"...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, February 28, 2014

Weekend Link Dump

Strange Company wishes to remind you all that life is a cabaret, old chum.

We learned this from the cats.

On to this week's Link Extravaganza:

What the hell happened to this F-89?

What the hell happened to Michael Rockefeller?

What the hell is the Petralona Skull?

What the hell was the Phantom Light of Deakin's Woods?

What the hell is this megalithic site in Russia?

Ottawa is really sinking!

Watch out for those Danish candleholders!

Watch out for those chihuahuas!

Where's a medieval Hercule Poirot when you really need him?

Where are the ancient Hercule Poirots when you really need them?

Treating the Kaiser.  "Revolting and idiotic" pretty much says it all.

The colorful, and occasionally tragic history of New York's No. 62 Bank Street.

Crossing the line with Rose de Freycinet.

Some Hawaiian petroglyphs that have recently been uncovered.

Pace the classic Jackson 5 song, the ABCs are not as easy as 1-2-3.

Investigating a 17th century pirate alliance.

19th century mammoths?!

A ghost story from ancient Greece.

Meet Dick the Crow, professional mourner, practical joker and sneak thief.

If you think you were feeling lonely before...

Here is a real golden oldie:  the first known recording of a human voice.  1860!

As the old TV commercial said, "It isn't nice to fool Mother Nature."

If you visit this hut, I have some advice:  Walk very, very softly.

A reminder:  Elephants are people too.

With many a flirt and flutter:  The fine art of the fan.

Let's face it, we all have trouble finding new uses for all those mummies we have lying around the house. This post is here to help.

This was possibly the coolest contest ever.  Meet the winner.

Happily, New Orleans' first Mardi Gras went just about as you'd expect.

The trial of Florence Maybrick:  A classic enigmatic murder case.

Why giving Catherine the Great your dog was full of potential hazards.

The kind of thing that happens when someone is fool enough to challenge Kathryn Warner on the topic of Edward II.

Yet another famed Sailor Cat,  plus an equally brave Sailor Pug.

An Edwardian, uh, "anti-female-hysteria" device that frankly looks like something that would produce hysteria in anybody.

Alicia Meynell, England's first female jockey.

The Mystery Boy of Hampton Court.

An 1872 description of Lincoln's Phantom Funeral Train.

Return of the Viking Bad Boys!

A German ghost town in the Namibian desert.

Time-traveling celebrities.  Remember that time Sylvester Stallone was Pope?

The perfect gift for the Sultan who had everything:  the world's biggest baby name book.

Sweet dreams.

Conspiracy theory of the week:  Did NASA deliberately destroy evidence of life on Mars?

Conspiracy theory of the week II: ECM + CIA = UFO.

My favorite internet discovery of the week:  An elderly Japanese woman and her feline best friend.

Here is a list of things that would cause your screenplay to be rejected in the 1920s.  Nowadays, of course, the film industry sees this as a how-to manual:

And, finally, if you're in the market for some knitted aquatic critters, check out this Etsy shop.

There we are for the week!  See you all on Monday, when I will be presenting a lesson in how not to commit the perfect murder.  Take notes, because there'll be a quiz at the end.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

What's the one thing better than a Mystery Blood story? A Mystery Blood story that throws ghosts into the mix, of course! The spooky travails of the Walsingham family were recorded in the "Brooklyn Eagle" on December 5, 1891:

The little hamlet of Oakville, lying seven or eight miles east of Statesborough, Ga., on this Savannah river, is much agitated at present over a ghostly sensation which appears to be more substantial than is usual with such excitement, to use a paradoxical expression. About three weeks ago the family of a small farmer named Walsingham began to be annoyed by certain disturbances in their household matters, which they at first attributed to the malice or mischievous propensity of some outsider. These disturbances generally took the form of noises in the house after the family had retired and the light was extinguished. Continual banging of the doors, things overturned, the door bell rang and the annoying of the hound dog, a large and intelligent mastiff. It was the conduct of this animal that first caused the Walsinghams to believe there was something more in these occurrences than appeared on the surface, though they were reluctant to attach any supernatural significance to them, being a family of education, practical persons and avowed skeptics on the subject of spooks, etc.

Don Caesar, the mastiff, would be seen to start suddenly from a nap and run at full tilt as if from some one, or start suddenly back while walking leisurely down a path, as if he again met with some one. But he soon lost his temper and varied these pacific proceedings by snarling at every door, as if he expected an enemy to enter, and often drawing back with a threatening bark and displaying fangs to warn his unseen annoyer from him. One day he was found in the hallway barking furiously and bristling with rage, while his eyes seemed directed to the wall just before him. At last he made a spring forward, with a hoarse yelp of ungovernable fury, only to fall back as if flung down by some powerful and cruel hand. Upon examination it was found that his neck had been broken.

The house cat, on the contrary, seemed rather to enjoy the favor of the ghost, and would often enter a door as if escorting some visitor in whose hand was stroking her back. She would also climb upon a chair rubbing herself and purring as if well pleased at the presence of some one in the seat. She and Don Caesar invariably manifested this eccentric conduct at the same time, as though the mysterious being was visible to both of them. This kept up until no doubt could be entertained that the animals saw something of a supernatural character, which was also making itself very disagreeable to the Walsinghams.

It did not long content itself with petty annoyances, but finally took to rousing the family at all hours of the night by making such a row as to render any rest impossible.

This noise, which consisted of shouts, groans, hideous laughter and a peculiar, most distressing wail, would sometimes proceed apparently from under the house, sometimes from the ceiling and at other times in the very room in which the family was seated. One night Miss Amelia Walsingham, a young daughter, was engaged at her toilet, when she felt a hand laid softly on her shoulder. Thinking it her mother or sister she glanced in the glass before her only to be thunderstruck at seeing the mirror reflect no form but her own, though she could plainly see a man's broad hand lying on her arm.

She brought the family to her by her screams, but when they reached her all signs of the mysterious hand was gone. On another occasion the girl was startled by beholding the knob of her door turn softly, the door open and then close as if someone had entered and shut it behind them. She strained her eyes trying to make out some form or the cause of the phenomenon, but nothing appeared. She vacated the room, however, feeling sure nothing was in it with her. Mr. Walsingham himself saw footsteps form beside his own while walking through the garden after a light rain.

The marks were those of a man's naked feet and fell beside his own as if the person walked at his side. After some minutes the steps left him and led toward the house, where Don Caesar was lying on the front piazza. The dog sprang up, barking furiously, but retreated as the steps approached him.

Matters grew so serious that the Walsinghams became frightened and talked of leaving the house when an event took place that confirmed them in this determination. The family was seated at the supper table with several guests, who were spending the evening, when a loud groan was heard in the room directly overhead. This was however, nothing unusual, and very little notice was taken of it until one of the visitors pointed out a stain of what looked like blood on the white tablecloth, and it was seen that some liquid was slowly dripping on the table from the ceiling overhead. This liquid was so much like fresh shed blood as to horrify those who watched its slow dripping. Mr. Walsingham, with several of his guests, ran hastily upstairs and into the room directly over the one into which the blood was dripping.

A carpet covered the floor and nothing appeared to explain the source of the ghastly rain, but, anxious to satisfy themselves thoroughly, the carpet was immediately ripped up and the boarding found to be perfectly dry and even covered with a thin layer of dust. And all the while the floor was being examined the persons below could swear the blood never ceased to drip. A stain the size of a dinner plate was formed before the drops ceased to fall. This stain was examined next day under the microscope and was pronounced by competent chemists to be human blood.

