"...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

Friday, September 20, 2019

Weekend Link Dump



This week's Link Dump is hosted by one of the most popular members of our writing team, Ginger the Typing Cat!




Why the hell are fossils mostly male?

Watch out for the Bromley Batman!

Watch out for those black mirrors!

The tragic life of Queen Juana of Castile.

They're not saying it's aliens, but...oh, hold on.  They are saying that.

If you thought phrenology was weird, meet the science of reading forehead wrinkles.

Why New Yorkers once burned down a quarantine hospital.

The actress and the drunken coachman.

A Regency poisoning.

The folklore of mining.

The mystery of the burning stones.

A look at some groundbreaking surgeries.

Mayor O'Dwyer and the Mob.

A ghoulish trade in second-hand clothes.

A famed 19th century American policeman.

The Rodney Riots and the publishing house.

They may have found Captain Cook's Endeavour.

How to make your own 18th century lip salve.

Psychics sometimes get it right.

The rise and fall of absinthe.

A girl's concentration camp diary.

The strange story of the Acambaro figure.

The mad scientist and his corpse bride.

How to have a theater waste a year of your life.

Some murders may be unsolved, but they're not all that mysterious.

This week in Russian Weird gets romantic. Oh, and nothing to worry about here.  Just exploding smallpox virus.

Google Earth solves a missing-persons case.

Piano prodigy Blind Tom Wiggins.

In case you're planning to make knives with human poop, science has bad news for you.  (Incidentally, one thing I've learned from reading about archaeologists is that they spend an inordinate amount of time working with human waste.  Makes me a bit relieved that I never pursued my early dreams of taking it up as a career.)

In related news, it turns out archaeology is child's play.  Just wait till the kids learn they have to make the knives.

And that's it for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll welcome in a guest post discussing a fashion fad that was truly for the birds. In the meantime, as this is the final WLD of Summer 2019, I thought this seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com


This account of a particularly pesky UFO appeared in the "Dayton Daily News," March 3, 1971:
By Dale Huffman, Daily News Staff Writer. According to Leon Turner, there's a weirdly lighted unidentified spacecraft of some sort hovering over the Dayton area. It swoops down and buzzes 1-75 traffic and frequently, in the past five months, it has followed Turner's automobile.

Turner, 30, who lives at 110 Vandergrift Rd., says he has seen the spacecraft several times. Furthermore, some, of Turner's friends have seen it, too.

Turner describes himself as sound of mind and body and says his 20-20 vision was checked just last week. He says his incredible story of the spacecraft is "Absolutely true... and I'll swear by it."

He says it all started last Sept. 1 while Turner was working as an engineer at radio station WPFB in Middletown.

"I was on the job at the station." he recalled, "when some kid called and said he saw the strange lights near the station transmitter.

"I called Noah Gross, a minister who has a show which is broadcast on WPFB. He lives near the tower. Noah and his wire and kids went out, and they called me back. Noah was quite shaken up.

"He told me, 'Buddy, there's something right above the trees, hovering. There's a red and green pulsating light, and like fire falling from the sky.'"

Turner said he went looking for the craft when he got off work. "I drove around most of the night, and then about daybreak I saw it. It was just like they described it, red and green, with pulsating lights, and it skipped across the top of the trees at a high rate of speed."

Turner said he saw the spacecraft again nine days later and observed it through high-powered binoculars for about five minutes. He said he saw it several times after that.

Bill Hart, general manager of WPFB and his wife, Jerry, women's director for the station, both claim they saw the red and green object one night. Mrs. Hart said, "It is definitely not a plane or helicopter. I know a plane when I see one."

Turner, who said the continuing experience is somewhat frightening, said he doesn't know exactly what the craft is, but theorized that it "isn't from this world." He believes it may be following him because, "I got curious about whoever it was." And even thought Turner has changed jobs (he now drives a truck) he said he hasn't been able to shake the space craft.

"Now I think the thing is following my truck at night," he said. "I think saw it on 1-75 near Vandalia when I was coming home Monday night."
On March 29, 1978, the same newspaper carried a follow-up story.
"I've gone as far as I'm going to go with them," says Leon Turner. "The next move is up to whoever, or whatever, is in those UFOs. They will have to land, get out, and offer to shake hands with me."

Some of the hundreds of Dayton area residents who claim they have seen strange objects in the skies over the Miami Valley in the last 30 years have had closer encounters with the objects than others. Leon Turner is one of them.

Turner says UFOs followed him almost nightly for nearly six months. He claims he took pictures of these "spacecraft," and he has some rather unusual photographs to prove it. He also believes he made voice contact with UFO occupants via the citizens band radio in his car.



For a long time, Leon Turner worried if others believed the bizarre stories he told. He doesn't worry about it any more. "I know what I saw, what I experienced," he says. "I didn't imagine any of it or make it up. It really happened to me and that's the God's truth."



