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

Friday, February 26, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is here!

Party time at Strange Company HQ!

Who the hell was Edward II's very secret lover?

What the hell are the Skara Brae artifacts?

The "Worst Woman on Earth."

Marguerite of France, twice a queen.

Hundreds of people die defending the Ark of the Covenant.  In 2121.

A brief history of the British Women's Police Service.

Government mind control and a weird death.

The acoustics of Stonehenge.

Restoring a Pompeii fresco.

London's Great Smog.

The woman who helped prevent a nuclear war.

Underwater archaeology in Australia.

New Hampshire's Stonehenge.

Bob, the canine golf caddy.

The controversial case of the sleepwalking killer.

The lost art of making cassette decks.

The odd disappearance of a schoolgirl.

Seeking justice in 17th century London.

This week in Russian Weird looks at "Baikal Zen."

The People's Grocery lynching.

Without knowing it, a reporter interviews a murderer about his victim.

John Keats, medical student.

John Keats' Spanish connection.

If you should come across an abandoned painting, consider that there may be a good reason it was abandoned.

A significant burial from 20,000 years ago.

A hermit's gruesome end.

How Edvard Munch vandalized his own painting.

A 19th century forgery trial.

Photos of a vanished London.

How Alfred Rouse created a John Doe.

It turns out that maybe "42" really is the answer to everything.

An alleged UFO crash in Arizona.

If you're a shaman in need of work, go to South Korea.

One very weird murder.

Britain loves growing gigantic vegetables, for reasons I frankly have never fathomed.

A brief history of beard fashions.

The secret language of hobos.

The Duchess of Devonshire in exile.

Did Neanderthals have a language?

A gruesome find at Waterloo Bridge.

The dogs of the Arctic.

Communicating through dreams.

Dr. Barnardo and habeas corpus.

Ohio's haunted castle.

The life of a WWII flying ace.

Robin Hood and the Forest Rebels.

Jane Grey's letters from the Tower of London.

The problems faced by the families of 19th century merchant seamen.

The Black Cat Horror.

A brief history of ketchup and mustard.

Uncovering a 12th century Spanish bathhouse.

And that's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll visit a Southern haunted house.  In the meantime, here's this lovely traditional hymn.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Whenever the old newspapers present first-person accounts from Gentlemen Known For Their Veracity, I know I’m in for a good time.  The Knoxville “Journal and Tribune,” August 16, 1890:

Special to The Journal 

Middlesborough, Ky., August 15—The people in the eastern part of Claiborne county, Tennessee, are in a terrible state of excitement over a remarkable occurrence which took place there on Saturday evening last. The story as told is one of the most marvelous occurrences ever heard of and will prove a problem over which scientific minds will wrestle for some time to come.  

Edgar Ramsey who lives four miles from Lick Skillett came into Middlesborough this morning and told the marvelous story.  Last Saturday about 4 o'clock he noticed what looked like a large greenish cloud.  It was raining at the time.

 “A little while afterwards I noticed it was getting colder and I went from the porch where I was sitting and put on a heavy coat. When I came out again it looked like the big green cloud was near the place and the air was as cold as a winter day.  I stood and watched it for a few minutes and then it commenced hailing and I went in the house and built a fire. In half an hour it was as dark as night and the wind fairly howled around the house and hailstones fell that were as big as a hen egg.  This thing lasted possibly twenty minutes and then the sky cleared up.

“My wife and I were sitting by the fire about an hour later when I heard a horse come up on a dead run and when I went to see what was the matter there stood Jake Warren who owns a farm about a mile and a quarter from mine. He looked as pale as a ghost and was trembling to death.  He said that a big cloud had come over his place and that something that looked like balls of fire had fallen all around his house. He had about five acres of fine corn growing in a field next to his house and after the storm cleared up he went to look around to see if it had done any damage. He noticed some of the corn was blown down and he went into the field and found every stalk turned to stone. 

“There were two fine hogs in the field and he said they were petrified in their tracks and were standing there like they were cut of solid rock. The next day I visited him and I’ll remember what I saw as long as I live. There was his corn considerably blown down but every stalk of it was completely petrified. It wasn’t as hard as granite quite but seemed to be more like soapstone. I took my knife and it cut into a sort of a powder. In the edge of the field nearest the house the two hogs were standing in as natural a position as though they were alive but they were as dead as dead could be and seemed turned completely to stone and their bristles had turned as white as snow. 