The Walsinghams left the house the next day and since then the place has been apparently given over to spooks and evil spirits, which make the night hideous with the noise of revel, shouts and furious yells. Hundreds from all over this county and adjacent ones have visited the place, but few have the courage to pass a night in the haunted house. One daring spirit, Horace Gunn of Savannah, however, accepted a wager that he could not spend twenty-four hours in it, and did so, though he declares that there is not enough money in the county to make him pass another night there. He was found the morning after by his friends with whom he made the wager in an insensible condition and was with difficulty brought out of his swoon. He has never recovered from the shock of his terrible experience and is still confined to his bed suffering from nervous prostration.

His story is that shortly after nightfall he endeavored to kindle a fire in one of the rooms and to light the lamp which he had provided himself, but to his surprise and consternation found it impossible to do either. An icy breath which seemed to proceed from some invisible person at his side extinguished each match as he lighted it. At this peculiarly terrifying turn of affairs Mr. Gunn would have left the house and forfeited the amount of his wager, a considerable one, but was restrained by the fear of ridicule and of his story not being believed in. He seated himself in the dark with the calmness he could and awaited developments.

For some time nothing occurred, and the young man was half dozing when, after an hour or two, he was brought to his feet by a sudden yell of pain or rage that seemed to come from under the house. this appeared to be the signal for an outbreak of hideous noises all over the house. The sound of running feet could be heard scurrying up and down the stairs, hastening from one room to another, as if one person fled from the pursuit of a second. This kept up for nearly an hour, but at last ceased altogether, and for some time Mr. Gunn sat in darkness and quiet and had about concluded that the performance was over for the night. At last his attention was attracted by a white spot that gradually appeared on the opposite wall from him.

This spot continued to brighten until it seemed a disk of white fire, when the horrified spectator saw that the light emanated from and surrounded a human head which, without a body or any visible means of support, was moving slowly along the wall at about the height of a man from the floor. This ghastly head appeared to be that of an aged person, though whether male or female it was difficult to determine. The hair was long and gray and matted together with dark clots of blood, which also issued from a deep, jagged wound in one temple. The cheeks were fallen in and the whole face indicated suffering and unspeakable misery. The eyes were wide open and gleamed with an unearthly fire, while the glassy balls seemed to follow the terror stricken Mr. Gunn, who was too thoroughly paralyzed by what he saw to move or cry out. Finally the head disappeared and the room was once more left in darkness, but the young man could hear what seemed to be half a dozen persons moving about him, while the whole house shook as if rocked by some violent earthquake.

The groaning and wailing that broke forth from every direction was something terrific, and an unearthly rattle and banging, as of china and tin pans being flung to the ground floor from the upper story, added to the deafening noise. Gunn at last roused himself sufficiently to attempt to leave the haunted house. Feeling his way along the wall, in order to avoid the beings, whatever they were, that filled the room, the young man had nearly succeeded in reaching the door when he felt himself seized by the ankle and was violently thrown to the floor. He was grasped by icy hands which sought to grip him about the throat. He struggled with his unseen foe, but was soon overpowered and choked into insensibility. When found by his friends his throat was black with the marks of long, thin fingers armed with cruel, curved nails.

The only explanation that can be found for these mysterious manifestations is that about three months ago a number of bones were discovered on the Walsingham place, which some declared even then to be those of a human being. Mr. Walsingham pronounced them, however, to be an animal's, and they were hastily thrown into an adjacent limekiln. It is supposed to be the outraged spirit of the person to whom they had belonged in life that is now creating such consternation.

As is common with these ghostly, ghastly old newspaper tales, it is hard to say how much of this story is true, and how much may be fictional. Oddly, a few modern-day websites and books devoted to "true ghost stories" give this family's name as "Walingham" and set this haunted farm in Oakville, Ohio. Just another lesson in being careful about trusting anything you read.

As I say, for all I know this story could very well be just another one of the colorful hoaxes that are, to the modern-day researcher, such an irritating element of early newspapers.  However, I do have a few words of advice:  If you happen to find some old bones around your house, treat them with the greatest respect.

You never know.

[Note: Many thanks to that indefatigable Fortean researcher Theo Paijmans for bringing this story to my attention.]

Monday, February 24, 2014

Owen Parfitt, Puzzlingly Peripatetic Paralytic

Shepton Mallet Marketplace and Market Cross, via Wikipedia

Many people have disappeared under mysterious or unusual circumstances. Only a select few have disappeared under seemingly impossible ones. An otherwise thoroughly unremarkable man named Owen Parfitt was one of these notables.

Parfitt lived in the English village of Shepton Mallet, in the county of Somerset. In 1763 or 1768 (accounts vary on the year,) he was close to seventy years old.  Some years before, a severe illness—possibly a series of strokes—had gradually left him disabled to the point where he was virtually paralyzed. He lived in a cottage with his older sister, whose first name is not recorded. She took care of him, although she was nearly as feeble as her brother. One pleasant June evening, she and another woman, Susannah Snook, carried Parfitt from his bed to a chair just outside the front door to get some air. All he was wearing was his nightshirt and a coat.  Snook then returned to her own cottage, which was only about one hundred yards away, while Miss Parfitt went upstairs to tidy the invalid’s room. About fifteen minutes later, the sister came back down to discover that her brother had vanished. All that remained was his chair and the coat he had been wearing.

A search party was hastily organized, but no sign of him was found anywhere in the vicinity. It was impossible that he could have traveled any distance on his own, and there were no reports of any strangers in the area who might have, for whatever bizarre reason, kidnapped the old man. Owen Parfitt was just…gone. And no trace of him was ever seen again.

So, what happened to Parfitt? In other circumstances, it could be theorized that perhaps his sister, weary of what must have been the enormous work of caring for him, suddenly snapped and killed him, burying the body in some obscure location. However, Miss Parfitt was some fifteen years older than Owen, and, as I said, in poor health herself. It seems impossible that she could have killed and hidden him completely in such a short period of time. And what would be her motive? The siblings lived happily enough together, and her only source of income was the small amount she received by the local parish for her brother’s upkeep.

Did Parfitt have an enemy? He was probably not a very lovable man—his fellow villagers described him as a “wild boy” in his youth who remained “sometimes…violent.” Could someone with a long-held grudge get his revenge when Parfitt was alone and helpless?

Aside from the melodramatic unlikelihood of such a scenario, Parfitt’s cottage stood on a turnpike road, surrounded by other homes, and near the center of town. At the time he vanished, farmers very near by were doing their threshing, and the area was generally bustling with activity.  Who could have carried him away in such a short period of time, and without anyone noticing?

There is one curious postscript to this maddeningly inconclusive story: In 1813, a man who lived about 150 yards from Parfitt’s cottage was digging in his garden. Two feet down, he found a skeleton lying face downwards. He testified that “It seemed as if the person had been thrown in hastily, after death; for the skeleton lay all in a heap.”

The discovery caused a great deal of excitement. Had Owen Parfitt finally been found? Alas, doctors determined that the skeleton was of a young woman. This second mystery remained as impenetrable as the first.

Some fifty years after Parfitt's abrupt exit from the scene, investigators into the mystery found that most of his neighbors believed the crippled tailor had vanished through supernatural means.  The area in and around Shepton Mallet was rumored to be a hotbed of witchcraft activity. One villager claimed Parfitt boasted of having “associated with necromancers and magicians.” Common opinion had it that the Devil swooped in and spirited off his elderly disciple.

