"...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, April 29, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Before you read this week's links, shall we join the Strange Company HQ staffers in our garden?

A tourist's postcard from 2,000 years ago.

Three significant ships in the 1870s British Royal Navy.

A man who did not want to be Speaker of the House of Commons, but wound up with the gig anyway.

One really dangerous sword.

A new theory about the Neanderthal extinction.

What people were saying about Belgium 100 years ago.

A look at "Stalin's architect."

A look at May Day 1876.

Using the telegraph to communicate with ghosts.

Ancient Roman art could get pretty NSFW.

The latest in Czech archaeology.

Mayan independence and the Mexican-American War.

A visit to Eel Pie Island.

A suicide's ghost.

A woman's flight from an abusive marriage.

A 17th century letter dictated by the Devil.

The latest news about the Shroud of Turin.

How to turn your local volcano into an oven.

How to get a body like Henry VIII's.  I presume they mean "young, good-looking Henry," not "waistband the size of a football field Henry."

A cloister's dark secrets.

Medieval hand grenades.

Some weird ancient burials.

Stone Age people may have watched animated cartoons.

Scandal and an 18th century socialite.

Mythological creatures that have yet to be debunked.

The Titanic's most famous widow.

The prayer book of a medieval queen.

The diversity of ancient Egyptian makeup.

Dexter the Cat's remarkable adventure.

The tale of how a police constable was killed in the line of duty.

Some beautiful autochrome photos of early 20th century France.

One of the bloodiest chapters of the ever-bloody WWI.

How the 4th Duke of Norfolk lost his head over Mary, Queen of Scots.

The earliest known record of an aurora.

The adventures of a globe-trotting teenager.

A murder and a near-lynching.

The story of the "Skeleton Queen."

The mysterious woman in the Bayeux Tapestry.

The peculiar burial of an ancient possible mercenary.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a series of possibly-related murders.  In the meantime, here's Jennifer Warnes.  This song was a favorite of mine way back when.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This heartbreaking little tale appeared in the “Hull Daily News,” July 27, 1928.  The author used the pseudonym “Perambulator”:

I like ghost stories and have read a good many; but I know only one which, to me at least, is absolutely convincing, and that is the story that I tell you to-day. The trouble to me about the others, to my own mind, is that they are too vague; names, and dates and places are not precisely given in the printed books or papers which contain the yarns; and, if someone tells you, by word of mouth, what it was that is supposed to have happened, it never (in my experience) happened to the man himself, but only to someone he knows or once heard about. However excellent the setting and apparently authentic the ghosts, the evidence for their appearance at any particular place or time, and to any particular persons, always seems to me too shaky to make a genuine demand upon my powers of belief. I do not, that is to say, really "believe" any of the many "ghost stories" that I have read or been told.

I live in a house where, if anywhere in Hull, it should be possible to "see ghosts," and there are stories stretching over its hundreds of years of history which should encourage "psychics " to see and to hear all sorts of amazing and inexplicable sights and sounds; but I am obliged to say that though I have heard of these things, as happening to people who lived here before me, I have heard of them only at second or third hand, and not from anyone to whom the marvels actually happened. 

I am, that is to say, prejudiced against the “ghosts," almost to the point of arguing that “there ain't no such things." 

Having said this, I trust you will accept what I now write as a truthful account of an experience, which I give with full references to place and time and persons, as being a faithful record of what I still regard as altogether inexplicable, and which I now relate with all the respect for absolute truth of which I am capable. 

It was in July, eight years ago, here in my own garden, and it happened to me myself, who writes these words; so there you have the date and the place and the person all complete, since the Editor knows who I am, and that I really live in Hull, and am a more or less truthful and reliable fellow. 

I had gone to London for the first Anglo-Catholic Congress at the Albert Hall, and on the morning after my arrival in town I had a letter from Perambulatrix saying that she was very sorry, but on the afternoon of my leaving home (i.e., on the previous day), she had been obliged to have our cats destroyed, since she had found them sleeping in the baby's cot, along with the baby, and was afraid lest they should get over the child's face and smother him. 

These two cats were my peculiar property and care. I had brought one of them from Gloucestershire soon after the Armistice, and the other, a mere kitten, had been born a few months before, at Bridlington, just before we removed to Hull. The mother-cat was undersized, and the kitten was black, with white waistcoat and gloves, and they belonged especially to me in the sense that it was I who attended to their food and gave them shelter whenever they wanted it in my study, where they could come in and go out as they pleased, and where nobody ever interfered with either of them. 

Whether because of the regular feeding, or by reason of the peace and quietness of the room into which nobody ever came except myself and these cats, the animals attached themselves particularly to me. and used to follow me about and wander round the garden with me; "Daddy's cats" the children called them. Especially, when in the evening I cut the grass, the creatures would walk beside the machine or sit under the mulberry tree which is the patent of our garden's nobility and watch what I was doing, or perhaps dream, for all I know, of what I should be doing in a little while, when the time came for their supper. 

I knew the two animals pretty well, you see, and as far as any mere man can care for a cat, or cats allow themselves really to bother about human beings, I was fond of them and they managed to appear as though they were interested in me. 

And so that morning in London, when I heard that they had been done in, I was, first of all shocked, and then afterwards very sorry indeed! There was nothing to be said or done about it. of course. If Perambulatrix feared for the well-being of a child she did right when she gave the fatal order. And the Porter, his name was William Carltorn, did but his duty when he put them in a sack with a couple of bricks and dropped them into the Hull River. I myself should have taken them round to a vet. or a chemist, but they were not the first pussycats that have gone overboard like that nor will they be the last. 

Writing home I said nothing about the tragedy, nor when i returned at the end of the week did we talk about what had happened. The thing was done, and probably rightly done, however sorry I felt, and however much I missed my cats there was an end of it! 

But, as you are to hear, not quite the end! The grass, naturally, had grown while I was away, and on the Saturday afternoon I began my job of cutting it. The task took four or five hours, and I was accustomed to finish up near the mulberry tree. On this Saturday evening, round about half-past eight, as nearly as I remember. I had made good going, and was within a few minutes of the end of the job, when I noticed my two cats sitting, as they were wont to sit, under the tree, side by side, waiting, as it seemed, and as they had done a score of times already that summer, for the moment when I should drag the machine away and go indoors with them and give them their supper. 

I thought nothing about it until I realised, very slowly, that the two creatures simply had no business to be there! 

I stopped my grass-cutting and walked towards them, looking closely at them from a distance of three or four yards. snapping my fingers and saying something about “Pussy-tats. Pussy-tats," as I had said so often, in similar circumstances before. 

