"...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, August 30, 2021

New York's First Subway Murder

"New York Daily News," March 18, 1928, via Newspapers.com

New York subway stations can be unpleasant and even dangerous places, but thankfully they have seen few crimes as mysterious as the now long-forgotten murder of an otherwise unremarkable woman.

39-year-old Mrs. Emma Weigand was an attractive milliner, who worked hard to support her aged mother and three young children. Unfortunately, little else is known about her.  There is no evidence she had enemies, or gave any reason for anyone to wish her dead.

The trouble is, someone did indeed wish her dead.

On the afternoon of August 5, 1927, a young woman named Sarah Lipschitz entered the women's restroom at the B.M.T. subway station, deep under New York's City Hall Square.  She saw a woman's foot sticking out from under one of the half-doors of the toilet compartments.  When Lipschitz peered under the locked door, she was confronted with a pool of blood and a woman's crumpled body, dead from a bullet wound in her chest.  Understandably enough, her reaction was to let out an ear-splitting scream and run for the police.  A commutation ticket of the New York Central found in the dead woman's purse indicated the corpse was that of one Emma Weigand.   (The body was later positively identified by her mother, Freida Ahles.) The absence of a weapon found at the scene, coupled with the lack of powder marks on the victim's hands, indicated this was a case of murder, not suicide.

"New York Daily News," August 6, 1927

From the start, authorities were confronted with an almost total lack of clues.  The noise of the trains  would have drowned out the sound of the gunshot, leaving it impossible to say exactly when the murder occurred, but police believed she had been killed between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m., about four hours before the body was discovered.   (Before Lipschitz discovered the body, a number of women had gone in and out of the washroom, but they had all felt that a prone body in one of the stalls was hardly worth investigating.)  A group of girls told police that they had seen a  "tall, thin man" running up the steps to the Woolworth building at the end of the station platform around the time Weigand must have been shot.  Was this the murderer, fleeing the scene of his crime?  Or just some innocent bystander in a hurry?  As he was never identified, that question was fated to remain unanswered, but detectives were disinclined to attach much weight to the girls' story.

There was nothing about Emma's last known movements to indicate anything unusual.  Earlier that morning, she visited the hospital where her 7-year-old daughter, Dorothea, was about to have her tonsils removed.  Within half an hour of Mrs. Weigand leaving Dorothea's bedside, she was dead.

Emma's estranged husband, Frank Weigand, was naturally brought in for questioning.  He was extremely cooperative with the police.  Weigand stated that the murder was as puzzling to him as it was to everyone else.  "I do not know of any affairs she might possibly have had, and I am sure she was the sort of woman who wouldn't have an enemy in the world."  He freely admitted that two years back, his wife had left him due to his excessive drinking.  It also emerged that he had a conviction for grand larceny on his resume, and that he was failing to pay his court-ordered child support.  However, his alibi for the time of the murder--he was at work--proved to be water-tight.  Investigators had no choice but to dismiss this initially promising suspect.  "It was too bad," Weigand said of his wife's murder.  "She was a nice girl."

The detectives were having a terrible time grappling with the city's first "subway murder."  They had no motive, no suspects, no witnesses, no anything at all to suggest who had shot Emma Weigand, and why.  Robbery was ruled out--her purse, and the $35 she had placed inside it before leaving her home--were untouched.  (However, it was noted that an onyx ring Emma always wore was missing.  The ring was never traced.) It was suggested that Mrs. Weigand had stumbled upon an anarchist seeking to bomb the Woolworth Building, causing him to silence her with a bullet, but no actual evidence for this rather lurid theory ever surfaced.  Out of sheer desperation, some detectives proposed that Mrs. Weigand had committed suicide, with some passerby later stealing the gun, but proof of this scenario was conspicuously absent, as well.  In fact, friends of the victim asserted that she had been in excellent spirits, and was planning a vacation for herself, her children, and her mother.  She had a good job, and no money worries.  Police, in the words of the "New York Daily News," were "facing a blank wall."

An additional enigma was provided by where she was killed.  Why was she at the City Hall station at all?  According to her mother, Emma did all of her shopping in another district, and had no reason to be in this unfamiliar section of the metropolis.  Police announced that the answer to that question would lead to solving her murder. Unfortunately, as far as anyone could tell, that answer died with Mrs. Weigand.

With the investigation stymied, the Weigand murder soon disappeared from the newspapers.  In January 1929, there was momentary hope for a break in the case, when a woman in another subway station reported that another lady had tried to strangle her.  This "lady" turned out to be a burly paroled murderer and middleweight boxer named Stefan Wiszuk, in full flapper attire.  Unfortunately, any attempts to link him to the unsolved crime fell apart when it was proved that he was in prison at the time Mrs. Weigand was killed.  (When asked why he was wearing female clothing, Wiszuk said sheepishly that it was "only a joke.")

"New York Daily News," January 29, 1929

This was the final public word regarding the Weigand murder, and the mystery was soon completely forgotten.  Someone pulled off a seemingly clue-free, motive-free, suspect-free murder.

The perfect crime.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump features songs from the Strange Company choir!

Watch out for those Egyptian mummy curses!

A bird's-eye view of the Great Pyramid.

Giant ants, golden apples, and a killer cat.  Read on.

"We are left standing futilely in the soggy wet fields of novels where the earth is the ravaged, bloodstained scene of dreary crimes and appalling mistakes littered with frostbitten decaying vegetables and plentiful corpses."  We're talking about you, Thomas Hardy.

The tragedy that birthed a Victorian lighthouse.

Mysterious fireballs in Mexico.

Emily Dickinson's Christmas cake.

Amber as ancient time capsules.

How one family came to control a Hawaiian island.

The woman who lives in a shipping container in the middle of a New Zealand forest.  It's all fun and games until you try having pizza delivered.

The rise and fall of William Catesby.

A possible explanation of why feet keep washing up along the Pacific Northwest coast.

An overly-loyal dog uncovers a grave.

Vermeer's hidden cupid.

Tramp the Police Cat.

The geology of Hell.

The woman who was not killed by Bigfoot.

Africa's only Marian apparition.

The pole honoring Secretariat.

An attempted assassination of Queen Victoria.

A fatal "act of God."

The richest man in history.

