"...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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Death at Niagara Falls

Vintage image of Luna Island

Niagara Falls resident Van Rensselaer Pearson was an emotionally troubled man, one who was perhaps even going mad. His afflicted mental state certainly led to his death. But was this death murder or suicide?

For some time, Pearson’s erratic and sometimes abusive behavior had been causing his family an increasing amount of worry, particularly after he acquired a pistol and wrote out what was in effect a will, instructing his wife how to manage his property after his death. His loved ones finally decided they must persuade him to enter a local mental institution. But in his strange, uncooperative frame of mind, how was this to be done?

On the evening of April 9, 1884, Pearson’s brother-in-law, Thomas Vedder, volunteered to discuss the issue with him. He decided to take Pearson out on a buggy ride which would give them some needed privacy. The two men rode out…and never returned.

A search party found Pearson in a local area called Luna Island, near the America Falls, dead from two bullets to his head. The weapon was not found. Also missing was Vedder, although his outer clothes were found, neatly arranged in a pile, at the brink of the Falls.

Vedder’s whereabouts remained unknown until two months later, when his body was found at the base of the Bridal Veil Falls, where presumably the current had taken it from Luna Island. No gunshot wounds were found on his body.

How did these two men meet their deaths? Pearson’s son Martin theorized that his father, enraged over the idea that he should be institutionalized, killed Vedder, perhaps by strangling, removed his clothes, and threw him into the Falls. He then shot himself, after which the gun followed Vedder into the river.

Or did the two men quarrel violently, causing Vedder to shoot Pearson in self-defense? And then, overcome by horror of what he had done, did he disrobe and hurl himself into the water?

Or was there a third party involved? Vedder was a rich man—his estate amounted to some $200,000 in 1884 dollars. Did one of his heirs take advantage of the situation by killing Vedder and the only witness to the deed?

Vedder’s clothes are hard to fit into any scenario. Vedder was described as a very methodical, business-like man, but it still seems odd that before jumping to his death—which, if he had killed Pearson, would have been an act of impulse following an unexpected tragedy--he would take the trouble to undress and tidily arrange his clothing. It makes even less sense that he was murdered, by Pearson or someone else. Why would the killer go to all the trouble of undressing the corpse before hurling it over the Falls, especially if he was only going to leave the clothes behind?

The gun used to kill Pearson is another problem. Vedder’s own gun was left at his home, and Pearson’s gun had been taken away from him two or three days earlier, due to his troubling behavior. Where did the murder weapon come from, and where did it go?

The men who first found Pearson’s body testified at the inquest that there were no signs of a struggle, or any signs of footprints leading to the water’s edge, although one mentioned footprints leading away from the scene. If so, this would tend to explode the popular theory of altercation/murder/suicide.

Some of the contemporary newspapers stated that a folded paper was found in Vedder’s coat, but its contents were never publicly disclosed. If it provided any clue to the tragedy, the authorities kept it to themselves.

As one newspaper commented after Vedder’s body was discovered, “There is still a mystery about the affair which will never be cleared up.”

How right they were.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is proud to be sponsored by the Fellowship of Cross-Eyed Cats!

Where the hell is the Wizard of Ladysmith?

What the hell is this ancient wall?

What the hell is falling in Michigan?

Why the hell are crows dying in Ohio?

Who the hell poisoned Olive Loomis?

Watch out for Tom Dockin!

Watch out for exploding teeth!

The Thomas Morris blog:  Come for the exploding teeth, stay for the ear teeth.

Fire at the Theatre Royal, 1809.

The folklore of the cat.

Clown funeral, anyone?

The world's oldest dress.

A ghost that smelled of death.  Which seems pretty logical, when you think of it.

The history of the Regent Diamond.

The House of Mews.  I wish there were more places like this.

"Circus Freak Lobster Boy Got Away With Murder Until He Was Killed By His Own Family."  The headline pretty much says it all, but here are the details.

Edward II vs. the Sorcerer.

Skin care, Victorian style.

An early shot in the War of the Roses:  The downfall of  Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.

America's first great plunger.

A plot to save the French royal family.

The horrors of Georgian hair pomades.

Of Peyps, pans, and pretenders.

The dangers of trying to make your daughter Queen of England.

Wrong place, wrong time.

The bizarre kidnapping of Lady Grange.  (I covered that little Scottish domestic drama here.)

Haunted Edinburgh.

People have always been noisy.

Love letters from sailors.

This week's archaeological "Oops!"

A 19th century version of a Facebook page.

The latest from Easter Island.

"To Cure Buggs."

Helen Duncan, the last witch.

Elizabeth Hamilton was more than just Alexander's wife.

Phrenology and Abraham Lincoln.

Let's talk regimental chickens.

Let's talk Tudor underwear.

Let's talk Georgian muffs.

That time Lord Nelson got pickled.

A visit to the Tower of London ravens.

A visit to a 19th century Munich "Dead-house."

A Manchester Sherlock Holmes.

A tribute to Sir Christopher Wren.

The inspiration for Thomas Hardy's Tess.

Measuring the weight of a soul.

Be warned:  Putting a sheet over your head may be a criminal offense.

The richest man who ever lived.

A suffragette Indian princess.

A complex early 19th century murder case.

Bring on the leeches!

A stunning vintage photo of the ever-stunning Neuschwanstein Castle.

An 1880 fairy frolic.

This week in Russian Weird:  Keeping cool in Yakutsk.

And, finally, the Fortean world received some sad news this week:  Melanie Billings, co-editor of the indispensable site, The Anomalist, suddenly passed away at the age of only 42.

This wraps up yet another Link Dump.  See you on Monday, when I'll be looking at two very puzzling deaths at Niagara Falls.  In the meantime, here's Guy Clark.  I can't tell you how this song has been hitting home for me lately.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Clipping of the Day

In 1524, Gavin Douglas, Archbishop of Glasgow, had had enough with the "reivers" [thieves] who were gleefully wreaking havoc on both sides of the border between Scotland and England. His response to these desperados was to excommunicate every last one of them, by means of his "Great Monition of Cursing," which was preached in churches all along the Border. This magnificent work of damnation--one of the great Hymns of Hate in any language--was reproduced in George MacDonald Fraser's "The Steel Bonnets." Below is a translation into modern English, but to get the full flavor of the thing, I advise that you scroll down to the original language. The old Scots tongue was peculiarly suited to maledictions and insults of all kinds.

