:

"Elizabeth McGrath has some fascinating work. She uses (only) faux fur, resin, and taxidermy forms. The effect is really creepy. You have to enable popups to see the larger images."

I must say I'm relieved the fur is faux!

http://www.elizabethmcgrath.com


June 3, 2008

Today's Brutal Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Peine forte et dure was a brutal aspect of the English judicial system where those who refused to plead guilty or not guilty were sentenced to be pressed to death. It was usual to hasten death by placing a sharp piece of timber under the victim's back, but this was not always permitted. In February 1658, Major George Strangeways, a distinguished soldier of the Civil War, refused to plead to a charge of murder:

"He was prohibited that usuall Favour in that kind, to have a piece of Timber layed under his back to Accelerate its penetration, and the Assistants laid on a first weight, which finding it too light for a sudden Execution, many of those standing by added their own weight to disburden him of his pain. In the space of eight or ten minutes at the most, his unfettered Soul left her tortur'd Mansion..."

Culled from: The History Of Torture

**********************************************************************

Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

And now for something completely different...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zekiZYSVdeQ

Thanks to Stephen O' for the link.

*******

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Did you know that in addition to painlessly offing people, Dr. Jack Kevorkian can also play the flute and organ? Neither did I - but here's the proof:

Kevorkian Suite: A Very Still Life

Thanks to Stephen O' for the link.


June 4, 2008

Today's Ambitious Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Charlton Street Gang was a notable 19th century New York City street gang which worked the North River in rowboats. In 1869 they were joined and soon commanded by Sadie the Goat, a former East Side barfly best known for having had an ear chewed off in a fight by the formidable Gallus Mag, of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang. The ear was later returned to her, and she was said to wear it in a locket around her neck. Her own preferred method of engagement was the head butt, hence her moniker. Under Sadie, the gang grew more ambitious. They stole a sloop, flew the Jolly Roger from its mast, and ranged up the river as far as Poughkeepsie, robbing villages and outlying houses. Like Tom Sawyer, Sadie was evidently up on her pirate lore; she made captives walk the plank, and directed her gang in kidnappings after learning that Julius Caesar had once been held for ransom by pirates. Their career fell victim to their notoriety; once word of their exploits got around, Hudson Valley farmers began keeping firearms in sight, and one welcoming committee eventually defeated the gang.

Culled from: Low-Life

**********************************************************************

While I was on hiatus, I read the above referenced book, Low-Life by Luc Sante. It's an engaging history of the New York underground, from gangs and prostitution to political corruption and drug use. Strangely, some of the most fascinating sections of the book were the least morbid. For example, I enjoyed reading about Faro - a card game that was one of the most popular games played during the 19th century. Sante points out that many common expressions today have their origin from Faro, among them: "keeping tabs," "losing out," "breaking even," "getting a square deal," "sleeper," "stool pigeon," and "in hock". Yes, I find things like this quite fascinating, don't you?

Low-Life isn't consistently compelling - there were a few chapters where I found myself skipping ahead - but for those interested in New York history or the 19th century, it's an excellent read.

Low-Life
by Luc Sante

*******

Morbid (and lame) Mirth Du Jour!

Did you hear that Marcel Marceau died?
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
No, I didn't hear it either.

Thanks to Steve O' for the link.

*******

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Here are some lovely Day of the Dead pendants, beads, and charms, courtesy of Gaea.cc:

http://gaea.cc/gaea_DayoftheDeadQueen.html

Thanks to Christina for the link.


June 5, 2008

Today's Humorous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Henry Fox, 1st Baron Holland, was an English statesman who died on July 1, 1774. His famous last words were purported to have been: "If Mr. Selwyn calls again, show him up. If I am alive I shall be delighted to see him, and if I am dead he would like to see me."

Culled from: Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions and Fears

**********************************************************************

Morbid Art!

I adore the design of Dark Days: The Art Of Matthew Goodsell. Oh, and the artwork is amazingly grim as well!

http://www.goodsellart.com/

Thanks to Cat for the link.

*******

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

The flowers are blooming here in the northern hemisphere, so why not show them off in a lovely heart vase? You'll be the envy of all your plain-vased friends!

Thanks to ChopsLM for the link.


June 10, 2008

Today's Wretched Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Writing in 1850, the British diplomat Sir Henry Charles Sirr described a visit to one of the elephants in Sri Lanka that had been used by Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last king of Kandy, to execute criminals. Crushing by elephant had been abolished by the British after they overthrew the Kandyan kingdom in 1815 but the king's execution elephant was still alive and, evidently, well remembered his or her former duties. Sirr comments:

"During the native dynasty it was the practice to train elephants to put criminals to death by trampling upon them, the creatures being taught to prolong the agony of the wretched sufferers by crushing the limbs, avoiding the vital parts. With the last tyrant king of Candy, this was a favourite mode of execution and as one of the elephant executioners was at the former capital during our sojourn there we were particularly anxious to test the creature's sagacity and memory. The animal was mottled and of enormous size, and was quietly standing there with his keeper seated upon his neck; the noble who accompanied us desired the man to dismount and stand on one side.