A notorious exorcism case.

A brief history of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

There's a very strange death mystery playing out in the Sierra National Forest.

The "hand of glory," one of the more gruesome bits of folklore.

The Egyptian Sun King.

A haunted burial mound.

The history of a misquote.

The biggest rock stars of the 19th century.

Plastic surgery is turning people into aliens.

A "curious herbal."

Ancient Rome's most notorious poisoner.

If you have a time machine and are planning to travel to 1907, here's how to pack.

A remarkable recovery from a shotgun injury.

The market value of a broken heart.

A 1911 aviation show.

Death in the Seven Dials.

Yet another murder inspired by jealousy.

How Bruce Springsteen went from rock god to pompous bore.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a mysterious subway murder.  In the meantime, RIP, Charlie Watts, the best-dressed drummer in rock and roll.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Since Hoodoo Cats are the official Strange Company mascots, I bring you this spooky tale from “The Head-Light,” April 9, 1886:

"What am I going to tell you," said Capt. Rockwell of the schooner Fame, "occurred about ten years ago on Lake Michigan. I was then in command of the schooner Gordon, and in the grain trade. One afternoon, just before we were ready to tow out of Chicago, a stranger came aboard with a big black cat in a rude cage and offered her for sale. I was born with a constitutional hatred of cats. On board of a grainer there are plenty of rats and mice, but I'd rather have the vermin running over me in my sleep than to keep a cat aboard, as many vessels do. Outside of my hatred for cats I didn't like the looks of the man. He was a rough-looking fellow, with a cock eye and two or three front teeth hanging out to windward, and if I'd have wanted someone to do a bit of dirty work I'd have picked this chap from among a thousand. I sent him off in a hurry, as you may guess, but as he reached the wharf he turned the cat loose and cried out: 

‘My curses on the ship and crew forever!' 

"The feline might have run into the elevator, but she didn't. She just scrambled right aboard of us, and in a whisk was out of sight down the main hatch. Some of the men looked a bit serious and some treated the matter as a joke, and just before night we were towed out and had a fair wind to lay our course. The hatches were all battened down, of course, and nobody seemed to have given a thought to the cat while getting out of the harbor. It was as fine a June night as you ever saw, with a moon so bright that you could see a vessel a mile away, and a breeze to send us along at about five miles an hour. 

"Well, we had made everything ship shape, and had supper, when the black cat was suddenly seen on the end of the jibboom. She was looking inboard at us, her hair on end and her eyes blazing. I brought up my revolver to have a shot at her, but just as I was about to pull trigger, the cat yeowled out in a dismal manner, and down came the peak of the mainsail, the halyards showing as if they had been cut clean across with a sharp knife. They were new, stout ropes, and nobody could say they had been broken by any sudden strain. We had to reeve new ones, and when this job was finished I went forward to put a bullet through that cat's head. She set up a dismal yeowling, and as I pulled the trigger down came the whole foresail, both throat and peak halyards having parted. I hoped I had killed the black witch, but when the smoke lifted we saw her in the same place, safe and sound. Every man aboard agreed that the halyards had been cut with a knife, and as the men passed them from hand to hand they began to mutter against me for trying to bring about a calamity by seeking the cat's life. 

"By the time we had the foresail up again the cat had disappeared, going no one knew whither, and the weather had suddenly changed until the moon was overcast and the breeze was a third stronger. I never saw that craft steer as she did that night. She'd yaw and swing, and go wild, in spite of all the best sailor aboard could do. By the time we were off Waukegan there was a smart sea on and a nasty look all around. The wind gradually hauled into the northeast, and we had to go in stays and make long boards dead to the east, and then make our gain on the other leg as we ran to the northwest. Every time we went in stays the schooner acted like a balky colt, just barely keeping us out of irons, and the ugly cross sea banged her about until everything groaned. We were about to go in stays for our board to the northwest, and the men were aloft to care for the topsails, when the Gordon slipped into a hollow and rolled port and starboard like a stuck whale trying to get rid of a harpoon. There was a loud squall from the cat, which creature, it appears, was in the mainmast crosstrees, a terrible scream from the sailor, and as the Gordon rolled to starboard he was flung clear of her side by thirty feet and went down like a stone. 

"By this time the crew were so worked up that nobody would turn in, and every man seemed to be momentarily expecting some new disaster. It came before midnight. The wind hauled dead to the north and grew stronger, and when we came about from a run to the northwest the Gordon missed her slays, was taken flat aback, and several calamities followed. Three or four seas boarded us and swept the decks, the foreboom jibed and crushed a sailor's skull, and jib and outer jib whipped loose, and went sailing away with the wind.  We came within an ace of being dismasted, for the men cowered down in abject terror, and the mate and myself had the whole work on our hands. We finally got her head off and ratched away for the Michigan shore, but before daylight we sprang a leak, and we made Grand Haven only by the skin of our teeth, with our cargo damaged more than $3,000. From an hour past midnight to broad daylight that infernal cat kept up a steady walk between the two masts on the triantic stay, and now and then she would utter a yell which brought all our hair on end.

"Taken altogether we suffered a loss of over $4,000 and lost a life, and it was all on account of that cockeyed man and his black cat. No sooner had we got into port than everybody except the mate ran away, and the cat leaped to the dock with a farewell yeowl and took refuge in a pile of lumber. The story of our mishaps got noised around, and the Gordon had to be laid up for the rest of the season for want of men to work her."

You see what happens when you’re not nice to kitty?

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Musical Ghost and the Manchester Policemen


"When a ghost is not engaged in his employment 

Or maturing his spectral little plans

His capacity for innocent enjoyment

Is just as great as any corporeal man's.

Our feelings we with difficulty smother

When constabulary duty's to be done

Ah, take one consideration with another

A policeman's lot is oft a spooky one."

~With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan

Police officers regularly have to deal with the world not just at its worst, but at its weirdest.  However, I doubt many of them have been called upon to fingerprint a ghost.

Allow me to explain.

Our little tale opens in the spring of 1959, at a typical middle-class home in South Manchester, England, which housed a widow and her two teenage children.  Well, it was a typical middle-class home, until the family received an unexpected house guest.  During the nights, the widow's son, who was learning to play the violin, would find the ghost of an old man (whom the family dubbed "Nicholas") coming into his bedroom and playing on the violin.  (Nicholas was partial to Ravel's "Bolero," which must have added a special horror to the haunting.)  On a regular basis, "Bolero" would often be heard coming from the room, even when the violin was locked in its case.