Good folks, here at my Lord Archbishop of Glasgow’s letters under his round seal, direct to me or any other chaplain, making mention, with great regret, how heavy he bears the piteous, lamentable, and dolorous complaint that passes all of our realm and comes to his ears, by open voice and fame, how our sovereign lords true lieges, men, wives and children, both and redeemed by the precious blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and living in his laws, are innocently part murdered, part slain, burnt, harried, spoiled and robbed, openly on day light and under silence of the night, and their farms and lands laid waste, and they are self banish therefore, as well church lands as others, by common traitors, reivers, thieves, dwelling in the south part of this realm, such as Teviotdale, Eskdale, Liddiesdale, Ewesdale, Nithsdale, and Annandale; which has been diverse ways pursued and punished by the temporal sword and our Sovereign Lords authority, and dreads not the same.

And therefore my said Lord Archbishop of Glasgow has thought expedient to strike them with the terrible sword of holy church, which they may not long endure and resist; and has charged me, or any other chaplain, to denounce, declare and proclaim them openly and generally cursed, at this market cross, and all other public places.

Herefore through the authority of Almighty God, the Father of Heaven, his Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; through the authority of the Blessed Virgin Saint Mary, Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and all his angels; Saint John the Baptist, and all the holy patriarchs and prophets; Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Andrew, and all holy apostles; Saint Stephen, Saint Laurence, and all holy martyrs; Saint Gile, Saint Martin, and all holy confessors; Saint Anne, Saint Katherine, and all holy virgins and matrons; and all the saints and holy company of heaven; by the authority of our Holy Father the Pope and his cardinals, and of my said Lord Archbishop of Glasgow, with the advice and assistance of my lords, archbishop, bishops, abbots, priors, and other prelates and ministers of the holy church, I DENOUNCE, PROCLAIM, AND DECLARE all and sundry the committers of the said of innocents murders, slaughters, burning, inheritances, robbery, thefts, and spoilings, openly upon day light and under silence of night, as well as within temporal lands as church lands; together with their part takers, assisters, suppliers, knowingly and of their persons, the goods snatched and stolen by them, art or part thereof, and their counsellors and defenders, of their evil deeds generally cursed, waking, aggravated, and re-aggravated, with the great cursing.

I CURSE their head and all the hairs of their head; I CURSE their face, their eyes, their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their skull, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their legs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the sole of their feet, before and behind, within and without. I CURSE them going, and I CURSE them riding; I CURSE them standing, and I CURSE them sitting; I CURSE them eating, I CURSE them drinking; I CURSE them walking, I CURSE them sleeping; I CURSE them rising, I CURSE them lying; I CURSE them at home, I CURSE them from home; I CURSE them within the house, I CURSE them without the house; I CURSE their wives, their children and their servants who participate with them in their deeds.

I Worry their corn, their cattle, their wool, their sheep, their horse, their swine, their geese, their hens, and all their live goods. I Worry their houses, their rooms, their kitchens, their stables, their barns, their byres, their barnyards, their cabbage patches, their ploughs, their harrows, and the possessions and houses that are necessary for their sustenation and welfare. All the bad wishes and curses that ever got worldly creature since the beginning of the world to this hour might light upon them. The malediction of God, that lighted upon Lucifer and all his fellows, that struck them from the high heaven to the deep hell, might light upon them. The fire and the sword that stopped Adam from the gates of Paradise might stop them from the glory of Heaven, until they forbear and make amends. The bad wishes that lighted on cursed Cain, when he slew his brother just Abel guiltless, might light on them for the innocent slaughter that they commit daily. The malediction that lighted upon all the world, man and beast, and all that ever took life, when all were drowned by the flood of Noah, except Noah and his ark, might light upon them and drown them, man and beast, and make this realm free of them for their wicked sins. The thunder and lightning that set down as rain upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, with all the lands about, and burnt them for their vile sins, might rain upon them, and burn them for open sins. The bad wishes and confusion that lighted on the Gigantis for their oppression and pride, building the tour of Babylon, might confound them and all their works, for their open disregard and oppression. All the plagues that fell upon Pharaoh and his people of Egypt, their lands, corn and cattle, might fall upon them, their leases, rooms and buildings, corn and animals. The river of Tweed and other rivers where they ride might drown them, as the Red Sea drowned King Pharaoh and his people of Egypt, pursuing Gods people of Israel. The earth might open, split and cleave and swallow them alive to hell, as it swallowed cursed Dathan and Abiron, that disobeyed Moses and command of God. The wild fire that burnt Thore and his fellows to the number of two hundredth and fifty, and others 14,000 and 7,000, usurping against Moses and Aaron, servants of God, might suddenly burn and consume them daily disobeyed and commands of God and holy church.

The malediction that lights suddenly upon fair Absalom, riding contrary to his father, King David, servant of God, through the wood, when the branches of a tree knocked him off his horse and hanged him by the hair, might light upon them, untrue Scots men, and hang them suchlike that all the world may see.

The malediction that lighted upon Olifernus, lieutenant to Nebuchadnezzar’s, making war and hardships upon true Christian men; the malediction that lighted upon Judas, Pilate, Herod and the Jews that crucified Our Lord, and all the plagues and troubles that lighted on the city of Jerusalem therefore, and upon Simon Magus for his treachery, bloody Nero, cursed Ditius Magcensius, Olibrius, Julianus, Apostita and the rest of the cruel tyrants that slew and murdered Christ’s holy servants, might light upon them for their cruel tyranny and martyrdom of Christian people. And all the vengeance that ever was taken since the world began for open sins, and all the plagues and pestilence that ever fell on man or beast, might fall on them for their open evil, slaughter of guiltless and shedding of innocent blood. I SEVER and PART them from the kirk of God, and deliver them alive to the devil of hell, as the Apostle Saint Paul delivered Corinth. I exclude the places they come in for divine service, ministration of the sacraments of holy church, except the sacrament of baptising only; and forbid all churchmen to take confession or absolve them of their sins, which they be first absolved of this cursing.