From Sept. 2, 1970 until Dec. 25, 1970, Turner kept a diary detailing his frequent encounters with what be believes were UFOs. Turner, now 37 and an employee of the Purolator Corp. in Dayton, was an engineer at radio station WPFB in Middletown when he compiled the diary.

According to his diary, Turner first sighted a UFO on Sept. 2, 1970. "It was about 1 a.m. and I was in Franklin," he wrote. "The UFOs appeared as four bright red lights 'standing' just above the tops of some trees. I watched them for a moment, then they disappeared."

The next entry in his diary is dated Sept. 9.

"I was in Franklin again," he observed. "There was a greenish-blue light in the sky, about 300 feet off the ground and traveling parallel with my car. I observed it for five minutes with my 8x40 binoculars. During these five minutes I saw the light move at speeds that would stun one's imagination."

Later the same day, he wrote: "I saw a red and green light pass over the radio station. I placed the altitude at 1,000 feet. It was noiseless. Then it stopped and remained in the exact spot for 2 1/2 hours. At 11 p.m. it disappeared."

On Sept. 10, Turner told of following a UFO from Franklin to Xenia.

"On one side, the craft had a standard red running light, on the other side, a green light. The distance between the two lights seemed to be 30 to 50 feet. At one point, when the craft was hovering about 100 feet off the ground, I observed it for about two minutes. I was close enough to the craft to have thrown a rock at it. There was no sound whatsoever. I could not tell if there was a dome or bubble on top of the craft."

Turner reported seeing four more UFOs near the radio station on the night of Sept. 11. And on Sept 20, he wrote, "I was on my way home from work when, for the first time, I realized these flying objects were actually following me home each night. I have no idea why they are following me, unless It is because I know they are here and I am watching them all of the time. There is no other reason I can think of."

On Sept. 21, Turner wrote that he and a friend, Bill Carney, who at that time was a newsman at WPFB, observed three UFOs on Upper Bellbrook Rd. and four days later, on Sept. 25, Turner wrote, "A UFO followed me home from work again this morning."

Turner noted in his diary that UFOs didn't follow him much during the month of October and then, on Nov. 7, he wrote: "When I left the side door of the (radio) station and approached my car, I noticed a UFO circling the station. I watched this craft for a minute, then got In the car and decided to take 1-75 home. Just as I pulled onto 1-75, there they were, waiting just over the first group of trees off to the left of the southbound lanes.

"I watched them zip over the tops of the trees and fly parallel with me as they have done many, many nights. The red flasher lights (on the UFOs) were going. I could observe goldish-looking lights, too, as If they were coming from a cabin or cockpit of some sort. They zipped along beside me all the way to the edge of Dayton, then I saw them go over the top of the Dayton Power and Light Co. station. I didn't see them again that night."

Turner recorded UFO sightings on Nov. 9, Nov. 15 and Nov. 17. On Nov. 18 he wrote, "I was driving on 1-75 and when I got to the Rt. 725 exit, a UFO came over the interstate and headed east just in front of my car and approximately 300 feet In the air. I grabbed my flashlight and began signaling the craft, but this was to no avail. Then the idea struck me to pick up the CB walkie-talkie, Just for the fun of it. I did not expect anyone or anything to hear me.

"Nevertheless, I began transmitting. I said, 'Hello. Can you hear me up there?' Just seconds after I released the transmitter button, a strange and uncanny piercing sound came from the receiver for a good 20 seconds. It was an eerie kind of sound. At first, it really did give me the creeps. Believe me, the sound was very loud and strong. After 20 seconds, the sound stopped and I heard a voice. But I could not understand one word that was being said.

"All the rest of the way home (a distance of about 15 miles) I tried to make contact with whoever or whatever it was that had contacted me. But that was the only transmission I heard from the UFO. One thing I can say for sure, I have never heard this sound before and, if I ever hear it again, believe me I will know it."

Turner spotted UFOs on Nov. 21, but his attempts to make CB contact with the objects failed. On Nov. 22, after observing a UFO on Woodman Dr. in Dayton and another on Smithville Rd., Turner said, "I think these UFOs are trying to lure me into following them, as I am sure they intend on picking me up sometime. But it appears they like to play games with me. I haven't the slightest idea how long they intend to follow me, watch my house, play their little game. But you can be sure of one thing they have a reason for it. And I believe the reason is they actually intend on taking me captive in their craft. However, I have no idea when this will occur."

