Friday, September 4, 2015
This week's Link Dump is brought to you by the Disco Dancing Cat Mummies of Egypt.
What the hell are the Himalayan Towers?
Your weekly dose of Russian Weird: What the hell is this?
Watch out for those bored drunken angry giant wasps!
Watch out for that bewitched butter!
Watch out for those cursed boots!
Watch out for those cursed roads!
Finding the Alien Apocalypse.
The life and times of an oddball 18th century doctor.
Freemasonry and the European nobility.
The great solar storm of 1859.
The 1970s summarized in one handy link.
A hotel specifically for children.
Archaeological discoveries that could have changed history...if they had only been genuine.
Just enough of me, way too much of you.
Don't paddle those Grecian Bends!
The ongoing debate over "No Irish Need Apply."
The ruins of magical Yester Castle.
A major archaeological find relating to Bronze Age Greece.
A dead pilot doesn't take kindly to being insulted.
The ghostly woman of a famed shipwreck.
Sarah Royce, pioneer woman.
The bizarre case of the molasses tsunami.
Irish fairies in America.
How hoaxes become history.
That time women took out permits to wear pants.
Bigfoot goes country!
A very strange UFO story.
More on the Club of Queer Trades.
The courage of the Waldensians.
Death in the early Tudor era.
An amazing ancient gold collar.
More evidence suggesting the Neanderthals weren't as Neanderthal as we think.
More stories of ancient telephones. As if the ones we have now aren't curse enough.
Elongated skulls a go-go.
How WWI was launched on a sea of awful poetry.
Charming color photographs of 1920s-1930s Britain.
The life of the Ilkeston Giant.
The cat aristocrat who was kin to John Wilkes Booth.
How you were likely to die in 1743.
The poisoning of Edgar and Virginia Poe.
That time Brigham Young dissed Anthony Trollope.
The "girl parachute jumpers" of Paris.
A famous explorer's brush with the paranormal.
How to marry a ghost.
For what little it's worth, I'm one of those who suspects there very possibly was never a murder at all.
And, finally, proof that cats only want us for our money.
And my new favorite marching band!
And we're outta here for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll be talking drunken poets. In the meantime, here's Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy. I could listen to that entire album forever.
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
A few weeks back, I described the odd disappearance and death of a small child named Stephen McKerron. As I said in my post, I felt the case had many features similar to those missing persons cases covered in David Paulides' "Missing 411" books. These newspaper stories from Wales chronicle another tragedy involving a missing boy that I believe falls into the same eerie, inexplicable pattern. As far as I can tell, it is not covered in any of Paulides' books.
The "Evening Express," August 10, 1900:
The visit of William Jones, of 9 James-street, Hardy, Pontypridd, to the town of Brecon was accompanied by a tragedy which threatens to embitter the lives of himself and his wife.
On Saturday evening Jones walked from Brecon to one military camp at the foot of the Beacons. He was accompanied by his son, a bright little fellow five years of age, named Thomas. With his blue eyes and bright brown hair Tommy looked the picture of roguish activity as he trotted by his father's side, dressed in a greyish suit, with jockey cap and collarette.
At the camp little Tom and his father met Tom's grandfather, who resides in the neighbourhood, and a cousin aged thirteen years, named W. J. Jones. The two boys were soon engaged in youthful pastimes, and the younger lad agreed to accompany his cousin to a place called Cwmllwch. Away they started, but after, it is said, crossing two bridges, and when they were half-way to the house, little Tom changed his mind. He would go no farther. He wanted his father. The boys separated. The boy of thirteen went on alone to the house. The little boy of five mysteriously disappeared, and up to a late hour on Thursday night no trace of him had been found.
After the elder lad had visited the house, he returned to the spot where he had left his younger comrade. Finding he was gone, the cousin hurried to the camp, and gave the alarm. A military search party was kindly and promptly ordered out by Major Lloyd.
The troops in camp were quickly on the alert. They carried lights, and used every device known to old campaigners to discover the lost lad. Until the midnight hour the eager soldiers explored every spot that could suggest itself, and the first faint light of dawn found them agarn searching for some trace of the lost lad. Every day, and almost every hour since the search has been continued, but the mystery is so deep that it would seem to need either the skill of a Baden-Powell or the genius of a Sherlock Holmes to ascertain whether there has been any foul play. The part of the Beacons where the lad disappeared abounds with gullies, over which undergrowths of trees and shrubs have grown thickly, and a body might be concealed for months if no unpleasant sign became apparent. The father is well-nigh distracted and a fresh element of pathos has been added to the tragedy by the arrival of the sorrow-stricken mother. The mysterious occurrence forms the leading topic of conversation at the Beacons, in the barracks, and throughout the neighbourhood of Brecon.
"Evening Express," August 29, 1900:
The interest in the boy lost three weeks ago on the Breconshire Beacons had dwindled down almost to vanishing point, but a new impetus has been given to the boy-hunt. On Tuesday night a special correspondent of the Daily Mail arrived in Brecon, with instructions to engage again in the search. He renewed the offer of £20 for anyone finding the boy alive or dead.
