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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Magazine Clipping of the Day

"Girl Reading Ghost Stories," R. Graves

This poignant little ghost story comes from the "Spiritual Magazine," Volume 8 (1873):
On Groom's Hill, Greenwich, there resides a friend of mine, Mr. H-----d, a gentleman of great respectability, of varied attainments and of considerable mental ability, a student of literature, religion, and science. His position is that of an underwriter at Lloyd's, and in the society of his wife and children he enjoys a wholesome domestic life. Among those persons engaged in this comfortable household in the year 1866, was a young widow named Mrs. Potter, whose services were occasionally required for various periods as a needlewoman and general assistant. She had one son named Tom, a bright, handsome, delightful boy: he could sing and play; he was clever and accomplished; he excelled in any study to which he gave his attention, and though he was wayward and restless, he was the favourite of every one who knew him. This brave and troublesome boy was provided with a home and educated at the neighbouring Roman Catholic orphanage, under the direction and mastership of an able and enlightened priest, Dr. T----d.

Those who knew this kind and estimable ecclesiastic will not require to be reminded of his many excellent qualities. His learning and intelligence, his affability and wide sympathy, his devotion to the cause of education and religion, and his high principles, have endeared him to all those who are honoured with his friendship. His heart is as tender as his mind is acute and sagacious. You might impose upon his good nature, but not upon his intellect.

Tom Potter, the restless and impetuous scholar, caused many an anxious thought to his mother and her friends, and at last they raised a general chorus of "What shall we do with Tom Potter?" About the year 1863-4, when he was probably 14 years of age, he was placed in a first-rate house in Manchester, but his vocation was evidently not in dry goods; he would not settle down to a mercantile life—he determined to go to sea; and at last his friends most reluctantly consented that his whim should be gratified, as they could make nothing of him on shore. He was placed on board a training-ship at Woolwich, and in due time drafted on board one of Her Majesty's ships of war. After a voyage or two, Tom got tired of the navy and rebelled. In company with some other naughty boys he deserted the ship, and after some disastrous adventures, he returned in a piteous light—weary, famished, and half naked—to his Greenwich ome.

The tables were soon turned upon the young and interesting truant; he became very ill, and a warrant was issued for his apprehension. His mother and her patrons immediately raised a despairing cry, and asked, with more emphasis than ever, "What shall we do with Tom Potter?" Dr. T. again intervened with his kind offices and intercession. The captain of the ship consented to receive back again, with only a nominal punishment, the irresistible and pardoned culprit; and at last Tom was fairly shipped off on board the Doris frigate bound to the West Indies. 
Tom's mother having thus provided for her son, left the H----d family altogether; got married again, and became Mrs. Cooper. After a time a new servant, who had never heard of either Mrs. Potter or Mrs. Cooper, arrived, and filled the office of housemaid. This new servant we will call Mary; and so ends the first chapter of my tale.

On the night of the 8th of September, 1866, Mr. H.'s street door bell was rung. Mary, the housemaid, answered it; the door was duly opened, and, after a little confabulation, the door was shut again. Mrs. H., who was unwell, was in her bedroom, which commands a view of, and is within earshot of the entrance hall. She listened and distinctly identified the voice of Tom Potter. She was surprised, and called out, "Mary, who was that at the door?" The servant replied, "Oh, ma'am, it was a little sailor-boy: he wanted his mother; I told him I knew nothing of his mother, and sent him about his business."

Mrs. H., whose anxiety was roused, asked Mary, "what the boy was like?" 
"Well, ma'am, he was a good-looking boy in sailor's clothes, and his feet were naked. I should know him again anywhere. He looked very pale and in great distress; and when I told him his mother wasn't here, he put his hand to his forehead, and said, "Oh dear, what shall I do?" 
Mrs. H. told her husband what an unwelcome visitor had been to the house, and gave him the unpleasant intelligence that "she was sure Tom Potter had run away from his ship again." The family now laid their heads ominously together, and vexatiously exclaimed, "Goodness gracious! What shall we do with Tom Potter?"

They sent to make enquiries of the mother, but she had heard nothing of her son; then they thought he was lost, and they upbraided themselves for turning him away from their door.

In their trouble they went to consult the genial Dr. T., but his opinion only increased their perplexity and astonishment. He told them, "It is almost impossible Tom Potter can have deserted his ship. I had a letter from the boy himself only about two months ago, and then he was getting on capitally."

It was then arranged that Mary should have an interview with Dr. T., and be examined by him. She was accordingly ushered into Dr. T.'s presence, and invited to take part in the council. Dr. T. had a store of photographs of many of his pupils, and among them was a carte of Tom Potter. He laid a number of these portraits before Mary, and requested her to pick out the one that resembled the boy she saw; at the same time with the view of testing her accuracy to the utmost, he called her attention to one which was not a photograph of Tom Potter, and quietly remarked, "Do you think that is the boy? he was very likely to run away from his ship." "No," said Mary, positively, "that was not the boy I saw; this is the one;" at the same time pouncing upon the likeness of Tom Potter; "I could swear to him."

The mystery became more mysterious; but the only decision the conclave could wisely make was to await the issue of events; in the meantime they could do nothing but patiently exercise their faculty of wonder. A solution of the mystery was at hand. In the next month of October, Dr. T. received a letter from the Admiralty, stating that they communicated with him because they did not know the address of Tom Potter's mother. The letter gave the sad intelligence that on the 6th September, just two days before he was seen at the door of Mr. H.'s house, Tom Potter breathed his last, in consequence of a dreadful accident on board the Doris frigate at Jamaica. He fell from the mast-head on the 24th July, 1866, and was frightfully injured. He lingered a few weeks and died raving, and calling for his mother.

It was at Mr. H.'s door that the ill-fated boy parted from his mother, and there saw her for the last time in life. This circumstance may account for the spirit of the boy having been mysteriously attracted to the spot where he left his mother, of whose departure he was not aware. Disembodied spirits only know what comes within the compass of their experience and capacity. Their intelligence and information are sometimes very limited. The facts of this story are certain and indisputable. I have taken great pains to verify them.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mrs. Nation's Hatchetations

As someone who believes that the greatest boon to human civilization is the gin and tonic, no doubt I would be among Carry Nation's least favorite people, but there is something about the woman I can't help but like. While she undoubtedly had a few bottles missing from her liquor cabinet, if you know what I mean, she went about her anti-alcohol crusades with such a perverse zest and (sometimes intentional) humor that she wins my sympathy, and even a certain weird respect. It's hard not to have affection for anyone who describes herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like."