To date, no one has come up with a better explanation for Parfitt's disappearance.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Weekend Link Dump

Strange Company may take up gymnastics.

Santa Anita's Lexie will be our coach.

On to this week's Frolic Through the Freaky:

What the hell are the Mima Mounds?

What the hell are our television sets?

What the hell happened to Harold Holt?

What the hell happened to this asteroid?

What the hell happened to the sixth century climate?

What the hell are the Paracas skulls?

Is this really what the hell happened to the Duke of Clarence?

Watch out for those magical Finns!

Watch out for those Bath Buns!

Coventry is really droning!

Oklahoma is really rocking!

Valentine's Day:  Really going to the dogs wolves.

Another possible answer to this question:  Um, because people aren't usually too happy when they're being bitten?

The good news?  The Fountain of Youth has been found!  The bad news?  This is where you'll be spending your eternity.

16th century Rocket Cats.  I say no more.

"The Voynich Manuscript has been explained" is rapidly becoming our generation's "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."


This helps explain why Ambrose Bierce is known as America's Sweetheart.

This helps explain why Restoration England is known as such a reputation as a repressed, sexually inhibited era.

The Tell-Tale Carpet.

An ancient Chinese underwater time capsule.

Being a high-powered financial executive has become very hazardous to the health.

Poor poor pitiful Pluto.

Least surprising link of the week:  Yes, cats have slightly creepy superpowers.

Well, I for one welcome the Cat Apocalypse.

John Dando:  The terror of oyster-sellers everywhere.

Something is finally flourishing in Detroit.  Unfortunately, it's cryptids.

Detroit Bigfoot, meet Arizonan Reptilian Humanoid.

Short version:  Face it, the universe is a damned weird place.

Shedding some light on the Dark Ages.

Why death-bed weddings seldom turn out well.

Reprehensible literary hoax?  A praiseworthy work of historical fiction?  Or both?

1934:  The Year of the Sea Serpents.

Telepathy...or a guardian angel?

Time for some Cuteness Overload, courtesy of some old cigarette cards.

But let's face it, these old photos are even more adorable.

Courtesan Fanny Murray's 18th century fashion shoot.

Sir Alec Guinness sees a ghost.

The lesson I take from this story?  If you're going to go exploring glaciers, leave your poor dog at home, you insensitive clod!!!

Out:  Springtime For Hitler.  In:  Summertime For Stalin!

The man who created the "perfect American male."

Galileo's astrological chart.

Fifty Shades of Valentine's Day.

Lady Dai, China's eternal mummy.

"No mistake.  George inside tiger."

"Berenice" meets the occult.

Dead President shenanigans.

Tammany once ruled City Hall, and that was a good thing.

Mary Wade, eleven-year-old felon and transportee.

The afterlife of John Paul Jones.

A tangled tale involving black satellites, alien probes, space conspiracies, and Philip K. Dick,who always had a way of really upping the "weird" factor wherever he turned up.

And, finally, since yesterday was the official Love Your Pet Day, here's a disgruntled cat, undoubtedly dreaming of that sweet, sweet Cat Apocalypse.  (H/t Chris Woodyard.)

And there you have it for this week!  See you on Monday, when I will be looking at one of the most inexplicable disappearances on record.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Calling this one merely a "Mystery Blood" story doesn't really do it justice.  File this one under "Just Plain Freaking Weird."  From the "Statesville (N.C.) Landmark," March 15, 1928:

Mooresville Enterprise, 15th

Mr. and Mrs. Thad Lowe received a severe shock Monday evening at about 6 o'clock when they returned to their cheerful cottage home on North Main street after their day's work was done. The bath room and kitchen were bespattered with blood, and in the bath tub Mrs. Lowe found several clots of dark blood, and wash rags and towels reeking in damp splotches of blood. In the kitchen there is an arcola heater, and within fourteen inches of the door to the furnace there is a kitchen sink. On the end of the sink there were great splotches of blood. There was evidence everywhere that some one had been in the home and that something unusual had taken place. [Ed. note: You don't say.]

Mr. Lowe is associated with the Sherrill Motor Company, and his hours are from early morning till about 6 o'clock in the evening. Mrs. Lowe is bookkeeper for the Mooresville Flour Mills, across the street and within several hundred yards of her home. It is her custom to leave home for her work about 9 o'clock every morning, returning to her home after 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. and Mrs. Lowe take their meals with Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Cranford, parents of Mrs. Lowe.

When Mrs. Lowe entered her home Monday evening she was greeted with a great volume of smoke, the smell of burning flesh, and the heat was so intense that she could not remain in the house. She walked through the house and opened doors and windows and passed out for a while. When Mr. Lowe returned home a short while later they were discussing the cause of the smoke and having occasion to enter the bath room Mrs. Lowe found the terrible spectacle of blood and the condition of the room as described above. Policemen and others were called in to help solve the mysterious affair. No one had been seen entering the house during the day and no one had been noticed leaving the building since early in the day when Mrs. Lowe went to her work. There were workers building a drive way within fifteen feet of the house but none of the workers had seen anyone coming and going from the house. However, there were tracks of a woman's shoe of the common sense type leading up the drive way between the Lowe house and the residence of Mrs. W.W. Rodgers.

An investigation was started Tuesday morning to unravel the mystery. Two theories are advanced. One is that some one committed murder, probably a human being, and burned the remains of the victim in the heating furnace. Another theory is that some woman gave birth to a child, either dead or alive, and destroyed the body by cremation.

W.M. Lentz, Policeman Brown, C.E. Earnhardt, and a newspaper man examined the ashes and unburned coal taken from the furnace Tuesday morning, and found charred bones that crumbled when mashed. These charred bones were not scattered among the coals, but appeared to be all in one place when the receptacle was emptied.

Is some one guilty of infanticide? or has there been a murder outright? The mystery has puzzled the occupants of the home as well as the entire police department.

Whoever the strange and unwelcome visitor was, evidently was familiar with the coming and going of Mr. and Mrs. Lowe and timed their nefarious work accordingly.

The same newspaper had a follow-up story on March 26:

Mooresville Enterprise, 22d.

While the county coroner, Solicitor Zeb Vance Long, Sheriff Alexander and the local police force, with private detective C.E. Earnhardt, have been working industriously on the mysterious blood stained bath tub incident at the Thad Lowe home on Monday, March 12th, there are no developments that gives any clue to the perpetrators of the apparent murder. The mystery is baffling to everyone, and while every suggestion that might lead to some solution of the crime have been run down, there is nothing tangible, and so far no one has been identified in connection with the affair.

Rock S. Witherspoon, a well-known citizen, says that on Sunday, March 11, while sitting in his automobile in front of St. Mark's Lutheran church, about 10 o'clock in the morning, he saw a man visit the Lowe home, pull back the screen from the door and finding the door locked, took a key from his pocket, unlocked the door and entered. Mr. Witherspoon says he did not remain there very long, and did not see the man come from the house. He described the man as being about 5 1/2 feet tall, and wore light colored hat, suit and overcoat. He did not recognize the man, but knew that it was not Mr. Lowe. Mr. and Mrs. Lowe had gone to Sunday school. All of this happened the day before the blood-stained bathtub was discovered.

All evidence points to a crime having been committed, but the solution of the mystifying incident rivals anything our local officers have ever had to unfathom.