The theory that the poor little lad had wandered away and failed to return to the camp alone is no longer to be acted upon. The advice of detectives whose opinions have been secured has led those engaged in the search to believe that the child has been deliberately kidnapped. In pursuance of this theory the search will be conducted over a far wider area than before, and the hunt will be conducted so thoroughly and systematically that it is hoped the interest of the public will be secured in the quest. This will result in placing thousands of amateur but earnest detectives on the lookout for strangers who have a child, apparently, not their own, bearing a suspicious resemblance to little Tommy Jones, of Mardy.
There are two facts which have an important bearing on the kidnapping theory. The father recently stated in one of his final interviews with a pressman that his little boy had suffered from an injury to his leg or foot. As a result of this he would not run, but could walk fast. In any case, therefore, a five-year-old boy could not have had in twenty minutes a mile start of the soldiers who were searching for him. A second fact is that the father pointed out the print of his child's foot on the ground about 50 yards from the bridges over the brooks. He said that was the only print he could see of his child's foot. There were no other footprints before or beyond that spot. This fact might suggest that the child was carried by a person who placed him on the ground, so as to gain a minute's rest. To the despairing father and mother the kidnapping idea will be a ray of hope. It must be some comfort to know that men who have given their lives to criminal investigation believe in tie possibility of the little wanderer being yet restored to his loved ones. May that hope be justified by experience!
Sadly, as in the case of Stephen McKerron, those hopes were eventually dashed. From the "County Observer," September 8, 1900:
The Brecon mystery has at last been solved. The body of the lost child Tommy Jones was found high up on the Beacons on Sunday afternoon by Mr. Abraham Hamer, a gardener, of Castle Madoc, Lower Chapel. Mrs. Hamer read the accounts of the missing boy on Friday of last week, and felt that she could not rest without making some effort to find him; she dreamed of Tommy Jones by night and thought of him all day.
So on Sunday morning she and her husband drove 10 miles to the bottom of the Beacons and climbed the steep sides, nearly 3000 ft. above the sea level. Hundreds of people have searched the same ground during the past month, and only three days ago the father of the boy walked within 20 yards of it. As they walked, at two o'clock they suddenly lightened on a little stretched out figure in front of them.
"Here he is," the man shouted, and his wife began to cry. Leaving Mrs. Hamer near by, the man quickly drove into Brecon, and soon Sergeant Hand, Constable Harwood, and a representative of the Daily Mail were on the spot.
It was a pathetic little figure that lay on the mountain top face downwards, hands stretched out, and head towards home. The pocket was turned out as though the last crumb had been taken from it, and the soles of the boots showed that he had walked far.
Evidently on the Saturday night when he was lost the boy made for the left in place of the camp to the right. Then he went down the hill and round, steadily leftwards. Going some way towards Merthyr he would gradually get on the Mountain Ash road. Probably he recognised the peak of the Beacons and made for it. Had he walked a dozen steps further he would have seen the glen lying below with the home of his aunts. But from where he stood he could see nothing all around but the desolate hills. Not a house was in sight in all the miles of country. To the back, line upon line of black mountain ash stretched out; a few hundred yards to his right stood the grim peak of the Beacons; in front was nothing but sky. And so he fell, his hands clenched and his arms above his head.
A crowd quickly gathered, even in that solitary spot. The father tore up the mountain side, rushing along the almost perpendicular heights as though they had been level ground. "Tommy back, Tommy back my poor little lad," he murmured. Then for the first time in all these weeks he broke down, and tears saved his reason. One man fainted at the sight.
The condition of the ground clearly showed that the body had lain on that mountain side for a very long time. The child's hat lay within two feet of where he lay.
On Saturday a large detachment of the Breconshire Regiment, under the command of Captain C. Wadsworth, marched up to the Shire Hall early in the morning, and from there set out for the River Tarell. When the soldiers came to parts of the riverside so steep that they could not be properly examined from the banks, Captain Wadsworth, followed by his men, plunged up to the middle in the swift current and waded through the water. This had to be done repeatedly. At the same time the police and a number of civilians helpers were hunting in the direction of Mynydd Illtyd. Spreading out they first thoroughly explored an enormous wood a little over two miles from where the child was lost. When they had penetrated the wood the searchers turned to a stretch of bracken-covered mountainside many miles in extent. The hunters formed a line about half a mile in extent, and marched forward beating the land as though for game. They came to bogs where, the old mountain guides said, men sank completely so soon as they floundered in them. These bogs were probed, but yielded nothing. They walked warily around old slate quarries where a chance wanderer could easily fall and be killed everywhere were death-trap spots where a straying child must have been killed. The body has been missing since August 4--a month all but a day.
The spot where the body was discovered was over two miles from where Tommy had last been seen, and some 1300 feet higher. No one could explain how this little boy--who was suffering from a leg injury, no less--had traveled such a long distance over difficult mountain terrain. Another oddity is that Tommy was wearing a whistle around his neck when he vanished. (It was still on his body.) Why didn't he use it to summon help?