I FORBID all Christian man or woman to have any company with them, eating, drinking, speaking, praying, lying, standing, or in any other deed doing, under the pain of deadly sin. I DISCHARGE all bonds, acts, contracts, oaths and obligations made to them by any persons, other of law, kindness or duty, so long as they sustain this cursing; so that no man be bound to them, and that they be bound to all men. I take from them and cry down all the good deeds that ever they did or shall do, which they rise from this cursing. I DECLARE them excluded of all matins, masses, evensongs, mourning or other prayers, on book or bead; of all pilgrimages and poorhouse deeds done or to be done in holy church or by Christian people, enduring this cursing.

And, finally, I CONDEMN them perpetually to the deep pit of hell, to remain with Lucifer and all his fellows, and their bodies to the gallows of the Burrow Muir, first to be hanged, then torn apart with dogs, swine, and other wild beasts, abominable to all the world. And their life gone from your sight, as might their souls go from the sight of God, and their good fame from the world, which they forbear their open sins aforesaid and rise from this terrible cursing, and make satisfaction and penance.

Gude folks, heir at my Archibischop of Glasgwis letters under his round sele, direct to me or any uther chapellane, makand mensioun, with greit regrait, how hevy he beris the pietous, lamentabill, and dolorous complaint that pass our all realme and commis to his eris, be oppin voce and fame, how our souverane lordis trew liegis, men, wiffis and barnys, bocht and redeimit be the precious blude of our Salviour Jhesu Crist, and levand in his lawis, are saikleslie part murdrist, part slayne, brynt, heryit, spulziet and reft, oppinly on day licht and under silens of the nicht, and thair takis and landis laid waist, and thair self banyst therfra, als wele kirklandis as utheris, be commoun tratouris, ravaris, theiffis, dulleand in the south part of this realme, sic as Tevidale, Esdale, Liddisdale, Ewisdale, Nedisdale, and Annandereaill; quhilis hes bene diverse ways persewit and punist be the temperale swerd and our Soverane Lordis auctorite, and dredis nocht the samyn.

And thairfoir my said Lord Archbischop of Glasgw hes thocht expedient to strike thame with the terribill swerd of halykirk, quhilk thai may nocht lang endur and resist; and has chargeit me, or any uther chapellane, to denounce, declair and proclame thaim oppinly and generalie cursit, at this market-croce, and all utheris public places.

Hairfor throw the auctorite of Almichty God, the Fader of hevin, his Son, our Saviour, Jhesu Crist, and of the Halygaist; throw the auctorite of the Blissit Virgin Sanct Mary, Sanct Michael, Sanct Gabriell, and all the angellis; Sanct John the Baptist, and all the haly patriarkis and prophets; Sanct Peter, Sanct Paull, Sanct Andro, and all haly appostillis; Sanct Stephin, Sanct Laurence, and all haly mertheris; Sanct Gile, Sanct Martyn, and all haly confessouris; Sanct Anne, Sanct Katherin, and all haly virginis and matronis; and of all the sanctis and haly company of hevin; be the auctorite of our Haly Fader the Paip and his cardinalis, aned of my said Lord Archibischop of Glasgw, be the avise and assistance of my lordis, archibischop, bischopis, abbotis, priouris, and utheris prelatis and minesteris of halykirk.

I denounce, proclamis, and declaris all and sindry the committaris of the said saikles murthris, slauchteris, brinying, heirchippes, reiffis, thiftis and spulezeis, oppinly apon day licht and under silence ofnicht, alswele within temporale landis as kirklandis; togither with thair partakeris, assitaris, supplearis, wittandlie resettaris of thair personis, the gudes reft and stollen be thaim, art or part thereof, and their counsalouris and defendouris, of thair evil dedis generalie CURSIT, waryit , aggregeite, and reaggregeite, with the GREIT CURSING.

I curse their heid and all the haris of thair heid; I curse thair face, thair ene, thair mouth, thair neise, thair tongue, thair teeth, thair crag, thair shoulderis, thair breist, thair hert, thair stomok, thair bak, thair wame, thair armes, thais leggis, thair handis, thair feit, and everilk part of thair body, frae the top of their heid to the soill of thair feet, befoir and behind, within and without.

I curse thaim gangand, and I curse them rydland; I curse thaim standand, and I curse thaim sittand; I curse thaim etand, I curse thaim drinkand; I curse thaim walkand, I curse thaim sleepand; I curse thaim risand, I curse thaim lyand; I curse thaim at hame, I curse thaim fra hame; I curse thaim within the house, I curse thaim without the house; I curse thair wiffis, thair barnis, and thair servandis participand with thaim in their deides. I way thair cornys, thair catales, thair woll, thair scheip, thjair horse, thair swyne, thair geise, thair hennes, and all thair quyk gude. I wary their hallis, thair chalmeris, thair kechingis, thair stanillis, thair barnys, thair biris, thair bernyardis, thair cailyardis thair plewis, thair harrowis, and the gudis and housis that is necessair for their sustentatioun and weilfair.

ll the malesouns and waresouns that ever gat warldlie creatur sen the begynnyng of the world to this hour mot licht on thaim. The maledictioun of God, that lichtit apon Lucifer and all his fallowis, that strak thaim frae the hie hevin to the deip hell, mot licht apon thaimr. The fire and the swerd that stoppit Adam far the yettis of Paradise, mot stop thaim frae the gloire of Hevin. quhill thai forbere and mak amendis. The malesound that lichtit on cursit Cayein, quhen his slew his bruther just Abell saiklessly, mot licth on thaim for the saikles slauchter that thai commit dailie. The maledictioun that lichtit apon all the warlde, man and beist, and all that ever tuk life, quhen all was drownit be the flude of Noye, except Noye and his ark, mot licht apon thame and drouned thame, man and beist, and mak this realm cummirless of thame for thair wicked synnyes. The thunnour and fireflauchtis that set doun as rane apon the cities of Zodoma and Gomora, with all the landis about, and brynt thame for thair vile sunnys, mot rane apon thame, and birne thaim for oppin synnis. Tha malesoun and confusion that lichtit on the Gigantis for thair oppressioun and pride, biggand the tour of Bablloun, mot confound thaim and all thair werkis, for thair opppin reiffs and oppressioun. All the plagis that fell apon Pharao and his pepill of Egipt, thair landis, cornse, and cataill, mot fall apon thaim, thair takkis, rowmys and stedingis, cornys and beistis. The watter of Tweid and utheris watteris quhair thair ride mot droun thaim, as the Reid Say drownit King Pharoao and his pepil of Egipt, sersewing Godis pepill of Israell. The erd mot oppin, riffe and cleiff, and swelly  thaim quyk to hell, as it swellyt cursit Dathan and Abiron, that genestude Moeses and the command of God. The wyld fyre that byrnt Thore and his fallowis to the nowmer of twa hundredth and fyty, and utheris 14000 and 7000 at anys, usurpand aganis Moyses and Aaron, servandis of God, not suddanely birne and consume thaim dailie genestandand the commandis of God and halykirk. The malediction that lichtit suddanely upon fair Absalon, rydant contrair his fader, King David, servand of God, throw the wod, quhen the branchis of ane tre fred (parted) him of his horse and hangit him be the hair, mot lie apon thaain trew Scottis men, and hang thaim siclike tha all the warld may se. The Maledictioun that lichtit apon Olifernus, lieutenant to Nabogodonooser, makand weair and heirchippis apon trew cristin men, the maledictioun that lichtit apon Judas, Pylot, Herod and the Jowis that chucifyit Our Lord, and all the plagis and trublis that lichtit on the citte of Jherusalme thairfor, and upon Simon Magus for his symony, bludy Nero, cusit Ditius Makcensisu, Olibruis, Julianus Apostita and the laiff  of the cruell tirrannis that slew and murthirit Crits haly servandis, mot licth apon thame for thair cruel tiranny and murthirdome of cristin pepill.