“They were a queer sight. I tried to lift one of them but although the hogs would not have weighed over 225 pounds when it was alive it must have weighed 400 pounds as it stood for I could not lift it.  Thousands of people have seen them since last Sunday.  Everybody knows Jake Warner and anybody in the county can direct you to his farm.” 

Edgar Ramsey is a reliable man and tells the story in good faith and as strange as the story seems there is no reason to doubt his word.

Monday, February 22, 2021

"The Slab" and the Mysterious Death of Margaret Boyce

There are certain cases where it seems obvious that a person has been murdered, and everyone has a reasonably certain idea who did it, but either the suspect’s guilt cannot be proven, or they are never apprehended, leaving a permanent air of mystery about the death.  A perfect example of such cases is the following long-forgotten tragedy with a downright eerie atmosphere.  Call it “Australia Noir.”

Twenty-one year old Margaret Boyce was a waitress in a Sydney restaurant on George Street owned by Richard Thame and his wife.  The Irish-born Boyce was a comely young woman, with a striking crop of curly, flaming red hair.  As she also had a cheerful, vivacious personality, she attracted more than her share of male admirers.  However, although she enjoyed flirting and bantering with the men, her relations with them went no further.  One gets the impression that she was an unremarkable, but pleasant girl who was universally liked.

George Street in 1870

Margaret’s most persistent beau was by far the strangest of the lot.  No one who knew Margaret ever learned the slightest thing about him, not even his name.  Odder still, he always held his head down in such a way that nobody ever got a clear look at his face.  All anyone could say was that he was a dark-complected young man, with a dark mustache, who always wore black.  As he was very tall and thin, one of Margaret’s other gentlemen friends dubbed him, “Maggie’s long slab.”  He added a bit resentfully that she could certainly do better than a man who never even looked people in the eye.  Margaret herself volunteered no information about him.  Her only recorded comment about “The Slab” was when she told a friend that she did not care for the man, and only talked to him because she was slightly afraid of him. She added that he was always trying to get her to go on lonely walks with him, something she would never do unless someone else was with them.

Margaret and the rest of the restaurant’s staff lived dormitory-style above the establishment, with a 10 p.m. curfew.  However, January 19, 1870, was Margaret’s night off work.  She visited her sister Annie, who was “in service” at a place in Lyons Terrace.  Joining them there was Margaret’s other sister Bridget and brother Patrick.  The siblings visited until close to 10 p.m.  Margaret was in her usual good spirits, laughing and talking animatedly.  Before she left, Annie gave her a gift--a parcel containing two chemises.  Patrick and Bridget accompanied Margaret on her walk back until they were just 100 yards from the restaurant.  It was then about 10:15.  A hard rain was falling, causing Margaret to sprint for home, as she feared her dashing new Garibaldi hat would be ruined.  As far as they could see, the streets were otherwise deserted.

All one can say for certain about what happened next is that Margaret never made it to her lodgings.  Early the following morning, two men were walking near Darling Harbour, not far from Thame’s shop, when they saw something floating in the river.  When they got in a boat to investigate, it was soon realized they had found the body of Margaret Boyce.

Her body was drifting face downwards.  Her clothes were clean and not disarranged; they were not saturated with water, suggesting she had not been in the river long.  Her arms were drifting freely, but her left leg was closely doubled back from the knee.

The autopsy confirmed that she had been dead only a few hours.  There was nothing to indicate sexual assault, and there were no bruises or other visible injuries on the body.  No drugs or alcohol were found in her stomach.  The doctor who examined her stated that she had drowned, but was unable to say whether this was a case of suicide, accident, or murder.

"Sydney Herald," January 22, 1870, via Newspapers.com

A boy named Charles Pickering, who was acquainted with the dead woman, told police that around 10:45 on the night Margaret disappeared, he saw her outside Thame’s restaurant in the company of a tall thin man.  Pickering greeted her with “Maggie, I have you now!”  Boyce smiled at him, but said nothing.  Pickering heard the man say to Margaret, “Will you come up now?”  She replied, “No, it is too late.”