Instead of coming to me, as I think I expected them to do, the under-sized tabby mother moved deliberately round to the back of the tree, and the little black kitten with the white waistcoat and gloves skittered off among the shrubs and disappeared, and that was the last I ever saw of either of them. 

So far the thing seems simple and explicable enough; but there is more to come. I myself thought, as I left my unfinished lawn and walked towards the house, that my imagination was working too vividly; that I had perhaps been over-excited by the week in town and by the little domestic tragedy of the death of the creatures I knew so well; and that was what I went on thinking for another week or two; nor did I speak of the matter to anyone, in the house or out of it. 

Until a fortnight later, when the Vicar of Drypool—l am anxious, you notice, to give as many exact details as I can—was having supper with us one Friday evening after preaching in a neighbouring chapel. 

I told him the story of the cats as I have told it to you: their violent death and their subsequent reappearance under the mulberry tree, and it was at this point that the real difficulty began, for Perambulatrix burst out excitedly, and all that she said was supported by a cousin who was staying with us at the time, the wife of the Vicar of St.. Leodegarius, Basford, in the Diocese of Southwell, who had been our guest while I was away in London, and who had been sitting with Perambulatrix while I cut the grass, and who together with her had, unknown to me, seen my rencontre with the cats that had no business to be there, and had wondered what in the world to make of it. 

People to whom I have told the tale have offered three separate "explanations,'' none of which, however, seems to me satisfactory. 

(1) I imagined the whole thing, and that as I say, was my own opinion at first. Against that, there is the fact that while I left the machine and called to my cats under the tree, two other people were sitting thirty or forty yards away; that they had seen the cats before I did, and wondered why they were there, that they had watched me, as stated, go towards them, had seen the cats get up and disappear, and then had seen me come into the house, but had not cared to speak to me about it all. "Imagination" does not cover these facts, unless we accept the statement that the three of us imagined precisely the same unexpected and inexplicable things at precisely the same moment and in exactly the same spot. 

(2) They were not the same cats, but some others that chanced to come into the garden and to sit just there just at that moment Truly, a multitude of cats lives hereabout and in those days before a new dog took charge of this garden, many of them were accustomed to dig and scratch and howl therein at all hours of the day and night.  But none of them were friendly with me, none of them ever sat down in my presence, but rather fled for their lives when they saw me coming. No! Those were my own cats, and no other, for a man recognises animals that belong to him as surely as he knows his own hat or his own pipe; and there was no mistaking the size and the markings and the behaviour of that mother and daughter who sat, not for the first time in one special spot under one particular tree and quietly watched me cutting the grass! 

(3) The cats were not really drowned by the Porter, and had somehow found their way back, as cats do to the familiar hunting-grounds. It it true that for a few weeks after these things happened, my children would sometimes say that they had seen "our pussies" in the garden; but I think they made the easy mistake, for them, of thinking that strangers and trespassers were the creatures that used to come in and out of Daddy's study and follow him in the garden, though they never had much to do with other people in the house. I made careful enquiry at the time, and there was no room for doubt that the Porter did exactly as he was told, and got rid once for all, of those two unfortunate cats. I have never seen or imagined that I saw anything of either of them, except on that one occasion on a Saturday evening, as here related. 

What explanation then do I myself offer? I have nothing of the sort to give. As far as I know the meaning of truth, I have told this story truly; but it remains as one of the most puzzling incidents in my life, and until someone provides an adequate and reasonable solution of the whole inexplicable business, it will be, for me, the one occasion on which I have "seen ghosts," even though the ghosts were merely those of a couple of quite ordinary cats.

I have to say, I was hoping this narrative would end with “Perambulatrix” being stuffed into a sack and tossed into the river.  Oh, well.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Professor's Obituary; Or, How to Make Your Resident Ghost Very Happy

Via Findagrave.com

In the long history of ghost lore, there are frequent accounts of the dearly departed being unable to rest in peace because they are troubled by some unfinished earthly business.  Usually, it involves hidden wills, secret stashes of money, and the like.  In the following story, however, we are told that this particular ghost was restless for reasons that were more spiritual than practical: he simply did not want to be forgotten.

For many years, Sybrand Broersma was a well-respected physics professor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.  Although he was unmarried and apparently had no living relatives, in 1981 he built a comfortable four bedroom, three bathroom suburban house.  He retired in 1986.

On December 27, 1987, Paul Hendrickson, a former student of Broersma’s who was still a close friend, came to check on the professor.  Hendrickson was concerned that Broersma had not shown up as expected to a Christmas party.  He found the professor dead in one of the rooms.  The coroner determined that he had died of natural causes about a week before.  Hendrickson, who was the executor of Broersma’s estate, arranged the burial, settled the professor’s earthly affairs, and put his home up for sale.  That appeared to be the last the world would hear of Sybrand Broersma.

And it soon turned out that the late professor was not very happy about that.

Although Broersma’s charming cream-colored house quickly found a buyer, the new owners did not keep the house for long.  Neither did the next family who moved in.  For the next six years, the residence saw a remarkable number of people come and go.  One family moved out so abruptly they left their personal possessions behind them.

In 1993, a couple named Jon and Agi Lurtz moved in.  It was not long before they learned why this seemingly desirable house had such a hard time keeping owners.  In the middle of the night, the Lurtzes would awaken to the sound of old radio and TV shows.  Shows that were not being played on any of their radios or TVs.  After inspecting the house carefully, they concluded the broadcasts were emanating from somewhere between the floors.  Other strange events began happening that would be familiar to anyone who has studied poltergeist accounts--exploding lightbulbs, objects seeming to throw themselves through the air, inexplicable sounds of crashes and bangs.  The stereo took to blaring music by the German rock band Rammstein.  Even when the Lurtzes unplugged the stereo, the music would defiantly go back on.  One day, the Lurtzes were playing a CD by the Pretenders, when the stereo suddenly began playing the same song repeatedly.  When they tried fast-forwarding to another song, the CD player went back to the song it had been playing.

At this point, most people would have decamped for more ghost-free neighborhoods.  However, Agi Lurtz had lived in haunted houses before, and felt she had nothing to fear from a ghost with a curious taste in music.  The Lurtzes became almost used to such minor annoyances.  Then, one night in 1998, Agi woke up to find a figure standing at the foot of her bed.  Assuming she was being introduced to the home’s original resident, she asked the apparition why he had not moved on.  The ghost replied in heavily accented English, “Because I never had an obituary.”