"The chief then gave the word of command, ordering the creature to 'slay the wretch!' The elephant raised his trunk, and twined it, as if around a human being; the creature then made motions as if he were depositing the man on the earth before him, then slowly raised his fore-foot, placing it alternately upon the spots where the limbs of the sufferer would have been. This he continued to do for some minutes; then, as if satisfied that the bones must be crushed, the elephant raised his trunk high upon his head and stood motionless; the chief then ordered him to 'complete his work,' and the creature immediately placed one foot, as if upon the man's abdomen, and the other upon his head, apparently using his entire strength to crush and terminate the wretch's misery."

Culled from: Wikipedia
Generously submitted by: Ben Z.

**********************************************************************

Morbid Sightseeing!

Currently in Chicago they are filming the movie Public Enemies - the story of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and all those other wonderful prohibition era thorns in the side of the police establishment. Johnny Depp is starring as bank robber John Dillinger and my girlfriend and I have been trying very hard to catch a view of him in action. Unfortunately, we haven't had any luck, though we have seen several scenes being shot. The most exciting thing, for me, is the way that Hollywood rebuilt the block along Lincoln Avenue where Dillinger was ambushed by the FBI and shot to death after watching the movie Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934. I have long been familiar with historic photographs of the block at the time of Dillinger's death and I was curious to see if they would recreate it faithfully - and I was not disappointed!

The Biograph Theater is still there, but it's now called the "Victory Gardens Biograph" - named after the stupid, selfish theatre company that took it over a few years ago and completed gutted the interior of the building. (Have I mentioned that I hate them for that?) The buildings down near the alley where Dillinger collapsed have been demolished and rebuilt - so Hollywood had to build facades of the old buildings. I felt like I was walking back in time as I strolled along the avenue - all the storefronts had vintage items in them and old signs were put up everywhere. It was a luddite's dream!! Everything new is old again!!! I was in heaven.

First of all, here's how the theater "normally" looks these days:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bwchicago/2519350990/sizes/l/in/photostream/

And here's how it looked on the night that Dillinger died:

And here's a view showing the alley that Dillinger collapsed in:

And now, here are the photographs I took a couple of weeks ago at the site. Well done, Hollywood!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/comtessedespair/sets/72157605533393359


June 12, 2008

Today's Painless and Merciful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On April 2, 1951, Libby Bershad, 31, was found dead in an automobile in the 600 block of North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, having been shot four times by her sweetheart, Robert Gene Dessauer. Dessauer phoned Hollywood Station and said that he had committed the murder and could be found in a local coffee shop. He had written several notes on the backs of checks, one of them reading as follows: "She died instantly - painlessly and mercifully - and most important of all she died happy with joyous thoughts that could never be brought to reality but she was so happy. The back of her head faced me - I looked at her beautiful new silver blonde hair - and I squeezed the trigger - and when she died, I died too. It now remains for mine [sic] executioner to complete my work - his superficial task will end a life that should never have begun - but she will be killing a corpse for I have already left the realm of the living. How often had we spoken of it - one killing the other and then paying for it by dying alone and forsaken, possibly in terror - I doubt if either of us realized at that time that this would soon come to pass. It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my entire misbegotten life and yet now and then it all seemed so easy, actually. The cynical philosopher spoke more truth than poetry when he said, 'dying comes easy, it's living that's hard.' Right and wrong in the accepted sense all are fools and religionists and cowards - I was not afraid to kill and I am not afraid to be killed for it - I have no beliefs - other than that the end fully justifies the means. And a few paltry dollars made her so happy!"

Culled from: Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive

**********************************************************************

That must win an award for one of the most poetic post-murder notes ever. By the way, I couldn't find a date but I believe that Robert was executed for his crime. Wish the book had bothered to tell me... which reminds me...

**********

Morbid Review Du Jour!

