"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day, Till Death Do You Part Edition

Illustrated Police News, January 27, 1894

As I threatened promised a while back, here is a selection of articles illustrating the Joys of Celibacy. My main difficulty in compiling this assortment of Wedding Horrors was the sheer volume of articles on the topic.  Studying the old newspaper databases leaves me honestly amazed that there were any couples left fearless enough to take the plunge.

Illustrated Police News, December 3, 1870

To save myself from spending the rest of my days compiling story after story of gruesome wedding tragedies, I concentrated most of my efforts on the Blogger's Best Friend, the "Illustrated Police News." God bless the IPN, they really knew how to look on the sunny side of life.

For openers, here is a cautionary tale about the dangers of quaint old traditions from September 3, 1898:

A tragic affair is reported to have occurred at a gipsy wedding at Vladina, in Moldavia. The marriage was being celebrated in grand style, with all the traditional usages of the "Tziganes," writes our Bucharest correspondent. As is the custom while the feasting is going on, the bridegroom suddenly rushes to the tent where his future wife is ensconced and seizes her, she screaming, in unison with her female companions, for succour. The bride is then carried off with the relations following, firing shots and making a mock chase. All this took place until the bridegroom started to drive off with his newly-gained prize. Then, as the first shots were fired he was seen to throw up his hands and fall from his cart. Someone by mistake had fired a bullet, and this had pierced the un-fortunate bridegroom's brain.

Another wedding tradition that led to disaster was reported on December 18, 1886:

The custom of rice throwing at weddings resulted in an accident on Thursday at Firsby, near Spilsby. The horses attached to a fly were startled by the rice throwing, and the vehicle, coming into contact with a grave-stone in the churchyard [Ed. note: Those deadly gravestones again!] was upset. The driver and the brother of the bride were thrown from the box-seat and the latter had his leg broken. The bride and bridegroom escaped serious injury.

So, once you've said your vows and left the church in one piece, you think you're home free? The same issue that carried the above story had this grisly item:

On Monday night a shocking accident occurred at Chorley. Thomas Leydell, a bleacher, who was only married in the morning, was returning from Preston with his wife and some friends, and while attempting to pass the level crossing at Chorley during shunting operations, he was knocked down by a loaded coal waggon, and his body was cut in two. His newly-wedded wife and the party had just safely crossed, and witnessed the terrible scene.

Another example from the "Dublin Evening Mail," February 22,1869:
A melancholy accident occurred on Tuesday night last week, at Conwil, a village about seven miles distant from Carmarthenshire. Mr. Samuel Thomas, a farmer residing at Tralbach, near Conwil, was married that morning at the registrar's office at Carmarthen to the daughter of a neighbouring farmer named Howell Griffiths. The wedding party remained in town until the evening, when they drove to Conwil in a cart belonging to Griffiths. About seven pm--the evening being extremely dark, and rain falling at the time--they were near the Rock and Fountain, a public-house on the turnpike road at Conwil, when the horse from some cause stopped and became restive. On being urged forward the animal seems to have "backed" over the embankment, and in an instant the cart and the whole of the party, consisting of Samuel Thomas (bridegroom,) Mary Thomas (bride,) Howell Griffiths (father of the latter,) and Benjamin Evans, of Blaenant-coch, a farmer residing in the neighbourhood--were precipitated into the river Gwili, which runs parallel to the road. Griffiths, his daughter, and Evans succeeded in getting out of the river, but the bridegroom was not to be seen. After a short time the three survivors went to the Rock and Fountain, when an alarm was raised, and efforts made to recover the body, but without success. The two men were put to bed, but the bride refused to retire to rest. At eight o'clock on Wednesday morning the missing body and the carcasse of the horse were recovered. The deceased was fifty-five years of age, and a very inoffensive man. His bride was many years his junior. It may be supposed that the grief of the latter was very intense on finding herself a widow within some seven or eight hours of her marriage. It is said the road at Conwil is in a very dangerous state, there being no fence to prevent horses on a dark night from going over the embankment.