As in the case of Stephen McKerron, the coroner's inquest ruled that Tommy died of "exhaustion and exposure." The little boy's sad, strange death lingered in the collective memory of his community for many years.
Money was raised to build a memorial to Tommy Jones on the site where he was found. It still stands there today.
Monday, August 31, 2015
A surprising number of bizarre murders arise out of a backdrop of bland normality. Dull, respectable folk with dull, respectable lives suddenly take an unexpectedly shocking turn.
The same can hardly be said for today's heroine, Adelaide Bartlett. Her life began in an aura of weird mystery, and, many years later, ended in one.
And what happened in between was pure murder.
We have very little information about Adelaide's early years, and what is known is decidedly odd. She was born in France on December 19th, 1855. Her mother was an Englishwoman named Clara Chamberlain. Clara was married to a French mathematics teacher named Adolphe Collet de la Tremoille, but he was apparently not Adelaide's biological father. The question of who sired Adelaide remains unanswered. It was said that her real father was "an Englishman of good social position," but even this was never established. All we know is that he must have been well-known and "respectable" enough to feel it necessary to keep his identity a secret. He must also have been of considerable wealth and influence. Adelaide's father remained an important figure in her life, guiding her destiny with a powerful hidden hand.
Adolphe de la Tremoille died in 1860. Clara followed him to the grave six years later. The now-orphaned Adelaide was taken in by a William Wellbeloved and his wife Ann. Adelaide grew up to be a pretty, intelligent, graceful, and well-educated girl, but her strange family circumstances inevitably left its mark on her personality. However, it was not until some time later that the world learned just how warped a psyche she may have had.
When Adelaide was 19, her father arranged a marriage for her. She was sent to England, where a 30-year-old grocer named Edwin Bartlett was--to put it bluntly--given a large sum of money to marry her. Edwin was, on paper, a perfectly good matrimonial catch. He was ambitious, hard-working, clean-living, amiable, and reasonably attractive. However, he and Adelaide were virtual strangers when they wed. It would not be surprising if the girl deeply resented this arranged marriage, but no one, including Edwin, gave her feelings on the matter any consideration at all.
|via British Newspaper Archive|
The marriage contract had three stipulations Edwin had to follow before receiving his money and his wife: He had to take sole responsibility for Adelaide, he had to promise never to refer to her dodgy background, and he had to continue her education. In accordance with this last clause, immediately after the pair married on April 6, 1875, Edwin packed his bride off to a boarding-school in Stoke Newington. Adelaide remained there for a year, after which she was sent to a Protestant convent in Belgium. (Although Adelaide had been raised as a Catholic, she converted to her new husband's religion.) It was not until late in 1877 that she returned to England, and she and Edwin finally began their life together.
On the surface, at least, all seemed well. Adelaide made a great show of acting the "perfect wife." Edwin's chain of grocery stores flourished. Still, it must have been a dull existence for the new Mrs. Bartlett. She made no friends (although she easily charmed men, women appeared to find her decidedly off-putting.) With Edwin working long hours at his business, she spent most of her time alone with little to do.
In 1878, the first signs of trouble emerged. Adelaide had found an unorthodox way of keeping herself entertained. Her new father-in-law, Edwin Bartlett Sr.--who had disliked Adelaide from the start--accused her of having a liaison with Young Edwin's brother, Frederick. Although the charges apparently were only too true, Edwin took his wife's side in the family dispute and professed to believe her denial that an affair had taken place. The couple managed to force Edwin Senior to make a formal apology--in writing! Frederick fled to America, although there are signs that he and Adelaide secretly remained in communication.
The Bartletts remained childless until 1881, when, after a long, difficult labor, Adelaide gave birth to a stillborn child. She found the entire experience so traumatic that she vowed she would never become pregnant again. Edwin acquiesced with this decision.
In 1883, the Bartletts moved to Merton Abbey, near Wimbledon, where they made the acquaintance of the local Wesleyan pastor, 27-year-old George Dyson. The trio soon became the closest of friends. Edwin enlisted the reverend to tutor Adelaide in the Classics. Dyson would often spend the day alone with Adelaide at the Bartlett home while Edwin was at work. The two men exchanged gushing letters, with Edwin writing Dyson lines like "Who could help loving you?" The Bartletts archly called the pastor "Georgius Rex." Dyson wrote Adelaide some truly unforgivable poetry, such as:
Who is it that hath burst the door,
Unclosed the heart that shut before,
And set her queen-like on its throne,
And made its homage all her own?
The relationship continued after the Bartletts moved to a two-room flat in the suburb of Pimlico. This odd ménage à trois became so intimate that--according to the later testimony of George and Adelaide--Edwin virtually "gave" Adelaide to the reverend, making Dyson her unofficial "co-husband." Furthermore, if Edwin should predecease Adelaide, he asked Dyson to marry her.
Adelaide confided to Dyson many troubling things about her husband. Edwin, she said, had been suffering for years from a mysterious "internal complaint." To soothe the pain of this affliction, she was in the habit of giving him chloroform. Worse still, she claimed that a Dr. Thomas Nichols had told her that Edwin would undoubtedly die within a year.