On the morning of Nov. 23, Turner was driving on Harshman Rd. when he saw a UFO that had been following him go down behind some trees. Turner said he drove home and got his CB walkie-talkie. "When I turned it on, there were two women talking on the channel. One of them goes by the nickname 'Blondie.' They talked for awhile, then I heard the strange and uncanny sound I heard be fore. I knew the spacemen were going to talk. Then the voice of a man came on and he was talking in an unknown language. Someone answered his call in the same language. Then the women came back on, then I heard the man's voice again. This time it seemed almost as if I could understand him. It sounded as if he said, 'Ungunther, that's a bad ship to be on.'"

In his diary, Turner reported sighting UFOs south of Dayton on Dec. 2, Dec. 13 and again on Dec. 15. Turner ended his diary on Christmas Day 1970 with the report that a UFO followed him from Middletown to Dayton.

Today, Turner says he sees things now and then that are "out of the ordinary" but not with the frequency of 1970. Looking back, he says a lot of people "thought I was nuts" in those days. "A few of my closest friends believed me, but that's about all."

He says he hasn't changed his mind about what he experienced eight years ago. "I believe those flying objects were manned by beings from outer space and I believe they were trying to make contact with me. Maybe they really did make contact and I just wasn't sharp enough to detect it. "I know a lot of the things that happened to me were very frightening. I'll never forget them. Never."

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Blue-Eyed Boy: An Unusual Ghost Story



Nicholas Monsarrat had a long and distinguished career as an author. He is probably best remembered today for the 1951 novel, "The Cruel Sea," and 1952's "The Story of Esther Costello." When he was visiting a Quebec shooting-lodge in 1953, he was told a story which was as compelling--and far stranger--than anything in his fiction. Some time later, he wrote an account of his eerie experience, which was published in Peter Haining's "The Mammoth Book of True Hauntings." Although his tale is impossible to verify, it is unique enough to warrant our notice.

Monsarrat heard his story from another guest at the lodge, someone he identified only as "George." The man was a stranger to him, and an actor to boot, so Monsarrat acknowledged that the tale "may well have been a pack of lies." However, at the time, at least, he believed it.

Earlier, Monsarrat had commented to "George" about the man's son, a boy eight or nine years old. The youngster had amazing eyes--enormous in size, the brightest of blue, and with an expression of "staring at the universe as if he did not believe any of it." To look into those eyes was like "gazing through a window into unfathomable depths." George merely replied calmly, "He's always looked like that."

George was a Hungarian by birth, although after living in Canada all his adult life and marrying a Canadian girl, he considered himself a fully integrated citizen of that country. He often got roles playing native Canadians. Just before his son was born, George's mother came from Hungary to help raise the baby, and generally get to know her first grandchild.

The elderly woman was very much "old school." She was of uneducated peasant stock, who spoke no English and had absolutely no interest in "Canadianizing" herself. In fact, she was horrified by the way her son had "gone modern" and abandoned his Hungarian heritage. She became increasingly worried that her grandson would do the same. She did not want him to grow up ignorant of his Hungarian roots. "Let me have four years," she begged her son and daughter-in-law. "Just a little time--enough for the language and some of the old customs. Then he will be yours again."

George's wife, it was inferred, was not altogether enamored of the idea. George himself, however, agreed--partly for the sake of avoiding discord, and partly because he didn't think it was a half-bad plan. He felt his mother had done a fine job of raising him. Why not give his son the same benefit?

It will remain forever unknown just how this unconventional scheme would have worked out. Shortly after the baby was born, George's mother suddenly died. The old Hungarian woman was clearly strong-willed and fond of doing things her way, but Death is more powerful than any mere human.

Well, maybe.

George's son was handsome, healthy, well-behaved. A perfect child in every respect but one: he never spoke, or, indeed, made any sounds at all. He just stared at the world with those enormous blue orbs...in utter silence. All the doctors and specialists who examined him were baffled. They found nothing at all to explain this unsettling muteness. All they could suggest was that the boy was "a late developer."

This state of affairs continued until the child was three years old. Then, one night, George and his wife came home late from a party. They were startled to hear an unfamiliar voice emanating from upstairs. They went immediately to their son's bedroom. He was standing up in his cot, staring at a corner of the room, speaking rapidly and fluently in Hungarian--a language to which the child had never been exposed.

The next morning, the boy relapsed into his usual silence. This lasted until he was four years old, when he suddenly began to speak perfect English.

With a strong Hungarian accent.

George's mother had had her way.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Weekend Link Dump



It's Link Dump time!

Everybody dance!





Why it took so long to avenge a rape/murder.

When is someone really dead?  The answer can be...complicated.

Why you don't want to make a pet out of a mummified cat.

Nothing to see here, just a killer slime taking over France.

A dog's problematic funeral.  (Reminiscent of the saga of Billy Hansbrough.)

It seems that the editor of Encyclopedia Britannica had an even more interesting side gig.

You wouldn't want a giant asteroid to hit the earth again.  It would really ruin your day.  Not to mention your species.