After several months of this, the family had had more than enough, and they contacted the Manchester Psychical Research Society.  If these paranormal experts could not get rid of Nicholas, perhaps they could at least persuade him to vary his repertoire.

The Society's chief investigation officer, David Cohen, was delighted to hear of this bizarre haunting, and immediately organized a series of seances to get in touch with the musical spook.  These were so successful that by early 1961, a pair of ghostly hands--presumably those of Nicholas--began to materialize in front of the sitters.  Cohen wished to compare the prints of "Nicholas" with those of the corporeal members of the household, to make sure no trickery was involved.  Accordingly, he contacted a policeman named Tony Fletcher, of the Manchester Police's Fingerprint Bureau.  Would Fletcher be willing to attend one of their seances and take prints of these spirit hands?  

Alas, Fletcher did not believe in ghosts, and felt participating in such a scheme would accomplish nothing except making himself look like an idiot.  He declined the offer.  Fortunately, a colleague of his, Rowland Mason, had a more open-minded attitude.  Mason attended two of Cohen's seances, which were enough to convince him that something genuinely weird was going on.  As he and Cohen would sit around a table with the widow and her children, the table would slowly rise high into the air, and then shake violently as loud knocks reverberated through the room.  A luminous tambourine would whirl through the air too swiftly for human hands to be responsible for the motion.  During the second seance, the hands of "Nicholas" appeared, touching Mason on the arms and shoulders.

At the third seance, Mason resolved to try fingerprinting the ghost.  Before the sitting, he secretly dusted the tambourine with mercury powder, leaving the duster lying on the sideboard.  At the start of the seance, somebody--or something--threw this duster in his face.  There were the usual levitations and rappings, and the tambourine flew through the air.  At the end of the seance, Mason immediately checked the tambourine for prints.  He was baffled not to find any.  It was completely clean.  

During a subsequent seance, "Nicholas" was asked if he would consent to be fingerprinted.  The ghost responded with a series of raps on the table which were interpreted as a "yes."  Mason put a fingerprinting pad and chemically treated paper on the table and when the ghostly hands appeared, he was able to grab one (it was described as feeling "dry and scaly") and place it on the pad and paper.

Mason was puzzled by the results.  Instead of human fingerprints, "Nicholas" had left a series of small parallel scratches.  Tony Fletcher described the marks as resembling those made by a bird's claw, or fingernails scratching the paper.

Mason, who was becoming increasingly intrigued by the mystery, resolved to try to photograph the ghost.  He persuaded a police photographer named John Cheetham to join in on this paranormal fun.  Before one of the seances, Cheetham set up an infra-red camera on a tripod, aiming it at an empty armchair in a corner.  During the sitting, "Nicholas" was invited to take a seat, and Cheetham took a photo using a cable-release.

Unfortunately, the resulting photograph was just as inconclusive as the fingerprinting.  Most people who studied the photo saw nothing more than an empty chair.  However, Tony Fletcher and several others believed they saw the outline of a very old, bearded man on the chair's cushion.  

By this point, the media caught wind of the interesting fact that members of the Greater Manchester Police were spending their off-hours investigating a musical ghost.  The resulting newspaper publicity was not pleasing to the top brass.  The Chief Superintendent ordered Mason and Cheetham to file official reports on their activities, and then close the books on this supernatural moonlighting.  David Cohen also moved on to other cases, leaving the mystery of "Nicholas" unresolved.  Tony Fletcher, who wrote about the strange experience in his autobiography "Memories of Murder," commented, "If you were now to ask me if I believe in ghosts, I would reply that I do not readily disbelieve in the supernatural and that there are probably two reports still on file in police archives which bear witness to the events I have just related."

Friday, August 20, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

It's time to celebrate the arrival of this week's Link Dump!

Why the hell did people conceal shoes in walls?

Watch out for those haunted pubs!

Murder in a church belfry.

Pro tip: if you want to arrest a female aviator, don't let her be the one with the plane.

A costumed library cat.

An ancient pagan idol has been found in an Irish bog.

An ancient gold earring has been found in Jerusalem.

An ancient treasure trove has been found in Russia.

An ancient monastery has been found in England.

Evidence of ancient butter worshipers has been found in Wales.

A white-haired mummy has been found in Pompeii.

Wally the Walrus tours Ireland.

A horrific bridge tragedy inspired a horrific poem.

Mila the Explorer Cat.

The Palpa geoglyphs.

Some bad--really, really bad--mortuary poetry.

The sleeping sickness epidemic of 1916.

Examining an 18th century armchair.

A watch from the Titanic.

A mysterious Neolithic stone.

The secrets of ancient magnetism.  (More on the topic can be found here.)

In which we learn that JMW Turner had a horse named "Crop Ear."

British archaeologists and the Turkish government are battling over seeds.

Honoring the UK's plethora of rude place names.

The real-life Monopoly Man.

The year without a summer.

A musical menagerie.

An Englishwoman's American Revolution-era letters.

The pubs of 1920s London.

A mysterious cave in Greece.

A gruesome cave in Saudi Arabia.

The fire at the Smithsonian Institute.

A huge Great Depression scrapbook.

Those ever-popular curse tablets.

How Victorian British MPs spent their holidays.

American food rationing during WWII.

Stonehenge is nearly indestructible.

A brief history of the pickup truck.

A ghost scare in Coventry.

An account of the Athenian Plague.

2,000 year old bouquets.

A brief history of pay toilets.

And right on schedule, Cthulhu has arrived.

The disappearance of a telepathy researcher.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll meet a musical ghost.  In the meantime, here's some French-Canadian folk.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

There have been a few cases where tenants, displeased to find they were sharing lodgings with a ghost, wound up settling the matter in a courtroom.  This example was recorded by “The Washingtonian,” September 27, 1813:

The cause was tried in the Justice's Court yesterday, before a jury. 

The plaintiff claimed a quarter's rent of a house in Cherry street, due the 1st instant, amounting to forty two dollars, or thereabouts. 

