"...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, December 31, 2018

The Body On the Beach

"We want to find out what is the conclusion and the moral. Nobody stays in a theater for over two years and then goes out knowing no more than when they came in."
~anonymous Italian commenting on the Montesi case.

Sex. Mystery. Tragedy. Scandal in high places. Political intrigue. And a beautiful young woman in the center of it all.

Some murder cases just seem to have everything.

In 1953, 21-year-old Wilma Montesi lived with her parents and sister in Rome, Italy. She was a very attractive and alluring young woman, who, like so many pretty girls, dreamed of a movie career. (This ambition never progressed beyond an uncredited bit part in a forgettable 1952 film, "Prison.")  Despite her status as "the beauty of the family," she was considered to be extremely shy and reserved.  Despite her family's lower-middle-class status, Wilma and her sister Wanda somehow managed to enjoy numerous little luxuries:  American makeup and perfume, expensive clothes.  Even their underwear was all silk.  Wilma was engaged to marry a policeman the following Christmas, and was busily working on her trousseau.

Wilma's seemingly quiet and ordinary life took its turn for the weird on the afternoon of April 9. Her mother and sister invited Wilma to accompany them to see a movie, but she declined. Her excuse was that the film didn't interest her, but subsequent events suggested that she had plans that she did not wish her family to know about.

After her mother and sister had gone, Wilma too left her apartment at around 5:30 p.m. She took nothing with her, not even a piece of jewelry given to her by her fiance, which she normally always wore. Witnesses later claimed to have seen her boarding a train bound for Ostia. A shopkeeper in that town testified that on this same evening, someone matching Wilma's description bought a postcard from him, which she said was for her boyfriend.  Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, so it is impossible to know if these sightings truly were of Wilma.  Her activities that night remain uncertain. All we know for sure is that she was never to return home.

When Wilma's mother and sister returned home, they were disconcerted by Wilma's uncharacteristically unexplained absence. When she failed to turn up that night, they contacted police. Wilma's whereabouts remained unknown until the morning of April 11, when a laborer having his breakfast on the beach at Tor Vaianica made a grim find: the dead body of a young woman lying face-down in the surf.  She did not appear to have been dead for very long.  She was without shoes, skirt, or garter belt, and her purse was missing as well. When the description of the dead woman appeared in the newspapers, it enabled Wilma's father, Rodolfo Montesi, to recognize the corpse as his missing daughter.

via Il Tempo

Identifying the body as Wilma was easy. Determining how and why she had died would prove to be considerably more complicated. There were no marks of violence on her body, and no traces of drugs or alcohol in her system. Despite what her missing garments might suggest, doctors determined that Wilma was not sexually assaulted: in fact, she was still a virgin. In short, there were no discernible signs of foul play. There was absolutely nothing to indicate she had been suicidal. So, then, how did she happen to die on a beach twelve miles from where she had last allegedly been seen?

The best explanation the medical authorities could devise was that Wilma had gone to the beach at Ostia in order to soak her feet (she often took foot baths to relieve a nagging heel irritation.) She removed her shoes and skirt and began wading in the sea. Then, she suffered a "sudden syncope." She passed out into the water, and drowned. Then, her body drifted to where it was eventually found. Just a sad little accident. All very neat and tidy. Wilma was quietly buried in her newly-finished wedding dress, and as far as police were concerned, the matter was closed.

The Italian press, however, thought differently. Journalists were convinced there was something sinister about this young woman's odd death. They just had to find out what it was.

On May 4, the newspaper "Roma" published a startling claim: Wilma had been murdered, and the police covered it up. This was soon topped by a bombshell report in the magazine "Vie Nuove," stating that a jazz musician named Piero Piccioni had handed Wilma's missing clothing to the police. As Piccioni was the son of Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Attilio Piccioni, (not to mention the lover of glamorous film star Alida Valli,) this naturally sparked a considerable commotion.

Pierro Piccioni

Piccioni was outraged. He sued Marco Sforza, the writer of the "Vie Nuove" article, as well as the magazine's editor. Under this legal pressure, Sforza retracted his story. The lawsuit was dropped, and it appeared that Wilma Montesi would be allowed to rest in peace.

The young woman's death was seemingly forgotten until October, when a journalist named Silvano Muto published claims that Montesi--who had supposedly been enlisted as a courier of illegal drugs--was a guest at a wild sex-and-drugs party attended by many of Rome's elites, including Piero Piccioni and a famed actress named Andriana Bisaccia. According to Muto's story, Wilma died of an overdose at this orgy. Her fellow partygoers, wanting to distance themselves from her death, secretly dumped her body on the beach.

Piccioni promptly sued Muto, and Bisaccia also vehemently denied the tale. Then, the increasingly lurid story took another unexpected twist when a second actress, Maria d'Istria, decided to join the fun. She declared that not only was Muto's story true, but that Wilma had been the mistress of Ugo Montagna, the man who allegedly hosted the fatal party. Montagna was a wealthy Sicilian with a shady past (and present!) but who held great political influence. Yet another starlet, a former lover of Montagna's named Anna Caglio, came forward. She accused Montagna of running an extensive network of dope peddling and sex trafficking, with Piccioni as his chief "assassin." Montesi, Caglio declared, was only one of many murders committed by this gang of criminals.

Ugo Montagna

Well. The solid waste product had now well and truly hit the rotating blades. Such was the uproar about these revelations, that in March 1954 it was felt necessary to reopen the investigation into Montesi's death. Attilio Piccioni was forced to resign from the government. Although both Montagna and Piero Piccioni strongly insisted that the charges against them were mere smear tactics instigated by their political rivals, the two men were arrested. Piccioni was charged with manslaughter, with Montagna named as his accessory after the fact. The Roman police chief who had led the initial investigation into the death was also put on trial, for allegedly masterminding the official cover-up. All three men maintained their innocence. Montesi's family, perhaps unsurprisingly, also angrily denied the story. They insisted that Wilma was not the sort of girl to get involved in drugs or illicit sex.

After all this excitingly juicy dirty laundry had been aired, the trial of Piccioni and his supposed helpers proved to be a profound anticlimax. The charges made by the actresses were ridiculed in court, and their testimony dismissed. Alida Valli provided Piccioni with an alibi for the night of Wilma's death. The three men were acquitted, and Montesi's demise was left right back where it started: with an official ruling of "accidental death." The newspaper "Il Messagero" was left to mourn, "Of all the terrible suspicions which tormented public opinion nothing is left: no orgies, no white slavery, no boatloads of prostitutes, nothing." The whole earth-shaking scandal dissipated and disappeared like the morning fog.