Carry (or Carrie) Amelia Moore was born in Kentucky on November 25, 1846. Her home life and family background was less than idyllic. Her father was a teetotaling farmer, honest and upright, but emotionally cold. Carry's mother, Mary Campbell Moore, had an extensive history of mental illness in her family. Mrs. Moore herself occasionally went through periods when she believed she was Queen Victoria. Eventually, she was placed in the Missouri State Hospital for the Insane, where she died in 1893. It is small wonder that young Carry grew up a deeply unhappy person.

It was probably to escape her miserable home life that in 1867, Carry married a doctor who was boarding with her family, Charles Gloyd. As so often happens in these cases, the bride soon learned that she had merely exchanged one form of unhappiness for another. Dr. Gloyd was a chronic drunk who spent most of his time boozing at the local Masonic Hall. (This explains why the Masons would be second only to alcohol itself in Carry's personal enemies list.) After less than a year of marriage, Carry admitted defeat and moved back in with her parents. With her was her new-born daughter, Charlien. Her husband's alcoholism killed him some six months later. Carry later said that her tragic first marriage inspired her temperance crusade, her fervor to "combat to the death this inhumanity to man."

The young widow took a job as a schoolteacher, but lost her position to a more well-connected candidate in 1874. Shortly afterward, she married a lawyer and minister named David Nation. He was some twenty years her senior, and by all accounts a weak, nondescript sort that so often become the husbands of dynamic and assertive women. After the wedding, Nation seems to have played only a minor role in his wife's life. In 1889, the couple moved to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, where the memorable part of her history began.

Carrie Nation in 1874

Kansas was a dry state, but in name only. Taverns were everywhere. Carry, disgusted with this iniquity, founded a local chapter of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. But she was not content with mere messaging and campaigning. She felt it was her God-given mission to close every drinking establishment in the land. "Carry A. Nation," she vowed, would indeed carry her nation to teetotalism.

Whether it liked it or not.

Mrs. Nation would greet any saloonkeeper she saw with cheery salutations such as "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls," and "How do you do, maker of drunkards and orphans?" She bought a small hand organ, which she would use to play hymns outside of taverns. She discovered she had a happy talent for making a complete pest of herself. As she was nearly six feet tall and weighed some 175 pounds, she was a formidable force both psychologically and physically.

And then, Carry Nation had her epiphany. One day in 1900, she...well, this passage from her autobiography, "The Use and the Need of the Life of Carry A. Nation," describes the momentous event better than I ever could:

On the 6th of June, before retiring, as I often did, I threw myself face downward at the foot of my bed and told the Lord to use me any way to suppress the dreadful curse of liquor; that He had ways to do it, that I had done all I knew, that the wicked had conspired to take from us the protection of homes in Kansas; to kill our children and break our hearts. I told Him I wished I had a thousand lives, that I would give Him all of them, and wanted Him to make it known to me, some way. The next morning, before I awoke, I heard these words very distinctly: "Go to Kiowa, and" (as in a vision and here my hands were lifted and cast down suddenly.) "I'll stand by you." I did not hear these words as other words; there was no voice, but they seemed to be spoken in my heart. I sprang from my bed as if electrified, and knew this was directions given me, for I understood that it was God's will for me to go to Kiowa to break, or smash the saloons. I was so glad, that I hardly looked in the face of anyone that day, for fear they would read my thoughts, and do something to prevent me. I told no one of my plans, for I felt that no one would understand, if I should. 
I got a box that would fit under my buggy seat, and every time I thought no one would see me, I went out in the yard and picked up some brick-bats, for rocks are scarce around Medicine Lodge, and I wrapped them up in newspapers to pack in the box under my buggy seat. I also had four bottles I had bought from Southworth, the druggist, with "Schlitz-Malt" in them, which I used to smash with. I bought two kinds of this malt and I opened one bottle and found it to be beer. I was going to use these bottles of beer to convict this wily joint-druggist. 
One of the bottles I took to a W. C. T. U. meeting, and in the presence of the ladies I opened it and drank the contents. Then I had two of them to take me down to a Doctor's office. I fell limp on the sofa and said: "Doctor, what is the matter with me?" 
He looked at my eyes, felt my heart and pulse, shook his head and looked grave. 
I said: "Am I poisoned or in an abnormal state?" 
"Yes, said the Doctor." I said: "What poisoned me is that beer you recommended Bro. ---- to take as a tonic." I resorted to this stratagem, to show the effect that beer has upon the system. This Doctor was a kind man and meant well, but it must have been ignorance that made him say beer could ever be used as a medicine. 
There was another, Dr. Kocile, in Medicine Lodge who used to sell all the whiskey he could. He made a drunkard of a very prominent woman of the town, who took the Keely cure. She told the W. C. T. U. of the villainy of this doctor and she could not have hated anyone more. Oh! the drunkards the doctors are making! No physician, who is worthy of the name will prescribe it as a medicine, for there is not one medical quality in alcohol. It kills the living and preserves the dead. Never preserves anything but death. It is made by a rotting process and it rots the brain, body and soul; it paralyzes the vascular circulation and increases the action of the heart. This is friction and friction in any machinery is dangerous, and the cure is not hastened but delayed. 
I have given space in this book to one of the most scientific articles, showing how dangerous alcohol is to the human system. 
Any physician that will prescribe whiskey or alcohol as a medicine is either a fool or a knave. A fool because he does not understand his business, for even saying that alcohol does arouse the action of the heart, there are medicines that will do that and will not produce the fatal results of alcoholism, which is the worst of all diseases. He is a knave because his practice is a matter of getting a case, and a fee at the same time, like a machine agent who breaks the machine to get the job of mending it. Alcohol destroys the normal condition of all the functions of the body. The stomach is thrown out of fix, and the patient goes to the doctor for a stomach pill, the heart, liver, kidneys, and in fact the whole body is in a deranged condition, and the doctor has a perpetual patient. I sincerely believe this to be the reason why many physicians prescribe it. 
I was doing my own work at the time God spoke to me; cooking, washing and ironing; was a plain home keeper. I cooked enough for my husband until next day, knowing that I would be gone all night. I told him I expected to stay all night with a friend, Mrs. Springer. I hitched my horse to the buggy, put the box of "smashers" in, and at half past three o'clock in the afternoon, the sixth of June, 1900, I started to Kiowa. Whenever I thought of the consequences of what I was going to do, and what my husband and friends would think, also what my enemies would do, I had a sensation of nervousness, almost like fright, but as soon as I would look up and pray, all that would leave me, and things would look bright. And I might say I prayed almost every step of the way. This Mrs. Springer lived about ten miles south of Medicine Lodge. I often stopped there and I knew that Prince, my horse, would naturally go into the gate, opening on the road, if I did not prevent it. I thought perhaps it was God's will for me to drive to Kiowa that night, so gave the horse the reins, and if he turned in, I would stay all night, if not, I would go to Kiowa. Prince hastened his speed past the gate, and I knew that it was God's will for me to go on. I got there at 8:30 P. M. and stayed all night with a friend. Early next morning I had my horse put to the buggy and drove to the first place, kept by Mr. Dobson. I put the smashers on my right arm and went in. He and another man were standing behind the bar. These rocks and bottles being wrapped in paper looked like packages bought from a store. Be wise as devils and harmless as doves. I did not wish my enemies to know what I had. 
I said: "Mr. Dobson, I told you last spring, when I held my county convention here, (I was W. C. T. U. president of Barber County,) to close this place, and you didn't do it. Now I have come with another remonstrance. Get out of the way. I don't want to strike you, but I am going to break up this den of vice." 
I began to throw at the mirror and the bottles below the mirror. Mr. Dobson and his companion jumped into a corner, seemed very much terrified. From that I went to another saloon, until I had destroyed three, breaking some of the windows in the front of the building. In the last place, kept by Lewis, there was quite a young man behind the bar. I said to him: "Young man, come from behind that bar, your mother did not raise you for such a place." I threw a brick at the mirror, which was a very heavy one, and it did not break, but the brick fell and broke everything in its way. I began to look around for something that would break it. I was standing by a billiard table on which there was one ball. I said: "Thank God," and picked it up, threw it, and it made a hole in the mirror. 
While I was throwing these rocks at the dives in Kiowa, there was a picture before my eyes of Mr. McKinley, the President, sitting in an old arm chair and as I threw, the chair would fall to pieces. 
The other dive keepers closed up, stood in front of their places and would not let me come in. By this time, the streets were crowded with people; most of them seemed to look puzzled. There was one boy about fifteen years old who seemed perfectly wild with joy, and he jumped, skipped and yelled with delight. I have since thought of that as being a significant sign. For to smash saloons will save the boy. 
I stood in the middle of the street and spoke in this way: "I have destroyed three of your places of business, and if I have broken a statute of Kansas, put me in jail; if I am not a law-breaker your mayor and councilmen are. You must arrest one of us, for if I am not a criminal, they are." 
One of the councilmen, who was a butcher, said: "Don't you think we can attend to our business." 
"Yes," I said, "You can, but you won't. As Jail Evangelist of Medicine Lodge, I know you have manufactured many criminals and this county is burdened down with taxes to prosecute the results of these dives. Two murders have been committed in the last five years in this county, one in a dive I have just destroyed. You are a butcher of hogs and cattle, but they are butchering men, women and children, positively contrary to the laws of God and man, and the mayor and councilmen are more to blame than the jointist, and now if I have done wrong in any particular, arrest me." When I was through with my speech I got in my buggy and said: "I'll go home." 
The marshal held my horse and said: "Not yet; the mayor wishes to see you."
I drove up where he was, and the man who owned one of the dive- buildings I had smashed was standing by Dr. Korn, the mayor, and said: "I want you to pay for the front windows you broke of my building." 
I said: "No, you are a partner of the dive-keeper and the statutes hold your building responsible. The man that rents the building for any business is no better than the man who carries on the business, and you are "particepts criminus" or party to the crime." They ran back and forward to the city attorney several times. At last they came and told me I could go. As I drove through the streets the reins fell out of my hands and I, standing up in my buggy; lifted my hands twice, saying: "Peace on earth, good will to men." This action I know was done through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. "Peace on earth, good will to men" being the result of the destruction of saloons and the motive for destroying them.

Carry Amelia Nation had found her groove.

In December, she rode to Wichita with her eyes set on that city's Hotel Carey, which she saw as another center of sin and evil. She took especial umbrage at "Cleopatra At Her Bath," a life-sized nude painting hung over the bar. She later wrote, "I called to the bartender; told him he was insulting his own mother by having her form stripped naked and hung up in a place where it was not even decent for a woman to be in when she had her clothes on. I told him he was a law-breaker and that he should be behind prison bars, instead of saloon bars. He said nothing to me but walked to the back of his saloon. It is very significant that the picture of naked women are in saloons. Women are stripped of everything by them. Her husband is torn from her, she is robbed of her sons, her home, her food and her virtue, and then they strip her clothes off and hang her up bare in these dens of robbery and murder."

Armed with an iron bar and a bag of rocks, she swept into the establishment, as angry as a tornado and fully as destructive. One of her first actions was to throw rocks and billiard balls through the offending painting. Within a few moments, she had trashed the place, ending on the triumphant note of snatching cigarettes out of the shell-shocked customers and grinding them under her boot heel. An officer arrived and said politely that he must arrest her for defacing property.

"Defacing?" she boomed. "I am defacing nothing! I am destroying!"

After her arrest, the authorities realized they were in an awkward spot. After all, the saloon she had demolished was illegal under state law. After a bit of sighing and head-scratching, they finally dropped the charges against her.

The publicity from the incident made her an instant national star, inspiring much admiration, a good deal of hatred, and not a little fear. Historian Herbert Asbury noted bemusedly that Mrs. Nation's "extraordinary methods" did "more to enforce the prohibition laws than had been accomplished in 20 years by the ineffectual campaigns of the churches and temperance organizations." She returned home in a blaze of glory. David Nation greeted his wife with the comment that next time, she should use a hatchet. Far more destructive. He thought he was joking, but his wife gave him a rare look of approval and said, "That's the most sensible thing you have said since I married you." From then on, she called her raids "hatchetations."