And all the vengeance that evir was takin sen the warlde began for oppin synnys, and all the plagis and pestilence that ever fell on man or beist, mot fall on thaim for thair oppin reiff, saiklesse slauchter and schedding of innocent blude. I disserver and pairtis thaim fra the kirk of God, and deliveris thaim quyk to the devill of hell, as the Apostill Sanct Paull deliverit Corinthion. I interdite the places thay cum in fra divine service, minitracioun of the sacramentis of halykirk, except the sacrament of baptissing allenerlie; and forbiddis all kirkmen to schriffe or absolbe thim of theire synnys, quhill they be firs abolyeit of this cursing. I forbid all cristin man or woman till have ony company with thaime, etand, drynkand, spekand, prayand, lyand, gangand, standand, or in any uther deid doand, under the paine of deidly syn. I discharge all bandis, actis, contractis, athis and obligatiounis made to them by ony persounis, outher of lawte, kyndenes or manrent, salang as thai susteined this cursing, sub that na man be bundin to thaim, and that this be bundin till all men. I tak fra thame and cryis douned all the gude dedis that ever thai did or sall do, quhill thai rise froae this cursing. I declare thaim partles of all matynys, messis, evinsangis, dirigeis or utheris prayeris, on buke or beid; of all pilgrimagis and almouse deids done or to be done in halykirk or be cristin pepill, enduring this cursing.

And, finally, I condemn thaim perpetualie to the deip pit of hell, to remain with Lucifer and all his fallowis, and thair bodeis to the gallows of the Burrow Mure, first to be hangit, syne revin and ruggit with doggis, swyne, and utheris wyld beists, abhominable to all the warld. And their candillis gangis frae your sicht, ast mot their saulis gang fra the visage of God, and thair gude faim fra the warld, quhill thai forbeir thair oppin synnys foirsaidis and ryse frae this terribill cursing, and mak satisfaction and pennance.

Awe-inspiring though the Monition of Cursing may be, anyone at all familiar with Scottish history knows that Douglas may as well have saved his breath.

[Note: In 2001, the city of Carlisle was foolhardy enough to commission a local artist to carve part of the Monition on a large rock.   The sequel should not have surprised anyone.

It no doubt pleases the ghost of the old Archbishop immensely to know the potency of his curse still lives.]

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Perpetual Motion of Johann Bessler

Johann Bessler

The idea of a “perpetual motion machine” is one that has proved an irresistible lure for humanity for centuries. The concept has attracted countless numbers of greedy fortune-seekers, idealistic humanitarians, amateur mechanics, scientific geniuses, cranks, and con-artists.  All were doomed to failure.

However, there was at least one person who made anything close to a credible claim of having achieved that goal. He was Johann Ernest Elias Bessler, who went by the considerably snappier name of “Orffryeus.” If he was right—and no one ever indisputably proved him wrong—he just may have done the impossible.

Orffryeus was born in Saxony in 1680. He was something of a polymath, turning his hand to theology, medicine, and painting, although he soon realized his true vocation was in the realm of mechanics. Around 1712, he began exhibiting a number of self-moving wheels of various sizes.

His contraptions attracted a good deal of attention. Unfortunately, it was virtually all of the negative variety. His machines were almost automatically dismissed as fraudulent. This was partly due to the natural human instinct to believe that because something had never been done before, it could never be done, and partly due to Orffryeus’ frankly obnoxious personality. Like so many people skilled with machinery, he had absolutely no talent dealing with human beings. He evidently so rubbed onlookers the wrong way, they did not want to think of him as anything other than an impostor. The result was that his creations failed to get the in-depth, serious study they possibly deserved.

In 1715, Orffryeus threw down the gauntlet to his detractors. He built his largest machine to date—it was six feet in diameter and a foot thick. He presented it to a committee of learned and respectable men and invited them to inspect it to their heart’s content. After examining the machine for nearly two months, they issued a certificate proclaiming it to be a genuine perpetual motion machine, capable of raising a box of stones weighing seventy pounds.

Orffryeus’ many enemies dismissed this report and continued to denounce him as a fraud, who claimed to do things that were clearly “contrary to nature.” And his machine continued to revolve.

The following year, Orffryeus settled in Hesse-Cassel, where he won the patronage of the local Landgrave. He was given the post of Town Councillor, and rooms in the Ducal castle of Weissenstein.

In 1717, for the benefit of his new protector, Orffryeus built his last and most impressive wheel, a machine twelve feet in diameter. A Professor Gravesend who examined the device later told Sir Isaac Newton of his conclusions. He wrote, “The inventor has a turn for mechanics, but is far from being a profound mathematician, and yet his machine hath something in it prodigiously astonishing, even though it should be an imposition.” After noting that Orffryeus forbade anyone from examining the internal parts of his machine, “lest anyone should rob him of his secret,” the Professor concluded that he was “firmly persuaded that nothing from without the wheel in the least contributes to its motion.”

A Baron Fischer, who was architect to the Emperor of Austria, also examined Orffryeus’ wheel. He stated, “Although I am very incredulous about things which I do not understand…I am quite persuaded that there exists no reason why this machine should not have the name of Perpetual Motion given to it.”