And, as usual, that appears to have been that. I have yet to find any other references to the matter. I suppose all one can add is that borrowing a home to commit a gruesome murder, without even asking permission first, seems unneighborly to the highest degree.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gertie Got Her Gun

On the morning of September 25, 1911, four gunshots were heard in Denver, Colorado. They were the sounds of Gertrude Gibson Patterson—pretty, dainty, childlike, cultivated little Gertrude Gibson Patterson—pumping bullets into her husband Charles. (Charles Patterson was suffering from tuberculosis, which would have earned Gertrude the disapproval of Thomas de Quincey. He once noted that killers should only choose victims who are in good health: “It is absolutely barbarous to murder a sick person, who is usually quite unable to bear it.”)

The instantly notorious Mrs. Patterson had a colorful life even before she expressed herself with a pistol. She was born into a poor family in 1881. At the age of thirteen, she was expelled from school for what would later be described as “conduct which violated rigid rules pertaining to morality.” Soon afterwards, she acquired a whole new variety of education by eloping to Chicago with a saloon-keeper. Her father had the authorities bring the girl home, but Gertrude Gibson was determined to escape her drab surroundings. While ostensibly on her way to visit a sister in St. Louis, she instead returned to Chicago. In the Windy City, she met Emil W. Strouss, a wealthy clothing manufacturer old enough to be her grandfather.

Rich old men and beautiful young girls often see interesting possibilities in each other. Strouss persuaded Gibson’s parents to let him bring her to Europe, where he provided her with an extensive intellectual and cultural education. The coal miner’s daughter from Illinois soon acquired all the accomplishments of a great lady.

Four years later, the pair was back in Chicago, where Gertrude lived a sumptuous lifestyle under Strouss’ “protection.” This evidently still wasn’t enough for Miss Gibson. At a skating rink, she met a handsome but impecunious twenty-year-old, the soon to be ill-fated Charles Patterson. A clandestine romance soon blossomed between them. Before long, she had persuaded him to elope to California with her, and they married in Carmel. When their money began to run low, the newlyweds went back to Chicago. Three months later, she told her husband she was going to visit her sister in St. Louis.

This seems to have been our Gertrude’s favorite cover story. Although she had promised Charles never to see Strouss again, she and her old benefactor sailed off to Paris together. Patterson got hold of the passenger list of their liner, and discovered that his wife was traveling as “Mrs. Emil Strouss.” She was also sharing a cabin with her "husband." Soon after this, Patterson came down with tuberculosis, and entered a sanitarium in Denver. His wife joined him there, but whatever hopes either might have had for a happy reunion were dashed when Gertrude learned her husband was suing Strouss for alienation of affections. She began to talk of divorce.

On that fatal September day, Mrs. Patterson called her husband and asked for a meeting near his hospital—an encounter that quickly developed into an argument over his planned lawsuit. Gertrude Patterson got the last word in the quarrel by pulling a gun out of her purse and shooting Charles dead.

Her initial story was that her husband had committed suicide after having “beaten me fearfully.” When it occurred to her that suicides rarely shoot themselves twice in the back, she admitted having fired the shots in self-defense after “being slapped, beaten, spat upon.”

All in all, she put up a most unconvincing defense at her trial, and courtroom observers generally agreed with one journalist’s prediction that “It’s thirty for Gertie.” Then, a surprise witness appeared, a Francis J. Easton.

Easton testified that on the morning of September 25, he was strolling around Denver—for no particular reason, just seeing the sights—where he saw a woman he identified as Gertrude Patterson arguing with a man. This man, said Easton, began repeatedly hitting the woman, knocking her onto the ground. Then, “I heard shots and he was down.” Before he turned and left the scene—he gallantly stated that “I didn’t want to get my foot into that affair”—he could see that “The woman’s life was in danger.”

The jury found her “Not Guilty,” to the sound of cheers in the courthouse for “Good old Gertie.” (Although one disgusted male voice was heard to shout, “Why should a woman go to Reno? Get a gun and come to Denver!”) Jurors admitted afterward that it was solely the last-minute testimony of the mysterious stranger Francis Easton that “took the rope from off [Gertrude's] neck.”

Horace Benson, the attorney who had led the unsuccessful prosecution against Mrs. Patterson, was not inclined to take her suggestion to him that they should just “forgive and forget.” He had the William Burns Detective Agency do a little sleuthing into the oh-so-convenient Mr. Easton. It turned out that after his testimony, Easton vanished into Canada just as abruptly as he appeared, carrying with him “a roll of bills big enough to choke a dog.” Emil Strouss, it was believed, had given his charming protégée one last great gift.

Stories vary about what Denver’s prettiest gunslinger did next. There were reports that she took a tour of Europe, only to be unlucky enough to book a trip on the Titanic. The suggestion is that her late husband got his justice at last. Other sources, however, assert that she eventually returned alive and well to America and married a judge.

The most plausible report claimed that she changed her name and quietly married the ever-helpful Mr. Strouss. After all, those two certainly seemed made for each other.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Weekend Link Dump

Strange Company doesn't need to throw its weight around.

We can leave that to the cats.

Here's this week's Valentine's Day Parade of the Links:

Where the hell is the Loch Ness Monster?

Who the hell is India's creepiest and least-successful door-to-door salesperson?

What the hell is Siberia's Eagle's Nest?

Where the hell is the City of Z?

What the hell is heading towards Perth, Australia?

London is really humming!

St. Paul is really howling!

Some Gemstone Talismans of the Rich and Famous.  Judging by the fates of some of the owners, they should have asked for their money back.

A Georgian-era Valentine ballad that's very, uh, Georgian.

A Valentine's song celebrating an 18th century sea battle.

In case you and your Valentine want to get a bit more authentic than mere cards, flowers, and chocolates.

If those Valentine rituals don't work, here are some appropriate replies.

Haunted Ohio Books presents a companion piece to our Wednesday roundup of Valentine horrors. Because what says "romance" like cowhidings, poisonings, and broom handles?

Virginia Poe's Valentine.

Love, Victorian Style.

The first alibi I have come across that centers around fairy funerals.

Quoth the Raven, "My IQ runs rings around yours, pitiful human idiots. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

A truly cat-astrophic business venture.  I can only heartily agree with the last line of this post.

I'll bet they wouldn't dare try a business like that with these werewolf cats!

Shroud of Turin research is getting very, very weird.

600-year-old butt songs from hell.  Don't blame me, I'm just the innocent link-compiler.

Nursery rhymes to read to your child.  If your child is Damien from "The Omen," that is.

Actually, I think these sites sound pretty cool.  Which might explain why my blogs are about as popular as jury summonses.

One of the few movies I'd pay to see:  "Bringing Up Baby Bigfoot."

Speaking of which, I bet Bigfoot ate this kid's homework, too.

A "lost" Mary Pickford film has been discovered in a barn.

I suppose it's not really a surprise to learn that Howard Hughes had a connection to space aliens.

A gallery of famous people who were owned by cats and dogs.  Delilah was a true Bohemian Rhapsody.

Decrypting the Vikings.

England's being trolled!

Film of a New York blizzard...from 1902.

The story of Chopin's wandering heart.

Hoodoo Shoes!

Buying a haunted house when you're already living in Florida seems rather like gilding the lily.

Time in a bottle.

The man whose death stopped the hands of time.

The story of the Corpsewood Murders.  Do not read this modern-day slice of medieval horror late at night.

Because around here, we love our sorcery-practicing pirate monks.