Agi went to the local library and looked up back issues of the “Norman Transcript.”  She found that the ghost was quite right:  Broersma’s passing had never even been mentioned in the newspaper.  Mrs. Lurtz decided her ghost had a legitimate grievance, and vowed to remedy the slight.

When she began researching Broersma’s past, she found a remarkable story.  He was born in the Netherlands in 1919.  During World War II, he joined the Dutch resistance, which led to him being imprisoned and condemned to death.  Broersma managed to escape prison, after which he spent the rest of the war hiding in a laboratory basement.  In 1947, after receiving his Ph.D. in engineering physics, he moved to America, where he served as a visiting researcher at Northwestern University and the University of Toronto.  He specialized in magnetism and hydrodynamics.  He published many academic articles, and belonged to a number of scientific societies.  He also helped NASA develop some of the first truly effective sensors for satellites.

In his private life, Broersma had a passion for rare and exotic art, which he traveled the world to collect.  (Agi Lurtz commented that Broersma had designed his residence to be more of an art museum than a home.)  He was a supporter of the Oklahoma Symphony, and also enjoyed mountaineering.  He was universally described as a quiet, but brilliant and highly cultured man.  All in all, he had a life well worth remembering.

Mrs. Lurtz’s obituary of Broersma appeared in the “Norman Transcript,” and Broersma finally got his long-delayed memorial service.  After this, the professor’s ghost was never seen again.  Mrs. Lurtz told the “Transcript,” “He needed that before he could go on.”

Friday, April 22, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Enjoy this week's Link Dump, while the Strange Company HQ staffers make tea!

Who the hell was the Lady in Red?

What in hell are the Dighton Rock inscriptions?

A 70-year-old Easter egg that's become a family heirloom.

Monkeys are, well, party animals.

The mysterious room inside India's National Library.

A new forensic method for ancient bones.

A look at Anglo-Saxon barbecues.

The possibility of life on Jupiter's moon Europa.

Evidence of the biggest earthquake in human history.

The disappearing World's Fairs.

A 50,000 year old pharmacy.

An Allied plot to assassinate Hitler.

A thoroughly modern mummy. 

The bluebells of Bow Cemetery.

A pretty nutty art heist.

A small bit of courtroom humor.

A dinosaur who may have been killed by *that* asteroid.

There's a new theory that the Easter Island statues were just a big water filtration system.  I can't say I'm convinced.

A close-up view of a Martian crater.

The sailor they couldn't drown.

Photos of everyday life in rural Victorian England.

A massive early 14th century hunting party.

Two cat-saving Fire Department dogs.

A newly-discovered photo of America's youngest serial killer.

The pig-faced lady panic.

A financial crisis in ancient Rome.

An archaeological site sheds light on an ancient civilization.

The bread crisis of 1795.  From what I've been reading in the news, this post might be only too timely.

The blind playwright's daughter.

Ancient workout tips.

Some New York women who survived the Titanic.

The famed "Hammersmith Ghost" murder case.

The Case of the Churchyard Cur.

A pregnant woman's unsolved murder.  (Although this post offers oblique hints about the possible guilty party.)

A cathedral in Spain may have the Holy Grail.

The professor who thought the answer to all our problems was to blow up the Moon.

The world's oldest fossils may have been found.

The slowest news day in history.

The world's most expensive watermelon.

The hazards of eating buns.

A detailed look at that notable partnership of Burke and Hare.

The code of beauty spots.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a ghost with a wounded ego.  In the meantime, here's are some real oldies.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

Any community can have a ghost, but I don't believe too many of them spit fire.  The “Brooklyn Eagle,” December 18, 1885:

If any community has more ghosts than Long Island, the fact has not been recorded. After a rest of five years, a specter with a tongue of fire has reappeared on the old Centerville race course, just south of Woodhaven, and men and women congregate every night to witness the strange sight. 

His ghostship appears promptly at a quarter to ten o'clock and departs at twelve minutes after eleven. There is a good deal of speculation as to whose ghost this is. Two murders on the race track form bloody chapters in its history, and public opinion argues that this spectral visitor is the troubled ghost of the murderer of one or the other of the slain. It is also the belief that when the ghost was in the flesh its avocation was that of a horse jockey, and, as the man last murdered on the race course was thought to have been killed by a rival jockey, some persons who lived in the neighborhood at the time think they can solve the mystery in which the crime remained shrouded. 

The ghost is first visible in the vicinity of the stables of the old Centerville Hotel. It is recalled that the rival jockeys quartered their stock in adjacent stables on this property. From the stable the specter proceeds by the highway to the southward to a point where a hotel formerly stood in front of the entrance to the race track. Here it halts for some minutes, just as the jockeys used to do, for they always took a drink before exercising. There is a dispute whether the ghost wears a robe of white or a garment more the color of sheep's wool. But on one other point there is no disagreement--the ghost spits fire like a foundry chimney and leaves a sulphurous odor behind it. On this fact is based a most animated discussion as to whether the original of the ghost is in bliss or a state of torment. The majority hold the latter theory, and a few think it may be a spirit sent to earth to do penance. 

The ghost never touches terra firma. It moves along through space like a feather in the wind, going a zigzag course. At regular intervals it spits fire. Scores of persons have followed in its wake without getting close enough for personal contact, and all declare that when the ghost comes to a stop, it invariably says "Whoa!" 

From the drinking place the spirit moves in on the race course apparently waiting for the word to dart away from where the wire used to be, going round the mile track at so terrific a gait that some persons argue it must be the ghost of Flora Temple or Lady Suffolk. But those who hold to the theory that it is the ghost of one of the departed jockeys affirm that they can distinctly hear the hallooing and whistling of the whip so familiar to old track habitues. After every heat comes the scoring exercise, and three heats are invariably run. 

After this tho ghost waltzes out into the highway, stops again at the old familiar barroom, and then goes zigzagging along to the stable, into which it disappears seemingly, but there are those who claim that the ghost passes on to the Bay Side Cemetery and into its grave. The keeper at this Hebrew burial place laughs at the credulity of the people. Nobody is ever buried there near enough to the surface to enable a ghost to rise up, the keeper says, but he has a suspicion that at some time, near or remote, some person has been murdered and buried in the old stable. He thinks it is the spirit of some woman who takes to the race track in pursuit of her slayer. Some of the Catholic residents who believe firmly in ghosts and declare that they often conversed with spirits in Ireland, are quite alarmed at this apparition because it is in no particular like the friendly Irish ghosts. Nearly fifty persons watched the fiery tongued visitor for more than an hour last night.