The defence was that the house was haunted by ghosts, and, therefore, untenantable by man. 

The defendant proved that he hired and took possession of the house on the 1st of May, not knowing that it had the reputation of being inhabited by spiritual beings; that soon after a lighted candle, placed on a mantelpiece, went out without any assignable cause--that on being again lighted, it went out in a similar way--that a third attempt terminated in the same manner, with this addition, that on the extinguishment of the candle, the witness, who was the person holding it, was violently seized by the arm (by an invisible hand) and turned completely round!!! That the family was alarmed by such unaccountable events, and also, by finding, in closets about the house, and elsewhere, “dead men's bones,” and understanding that the house had the reputation of being haunted before the family went in, and while unoccupied. The defendant had deserted the house, because his family, not fond of having co-tenants of such a description, could not live in it with peace and without fear. 

It appears that the plaintiff before he hired the house to defendant knew the reputation of his house, but did not communicate it to the tenant. Some witnesses deposed, that while the house was unoccupied, they had several times observed “a blue flame" on the same mantelpiece, which, though it continued burning, communicated no light to the windows--that this attracted the attention of people passing, gathered numbers of spectators about the house and fixed upon it the reputation of a haunted house. 

The jury retired under the charge of the court, and returned with a verdict of ten dollars, as a compensation to plaintiff for the time the defendant had occupied his house, before he was routed by the ghosts!!!

It would be interesting to know if the owner of the house ever managed to rent it again.

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Case of the Crispy Countess

"Pittsburgh Post-Gazette," July 31, 1941, via Newspapers.com

There have been many disastrous marriages in recorded history, and God knows it sometimes seems like I’ve blogged about each and every one of them.  Fortunately, not too many of them wind up with one of the Dearly Beloveds suddenly and mysteriously turning into a pile of smoking ashes.

This week, let us contemplate the time when a marriage ended in precisely that fashion.

Count Goerlitz was a man of high position in the German court, acting as Chamberlain to the Grand-Duke of Hesse and Privy Councilor.  However, despite his fine title, his family had very little money.  The obvious solution was to find a rich woman longing to become a Countess.  Accordingly, in 1820 he married the heiress of a very well-to-do merchant named Plitt.  Such unions of poor nobleman and wealthy commoner are generally successful--after all, both sides are getting what they wanted out of the marriage--but, sadly, the Count and Countess were an exception to this rule.  The Countess was not shy about reminding her husband that she was, so to speak, the breadwinner in the household.  She had the disconcerting habit of chatting about “beggar nobility” needing rich wives in order to have a lifestyle worthy of their titles.  She held the pursestrings, and was very reluctant to open them.  The Count--apparently a hot-tempered and intensely proud man--handled such mockery in exactly the way you’d expect.  Before long, the couple--who remained childless--became hopelessly estranged.  While they technically shared a large, palatial home in Darmstadt, they lived apart; the Countess occupied the first floor, with the Count residing in the ground floor.  While the couple was able to present a polite front in public, whenever they happened to be alone together, their servants inevitably heard the sounds of bitter quarreling.  The pair had only four servants: the Count’s valet, the Countess’ manservant, a coachman, and a cook.

On June 13, 1847, the Count dined with the Grand-Duke.  He returned home at about 6:30.  He asked his wife’s servant, John Stauff, if the Countess was at home.  He explained that he had brought her some macaroons and bonbons from the Grand-Duke’s table.  Stauff having given an affirmative response, the Count went upstairs to his wife’s quarters, to find that the door leading to her anteroom was locked.  Assuming his spouse was asleep or simply desiring her privacy, he went to his own bedroom.  About an hour later, he went for a walk.  When he returned shortly before nine, he put on his dressing gown and asked to have supper brought up to him.  As the sweets were still sitting in his pocket, he sent Stauff to ask the Countess to join him in the meal.

A few moments later, the servant told him that the Countess must have gone out.  “Nonsense!” the Count replied.  “Of course she is at home.  She may, however, be asleep.  I will go myself and find her.”

The glass door to the Countess’ anteroom was still locked.  The Count looked in, but saw no sign of his wife.  He knocked on the door.  No answer.  He knocked on her bedroom door.  No answer.  The Count got the key to her dressing-room.  When he opened it, he found the room was empty.  He was unable to explore her other rooms, as he did not have their keys.  He went upstairs to the laundry.  It was as deserted as the rest of the house.  Thinking she may have dined with friends, he sent inquiries to her closest companions.  None of them had seen her.

It dawned on the Count that something odd might be going on.  He sent Stauff to fetch a locksmith.  The servant soon returned alone, explaining that the locksmith was ill.  The exasperated Count then ordered the coachman to bring back the locksmith’s apprentice, a youth named Seitz, to open the locked doors.

When this task was done, the apprentice did not see the Countess, but he noticed a strange burning smell.  As he was unable to open her ante-room, he went home to get another key.  When the Count and his valet looked through the glass door to the ante-room, they noticed smoke in the room.  When the valet smashed the plate glass, clouds of smoke drifted towards them.

The Count reacted to this alarming development with a curious nonchalance.  He instructed Stauff to find a chimney-sweep, and his valet to summon the Count’s physician, a Dr. Stegmeyer.  Then he just lounged around, idly pondering the mysteries of Life, or perhaps brooding about his now-stale bonbons.  

When Seitz returned, he found that none of his keys could open the door.  Finally--without any sort of urging from the Count--the young man took the direct approach and beat the door down with a hammer.  A black, dreadful-smelling smoke enveloped them.  The room itself was completely dark.  When the smoke finally dissipated enough for them to enter, it was found that her parlor door was also locked.  When that too was forced open, they saw that the Countess’ writing desk was on fire.  The heat inside the room was too intense for anyone to enter.  Pails of water were thrown into the room, finally quenching the flames.  The smoke gradually cleared enough for them to observe the quite dead body of the Countess, lying on the floor beside her burning desk.  She made a very gruesome sight.  The upper part of her body was completely charred, while the lower was not burned at all.  The floor beneath the desk was burned, but the floor under the incinerated body was not.   She wore only one slipper; the other one was found in her bedroom.