Diagram of one of the "Orffryeus Wheels"

The wheel remained on public exhibition for several months. It was examined carefully by a great many scientists, who all concluded that, somehow, Orffryeus had constructed the real deal. In October 1717, the wheel was transported to a room in Weissenstein “where there were no walls contiguous to it, and where one might go freely round it on every side.” When the wheel was set into motion, the Landgrave had all the doors and windows leading to the room securely fastened, with his seals placed over the locks.

Two weeks later, the seals were broken and the room unlocked. The wheel was still moving. The room was resealed as before. The wheel was then left untouched until January 1718.

When the room was opened, it was found that the wheel was spinning as regularly as before…

Probably the crowning irony of this story is the fact that, if Orffryeus is to be believed, he had created one of the most amazing inventions in human history—and he did not seem to have the slightest idea what to do with it. He apparently made little or no money off his exhibitions. He wished to keep the secret of his wheel to himself until he could profit from his discovery, but his efforts in that line were oddly muddled and half-hearted. If Orffryeus was merely a con man, he was a singularly poor one.

In 1714, England had offered a reward of £20,000 for anyone who could present a way to find longitude at sea. Orffryeus’ supporters proposed that a company should be formed in London to buy the secret to his wheel’s success. If this proved to indeed be the secret to perpetual motion, they felt sure the Crown would be happy to lavishly reward the inventor. If the wheel was proved fraudulent, the money would be returned.

The plan came to nothing, thanks to Orffryeus himself. He became angered by an examination of his machine that he erroneously felt was an effort to steal the secrets of the wheel without paying him for it. In one of history’s more notable acts of self-destruction, he smashed his wheel to bits in a fit of paranoid rage at this “impertinent curiosity.” One assumes he regretted this remarkably stupid act when he learned the next day that this last report on his machine had been entirely favorable.

After this virtual career suicide, Orffryeus gradually disappeared from public view. In 1727, it was reported that he was at work on a new wheel, but if this was the case, there is no record of it ever being exhibited. Orffryeus died in complete obscurity in 1745. Showing the same serio-comic weirdness that dogged his entire career, he fell to his death from a windmill he was constructing.

Orffryeus has gone down in history as either a particularly talented impostor, or sincere, but deluded madman. However, what we know of his machines leaves nagging little doubts about these harsh assessments. If he was a fraud, how did he do it? The tales that a person was somehow concealed inside the mechanism can be dismissed by the fact that the wheel was locked in a room for three months. Could he have operated the wheels through a hidden clock-spring? Doubtful. Any spring capable of moving a twelve-foot wheel for weeks on end would be too enormous to be concealed. Very many learned and honest men gave Orffryeus’ wheel a thorough and unbiased examination, and pronounced it to be genuine. They believed he had somehow found the secret to perpetual motion. But if he had, how on earth did this quarrelsome, unbalanced, utterly ordinary man make a discovery that had eluded so many other, worthier inventors?

Orffryeus himself made only one attempt to explain his wheel to the public. Unfortunately, it did absolutely nothing to clarify the mystery. His 1719 pamphlet describing his “Triumphant Orffyrean Perpetual Motion,” is an irritatingly vague, rambling work, one that seems rather more concerned with insulting his many enemies than with describing his invention. It reads like a man trying to describe forces he himself does not completely understand. He could only state that the secret of "everlasting motion" depended upon weights placed in such a way that they "never attain equilibrium." This gravity-defying process is considered by modern physicists to simply be against all laws of nature.

There is no reason to doubt that Orffryeus genuinely believed he had found the trick to perpetual motion—he just didn’t quite know how he did it. His pamphlet is reminiscent of an “idiot savant” struggling to explain how he instantly adds long strings of numbers in his head, or plays on the piano a Beethoven sonata he has only heard once. Or, possibly, considering his extreme paranoia, Orffryeus was being deliberately obfuscating.

Whether he was fraud, lunatic, or genius—or some combination of the three—Orffryeus remains one of the more intriguing oddities found in the world of science.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

Welcome the sponsors of this week's Link Dump, the Scholarly Cats of Cyberspace!

What the hell is this photograph?

What the hell were the Hobbits?

What the hell happened at the Red Inn?

Where the hell is this skeleton?

Who the hell is this skeleton?  (Spoiler alert:  IT'S NOT ERNEST.)

Where the hell is the Dorset Ooser?

Watch out for Catherine de Medici's gloves!

Watch out for the Sheepsquatch!

Watch out for those pineapples!

Watch out for those discontented daemons!

Watch out for the Monkey of the Dead!

Watch out for those buggy judicial wigs!

Watch out for those Amazonian rivers!

The man who solved his own disappearance.

Oh, just some vintage Satanism in Colorado.

The ancient man who was buried upright.

The latest archaeological news from Easter Island.

Ancient Egyptian toothpaste.

How to eat like a Conqueror.

How Jane Austen cured the flu.

The Georgian Poor Laws.

Message in a bottle: "I expect my turn will come next."

Comparing 18th century nobility to a garden.

Mary Lindell, who worked in two World Wars.

The fact that this list even exists is one of the many, many things that make me weep for humanity.

The farmer who led a revolt against the Confederacy.

Methodist minister reads too much trashy fiction, decides to turn pirate.  I love this story.

Seabury Sees Sea Serpent.

Fidel Castro's cow.

There's gold in them thar...bird droppings.

James MacPherson, influential liar.

The Canary Girls, indirect victims of WWI.

Isabella Beeton, the Victorian Martha Stewart.

James Renwick, the last executed Covenanter.

The family who burned $1 million.

An ill-fated friendship between a cat and a mouse.

The "lost movie" that was used as a murder alibi.

The man who was hanged by a president.

The kennel that was for animal one-percenters.

Yes, there is a whole field of Impotence Poetry.

It was not easy to hang Sarah Chandler.

A Nigerian ghost house.

Trees don't grow in humans.  Or do they?

A Conqueror's doodles.

18th century prostitution and the law.

Death by shaving.

A priest's unsolved murder.

A gentlemanly highwayman.

A young woman's death is caused by a ghost.

What happens when things get really weird for a Professor of Moral Philosophy.

Robbing 17th century doctors.

Undertaker Valentines!

An appropriate closing link:  Famous last words.