In January 1901, Carry returned to Wichita bearing her new weapon of choice. (She would eventually acquire three hatchets, which she named Faith, Hope, and Charity.) She and three female assistants headed straight for the saloon of James Burnes. When the customers heard she was coming, they fled in terror. This was wise. Within fifteen minutes, the four women had turned the place into nothing but a pile of smashed wood and shattered glass. "Peace on earth, good will to men," Mrs. Nation exulted, and her little army went on to the next bar, leaving only when the proprietor pointed a revolver at them and made it very clear he was prepared to use it. The four women were arrested and hauled off to prison, with Mrs. Nation leading her troops in a rendition of "Nearer My God to Thee."

After being released from custody, Mrs. Nation planned to grace Enterprise and Topeka with her singular talents. At the train station, the sheriff blocked her path, telling her she was under arrest. Carry responded by slapping him. Backup arrived to find Mrs. Nation dragging this officer of the law by his ears all over the station, in the presence of a large and delighted crowd. She was re-arrested, but released on bond the following day. Wichita decided it would be quite happy to simply see the last of her.

To the male drinkers of America, Mrs. Nation was either a laughingstock or an object of alarm and loathing. Even many temperance women objected to her violent tactics. But to other women, particularly ones who had suffered because of the alcoholism of their menfolk, she was a hatchet-wielding hero. Many other women got their own hatchets and emulated her methods in their own hometowns.

Carrie Nation as Joan of Arc

Carry carried on her chosen career of smashing saloons and getting arrested. She entered the realm of political commentary. When the anti-prohibition William McKinley was assassinated, she snorted that "drinkers got what they deserved." His successor, Theodore Roosevelt, was dismissed as a "blood-thirsty, reckless...cigarette-smoking rummy." She made a trip to the White House in order to force Roosevelt to renounce both tobacco and Freemasonry, but, alas, she was not allowed anywhere near the president. She also objected to well-dressed women, scornfully describing them as "mannikins hung with the filthy rags of fashion." (At a Madison Square Garden horse show, Carry enlivened the proceedings by loudly telling a Vanderbilt woman that her attire was disgraceful.)

Mrs. Nation did her part to ensure that the younger generation got off to a good start. In Indiana, she gave hatchets to a group of schoolchildren and watched with maternal pride as her little proteges attacked a saloon. On one occasion, she even crashed the Chamber of the United States Senate, waving her hatchet at the justifiably terrified lawmakers and screaming, "Anarchy! Conspiracy! Treason! Discuss those!" On a more productive note, Mrs. Nation opened a shelter for women with drunken husbands. As quaintly ridiculous as her campaigns against alcohol, tobacco, and "immoral" attire may seem today, it should be noted that she was also advocated the cause of the homeless and was a staunch supporter of equal rights for women.

She even faced down the legendary heavyweight boxer John L. Sullivan. Sullivan had been foolish enough to publicly boast that if Mrs. Nation dared to come near the saloon he owned in New York, he would drop her down a sewer. When he heard that she was calling his bluff and was on her way, hatchet in hand, he ran from the scene like a frightened child.

This is not to say that Mrs. Nation never faced armed resistance. In one Kansas town, a female bartender horsewhipped her. Angry mobs of booze-lovers pelted her with rotten eggs, and, on at least one occasion, beat her up. Another bartender punched her in the face and literally threw her out into the street. But no matter how often she was beaten, threatened, or even shot at, Carry Nation persevered. After all, she was convinced she was facing down the Devil, and had God at her side.

"San Francisco Call," January 3, 1903

She did not hesitate to make full use of her celebrity status. She sold little pewter hatchets to be used as souvenirs, birthday gifts, or even wedding presents as far as I know. She launched a newsletter with the delightful title of "The Smasher's Mail," which eventually grew into a newspaper called "The Hatchet." She even once starred on vaudeville, in a version of "Ten Nights in a Barroom" she renamed "Hatchetation." All proceeds from these endeavors went toward her bail money and fines.

By November 1901, David Nation, increasingly embarrassed by his wife's antics, had had enough. He filed for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and desertion. Carry hardly noticed.

In 1908, Mrs. Nation decided that England needed her services. She sailed across the Atlantic for the strangest invasion the British Isles has ever faced. During the voyage, she made good use of her leisure time by destroying the mirror in the ship's bar. It is sad to report that her efforts to lead England on the path of righteousness met with little success. Upon arrival, she began a lecture tour before audiences that ranged from bemused to antagonistic. Bitterly hostile crowds greeted her nearly everywhere she went. In Glasgow, a mob became so threatening that Carry had to hide in a nearby pub--surely the ultimate humiliation.

The truth was, Mrs. Nation's moment had passed. Her increasingly outlandish behavior began to pall on even her dwindling band of supporters. Although she did much to bring public attention to the temperance cause--a support that would eventually lead to the Prohibition Act of 1919--she herself was largely discredited. When Carry returned to America, she accepted defeat and went to live quietly on an Arkansas farm. Her final "hatchetation" was against a saloon in Butte, Montana, on January 26, 1910. In January 1911, she collapsed while giving a speech in Eureka Springs, Arkansas She was brought to Evergreen Hospital in Kansas, where she died of "paresis" on June 2, 1911. Sadly, her only child, Charlien, inherited the Campbell tendency towards mental illness, and spent much of her life in asylums.

Carry Nation's gravestone was carved with the epitaph "Faithful to the Cause, She Hath Done What She Could." Like the woman or loathe her, one can't argue with that statement.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the Ancient Religious Order of Cats.

via Rob Kroenert

via Telegraph

via Flickr

Where the hell is Henry VIII buried?

Why the hell were these Salem girls hiccuping?

What the hell are these ancient tracks?

Watch out for those mummy curses!

Watch out for those totem pole curses!

Watch out for those meteorite curses!

Watch out for those hotel tablet curses!

Early Modern exercise routines.

Photos of a 1920s road trip through Death Valley.

In which Samuel Wilberforce talks to a ghost.

The kindness of fairy children.

The birth of the sewer crocodile.

So now I know who to blame for Daylight Saving Time.  Curses be on your head, William Willett.