It was a fact that late in 1885, Edwin's normally robust health took a sudden downward turn, so much so that a physician, Alfred Leach, was summoned. Dr. Leach found that Edwin was suffering from indigestion that he believed was caused by mercury poisoning. Additionally, Edwin's teeth and gums were in an appalling condition. (Edwin had fallen into the hands of a quack dentist, who prepared his mouth for dentures by sawing his teeth off at the gum line.) When Leach questioned him, (he assumed Bartlett had been taking mercury as a cure for syphilis,) Edwin said only that he had been taking pills, but he professed not to know what they were. He strongly--and, as it turned out, truthfully--denied having any venereal disease.
During Edwin's illness, Adelaide appeared to be the most devoted of wives. She insisted on acting as his sole nurse, attending him day and night. When Leach advised her to get more rest, she replied, "What is the use, doctor? He will walk about the room like a ghost; he will not sleep unless I sit and hold his toe." She asked the doctor to bring in another physician for a second opinion, with the curious explanation that if Edwin did not get better soon, his friends would accuse her of poisoning him.
A Dr. Dudley was called in to examine the invalid. He found that Edwin was suffering from sleeplessness and depression, but as far as he could see there was nothing else wrong with him. He concluded that Edwin was a mere hysteric, and advised him to get out more. Dr. Leach believed Edwin was suffering from worms. He dosed the patient with a truly nightmarish series of purgatives, which he believed finally had a beneficial result. Edwin remained in poor spirits, even confiding to the doctor that he believed he would die soon. However, by late in December he rallied slightly, and talked of returning to his work.
On the 27th of December, Adelaide approached George Dyson with an unusual request. She asked him to buy a bottle of chloroform for her, so she could give it to Edwin to help him sleep. When the reverend asked her why she couldn't get it from Dr. Leach, she explained that "he did not know that she was skilled in drugs and medicines, and not knowing that, he would not entrust her with it." Dyson obediently went to several different chemists, where he purchased four small bottles of the drug. He told them he needed it to remove grease stains. He then poured the contents into one large bottle, which he turned over to Adelaide. Neither he nor Adelaide made any mention of the transaction to Edwin.
On December 30, Dr. Leach told Edwin he was nearly completely well, and needed no further medical help. The following day, Edwin went to see his dentist. Dr. Leach and Adelaide accompanied him. Everyone was in good spirits. Adelaide was markedly affectionate towards her husband. She told Leach that she and Edwin wished they were unmarried, so "they might have the pleasure of marrying each other again."
Edwin was nearly back to his old self. Despite his recent dental work, he ate a large supper, and enjoyed it immensely. He asked their landlady, Mrs. Doggett, to serve him a large haddock for his breakfast the next morning, saying that "he should get up an hour earlier at the thought of having it."
Adelaide and Edwin spent New Year's Eve alone together. After 11:30 p.m., no one in their rooming-house had any contact with them. All was quiet until 4 a.m., when Adelaide awakened the Doggetts with startling news: Edwin was dead.
The Doggetts found Edwin lying on a small bed near the drawing-room fireplace. The body was cold, indicating he had died several hours earlier. Adelaide told them that she had fallen asleep with her hand around Edwin's foot. When she woke up, she saw her husband was lying face-down. She turned him over on his back and tried pouring brandy down his throat, but she quickly realized that Edwin was beyond all aid. She stated that she had given him nothing else that night. Mr. Doggett noticed on the mantlepiece a glass three-quarters full of a liquid that smelled like a combination of brandy and ether. He did not see any bottle of chloroform.
When Dr. Leach came to examine the body, he asked if Edwin could have taken a poison. "Oh, no," Adelaide replied. "He could have got at no poison without my knowledge." As he could see no obvious cause of death, the doctor told her an autopsy would be required. Adelaide readily assented. "We are all interested in knowing the cause of death," she said agreeably.
Edwin's father believed he already knew "the cause of death." The minute he heard of his son's sudden passing, he was inexorably convinced that Adelaide had poisoned Edwin.
The post-mortem revealed that Edwin had been a strong, healthy man, with no hint of any "internal complaint." The only clue to his death came when his stomach was opened. The contents had an overwhelming odor of chloroform.
This revelation that Edwin Bartlett died a far-from-natural death completely changed the tone of the investigation. The Bartlett rooms were ordered sealed, forcing Adelaide to seek lodgings elsewhere. She was not allowed to take anything with her, and before she left, Edwin Senior made a great show of checking her pockets.
When George Dyson heard the mention of "chloroform," he became greatly alarmed. The first time he was able to be alone with Adelaide, he asked her, in a distinctly accusatory way, if she had used the chloroform he bought for her. "I have not used it," she replied peevishly. "The bottle is there just as you gave it to me." When he continued to press her on what had become of the bottle, she angrily stamped her foot and snapped, "Oh, damn the chloroform!" When he asked her about the "internal complaint" she had told him was slowly killing Edwin, she denied having ever said anything of the sort.