By this point, you'd think anyone would know that if you choose to go up in a hot air balloon for your marriage, you're just asking for it. The IPN, October 21, 1893:
A terrible ballooning accident is reported from Piedmont. An aeronaut named Charbonnet, who was married on Wednesday, subsequently ascended in a balloon with his bride, with the intention of making a wedding trip in this manner across the Alps. The pair were accompanied by another aeronaut to assist in the management of the balloon, and the start was made under favourable circumstances, but in the evening, when in the vicinity of Ceres, north of Turin, something went wrong with the balloon. It descended to the earth with great velocity, and finally struck the ground with terrific force. Charbonnet was killed on the spot, and his wife and the assistant were both seriously injured.

Perhaps you're not the bride or groom; just a member of the wedding party. "The Marriage Curse can't hurt me," you chirp blithely.

Let me turn your attention to the IPN's May 14, 1887 issue:
A report of the sad fatality depicted on our front page has already appeared in the columns of this paper. It will doubtless be remembered by our readers that a week or two ago a convivial party returned home from a wedding. It appeared from the evidence offered at the inquest that one of the party (a relative of the bridegroom) retired to rest. In the course of the night a loud noise was heard, and a female residing in the same house was aroused. She hastily hurried on her clothes, and discovered at the bottom of the stairs a young man, who had evidently missed his footing and tumbled down, breaking the lamp held in his hand. The injuries were of such a serious character that shortly after the fall he breathed his last. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

"I know how to save myself!" you say. "I'll forget about a formal wedding and just elope! That way, nothing can go wrong!"

Think again, sport. From the IPN's February 25, 1871 issue:

On Friday night last a most melancholy and fatal occurrence took place in the immediate vicinity of one of the Wantock Hills, Somersetshire. At present but a very brief account has reached us of the leading facts, which are as follows:--Miss Laura Eglington, a young lady possessed of great personal attractions, who resides with her uncle and guardian, Mr. Shearsmith, (the last-named being what is called a gentleman farmer) chose some months ago to fall in love with the son of a neighbouring farmer, and for a long time past Miss Laura and her young man have kept company, or, to speak more correctly, have had secret interviews. Mr. Shearsmith, or Squire Shearsmith, as he is more usually designated, from the very first set his face against the attentions of the young farmer, and a week or two ago forbade him ever entering his house again. High words ensued, and the squire was only restrained by his niece from laying violent hands upon the farmer's son. It would appear that this quarrel hastened on the catastrophe which occurred on Friday night. The lovers arranged an elopement. When all the inmates in her uncle's house were asleep save herself, Miss Laura crept noiselessly downstairs, passed through the side door, and reached the garden gate where her lover awaited her. In another minute the heedless and truant pair were riding side by side at a smart pace in the direction of an adjacent town which one of the two was never destined to reach. From some cause, at present unknown, Miss Eglington's horse took fright and ran away with the fair rider, who was, in a brief space of time thrown or rather knocked from her saddle by an overhanging bough of a tree. It was in vain that her lover urged on his steed to render her assistance. When she fell, Miss Eglington's foot remained in the stirrup, and in consequence of this she was dragged by the runaway steed for a considerable distance. When picked up she was found to be quite dead.

From the "Sydney Stock and Station Journal," May 24, 1907:

An attempted elopement in Clifton Forge, Va., ended in the death of the would-be bride and groom. After being arrested and brought back after starting to Washington, Miss Mabel Pendleton, aged 17, plunged from a suspension bridge over the Jackson river and Stewart C. Gay, her fiance, jumped to save her, but both were drowned.

Even if you escape death, your wedding is practically certain to end in a riot. The IPN, March 8, 1890:
An unusual scene was witnessed at a registry office in a southern county last week, on the occasion of the marriage of a resident with his domestic servant, a girl about twenty years of age. The happy bridegroom, who was on the shady side of sixty, buried his first wife very recently, and great indignation was expressed when it became known that he was to be married again. About four hundred people assembled outside the office and greeted the pair with groans and hisses, and threw at them bags of rice and flour and other missiles. On leaving the registry the newsly-married pair had to be protected by the police. The bride took shelter in a neighbouring house, and the bridegroom sought the protection of a public-house till the crowd was dispersed by the police.