Killer bagpipes!

18th century poisoner cheats the hangman, is gibbeted anyway.

The story of the Wright Sister.

A vision of seven moons.

A well-publicized murder trial in 1890 Indiana.

Traditional games of the British Isles.

Spotted Stones and Trance Girls.

Henry Tufts, colonial bad boy.

London landmarks that are thankfully extinct.

The disappearing burial mounds of Bahrain.

A mysterious ancient structure has been discovered near Scotland.  Yeah, nothing at all ominous abut that sentence.

Mars likes big buttes, and it cannot lie.

Nero as depicted in artwork.

The father of paleontology.

How JFK got the goat vote.

A Polish UFO.

Elizabeth Crofts and the Voice in the Wall.

Gone for a soldier.

A Mayan mathematical genius.

Walking in a dead man's bones.

That most enigmatic of punctuation marks, "..."

The Real Housewives of 19th Century Westminster.

A clock whisperer.

The philosophy of "As if."

Mysterious "final phone calls."

A look at that delightful early Hollywood performer, Ann Pennington.  I had no idea she came to such a sad end.

The birth of "folklore."

A look at one of my favorite writers, H.H. Munro, aka "Saki."  (His "Sredni Vashtar" is one of the most perfect short stories ever written.)

The murder of the Duchess de Praslin.  (My take on that story is here.)

Anglo-Saxon culture as revealed by their artwork.

Investigating female Civil War soldiers.

Investigating the strange case of "Patience Worth."

Investigating chairs.

The original Siamese Twins.

More on Jim of the Union Square Theater.

So now you know where the Devil takes his vacations.

A remarkable recovery from a double arm transplant.

This week's Advice From Thomas Morris consists of two words:  Birth control.

A life-saving World's Fair attraction.

Welsh "mine spirits."

The Eiffel Tower's secret apartment.

A major Polish painter.

Napoleon's snowball fight.

The Prophecy of the Six Kings.

Lethal North Carolina.

Victorian cat houses.  It's not what you think.

"What is more appealing to the eye than a hand-painted knee?"  Ah, life in the 1920s.

Soccer's con man.

I love clips like this: just another day in 1901 Manchester, England.

And, finally, this week in Russian Weird:  Watch out for those sewage trucks.

Also beware of the Nooscope.

And let's not even discuss their fashion shows.

The needles are pretty weird, too.

Their windows are terrific, though.

That's a wrap for this week!  See you on Monday, when I'll be hiding the gin bottles.  Never mind, you'll see why.  In the meantime, let's dance like it's 1965!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Number 7 of the "Boston Post's" "Famous Cats of New England" is a short, but very sweet story. Meet Napoleon, the Angel of Angell Hospital:
Napoleon, the gray cat that visits the patients at the Angell Memorial Hospital, has lived for five years at the institution.

Whether it be a horse, dog, cat, monkey, parrot or squirrel that is ill matters little to the charitable Napoleon. With equal impartiality he visits them all. The smell of ether is as incense to his nostrils, and whenever operations are being performed Napoleon takes care to be on hand.

Through every ward he goes; has particular cats and kittens with whom he stays longer times than others. Black ones seem to be his favorites. Hours at a time he sits besides Inky, a little black kitten laid up with a strained shoulder, received apparently in a fight.

Next to patients, "cats" have first claim with Napoleon. Being a hospital cat, he is brought up on strictest diet. The worth-whileness of system in feeding cats is evidenced in Napoleon's sturdy frame and sleek maltese coat. No bloated, sleepy, overfed cat is Napoleon, to sleep away the most of the hours of his multiple lives. Instead, while pleasingly plump, he is very sturdy and active. 
~December 14, 1920 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Shooting Party At Ardlamont

Ardlamont House

The stereotypical setting for an Agatha Christie novel is a quiet, elegant British country estate. Therefore, it is only too fitting that 19th century Scotland's most famous death riddle, which in its day enthralled newspaper readers around the world, should have one as its backdrop.

The unwitting catalyst for this particular Series of Unfortunate Events was an army major named Dudley Hambrough. A member of a wealthy and aristocratic family, Hambrough was well-respected, well-connected, and seemingly highly fortunate. Sadly, the major had one fatal flaw: he was an irresponsible spendthrift with absolutely no aptitude for managing his once-vast fortune. Although his share of the family's estate netted him around four to five thousand pounds a year, by 1885 he was practically broke. As a last-ditch measure, he mortgaged his interest in the estates for £37,000, but he soon managed to blow through that as well. By 1890, Hambrough and his wife were reduced to the humiliating position of living in dismal rented rooms in London.

Hambrough had one son, 17-year-old Cecil. Unfortunately, the younger Hambrough was even more of a wastrel than his father. The major aimed to have his son schooled for a military career. The army would not only provide for Cecil's future, but hopefully have a taming effect on the wayward boy. With that in mind, Hambrough sought a tutor for his son: some solid, responsible man who would take Cecil under his care and steer the young man into a wise direction in life.

Instead, he wound up with Alfred John Monson.

On paper, Monson's credentials were impeccable. He was an Oxford graduate with an upper-class pedigree and a suave manner that inspired confidence. Hambrough took an immediate liking to the man, and hired him as Cecil's tutor. Monson, along with his wife and three small children, leased a Yorkshire estate called Risley Hall, and Cecil, who shared his father's enthusiasm for the charming would-be mentor, happily joined the household.

Life at Risley Hall was essentially one long house party. Cecil's "education" largely consisted of fine dining, heavy drinking, outdoor recreation, and the pleasant art of doing nothing in particular. It all suited the dissipated young man perfectly. Major Hambrough had hired Monson in the hope that he would discourage Cecil's bad habits. Instead, the tutor allowed them to flourish.

By April 1893, it had finally dawned on the Major that things were not exactly going according to plan. He sensed that Monson's influence over Cecil was now far exceeding his own. Also, Monson, under the guise of acting as financial adviser, had embroiled the major in a series of highly complicated financial juggles, and Hambrough was beginning to realize that Monson's real aim was to line his own pockets, at Hambrough's expense. The Major ordered his son to leave Risley Hall and return to the family's flat in London. Unsurprisingly, the prospect of giving up his lavish home with the Monsons in return for a dreary, financially-strapped existence with his strict father failed to appeal to Cecil. He flatly defied his father's command.