It was quite a letdown.

Definitive answers about Montesi's enigmatic death have never been found--likely never will be found--leaving this otherwise obscure young woman to achieve a posthumous fame which continues in Italy to this day.  There would never be a conclusion, nor a moral.

[Note: Some believe the Montesi scandal inspired the classic film "La Dolce Vita."]

Friday, December 28, 2018

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by our New Year's Cats!

Why the hell did monks wear tonsures?

Watch out for those arrow-wielding elves!

Angels, angels, those pesky angels are everywhere.

The strange case of the Gatwick Airport Drones.

How Hitler inspired a weird publishing battle.

Something really weird is going on in the Space Station.

If you want to live as a human popsicle, do I have the city for you.

19th century German students and their own version of "Animal House."

19th century New Year wishes.

Lady Anne's tree grave.

This may be THE headline of 2018.

A remarkable collection of dinosaur footprints has been found.

This week in Russian Weird:  UFOs are busy damming rivers.

A call for the revival of Epiphany.

The first cat in outer space.

A peek at Nellie Bly's luggage.

Death on Christmas day.

Pantomime is hell.

Charles Dickens meets New York.

Captain Bandy's unmerry Christmas.

A sea-sparkling Christmas.

A cat's Christmas tree.

Christmas kittens and movie cats.

Care for some WWII-era mince pies?

How to defeat The Devourer.

The hazards of getting drunk at Christmas.

Queen Victoria's daughter was a cigarette bum.

Christmas shopping for Charlemagne.

Christmas in late 19th century New York.

Your Alexa may be trying to kill you.

The world's first motel.

A case of very imperfect justice.

And so ends the final WLD for 2018.  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an Italian case of scandal and mysterious death.  In the meantime, have a happy new year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

Many people celebrate the holiday season by going on a bender, but there aren't many who have done so with the dedication and originality of one otherwise forgotten Englishman. From the "Boston Globe," January 10, 1879:

John Wren, a middle-aged Englishman of Cleveland, left that city several months ago, says the Cleveland Voice, to visit his son in England. He met many old friends, who gave him a warm welcome, and after a time a wine party was gotten up especially for him. John, who had not taken anything since two years ago, when he had an attack of tremens, partook freely of the wine and got very drunk. About three weeks ago he arrived home, and when he got into the Union depot was stupidly intoxicated. A friend who recognized him took him in charge and had him conveyed to his home near the Central market. Here he lay drunk for some time, and when he began recovering consciousness he asked for whiskey. On being refused this, Wren set up a screaming, and began breaking the furniture. In order to quiet him they were compelled to give more whiskey, and after a time he was rendered drunk enough to remove to Charity hospital. Here he was treated by a physician, and, after being unconscious four days, came to his senses. Seeing Sister Peter in the room he asked for some whiskey, which she refused.

"If you don't give it to me," said Wren, "I shall holler or break the furniture."

"It won't hurt us," replied the Sister; "to have you 'holler,' and if you break the furniture, you are able to pay for it."

Wren then asked for his English friends, being evidently under the impression that be was still in England. The sister said they were not there, when Wren became very angry, saying that they were very mean to leave him that way among strangers and away from home. He then told the sister to get a sheet of writing paper, and write to his family in Cleveland, Ohio, in America, and tell them to send him money to get home with. The sister, much amused, asked him if there was a hospital In Cleveland, and he replied that there was, naming and describing the location of Charity hospital. She then enlightened him as to his whereabouts, when he exclaimed:

"My God, have I crossed the Atlantic ocean drunk?"

Wren says that he has no recollection of anything from the time he was drinking wine at the party until when he woke up in Charity Hospital. He thought the hospital was one that was near the town where he was visiting. His friends must have put him on board the steamer at Liverpool, and they must have provided him with tickets and money to pass him through. When found at the Union depot he had two large whiskey bottles in his pocket. The case is a remarkable one, and we are certain that there have not been many instances where a man has travelled over 4000 miles safely while completely impeded with liquor.
Let's hope Mr. Wren went back on the wagon after his adventure. He either couldn't handle liquor at all or handled it far too well, I'm not sure which.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Haunted Christmas Quilt

"Los Angeles Times," October 12, 1963, via Newspapers.com

I love Christmas ghost stories. I love reports of "haunted objects." Naturally, I was delighted to come across a an incident that manages to combine both.

Behold, the Haunted Christmas Quilt.

Our little tale originates on the farm owned by Dora and William Monroe just outside of Poy Sippi, Wisconsin. The couple bought their home in 1955, after the previous owner died. Among the furnishings they acquired along with the farm was a colorful black, red and yellow patchwork quilt, about 60-75 years old. The Monroes kept it stored away for a couple of years, until Mrs. Monroe brought it out to use in the guest bedroom "because it was so beautiful and so old." Soon afterward, the Monroes' daughter, Florence Delfosse, spent the night at the farm. She was given the bedroom adorned by the old quilt.

Then things got weird. Around midnight, Mrs. Delfosse was awakened by a jerking sensation from the bottom of the quilt. Too surprised and frightened to make a sound, she just desperately held on to her end of the quilt. This spectral game of tug-of-war was interrupted by a voice snapping "Give me back my Christmas quilt!" Not knowing what else to do, Florence stubbornly held on to the quilt until dawn, when the tugging stopped.

Florence's account of her disturbed night created quite a family sensation. Another Monroe daughter, Margaret Lowther, came over to test the quilt for herself. Just after midnight, she too felt the violent jerking of the quilt. The blanket also became extremely hot--"as if the heat came from an oven." The alarmed woman flung the quilt off the bed. When Margaret's daughter-in-law Margie Monroe used the quilt, she swore it had an audible heartbeat.

Margaret's teenage son Tom decided to get in on the fun. He spent the night on a sofa wrapped in the quilt, while another Monroe grandson, Richard Hobbs, stayed awake to view events. Sure enough, right after midnight Richard saw invisible hands yank the quilt from the sleeping Tom. According to Richard, the quilt raised itself about a foot above Tom, after which it floated away from the sofa and landed on the floor.