Whatever this entity may have been, you have to admit it put on quite a show.

Monday, April 18, 2022

An Experiment With Crystal-Gazing; Or, The Man Who Learned Too Much

"The Crystal Ball," John William Waterhouse

There have been many cautionary tales about the hazards involved with trying to see into the future, or using the paranormal to gain knowledge of any sort.  The odds are very good that, if you are successful, you will find out much more than you really wanted to know.  Some people learn the hard way that there truly is such a thing as “too much information.”  The following story, told by a Dr. Edmond Waller, is a perfect example.  It was published in the “Annals of Psychical Science” in May 1905.

Two summers ago, my father ordered from London an object known under the name of a Crystal-Gazing Ball. He and his family left Paris on a visit to our country seat before the object arrived. It was I who received the packet from London; it came a few days after the departure of the household, just as I was on the point of setting out to rejoin my parents. I brought the crystal with me and after dinner all of us--father, mother, sister, friends, and even domestics--tried to see what the glass ball could show us: the only result was tired eyes, we could see nothing. On the evening of the following day one of the servants, a faithful old woman who had been in our service for years, as soon as she looked into the crystal (we had resumed our experiments of the preceding night) turned very pale; we asked her what she saw? “A coffin!” she replied. A few weeks afterwards her brother, a young fellow of twenty-three years of age, died of typhoid fever; he was apparently in good health at the moment of our experiment. For several evenings in succession we tried the crystal, but with the exception of the above incident we saw absolutely nothing; finally the crystal was put away in a corner and neglected by everyone.

A few months later, I went one day to see my parents in Paris. I felt suddenly a strong desire to possess the crystal, and I asked my mother to allow me to take it away with me. The next evening for forty-five minutes I conscientiously tried, but could see absolutely nothing. I worked--if I may use that word--with the crystal for nearly three weeks, without any better success. I lost my fervour, or rather I became tired of my repeated failures, and I put the object, which had given me so little satisfaction in the bottom of a drawer, with the fixed determination never again to tire my eyes and waste my time with such an uninteresting article.

However, one afternoon a few months later a curious morbid sensation seized me. I went home much earlier than usual in hopes that a good night's rest might restore me to my normal state of mind. I went to bed, but it was impossible to sleep; and, moreover, I could not help thinking of the crystal. After several hours of insomnia, I got up and, somewhat hesitatingly, I opened the drawer in which the crystal lay. I took it out and put it on the table in the dining-room; I sat down in front of it, and scarcely had I put my hands on the table and raised my eyes, when I saw one of my friends in the crystal. Only her bust appeared; the likeness was striking, and yet on the face there was something which I saw in that crystal, which I had never seen on my friend's face. It was not so much the features which were different, it was something more profound; I will not enlarge on this point, but will leave the reader to draw his own deductions. This experience left me sad and happy at the same time; happy, because I had at last seen something in the crystal; sad, because of that curious expression on my friend's face.

For the sake of the relation it bears to this history, I ought to say that the young woman who happens to be its heroine had been for me, but a few years previously, a young girl for whom I had felt more than simple admiration. She was one of those whom the vilest of us respect; an atmosphere of purity surrounded her. She was for me what a woman ought to be in the finest sense of the word. I used to see her and her mother frequently. We were suddenly separated, to my great grief. We corresponded with one another for a few months; but little by little--I ought to confess it was my own fault--our correspondence became rarer, and finally ceased altogether. Two years had gone by when one day I heard of the marriage of my friend; she was now Madame D. She and her husband came to Paris on their honeymoon. Madame D. brought her husband to see me; he was one of those men one often sees among English officers, a fine athlete, a big, impulsive, generous-hearted man. From the very first moment a great--a very great--friendship sprang up between that man and myself. I often saw the young couple together, but I saw D. more often still. Unfortunately, my friend was obliged to leave with his regiment, which was ordered to the Transvaal. As one of his wife's oldest friends, and possessing the greatest confidence in me, D. asked me if, during his absence, I would watch over his wife,—the being he loved more than all else on earth. This was an indescribable joy to me, first of all to be able to protect this young woman against the insolences of life in a great city, a life for which she was unfit, for she was morally too beautiful to be able to see the hideousness of the masses surrounding her; secondly, it was a proof of the confidence her husband had in me. Most unfortunately I was unable to fulfill my promise of protection; for, soon after her husband's departure, Madame D. was obliged to accompany her mother to America. I wrote to her three times but received no answer to my letters. It was the crystal, which served to bring us into touch with one another again. And now, having given these few, I think necessary details concerning my two friends, I will return to the evening following the one when I saw my friend's face in the crystal.

I felt extremely fatigued that day, and again went home very early. Notwithstanding my fatigue, I took up the crystal and gazed into it for a good quarter of an hour, but without the smallest result. My eyes were positively in a state of congestion, when at last I threw myself on my bed, and quickly dropped off to sleep. In a few hours I awoke, surprised to find myself in that position. I got up, sat down in front of the crystal, and instantly I saw the silhouette of my friend side by side with that of a man; the latter was less distinct than my friend, they were both surrounded by trees and people. I closed my eyes for a second, opened them and looked again into the crystal; this time I distinctly saw Mme. D. and the man who was with her--a man whom I had never seen before--as well as the paddock of the racecourse at Longchamps, with all the customary surroundings of this race-course during a meeting.

Although at that time I often went to races, my many social duties made it almost impossible for me to be present at the Race Meeting to take place on the Sunday following the evening in question, and, most certainly, if it had not been for the crystal I should never have postponed several important rendez-vous in order to go to the races that Sunday. I was unable to be present at the first two races; but one of my uncles had a horse running in the third, and for various reasons I was rather interested in this trial, so I did my utmost to arrive in time for it. I arrived at the gate of the weighing yard just as the bell rang announcing the start. I rushed to the winning post, thinking little of the crystal which was the cause of my presence at the Course and still less of the visions I had seen in it. As I came up to the stand, a little to the left of the President's box, how great was my stupefaction to see (1) Madame D. and (2) to recognise beside her, for the second time in my life, and for the first time in flesh and blood, the man of my crystal! I saw absolutely nothing of the race; after my first moment of astonishment, in spite of every convenance, I drew near to Madame D. and the individual accompanying her; but I had been seen, and they both avoided me in so marked a manner that I dared not insist. I took a chair and sat down. I felt suddenly cold all over, I saw nothing, heard nothing; it was only several minutes later that one of my friends, with a formidable slap on the shoulder, succeeded in arousing me out of the state of lethargy, into which I had fallen. Believing I was ill, and telling me I was positively livid, he tried to insist upon my leaving the race-course and taking me home. But a profound fascination held me to the spot, and, like a hound on the track, I followed the two individuals of my crystal. Thoroughly upset, when the meeting was over, I took a cab and drove to the Hotel where Mme. D., her husband and her mother generally stayed when in Paris. I left a letter imploring my friend to grant me an interview as soon as possible. For a reply, she sent me a short note, in which she told me I would see her soon, underlining the words "you don't know all.” For seven months I did everything in my power to obtain an interview with her. Finally, I was told at the Hotel that Madame D. had gone to the south of France.