Mary Ann Emerson, who was in the Robert Burns Tavern on the night of the 19th, came forward with a curious story.  She said that sometime between 10:30 and 11, a young man and woman went into the bar parlor.  She had no idea who the man was, but the girl’s distinctive red hair enabled Emerson to identify her as Margaret Boyce.  The man ordered two drinks: brandy and port wine.  He was tall and dark, but Mrs. Emerson did not get a good look at his face.  She thought Margaret’s manner odd, as if she was drunk.  The couple conversed in such a low tone that Mrs. Emerson could not hear much of what they said.  All she caught was Margaret saying that she “would not go down that night.”  After about 20 minutes, the pair left.

When another customer, a man named Harmer, left the tavern just after 11, he found a parcel lying on the ground near the door.  This was later identified as the underclothing Annie Boyce had given her sister.  The next morning, a woman found a broken imitation jet necklace and a jet earring about 40 yards from where the parcel had been discovered.  They were part of the jewelry Margaret had worn the night before.  Finally, the dead woman’s Garibaldi hat was found in an outhouse in that same area.  It was practically torn to pieces.

Those proved to be the only clues that were ever found about how Margaret died.  Naturally, detectives concentrated their efforts on finding “The Slab,” but they totally failed to track any sign of this most elusive of suitors.  At the inquest into Margaret’s death, the coroner rightly pointed out that the young man’s failure to come forward was extremely suspicious.

The coroner instructed the jury that after hearing the available evidence, the only reasonable verdict they could come to was that of “wilful murder against some person or persons unknown.”

That was the last official word about the sinister death of Margaret Boyce.  And after the night of January 19, no one in Sydney ever saw “The Slab” again.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

It's time for this week's Link Dump, and Strange Company HQ is throwing a party to celebrate!

The "Great Stink" of 1858.

Ancient Greek love spells.

The world's only authenticated pirate wreck.

A "cold case" murder is finally solved...then unsolved.

A significant Neanderthal tooth.

The disappearance of Esther Dingley.

When Orson Welles sold no wine before its time.

Lafayette's busy 1824 visit to America.

A brief history of King's Cross.

How Germans came to love potatoes.

A fake magic spell turns out to be surprisingly real.

The Muse brothers: a tragic tale with a (reasonably) happy ending.

Victorians and their talking bouquets.

A first-hand description of a 19th century British Army march in India.

Buttercup the Canal-Swimming Cow.

Yup, it's that point in 2021 when the Mystery Creatures Under Antarctica roll in.

This week in Russian Weird: their dogs are turning blue.

How a Colorado woman gained fame as "Rattlesnake Kate."

How to turn yourself into a Hapsburg.

A vampire princess.

A Pharaoh's brutal death. 

A Roman Emperor's breakfast nook.

A look at Georgian era jewelry.

The psychology of furniture.

A raid against Tripoli pirates.

A 17th century wife's printed petitions.

Polish and German carnival traditions.

An unequal duel.

Exploring Farfarout.

A glowing 800 year old boomerang.

The unknown Martha Washington.

A brief history of cinnamon.

The rebuilding of Chichen Itza.

Finnish funeral treats.

The world's oldest known brewery.

Mars in 4K.

A Revolutionary War heroine.

Medieval runaway nuns.

An 1862 body snatching scandal.

The murder of a boardinghouse keeper.

Finding a lost continent.

The oldest story ever told.

An interesting case of synchronicity.

The nearly-lost recipe for "Washington Pie."

The Leadville Ice Palace.

One of the earliest known Valentines.

That time General Marcus Crassus really screwed up.

Anyone who has read Patricia Highsmith's books is not surprised to learn she was a horrible human being.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning as political campaigner.

A visit with the skull of St. Valentine.

The megacities of Cambodia.

The poltergeist of St. Catherine.

The poltergeist of San Remo.

Just a boy and his swan.

What medieval peasants teach us about history.

That wraps things up for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an Australian's woman's mysterious death.  In the meantime, here's a spot of Telemann.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This simple, but eerie little story appeared in the “Sacramento Bee,” July 31, 1894:

July 31—Mysterious death lurks In a big vineyard near Collis. Everybody has left the place and the authorities are preparing to begin a searching investigation of the premises. 

On July 23d, Mrs L.M. Jacobs, a cook for the vineyard employees, was taken suddenly ill and died within twelve hours. 

Two days later Superintendent Ring was stricken with a similar malady. He is still living but will probably die. 