800,000 year-old footprints...in England?

Hark back to the days when smoking was a feminist act.

A peek at John Wilkes Booth's FBI file.

In case you've been wondering why Cow Piracy never really caught on.

A 4,000 year old tax return gets audited.

The "confession" of H.H. Holmes.

The Return of Mary Queen of Scots, speaking, curiously enough, like a character in a particularly awful 19th century novel.

Sequencing Richard III.

In honor of Valentine's Day:  a charming collection of vintage love tokens.

And, finally, an Olympic sport just made for the Internet Era: Cat Curling. (H/t Chris Woodyard.)

Happy reading, gang. See you on Monday, with the tale of a lethal Denver party girl.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day, Valentine's Edition

Memphis Daily Appeal, February 15, 1881

I regard Valentine's Day in much the same light as the Grinch thought of Christmas. Consider the following stories as my way of celebrating this Friday's annual orgy of desperately forced ersatz romanticism.

To start with, here's someone I feel really got into the spirit of the thing. From the "San Francisco Call," March 21, 1905:

Willows, March 20.--Dennis Coyne, a postal inspector, is in Willows investigating a scandal growing out of scurrilous letters sent to certain young women of this town on St. Valentine's day. The matter will be more fully investigated. Inspector Coyne yesterday interviewed the recipients of the letters.

Send a Valentine, go to jail!   The "Evening Critic," May 9, 1882:

The case of James Shea, charged with sending obscene pictures through the mails in violation of section 3863 of the Revised Statutes, was before United States Commissioner Samuel C. Mills yesterday afternoon. The evidence of Sue Mayes and Belle Mayes was taken, and to the effect that they received two valentines in which vulgar and indecent language was used. Without completing the testimony the hearing was continued until Friday next.

St. Valentine's, patron saint of crime sprees.  The "Los Angeles Herald," March 31, 1895:

M.R. Dominguez, a citizen of Santa Inez, was examined before United States Commissioner Van Dyke yesterday on the charge of having sent obscene matter through the mails, and discharged. The matter complained of consisted of a vulgar valentine sent to another man at Santa Inez, Santa Barbara county, upon the back of which there were some very vulgar epithets in the Spanish language, but the government failed to connect the defendant with the paper, and his discharge was the necessary sequence.

My Funny Felony Valentine. From the "Iola Register," February 17, 1888:

Valentine's Day brought forth at least one tragedy that has been made part of the public records. On Wednesday a certain young man called on a young lady living a few miles from town. While he was talking to her a woman living in the house slipped up behind him and hit him over the head with a boot jack, remarking that she would "teach him how to send her insulting valentines!" The young man evidently concluded to reciprocate by teaching her the true use of a boot jack, so had her arrested and brought before Justice Smelzer, charged with assault and battery. She plead guilty to the charge and was fined $1 and costs.

Here's an admirably enterprising spirit. From the "Washington Evening Star," February 20, 1860:

In New York, on St. Valentine's day, a man named Moore was detected in traveling through the Sixth avenue with a carpet-bag full of envelopes addressed to different persons, which he would leave at their residences, and, having collected his two cents, would depart before his victims discovered that the envelopes contained only blank paper. The man was arrested, and confessed that, taking advantage of the Valentine season, he had made several dollars in that manner, the plan having been concocted by himself and landlady. He was held for examination.

Why waste your money on flowers or diamonds for your lady love when you can present her with a dead rat? From the "Juniata Sentinel," March 6, 1872:

A grand rat hunt was held in Amwell township, on St. Valentine's day, by a party of gentlemen from there and an equal number from Franklin township the losing party to pay for the dinner. Six thousand two hundred rats were killed.

Valentine's Day has a way of destroying a man's sense of humor. From the "San Francisco Call," February 15, 1906:

BERKELEY, Feb. 14.— For passing a jocular remark Miss Mary Peters was viciously attacked and beaten on the head with a bottle by James Surman, a machinist, to-night at Fifth street and University avenue, West Berkeley. Letitia Levina, a friend of Miss Peters, witnessed the attack. The two girls were walking along University avenue when they noticed Surman, whom they were acquainted with, come down the street. He was intoxicated and had two bottles of beer in his pockets. Miss Peters passed a jocular remark in regard to St. Valentine's day, which Surman took offense at, becoming very angry. He advanced upon Miss Peters and dealt her a stunning blow over the head with one of the bottles, which felled her to the ground. The screams of the two girls attracted several persons to the scene. The injured girl was taken to her home for treatment. In the meantime Surman made his escape, but was later arrested by Policeman Atchinson and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. The girl had a deep laceration of the scalp.
Ah, romance.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Hellish Major Weir

The Devil pays a call on the Weir neighborhood.

In 1599, a man named Thomas Weir was born in Scotland. His father did not have the highest reputation for probity and his mother was suspected of sorcery, but such flaws were hardly uncommon in his milieu, and his upbringing could probably be called uneventful. When Thomas reached maturity, he served in the Puritan army in 1641, as well as in the Covenanting forces three years later. He attained the rank of Major. In 1649, he retired from active duty, and henceforth served as Edinburgh’s Captain of the City Guard.

His term in office was most notable for his rigid devotion to Covenanter principles, coupled with a corresponding zeal in persecuting Royalists. A contemporary account described Weir as “very active in discovering and apprehending the Cavaliers and bringing them to be arraing’d and try’d for their lives.” This cruel use of his power was, we are told, regarded by the people as a sign that the Major was “a singular Worthy whom God had raised up to support the Cause.” This “Worthy” was particularly lauded for his brutal treatment of the imprisoned Marquess of Montrose.

After several years in office, Weir left his post—whether it was due to dismissal or voluntary resignation is uncertain—leaving him free to devote himself more fully to religious exercises. His ardent devotion to Presbyterianism, coupled with his enormous knowledge of Scripture and compelling fluency in prayer, made him regarded by Edinburgh’s Godly as practically a living saint. “Happy was the Man with whom he would converse,” we are told, “and blessed was the Family in which he would vouchsafe to pray.” His fame spread to the point where people would travel dozens of miles just to hear “Angelical Thomas” give his extempore sermons.

Society knew of only one controversy surrounding this esteemed citizen. A minister, John Nave, was told by one of his parishioners that she had observed Major Weir in a field, having sexual relations with a mare. The claim was dismissed for lack of proof, and Weir’s accuser was subjected to a whipping by the local hangman “as a slanderer of such an eminent Holy Man.”

In 1642 Weir married a widow named Isobel Mein. It was after her death, and the marriage of his stepdaughter, that the Major's life took a fatal turn for the Weird. After he was left to live alone, he had his spinster sister Jean (or Grizel, in some accounts) move in with him as housekeeper. As events were to reveal, the relations between the two may well have been—to put it most delicately—more intimate than society allows between a brother and sister. It is likely the crushing psychological burden of this particular violation of taboo that led to the final tragedy.

Weir’s downfall was as unexpected as it was dramatic. On a certain day in the spring of 1670, there was a great religious meeting in Edinburgh, where Major Weir was, naturally, one of the most honored participants. At some point in the proceedings, he rose to address the faithful. However, instead of the usual “Enthusiastical phrases, Extasies, and Raptures,” he gave his audience something else entirely. Weir, in effect, committed suicide in front of their increasingly horrified eyes.