It was all, to say the least, weird.  There had been fires in only three distinct places:  on the writing desk and the floor immediately beneath it, and on the sofa and corner seat in the Countess’ bedroom.  The fact that she lost her slipper in the bedroom indicated she had been in both rooms.  She had also apparently rung for help so violently that she had torn down the bell-rope.  Another sinister feature was the locked doors.  The keys were not found anywhere in her rooms, indicating she had not locked herself in.  So, who did lock those doors, and why?

The first theory was that while writing at her desk, the Countess, in some mysterious fashion, set herself on fire.  Then, she ran to her bedroom to ring for help, broke the bell-rope, ran back towards the desk, fell, and died.  Three doctors did a cursory examination of the corpse, and concluded, “We dunno.”  Inexplicably, no autopsy was done.  The family doctor put “accidental” on the Countess’ death certificate, the half-barbecued body was buried two days later, and that, it seemed, would be that.  It was clear that the Count’s close friendship with the royal family ensured that those in high places wished everyone to forget the whole unpleasant business as soon as possible.

Unfortunately for the Count, when the German press learned of his wife’s grisly and mysterious death, they managed to turn it into a scandal which outraged the entire country.  Newspapers made no bones about stating that the Count, in some peculiar but certainly effective fashion, had killed his wife, and his powerful friends were letting him get away with it.  His household servants were also beginning to ask themselves uncomfortable questions.  His unaccountable lack of urgency to get into the locked and burning rooms had been noted.  His marital unhappiness was no secret.  And, of course, there was the fact that he inherited the Countess’ considerable fortune.  

The Count began to notice that his friends were beginning to behave in a decidedly chilly manner towards him.  People were avoiding him, and it was made clear to him that his presence at social gatherings was not welcome.  He decided he had to do something to restore his reputation.  Four months after his wife’s death, the Count petitioned the Grand-Ducal Criminal Court of Darmstadt to reopen the investigation into the mysterious fatality, so he would have the chance to clear himself of suspicion.  After a bit of foot-dragging, the Court agreed.

On November 2, 1847--the day before the Count’s servants were to be interviewed by investigators--his cook, Margaret Eyrich, saw something very strange.  While she was preparing the Count’s dinner, John Stauff came into the kitchen.  He said that their master wanted a fire lit in one of the upper rooms.  She refused, pointing out that she was busy at the stove.  He noted that a dish wasn’t quite clean, and asked her to rewash it.  She agreed, asking him to stir the sauce she was cooking so it wouldn’t burn.  While engaged at the sink, Eyrich happened to turn her head.  She was surprised to see Stauff pouring the contents of a little phial into the sauce.  When she asked what he was doing, he denied having done anything.  After Stauff left, Eyrich saw that the sauce was discolored, and tasted bad.  She told the other servants about this, and they all agreed this was something that needed to be looked into.  They brought the sauce to the Count’s doctor for analysis.  He found that verdigris had been mixed into it, in quantities large enough to cause death to anyone unfortunate enough to eat it.  John Stauff was arrested the following day.  At that time, he was only charged with the attempted poisoning of the Count.  The theory was that Stauff wanted everyone to think that the Count had poisoned himself out of remorse at having murdered his wife.

For whatever reason, it was not until August 1848 that the body of the Countess was finally exhumed and autopsied.  The examination showed that her skull had been fractured, and she had been strangled.  (However, it is doubtful how accurate a post-mortem can be on a long-decomposed, half-burned body.)  It was concluded that someone had entered her room, bashed her on the head, and when that failed to kill her, resorted to strangulation.  Then, it was argued, the killer set the body on fire, (probably by placing it inside a small stove in the room,) and before it was completely consumed, placed it by the desk.  Finally, the murderer set the desk itself on fire, in order to give the impression that his victim had accidentally set fire to herself while seated at the desk.    A motive for this heinous deed was found when it was learned that a large amount of her jewelry was missing.  This suggested that her husband was not the guilty party.  A timeline of the household’s comings and goings on the fatal day showed that (presuming everyone's memories were correct) the last time the Countess had been seen alive was at 3 p.m.  Between 3:30 and 5 p.m., the only people in the mansion were the lady of the house and John Stauff.  Stauff was also alone in the house with the living-or-dead Countess between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.  (A passerby had noticed thick black smoke coming out of her chimney at around 8:00 p.m.)  All these revelations led to Stauff also being charged with the murder of the Countess.

When Stauff was examined, his alibi was weak.  He said that he had spent most of the afternoon of June 13, 1847, in his room.  He claimed that the last time he saw the Countess alive was at 5 p.m., when she gave him some orders for the butcher and baker.  At 8 o’clock, he went to a restaurant, where he stayed until 9:30.  None of this, of course, could be corroborated.

In October 1847, there was more bad news for Stauff.  His father, Henry Stauff, was arrested for trying to sell a silversmith a lump of molten gold, without having any plausible explanation of how he had obtained it.  The silversmith, finding something fishy about the man, summoned police.  After his arrest, it was found that Henry had other items of jewelry in his possession.  When the Count was shown the jewels, he identified them as belonging to his wife.

John Stauff claimed that in June 1847, Count Goerlitz had given him the jewelry.  When Stauff remonstrated that he had no idea what to do with such valuables, he was told to send them to his father.  He said he believed the Count had done this because he knew that Stauff suspected him of the murder, and the Count wanted to make him, Stauff, look like the guilty party.

On March 4, 1850, John Stauff finally stood trial for murder, robbery, arson, and attempted murder.  (It is not at all clear why it took so long to get to this point.)  The defense was a simple and novel one: namely, that the Countess had been a victim of Spontaneous Human Combustion.   Unfortunately for the defendant (not to mention legal history,) this argument failed to convince the jury.  Stauff was found guilty on every count.

In June of 1850, Stauff was sent to prison to serve a life sentence.  A month later, he wrote to the Grand-Duke asserting his innocence, and asking for a pardon.  This request was rejected.  Stauff wrote again, this time saying he wished to make a full confession, to show how much he repented his crime.  He claimed that the murder was completely unpremeditated: he happened to find himself alone in the room where the Countess kept her jewels, and “I was unable to resist the temptation to enrich myself by these precious articles.”  The Countess caught him in the act, and in his effort to stop her from calling for help, he accidentally strangled her.  It was a detailed account, which, however, did not completely match the known evidence.  For example, there are those who believe that his description of how he burned the Countess would not account for the weirdly charred condition of the corpse.