And so we bring another week on this blog to a close. See you on Monday, when we'll be looking into one of the odder moments in the history of invention. In the meantime, here's La Bottine Souriante:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Vintage photo of a prehistoric petrified body.

This charming little tale of a corpse who became his own grave monument comes from the "Philadelphia Inquirer," February 24, 1890.

Cassville, Mo., Feb. 11.--Great interest is manifested here over a remarkable circumstance which has just come to light. It's happening on Off Davis, near Buzzard Roost. When old man Clayback came out of the late war he was a physical wreck, but like many others of the State militia, was too independent to ask for a pension, even if he could have secured one, and made his living in the best way he could until his six boys and seven girls got old enough to help him.

About five years ago the old man began to get very bad with rheumatism, as he thought, and, although he used the entire crop of spicewood berries which grew on the creek, he continued to get worse. Two years ago he got so stiff as to be confined to his house and called in a physician, who, after carefully diagnosing the case, gave as his opinion that instead of rheumatism ailing the man it was a true case of ossification. Nothing could be done, and he advised his patient to make ready for the end, although he might live some time. The old man took the doctor's advice and did not seem to have any fears of death, but dreaded the yawning grave and the cold, clammy earth. To make his thoughts more pleasant and relieve him of his only terror, a friend suggested cremation as an avenue of escape from the grave, a plan which he hailed with joy, and gave directions accordingly.

The disease continued, complete ossification took place, and the old man died. How to carry out the wishes of the deceased at first troubled the bereaved family, until they learned that Stephen Symphony was burning lime in his kiln which had been fired three days and was reaching a white heat. Desiring to save the ashes, they procured a large evaporating pan belonging to a molasses mill. Placing the remains in this, they carefully shoved the whole into the kiln, which was an open one on top, and being built in the side of the hill, was easily accessible. The sorrowing family gathered around, expecting the rapid incineration and disintegration of the departed. In a few minutes the winding sheet was gone and the naked body was exposed to the intense heat. From the ears, nostrils and mouth came jets of steam, broken at first, then solid, and in an hour had ceased, but no change was perceivable in the silent form. More wood was fed to the flowing furnace to make the vigil of the bereaved briefer, but still no change. More wood was pitched in and hotter still the fire raged. Hour after hour passed, and from a glowing red to an opaque white the body turned, while on the countenance seemed to rest an expression of infinite peace and satisfaction. So three days wore away, and the fire must be drawn or the lime spoiled. Twenty-four hours later by means of grappling hooks the pan and body were raised, and to the surprise of every one the body was still intact and glowing. A greater and more pleasant surprise, however, awaited the family, for when the body became cold it was ascertained that the intense heat acting upon the ossified body had changed it to perfect marble, a little lighter in color than the natural body, but retained its natural shape, except on the back, which is a little flattened. The only defects are where there was a bullet wound and in the left foot, which is broken in two. In 1870 Mr. Clayback cut his foot very severely, splitting it between the second and third toes, and following this wound a rupture appeared, which caused the loss as above stated. Where a small blood vessel had burst in his leg there appeared a delicate tracing of the circulation. The family are having a pedestal cut out of native limestone, and will mount the "statue," but at present they are using a black gum block for the purpose.

I am--as you are--very anxious to know more about the well-roasted Mr. Clayback, but, alas, I could not find any published sequels to this story.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Midsomer Murder of Rose Harsent

Rose Harsent

I'm becoming convinced that life is merely a pale imitation of "Midsomer Murders." Take the theme of today's post: A quiet, respectable-looking English village is shaken when the puzzling, grisly death of a young woman exposes the town's sordid, violent undercurrents. As Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby once complained, "Every time I go into any Midsomer village, it's always the same thing--blackmail, sexual deviancy, suicide and murder."

That quote would not have made a bad slogan for the Peasenhall Tourism Board.

One of Peasenhall's liveliest residents was a 22-year-old girl named Rose Harsent. She was employed as a servant in Providence House, the residence of Deacon Crisp, the local Baptist elder. She spent her spare time singing in the church choir and collecting X-rated verses.

The other main figure of our rural mystery was another churchman: A lay Primitive Methodist elder in his mid-forties named William Gardiner. He was the foreman at the local seed drill works, and an enthusiastic man of God: trustee of the local Sunday School, assistant society steward, and leader of the choir where Rose Harsent sang. He had been married for fourteen years to a Georgina Cady, who had presented him with eight children, six of whom were still living.

There had been an unpleasant little scandal involving the choirmaster and his singer. One evening in May 1901, two Peasenhall busybodies, George Wright and Alphonso Skinner, saw Miss Harsent entering Crisp's place of worship, a small building known as the Doctor's Chapel. When the two young men saw William Gardiner surreptitiously follow her into the chapel, they quietly hurried over to the building and put their ears to the wall. Wright and Skinner heard Harsent yelp "Oh! Oh!" and then laugh. She then told Gardiner that she had been reading in the Bible about what they had just been doing. She was referring specifically to the 38th chapter of Genesis, dealing with Tamar and Onan.

If you're unfamiliar with the Old Testament, let me just mention that Dorothy Parker named her pet parrot "Onan" because "he spilled his seed upon the ground."

Well. Yes, exactly. If Wright and Skinner can be believed, Harsent and Gardiner were practicing something a good deal more colorful than hymns.

The two snoops could hardly wait to share the juicy results of their eavesdropping with everyone in Peasenhall. When Gardiner heard what was being said about him, he exploded with righteous indignation, and denied everything. He demanded a written apology from the two spies. After all, the rumors were causing his brother elders to launch an investigation into his allegedly scandalous private life. Wright and Skinner refused, asserting that their story was nothing more than the truth.

The senior members of the local Methodist sect held an informal trial on the question of Gardiner's morals. Although Wright, Skinner, and Gardiner all testified, Rose Harsent, curiously enough, was absent. Confronted with this "they said/he said" situation, the elders opted for damage control. They announced that the charges against Gardiner were unproven--not necessarily unfounded, mind you, just unproven--and they earnestly hoped that would be enough to make everyone forget the embarrassing little matter.