Meanwhile I had continued my experiments with the crystal, though more or less intermittingly. Several times I saw therein Mme. D., her husband, the individual whom I had seen with her at Longchamps, war scenes in the Transvaal, but there was nothing very precise in my visions.

Seven days after I heard of Mme. D.'s departure to the Riviera, I saw the following vision in the crystal : Madame D. accompanied by a man--not the one of whom I have been speaking, but a totally different individual. I saw them take a cab, and the following scene unrolled itself in the clearest fashion before my eyes, just as though I were sitting in an orchestral stall at a theatre:

The streets were dirty, the cab was an ordinary one, and went in the direction of, and stopped in front of, a well-known restaurant close to the Opera. The two occupants got out of the cab, entered the restaurant, walked down a long corridor, went upstairs, turned to the left, and were shown into a private room by a head waiter. I saw everything, furniture and other utensils, very clearly. The man who accompanied Mme. D. left her alone in the room and followed the waiter; then it was that I had a sensation of speaking with Mme. D. as though I were really present with her. Simultaneously with this sensation, the scene disappeared and there was nothing before me save the crystal ball.

Two days afterwards I had a great surprise. Whilst I was attending to a patient, the domestic came into the room and handed me a card. It was D., who I thought was still in the Transvaal. He was in a hurry and could not wait to see me; he fixed a rendez-vous for afternoon tea in a shop in the Rue Caumartin. It was with a certain emotion that I went to the spot agreed upon. My friend was alone. While shaking hands he told me he had been wounded and sent home; he said he had refrained from telegraphing in order to give us a surprise, and he thanked me at the same time for the proof of friendship I had given him in taking such a brotherly interest in his wife. A more disagreeable sensation than mine at that moment it would be impossible to imagine, with my friend's big, honest eyes fixed upon me, , feeling myself grow paler and paler beneath his regard, and unable to mutter a word! What would he imagine ? The situation was not rendered any pleasanter by Mme. D.'s sudden appearance on the scene. She came hurriedly towards us, shook me warmly by the hand and made me understand by her looks that she wanted me to tell little, and that little falsehood.

At that moment, a double reasoning rose within me: Ought I to consider the day at Longchamps as black as I had painted it? And as for the scene in the private room, could not a crystal have lied ? and was it not only my pessimistic nature, which had made me see evil where none existed ? If such were the case, my strict duty was to think no longer of my past fancies and suspicions, and especially to refrain from speaking of them to D. On the other hand, I could not understand Mme. D.'s conduct, and, without knowing why, I could not help believing what the crystal had suggested to me; it was with the greatest difficulty, that I was able to pass the following half-hour with D. and his wife without making any allusion to the crystal. Our conversation was in fact very troubled and disjointed; there was something disagreeable in the air, so to speak.

I arranged to meet D. again the next day and to dine with him and his wife; but when the moment came, I felt in such a bad mood that, fearing my gloomy countenance might mar the evening, I begged my friends to excuse me. I went home early in a state of excessive and unaccountable excitement. Instead of dining, I took my crystal, sat down in front of it and gazed at it. For several minutes I saw nothing, then all at once and very clearly I saw Mme. D. with the same individual who, in the previous vision, had accompanied her to the restaurant. For the second time the crystal made me a spectator of the scene in the private room, with this difference: I remained until Mme. D. and her restaurant friend left the building; I saw the man lead the woman to a private carriage, and without hearing a word, unable to explain how the phenomenon was produced, I understood that he fixed a rendez-vous with Mme. D. at a spot which was unknown to me, and that he would return on Wednesday at the same hour and at the same restaurant. I understood that the order had been given for the same room to be kept for them. Everything was so clear, that I had not the slightest doubt but that I was gazing at a reality--for several minutes I was thoroughly convinced of it.

At four o'clock on the following afternoon D. came to see me. Almost at once the conversation turned upon delicate ground--his wife. Was it the expression of my face, my manner of acting, which made him suspicious  I cannot say, but, suddenly and abruptly, my friend demanded a concise and precise account of my state of mind concerning himself and his wife. Without stopping to think, and convinced somehow that I had to tell him everything, I explained all to him.

Bitter words followed, and it was only out of respect for the spot we were at, that we refrained from committing violent acts--acts which we would certainly have regretted. I loved the man more than ever, I was jealous of his stubbornness and, for his own sake, I was now determined not to permit him to live any longer in his fool's paradise.

As for his wife, I could not help feeling a great pity for her and doing all in my power to prevent her from falling any lower. I implored my friend to watch very closely the people with whom she came in contact. After a few more or less flattering epithets--which might be summed up very simply in his looking upon me as a fool--D. made me promise to go to the theatre with him and afterwards to sup in the very same private room where, according to the crystal, his wife was to be. I accepted without any hesitation, convinced that my friend was right, that all would be for the best, and that henceforth my little glass ball would but serve as letter-weight and nothing more. I had not felt so happy for a long time.

We were punctual at our rendez-vous; we passed a most agreeable evening, criticising rather the crystal and my mild folly than the spectacle at which we were present. We went straight from the theatre to the restaurant, where the crystal was going to be definitely, once and for all, condemned as a liar of liars. We arrived at the restaurant at twenty minutes past twelve. The room which my friend had reserved resembled very little the room I had seen in the crystal. We were overflowing with good humour and light-heartedness; we sat down to supper and threw far away-ah ! far away-every thought of the crystal and its manifestations. We spoke of things which had nothing whatever in common with the cause of our tête-à-tête in that private room. Half an hour passed by, when all at once, without any reason, what seemed like a hallucination to my friend and myself seized hold of me; my gaiety disappeared and I could scarcely articulate a single word. A few minutes passed in this way, when, suddenly, my friend and I recognised the voice of Mme. D. I knew not what to think, much less what to say. D. rushed out of the room like a madman. I followed him as quickly as I could, but not quickly enough to prevent a catastrophe. D. sprang upon the individual who had been so faithfully reproduced by the crystal, and only released his hold of him at the door of the restaurant. The man was in a sorry state; he disappeared immediately--probably to avoid any further scandal.