It began to dawn on Dyson that his Birdie had some very sharp claws. He declared that he wanted to tell the authorities about his connection to the chloroform. Adelaide warned him to do no such thing. The two wound up having a raging quarrel that ensured their strange romance was most definitely over.
The inquest into Edwin's death opened on January 6, but was adjourned until the analysis of Edwin's stomach was completed. Afterward, Adelaide told Dyson that he was distressing himself unnecessarily. When he retorted that on the contrary, he felt he had ample reason for worry, she said casually that if Dyson would only keep his mouth shut about the chloroform, she "would not incriminate" him. Adelaide told him that she had thrown the bottle of poison away. Dyson said hesitatingly, "Suppose it should be proved that you----" "Don't mince matters," Adelaide snarled. "Say, if you wish to, that I gave him chloroform!" Dyson merely silently walked away from her. The two never spoke again.
By January 26, the medical examination into Edwin's death was complete. Dr. Leach told Adelaide that only chloroform had been found in his body; there was no "secret poison" which might have led people to believe she had murdered her husband. "I wish anything but chloroform had been found!" she exclaimed. Adelaide admitted that she had had that substance in her possession. She then proceeded to give the doctor "a sketch of her married life." Adelaide explained that Edwin had peculiar theories about "animal magnetism" and the relations between husband and wife. At Edwin's insistence, their marriage had always been completely platonic. Their marriage was consummated only once, because she wished to have children. After her tragic labor, they returned to living as brother and sister. When they met George Dyson, Edwin threw the two of them together. "He requested us, in his presence, to kiss, and he seemed to enjoy it. He had given me to Mr. Dyson."
However, Adelaide went on, towards the end of Edwin's life, he had second thoughts about their arrangement. He now wished to have sexual relations with his wife. Adelaide primly informed him that this was hardly fair play. She reminded Edwin, "You know you have given me to Mr. Dyson; it is not right that you should do now what during all the years of our married life you have not done." Despite this chastisement, he continued to make romantic overtures to her. To cool his ardor, she decided to obtain some chloroform. She planned to sprinkle some on a handkerchief and wave it in his face whenever he got frisky, so he "would go peacefully to sleep."
Instead, Adelaide went on, her conscience got the better of her. On that fatal New Year's Eve, she confessed her little scheme to Edwin. They "talked amicably and seriously" about the matter, and retired for the night: He lying on his little bed, she sitting and holding his foot. Some hours later, she awoke to find him dead.
She did not examine the bottle of chloroform to see if Edwin had swallowed any of it. On January 6, she retrieved it from their rooms and threw it away.
One can only wish it were possible to have seen the doctor's face when Adelaide told him all of this.
The inquest was resumed early in February. Dr. Leach repeated to the court Adelaide's remarkable account of her married life. Adelaide herself declined to testify.
George Dyson, on the other hand, was positively eager to, as he put it, "make a clean breast." Once the coroner's jury heard his story, it had no hesitation in ruling that Adelaide had murdered her husband, with the reverend acting as accessory before the fact. The ex-lovers were both taken into custody.
Adelaide's attorney was Sir Edward Clarke, one of the most talented--and expensive--lawyers of his day. As she herself hardly had the money to hire such eminent counsel, it has been presumed that her father was responsible for Clarke lending his expert services. Having an illegitimate daughter was obviously already enough of a deep, dark secret for this mystery man. Having an illegitimate daughter hanged for murder would be beyond the pale.
Although Adelaide and Dyson were both called to stand trial, prosecuting counsel recognized that the reverend may have been an incredible doofus, but he was no murderer. At the opening of the trial, they announced they would not offer any evidence against him. Accordingly, the judge directed the jurors to acquit Dyson, and he was released to become the star witness against the remaining defendant. Clarke immediately saw that Dyson's release was an inestimable advantage for his client. He later wrote that "the more closely I could associate his actions with those of Mrs. Bartlett, the more I should strengthen the instinctive reluctance of the jury to send her to the hangman's cord while he passed unrebuked to freedom."
Dyson testified that there had been no "secret understanding" between Adelaide and himself. There had never been any "impropriety" between them. He threw his bottles of chloroform away merely out of a mindless panic. He went to several different chemists in order to obtain as much as Mrs. Bartlett had wanted. He lied about his reasons for wanting the poison simply to avoid tedious explanations.
Dr. Nichols took the stand. He stated that he had never met either of the Bartletts in his life, and he most certainly never said that Edwin would die within a year. Adelaide's story of the platonic marriage was exploded when it was revealed that Edwin had condoms among his belongings. Additionally, the midwife who had attended Adelaide during her childbirth testified that Mrs. Bartlett told her the conception had occurred on the one time she and her husband had not used "some preventive."
The main mystery of the case was how the chloroform got into Edwin's stomach. If he had swallowed the poison, it would have created painful burns in his mouth and throat. No sign of this was found. This difficulty in establishing a murder method proved fatal for the prosecution. The best they could do was suggest that Adelaide had Edwin inhale enough chloroform to put him into a stupor, and then somehow poured more of it down his throat--something that even medical witnesses for the Crown admitted would be a "very difficult and delicate operation."