Naturally, the matter was not forgotten by anyone, least of all another local meddler, a Methodist lay preacher named Henry Rouse.  Some weeks after the Doctor's Chapel incident, Rouse claimed he saw Gardiner and Harsent walking alone together down a lonely lane one night. Fearing that another scandal would "do the chapel a great deal of harm," Rouse later gave Gardiner a stern lecture on propriety. He recalled that Gardiner apologized and vowed to watch his behavior more carefully in the future. However, a month later, while Rouse was in the pulpit giving a sermon, he happened to glance behind him at the choir. To his horror, he saw Gardiner sitting with his feet up in Rose Harsent's lap. Gardiner himself denied either incident had ever taken place. Gardiner was beginning to get a great deal of practice in denials.

And then, some time around late November 1901, Rose became pregnant. She never revealed the name of the father of her expected child--in fact, after her efforts to induce an abortion failed, she attempted to keep her condition a secret. However, she knew she could not hide the pregnancy forever, after which she would be faced not only with losing her reputation, but her job, as well. There is no evidence she considered marriage to her lover, suggesting the man was in no position to offer her the only socially respectable way out of her predicament.

Rose continued in her increasingly worrisome situation until June 1, 1902. That morning, her father went to Providence House to bring Rose some of her laundry. He walked into the kitchen, only to find his daughter lying on the floor, near a staircase, dead. She was wearing only socks and her nightdress. She had been killed by several savage stab wounds to her throat and chest. After her death, paraffin had been used to burn her body, consuming most of her nightgown and charring her arms and lower body. A broken lamp was lying beside her, as well as a broken bottle that had held paraffin. The bottle had originally held medicine: it still bore a label reading "For Mrs. Gardiner's children." Also found with the body was a charred piece of newspaper. The publication was the "East Anglian Daily Times," a paper the Crisp household never read. William Gardiner was a subscriber, however.

There was a large pool of blood on the floor, but no footprints. This suggested that Harsent's murderer had stabbed her in the chest, then turned her toward the wall before slashing her throat from behind.

A search of the dead girl's bedroom revealed a note someone had written her the previous day. The writer said, "I will try to see you tonight at 12 o'clock at your Place if you Put a light in your window at 10 o'clock for about 10 minutes then you can take it out again, don't have a light in your Room at 12 as I will come round to the back."

The handwriting of this note looked very like William Gardiner's. Villagers also took note of the fact that he lived only 200 yards from Providence House. A neighbor recalled seeing Gardiner standing on his front porch shortly before 10 pm on the night Rose died. The neighbor noted that there was a light at the top of Providence House. James Morriss, a gamekeeper who had been walking on Peasenhall's main road at about five in the morning of June 1 testified that he had seen a set of muddy footprints (it had rained the previous night) leading from Gardiner's cottage to Providence House, and back again. He provided authorities with a sketch of these footprints, which contained marks matching a pair of shoes belonging to Gardiner. Not unnaturally, the Methodist elder became an excellent suspect in Rose Harsent's death.  The working theory was that Rose arranged this midnight meeting to demand that Gardiner provide support for her and the upcoming child he had fathered.  Instead, he took care of this embarrassing problem of his by getting rid of her and the unborn baby--permanently.

Gardiner, who was nothing if not consistent, denied everything. He did not write that note, he did not make a secret visit to Rose Harsent, he was not the father of her unborn child, and he most certainly did not kill her. It all did him little good. He was arrested and charged with murder.

The police were unable to pinpoint exactly when Harsent died. The doctor who examined her body could only narrow it down to between 12:30 and 6:30 am. The Crisps testified that on the fatal night, they had been awakened by a scream and a thud, which they unfortunately neglected to investigate. They could not say when this had happened.

The bad news continued to pile up for William Gardiner. A handwriting expert concluded that he had written the note found in Harsent's room. The envelope containing the letter was identical to those used at Gardiner's workplace. He owned a penknife which doctors stated could have been used as the murder weapon. It had been newly sharpened and cleaned when the police examined it, but blood was found inside the hinge. The medical experts could not say if the blood was animal or human. (Gardiner claimed he had used the knife to disembowel a rabbit.) A neighbor, Herbert Stammers, stated that about an hour before Harsent's body was discovered, he saw Gardiner start a bonfire near his wash-house. Was he burning his blood-stained clothing?

When Gardiner went on trial in November 1902, his lawyer, Ernest Wild, put up a very aggressive, if not particularly convincing defense. (A footnote: Leading the prosecution was Henry Dickens, son of the novelist.) Wild made some efforts to insinuate that Harsent's killer was a young neighbor, Frederick James Davis. Davis had, at the lady's request, provided Harsent with copies of pornographic poems, as well as the book on abortion that had such ineffective results. He admitted that he had also written Rose equally graphic love-letters, and had cherished an unfulfilled desire to bed her. However, there was, as Wild finally conceded, no reason whatsoever to believe Davis had any connection with her death. After the judge delivered a lecture on Davis' "abominable conduct," he was dismissed as a witness, as well as a suspect.

Wild strongly decried the intense local prejudice against his client. He argued that there was no proof that Gardiner and the dead girl had an improper relationship. He dismissed Rouse as a liar inspired by jealousy of Gardiner's superior position in their church. According to Wild, Morriss either was mistaken about when he had seen the footprints, or was simply inventing the whole tale. As Wild had been unable to shake the testimony of the prosecution's handwriting experts, he asserted that even if Gardiner had written the note to Harsent arranging the midnight meeting, that did not necessarily mean he had killed her. He emphasized that no blood had been found on any of his client's clothing. (In this regard, it should be noted that Gardiner claimed to own only two shirts. However, he also stated that his wife washed his clothes every two weeks, and that he changed his shirt every Sunday.)

The most prominent defense witness was the accused's wife, Georgina Gardiner, who swore that her husband had been in their bedroom all of the night of Harsent's death. She explained the broken bottle found near the dead girl with the assertion that some weeks earlier, she had filled the bottle with camphorated oil and given it to Harsent, who was suffering from a cold. She claimed that the bonfire Stammers saw was merely to boil a kettle of water.

Their next-door neighbor, Amelia Pepper, testified that she had been awake all night because of the storm, and never heard or saw anyone leaving Gardiner's home. When Gardiner himself took the stand, he, as usual, simply denied every bit of evidence against him, without offering much positive proof of his innocence.

The jury found themselves unable to reach a verdict. It emerged that eleven jurors voted for conviction, but one holdout stubbornly asserted that "I have heard nothing to convince me that he is guilty."