The misadventures of HMS Wager.

George Africanus: from slave to successful English businessman.

Contemporary news reports about the development of the polio vaccine.

The week wouldn't be complete without a post about hallucinogenic giraffe livers.

If you're looking for a campsite, it might be best to ignore Braley Pond.

Why John Dillinger is still causing trouble.

An 18th century female fossil hunter.

An asylum for the deaf and dumb children of the poor.

This is pretty horrible: dogs are dying in Norway, and nobody knows why.

The stone that protects London.

Finding the Devil in Swanton Morley.

Jane Austen's sister-in-law.

I'll say this for the Devil; no one can top him as a disciplinarian.

Europe's lost continent.

A husband-murderer's dreadful end.

The most haunted forest in Romania.

Believe it or not, it isn't a good idea to swallow padlocks.

You're best off not swallowing flies, either.

A brief history of the real Downton Abbey.

A fugitive's strange suicide.

A notorious novel goes on trial.

Beau Nash and the Rules of Bath.

How 19th century streetcars led to giant cats.

Dueling, Andrew Jackson style.

The inventor who made ghosts.

The importance of a worm fossil.

A dentist/firearms inventor.

The Crusader Earl.

Medieval wine-making.

The world's oldest city.

The Case of the Disappearing Observatory.

That does it for this week! See you on Monday, when we'll look at a unique ghost story. In the meantime, yet another classic summer song:

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com


Hey, everyone always likes a good "grave-robber gets his comeuppance" story, right? This one is courtesy of the "Windsor Review," May 19, 1892:
The German Lutheran cemetery is situated in close proximity to Graceland, and in it are buried thousands of what were once good, sensible, jolly Germans of Chicago, both male and female. One of the bodies that lies there is that of a stout hardware dealer who used to keep a prospering store on Milwaukee avenue, near Noble street. He was taken sick one day and died, and his family shortly after got into straitened circumstances. His pretty young daughter, Ida by name, likewise sickened and died.

Her death occurred at the hospital, and some of the features of the disease which carried her off were of unusual interest from a purely scientific standpoint. As nobody had claimed the body for a day or two orders were given to have it taken to the dissecting-room and there explored for the benefit of budding M.D.s. But the mother of the girl all the while had been exerting herself among her friends to raise money enough to afford her poor child a decent burial, and at last she had succeeded. So just in the nick of time the old mother presented herself at the county hospital and claimed and obtained the body of her child. On the same day was the funeral.

What followed is given here on the authority of William Zengg, who at tho time was employed as gravedigger around the German Lutheran cemetery: It appears that a hanger-on at one of the medical colleges took it upon himself to disinter the body of the young girl and turn it over, in exchange for a snug little sum, to the janitor of that college. As this resurrectionist on a moist, foggy night in October, 1887 approached the newly-made grave of his intended victim, he was startled and scared beyond measure by the apparition of a stout, husky man looking straight and threateningly at him. The apparition was that of the recently deceased father of the dead girl, keeping watch at the grave of his daughter to guard it against desecration. The would-be grave robber was so utterly demoralized by the unearthly sight that met his eyes that he threw down his tools--spade and all--and fled.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Queen of the Hunter River: The Odyssey of Molly Morgan

"Sydney Morning Herald," July 6, 1965, via Newspapers.com


Laura Thatcher Ulrich famously wrote that "well-behaved women seldom make history." I've always thought of that quote as one of those clever-sounding quips that, on reflection, just ain't so. And then I come across Molly Morgan, a woman who brought herself to fame and fortune simply because throughout her long life, she was anything but well-behaved.

The exact birthdate of Mary "Molly" Jones is unrecorded, but it was presumably just before her baptism in the English village of Diddlebury on January 31, 1762. About all we know for certain about her family life is that her father, David Jones, was a ratcatcher. When Molly was in her early teens, she left school to become a dressmaker. In 1783, she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, also named Mary. The father is unknown, but he was rumored to be a wealthy farmer who refused to marry her. On June 25, 1785, she wed a wheelwright and carpenter named William Morgan. The couple soon had a son, James.

Molly's life was a quiet and ordinary one until 1789, when she and her husband were caught with linen which had been stolen from a bleaching factory. William was able to escape custody before facing trial, and promptly disappeared. In August 1789, Molly was tried at the Shrewsbury Assizes, convicted, and sentenced to fourteen years transportation to Australia. (It is not recorded who took charge of Molly's children, who were now essentially orphaned.)

Molly's run of bad luck continued when she was assigned to the ship "Neptune" for the journey. The Neptune was one of the most notorious of the convict "hell-ships." Captains of these ships were paid per prisoner--the number of convicts who actually survived the voyage was a matter of supreme indifference to authorities. The expense of feeding their unwilling passengers came out of the captains' own pockets. Therefore, it was seen as sensible business practice among the more heartless commanders to cram as many captives on their ships as possible, and let starvation and disease eliminate extra mouths to feed. Molly and the five hundred other prisoners on the Neptune stood a small chance of reaching their destination alive.