This was exactly what Monson wanted. It later emerged that he had his own secret reasons for winning the young man's favor. The tutor was not nearly as rich as he seemed. Like Major Hambrough, he had long since blown through his inherited wealth, and as the idea of earning a living was distasteful to him, Monson found other ways of maintaining the upper-crust lifestyle he felt he deserved. Like many other clever and totally unscrupulous men, he turned crook. Monson had a long history of insurance frauds, shady business deals, loans he had no intention of ever repaying, running up huge debts with creditors, and other such financial shenanigans. Monson was fond of boasting that he never pursued the acquaintance of anyone who could not be useful to him, and Cecil was no exception. When the young man turned 21, he would inherit £200,000 from the Hambrough Bank of London. Monson was determined to somehow get his hands on it all.

Early in 1893, a large Scottish estate named Ardlamont came on the market. The place appealed to Monson, and he rented it out for the shooting season. By June, the Monson family--and, of course, Cecil--had settled into their new home. The move was funded by heavy borrowing and extensive lines of credit.

It was at this point that Monson's activities began taking a decidedly curious tone. He paid a call on the Glasgow branch of the New York Mutual Assurance Company. He informed them that his pupil, Cecil Hambrough, wished to buy Ardlamont. The young man was due to inherit a great deal of money, but it would be awhile before the cash actually came into his hands. In the meantime, Monson's wife Agnes was advancing Cecil a loan of £20,000 as a down payment on the estate. As security for this loan, Cecil wished to have his life insured for that same amount.

The company accepted this story unquestioningly, and two days later Cecil came to their offices and signed the forms. Mrs. Monson was named beneficiary of this policy.

In August, the household at Ardlamont hosted a shooting party. Several friends of Cecil's were invited to the estate, as well as a friend of Monson's, who was introduced to the household as an engineer named Edward Scott.

Two days after Scott's arrival at Ardlamont, he, Monson, and Cecil went out fishing. While Monson and Cecil went out to sea in a borrowed boat, Scott stayed on the beach.

When Monson and his pupil were far from land, things began to suddenly go very wrong. A hole appeared in the bottom of the boat, sending water gushing in. They were about to sink!

And darn the luck, Cecil did not know how to swim.

Happily, the water was much shallower than it looked, and Cecil was able to make it to shore. Scott and Monson congratulated him on his lucky escape. His friends had a wonderful idea: how about if on the following day, the three of them celebrated by going out shooting?

Early on the next morning, the trio headed out to the woods. Monson carried a twelve-bore shotgun, while Cecil had with him a twenty-bore. As Scott did not shoot, he would merely tag along and collect whatever the other two killed.

Just three minutes after the men had disappeared into the trees, a shot was heard. Soon after that, Monson and Scott rushed back to the house with shocking news: Young Cecil had suffered a terrible accident. Some of the servants accompanied them back to the woods. In a small clearing, they were horrified to see Cecil lying on his back, dead from a gunshot to the head.

Drawing of the site where Cecil's body was found

When a doctor and police arrived Monson told them that Cecil had veered away from the other two men to hunt for game. When he was out of sight, Monson and Scott had heard a shot. When they went to join Cecil, they found him dead. Cecil's gun, Monson sighed, undoubtedly went off accidentally while the young man was crossing a dyke. Sad, of course, but these things happen.

The doctor saw no reason to question this story. He ruled that Cecil's death was a tragic mishap, and the unfortunate young man was buried several days later.

This would have been the end of the matter, if several disquieting facts had not come to the attention of police. First of all, there was that business of Monson arranging for Cecil to take out a sizable life insurance policy mere days before the shooting. Then, there was that boating accident. Someone had very recently cut a hole in the bottom of the rowboat and stopped it up with a cork plug. When Monson and Cecil were in the water, it was obvious that the boat sank when this plug happened to come loose.

Or had someone removed it?

When the police also discovered that Monson and Scott had not informed anyone of Cecil's accident until after they had carefully cleaned the two shotguns the men had been carrying, it was decided that young Hambrough's death deserved much closer attention. Cecil's body was exhumed, and an inquest was held. This inquest revealed an interesting detail: Cecil had been shot not with the twenty-bore shotgun he had been carrying, but by Monson's twelve-bore. Monson attempted to shrug that off by claiming he and Cecil had switched guns, but this was the final straw as far as law enforcement was concerned. Monson was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder. Police launched a manhunt for Monson's presumed accomplice, Edward Scott, but that enigmatic man had vanished. No one had seen any trace of him since a few hours after Cecil's death, when Scott was seen waiting for a ferry in Glasgow. When Monson's trial opened in December 1893, Scott had yet to be found.

Monson pleaded "Not guilty." The evidence against him was entirely circumstantial, and relied almost solely on expert witnesses, mostly in the field of ballistics. As is usual in such trials, the "experts" for the prosecution gave testimony completely contradicting that offered by the defense. What position had Cecil been in when he was shot? From what distance had he been shot? No one could agree. The defense strategy made the most of this general air of uncertainty, arguing that it was impossible to prove that the young man's death was anything more than an accident. The case against Monson was weakened further when it was revealed that Cecil's insurance policy stipulated that no money would be paid out if he died before the age of twenty-one. He died one year short of that age. Therefore, Monson gained no financial benefit from the death. (Although, naturally, Monson claimed that he knew about this clause all along, we will never know if he was speaking the truth. If he was unaware of it, that would be one of the greatest dark punchlines in crime history.)

By the end of the nine-day trial, no one was any more sure about how Cecil Hambrough died than they were before it started. The judge's summing-up reflected this, cautioning the jury that "It is the business of the Crown to prove the case, not for the defence to prove innocence." After a brief deliberation, the jurors delivered that famously inconclusive Scottish verdict of "Not proven." Monson was freed, if not precisely exonerated.

He emerged from the courtroom to a less than rapturous public welcome. The trial's revelations about his fraudulent ways and his penchant for living on extended credit--not to mention the near-universal belief that he was a cold-blooded murderer--ensured that his name was now mud in Scotland. Cecil's family and friends were so enraged by the verdict that for many years, on the anniversary of his death, they placed notices in national newspapers: "Sacred to the memory of Cecil Dudley Hambrough, shot in a wood near Ardlamont, August 10th, 1893. 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' saith the Lord."