I just finished re-reading (well, more like re-looking at) the above-mentioned book, Scene of the Crime. I thought I'd reprint my original review from a few years ago:

Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive
by Tim Wride, William J. Bratton, James Ellroy

Scene of the Crime is the latest in a recent influx of collections of crime scene photography, and it has added appeal in that some of the images are of famous cases, such as the Black Dahlia murder and the Manson Family slaughterhouse. The book is laid out in the same manner as most of these books, with black and white images presented in the first half of the book, and information for each photograph at the back. Unfortunately, many of the photographs piqued my curiosity, only to find a sad, unsatisfying, "case information unavailable" comment awaiting me in the back of the book. Still, many of the images are so well-composed and interesting that they could be seen in art museums rather than cold case files, so this is a minor quibble. However, there are also quite a few lesser and uninteresting images as well, which left me feeling a bit cheated given my suspicion that the LAPD coffers are overflowing with many more graphic, historic, and fascinating images. Comparing this book to the classic LA crime gallery Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook serves to further point out this collection's shortcomings. There is nothing in here as punch-in-the-gut brutal as the image of the decapitated baby on the cutting board or as surreal as the peaceful head sitting in the middle of a road after a traffic accident, both from Death Scenes. Taken on its own merits, I might have given the book a five skull rating, but in comparison with its more amazing brethren I'd have to rate it four skulls.

**********

Morbid Link Du Jour!

One of the great things about being a Comtesse is receiving e-mails like this one that I received yesterday:

"This may be kind of a long shot, but I thought I would try anyway. Several years ago, I recall seeing an image of a middle-ages woodcut showing nuns being attacked by flying penises swooping in through the window somewhere on Asylum Eclectica. A conversation made me think of it, and now, for the life of me, I don't seem to be able to find it. Do you still happen to have it stashed away anywhere?"

Although I couldn't exactly recall the image, I knew it could only be found at one place: Brian's Page Of Antique Weirdness. And I was right!

http://www.antiqueweird.com/nun01.jpg

If you're looking for an amazing and amusing hour, I suggest you take a browse at Brian's incredible collection of bizarre (but authentic) images.

http://www.antiqueweird.com/


June 22, 2008

Today's Collapsing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Many citizens in Caracas, Venezuela, were in church on March 26, 1812, Holy Thursday. Without warning, a massive earthquake struck the city, its tremors collapsing three churches onto the penitent masses and killing everyone inside. Fifteen-foot-thick columns supported one of the churches, yet they could not withstand the quake. Scores of troops were killed when a giant fissure opened up and swallowed their barracks. Within minutes, 90% of Caracas lay in ruins, and thousands of people were trapped and screaming for help from within the city's homes, churches, and other buildings. Rescuers freed some 2,000 trapped survivors, but 15,000 people were killed in the city and surrounding area. In the quake's aftermath, famine and disease killed another 5,000 people.

Culled from: The Pessimist's Guide To History

**********************************************************************

You know, facts like these used to sound impressive to me... but after the various tsunamis and earthquakes and typhoons we've been seeing around the world lately, they aren't quite as powerful.

**********

Morbid Video!

Last September, Elise wrote to ask me if I had any information about a Golden Gate Bridge suicide jumper that she saw being pulled out of the water when she was in The City on vacation. While doing some research, I stumbled across footage of the jumper treading water taken from the bridge. He actually looks to be in somewhat decent shape. I suspect he's got broken legs, judging by the way he seems to be using his arms to keep himself above water, but he's definitely in better shape than most bridge jumpers who survive. I couldn't find out any information about him, however. Does anyone happen to have anything to share?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LhH4eoqKY8

**********

Morbid Art!

Saint John is an illustrator with a decidedly morbid bent. Although some of his work strays a bit too much into the fantasy realm for me, some is wonderfully dark and eerie. Perhaps you might enjoy it as well?

http://www.inkshadows.com/


June 24, 2008

Today's Highly Successful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

After the Civil War, controversial Ohio politician Clement Vallandigham became a highly successful lawyer who rarely lost a case. In 1871, he defended Thomas McGehan who was accused of shooting one Tom Myers during a barroom brawl. Vallandigham’s defense was that Myers had accidentally shot himself while drawing his pistol from a kneeling position. To convince the jury, Vallandigham decided to demonstrate his theory. Unfortunately, he grabbed a loaded gun by mistake and ended up shooting himself! By dying, Vallandigham succeeded in demonstrating the plausibility of the accidental shooting and got his client acquitted.

Culled from: Neatorama
Generously submitted by: Bex

**********************************************************************

I only wish that more lawyers had this degree of dedication to the job! Literally!!

**********

Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

Now, here's a bloody fantastic mug courtesy of our sick friends at Wulffmorgenthaler.Com.

http://wulffmorgenthaler.myshopify.com/products/product-19

Thanks to Shauna for the link.

**********

Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Sharp-eyed Heathir was wasting her time on Craigslist when she came across a most morbidly excellent post. Luckily, she thought of us.

http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/sfo/371623786.html




Vulgarities...