The prosecutor's case was simple: Edwin's will left everything he had to Adelaide, with no strings attached. (In retrospect, it is rather sinister that he made this new will only four months before his death. His previous will had left his money to his wife only on the condition that she never remarried--a clause that had angered her.) She was, the Crown argued, anxious to marry George Dyson. So, she resolved to get her hands on both her money and her man by--through some means or other--filling her husband full of chloroform. The defense countered by portraying Adelaide as a devoted wife of many years. She had assiduously and uncomplainingly nursed him when he was ill, and readily called in doctors to help him. Does it seem credible, Clarke argued, that this wifely paragon suddenly turned into a murderess--and one who used a method even prosecution witnesses admitted would be nearly impossible to pull off? Clarke pointed out that this was the first case of an alleged murder by liquid chloroform. Didn't it seem unlikely that this quiet suburban housewife had invented an unprecedented method of murder? Clarke hinted that it was much more likely that Edwin Bartlett, ill, depressed, and anxious for his beloved wife to find happiness with George Dyson, deliberately killed himself. The lawyer suggested that if Edwin swallowed the chloroform quickly enough, it would not have left any marks on his mouth and throat. He closed by declaring that "From the moment of that death every word and act and look of hers has been the word and act and look of a woman conscious of her innocence."
It was arguably not the most accurate way to describe Adelaide's actions, but Clarke's famed eloquence had its desired effect. Although the judge's summing-up was fair (and fairly damming to the defendant,) the jury voted for an acquittal. However, they were compelled to add the caveat that although there was not "sufficient evidence to show how or by whom the chloroform was administered," "we think grave suspicion is attached to the prisoner."
If Adelaide's trial had been held in Scotland, it's likely the jury would have delivered a verdict of "Not Proven," that famed Caledonian way of saying "Not guilty, and don't do it again."
After Adelaide was released, she was, for the first time in her life, an independent woman--itself arguably a strong motive for murder. Unfortunately, we do not know what she did with her freedom. Following her acquittal, she simply vanished from history. Over the years, many stories have been offered purporting to describe the latter years of this most enigmatic of accused murderesses, but to date, none of them have been confirmed. However, wherever she went or whatever she did, it is hard to picture anyone with her personality (she would today probably be diagnosed as a "character disorder,") coming to a happy end.
As for the supporting players in her homicidal little drama, all we know of George Dyson's subsequent history is that he emigrated to Australia. One assumes he became very cautious about doing favors for his female friends. As for poor Dr. Leach, in 1892 he, like Edwin, came to a strange and premature end:
After the trial, the London "Times" complained that Edwin's death "remains in its original darkness--an extremely unsatisfactory, but probably inevitable, result." The famed surgeon Sir James Paget was far blunter, stating that now that Adelaide was acquitted, she should, in the interests of science, let everyone know how she did it!
If, as most crime historians assume, Adelaide indeed "did it," she kept that interesting information to herself. All we can do is speculate the about the "how." Did this otherwise unremarkable woman indeed invent a new way to murder?
Probably the most colorful theory was outlined by Yseult Bridges in her book "Poison and Adelaide Bartlett." Bridges highlighted a very odd discussion Edwin had with Dr. Leach less than a week before his death. He told the doctor in Adelaide's presence that George Dyson was a hypnotist, and "he mesmerized me through my wife." Adelaide quickly cut Edwin off, reproaching him for saying such "absurd" things. "It is ridiculous nonsense he is talking," she told the doctor. Edwin, however, continued to insist that he was "under a mesmeric influence" that was forcing him to do "strange things." Dr. Leach dismissed Edwin's revelations as "delusions."
Bridges theorized that Edwin was indeed being hypnotized, but by Adelaide herself, for her own evil purposes. Perhaps Edwin's unaccountable depression and lassitude were being caused from his wife putting him into a chronic hypnotic state. Perhaps this also explained why Adelaide was able to induce him to rewrite his will in her favor. We know that Adelaide possessed a copy of "Squire's Companion to the British Pharmacopoeia," which included the information that brandy was a common solvent for chloroform. We also know that several days before Edwin died, Adelaide purchased a bottle of brandy. Edwin was a teetotaler, and the Bartletts had never bought any brandy before. Bridges imagined that on New Year's Eve, Edwin was "made to pass from the sleep state into the hypnotic state that night, and, under the influence of hypnotic suggestion, took up the glass of chloroform mixed with brandy which Adelaide had put within his reach on the corner of the mantelpiece, gulped it down, and, without pain or vomiting, sank back upon his pillows in a relaxed and natural attitude, and so passed from hypnotic trance into death." (Remember that after Edwin's death, the room was found to contain a glass of brandy with some drug in it.)