Or maybe you'll merely nearly burn to death. From the IPN, November 23, 1895:
A fire occurred in the church of Notre-Dame at Auteuil during a wedding. the edifice was completely filled by a brilliant congregation which had assembled to witness the marriage of Mdlle. Vignier, daughter of a municipal councillor, and M. Henri Tissot. Just as the bride entered the nave on the arm of her father the linen cover of the altar caught fire through a lighted candle falling upon it, and in a moment the whole of the valuable draperies of the church were in flames. Fortunately through the presence of mind of the priest a panic was averted, and by the aid of the gentlemen of the wedding party the flames were almost extinguished when the firemen arrived. The excitement having calmed down, the ceremony was proceeded with.

Or the father of the bride will accompany you down the Aisle of Doom. From the IPN for March 28, 1896:
A terrible scene has been enacted on the termination of wedding festivities at Argenteuil, outside Paris. A Mdlle. Hallon had been married during the day, and all went merrily until the evening, when (remarks the "Telegraph" correspondent) the bride's father was noticed to be in a state of great excitement and agitation. After the guests had all departed M. Hallon produced a revolver and fired at his wife. She was severely wounded, and hardly had she fallen to the ground when her son-in-law also received a bullet, which laid him low. Hallon continued to shoot, and, evidently thinking he had killed his wife and the young man, he blew out his own brains.

The guests will be out to get you, too. The IPN, August 13, 1898:
A tragic affair occurred on Monday week at a wedding supper.

A party of friends were enjoying the hospitality of the newly-married couple, when, in the course of some "larking," one of the guests pointed a pistol at the window and pulled the trigger. The weapon proved to be loaded, and the shot struck the bridegroom. He now lies in a perilous position.

Not to mention vengeful former in-laws. IPN, March 10, 1888:

A wedding ceremony which was about to take place on Friday morning, last week, in Knooknamuckley Church, near Portsdown, was interrupted in a most startling manner. William Thompson, a young man residing at Gilford, entered the church a few minutes before the wedding party, and took a seat. The ceremony was just about to commence when he fired a pistol at the bridegroom, whose name also is Thompson. The latter fell forward, pierced through the right lung. The bride screamed and fainted, and for a time there was a scene of confusion, during which William Thompson escaped, but he was soon afterwards arrested. In the afternoon the prisoner was brought before Mr. Chisholm, a justice of the peace, at Portsdown. The first witness examined was Elizabeth M'Greedy, daughter of the sexton of the church. She deposed that after the rector entered the building the accused came in and asked her at what time the wedding was to take place. When told two o'clock, he sat down. Shortly afterwards the wedding party entered in couples. Thomas Thompson, the bridegroom, and Mary Anne Moffat were the first couple. The bride was Fanny Jane Moffet, who entered along with William Coulter. When they had gone as far as where witness sat there was a shot, and she saw smoke. She heard the bridegroom moan. After the firing witness was frightened, and ran out to the graveyard. The prisoner was sitting where the smoke was. She saw him afterwards in the graveyard, and believed him to be sober. Other witnesses gave corroborative evidence. The accused was remanded for a week. As three medical men have pronounced the case hopeless the police were desirous of taking the injured man's deposition, but this was found to be impossible. The prisoner, it is said, purchased the revolver at a shop at Portsdown on Thursday evening, and was on Friday morning seen loitering near the church. No cause is assigned for the outrage except alleged cruelty to the first wife of the injured man, who was the prisoner's sister.