Monson and his family left Scotland for good and resettled in Yorkshire.

Most people who narrowly escape a murder conviction prefer to keep a low profile from then on. Not Alfred Monson. Rather, in his usual cheerfully sleazy fashion, he did his best to capitalize on his unsavory fame. He hooked up with a bogus hypnotist named Morrit, and the two gave shows where Monson would pretend to go into a trance. Then, Morrit would dramatically ask his subject if he had killed Cecil Hambrough. (Surprise, surprise, the answer was always, "No.")

Monson sued Madame Tussauds, on the grounds that his waxwork model was placed near figures of notorious murderers. He argued that this slur against his good name demanded substantial damages. (He blithely ignored the fact that he had offered to sit for his model, and donated the suit he had worn on the day of Cecil's death.) He eventually won his case, but was awarded only one farthing. (The case established the legal precedent of "libel by innuendo.") Monson even wrote a book, "The Ardlamont Mystery Solved," but it failed to sell.

Monson carried on his career of devising various financial swindles and prying money out of wealthy and not-terribly-bright young men. He also acted as a "tout" for several particularly crooked moneylenders.

It was his association with one of these loansharks, one Victor Honour, that led to Monson's undoing.  The two men were part of a particularly complicated life insurance swindle centered around Percival Norgate, a young debtor of Honour's whom the moneylender had been blackmailing.  Happily, the scheme miscarried and Monson and his confederates were arrested.  At their trial, not even the services of that legendary defense lawyer Edward Marshall Hall could save this disreputable crew from a "Guilty" verdict.  Monson was given five years in jail, which was surely the very least he deserved after such a long and varied career.  While behind bars, he divorced his wife on the grounds of her adultery with...the late Cecil Hambrough. Was this claim--possibly the oddest detail in this very odd case--true? No one knows. It seems to be unknown what finally became of Monson after his release from prison, but it is doubtful he came to a good end.

As for the now-you-see-him-now-you-don't Edward Scott, he emerged from hiding several months after Monson's acquittal. It turned out that, far from being "Edward Scott," respectable engineer, he was really a bookmaker from London by the name of Edward Sweeney. As the authorities had no further use for him by that time, Sweeney/Scott obtained a revocation of his sentence of outlawry. Sweeney followed Monson's lead in attempting to monetize the Ardlamont shooting: he sold his story--which was about as accurate as you'd think--to the "Pall Mall Gazette," and made an appearance at a Glasgow music hall. (It is pleasant to relate that he was instantly booed off the stage.) Whatever the circumstances surrounding Cecil Hambrough's shooting may have been, it is a certainty that no one profited from his death.

The Ardlamont Mystery remains officially unsolved. Of course, for most true-crime historians, the real mystery is how on earth Alfred Monson avoided swinging at the end of a rope.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is honored to have the sponsorship of the Cats of the Illustrated Police News!

What the hell is skin-writing?

Who the hell was Sydney's Dancing Man?

Watch out for the Men Stealers!

Watch out for those ghostly golfers!

Watch out for those ghostly cyclists!

Watch out for those cursed graves!

Watch out for those killer flies!

Watch out for those flying cockroaches!

Watch out for those screaming skulls!

Watch out for those Somerset woods!

How a New Orleans restaurant became the most famous eatery in U.S. history.

Los Angeles' oldest elevator operator.

Some Slavic Midsummer's Eve folklore.

One guy was determined to win a race if it killed him.

A hotel you would not want to own.

Reporting the death of Austria's Francis I.

The spirits of Auchenleck.

How Georgians viewed democracy.

The short shelf life of obscenities.

Calling all Forteans:  An online collection of Charles Fort's notes.

Regency sunburn cures.

Back in the day, people certainly liked their whale bone arches.

England is asked "20 Questions."

Not even Gods are immortal.

Victorian inventors being, well, Victorian.

18th century boxing rules.

19th century holiday fashion.

Marital advice from George Washington.

A salute to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  When I was 13, I came across this edition in a local library, and wound up spending a whole summer browsing through it...yes, I was that weird a child.  A dumpy, badly-dressed little smartass with the social skills of Vlad the Impaler. In retrospect, I understand why most of my peers treated me like I was a Martian.

Hold on.  Come to think of it, I'm still a dumpy, badly-dressed little smartass with the social skills of Vlad the Impaler.  Uh-oh.

But I digress.

An ancient earthwork has been uncovered in Spain.

H.G. Wells and the future.

Richmond VA's 1827 "Carnival of Death."

The 19th century mascot cat of Union Square Theater.

East Asia's oldest piece of jewelry.

The world's greatest solo mountain climber doesn't experience fear like the rest of us.  In which we present "The week's least surprising news flash."

Intelligence is beyond our intelligence.  Week's second least surprising news flash.

The first broomstick witches.

If you've been looking for a poison antidote, here you go.

If your week won't be complete without knowing what books Aaron Burr checked out from the library, feast your eyes.

Why you might not want to drink circus pink lemonade.

An Englishman visits post-Waterloo France.

Serial killer elephants.

A murder and a message in a bottle.

The Horse Plague of 1872.

A tale of early 19th century domestic abuse.

That time Havana was a British city.

That time Irish fairies played a game of Hurling.

That time Gertrude Stein wrote a children's book.

That time WWI soldiers took up gardening.

This week's Advice From Thomas Morris:  Gentlemen, here's what not to do with, uh, your most treasured body parts.

We're all being driven mad.  Yes, I know you didn't need me to tell you that.

The women of 1066.

The secret lives of spices.

17th century B&Bs.

A Napoleonic warrior in 1894.

A look at technology's influence on art history.

The last execution at the Tower of London.

Why we shouldn't go to Mars.

Stonehenge has one big next-door-neighbor.

The scientist who's spying on trees.

The Victorian language of flowers.

The pyramid hidden in a mountain.

Lombard's Musical Cats.

Victorian bathing.  Or lack of same.

A brief history of synchronized swimming.

One of the more credible photographs of the Loch Ness Monster.

Kitty Genovese, truth and legend.

How to punk the plague.

A Victorian hydrogen bomb.

One really freaking old shark.

Remembering Willikin of the Weald.