Edwin's autopsy showed the presence of a minute quantity of lead acetate, which was never explained. Bridges believed that Edwin's previous illness was caused by Adelaide slowly poisoning him with lead--which Leach mistook for mercury poisoning. (After Edwin's death, two glass bottles filled with lead acetate were found among Adelaide's belongings.) After realizing that Dr. Leach wanted to do tests to ascertain the nature of Edwin's illness, Adelaide abandoned her plan and turned to hypnosis and chloroform instead.
Kate Clarke in her "The Pimlico Mystery," also accepts Adelaide's guilt, although she painted a slightly different picture of that New Year's Eve. Eschewing the hypnosis angle, Clarke suggested that Edwin, who had suffered from sleeplessness, was easily persuaded by Adelaide to try a little chloroform in brandy as a sedative. "And was it then, as the clock on the mantelshelf began to strike twelve, that Adelaide suggested they drink a toast to the New year? Did she then hand him the glass of chloroformed brandy to toast their future happiness? And was there a loving smile on her pretty face as she watched him swallow it gladly, settle back on his pillow and drift into sleep--and death? Had Edwin cried out as the chloroform reached the back of his throat and into his stomach, the sounds of celebration from the party below would have drowned his cries..."
Admittedly, these are peculiar murder scenarios. But, then, Adelaide Bartlett was a very peculiar person.
Friday, August 28, 2015
This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the Association of Cave-Dwelling Cats.
What the hell happened in Cherry Creek 50 years ago?
What the hell are fairy circles?
What the hell are these ancient grooves?
What the hell are these ancient petroglyphs?
What the hell is the Kaaba Stone?
Who the hell killed Katie Hood?
Who the hell was the Monster of Florence?
Watch out for the Beast of Gevaudan!
Watch out for the Killer Hellhound of France!
Watch out for the Bird Woman!
Interesting question: Who is the earliest person in history whose name we know? And was this person a Sumerian accountant?
One of the strangest mass murderers in history.
Why monsters make the best sales pitches.
One of my favorite weird little mysteries: The coffined dolls of Arthur's Seat.
When E.T. is an animal.
When a ghost is a mammoth.
The many ghosts of Mary Queen of Scots.
Tips for being a successful medieval heretic.
Is this the first child hero in English literature?
It stands to reason that H.P. Lovecraft would have a weird afterlife.
A Mayan-like temple in Java.
That time when H.H. Holmes was deemed "an honorable gentleman."
That time when robins were considered xenophobic.
That time when Ohio had a volcano.
That time when a science class went insane.
The mysterious Fetter Lane hoard.
Istanbul's history gets in the way of Istanbul's history.
Yes, I'd take it.
Lynching the Sydney Ducks.
Finding the Madonna in the Moon.
The pros and cons of the crinoline.
One of the most notorious muckraking magazines.
Prostitution during the Regency.
A busy Georgian era executioner.
The "other Afghanistan."
More proof that the ancients were smarter than we think.
That time an outer space lady shut off a radio station.
A distinguished presidential dog.
Better late than never.
"Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind/Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned..."
The dubious blessings of being an Elvis clone.
A blog documenting retracted scientific papers.
The colorful career of an American actress who became a German silent film superstar.
Everything you've ever wanted to know about George Washington's bedpan.
Before there was Madame Tussaud, there was Mrs. Salmon.
A beautiful Victorian cemetery.
An inefficient French spymaster.
And, finally, this wonderful Edward Gorey gif:
The 'Gashlycrumb Tinies' book in a single gif. [by Edward Gorey, of course] #books #EdwardGorey pic.twitter.com/M2Baq3115P— Sarah Troop (@wunderkamercast) August 25, 2015
So, at last we come to the end of this week's links. See you on Monday, when I'll be presenting one of the Victorian era's strangest accused murderesses. In the meantime, here's something from my favorite Beatle.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
A while back, I posted a story about an English family whose peace was disturbed by a "Watcher." Here is a similar, but arguably even weirder story out of Nebraska. It comes from the "Fayette County Leader" for July 12, 1917:
Monday afternoon Ossian's marshal and mayor and A.F. Dessel were summoned to the Anton Mecker home, three miles south of town. On arriving there they were told that some one had entered the house on the previous Saturday, while the family were in the garden, and took Mr. Becker's watch chain, his daughter Edith's necklace, and some money, all of which, including $1.00 were found later within ten rods of the house. A ham was also stolen from the cellar, it is believed. The incident was discussed by the family and nothing more was said about it until Sunday morning, when one of the children picked up a scrap of paper in the yard, in which was wrapped $1.00, and on the paper was written the following:
"I will be in your cellar some other day. So I leave $1.00."
Monday morning another note was found, on which was written:
"Did you take that $1.00? If so, bring it back inside of an hour or I will be in your house and show you."
Following the finding of the first note on Monday morning, Mr. Becker's boy shot two woodpeckers, and a little later the following note was found:
"I heard you shoot. I will face you soon."
The finding of this note frightened the family and they rang up the mayor's office, who with marshal and A.F. Dessel, motored to the farm. On leaving the farm this note was found:
"Heard you ring and I'll be gone for today."
The next read as follows:
"I seen all you did. The mayor is gone. I'll face you in ten minutes."