Almost without saying a word to each other, D. and I separated. He went to his hotel; and I, acting on his wish, looked after his wife.

The consequence of this drama was the separation of the husband and wife and, for me, the loss of the man for whom I had such a deep friendship. Quite recently and indirectly I learned that Mme. D. was confined in an asylum.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

The staffers at Strange Company HQ are getting ready for Easter!

Was there a real Miss Havisham?

The mysterious sinking of a Pakistani submarine.

The Harvard lecturer who was executed for murder.

In which we learn that Joseph Conrad lost £40 thanks to the sinking of the Titanic.

And here's an author who foresaw said sinking.

The Hindenburg disaster in contemporary newspapers.

Some Canadian alternate history books.

A handy reminder that I really, really hate eggnog.

The origins of the Easter Bunny.

A remarkable escape from Auschwitz.

The strange case of the nurse impostor.

A guide to Regency-era slang.

How to have a brunch, 1950s style.

The regulars and fainters of Philadelphia funerals.

The demise of the literary feud.

An ancient bowl from Tibet may depict Alexander the Great.

The life of an unusual Georgian-era painter.

A triple tragedy.

100-year-old wax recordings are about to be heard.

The bride-to-be who survived the Titanic.

The oases of Antarctica.  You still wouldn't want to spend a vacation in them, though.

The short and tragic career of HMCS Margaree.

A notable 15th century English Parliamentarian.

A reassessment of Durer's Four Horsemen.

A 1,000 year old Peruvian surgical kit.

A medieval health manual.

A really weird cloud over Alaska.

This may be the oldest known name in the world.

A look at a new biography of Tolstoy.

The amazing Italian villa that nobody wants to buy.

A battered wife fails to get justice.

A military blockade from the Napoleonic era.

The East London Waterworks scandal.

The legend of Jenny, Titanic cat.

John Harvey Kellogg's weird inventions.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a man who did some crystal-gazing...and eventually wished he hadn't.  In the meantime, here's one of those songs from Back In The Day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This curious little tale of a haunted barn in Ohio (complete with Mystery Blood!) appeared in the “Logansport Pharos-Tribune,” January 15, 1894:

PORTLAND, Jan. 13,—Weird stories have been told for some time of the ghostly occurrences on the old Cantover farm, two miles west of Fort Recovery, O., and near the state line. Many years ago a death occurred there under peculiar circumstances, and a recent event added to the mystery. This was the suicide of Peter Fendle, an old farmer. He had fixed a rope to hang himself, but changed his mind and took poison, apparently. He was found dead in the barn, and the rope still hangs where he put it. Ever since then the barn, it is said, has been haunted. 

Not a night passes but that a light, as that of a lantern, springs up near the house and makes its way to the stable. When it gets there the doors are heard to open and close, yet do not move, and the air is full of weird sounds which no one has ever yet been able to describe. The animals in the barn show the greatest alarm, but have not yet been harmed. The most wonderful thing of all is the fact that they, as well as the hanging harness, are found every morning liberally sprinkled with fresh blood. This unaccountable spectacle has been seen by many reputable people.

A party from Fort Recovery concluded to solve the mystery. They slipped out without informing anyone of their intentions, and reached the spot at 10 o'clock. Quietly entering the barn they heard a moaning noise, but nothing happened until midnight. The interior then grew lighter, and a shadowy, bowed figure glided before them and faded from view, apparently into space. The awe-stricken watchers started to run, but were confronted by a tall figure which gave a shriek and for an instant blocked their way and disappeared. The ghost hunters got away as fast as possible, and they say they are content to leave the haunted barn a mystery.

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Deacon's Alibi: An (Almost) Perfect Murder

"New York Age," July 10, 1937, via Newspapers.com

That doyen of vintage true crime writers Edmund Pearson once dubbed wife-murderer Frederick Small “The Man Who Was Too Clever.”  Small devised an elaborate and quite ingenious plot to rid himself of his spouse, only to be foiled in the end by an unexpected few inches of water.  Pearson was of the opinion that a successful murderer was one who stuck to the direct approach, commenting that Small "had not fared as well as the stupid assassin who makes no plans and deals in no tricks, scientific or physical."

In general, Pearson was not wrong.  However, there was at least one near-exception, when a man came up with a complex and unusual plan for getting away with murder.  Thankfully, the evildoer paid for his crime in the end.  But it was a damned close-run thing.

In 1937, Arthur and Phennie Perry lived in a small New York City apartment with their two-year-old daughter.  The Perrys were a young couple:  Arthur was 22, Phennie 20.  They had been childhood sweethearts in their hometown of Jamestown, South Carolina.  They were both children of poor sharecroppers--so poor that Arthur had to quit school in the fourth grade to go to work.  After Arthur and Phennie married, they managed to get together enough money to move to New York, in the hope of bettering themselves.  Although Arthur had no particular skills, he was a hard worker, and managed to get steady employment as a laborer for various contractors.  The work didn’t pay much, but Arthur had high hopes it would eventually lead to better things. 

On the morning of July 2, 1937, roofing contractor David Nutkis was working alone in his office in the Jamaica section of Queens.  At 7:20 a.m., he was rudely interrupted by a stranger abruptly barging into the room.

“There’s a dead woman in the lots!” the man shouted, waving towards the nearby Long Island Railroad right-of-way.  The messenger then dashed out again.

Nutkis went to investigate.  About 100 yards from his building was an empty lot with a pathway that was commonly used as a shortcut to the railroad underpass.  Along that pathway he found the corpse of a young woman.  She was lying on her back, with her head in a pool of coagulated blood.

There was no doubt the woman was dead, so Nutkis was startled when he heard a cry.  As he was mustering the courage to examine her more closely, he saw a small face rise up from the other side of the body.  There was a toddler, very much alive but covered in blood, crawling towards the corpse.  This new shock was too much for Nutkis’ frayed nerves.  He fled back to his office to telephone for the police.