However questionable Stauff’s confession may have been, it succeeded in winning the Grand-Duke’s sympathy vote.  In 1872, Stauff was given a free pardon, on the condition that he leave the country and settle in America.

Although the circumstantial evidence against Stauff seems strong, some who have studied this case still have their doubts.  Considering the Count’s array of motives and peculiar behavior on the fatal night, (not to mention his curious initial eagerness to have his wife's strange death be quickly forgotten,) it has been speculated that he either did the deed himself or hired someone (Stauff?) to murder his wife.  And of course, those of a Fortean bent wonder if maybe, just maybe, the defense argument put forward at Stauff’s trial was true after all...

Friday, August 13, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the Strange Company Cycling Club!

Some good news for an English osprey colony.

Benedictine monks have returned to Solignac Abbey after a 230-year absence.

Evidence of the most powerful asteroid strike witnessed by humans.

Dogfighting in WWII.

A well-traveled woolly mammoth.

The "Glorious Twelfth."

People are still looking for D.B. Cooper.

The tragedy of the British Pet Massacre.

The King, the Queen, the mistress, and the dead ex-Emperor.  

Some men would rather die than deal with their mother-in-law.

Archaeologists believe they've found the Trojan Horse.  Bits of it, anyway.

A unique bronze object from Roman Britain.

America's first female industrialist.

The double life of William Brodie.

The early female scientists who mapped space.

The Great Nottingham Cheese Riot.

Abraham Lincoln, true crime author.

Mrs. Wharton, the Baltimore Borgia.

An unsolved double murder.

Ghosts run up a heck of an electric bill.

A meeting with Eugene Sue.

A particularly strange alien abduction case.

Gustave Dore illustrates London's East End.

The best preserved Ice Age animals ever found.

I love it when Science morphs into Captain Obvious.

The return of a scary medieval drink.

The study of geomythology.

Doesn't everyone sleep standing on their head?

Rasputin goes Hollywood, and it doesn't end very well.

Historians and their cats.

Long Island Sound's Great Sea Lion Escape.

Alien abduction and an insurance scam.

A Pompeii fast food joint is back in business.

The life of a scholar/sculler.

An island suddenly appears.  And then disappears.

The ancient flood which may have set off an ice age.

How the railway changed the British seaside.

How a genius was fooled by an archaeological hoax.

The grave of a Bronze Age "village elder."

A tribute to the picture frame.

How to move an ancient Egyptian boat.

A phantom who wears a gas mask.

A notorious 20th century exorcism.

In pursuit of a treasure ship.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the puzzling death of a Countess.  In the meantime, here's a bit of Telemann.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

I’m someone who prefers their cats live, not mummified.  However, when I come across a story on the topic which includes the phrase, “right of inheritance,” I take notice.  From the “Lansing State Journal,” September 24, 1926:

HARRODSBURG, Ky., Sept. 24. The question of ownership of a mummified cat and kitten found in the wall of a century-old house being torn down here is causing wide interest and some agitation. There are three people who claim the relics. 

Berry Lawson, tearing away the residence of Dr. J.T. Price, found the mummified felines walled into the building. It was evident the mother cat and kitten had been caught in the space inside the wall, unknown to work men, who had built around them. This was early in the last century. 

Lawson took the curious remains and so many persons clamored to see them that it was reported a small admission fee was charged. 

The question of ownership arose when Lawson claimed the mummies by right of discovery and proprietorship of the house. Dr. Price said the cats belonged to him as he sold the house to Lawson, but not the contents of the building. 

The third claim has attracted the most attention of all. Beriah Magoffin of McAlester, Okla., who has been spending the summer here, says the cats' remains belong to him by right of inheritance. 

The old house was built by his grandfather, Beriah Magoffin, the first, father of Beriah Magoffin, the second, who was governor of Kentucky during the Civil War and held Kentucky as neutral ground in that struggle.

Mr. Magoffin says the first Beriah had a pet cat, whose mysterious disappearance became a family legend, handed down through the generations. The mummy cat, he believes, is the lost feline of his grandfather, and he wants to link the past and present to that extent anyway.

Unfortunately--or, now that I think of it, perhaps fortunately--I was unable to learn who finally won possession of the earthly remains of these tragic, if highly-prized, cats.  Ave atque vale.

[H/t Chris Woodyard]

Monday, August 9, 2021

Egyptian God Theater Critics Are the Worst Theater Critics

Joseph Lindon Smith, via the Smithsonian Institution

While virtually everyone has heard of the alleged “Curse of Tutankhamen's Tomb,” there are a number of “curse” stories related to ancient Egypt that are much more obscure.  The old Egyptians lived in a world where what we would call “magic” was a part of everyday life, and according to some people, they didn’t hesitate to use it...even many centuries after their death.  One such account was recorded by an artist named Joseph Lindon Smith.  It was published in the posthumous collection of his writings, “Tombs, Temples, and Ancient Art.”  Smith started his career as a portrait painter, but after visiting Egypt in 1898, he became fascinated by the country’s antiquities.  His exquisite paintings of Egypt’s archaeological past caught the eye of Egyptologists, who hired him to make copies of the fragile wall paintings in newly-excavated tombs.  

In 1909, Smith was working on recent excavations in the Valley of the Kings.  With him were his wife Corinna and two of their closest friends, archaeologist Arthur Weigel and his wife Hortense.  One day while exploring the area, Joseph and Arthur came across a natural amphitheater in the Valley of the Queens.  Smith loved amateur theatricals--he even had a small theater behind his home in America--so this discovery gave him an idea: he and his wife and friends would put on a play.

And not just any old play, either.  Smith was surely one of the most ambitious playwrights in history.  He and Arthur Weigel wrote a play aimed at interceding with the Egyptian gods to remove a curse which had been put on the heretical pharaoh Akhenaten, which had condemned him to be a restless, wandering spirit for all of time.  They hoped that the performance would lift the curse and enable the pharaoh to finally find eternal rest.