He began to tell them of his many sins—sins that left the brethren reeling in shock and disgust. This man that, for so many years, had been seen as the epitome of piety and virtue was, on his own volition, revealing himself to be a monster. He told of acts of incest (with both his sister and his stepdaughter,) bestiality, numerous sexual encounters with servant-girls, and Devil-worship. “Before God,” he cried, “I have not told you the hundredth part of that I can say more, and am guilty of!”

He had told them quite enough. The first instinct of his listeners was to launch a cover-up. It would hardly do to have this “confounding scandal” within their church made public. It could very well destroy the reputations of them all.

As an explanation for any reports of this shocking incident that may have leaked out, the brethren announced that Major Weir had been taken gravely ill. For several months, it looked as if the terrible truth of what the Kirk had harbored in its midst might be kept secret. However, one of the ministers confided to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir Andrew Ramsay, what had happened. Sir Andrew, assuming that “such horrid crimes as the Minister told him the Major had confessed,” were simply too bad to be true, sent several doctors to Weir’s home to “Physick him for his distempered Brain.” The medical men reported back that Weir appeared “free from Hypocondriack Distempers” and was quite sane. His only ailment, they judged, was “an exulcerated Conscience.” Weir wanted to be brought to justice, and in the opinion of the doctors, his wish should be granted. Some “Conventicle-Ministers” that the provost had also dispatched to meet with Weir agreed with this diagnosis. “The terrors of God,” they said, “urged him to confess and accuse himself.”

The town officials threw up their hands. Public scandal or no, they conceded, there was nothing for it but to put the Major on trial. Weir and his sister—whom he had implicated up to the hilt in his confession—were sent to the Tolbooth. When the siblings were apprehended, Jean told the officers to grab Weir’s “Magical Staff,” lest he use it to “drive them all out of doors, notwithstanding all the resistance they could make.”

This “Staff,” it was noted, was made of thorn-wood and decorated with centaurs. Jean Weir said her brother “received it of the Devil and did many wonderful things with it.” The authorities also discovered in his home a cloth containing “a certain root.” When this object was thrown into a fire, the flames “circled and sparkled like Gunpowder, and passing from the Funnel of the Chimney, it gave a crack like a little Cannon, to the amazement of all that were present.” We are also told of some coins Weir had possessed, which caused poltergeist-like disturbances wherever they were stored.

Weir, as he awaited trial, treated his fate with weary indifference. He rejected calls for him to repent with the reply that he was irrevocably damned, and any sort of prayers would be useless. A contemporary historian attributed Weir’s attitude to guile: “that now since he was to goe to the Devil he would not anger him.”

His sister told authorities that she had inherited a talent for black magic from her mother. Jean also—penitently? proudly?—displayed a horseshoe-shaped “witch-mark” on her brow. According to Jean, she and her brother had been in partnership with the Devil for many years. On September 7, 1648, she said, they had been carried from Edinburgh to Musselburgh and back by a Satanic coach and six horses “which seemed all of fire.” She gave details of her brother’s “inchanted Staff,” that he used “to commit filthinesse not to be named.” Jean also related how some years back, when she was a schoolteacher (!) a woman asked her to “spick for her to the Queen of Fairie.” The next day, another lady gave her “a piece of a tree or root” which would enable her “to doe what she should desyre.”

On April 9th, 1670, these strangest of siblings went on trial for incest, fornication, and adultery. For whatever reason, the indictment against the Major concentrated on his sexual sins, while only Jean's emphasized the sorcery charges.  No lawyer could be found willing to defend them. Both defendants readily asserted the truth of all the charges, and the jury had no difficulty whatsoever in pronouncing them guilty. Two days later, the Major was strangled, and his body "burnt to ashes." The day after the death of her brother, Jane Weir was hanged. It is related that Thomas Weir met his doom “in despair, declaring that he had no hopes of mercy.” As the rope was being placed around his neck, he was encouraged to pray. “I will not,” he snapped. “I have lived as a Beast and I must die as a Beast.” His magical stick was burned with him, and it was said to have made "rare turnings" in the flames.  Jane, on the other hand, went to the gallows in a far less resigned spirit. She died “in a furious rage,” “uttering words horrible to be remembered,” and slapping the executioner’s face.

Over the years, many lurid and increasingly outlandish myths were told about Weir, who remains Scotland’s most notorious “warlock.” These tales seem like gilding the lily. Surely, the bare facts of his story are quite blood-curdling enough.

It not until a century after Weir's death that anyone was willing to live in his home, a site the townspeople firmly believed was impregnated with evil. That first intrepid tenant lasted for exactly one night, claiming he had seen “a form like that of a calf” appear by his bed during the night. The home eventually was occupied by various businesses, but it was never used as a private residence again. According to the Scottish historian and folklorist Andrew Lang, the unquiet spirits of Thomas and Jean Weir were seen as recently as the early 20th century. For many years, it was believed the sinister Weir home was demolished in 1878. However, in the February 2014 issue of "Fortean Times," Jan Bondeson revealed that his researches led him to discover that the home was assimilated into an existing building which is, at this date, the Quaker Meeting House at No. 7 Victoria Terrace.

And, yes, occupants of the building have reported seeing ghosts about the place. I would be greatly disappointed in the Major if they had not.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Weekend Link Dump

This week, Strange Company just hasn't known which end is up.

Neither have the cats.

On to this week's Festival of the Links:

So, who the hell is buried in Charlemagne's tomb?  Follow the link to find the astonishing answer!

Speaking of Charlemagne, take a visit to his palace.

Who the hell was this iconic drowning victim?

What the hell is this Vietnamese rock?

What the hell is the Phaistos Disk?

What the hell are these ancient Japanese...uh, big stone thingys?

Who--or what--the hell was this Pantagonian two-headed giant?

So, why the hell were these pyramids built?

Watch out for those Thomas Walshes!

Watch out for those rabbit archaeologists!

Watch out for those haunted wells!

Building inscriptions that showed a pleasant bit of imagination.

When this bar announces Last Call, you'll know the Seventh Seal has been opened.

Personally, I think all these endings would have been a great improvement over the ones actually used. Which possibly explains why I am not a movie mogul or a publishing giant.

Angela Burdett-Coutts:  too rich and too eligible.

This post reminds me of an old Kingston Trio song my grandmother was fond of singing:
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls,
The French hate the Germans,
The Germans hate the Poles,
Italians hate Yugoslavs,
South Africans hate the Dutch,
And I don't like anybody very much!
As an aside, I often think that world travel was invented in order to bring together all nationalities, all races, all cultures...so we could learn that we all really get on each other's nerves.

Beach Blanket Nazi.

Who needs horror movies when you can have Mystery Starfish Plagues?

Who needs horror movies when you can have Alien Jellyfish Thieves?

Who needs horror movies when you can have Satan's Instagram account?

Kierkegaard:  Philosopher, theologian, insufferable twit.

The murder case that inspired Poe to turn playwright.

A look at China's "Animal Pompeii."

Bram Stoker: a lot more than just Dracula.  Anyone else surprised to learn that his wife and Oscar Wilde were once an item?


Greyfriars' Bobby: A popular legend gets sent to the doghouse.

Marocco:  "Mr. Ed" meets "Bewitched."

If they only had classes dealing with the finer points of pacts with the devil, you bet I would've gone to law school.  It would have been excellent training for dealing with literary agents.

The diary of a witch hunt.

The Dyatlov Pass mystery...solved?

Sexting, Victorian style.

Ghosts of the Tsunami.

A look back at the Frost Fairs on the Thames.

Uncovering the Indian Ocean's oldest known shipwreck.