When police arrived at the scene, they found no shortage of clues to examine.  A bloodstained piece of concrete--presumably the murder weapon--was found in some weeds fifty feet from the corpse.  The woman’s dress had been torn.  Near her right hand was a man’s black oxford shoe.  A couple of feet away, they found a shopping bag containing baby clothes and a woman’s blouse.  No purse was found.  Detectives initially assumed that sometime during the night--the woman had obviously been dead for some hours--she had cut across the lot when she encountered a thief out to steal her purse.  She put up a fight, during which her dress was torn.  Her unexpected resistance so alarmed the criminal that in a panic, he picked up the piece of concrete and bludgeoned her to death.  The thief then grabbed her purse and fled.  However, there was one problem with this scenario: although the little girl was covered with her mother’s blood, the child was uninjured.  Presumably, the mother had been carrying the girl when they were attacked.  If the woman had fought back, how did the child avoid getting hurt?

For about an hour, the victim remained unidentified.  Then, a woman passing by the grisly scene noticed the little girl.  She screamed that the child was Shirley Perry.  She also informed detectives that the dead woman was the child’s mother, Phennie Perry.  She explained that the Perrys had been her neighbors, but they recently moved--she could not say where.  This identification was soon confirmed by the dead woman’s brother-in-law, William Perry.  William, who lived nearby, also took custody of little Shirley.  Soon after this, two officers arrived, escorting a very hungover man.

The policemen explained that the man was the watchman in a nearby junkyard.  They found him sleeping off his heavy drinking from the night before.  When they awakened him, he immediately started shouting that he knew something had happened, but nobody would listen to him.  He explained to the detectives that a little after 10 p.m. the previous night, he was walking past the lot on his way to his job at the junkyard.  Suddenly, he heard moans and screams coming from the direction of the lot.  The frightened man ran to the nearby Bull’s Head Tavern to phone the police.  Unfortunately, by the time the squad car arrived, the man was very drunk.  (He explained that he had been “feeling good,” but wasn’t intoxicated when he heard the screams.  “Those quick drinks at the Bull’s Head after my scare were what got me.”)  He explained that the two patrolmen immediately dismissed his story as the ravings of a “drunken bum,” and left.

When the body was turned over, the investigation went into overdrive.  She had been lying on top of a bloody electric iron and a pile of papers.  It was thought that during the struggle with her assailant, these papers had fallen out of the man’s pocket.

The papers made interesting reading.  There was an envelope addressed to Mr. Ulysses Palm, at 110-08 153rd St., Jamaica.  It contained a letter from his mother.  There was another envelope addressed to Mr. Ulysses Palm.  There was a postcard addressed to Mr. Ulysses Palm, signed by his niece.  There was a note addressed to “Dear Member,” and signed “C.K. Athetan.”  There was an electric bill with the name and address of Mr. Ulysses Palm.  There were three photographs: one of a man standing in front of a car, one showing the same man standing in front of a boat, and a photo of a woman.  There was a receipt book, apparently listing donations to some organization, signed “J. Walker.”  Also found underneath the body was a bloodstained strip of blue cloth, obviously torn from something.  After studying these items, the three detectives on the scene became one mind, with but one thought: It was time to have a chat with Mr. Ulysses Palm.

Palm turned out to live only half-a-mile from where Phennie Perry was murdered.  When the police arrived, they were surprised to find two other detectives outside the residence.  These two detectives, while trying to find where Mrs. Perry lived, discovered that she and her husband were renting a room from Mr. Ulysses Palm.

When the officers entered Palm’s first-floor apartment, they soon noticed a man’s black oxford was sitting off in a corner.  There were several brown stains on it which seemed to be dried blood.  It was a perfect match for the shoe found at the murder scene.  In Palm’s bedroom, they found a blue shirt that was missing a piece of material near the pocket.  The bloodstained strip of cloth fit exactly into the tear in the shirt.  Other tenants in the building identified the man and woman in the photos left at the murder scene: they were Ulysses Palm and his wife of sixteen years, Hattie.

At this stage, the police must have thought that Mr. Palm was making things only too easy for them.  However, when they began to examine Palm’s background, a bit of unease crept in.  The 39-year-old Palm was a deacon of the Amity Baptist Church, who had the task of keeping the church accounts up-to-date.  He was liked and respected by all who knew him.  He and his wife were active in various church groups and committee meetings.  His reputation was spotless, and his marriage was, to all appearances, one of perfect mutual devotion.  Everyone the detectives talked to scoffed at the idea that Palm might have been involved with Phennie Perry, or any other woman besides his wife.  He simply was not that sort of man.

That afternoon, Palm was found at his job at a department store, and he was brought in for questioning.  When told he was suspected of Mrs. Perry’s murder, for a moment, he simply stared at them in shocked silence.  Then he cried, “Why should I want to kill her?”  Palm identified all the items found with the body, including the church receipt book.  He had brought the book home with him the night before the murder.  He professed to have no idea how the items wound up at the murder scene.

Perry was also found at his job.  Police did not initially tell him his wife was dead; only that she was in the hospital, critically injured in an accident.  As they were riding in the police car, Perry told the officers that he had last seen Phennie on the previous day, when she went with their child to spend the weekend with her sister in Brooklyn.  As a test, one of the detectives suddenly asked him, “Why did you kill your wife?”

“Kill my wife?” Perry exclaimed.  When the detective nodded, Perry slumped back in his seat and said slowly, “That means Phennie is dead.”  There was silence for the rest of the trip.

At police headquarters, the first thing Perry was asked was, “Why should anybody want to kill your wife?”

“Palm threatened to kill her,” he replied.

Perry explained that back on June 20, a letter arrived addressed to his wife.  Phennie was not at home, so he opened it.  The note was signed “Ulysses Palm.”  It warned Phennie that if she did not submit to his advances, he would kill her.  Perry, assuming the letter was some sort of strange joke, resealed the note and gave it to Phennie without telling her he had read it.  A week later, Phennie told him about the note, but she too thought it must be someone’s practical joke.  Palm, she noted, never even spoke to her outside the usual polite greetings.

Perry had more--much more--to say.  On the evening of the murder, Phennie was at the Plaza Theatre in Jamaica to play Bingo.  On his way home from work, he stopped at the Plaza to speak with her.  He wanted to confirm her plans for the weekend.  She confirmed that after finishing her evening entertainment, she was heading off to her sister’s home.  Perry went to his apartment, where he lounged around for two hours.  Then he recalled that he wanted Phennie to tell her brother that he, Arthur, would come by on Sunday to go fishing.  He returned to the Plaza, where the Bingo game was just wrapping up.  When he saw Phennie, she told him that earlier in the day, Palm had tried to break into her room, but she scared him away by threatening to scream.  She added that Palm had admitted writing the letter.