The fifth note read:
"You needn't watch for me. I come tonight."
The sixth note read as follows:
"I will be at the Fred Gerleman home tonight, so you needn't sit up. I'll show him if he is going to stick up to you. I'll stick his house on fire tonight and make him pay $1.00."
Fred Gerleman is a neighbor of Mr. Becker's and was active in Mr. Becker's behalf. The finding of the note naturally caused him a great anxiety, and it is needless to say that Fred did not sleep any that night. The house was not burned.
No other writings have since been found. The mystery remains to be solved, and this afternoon Sheriff Ellingson was called out. What his opinion is we do not know.
The matter has become serious and has caused Mrs. Becker to become ill. Both the Becker and Gerleman families are very much excited over the matter.
This is the only article I have been able to find about this story, so I cannot say if it was ever resolved.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Joseph McPherson was an Englishman who lived in Egypt as a British security chief from 1904 until his death in 1946. In 1983, his letters were published under the title of "Bimbashi McPherson: A Life in Egypt." In one of these letters, McPherson briefly described the illness and death of a Captain King. It is one of the eeriest deaths I have ever read about. McPherson's description reads more like a passage in a Victorian Gothic novel than anything from real life.
McPherson stated that early in 1918, King was found on a seat in Cairo's Esbekieh Gardens, "in a semi-somnolent condition, as though drugged or bewitched...The doctors found no lesions, no indication of a blow, no trace of poisoning, nothing to account for his condition, which persisted, and aggravated. He was in no pain, and all his faculties were normal, except that he seemed unable to rouse himself, or to take the least interest in people or things around him." When spoken to, King merely stared blankly and said, "She scratched my eye with a golden needle, and gave me second sight."
McPherson wrote, "Time brought no improvement, and after many days, he became feverish and delirious, repeating the above words, and those only, innumerable times.
"One night he beckoned his nurse to his bedside, and said impressively and in a confidential tone: 'She scratched my eye--she scratched my eye, with a golden needle, a golden needle, and gave me second sight--and gave me second sight--and gave me...'"
Those were the last words King ever said. Soon after this, he died.
McPherson described how he discussed King's baffling end with a Colonel Russell. Neither man had ever heard of any Eastern custom or superstition that could account for what had happened. Russell told him that King's autopsy had failed to explain why he died. However, photos of the body showed a "mark like a scratch" on the corner of one eye.
McPherson made efforts to investigate the mystery. He visited "clairvoyants, alchemists, spiritualists, Druzes, Chaldeans, Persians, weird people from all sorts of weird places, but never elicited the smallest explanation." His inquiries about King's life and associates showed him to be a "normal, pleasant, sporting officer, a moderate drinker, never suspected of drugs, not unduly interested, as far as his friends could judge, in hypnotism, spiritualism, or occult matters. He had a rather conspicuous weakness for women, especially 'Gyppy girls,' as his officer friends dubbed them; and he had been seen, several times recently, driving in his dogcart with a lady in eastern attire--young and beautiful as far as her gauzy white yashmak allowed those who saw her to judge. He had taken a lot of chaff about this 'camarade,' good humoredly, but without taking anyone into his confidence."
McPherson tried to trace this woman, but was unable to find anything more about her. He sighed that "neither I nor, as far as I know, anyone has obtained the smallest clue to King's mysterious illness and death."
It's safe to say no one ever will.
[Note: Many, many thanks to John Bellen for bringing this unjustly obscure slice of The Weird to my attention.]
Friday, August 21, 2015
This week's Link Dump is once again sponsored by the Literary Cats of California.
What the hell is ball lightning?
What the hell is at the center of the earth?
What the hell happened to these circus animals?
Watch out for the Monster of Cheat River!
The strange 18th century grave of a witch.
The weird tale of the airplane and the time slip.
Leisure time during the Regency period.
New York's crack early 20th century canine unit.
Solving the mystery of an 18th century naval disaster.
Because they can?
The ancient Egyptians took their prenups really seriously.
An 18th century father/daughter relationship.
Honoring a hero of archaeology who was murdered by monsters.
Tonton, the ferocious dog inherited by Horace Walpole.
The pirate and the frontier con artist.
Exploring Tibet's first civilization.
A wonderfully preserved 1st century Russian grave.
The bigamist who got away with it.
Be careful how you stare into a person's eyes.
A beautiful overgrown East End cemetery.
A delightful little blast from the past: self-deprecating notes written on vintage photographs.
The vanishing laird.
Bad behavior at a fake orphanage.
Some reports of 19th century "wild men."
Yesterday was World Mosquito Day!
A prince hunts down a sea serpent.
The hoodoos of a motorman.
The extremely creepy deaths of the Jamison family.
The case of the 1,200 year old telephone.
The ruins of an ancient English church.
A gruesome 19th century murder that went strangely uninvestigated.
And all I'll say is that the world needs more Sheep Theater.
That's a wrap! See you on Monday, when I'll be looking at a sinister, mysterious death in early 20th century Egypt. In the meantime, hey, hey, we're the Monkees!