Molly, however, had some advantages most of her fellow convicts lacked. She was very attractive, very resourceful, and very, very determined to survive. Legend has it that by the simple expedient of providing sexual favors to certain of the ship's officers, she was provided with extra rations and better overall treatment than the other prisoners. By the time the Neptune arrived in Sydney Harbor, more than half of the convicts were dead or nearly so. Molly, on the other hand, was in perfect health and raring to start her new life.

She really must have been something.

In Sydney, Molly was reunited with her husband, who had been recaptured and also packed off to Australia. After a period of factory work, the couple was granted parole, and they opened a shop.

Sadly, the Morgan domestic life was not proceeding as smoothly as their professional affairs. Molly had grown bored with William, and had taken to consorting with other men. Her husband eventually grew tired of wearing cuckold's horns, and abandoned her. (William Morgan eventually started a new, and hopefully happier, family with another woman. He evidently managed to stay out of further trouble until his death in 1828.)

Molly seems to have scarcely noticed he had gone. She had become the mistress of the captain of a store-ship, John Locke. She saw that her new lover's profession could come in very useful to her. On November 9, 1794, Molly, along with three other convicts, managed to stow away on Locke's ship before it sailed to England.

When they were back in England, Locke offered to marry Molly, but she declined. His value to her now over, Molly left her captain and traveled to Plymouth. She recovered her children and found work as a dressmaker. A rich brassfounder named Thomas Mears fell under her clearly still-abundant charms, and married her. Of course, Molly was still legally wed to William Morgan, but she saw that as one of those irrelevant details not worth mentioning.

End of the story? Hardly. With women like Molly Morgan, the good times never cease to roll. In 1803, the Mears home was destroyed by a mysterious fire, and Thomas, for reasons that are now uncertain, accused his wife of setting the blaze. We can take that to mean the romance was definitely over. In October of that year, Molly stood trial for neglecting to honor a promissory note. She was found guilty and sentenced, again, to transportation. (Molly's son was sent to live with relatives, after which he ran away to join the royal marines. The fate of Molly's daughter is unknown.)

Upon her return to Sydney in June 1804, Molly prospered well enough, thanks to a number of well-to-do "protectors," and she was granted a small piece of land and a few cattle. This just led her to fresh trouble. The local authorities couldn't help but notice that Molly's livestock was growing in size far too rapidly to be the product of mother nature. It was soon found that Molly, a true believer that the Lord helps those who help themselves, had been rounding up government cattle and branding them as her own.

Government officials do not react well to having their pockets picked. In 1816, Molly was sentenced to seven years in Newcastle Penal Colony, a place where Australia's worst offenders were kept in the harshest conditions. She dealt with this latest setback in characteristic fashion: it is said she became the mistress of one of the prison's overseers, who, in 1819, managed to have her granted parole.

She really must have been something.

Molly was sent to the settlement of Wallis Plains, where she was again given a plot of land. She did very well as a farmer, and used her profits to open a highly successful wine shanty. (She soon also started an equally popular inn.) In 1822, she married an Army Officer named Thomas Hunt, who was thirty years her junior. In 1823, she was doing so well financially that the Governor allowed her to lease another 159 acres, along with a gang of convicts to farm the land. By 1828, she was listed as being one of the largest landowners in the area, and was known as "The Queen of the Hunter River." Several land features were named after her, and her inn and wine shanty were the nucleus for what eventually became the city of Maitland.

Molly used her wealth to be a force for good. She was well-known for her philanthropic acts and generosity to the poor. She helped build schools and hospitals, and often spoke in defense of convicts. Unfortunately, there were many who took advantage of her open-handedness, and the one-time thief was frequently robbed, with the result that her final years found her in relatively straitened circumstances. After her death on June 27, 1835, an anonymous newspaper obituary writer mourned that "her latter days were not those of enjoyment of the comforts of this life to which she was entitled from the numerous acts of kindness she had evinced to all around her."

She was undoubtedly still rich in memories, however.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Weekend Link Dump



The first Link Dump of September is here!

And our host for this week is jumping for joy!

Photo: Edouard Boubat



That old question:  How the hell did Meriwether Lewis die?

That even older question:  How the hell did Alexander the Great die?

Where the hell are South Africa's great white sharks?

How London heard about the battle of Waterloo.

They probably just found the remains of one of Napoleon's favorite General.

The first American settlers may have been Japanese.

Oh, just another wedding featuring an exploding goose.

The real-life adventures of a Samurai warrior.