On Sunday last, A. Peterson, a vineyard workman, was taken ill in the same manner and died within thirty hours. 

The physicians declare that both deaths were due to paralysis of the heart and that Ring is also stricken with a severe affection of the heart. The local medical fraternity is greatly puzzled.

If they ever found the reason why these people were stricken in such a similar manner, it does not seem to have been reported in the papers.

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Fatal Wedding Cake

"Pomona Bulletin," March 17, 1923, via Newspapers.com

It has been noted that poisonings are often among the most difficult murders to solve, for the simple reason that the guilty party does not have to even be near their victim in order to kill them.  An outstanding example of that is this undeservedly obscure case.

To all outward appearances, William and Martha Sterrett of Devon, Pennsylvania seemed a thoroughly uninteresting couple.  William, an accountant, was one of those people who attracted little notice, either positive or negative.  Some of their neighbors thought Mrs. Sterrett was a bit standoffish, but they had nothing else to say against her.  The childless couple, who were both in their thirties, were quiet people, who caused no trouble and attracted no trouble.

That changed very abruptly on October 26, 1922.

Around midday, Mrs. Sterrett went to the post office to collect the mail.  When the postmistress handed her a large parcel marked “Special delivery,” Mrs. Sterrett expressed surprise, commenting,”I wonder whom this could be from?”  The package, with the typewritten address, “Mrs. W.W. Sterrett,” contained a round tin box, about ten inches in diameter.  It was postmarked “Philadelphia, Pa.,” but gave no indication who had sent it.  It had been mailed at the Penn Square postal station, very close to William’s office.

When Mrs. Sterrett returned home, she opened the parcel, to find that it contained two slices of what appeared to be a wedding cake.  Presuming that it had been sent by some friend who had forgotten to include his or her name, she put the cake on the dinner table, as a dessert treat for her husband.

People who blithely eat or drink food items sent anonymously to them usually prove to be a boon for true-crime writers, and, sadly, the Sterretts were no exception.  Within an hour after eating the cake, William was taken very ill.  His symptoms quickly became so dire that his wife frantically phoned the family physician, Dr. John Spangler.  Before her marriage, Martha had been a trained nurse, and immediately recognized the signs of poisoning.  She knew her husband needed a stomach pump as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, it was several hours before she was able to reach him.  In the meantime, another doctor, Ella Williams, was called in.  By the time Dr. Spangler finally arrived, Mrs. Sterrett was also ill.  During the night, a neighbor stayed with the couple, but by morning the condition of both had so deteriorated that they were brought to Bryn Mawr hospital.

The cake was clearly the source of their illness, but as the Sterretts had eaten every crumb, it was impossible to immediately know what sort of poison it had contained.  However, the fact that the couple displayed markedly different symptoms--William was vomiting and obviously violently ill, while Martha merely fell into a strange lethargy, as if she had been drugged--led police to suspect that different poisons were put in the two pieces.  

On the night of October 28, William Sterrett died.  Although Mrs. Sterrett was hospitalized for some time, she eventually recovered.  The coroner’s autopsy on William showed that he had died from ingesting an impressive amount of arsenic.

This was one of those cases where the police were almost immediately stymied.  From all they could find, the Sterretts had led frustratingly model lives.  Their marriage, as far as their friends and relatives knew, was a perfectly happy one, and they had no known enemies.  The associate manager of Price, Waterhouse, & Co., the firm which employed William, could not imagine why anyone would want to kill him or his wife.  “Sterrett was one of the most popular men in the office,” he told a reporter.  “Everyone liked him.  He was regular in his duties and had absolutely no sporting proclivities that I know of...Sterrett had no business enemies and no personal enemies that I know of.  I am sure of this.”  Everyone who knew the couple delivered similar tributes.  It is, of course, a very good thing to lead an exemplary life, but it is of no help whatsoever when investigators are trying to find your murderer.