The boyfriend of a Monroe granddaughter brought to quilt to his home. He was alone in the house, something which he probably soon regretted. After midnight, he was awakened when the blanket began to move. He got out of bed, and observed the quilt straighten itself out, as if no one had slept there. Then he heard a knock on the front door. When he opened the door, he saw a man...a man with no face. Although it was raining hard, the man was completely dry. Without saying a word, the eerie figure vanished. When the young man went outside, he saw no sign of the visitor. And no footprints.

William Monroe was the next to test the quilt. Same story. The quilt jerked itself away from him. He held on to the quilt for a while, then let go, curious to see what would happen. He said the quilt "dragged itself across the floor" and crawled under the dresser.

Faced with this paranormal mystery, the Monroes and their friends knew there was only one thing to do. That's right: a supernatural slumber party! Yes indeed, a six of Dora's female relatives and interested observers--including a reporter from the "Oshkosh Daily Northwestern"--decided there was strength in numbers. On the night of November 1, 1963--right after the "witching hour" of Halloween--they would challenge this cranky crazy quilt en masse. (Dora herself begged off from the experiment. She had a heart condition, and she feared the strain would be too much for her.)

Sadly, this unique episode in parapsychological research appears to have been a big fat bust. The women reported that on the night they gave the quilt the "acid test," it didn't do a thing. Mrs. Monroe attributed the quilt's uncharacteristically docile behavior to the fact that there were too many women at a time testing it. "If the women were silly about it, it wouldn't work either," she added.

"The Republic," October 31, 1963 via Newspapers.com

The story of this haunted bedding appears to end there, for one very good reason: the quilt disappeared. Mrs. Monroe mailed the quilt to relatives in Oakland, California, so they could test its remarkable powers. She never got it back, and apparently the quilt was never seen again. It's unclear if the blanket was lost in the mail, or if it's still lurking somewhere in Oakland.

Or perhaps that faceless man finally got his damned Christmas quilt back.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by our final group of 2018 Christmas Cats!

Why the hell are we fascinated by unicorns?

Watch out for those underwater ghosts!

America's first child star.

How suicide was regarded in the Regency era.

A famous Arctic shipwreck is believed to be cursed.  Well, it certainly was for the men on it.

The diary of a 19th century New York mayor.

Hey for Lubberland!

Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.  According to these people, at any rate.

Suicide Ida, the drunken coroner, and the bordello.  Just another day in Los Angeles.

Using eggs to predict the future.

The academic who thinks the "Zodiac Killer" is a hoax.

An archaeological cover-up in Malta?

Let's talk killer Christmas trees.

The killer Lobster Boy.

Perhaps blood-spatter analysis isn't that foolproof after all.

Meet Tango, the Stupid Horse.  Really, you'll be glad you did.

An example of the horrifying world of vintage children's Christmas plays.

The Case of the Highgate Vampire.

Some remarkable sketches of 19th century Paris streets.

The end of a "wretched matricide."

19th century "Christmas books."

Superstitions about the "Day of Woden."

Crime-solving ghosts.

The story of a four-legged Afghanistan war veteran.

A lethal snowball fight in Constantinople.

Presidents and the paranormal.

The hazards of doing parlor tricks with spoons.

An ill-fated expedition in 19th century California.

A 50,000 year old tiara.

Cats in the British Library.

UFOs in Russia.

UFOs in the National Archives.

Schrodinger faces winter in Spitalfields.

The remarkable life of a now little-known 18th century man.

The year everyone thought the sun was dying.

A Christmas murder of a carol singer.

A newly-uncovered tomb in Egypt.

Snow Queens and Winter Witches.

A murder in Boston's Chinatown.

Who doesn't love Christmas ghost stories?

This article reminds me of why I hate "It's a Wonderful Life."

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a slightly Christmas-themed haunting.  In the meantime, here's one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Newspaper Clipping(s) of the Day, Christmas Edition

Welcome to Strange Company's annual Christmas celebration, renowned throughout the internet as the holiday party you'd least like to crash.

While compiling the Yuletide stories for 2018, I noticed a theme emerging, one that I hadn't really covered in previous years. Introducing the Strange Company Holiday Gift Guide!

To start with, here are three words that say it all about the spirit of this post: "Christmas Death Box."

"Louisville Courier Journal," December 25, 1907, via Newspapers.com

Erie, Pa., Dec. 24. While distributing Christmas bundles in the South Erie post-office this afternoon an employee became suspicious of a package, the end of which had broken open, and upon making an investigation the package was found to contain an infernal machine, so constructed that the opening of the box would cause an explosion that would have undoubtedly killed all persons near it and set fire to everything in the vicinity.

The package was addressed to Archie Carr, 2208 Cherry street, and had been mailed in this city. The box was turned over to Postmaster Sobel, who called In Chief of Police Wagner and Detective Pinney.

The following inscription was on the inside wrapper: "You may perhaps find the cover will catch a little when you open the box, but pay no attention to it. Merry Christmas."

Dr. W. J. Wright, health officer and chemist, after an examination of the machine, said it contained a high explosive, but would give no other details. A post-office inspector is expected here shortly.
The "Buffalo Courier" for December 26, 1902, provides a less deadly contribution:
The giving of two sliver stickpins by two young men to a young woman, whom they both liked, resulted in the arrest last night of both men on charges of disorderly conduct. Stephen Moslowski, 21 years old. and Frank Teobola, 20 years old. were arrested by Patrolmen Long and Shahan of the William Street Station. The two young men gave the same girl stickpins of almost identical patterns. The two young men saw one of the pins worn by the girl. A dispute arose between them as to who gave the pin for Christmas and a rough and tumble fight in Broadway last night didn't decide it.
As a side note, if that girl had any sense, she refused to marry either of those clucks.

If you're making a list of "Unwise Christmas Presents," this next one must be near the top.

"Oakland Tribune," December 26, 1891, via Newspapers.com

If you thought I'd provide only one person who received a homemade bomb for Christmas, you really don't know me at all. The "Montana Standard," December 8, 1950:
Oakland, Calif., Dec. 17. You can quit worrying about "The Thing."

Robert R. MacLean, 22, national advertising salesman for the Oakland Tribune received it as a gruesome Christmas present.