An Amazon warrior in Mongolia.

The Victorian ice cream queen.

The code breakers of Renaissance Venice.

If you want to meet a ghost, your best bet is to go on a nighttime walk in Bristol.

This week in Russian Weird features the world's busiest apartment.  Frankly, those photos made me dizzy.

Yet another (probably justifiably) obscure playwright.

An ancient earthquake detector.

Why becoming a human salamander probably isn't the best career choice.

How a pioneering case of plastic surgery took place at a livestock auction.

Why Nessie might just be a freaking big eel.

Rosa Halliday, child thief.

The strange case of the Sonora Aero Club.

A librarian's death in WWI.

The notorious Doctor Dee.

When missing pet posters become art.

The worst room in the Tower of London.

The changing image of Maid Marian.

The hurricane that sank Spain.

A scandalous abduction in India.

Charles Dickens and the dishonest ticket collector.

It only makes sense that Dead Man's Curve would have a ghost.

That time men became infested with lice for the good of their country.

When you steal the bones of a Scottish witch, you're just begging to star in a M.R. James story.

The miser's stinking rich granddaughter.

Words matter, folks.

This is why we can't have nice archaeological relics.

The apparition at Knockmore.

A chat with mourning stationery.

The most glamorous beach parties of the 1920s.

The real story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The East India Company and London's Great Fire.

In which we learn that Future Life Progression is A Thing.

Queen Victoria visits France.

The execution of William Kidd.

The execution of a dirty poet.

To be honest, I find this extremely creepy.

The cats of Spitalfields.

A witchcraft case from Cornwall.

A probable murderer gets away with it.

The execution of a Danish infanticide.

Mystery Fires in Louisiana.

Courthouse records of vagrant wizards and violent clowns.

The actress who became a real Lady.

Trepanation: you need it like you need a hole in your head.

Manly salads!

Another example of the hellish world of the theater.

And that's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a colorful woman from Australian history.  In the meantime, even though Labor Day has come and gone, it's still officially summer.  (I have the mosquito bites to prove it.)  So, bring on the Drifters!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com


This unusual (ghost? doppelganger?) story comes from "Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper," July 2, 1899:
One of the most realistic ghost stories that has got abroad for some time is that of the spectre that haunts the Speaker's court at the Houses of Parliament. So great is the resemblance it bears to Mrs. Milman, wife of the assistant clerk of the House of Commons, who resides there, that the ghost is freely spoken of as her double. People had even addressed the ghost as Mrs. Milman, though, of course, the apparition made no reply as it passed on its way upstairs or downstairs, along the corridors, into one room and out of another. It was only by learning that Mrs. Milman was really in quite a different part of the house at the time that her friends discovered the mysterious visitant.

Mrs. Milman, upon whom a representative of Lloyd's called, spoke freely of the "funny affair," as she called it. It was years since the ghost first appeared "to everybody but myself," she added. Though she had tried in vain to see her double, Mrs. Milman had only succeeded in hearing it once, in very uncanny circumstances. When in her bedroom one night there was a noise outside the door, which she immediately opened, finding nobody there. She then fastened the door by means of a "night bolt," worked by a rope from the bed. While she looked the handle was turned and the door opened, but again there was nobody there. She called the butler, who said he had just passed her coming through the folding doors of the bottom corridor. She supposed he had seen her double. No later than yesterday a young lady told Mrs. Milman she had seen her where she had never been. The ghost of the Speaker's court is getting itself talked about anyhow. Every policeman smiled as Lloyd's representative passed into the yard, surmising his errand; and tho butler said " ghost " the moment he announced himself.
Mrs. Milman's husband, Sir Archibald Milman, died in 1902, only days after resigning his post. (Two years before, he had been promoted to head clerk of the House.) It would be interesting to know if the "ghost" made any more appearances after the Milmans departed.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Murder at the Brown Palace

"Wichita Beacon," June 1, 1911, via Newspapers.com



Rather amazingly, Gertrude Gibson Patterson was not the most scandalous murderer gracing Denver in 1911. That dubious honor went to Frank Harold Henwood, who found a deadly way to end an increasingly troublesome love triangle.

The road to murder began a few years earlier, when a wealthy Denver widower, John W. Springer, met a beautiful, much-younger divorcee named Isabel Patterson. (She was no relation to Gertrude, although the two women were definitely kindred spirits.) Although Springer was soon given abundant warning that the lady had acquired a decidedly questionable reputation, the infatuated banker married her anyway. "Sassy" as he nicknamed her, was lively, Sassy was charming, and he felt she would bring some much-needed warmth and excitement to his dull life.