The quartet scheduled their play for January 26, the presumed anniversary of Akhenaten’s death.  They held a dress rehearsal on the 23rd.  The play opened with the god Horus (Smith) offering to grant the spirit of Akhenaten (as portrayed by Hortense) a wish.  The pharaoh asked to see his mother, Queen Ty, who was played by Corinna.  As Hortense raised her arms in supplication, a peal of thunder and a flash of lightning struck near them.  Akhenaten asked his mother to bring him comfort by reciting one of his hymns to the sun god.  The instant Corinna began the hymn, a wind came up which was so violent, she was unable to be heard.  Corinna, feeling it would not be queen-like to retreat, tried to finish her poem, but when the performers began being pelted with sand, rain, and hailstones the size of tennis balls, most of them were forced to flee to the shelter of a nearby tomb.  Corinna, however, insisted on standing dramatically on her rock, reciting the long hymn to the very end.  When her husband finally persuaded her to leave the stage, she was soaking wet, but elated that she had managed to defy both the elements and the ancient priests of Amun.

Soon afterwards, the quartet got a lesson in what happens when you defy Egyptian deities. Corinna began feeling pain in her eyes, and Hortense had intense stomach cramps.  That night, both women had the same dream: they were in the temple of Amun, the Egyptian king of the gods.  The statue of the god suddenly came to life and hit them with his flail; Corinna was struck over her eyes, Hortense on her stomach.  By the following morning, Corinna’s eyes were so painful that she was brought to a eye specialist in Cairo.  The doctor found that she had one of the worst cases of trachoma (an eye infection which often causes blindness) that he had ever seen.  The following day, Hortense was also hospitalized.  She had to undergo a stomach operation which nearly killed her.  Most of those who had attended the rehearsal also fell ill in various ways.  Fortunately, everyone eventually recovered completely.

Our thespians were left in that state known as “sadder but wiser.”  Their performance was permanently cancelled.  Akhenaten would just have to resolve his afterlife issues on his own.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Each Friday, the staff at Strange Company HQ jump for joy when the Link Dump is finally ready to post!

Photo: Edouard Boubat

What the hell is the Disc of Sabu?

A young man's weird disappearance.

What the well-dressed Victorian ghost was wearing.

The Diamonds of Golconda.

The woman who survived being frozen like a Popsicle.

Following in the footsteps of the Pendle Witches.

Nessie sees a fiery meteor.

The ghosts of Flight 401.

The tragic event which gave Mount Willey its name.

A tourist in 19th century Whitechapel.

The world's most durable plant.  And, if the truth be known, also one of the world's ugliest.

Contemporary news reports about the building of the Berlin Wall.

Milwaukee, paradise of old maids.

A modern Spring-heeled Jack.

Applied geometry goes back a long way.

Examples of forest folklore.

Unsolved disappearances and the "Button Man."

The Bradford Ghost Terror.

The Bride of Bigfoot.

Body-snatching and Dunblane Cathedral.

A look at very ancient brains.

India's touring tent cinemas.

My two cents: I trust the love of a cat more than I do the love of a lot of humans.

How tuberculosis created the Adirondack chair.

A tale of jealousy and murder.

There are two weird red rocks in the asteroid belt.

A brief history of the British seaside holiday.

How the poor ate in 19th century Paris.  (Spoiler: not very well.)

British intellectuals meet Russian bears.

Why Brazil set off a riot at the 1932 Olympics.

A cat's practical joke on the New York police.

Modern scientists are practicing alchemy.

A baboon war hero.

Bobbie the Wonder Dog.

The Atlantis of the North Sea.

Neanderthal cave art.

The Battle of Cherbourg.

The era of lady tricyclists.

A dead man wins a cycling race.  Sort of.

A teenager's unsolved murder.

Some forgotten 19th century novels.

An English schoolboy's WWII-era diary.

The Mellified Man.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at the sort of thing that happens when you write a play that Egyptian gods don't like.  In the meantime, here's Bob Dylan singing weirdly even for Bob Dylan.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

About all I ask from the Blog Gods is that every so often, they send me stories about towns haunted by sinister witch cats.  The “Buffalo Enquirer,” January 22, 1897:

Toledo, O., Jan. 22. About twenty-one miles out of Toledo in a little town known as Richfield Center, a remarkable condition of affairs exists, and the German country residents are panic stricken. Nearly twenty families are down with a disease which baffles them completely. They can find no explanation for it, and tell extraordinary tales of the singular manifestations of some evil influence among them. They believe they are bewitched, and nothing can move them from this opinion. 

The afflicted ones insist that they can neither eat nor sleep, and that many of their number are slowly dying from witchcraft. A. F. Miller, a farmer, came in from there last night after a daughter who was in the city and whom he wanted to go home and assist in nursing her mother who is down with the disease. In his family there are also four sons stricken, and one of them is near death. He says, and in this Henry Nieman, another farmer, confirms his story, that at night their great trouble occurs. Black cats, in some mysterious manner, enter the bedrooms, no matter how securely the doors may be fastened, and hiss, snarl and caterwaul about the room, leap up on the bed and follow the inmates about the room when they arise. If the bedrooms are vacated the animals disappear as miraculously as they appear. 

The epidemic, affliction or plague started three or four weeks ago, although a disease somewhat similar existed in the community last autumn. The youngest son of one of the families who is afflicted cannot sleep in a bedroom, but lies down in the kitchen beside the stove. He will not go into a room where there are any beds. It is claimed this is true with the children in at least a dozen other families. 

One woman, who has three children, says that they have all been sleeping in one room recently, and that as many as four of the black cats have entered the room at a time and their actions are such as to frighten the strongest hearted. A farmer, Andrew Wolson Miller, it is related, put up a stove in his barn and took his family there to sleep, but they experienced the same illusions as in the house. The livestock also became frantically alarmed. 

Miller says the farm horses, which have been in good condition until recently, will suddenly snort and rear around their enclosure, wild with fright. Sometimes the animals will do this for several hours at a time, until completely exhausted. Several have died as a result of fright and exhaustion. The milk of the cows in these families, it is alleged, is red, and this is cited as one of the surest evidences of witches.

Another remarkable part of the story, as told, is that the feathers in their pillows and beds have been found to be formed in perfectly made wreaths, hard and compact. Mrs. Miller says that she has destroyed at least ten pounds of feathers in a hope of removing the spell, and that the other women in the neighborhood have burned whole feather beds for the same reason. One man says that wooden chips in a box near a bedroom door curled into wreaths.