MacLean received a package Saturday night, delivered by a boy about 10 years old. It was marked "Don't Open Until Christmas." Another sticker said, "Just for You."

The package started to tick, so MacLean and his wife, Betty, 19, opened it. Inside, they found a one-pound stick marked "nitroglycerine," a complicated clock mechanism, two batteries, a maze of wires and a booster mechanism.

First, MacLean tossed it in the bathtub full of water, but it kept rising to the top. Finally he dashed outside with it and called the police.

It was rushed to the city hall and dismantled in the laboratory where the explosive experts discovered it was filled with dirt. There was no danger of explosion, they said. Somebody was just fooling in a grisly sort of way.
A word of advice from Aunt Undine: If over the holidays, someone sends you a package that looks very like a bomb, it is probably best not to throw it around.

This next guy's holiday family gatherings must have been really lousy. The "Indianapolis News," December 18, 1946:
Columbus, Ind.. Dec. 18 Theodore Bouchie, 61, of Vincennes and Columbus, is going to get his wish. He will be back in State Prison at Michigan City for Christmas. Arrested here for issuing fraudulent checks, Bouchie made his wish known to Judge George W. Long. The judge gave him a one-to-five-year term and fined him $10. Bouchie said he had been in the prison before on a fraudulent check charge.

You can't beat this next gift for originality. The "Philadelphia Times," December 27, 1898:
Special Telegram to The Times.

Chattanooga, December 26.

Charles Grimm. saloonist, doing business at the corner of West Ninth and Chestnut streets, received a gruesome graveyard Christmas present yesterday, which he does not fully appreciate.

About a year and a half ago William Riden, who had been a character in Chattanooga for years, died supposedly from the effect of drink. Prior to his death Mrs. Mary Riden, his wife, according to a State law, filed written notice with a number of local saloon men warning them to sell Riden more liquor. It slated that several saloonists persisted in selling the liquor after this legal notice had been served on them.

Riden died and the widow sued Grimm for $10,000 damages, alleging that they sold her husband liquor contrary to the law. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court and there decided in favor of the widow.

During the trial of the lawsuit Grimm Brothers erected a tombstone over the grave of the dead man. Last week Mrs. Riden conceived the idea of returning the tombstone as a Christmas present to the saloonists. She sent a man with a wagon to the cemetery, and he brought the stone to the city, where she had it wrapped in paper and during Saturday night deposited in Grimm's front yard, accompanied by a note in which Mrs. Riden expressed the desire that the tombstone be altered so as to make it appropriate to be erected over the head of the grave of Charles Grimm after his death.

The presentation has caused a sensation among those persons who were familiar with the details. Just what Mr. Grimm will do with the tombstone is hard to say.
A formidable and ingenious lady, Mrs. Riden.

I'm getting an idea why Mr. Riden drank.

A suitable partner to the above story appeared in the "Little Falls Herald," December 30, 1904:
Duluth. Minn., Dec. 25.— E. L. Naylor of Bemidji, Minn., received a gruecome Christmas present, a coffin, shipped from Fergus Falls, where he formerly resided. Mr. Naylor does not know whether the coffin was intended for a joke or carries a threat.

On the outside of the box containing the coffin was a card with this statement written on it: "Perishable, Should Be Used at Once." Within the box was another card, on which was written: Compliments of the Season." and the donor expresses the hope that this day, probably meaning Christmas day, will be the recipient's last. The coffin was delivered to Mr. Naylor by express.

Some people dream of a White Christmas. Others go for the Coffin Christmas. The "Winston-Salem Journal," January 7, 1911:
Washington, Jan. 6. A miniature coffin is not considered an acceptable Christmas gift for a young lady, nor an attractive addition to Christmas decorations, according to the Rev. Harry Spencer, pastor of the Congress Heights Methodist Episcopal Church, who today swore out a warrant for the arrest of Bryon Sutherland.

Mr. Sutherland is charged with breaking up the recent Sunday school Christmas tree party by mixing in with the other gifts this gruesome donation, which, it is alleged, he had addressed to Miss Elizabeth Spalding, a pretty teacher in the Sunday school.

Sutherland denied that he was the sender, but Mr. Spencer has the word of the messenger who brought it to his church. Miss Spalding unwrapped a large package which had the appearance of being a dozen long-stemmed roses, but, instead of roses, a two-foot coffin greeted her eye. When she lifted the cover a rubber doll leaped out.
Byron must have been quite the addition to any festive event.

Let's keep the coffin party going! The "Des Moines Tribune," December 23, 1955:
Zanesville, Ohio--Police Detective Dick Tracy had a mystery of his own to solve Friday. Tracy found a Christmas gift on his porch. The present bore the message, "Merry Christmas From an Out-of-town Friend."

Unwrapping it, Tracy found a 500-pound antique wooden coffin. Inside was a "body"--a life-sized dummy of a man dressed in 1900-style clothes.

Tracy thinks the joker might be an out-of-town police chief with whom he has had a friendIy feud the past few years, or one of his fellow officers.

Since you can't have a Coffin Christmas without the body, here's this item from the "Semiweekly Billings Gazette," December 31, 1901:

via Newspapers.com

Crawfordville, Ind., Dec. 27.-Citizens in and about Bowers, a small place near this city, are greatly excited because of a ghastly Christmas box, sent to Charles Campbell, a farmer. Campbell has been on a visit in Dakota for some weeks and before he left home he instructed his two small boys to open a Christmas box he expected to send them. On Christmas day a box was delivered at Campbell's home. His sons opened it and were horrified to find it contained the body of a woman. The limbs and arms had been severed close to the body to allow the ghastly object to be crowded into the box. The body was taken from the box and hung up in the barn, where it was viewed by scores of people. As soon as the health officers heard of it they ordered the body cut down pending an investigation. 
It was soon learned that the body belonged to Dr. Campbell of Lafayette, who procured it at the medical college at Indianapolis and was shipping it home for dissection. He was able to convince the officials that everything was regular.. Dr. Campbell secured the body and took it to Lafayette. A Christmas those boys probably never forgot.
If you're itching for more stories about gifts of body parts, boy have you come to the right blog. The "Rapid City Journal," December 16, 1915:
Mexico City, Dec. 15--General Pablo Gonzales, commander of Mexico City, received a telegram that the head of General Juan Fernandez, former intimate 'friend of Porfirio Diaz, and relative of General Huerta, was being shipped from Esperanza, state of Vera Cruz, as a Christmas present. Fernandez was more than eighty years old. According to military advices his head was severed while the body lay on the battlefield. It was boxed by the victor, Lieutenant Galicia, and sent by special messenger. Fernandez was widely known throughout the republic and was a prominent member of the Cientifico party.