The neat way in which the package of death had been wrapped and addressed led police to believe a woman had sent the cake.  Could jealousy have been the motive?  Was the intended victim really Mrs. Sterrett?  It was pointed out that the mailing of the parcel had been timed to reach Devon at a time when Mrs. Sterrett would be alone, and that there was scarcely enough cake for one person, let alone two.  She could easily have eaten it all herself, if she hadn’t chosen to save some for her husband, who was known to have a sweet tooth.   If Martha was indeed the target, that possible clue went nowhere.  Everyone who knew William was adamant that during the years of his marriage, he had not shown the slightest interest in any other woman, and no one could imagine any other motive for poisoning Mrs. Sterrett.  In early November, it was reported that the police were searching for a man who had escaped from the West Chester Asylum three days before the Sterretts received the poisoned cake.  This man had worked with Sterrett eight years before, and had been put in the asylum for poisoning animals and attempting to do the same with children.  I have been unable to find if they ever captured this man, but in any case this lead also fizzled.  The coroner was unable to even hold an inquest into William’s death, due to the lack of any one tangible thing upon which the jury might return a verdict.

Mrs. Sterrett was, naturally, extensively questioned by the police, but she was unable to tell them anything helpful.  At one point, the authorities appear to have regarded her as a possible suspect, but they were able to verify every statement she gave them, and she had an alibi for the time the cake was mailed.  In the beginning of November, it was announced that the typewriter used to create the address label on the fatal parcel had been found in New Jersey, and the newspapers reported eagerly that an arrest in the case was imminent.  However, if this story was true, it proved to be one more dead end.  By November 3, it was being reported that the case was at a complete standstill.  Within two weeks after William died, the authorities were publicly admitting defeat.  In January 1923, Mrs. Sterrett appealed to the county DA to reopen the investigation, but if this was done, the second inquiry was no more successful than the first.  The case quickly went “cold,” and cold it has remained to this day.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

It's time for this week's Link Dump!

And the staffers of Strange Company HQ are here to start the show!

How the hell did Genghis Khan die?

What the hell was the Tunguska Event?

What the hell is causing these Martian landslides?

Where the hell is MH370?

What the hell happened to Pan Am Flight 7?

Why the hell haven't humans gone to Mars?

Who the hell was buried at Sutton Hoo?

Further proof that Dyatlov Pass is not the best place to go sightseeing.

Glass beads that predate Columbus have been found in Alaska.

The only surviving film of the pre-iceberg Titanic.

Your big opportunity to learn what an 18,000 year old conch sounds like.

A 1731 Chinese New Year celebration.

Dating advice from the Regency era.

A miller's daughter is--depending on how you look at it--either very lucky or very unlucky.  Oh, and steer well clear of water mills.

You find the damnedest things in bogs.

The folklore of ancient Celtic cauldrons.

The "Friar's Balsam" man.

Ancient Rome recreated in 3-D.  These really look amazing.

In related time-traveling news, you can now view the Bayeux Tapestry in high-resolution.

The mysterious deaths of two girls in India.

Early Modern tips on how to choose your child's gender.

The comrades of Sergeant York.

Etiquette for Victorian widows.

The world's oldest emojis.

The Witch of King's Cross.

Human history is...confusing.

How to prevent your corpse from being stolen.

Some fun snapshots of mid-1960s London.

A train station that just exists for the view.

A really great obituary.

A cemetery that was "the resort of thieves and harlots."

The man who was too tall.

An ancient payslip shows it was rough being a Roman soldier.

This week in Russian Weird shares the eerie sounds of Lake Baikal.  And how prehistoric people were able to soften ivory...and we have no idea how they did it.

The career of an 18th century sexologist.

How Robert Preston made his fortune in the East India Company.

A 17th century witchcraft case.

Another look at that "Famous Cats of New England" series I posted here awhile back.

Sutton Hoo's supernatural side.

A haunted Canadian island.

The music of a planetary system.

An early 19th century "juvenile almanac."

The sad tale of the butcher's boy and the cook.

Why a bearded lady wanted to go to prison.

The ordeal of Dan the Firehouse Cat.

A very unusual pregnancy.

When body snatchers get creative.

HMS Pulteney goes to war.

When Sparta was a tourist trap.

The kind of thing that happens when a sorcerer loses control of his spirits.

The latest on my favorite historical rabbit hole, the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.  (I suspect the boys weren't murdered by Richard, or anyone else, and nothing has emerged to make me change my mind.)

The complicated case of Edward II and Queen Isabella.

One heck of a lost-and-found story.

The myth of a disappearing regiment.

A near miscarriage of justice.