Instant Karma:  Well, here is a business that just screams "unintended consequences."

The horrifying story of a Victorian elephant superstar.

He's so crabby!
He's so blue!
He's so caught!
What will he do?

Meet Toby, the piano-playing terrapin.

History, in living color.

Just hanging in there...for all eternity.

And finally:  Whatever else I may be, I can at least take comfort in the fact that I am not a cricket-obsessed pig-smuggler.

Not yet, at any rate.

That's all for this week.  I'll be back on Monday (uh, at least, I sincerely hope so,) when this blog will really be going to the Devil.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day

Some friendly words of advice from Aunt Undine: You can have cats, or you can have a spouse. Not both.

And if you think otherwise, guess who'll win in the end?

As an example, here is a story from the "Cairnes Post" for February 1, 1924:

Too many cats were the cause of a divorce action being filed in a district clerk's office in Texas. Ed. Carr brought a suit against his wife, alleging that she cared more for 15 tabbies than she did for him. Among other allegations, the plaintiff asserts that Mrs. Carr would sleep with her cats every night and leave her husband all by his lonesome in another bed.

The plaintiff claims that the 15 cat boarders were bad enough, but the climax came when his wife insisted that he be "housemaid" for the feline inmates of the one-time happy home. Carr also declares that it cost him £1 a week to provide food for his unwelcome "guests" and that as he is a working man of small means, the extra overhead cost of maintaining his establishment practically "broke" him.

And the "Charleville Times," December 24, 1947:

A Brighton husband has divorced his wife because she preferred her 25 cats to himself.

Thomas Winnan, an insurance clerk, told Mr. Justice Casels that his wife Edith kept 12 cats in their home at Waverley Avenue, Twickenham, London.

He kept counting the cats--there seemed more of them each week. One week he found 25, and then a disturbing thought began to haunt William.

Finally he asked his wife if she preferred the cats to himself. Mrs. Winnan said she did and Winnan, bowing to the inevitable, went to live at Brighton, Sussex.

Mr. Justice Casels gave Winnan a divorce on the grounds of his wife's cruelty.

Not to mention this story from the "Perth Mirror," June 12, 1937:

Mrs. Ada Tidbury, of Aldershot, applying at Caversham, Berkshire, for a separation order against her husband, Charles Tidbury, of the Tell Gate, Whitechurch, Oxfordshire, complained that he kept 20 cats and allowed them to sleep in his bed.

The husband replied that his wife adored the cats, and he had to take them out of the bed himself.

He added that he had to have the cats to keep down the rats.

The magistrates refused to make the order, which was sought on the ground of alleged cruelty, but advised the husband to get rid of the cats.

Take note of this item from the "Hobart Mercury," July 9, 1951:

Thomas Oxx (58) said in court on Friday he was shocked when he returned home from work one day to find his bride of two months caring for 35 cats.

He was annoyed when she removed the floor coverings so the cats could be on bare boards.

Oxx said the limit of his tolerance was reached when the cats grew to 70.

Oxx was granted a divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

Contemplate this story from the "Canberra Times," January 10, 1948:

Cats are preventing a husband from returning to his wife, it was stated in the Divorce Court to-day.

Judith Elaine Priestley, of Potts Point, asked the Divorce Court to order her husband, Ronald Leonard Priestley, to return home.

Priestley said that he was allergic to cat fluff, and he could not return home because of the presence of cats.

The court ordered him home within 21 days.

Still not convinced? From the "Brisbane Mail," January 31, 1954:

In Hartford, Connecticut, Mrs. Joseph Gazik got a divorce after testifying that when her husband had collected 40 cats in their home, she asked him to choose between her and the cats, got a quick answer: "Get out."

A lawyer gave the following anecdote in the "Cairnes Post," March 12, 1949:

"Do you wonder I left home--thirty-six cats in a four-roomed house!" whispered Crundwell. "She drove me out of the place. When I asked her to cut down the number of feline boarders, she said, 'I would sooner have them than you." So I left. That was six years ago. Now I want a divorce. I say she deserted me in that she forced me to leave the place. I could never get a decent meal. She was for ever feeding her cats."

But wait, there's more! The "Adelaide Chronicle," May 17, 1951:

Harry Macdonald had 22 cats and one wife: now he has 22 cats. His wife Venetta was granted a divorce on Tuesday. She said that she was tired of competing with cats for her husband's affections.

The "Adelaide Mail," November 28, 1936:

Mr. J. Bellois suing for divorce at Trenton, New Jersey, after 14 years' marriage, said that his wife now kept 60 cats; that when he arrived home from work he had to wait for his dinner until the cats had finished theirs.

The "Barrier Miner," August 28, 1941:

On the ground that his wife keeps too many cats in the house, John Pettinger is suing for divorce after having been married 12 months.

He complained that he could not find a chair on which to sit because they were all occupied by his wife's countless cats, and he could not walk upstairs without tripping over one.

The "Canberra Times," March 14, 1964:

Wesley Novak has agreed to pay his wife $3,000 alimony as part of a divorce settlement, but he says she can keep her 50 cats, United Press International reported.

Novak told a district judge the cats had crawled over his bed and kept him from getting a good night's sleep for years.

Throw horses into the mix, and you're really in trouble. From the "Charleville Times," July 9, 1953:

In Los Angeles, Walter R. Sprinkel asking for a divorce charged that his wife Clara lost his money on the horses during the day, insisted on sharing her bed with three pet cats at night.

Even a war veteran is no match for the cats. From the "Sausalito News," April 27, 1912:

Samuel O'Dell, aged seventy-four, a veteran of the Civil war, obtained a divorce because his wife kept 35 cats.

The "Los Angeles Herald," December 10, 1893.  I assume the wife knew this one was coming:

Cats and clairvoyance are the reasons given by Simon Fritz of 46 Goffe street, New Haven for separating from his wife The couple were married in Iowa about 40 years ago Ten years ago Mrs. Fritz developed a mania for cats. She gathered in and cared for every stray feline she could find Mr Fritz tried to escape from them by moving to this city but she brought a crate of cats with the furniture.

Mr. Fritz is a woodworker. He set up a repairing shop on Winter street and they lived in the building until the constantly increasing number of cats around the house caused the neighbors to complain and they moved to Goffe street. Mr. Fritz also has some inventions he is trying to perfect but the nightly uproar by the cats seldom allowed him to get a night's rest and he was unable to work effectively.

Then Mrs. Fritz became a trance medium and her husband says neglected her household work to delve into the mysteries of the past present and future. She attracted attention by asserting that Anna Orr, then missing from Bridgeport was dead in a well. The girl's body has since been found in a well in Fairfield.

Mr. Fritz could stand the fortune telling but he couldn't stand the cats, and he finally declared that his wife's pets must all go. Mrs. Fritz demurred but her husband was firm. The cats went, and so did the woman. Now Mr. Fritz declares he will apply for a divorce.

Another cautionary tale can be found in the "Sausalito News," February 5, 1921:

Twenty-seven cats, three dogs, a parrot, a pigeon, a mother-in-law and a stepdaughter are listed among the reasons why Charles B. Kinney left home. He filed suit in the Superior Court January 29 for divorce from Mrs. Anna M. Kinney, who, he charges, neglected their six-months-old baby to lavish attention upon the menagerie of pets she insisted on keeping. The husband says that although he gave his pay check to his wife every week, he was considered "last and least" of all the occupants of the house. When he protested against the pets because they harbored fleas and "cooties," he says, his wife attacked him and then had him arrested. The charge against him was dismissed, and she broke a broomstick on his head and chased him from home with a gun, he says.