A similar story appeared in the "Elmira Star-Gazette," December 27, 1907:
Hornell, Dec. 27. It was a gruesome gift but an acceptable one which Charles Hawley, formerly of this city but now of Rochester, received on Christmas.

The present is a finely polished human skull given to him by a nurse who was on duty with the English forces at the battle of Spion Koppe, South Africa, during the late Boer War. It is said the head is that of a Boer soldier who was shot through the body while storming the works and afterward died in a field hospital.

And then there's this item from the "Detroit Free Press," December 20, 1913:
Lansing, Mich., December 19. Human fingers constituted the gruesome Christmas presents delivered to Floyd F. Swanton and C W. Hamilton, two local businessmen, today. Neatly wrapped packages were delivered by a boy who said the donor wished the recipients a very merry Christmas.

The men reported the matter to the police.
Not pleasant for the two men, of course, but I'm guessing the person who donated the fingers had an even worse Christmas.

A literary celebrity makes an appearance in this next story, from the "Freeman's Journal," December 21, 1892:
Mr Rider Haggard, the popular novelist, has, as we learn from letter of his to the "Times," been the recipient of a somewhat remarkable and gruesome Christmas gift from a correspondent who is evidently imbued with the realistic view of writing fiction.

The other day the author of "King Solomon's Mines" found amongst his post a package which he proceeded unsuspectingly to open. It contained a short note, which ran as follows: "Dear. Sir--Please find herewith cremated remains of Dom De Castro, which I found the other day in some old furniture." The writer then gave his name and address, and added that he thought the remains would form a good foundation for a new romance. It is not surprising to learn from Mr. Haggard that the discovery of what the stuff in the parcel was "gave everybody present what is known as a turn." We have no doubt novelists welcome anything that gives a fillip to their imagination in these days of overproduction, but certainly the mortal remains of a Spanish hidalgo is not the pleasantest form of a Christmas gift. Besides Mr. Haggard, at any rate, does not require any such stimulus to develop his inventive powers.
In which we learn that the residents of early 20th century Kansas enjoyed swapping tales of their gruesome Christmas presents. Evidently there was a great deal of friendly competition. The "Leavenworth Weekly Times," January 4, 1917:
It was recently stated that a young man of Leavenworth county had received a set of skunk teeth for a Christmas present. A well known young lady of Potter received a pig tail on the Christmas tree at that place, and an Oak Mills man was given the left hind foot of a rabbit killed in the Sapp graveyard, but George Remsburg, of Potter, believes he was the recipient of the most gruesome Christmas present bestowed upon any person in this section.

He received from a friend in Oklahoma City, who was a former government trader among the Osaga Indians, a couple of genuine Pawnee Indian scalps that were taken in the last battle between the Pawnees and Osages at Big Hill, Okla., in the early days.

One of the scalps has a mummified human ear attached to it. This former trader secured these scalps from an Osage chief with whom he was on very friendly terms and they are well authenticated.

This is romantic.

"The Citizen," December 25, 1912, via Newspapers.com

Of course, Mrs. Pelham would say that there are worse Christmas gifts than a dead man.

Like, for instance, a live one.

"Wausau Daily Herald," June 18, 1929, via Newspapers.com

Well, that's the end of this year's holiday festivities. If any of you have found inspiration from this story, and are now longing to give loved ones cremated remains, assorted body parts, or even a tasteful coffin, no need for the recipients to thank me.

Really, no need at all.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Sir John He Would A-Wooing Go

Sir John Dinely's life could be characterized as being dominated by murder, madness, and marriage proposals.

Emphasis on the marriage proposals.

Dinely was born in 1729, the younger (by half-an-hour) of twin sons of Samuel Goodere, a Captain in the British Navy. Samuel had long been on bad terms with his elder brother, the head of the family, Sir John Dinely Goodere. This tension was only exacerbated when Sir John successfully prosecuted his wife for conspiring to kill him. During his wife's imprisonment, Sir John sought a divorce, but with Samuel's help, she was able to get the House of Lords to dismiss his petition.

It took a heck of a lot more than mere attempted murder to break up a marriage in Georgian times.

After this episode, relations between the brothers became so toxic that Sir John began to talk of disinheriting Samuel in favor of his sister's son, John Foote. It was this threat that inspired Samuel to horrific measures. On January 17, 1741, Samuel hired a small gang of desperados to help him kidnap Sir John, bring him aboard Samuel's ship, the "Ruby," and strangle him to death.

At Samuel's subsequent murder trial, he pleaded innocence. His defense was that his late brother was a lunatic who in "a fit of the phrenzy," strangled himself. To no one's surprise, this argument failed to convince the jury, and Captain Goodere, along with two confederates, was hung in chains, near the place where the murder ship had been at anchor.

Samuel's eldest son Edward went insane and died unmarried in 1761, so the hero of our piece wound up inheriting this rather cursed baronetcy.  He also acquired a decent-sized fortune, which he soon lost, largely by squandering it on every woman shrewd and unscrupulous enough to shower him with praise. If one lady professed admiration of his legs, he gifted her with a bracelet. If another complimented his wit and learning, a necklace was her reward. Naturally, this led to him being surrounded by a swarm of ladies who all professed their greatest esteem for him--as long as his money held out. By 1770, he was forced to sell the family estate in Herfordshire, the last of his resources, and he subsequently spent the rest of his long life in genteel poverty. The only thing that saved him from utter destitution was that friends managed to have him named as a "poor knight of Windsor," which earned him a small pension from the Crown, as well as an apartment in Windsor Castle. At about this time, he dropped the notorious name of "Goodere," and became known merely as "Sir John Dinely."