The birth of Napoleon.

An Englishman visits 18th century Rio.  He wasn't impressed.

When it didn't do much good to be defended by Daniel Webster.

The Iceman's wardrobe.

How the pencil conquered the world.

This week in Russian Weird:  When it doesn't pay to come back from the dead.

And then there's the Russian statue to a loyal dog.

And, of course, we can't leave out this charming ad from Soviet-era Estonia:

That wraps it up for this week.  See you on Monday, when we'll visit perhaps the most notorious house party in 19th century Scottish history.  In the meantime, here's a bit of my man Telemann:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

"The Case of the 13th Coffin" sounds like an old Sherlock Holmes mystery, but it really happened in 1950s France. This story comes from the "Lowell Sun," September 14, 1953:
Fronsac, France, Sept. 14--This French village buzzed today over the mystery of the 13th coffin.

It all began when P. Dorneau asked the village cemetery watchman to open the family mausolem and rearrange the 12 coffins it contained to make room for additional burials.

Jules Taris, the watchman, went about the task. When the mausolem was opened, he inspected the coffins. There were 13 instead of 12. He counted again...thirteen.

He notified P. Dorneau, the latter could not explain. Only 12 members of the Dorneau family were buried there. He notified the mayor, who refused to believe his story.

Then the 13th coffin was opened. It contained the body of a fair-haired girl, dressed in a low-cut ball gown and dancing slippers.

No one in the village could identify her. The cemetery had no record showing the body was there.

Police believe the girl may have been murdered. There were indications of head injuries. But if a murder, who is the victim and what was the motive? Who was the murderer?

Police confessed that they did not even know where to begin an investigation of the mystery.

Judicial authorities in nearby Libourne are expected to send orders soon for an official exhumation and the opening of an official inquiry.
Doctors who examined the body came to the conclusion that the mystery woman likely died of meningitis, so police decided that at least they didn't have an unsolved murder on their hands. However, as far as I can tell, it was never learned who the girl was, or how she came to be buried in the Dorneau vault.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Where There's a Will, There's a Ghost; Or, A Guide to Post-Mortem Estate Planning

Tombstone of James Chaffin and his wife, via Davie County Public Library

As is well-known to the two or three regular readers of this blog, I like ghosts, especially the ones with an ax to grind. I have also made clear my predilection for Weird Wills. Hand me a story that combines both these topics, and Strange Company is off to the races.

The central figure in our little tale is one James L. Chaffin, who was a farmer in Davie County, North Carolina. His family consisted of a wife, Rachel, and four sons, John, James "Pink" Pinkney, Marshall, and Abner. On November 16, 1905, James made out a will--signed by two witnesses--leaving his farm and all his other goods to his third son, Marshall, who was also appointed executor. His wife and the other sons were left nothing.  James' reasons for disinheriting them are unknown.

In the summer of 1921, James Chaffin suffered a serious fall, which led to his death on September 7 of that year. On September 24, Marshall obtained probate of his father's will. Although Mrs. Chaffin and the other boys were naturally displeased by the ungenerous terms of James' will, they saw no grounds for contesting the document.

Life for the Chaffin family was uneventful until June 1925. "Pink" Chaffin began having unusually vivid dreams about his father. In these visions, old James would suddenly appear by his bedside. At first, the spirit said nothing. Then, Pink dreamed he saw his father standing by his bed, wearing an old black overcoat James often wore in life. The wraith pulled back his overcoat and told him, "You will find my will in my overcoat pocket." James then vanished.

The next morning, Pink went to his mother's house in search of that coat. She told him she had given it to his brother John. Shortly afterwards, Pink visited John and retrieved the garment. He saw that the lining of an inside pocket had been sewn up. After cutting it open, he found a small roll of paper. On this was written, in old James' handwriting, "Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddie's old Bible."

Genesis XXVII featured the story of Jacob deceiving his father Isaac and fraudulently obtaining Isaac's blessing which had been meant for the first-born son Esau. Pink immediately understood the significance of his discovery, as well as his need to document the find as thoroughly as possible. He accordingly went to a neighbor, Thomas Blackwelder. Pink told him the whole story, and asked Blackwelder to accompany him to his mother's house, as an objective witness.

When the two men arrived at Mrs. Chaffin's home, they found the old Bible, and turned the pages to Genesis. You may not be terribly surprised to learn that they found a second will of James Chaffin's, dated January 10, 1919. Old Chaffin wrote that he had been inspired to write this new testament after reading Genesis XXVII. The document divided his property equally among his four children, along with a request that the sons provide for their mother.

This will was not witnessed, and James--while he was alive, at least--had never mentioned its existence to anyone. However, under North Carolina law it would still be valid, providing that the courts were convinced that it was in James' handwriting. By the time this second will was discovered, Marshall Chaffin had died of heart disease. He left a widow, Susie, and young son, R.M. Chaffin, who were eager to contest this--to them--very inconvenient testament.

In December 1925, the case was scheduled to be heard at the Superior Court of Davie County. However, on the first day of the hearing, Susie Chaffin inspected the second will for the first time. She reluctantly had to admit that it was indeed in James Chaffin's handwriting. Ten other witnesses unhesitatingly agreed. With that, the dispute was immediately resolved with the second will being admitted to probate.

Two years later, a representative of the Society for Psychical Research, J. McN. Johnson, interviewed Pink Chaffin and his family. Johnson wrote afterwards that he was "much impressed with the evident sincerity of these people, who had the appearance of honest, honourable country people, in well-to-do circumstances." When Johnson suggested that perhaps one of the Chaffins had had prior "subconscious knowledge" of the second will, they responded that "Such an explanation is impossible. We never heard of the existence of the will till the visitation from my father's spirit."

So. Were the Chaffins lying about having no previous knowledge of this new will? If so, why did Pink wait four years before revealing its existence? Could he or one of his equally disenfranchised brothers have forged the will? If such was the case, it is remarkable that these unsophisticated farmers did a good enough job for Marshall's widow to concede it was genuine, when she had every incentive to argue otherwise.  And if the will was fake, why invent the implausible and unnecessary details about old James' ghost?

Or maybe this is just a lesson to us all: Before you die, be sure you have all your affairs in order if you wish to avoid having to make a return appearance among the living.