Doctors seem unable to give any relief or diagnose the condition of affairs. They are of the opinion that the trouble arises from some sanitary arrangement from which a disease which plays havoc with the imagination grows and which is slowly spreading in the neighborhood.

As late as May of that year, newspapers continued to report weird, mysterious illnesses and deaths in Richfield Center, for which no cause could be found other than our goblin cats.  Then, as generally happens, the story seems to have quietly faded away with no known resolution.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Janet Wishart's Witchy Ways

"A Visit to a Witch," Edward Frederick Brewtnall

Back when there was a common belief in witchcraft, a surprising number of people openly boasted to their neighbors about their alleged Satanic powers.  Whether it was from a desire to feel superior to their peers, a mischievous delight in inspiring fear, or sheer bloody-mindedness, some “witches” proudly identified as such.  Such boasting, of course, brought a great many of them to the gallows.

Deliberately allowing those around you to think you have sinister supernatural powers was a particularly dangerous pastime during certain eras.  A fine example is the case of one Janet Wishart, who was among the most prominent figures in what has gone down in history as the Great Scottish Witch Hunt.  If her trial testimony is to be believed, Wishart was a veritable Energizer Bunny of Evil.

For some 25 years, the residents of Aberdeen, Scotland were convinced that Wishart was a witch--a belief she did absolutely nothing to contradict.  Everyone in town lived in supernatural terror of her.  Her diabolical ways were first recorded in 1573, when two boys, John Leslie and John Johnson, caught her stealing from a neighbor.  When the boys were found drowned a short time later, townsfolk were convinced that Wishart had bewitched them into committing suicide.  In 1581, she cast a spell upon the wife of one Malcolm Carr, causing the woman to be ill with fever for six months.

Four years after that, Wishart was involved in a more complicated affair.  After a brewer named Katherine Rattray managed to get on Janet’s bad side (reportedly not a difficult thing to do,) Wishart cursed Rattray’s stock of ale, leaving it all spoiled.  When Rattray’s daughter, Katherine Ewin, begged Wishart to restore the ale, the witch relented.  She told Ewin to go to the brewery before dawn, taking care beforehand not to cross herself, speak, wash her hands, pass over water or breastfeed her baby.  Then Ewin was to say, “I to God, and thou to the Devil” three times and throw a charm of red, green, and blue threads into the fire.

This brought the ale back to normal, but when Ewin was indiscreet enough to teach the ritual to others, Wishart, irked at having her trade secrets revealed, placed a fatal curse on Ewin’s baby.  Then Ewin’s store of ale disappeared from a locked room where only she had the key.  As if all this wasn’t bad enough, for the next twenty nights, a cat appeared in the bedroom of Ewin and her husband Ambrose, keeping them awake and, on one visit, biting off a chunk of Ambrose’s arm.

In 1591, Wishart was seen hobnobbing with Satan himself at a military blockhouse.  In the following year, she placed a curse on one Andrew Ardes, causing him to come down with a fever which killed him eight days later.  In 1593, a merchant named Walter Healing refused to sell Wishart some wool.  She responded by placing a spell on Healing’s child which soon led to the infant’s death.  In 1594, Wishart’s servant, James Ailhows, decided he had enough of working for a witch, and handed in his notice.  By this point in our little tale, you will not be surprised to learn that Wishart then put a spell on Ailhows which left him bedridden for months.  He was only cured when he paid another witch to lift the curse.  (For those of you curious about such things, Ailhows was brought back to health by washing in south-running water and passing through a horse’s saddle-strap.)

In that same year, she placed a spell on one Bessie Schives, which for over four months left the unfortunate woman “the one half-day roasting as in a fiery furnace, with an extraordinary kind of drought, that she could not be slaked, and the other half-day in an extraordinary kind of sweating, melting, and consuming her body, as a white burning candle, which kind of sickness is a special point of witchcraft.”

In 1596, Elspeth Reid, the sweetheart of Wishart’s son Thomas, caught Janet and another woman performing some manner of Midsummer ritual.  Wishart’s response was entirely predictable: Reid fell into an illness which lasted for six months.

It must be said that on at least one occasion, Wishart used her powers in a commendable manner.  When her son-in-law, John Allan, took to beating his wife, Janet avenged her daughter by coming through Allen’s window in the form of a brown dog and attacking him.

Although all the above were the high points of Wishart’s resume, history records a miscellany of other disagreeable doings: causing stillbirths, dedicating a section of farmland to the Devil, causing a neighbor’s cow to produce poison instead of milk, bewitching some sheets into turning another neighbor insane (don’t ask,) killing hens, “raising the wind” in order to winnow malt barley (thus leaving her neighbors with no wind at all,) destroying businesses, and the like.

Wishart’s son Thomas Leys proudly carried on the family tradition.  It was said that he helped his mother bewitch the property of one Andrew Clark.  When Clark threatened to sue, Thomas warned Clark would receive a fatal curse if he persisted.  On Halloween night in 1596, Leys led a group of witches, dressed “some as hares, some as cats, some in other likenesses” in a dance around the Mercat Cross.  The music was provided by the Devil himself.  There was one unfortunate moment in this diabolical rave, when Thomas hit one of the participants, Kathren Mitchell, “because she spoilt the dance and ran not so fast as the rest.”

Given all this, it says a lot about Wishart’s formidable reputation that it wasn’t until early 1597 that the authorities decided that something had to be done about her.  Janet, along with her husband John Leys, her son Thomas, her daughter Violet, and Elspeth Reid, were all arrested.  It is recorded that as Janet and Thomas sat in their cells awaiting trial, they were visited by the Devil.  Mother and son asked, “What will become of us?”  The Devil replied, “Deny everything.”  Although he promised to return later with more legal advice, they never saw him again.  (Pro tip: Satan makes a lousy defense attorney.)

To no one’s surprise, Janet was found guilty of eighteen of the thirty-one witchcraft accusations brought against her.  On February 17, 1597, she was burned at the stake.  Thomas followed her into the flames a short while after.  Elspeth Reid and the rest of Wishart’s family were freed, but banned from Aberdeen for the rest of their days.  

And thus ends our look at domestic life in 16th century Scotland.