Although Sir John was quite as unhinged as his brother, father, and uncle, his eccentricities, happily, moved along much more innocuous lines. Although to the outward world, he was a pitiful charity case, peculiar in appearance and with a decidedly unsavory ancestry, the baronet conducted himself as regally as a king--albeit a king dressed in gaudy, if shabby clothes of the style of a previous era. The contemporary "Penny Magazine" described him thus: "He then wore a large cloak called a roquelaure, beneath which appeared a pair of thin legs encased in dirty silk stockings. He had a formidable umbrella, and he stalked along upon pattens...Wherever crowds were assembled—wherever royalty was to be looked upon—there was Sir John Dinely. He then wore a costume of the days of George II—the embroidered coat, the silk-flowered waistcoat, the nether garments of faded velvet carefully meeting the dirty silk stocking, which terminated in the half-polished shoe surmounted by the dingy silver buckle. The old wig, on great occasions, was newly powdered, and the best cocked hat was brought forth, with a tarnished lace edging. He had dreams of ancient genealogies, and of alliances still subsisting between himself and the first families of the land."

Sir John's great ambition was to restore his family fortunes, and he realized that the only practical way in which this could be done was to marry some rich lady. As his combination of poverty, criminal heritage, and familial insanity failed to have women fighting for his hand, he soon lowered his standards enough so that he was willing to marry anyone at all. He became, in short, addicted to proposing to virtually any eligible woman he met. As the "Penny Magazine" noted, "To secure for himself a wife was the business of his existence; to display himself properly where women most do congregate was the object of his savings." He haunted the fashionable gathering places such as Vauxhall Gardens and the London theaters. When he would catch some woman's eye--which, thanks to his strange appearance, happened frequently--he would, in the most dignified manner, approach her, bow with an elegance that would do the most experienced courtier proud, and take from his pocket a printed paper extending his offer of marriage, and gracefully withdraw. This led to a series of what were described as "whimsical interviews" with various ladies. (These occasionally became so whimsical that "when he has expected to see his fair inamorata at a window, he has been rudely saluted with the contents of the jordan.")

And then, of course, there were Sir John's regular ads in the newspapers, reminding the ladies of Britain that one of them could still to be lucky enough to become Lady Dinely. He showed an admirable open-mindedness in his quest. An contemporary biographer enthused, "The woe-begone widow, whose weeds, he conceives, are insupportable, he invites to his arms, to be relieved of her burden; as well as the blooming miss of sixteen, to whom he supposes the restrictions of a boarding-school are quite intolerable." His printed manifestos gave detailed requirements of the financial requirements for leading the last of the Dinelys to the altar. Simply put, the older the lady was, the more money she needed. "Previous to his entering upon a Treaty of Marriage with any Lady, he must be assured of her being possessed of such of the following Summs, as is required according to her age and condition; viz. Those under Twenty-one, only Three Hundred Pounds;—those from Twenty-one to Thirty, Five Hundred; and from Thirty to Forty, Six Hundred. All Spinsters turned of that age, must be treated with according to circumstances; and, probably few will be eligible with less than a Thousand. However, Widows under Forty-five will have such Abatement as personal Charms and accomplishments entitle them to expect."

His own fortune he estimated at some £300,000, "if he could but recover it."

Another early advertisement read: "To the angelic fair of the true English breed:--worthy notice. Sir John Dinely, of Windsor Castle, recommends himself and his ample fortune to any angelic beauty of good breed, fit to become, and willing to be, a mother of a noble heir, and keep up the name of an ancient family, ennobled by deeds of arms and ancestral renown. Ladies at a certain period of life need not apply, as heirship is the object of the mutual contract offered by the ladies' sincere admirer, Sir John Dinely. Fortune favours the bold. Such ladies as this advertisement may induce to apply, or send their agents (but not servants or matrons),may direct to me at the Castle Windsor. Happiness and pleasure are agreeable objects, and should be regarded as well as honour. The lady who shall thus become my wife will be a Baronetess, and rank accordingly as Lady Dinely, of Windsor. Goodwill and favour to all ladies of Great Britain; pull no caps on his account, but favour him with your smiles, and paeans of pleasure await your steps."

Some of Sir John's biographers consider this notice to perhaps be his finest matrimonial come-on:

"Ipswich Journal," June 7, 1788, via Newspapers.com

In 1801, newspapers carried the following optimistic entreaty:

"As the prospect of my marriage has much increased lately, I am determined to take the best means to discover the lady most liberal in her esteem, by giving her fourteen days more to make her quickest steps towards matrimony, from the date of this paper until eleven o'clock the next morning; and as the contest evidently will be superb, honourable, sacred, and ' lawfully affectionate,' pray do not let false delicacy interrupt you in this divine race for my eternal love, and an infant baronet. For 'tis evident I'm sufficiently young enough for you." This was followed by a poetic effusion:

"For your rank above half the kingdom fly,
What's two hundred pounds with an amorous eye?
I'm famed for looks of good nature and sense:--
Detect them all envy's impertinence.
Your first step with my fair plan must agree,
By sending your qualified line to me,
A beautiful page shall carefully hold
Your ladyship's train surrounded with gold!"

By 1802, the elderly Sir John was showing hints of desperation. The "Reading Mercury" published his latest cri de coeur:

"Miss in her Teens.—Let not this sacred offer escape your eye. I now call all qualified ladies, marriageable, to chocolate at my house every day at your own hour.—With tears in my eyes, I must tell you that sound reason commands me to give you but one month's notice before I part with my chance of an infant Baronet for ever: for you may readily hear that three widows and old maids all aged above fifty, near my door, are now pulling caps for me. Pray, my young charmers, give me a fair hearing."

Although Sir John became a celebrity in his day as one of the great curiosities of London society, it is sad to report that such gallant persistence never reaped its just reward. In November of 1809, it was noticed that the famed "Windsor Advertiser" was missing from his accustomed haunts. Finally, a search was made of the sad little room at the castle. There, his body was found in his bed, as alone in death as he had been in life.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by still more of our Christmas Cats!

What the hell became of Lloyd Gaines?

Watch out for those cursed Christmas trees!

Watch out for those hungry ghosts!

That time when it was a Fun Thing to tour morgues.

Superstitions about Thursdays.

Another Jacobin bites the dust.

Scotland and the Yule Log.

Abraham Lincoln and the murder trial.

How Joan Cuneo managed to get all women banned from auto racing.

The Winter of Death and the Snowman Invasion.

Real-life Christmas ghost stories.

The first Human Cannonball.

A brief history of dentures.

Hanukkah folklore and traditions.

Christmas in Georgian England.

London's "garrotting panic."