A very bad place to go camping.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at some fatal slices of cake.  In the meantime, we're back to Bach.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

"Brooklyn Eagle," May 30, 1911, via Newspapers.com

As I have mentioned before, I have a particular fondness for Weird Wills, and the following story is one of the most charming examples.  From the “Baltimore Sun,” September 15, 1907:

Imagine a tree being a landowner! Having its own property rights, enjoying the protection of the United States and feeling that never, no never, will there be need of any such petitions as "Woodman, spare that tree!" in reference to its own majestic height of trunk or girth of spreading branches. Yet such a tree actually exists and is growing luxuriantly today in the town of Athens, Ga., and its history is this: 

The tree is a magnificent oak, which has stood for a century or more upon a piece of ground located at the corner of Dearing and Finley streets, whose latest owner was a Mr. William H. Jackson. The property had long been in the possession of the Jackson family and its late owner was born within hearing of the murmurous winds that swayed the oak's great branches.  As child and boy he had played beneath its refreshing shade and in his old age so tenderly did he regard this tree fraught with memories that before his decease he made a will bequeathing to the tree all the land upon which it stands, so that time and storm might be the only foe that can approach it. 

The bequest reads: "For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides for all time to come. William H. Jackson." 

In a court of law this document would scarcely stand, but beneath all the rough surfaces of mankind there is within humanity a great and tender respect for any deep sentiment or feeling. Hence the people of Athens, Ga., have accepted the splendid oak tree as a citizen, with the rights and protection due it as such and no branch nor twig of the oak that owns itself is touched by desecrating fingers. In the great sleetstorm of 1903 many of the oak's huge branches were broken and Mr. George Peabody sent a gift of $100 to have the limbs trimmed, the earth, which had slipped from the roots thrown back upon them and an iron fence put about it and thus protected the tree now stands. 

Athens, Ga., has a beautiful university campus with another famous tree upon it beneath which Robert Toombs, the celebrated orator, is said to have made his first speech; the old house where lived the sweetheart of John Howard Payne, the wanderer who wrote "Home, Sweet Home," stands upon one of Athens' streets, the city has picturesque and famous houses upon every side, but of all its quaint traditions and stories the old Georgia University town is proudest of the story of the beautiful oak tree, and of the man who so loved it that he left to his town the delight of forever gazing upon it so long as spared by the hand of time.

The tree--which may have dated as far back as the 16th century--fell in 1942, but a new tree was sprouted from one of its acorns, and planted in the same spot.  (It is often known as “Son of the Tree That Owns Itself.”)

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Dead Dog Wars

What do you get when you mix Swedish feminists, English medical students, anti-vivisectionists, a dead terrier, and crowd-funded memorials?

Answer: Some Strange Company-level mayhem.

Our story begins in 1903, with two Swedish anti-vivisectionists, Louise Lind-af-Hageby and Leisa Schartau.  Since 1876, England had strict regulations regarding the use of animals for scientific experiments, so the two activists enrolled in the London School of Medicine for Women to make sure the institution was following the rules.

One day, the pair attended a lecture by Dr. William Bayliss, where the aim was to show that salivary pressure was unconnected to blood pressure.  To demonstrate this, Dr. Bayliss electrically stimulated a living dog’s salivary gland.  In order for this to be legal, the dog would have to be anesthetized, and could not be experimented on more than once.  According to the two Swedes, these rules were flagrantly ignored.  They claimed that the dog--a small brown terrier--was conscious during the procedure, and a scar on his body proved he had previously been operated upon.  They added with righteous disgust that when the poor dog tried to escape, the other medical students burst into laughter.

The Swedes brought their charges to a prominent anti-vivisectionist lawyer, Stephen Coleridge, who repeated their allegations in a public speech which was widely reported in the newspapers.  "If this is not torture,” Coleridge thundered, “let Mr. Bayliss and his friends...tell us in Heaven's name what torture is."  When Bayliss heard of this, he sued Coleridge for libel.  The four-day trial opened on November 11, 1903.

One of the witnesses, a professor at University College London named Ernest Starling, admitted that he too had performed a demonstration on the terrier, but he insisted that the dog had been anesthetized during both procedures.  It would, he stated, have been impossible to perform these demonstrations on a conscious animal.  It was also learned that the unfortunate terrier was later killed by a medical student who did not have a license to perform euthanizations.  (A particularly horrific detail: the student had not even bothered to chloroform the dog to death, instead dispatching the animal with a knife through the heart.)