Isabel Springer, via Newspapers.com


Sassy was indeed nothing but excitement, but not of the sort he probably expected. The new Mrs. Springer soon demonstrated that the slurs on her character were not unjustified. Marriage did nothing to curb her taste for drugs, disreputable parties, and raffish companions. Life on her husband’s ranch was not to her taste, so she persuaded him to rent her a suite in the Brown Palace Hotel. She spent most of her time there.

In the spring of 1911, she entered into a flirtation—or perhaps something even more improper—with a handsome rake named Sylvester “Tony” Von Phul. Mrs. Springer also became involved with Frank Henwood, her husband’s new business partner. This relationship probably developed into a full-blown affair. (John Springer, a remarkably oblivious sort for a successful businessman, evidently overlooked—or wished to overlook—his wife’s activities.)

Frank Henwood


Von Phul found himself displaced in Mrs. Springer’s affections, and, according to her, he did not take his dismissal well. He had what the lady described as “silly little letters” she had written him. She told Henwood he was threatening to make them public if she did not resume their relationship.

Henwood—motivated, so he later claimed, only by a gallant desire to defend the honor of his friend’s wife—resolved to have it out with the blackmailer. On May 23, 1911, Von Phul returned to Denver from a business trip and registered a room at the Brown Palace. That day, the two men had a confrontation in Von Phul’s room. According to Henwood, he implored his adversary to return Mrs. Springer’s letters and stay out of her life. Von Phul, in the true fashion of stage villains of the era, contemptuously slapped him.

Henwood endeavored to keep his temper. He had had trouble in the Brown Palace before, for “beating small bellboys,” not to mention attempting to force his way into the room of a certain female guest. He feared a third incident might find him barred from the hotel permanently. The fact that he knew Von Phul was carrying a gun might also have had a restraining effect.

The two men continued their quarrel, until Von Phul ended the debate by hitting Henwood with a shoe-tree and displaying his pistol in a menacing manner. Henwood staggered out with the humiliating knowledge that he had little talent either as a diplomat or a tough guy.

According to Mrs. Springer’s later testimony, Von Phul then marched into her suite. He denounced her for allowing Henwood to interfere with their romance, and—not for the first time—struck her in the face. After tearing up a photograph of Henwood that was on her dresser, he stalked out, vowing to “fix” his rival.

The atmosphere in the Brown Palace’s dining room that evening must have been enough to give anyone indigestion. Henwood ate his dinner with Von Phul sitting nearby “sneering” at his vanquished foe. Mr. and Mrs. Springer ate together at a third table. After what I assume was a singularly dismal meal, Henwood went to share his troubles with the police chief and ask him to run the gun-toting Von Phul out of town. It took more than gun-pointing and shoe-tree assaults to impress a Colorado policeman of the day. Chief Armstrong refused to do any more than suggest Henwood simply stay out of Von Phul’s way and allow the Springers to handle their own personal issues. For the second time that day, Henwood was forced to make an ignominious retreat.

The next morning, according to Isabel Springer, Von Phul again accosted her with threats of “fixing” the busybody Henwood. She then sent Henwood a note imploring him to just wash his hands of the matter and allow her to handle her own troubles. Instead, Henwood went running back to Chief Armstrong, who again shrugged that he could do nothing unless specific charges were filed against Von Phul. Henwood then purchased his own ally, in the form of a .38 revolver.

That evening, Henwood accompanied the Springers to the theater. After the trio returned to the Brown Palace, the Springers went to their suite while Henwood retired to the bar, accompanied by his brand-new gun. Shortly before midnight, Von Phul entered the barroom. He sidled up to Henwood and made a remark to him. Its exact nature is lost to history, which is just as well, as it was evidently thoroughly unrepeatable.

What happened next is unclear. Some witnesses say Von Phul then turned his back on Henwood and calmly ordered a drink. Others in the bar—most notably Henwood himself—stated that Von Phul knocked Henwood to the floor and then stood over him in a very threatening manner. All we know for certain is that Henwood pulled out his gun and frantically, blindly, fired every bullet in the chamber. Two of the bullets hit Von Phul, while the others flew wildly across the barroom, wounding two utterly innocent bystanders. Once his gun was empty, Henwood staggered off to the hotel lobby and quietly waited to be arrested.

Both Henwood and his injured enemy tried to keep Isabel Springer’s name out of the police investigation, but that, of course, was impossible. Most of Denver knew about her consecutive—or simultaneous—relations with the two men. Von Phul died the next morning, insisting sardonically that his quarrel with Henwood had arisen over a difference of opinion over the bathing beauties appearing in the Follies of 1910. Henwood, sitting in his jail cell, refused to say much of anything at all. The nearly-forgotten third man in Isabel’s life—namely, her husband—maintained that she could have had nothing to do with the shooting, and that Henwood was a “good fellow” whose friendship with Isabel had his complete approval.

No one knew what Isabel Springer herself had to say about the matter. She had gone into hiding.