The Monsanto murder.

Shopping at the mall, 18th century style.

"Book-women" and the Great Fire of London.

Why it's never a good idea to marry someone who threatens to kill you.

It's usually not so swell to be Peter the Great's brother-in-law, either.

A fascinating look at what killed people in a 17th century village.  Watch out for those killer fairies!

Victorian Christmastime crimes.

When turkeys wore boots.

Using Artificial Intelligence to decipher ancient languages.

Napoleon's 1840 funeral.

Deserted families in the 19th century.

The real Pied Piper.

The real Lady Godiva.

Pro tip: Don't bother trying to drown Aleix Segura.  It won't be easy.

A possible 19th century serial killer.

Zimbabwe, land of cursed beer.

Antarctica, land of psychological hibernation.

This week in Russian Weird: the country's most advanced robot turns out to be...amazingly lifelike.

A spectral Christmas tree.

The "other" Easter Island.

The best-selling fiction of the past 100 years.  It's rather sobering how many of these books are now completely forgotten.

Old Marylebone.

An amazing story of premature birth.

And we're done for the week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a famed 18th century eccentric.  In the meantime, since we're heading into winter, here's a Latvian song honoring the season. I think I posted this last year, but so what. I love it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

The dead can get so damned touchy about what you do with their remains. This charming little cautionary tale was related by one S.G. Hobson, in what appears to have been a syndicated column. This particular reprint comes from the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette" for July 12, 1908.
Medical students are notoriously irreverent; serious views come to them later on in life. And they are apt to take a material view of the sanctities of the human body. But even their materialism sometimes gets a jolt.

This eerie story was told to me by a doctor in the west of Ireland one evening as we were discussing supernatural things. He was a King's man and therefore held a London degree. In his student days he used to foregather with a number of his college chums in a house in Bloomsbury where lodged a student, to whom money was not of much object.

By some subterranean means these young sparks had got hold of a corpse to dissect. It was the body of a distinguished-looking man, well nourished, and having every indication of cleanly habits during life. The corpse was regarded as a great find, and for several nights careful scientific dissection went on. After all dissecting possibilities had been exhausted the owner proceeded to retain the skeleton and took the necessary means to have the bones cleansed.

About a month later half a dozen of the fellows met for a jollification and I fear that what with whisky and soda, rum punch and other deleterious and distinctly unmedical lotions, the wee small hours found them in a rollicking mood, if not in an intoxicated condition. Practical jokes followed fast and furious upon each other, and finally irreverent hands were laid upon the new bleached skeleton. Nothing would satisfy one youngster but to detach the skull and place it in the bed of the student lodger. This led to other pranks on the unfortunate skeleton, and before long arms and legs were distributed in various parts of the room. Another hour's jollification witnessed the exhaustion of the party. Arm chairs were requisitioned for sleep, and there was a brisk fight for possession of the sofa. Soon silence came upon them. The room was dark enough for it reeked with tobacco smoke. Sleep came to tired eyes and one or two hoggishly snored.

Suddenly a startled voice rang out: "Hie. you chaps, look." All were immediately on the alert, and surely never did a more blood-curdling picture present itself, for the bones of that skeleton by some unseen agency one by one were coming together again. Not a man dared move. These brave youths, who had not scrupled to play silly jokes with a skeleton which six weeks before was clothed in the majesty of manhood, now sat in a horrid fright, eyes starting from their sockets. A nightmare was child's play to this. Soon the whole skeleton had been integrated save for the head. Then there was a pause. But in the silence each man instinctively knew that something even yet more uncanny was about to happen. After a lapse of about 30 seconds the door opened, and on a level with the handle the skull was seen to advance slowly to the corner of the room where stood the rest of the skeleton. The skull rose to the level of the neck and was placed in position by the same unseen agency that had brought together the other part.

Nothing more had happened, and it was half-an-hour before the first student dared utter a word. Then all rushed for hats and coats.

"My God, you fellows! Are you going to leave me here alone with that?" exclaimed the medical lodger, pointing dramatically to the skeleton.

This is how my informant finished the story: "Not one of us was disposed to stay there, but I said to him in a whisper, 'Come and spend the night with me, old man.'"

"And so we left the room where the ghost of the departed grandee had set up his own skeleton. Gad, my son! 'Twas an experience you would not go hunting for. Billy Stephens, who lodged there and owned the skeleton, got such a sickener that he gave up medicine and took to the church."
I always try to warn people that skeletons rarely have a sense of humor.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Ryan Murders

"Buffalo Courier," December 31, 1873, via Newspapers.com

On November 28, 1873, 28-year-old Nicholas Ryan and his 24-year-old sister Mary rented furnished lodgings on the fourth floor of a New York City boarding house run by Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Burke. Nicholas was a shoemaker, and his sister had a similar occupation as a "gaiter-fitter." It was a typical tenement room of the day, about sixteen feet square, simply but comfortably furnished. It cost them nine dollars a month rent. Nicholas slept in the walnut bedstead that sat in one corner of the room, while Mary took her rest on a mattress she nightly placed on the horse-hair sofa. The brother and sister were regarded as quiet, hard-working, and deeply religious. They seemed to get along excellently with each other. The pair dressed well, saved their money, and appeared a distinct cut above their seedy, crime-ridden neighborhood. They mostly kept to themselves, having few visitors other than their relatives.  Neither had any known romantic involvements.

So far as anyone could tell, the lives of the Ryans were completely uneventful until the morning of December 22. A policeman who was passing their tenement around three a.m. heard a window raised with a loud crash. Looking up at the source of the sudden noise, he saw a man leaning out from a window on the fourth floor, shouting "Murder! Police!"

The policeman immediately yelled for backup and ran into the house, followed swiftly by several other officers. They were confronted by blood pouring down the stairs. When they reached the landing of the second story, they discovered the body of Nicholas Ryan, wearing nothing but his nightshirt. His throat had been savagely cut. A deeply agitated Patrick Burke met the officers on the stairway with the news that another body could be found in one of the rooms. He led them to the lodgings of the Ryans, where Mary lay on her makeshift bed, her neck slashed as deeply and fatally as her brother's. It appeared that she had been strangled into insensibility before her throat was cut.