Despite these damaging admissions, the defense was doomed when Coleridge admitted under oath that he had not made any attempt to verify the women’s accusations before making them public.  The jury ruled in favor of Dr. Bayliss, awarding him damages equivalent to over five hundred thousand dollars in modern U.S. currency.  However,  this was hardly the end of the controversy.  Rather, you could say it was merely the beginning.

Coleridge set up the early 20th century version of a GoFundMe to raise the court-ordered payment, which was wildly successful.  (Bayliss donated it all to his university for medical research, which must have irritated Coleridge and his supporters no end.)

The anti-vivisectionists then decided there should be a memorial to the dead terrier.  They planned to build a fountain with a statue of the martyred pup, with the inscription, “In memory of the Brown Terrier Dog done to Death in the Laboratories of University College in February 1903, having endured Vivisection extending over more than two months and having been handed from one Vivisecteur to another till Death came to his Release.  Also in Memory of the 232 dogs vivisected at the same place during the year 1902.  Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?”

In other words, put that in your pipe and smoke it, Bayliss.

These activists had a hard time finding a local council willing to take such a controversial monument, but in 1906, Battersea, famed for its dogs’ home, agreed to host the statue.  Among the guests at the great unveiling was George Bernard Shaw.

Via Wikipedia

Local medical students--perceiving, quite correctly, that they were being insulted to their faces--did not take this quietly.  Night after night, bands of medical students would try to destroy the monument, only to be confronted by equally angry crowds of trade unionists, feminists, and animal lovers, all of whom identified with the helpless, abused terrier.  Confrontations between the two sides grew so violent that a standing police guard was assigned to the statue.

More and more people joined the sides either supporting or opposing the statue.  The climax was reached on December 10, 1907, when hundreds of pro and anti-canine forces clashed in Trafalgar Square, in what has gone down in history as the Brown Dog Riots.  400 police were needed to quell the battle.

Following the melee, Battersea Council decided the statue was more trouble than it was worth.  In 1910, they had the monument destroyed.  (Public sentiment was still so strong that it was thought necessary to deploy a guard of 120 police to protect the workmen.)  Today, all that remains of one of England’s more unusual statues is a sad little mound and a nearby sign that reads--accurately enough--”No dogs.”  The lingering effects of this canine cause célèbre are illustrated by the fact that as late as 1985, a new statue of the dog was erected in Battersea Park, paid for by anti-vivisection groups.  (The British Medical Journal condemned the memorial as “libelous.”)

Dog Memorial 2.0, via Wikipedia

RIP, nameless little brown terrier.  Although all earthly trace of you is gone, you certainly have not been forgotten.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is hosted by Little Tim!

Who, to be honest, looks a Little Cranky.

Where the hell is Jimmy Hoffa?

Mozart in Vienna.

This is hardly the strangest thing you see around Los Angeles these days.

The unexpected dangers of lemon seeds.  (Note: if titles like "complete dislocation of the eyeball" are not to your taste, you might want to move on to the next link.)

The remarkable life of the "Black Sparrow."

A historical rumor about one of George III's daughters.

The aristocrat's private detective.

The life of a Tudor courtier.

The life of a pyramid destroyer.

19th century beard dyes.

Poltergeist activity at Woodstock Manor House.

A 2,000 year old burial of a child and a pet dog.

The most out-of-this-world golf shot.

The invention of the ski chairlift.

The serial killer who wasn't.

Anyone up for buying Hitler's toilet seat?

You've heard of "silver-tongued devils?"  Meet a gold-tongued mummy.

The Saratoga campaign of 1777.

The outlaw who posthumously became a sideshow attraction.

A case of a stolen corpse.

A man with a metal detector makes a heck of a find.

The suicide of a Victorian governess.

The man who saved Winchester Cathedral.

The "Idle Women" of WWII.

What we've learned about the Antikythera mechanism.

A purple cloth from the era of King Solomon.

The first American GI to land in Europe during WWII.

The Harvard scientist who is convinced we've been visited by an alien spacecraft.  (More on the same topic can be found here.)

A horrific explosion in Pennsylvania.

A brief history of parkas.

A particularly weird haunting in Connecticut.

The first legal challenge to racial segregation.

A pretty little ancient Roman arch.

A look at books bound in human skin.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the time London rioted over the statue of a dog.  In the meantime, here's some Sandy Denny.