Before Henwood came to trial, one of the unlucky onlookers he had shot, G.E. Copeland, died of gangrene, so he wound up facing two charges of murder. Less than a week after this second death, John Springer quietly filed for divorce.



Probably in a misguided attempt to protect the Springers, the D.A. first tried Henwood only for Copeland’s murder. This made little sense, as the law held that Henwood would only be guilty of killing Copeland if it could be established that the death occurred because Henwood was busy trying to murder someone else. In other words, Henwood could only be convicted of Copeland’s murder if the D.A. proved he killed Von Phul as well.

During this trial, both Henwood and Mrs. Springer attempted to present their relationship in the most innocent way possible, but the effect of this discretion was damaged by a couple of the Springers’ servants, who eagerly gave some juicy testimony about the indecent familiarity between the pair. Henwood made a good witness for himself. He stubbornly maintained that the shooting was a matter of self-defense, arising from his efforts to protect his best friend’s wife from a blackguard.

The jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. The D.A. immediately told the judge of his plans to put Henwood on trial again for the killing of Von Phul. Henwood’s attorney argued that this would constitute double jeopardy, as the two deaths were effectively “one and the same case.” He declared that if Henwood were acquitted for killing Von Phul, he would seek his client’s release. “If he is innocent of murdering Von Phul, he cannot then be guilty of murdering Copeland.”

This logic persuaded the D.A. to leave well enough alone. He dropped the idea of pressing the Von Phul murder against Henwood. Several weeks later, when Henwood appeared for sentencing, he gave the judge what was either one of the bravest or one of the stupidest speeches ever given in a courtroom by a convicted murderer. When asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed on him, Henwood wound up fulminating for half an hour. He called the judge “prejudiced.” “I never expected justice from the start.” He still thought of John Springer as a friend, and regarded Isabel as a sister. Henwood accused the judge of acting as a prosecutor during the trial, of intimidating Mrs. Springer, of believing that he was a home-wrecker “although God knows I was not.” He closed by saying calmly, “Now I am ready for your unjust sentence.”

After a lengthy silence, the judge coolly imposed his sentence: It was the maximum. Life imprisonment. No one knows if he reached this decision before or after Henwood’s diatribe.

This was hardly the end of Henwood’s legal battles. While he sat in the County Jail—treated, said a reporter, as “a sort of matinee idol”—his appeal was heard by the state Supreme Court. In January 1913, the court ruled in his favor, on the grounds that the trial judge had unjustly deprived him of the chance to be found guilty of manslaughter. A retrial was ordered. In the meantime, Henwood’s attorney succeeded in his motion to have the Von Phul charges dropped. He then argued that this dismissal amounted to an acquittal in the death of Copeland. This motion was dismissed, and in May Henwood faced his second trial. It was basically a rehash of the first until the defense startled everyone by calling John W. Springer to the stand.

Springer—who had visibly aged in the last two years—made the best character witness any murderer could ask for. With calm dignity, he testified that Henwood was “a gentleman” whose relations with Springer’s now ex-wife had been entirely proper. When he left the stand, Springer walked across the courtroom and paused to warmly shake Henwood’s hand before exiting.

It is hard not to think that John W. Springer was the biggest fool on two feet.

The defense, obviously believing they now had an acquittal in the bag, rested their case on this note of Hollywood melodrama.

It is always a mistake for an attorney to take a jury for granted. The panel essentially took Springer’s testimony—handshake and all—and chucked it out the deliberating room window. They found the defendant guilty of first degree murder. He now faced the death penalty. When the verdict was read, Henwood burst into tears, while his lawyer sat looking as though the jurymen had hit him over the head with a shoe-tree.

After several efforts to appeal the verdict had been denied, Henwood’s lawyer made a last-ditch effort with Colorado’s governor. This was more successful. Governor Ammons commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Henwood served ten years in the state penitentiary before being paroled. Unfortunately, his years in prison had seen a rapid deterioration in a mental equilibrium that was clearly none too steady to begin with. As miserable as prison life had been, he was even less suited for freedom. Soon after his release, he was taken back into custody for assaulting a waitress. This was seen as a violation of his parole, and he returned to the penitentiary until his death in 1929.

The former Isabel Springer had an even more unhappy end. After her divorce, she drifted to New York. She made fitful attempts to become an actress or an artist’s model, but her only success was in sinking deeper and deeper into alcoholism and drug addiction. According to some reports, the former high society femme fatale became a street prostitute. She died penniless in a hospital charity ward in 1917 at the age of thirty-seven.

John Springer lived, reputation and dignity more-or-less intact, until 1945. In 1915, the fifty-six year old entered into his third marriage, with a Janette Lotave. For the second time in a row, he wed a lovely siren young enough to be his daughter.

Some men never learn.