And vengeful ex-girlfriends. IPN, March 3, 1888:

A shameful outrage was perpetrated on Tuesday evening at Saint Hilaire du Sois, situated in the neighbourhood of Narbonne, Paris. A young couple were walking home after the wedding festivities, in company with the bridegroom's father, when they were attacked suddenly by three men and a woman, who, darting out of a dark corner, began to belabour them soundly. All at once a cry of intense anguish was heard. The woman, Marie Miqual, had flung the contents of a bottle of vitriol in the bridegroom's face. The bride, who was also injured by the liquid, shrieked and cried with the pain, and soon the old father--one against four--fell to the ground covered with bruises. It was half-past ten, and most of the inhabitants were in bed; but the noise alarmed them, and as they came to the rescue the brutal assailants of the nuptial party took to their heels. Every attention was lavished on the unfortunate victims of the diabolical outrage, but the bridegroom is blind for life and his face is a mass of wounds. The bride is also disfigured horribly, and it is feared she, too, may lose her sight. The father, who was so cruelly beaten, will be confined to his room for a long time. Marie Miqual, the instigator of the attack, accused the bridegroom of having seduced her.

If you're lucky, onlookers will settle for slaughtering each other. From the "Evening Telegraph," September 25, 1906:
The gallantry of a young Italian name Piaza led to a quarrel at a wedding breakfast at Zurich, in which the father of the bride was murdered, and Piaza was almost beaten to death.

Towards the end of the feast Piaza quarrelled with the father of the bride, a Swiss named Crami, because the latter asserted that the bride was the prettiest and happiest woman at the table, whereas Piaza contended that his partner was the most beautiful member of the company. Crami grew angry, and struck Piaza, who thereupon drew a knife and stabbed his host.

Crami fell back in his chair dead. A wild uproar followed, and when the police arrived to arrest Piaza they found he had been beaten almost to death by the guests.

Of course, sometimes the bride or groom is not the murderee, but the murderer. IPN, March 4, 1899:
Rosa Komlossy, the maid-of-all-work to a widow living alone at Esseg, in Hungary, recently murdered her mistress with a hatchet and buried the corpse a few inches deep behind the house. After sleeping soundly in her mistress' bed, says the "Neues Wiener Tagblatt," which tells the story, she next day removed all the furniture of the house to Mohacs, where her fiance was living.

The corpse, however, was soon found, and the Esseg police tracked the murderess to Mohacs, where she was about to be married.

Just in the middle of the wedding ceremony, as the bridegroom, according to Hungarian custom, was about to place a wreath of myrtle on his bride's head, the police entered and arrested Rosa Komlossy for murder.

There's only one way to survive your wedding day. Get arrested and locked up in a nice safe police cell. The "Dundee Courier," July 14, 1882:
Henry and Mary Glanister, of Liverpool, have had a painful wedding day experience. They were married on Monday, one of the guests at the after festivities being Mrs. Glanister's mother, who was so overcome with emotion and liquor that she became uproarious and fell into the hands of the police. The bride and bridegroom attempted to rescue her, with the result that they were locked up on their wedding night. On Tuesday the bride was discharged, but the bridegroom was fined 10s, or a month. He was taken to the cells.

All in all, it's not surprising that this poor fellow decided suicide was the easiest way out. This little story was published in the IPN on December 2, 1882:
On Wednesday, last week, Dr. Diplock held an inquest at 54, Adison-road, Kensington, on the body of a German gentleman named Carl Engel, sixty-four, who was found dead on Saturday morning week, on which day he was to have been married to a Miss Lawrence. It appeared that on Friday evening the deceased retired to bed in his usual health. On the following morning his bedroom door was found to be locked. The door was broken open, and the deceased was found dead, suspended by a strap which was fastened through a hole cut in the cupboard door. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased committed suicide whilst in a state of unsound mind.

Well, there you have it.  If after reading all this you still insist on pursuing marital bliss, don't come crying to me when your wedding photos wind up looking like...well, "Police News" illustrations.

I'd say this bridegroom was a very wise man.

Illustrated Police News, September 18, 1897


  1. I always felt like there was something missing at my wedding. Thank you, dear Undine, for helping me define what it was: gunplay!

    1. A wedding just ain't a wedding unless it's on the front page of the "Illustrated Police News."


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