"...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, December 11, 2013

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Here is a 1908 newspaper report about a socialite's death that practically reeks of The Weird:

New York. June 19--The strange death of Miss Miriam Frances Bloomer from cyanide of potassium poisoning on Wednesday evening is a sealed mystery, along with the story of how she was burned with acid a year ago. Her brothers were permitted to start for Cincinnati with the body yesterday.

No further information was given regarding the tragic accident, which occurred in the apartment of J. Ralph Bloomer, a brother, at 40 East Twenty-Sixth street, than the statement issued by Coroner Acritelli that the poison had been left in a glass by Miss Bloomer's maid, who had been cleaning jewelry.

The reticence on the part of the family, the physicians, and the coroner to discuss the case veils the death of Miss Bloomer, who was at one time the fiancee of Congressman Nicholas Longworth, in almost as much mystery as was created just a year ago, when it became known that she had been strangely burned about the face and body by an acid.

J. Ralph Bloomer, who is a prosperous broker, with offices at 20 Broad Street, and Martin B. Bloomer, who is connected with the Link Chain Belt Company of New Jersey, accompanied the body, which will be buried from the Bloomer home at the Hotel Arms, Walnut Hills, Cincinnati.

Yesterday Coroner Acritelli, who issued a permit for the removal of the body on Wednesday night shortly after he was called into the case, gave a slightly different version of the facts from that which was supplied to the newspapers on the night of the tragedy. While discussing the case, the coroner exhibited the glass from which the fatal draught was taken, and which still contains as sediment a quantity of cyanide of potassium sufficient to kill a dozen people.

J. Ralph Bloomer has figured strangely in the life of his sister, who was tall, queenly, always exquisitely gowned and described as being a splendid type of the American beauty. Until he moved into the apartment at 40 East Twenty-Sixth Street, he occupied a part of a house at 35 Madison Square. It was at the latter address that the first accident occurred.

One morning in April 1907, Ralph Bloomer was notified by his sister's maid that Miss Bloomer had been seriously burned with acid during the night. He went to her bedroom, but was unable to get an explanation of the strange state of affairs. Miss Bloomer was in a semi-hypnotic state, but marks on the side of her face, her body, one hand, and a leg, showed that she had in some strange way been the victim of acid.

"The glass did not contain water when Miss Bloomer rushed into the bathroom of her brother's apartment to relieve a choking sensation caused by eating a cracker," the coroner said. "She evidently took no heed of what she was doing as right by the side of the glass which she took was another glass, which either she or the maid, Joanne Pierre, had filled with pure water for the purpose of rinsing a belt buckle which had first been placed in the glass containing the cyanide solution to remove tarnish."

The coroner said there was not enough of the poison in the untouched glass to have seriously harmed the young woman. The statement of Dr. Forbes Hawkes, who lives in the adjoining house and who was summoned immediately after the accident, with the circumstances as related by the maid and J. Ralph Bloomer, convinced the coroner, he said, that he would not be justified in holding a formal inquest.

The doctors who were called in could not rouse the patient, and were unable to make a diagnosis which was even satisfactory to themselves. Finally a clairvoyant, Mrs. Pandora, was taken to the sick room with the hope that the beautiful girl might yield to the influence of mystics, but this, too, failed of satisfactory result.

To the newspapers the family alternately denied and confirmed the story of the burning, but the true circumstances, if known to the immediate relatives, were never revealed to the public. As soon as she was able to be removed, Miss Bloomer appeared at Saranac Lake, where she remained in practical seclusion until September.

Yesterday Ralph Bloomer was almost prostrated by the shock of his sister's death and remained all day in the apartment where the accident occurred, until time to leave on the Pennsylvania Limited, by which the body was conveyed to their former home.

"I can make no explanation," he said through a friend. "It was such a terrible accident that I am not yet over the first shock. My sister was in the happiest frame of mind when I reached home Wednesday evening, and had for a number of days been making arrangements to go with a party of friends for an outing on Lake Erie. Before the close of the summer she intended going abroad with other members of our family."

Mr. Bloomer and his friends declined to discus the mystery of the burning.

Methinks it was a great pity that the coroner failed to hold that inquest.  There was obviously a great deal more to this death than meets the eye, but this polite disinterest ensured that it was uninvestigated and quickly forgotten.

So far as I know, none of the myriad oddities of poor Miss Bloomer's end--including how J. Ralph figured "strangely" in his sister's life--were ever publicly explained.


  1. I wonder if the coroner was persuaded not to hold an inquest. Would love to know more details about this fascinating case. Imagine calling in a clairvoyant - very odd!

    1. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of information about her available. The Bloomers were clearly an odd lot, but those were the days when upper-class families could cover up a LOT.

      And, yes, it seems pretty clear that the coroner was told, "Move along, nothing to see here."

  2. WOW. That is some amazing stuff, there. Thanks for sharing it!

  3. It seems that journalism in those days could be just as sketchy and unprofessional as now: I too would like to know why it was thought the brother figured 'strangely' in his sister's life.


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