Blood permeated the tenement--all over the stairs and walls of all the floors, out on the landing of their room, and, of course, their room itself. It was assumed that the killer had entered the Ryan room using a false key. He then murdered Mary in her bed. Nicholas leaped out of bed to confront the intruder, and they had a savage fight in the landing outside the room, which ended in young Ryan's death. Someone had somehow managed to commit a particularly violent and gruesome double murder in this building of nearly a hundred residents and depart like a malevolent ghost.

Patrick Burke told police that at about 2:30 a.m., he was awakened by strange sounds. He went into the hall, but he saw nothing in the darkness. A moment later, he heard another noise that he likened to "the wheezing of a cat." As he was getting dressed, his eleven-year-old daughter Jennie called to him, "Come here, father; there is something the matter on the landing." He got a lamp and reemerged into the hallway, where he was now able to see streams of blood on the floor and walls. He saw that the door of the Ryan's room, which adjoined the Burke family's lodgings, was open. When he went to investigate, he discovered Mary Ryan's blood-soaked corpse, after which he went to the window and gave the alarm which had summoned police.

A few hours after the bodies were discovered, Jennie Burke found Nicholas' vest on the roof of the building, with the pockets rifled of their contents. (Oddly, the police had previously searched the roof without seeing this vest.) Bloody footprints, which were also noticeable on the roof, indicated the route the murderer had taken after committing the crime. However there was no trace of the murder weapon, or any clue where the killer had gone.

Investigators were baffled by the crime. The motive was never determined. The initial theory was that the pair were victims of a burglar, but that remained nothing more than conjecture. Nicholas' silver watch was believed to be missing from the room, but that seemed hardly worth burglary, let alone murder. It was generally believed that the killer had taken it in order to simulate a robbery. (Mary's gold watch and pencil and a small amount of cash remained in the room.) Patrick Ryan, an older brother of the victims, described his siblings as clean-living, peaceable sorts without any enemies, and no evidence could be found to disprove this statement. A theory was entertained by some police investigators that in a fit of sudden madness, Nicholas had murdered his sister, after which he fled out to the landing to cut his own throat.  However, no solid evidence could be found to support this comfortably tidy explanation. Everyone who knew the siblings described their relationship as affectionate and devoted. It seemed unlikely for the right-handed Nicholas to inflict his own wound, which was largely on the right side of his throat. Besides, if this was a murder-suicide, how to explain the absence of the weapon and the vest on the roof?

Mrs. Burke did tell police one curious little story about her deceased tenants. Several days before the murders, the Ryans, uncharacteristically, had a heated quarrel. Nicholas afterward told Mrs. Burke "that he and his sister could not live together, and that he would have to break up housekeeping, as he had been obliged to do once before." He declared that "he would not be governed by a woman, and that his sister wanted to rule him." Mrs. Burke described his demeanor as "very nervous," and that he "was trembling from head to foot when he was talking to her." The following day, Mary told her that Nicholas had been upset with her for "buying a new teapot, which proved to be too small." A tempest over a teapot, one might say. Mary's explanation smacks of a ludicrous cover story, but the true cause of the fight between the siblings--and whether or not it was somehow connected to their deaths--remained a mystery. (As an aside, there were numerous hints in the contemporary newspapers that while the Burkes probably had nothing to do with the murders, they knew more than they were willing to say.)

As far as the police could tell, the last day the Ryans spent alive was utterly ordinary. Earlier in the evening, Patrick Ryan and another sister, Johanna, had tea with Nicholas and Mary in their room. All were in excellent spirits, laughing and joking. Afterward, the little party all left the house. Nicholas then parted from the company. No one knows where he went or what he did before returning to his lodgings. Mary accompanied her sister to Johanna's house. At about nine p.m. Mary left to return home.

When the bodies of the Ryans were autopsied, everyone, including their relatives, received a severe shock: Mary had been pregnant when she died. It is generally assumed that her child's father was also her killer--perhaps out of desperation to keep his guilty secret safe--but no one had any idea who this man might have been.  Or--on an even more lurid note--did Mary's pregnancy have anything to do with what some investigators believed was an "unnatural" relationship between the siblings?

We simply do not know.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by more of our Christmas Cats!

Who the hell made the Arthur's Seat Coffin Dolls?  And why?

Watch out for those cursed rings!

Mrs. Hodges and the meteorite.

Incidentally, the new film about Mary Queen of Scots sounds like a real stinker.  Judging by the trailer, I'm guessing it's the equivalent of John Cusack's Poe movie.

Two executions that were footnotes to the American Revolution.

When London got street lights...it didn't work out too well.

The foxes of Foxhurst.

The last written words of a condemned man.

A trio for this week in Russian Weird: Siberia has unicorns!

And there was the Russian woman known as "Lady Death."

And the cats of the Hermitage!

There's something on Mars that looks like a clump of tin foil.

If you want to have some fresh new nightmares, check out this 9,000 year old mask.

And here is the reconstruction of an astounding 1,300 year old helmet.

If, like me, you think all modern pop music sounds alike, you may be right.

As a Californian, I can say that Krampus fits right in here.

The famed courtesan Nelly O'Brien.

Ancient Egyptians did coffin-making on the cheap.

A Graveyard Christmas.

The spirit world and the hairwork bracelet.

The mountain bike murder.

William Lambert of the Bombay Army.

How to dress for an 18th century masquerade ball.

There are times when it doesn't pay to take things slowly.

Found: a medieval man who literally died with his boots on.

A reporter who became a literal ghost writer.

There may be such a thing as too much Christmas spirit.

So, let's discuss Tycho Brahe and the psychic dwarf.

Let's also talk about beer-drinking duck Marines.

The diary of an 18th century teenager in London.

When your mother is a homicidal sociopath.

Mysterious sheep-killings in Wales.

Shorter version: social media has turned us all into exhibitionists.

The singing heroine of a tragedy at sea.

Well, this is a bit unnerving.

The grave of a heroic dog.

The origins of Thanksgiving.

A ghost with a grudge.

Medieval guide dogs.

Pirate ghosts and cursed treasure.  What could be better?

The mystery of Petrarch's cat.

The first female ghostbuster.

The world's most sickening museum.  Literally.

The lost art of flower-making.

The rector returns from the grave.

Did Ida Quinlan murder her sister?

A look at Napoleon's coronation.

We're done for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an unusual poltergeist account.  In the meantime, here's a bit of classic Christmas music.