Saying it with an ax is one thing; keeping cats quite another. From the "East Oregonian," March 4, 1912:

Frederick Voss, a foreman in charge of one of the Philadelphia & Reading shops, obtained a divorce in common pleas court because his wife was cruel and insisted upon keeping nine cats in the house.

Voss said that on Christmas a year ago he was attacked by his wife and her mother with an ax.

"I didn't mind that so much," said Voss, "but I couldn't stand those nine cats in the house. They slept in my bed and occupied my favorite chair all the time."

"Why didn't you put the cats out of the house or kill them?" asked Judge Audenreid, before whom the case was being tried.

"My wife is a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, judge," Voss replied, "and I was afraid she would have me arrested."

Mrs. Voss did not contest the suit.

From the "San Francisco Call," September 27, 1903:

A cat met him at every turn. An angry "psst" and a chorus of blood curdling "mews" greeted his every move. When he retired at night he needs must exercise great care lest he should disturb the slumbers of a feline snugly ensconced between the sheets of his bed. When he arose in the morning he had to exercise great precaution lest he should expose his bare feet to the claws of numerous pussies and provoke a melody that would ring in his ears for the rest of the day. In fact, every minute of Henry Wyman Page Colson's time at his home in Sommervllle. Mass., was spent in dodging cats. For five years he stood it and then fled to this city. Here he was free from the presence of cats of all kinds, whether they were costly Angoras, pedigreed Maltese or members of the Thomas and Maria family whose midnight stunts would drive a deacon to the use of profanity and the most dignified citizen to unseemly antics with bootjacks and other prized possessions.

Once here, Colson set about making his emancipation final. He betook himself to the office of a lawyer and told his tale of woe. The legal luminary was puzzled, for he had never brought an action against the feline tribe. He thought of injunction proceedings, mandamus and even habeas corpus. But there was no relief for Colson in any of these proceedings. "Who owns these cats?" said the lawyer, hoping for a response that would aid him.

"Mrs. Susan Loring Colson, my wife," said Colson.

"Then you must have a divorce," cried the lawyer. And the next day the suit was filed. It was heard yesterday by Judge Murasky, who promptly gave Colson a decree on the ground of cruelty. Numerous depositions of Boston people corroborative of Colson's tale were read in evidence. Colson's complaint is one of the most complete recitals of the troubles of married life ever filed here. It recites that he was married at Mattapolsett, Mass., in November 1878. For fourteen years he and his wife were happy. It was in 1892 that their troubles commenced. He was at that time a prosperous hotel-keeper at Sommerville. He did not live at his hotel, but maintained a handsome residence near by. His wish was that his wife should make her residence at the hotel, but she would not. This led to the first quarrel, and soon his wife was making his life miserable by accusing him of conduct unbecoming a good husband. She came to his hotel and insulted his guests and one night broke up a whist party. She said the game was immoral and insisted that he should leave. She compelled him to take her home and on the way thither abused him, winding up her tirade by kicking and scratching him and endeavored to stab him with a hatpin.

Such fights followed in rapid order during the next few years and he was finally compelled to retire from business. Even then he was not free from attacks by his wife, for she wrote letters to his successor in business and to the guests of the hotel, in which she said her husband was guilty of all sorts of unseemly actions.

It was not until 1897 that the cats were brought in Colson's unhappy life. In that year Mrs. Colson developed a fondness for cats of every degree and fairly filled her house with them. Some were sick, and they were all dirty, but their condition only affected Colson. Every room in the house was soon filled with them and their numbers increased, despite Colson's frequent raids and attempts to kill every one of them. Mrs. Colson cared only for the cats, with the natural result that the Colson home soon became a wreck. The unlucky husband's friends for a time continued their visits, but for a very short time, and soon the visits ceased altogether. They preferred leaving him to the company of his wife and her cats to running the risk of being infested with vermin and having their clothes ruined and their olfactory nerves shocked by a call at the Colson home. It was early in March, 1902, that Colson, driven almost crazy by his wife and her cats, determined to end it all. In March of that year he left his home and came to this city and established a residence. When he was here a year he consulted a lawyer and the suit was filed, which yesterday resulted in the severance of his Irksome bonds.

The "Burra Record," October 23, 1907:

Professor Rosenberg, of Chicago, last month made a complaint to the police that his domestic happiness had been ruined by his wife's cats. Mrs. Rosenberg was very fond of cats and kept ten of them in the house. Her old love for him was completely alienated by these pets. The police advised the professor to poison the cats.

If the professor tried taking that advice, my guess is that it wasn't the cats who were murdered.

"Los Angeles Herald," July 3, 1910:

WORCESTER. Mass., July 1 Dr. Robert. A. Pierce of the Tuft's dental college declares that thirty-two cats which his wife possessed have broken up his home. For three days the divorce court has listened to the woes of the Pierces and the Judge now has the case under consideration, but has urged both parties to settle their differences out of court and reach a peaceable agreement if, possible. Mrs. Pierce is well known in New York and Boston as an exhibitor of blue ribbon Angoras. According to the story told in court by Mr. Pierce, they crawled mewing about the rooms and hulls. They slept in the bathtub during the day. They crept into coat pockets and took up quarters in hats and other wearing apparel. Numerous cat autopsies were held to discover the causes of deaths in the broods. One part of the house was turned into a laboratory and pharmacy, where cat medicine was kept. Litters of kittens turned up in the most unexpected places—in his hat, for instance—and yowls and fights enlivened the evening and sleeping hours. Dr. Pierce testified that the limit was reached when various members of the cat colony began to appear regularly at the table to dine with him and Mrs. Pierce. Therefore, last October, after much disagreement on the subject, the Pierces agreed to break up their home. Mrs. Pierce, with a half-dozen of her famous cats, is now living at 11 Queen street, Worcester.

In defense of her cats, Mrs. Pierce says: "Every one of the thirty-two cats that we had at one time had at least eight blue ribbons apiece to their credit. Any number of them had taken seconds and thirds in New York and Boston. They were not ordinary cats, as one might think from the way this case has been handled in court. They were worth thousands of dollars, and several of them I had refused to sell for any money. Both Dr. Pierce and I agreed on this, and now he turns all this against me. It is a shame, because our quarrels had nothing to do with cats at all."

And, finally, a judge wise enough to side with the cats. From the "San Francisco Call," September 3, 1909:

OAKLAND, Sept 2. — It is worse for a husband to chase his wife about the house with an ax, threaten to kill, her and call her vile names than it is for the wife to wear false hair and take a cat into bed with her. To this effect Judge Wells decided today in handing down a decision that gave Mrs. Ella Tillmany an interlocutory decree of divorce against her husband, Jacob. Mrs. Tiilmany brought suit originally, setting forth the ax wielding, the threats and the curses as instances of cruelty. Tillmany came back with countercharges that included the wearing of a wig by his wife and her introduction of the family cat into the bed. The former, he declared, constituted mental cruelty as it gave him much pain to see his wife wearing the locks of another woman, and the latter charge was physical cruelty, inasmuch as the cat scratched his legs. Judge Wells ordered Tillmany to pay his wife $200 as a settlement of their property rights.

Well, there you have it. I'm going to treasure these clippings and wave them around like flags every time I'm asked why I've never married.

Always remember this: the cats win. The cats always win.