The prosecution was determined to try, try again, and Gardiner's second trial opened in January 1903. It was essentially a rehash of the first hearing, except for one amusing moment when Wild made the classic mistake of asking a witness he was cross-examining that one question too many. When he was grilling George Wright, Wild made an effort to get him to admit that Gardiner had freely admitted having been in the Doctor's Chapel with Harsent, but consistently denied that anything immoral had taken place.

Wright responded that, on the contrary, Gardiner had first denied ever being alone with Rose in the Chapel at all.

For once, Wild was left at a loss for words.

Harry Harsent, Rose's younger brother, changed his story from the first trial, when he had testified that he had never carried letters between his sister and Gardiner in 1902. He now admitted that he had. He thought it must have just slipped his memory.

Wild's concluding arguments relied heavily on sentimentalism, urging the jury to feel sympathy for Mrs. Gardiner, "this poor country girl." He said that if the jury did not believe her testimony, they would effectively be accusing her of being a perjured accomplice to murder. Wild strongly emphasized that after the Doctor's Chapel incident, Gardiner had been officially cleared of immorality by his fellow churchmen. He argued that the case against his client was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, so he therefore deserved an acquittal.

Dickens responded that such appeals to emotion had no place in a criminal court. Every piece of evidence in the case, he argued, pointed to Gardiner as the guilty party. There was no evidence that Skinner, Wright, Rouse, or Stammers were lying--particularly since they knew a man's life was at stake.

When it came time for this second jury to deliberate the case, they found that they were also unable to agree on a verdict. This time, curiously enough, it was eleven to one for acquittal. The passage of time is often on the side of an accused murderer. By this point, Rose Harsent was but a distant memory, while Gardiner and his sad, pathetically loyal wife were very much alive, both begging for sympathy and clemency. This second jury must have found it far easier than the first to give the Methodist elder the benefit of the doubt.

The prosecution decided a third trial would be futile. The Attorney General issued a writ of nolle prosequi, and Gardiner was freed, if not exactly exonerated. He and his family promptly moved to London, where he disappeared into anonymity until his death in 1941.

Most students of the Peasenhall Mystery agree that the eleven members of the first jury made the right call, but Gardiner does have his vigorous defenders. At least one crime historian theorized that Rose Harsent's death was an accident. The suggestion is that, as she came downstairs to meet her lover--whether it was Gardiner or someone else--she tripped and fell on the bottle she carried in her hand. The broken glass pieces stabbed her in the chest and throat. She dropped the lamp, which broke and caught on fire. Her mystery man saw this little scene and made a hurried exit. It has even been proposed that Georgina Gardiner killed her rival in a fit of jealousy. The thinking is that the wronged wife did not perjure herself to save her husband, but the unfaithful husband covered for his spouse.

Personally, however, I believe this is a case where Occam's Razor applies.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the League of Suffragette Cats:

Who the hell was Jack the Strangler?

What the hell was the Enfield Horror?

Watch out for the Pukwudgies!

Watch out for the Ghost Monkeys!

Watch out for the Ice Mummies!

Watch out for the Assassins!

In search of King Alfred's cakes.

A night on the town in 1968 San Francisco.  (My family lived there at that time, so this one was particular fun for me.)

It's not always easy being the child of a President.

Bess of Hardwick, a remarkable Tudor woman.

Everyone who has ever had anything to do with horses--or any animals, for that matter--will read this and say, "Well, yeah."

The murder that inspired countless ballads.

An inventive Victorian counterfeiter.

A rare case of a woman being hanged for sheep stealing.

Let's talk Georgian pancakes.

Norfolk goes to war against Napoleon.

The Gothic Caroline of Brunswick.

A mysterious ancient Chinese cemetery.

Why Chester Bedell had a snake-infested grave.

That time the Pope endorsed cocaine.

That time an angel appeared at Lourdes.

That time Victoria married Albert.

The "Sleeping Girl of Turville."

Pennsylvania's haunted coal mines.

A 16th century case of overkill.

A secret cat village in Spain.

The first woman to be executed in 19th century England.

Just follow this link.  For the life of me, I have no  idea how to describe this story.

Or this one, for that matter.

The beginnings of Valentine's Day in America.

The assassination of a Duke.

The disappearance of a Soviet spy.

Why, yes, of course human feet are still turning up in British Columbia.  Glad you asked.

Inanimate objects as murder defendants.

An incredibly haunting story about the murder of an adopted child in Spain.

Looking for love, Georgian style.

Why the "Knocker Up" was a very unpopular member of society.

Mary Queen of Scots refused to rest in peace.

How to write 18th century romance novels.

A 19th century school shooting.

In which Gandhi writes a letter to Hitler.

A fascinating alchemical book from medieval Egypt.

If you've been dying to read about Samuel Pepys' bodily functions, here you go.

Just to show what a weird world this is, read about the fatality rate for tourists to Notre Dame.

How to talk to demons.

Some very strange things were happening to the human race some 14,500 years ago.

When you're nicknamed "The Diamond Duke," you're just asking to become a magnet for robbers.

A man who guillotined himself.

Another man who guillotined himself.

The newest old footprints.

The people who appear from nowhere.

A lawsuit over a stolen donkey.

The film that was a "eugenics love story."

And for this week in Russian Weird, here's the time they ran out of vodka.

And that wraps up another week! See you on Monday, when we'll be returning to that ever-popular topic of Edwardian Murder. In the meantime, here's some Handel.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Valentine's Day

via British Newspaper Archive

Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  It's that time when we all turn our attention to such ultra-romantic topics as suicide, murder, assault, revenge, and homicidal clowns.

You guessed it.  It's time to look at love, Illustrated Police News style!

The IPN loved their duels.  And if they were fights to the death over the affections of some lady or gentleman, so much the better:

Jealousy was also a popular theme:

Not even churches were safe:

Neither were the schools:

In the world of the Illustrated Police News, you always had to beware of those vengeful clowns:

Not to mention the lovesick fishmongers:

Or the wrath of Mother Nature!

This lady took a deadly retaliation against her husband's passionate liaison with a dressmaker's dummy:

Two "love birds" have just a bit too much fun at Covent Garden:

Naturally, French counts were hardly immune to the charms of Love, IPN Style:

Neither were the gypsies:

Or the recently-deceased, for that matter:

But, at least, everyone had a happy ending after the marriage ceremony, right?


This image says it all:

Happy Valentine's Day, gang!