Perry said that when he confronted Palm about Phennie’s accusations, the deacon denied it all.  The outraged husband packed a bag and went to spend the night at his sister’s home.  As he was leaving, he saw that Palm was dressing as if he was going out as well.  Perry said he left the apartment at exactly 9:53 p.m.  The letter, Perry said, was at his sister’s place.  When detectives retrieved it, they found that it read exactly as advertised.

Phennie’s sister told detectives that Mrs. Perry had told her about Palm’s letter.  William Perry stated that on the night of the murder, he had run into his brother, who told him that he was on his way home to have it out with Palm.  Perry’s sister and brother-in-law confirmed that after arriving at their home a little after 11 p.m., Arthur had spent that night with them.  

Despite this onslaught of damning evidence, Palm continued to insist that he had not written the letter, and knew nothing of Mrs. Perry’s murder.  However, he could not explain how his shirt got torn, or how papers and photographs of his came to rest under the murder victim.  He admitted that the bloodstained shoes had once been his, but he claimed he had given them to Perry.

Palm stated that on the night of the murder, he had been at work in Flushing until 10:10 p.m.  A trolley and bus brought him home at 11:15.  He acknowledged having words with Perry,  but he insisted the quarrel was right after he returned to his apartment.  His wife was then attending a church play.  He had a quick meal, worked on church books for a short time, and then went to bed.  Some experimentation had convinced the detectives that 10:10 p.m. was the time when Phennie Perry was attacked.  The manager and assistant manager of the store where Palm worked were questioned.  They had both been present when Palm left on the murder night.  They placed the time of his departure as 10:05.  It would have been impossible for Palm to have reached the murder scene via trolley and bus, but an auto could have taken him there in 15 minutes.  However, Palm pointed out that for the last few days, his car had been in a repair shop.

The store manager added as an aside that the establishment was usually closed up at night.  However, on the night of the murder, he had to take midyear inventory, so that morning, when Palm came to the store, he was asked to work overtime.

The detectives took note of this remark.  So, nobody knew Palm would still be at work, not at home, on the night Mrs. Perry was killed?  Interesting.

The manager’s statement inspired police to bring Perry back for more questioning.  Perry had stated he spoke to Palm at 9:53 p.m.  How was this possible, considering Palm was at his store eight miles away at that time?  Perry shrugged and said that perhaps his clock had been wrong.  As for the black oxfords, he stated that he returned the shoes to Palm because they were too tight.

An usher at the Plaza Theatre said that on the night of July 1, he saw Perry twice inside the movie house, talking to a woman.  When the Bingo game was over at 9:51, Perry, accompanied by a woman and a small child, left the Plaza.  He could not see the woman’s face.

It was obvious to the police that Mrs. Perry was murdered either by her husband or her landlord.  Both men had certain discrepancies in their stories, but they both stubbornly stuck to their initial narratives, and refused to admit guilt.  Detectives had no choice but to put them both in custody.

There was a case to be made against each of the suspects.  The direct evidence strongly implicated Palm, but the timeline appeared to provide him with a solid alibi.  As for Perry, it could not be ignored that he was the last known person to see his wife.  If they left the Plaza right after Bingo ended, they would have reached the murder scene at about the time the watchman heard the screams.  Police learned that Phennie had written a letter to her mother complaining about Arthur spending all their money on himself, leaving her without the means to take proper care of their baby.  There was another factor that pops up in so many murder cases: insurance.  Perry had a small policy covering himself, Phennie, and the child.  The policy lapsed after he failed to keep up the payments.  The day before Phennie was murdered, a man appeared at the branch office of the insurance company and paid the back premiums on the policy.  The clerk who was on duty at the time could not say who made the payment.

It was basic forensics that finally cracked the case.  A scientist at the police department’s Technical Research Laboratory noticed that one of the black oxfords had a small hole in the sole.  He asked to see the socks owned by both suspects.  A tiny clump of dirt was in the middle of one of Perry’s socks.  When a benzidine reagent blood test was done on the clump, it showed a faint trace of blood.

Perry and Palm were still wearing the same clothes they had on when they were taken into custody.  A sleeve of Perry’s shirt was found to have another trace of blood.  As for the letter Palm allegedly wrote Mrs. Perry, handwriting experts asserted that it was a clumsily disguised version of Arthur’s writing.  Paper matching the one used for the letter was found in one of Perry’s drawers.  An examination of the blue strip of cloth showed that it had been cut first for about half-an-inch, and then torn by hand, in order to simulate it being torn off during a fight.  All this was enough to convince police which of their suspects was the true guilty party.

On September 23, 1937, Perry was indicted for first degree murder.  His trial began on November 8.  Unfortunately, a key witness--the junkyard watchman--was unable to testify.  He was in the hospital, being treated for his acute alcoholism.  The prosecution asserted that Perry killed his wife for the insurance money, a claim the defense countered by pointing out that no beneficiary was named in the policy, and that Perry had waived his rights to the money in favor of Phennie’s sister.  The defense also made much of the fact that Palm usually kept the church book found with the body under lock and key.  Perry himself took the stand.  He gave the same story he had told from the beginning.  He declared in the strongest terms that he was innocent of his wife’s murder.  After two days of deliberation, the jury announced its verdict: guilty.  Perry was sentenced to die in the electric chair.  However, the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction on the grounds that the letter Phennie wrote to her mother was hearsay evidence which should not have been presented to the jury.  A new trial was ordered.

Perry’s second trial opened on November 14, 1938.  The now-sober watchman was finally able to give his testimony.  The prosecution introduced a surprise witness: Perry’s employer, a man named Falke.  Falke said that shortly before the murder, Perry borrowed money from him, saying he would use to to pay some insurance premiums.  Also new was some rather dodgy testimony from a New York police detective, Sidney Cusbeth.  He claimed that while Perry was in jail awaiting his first trial, the District Attorney had Cusbeth (posing as an accused murderer) planted in Perry’s cell block.  Cusbeth said he befriended Perry in the hope of getting him to say something incriminating.  One day while they were playing cards, Cusbeth brought up Phennie’s murder.  After a bit of persuading, he said Perry admitted his guilt.  When Cusbeth asked why he killed his wife, Perry replied, “I don’t know.  I was in love with my wife, I don’t know why I did it.”

The D.A. did not offer an explanation for why they neglected to call Cusbeth to the stand during the first trial.  The detective was not questioned further by either side.

The defense now conceded that the letter Palm allegedly sent Mrs. Perry was in the defendant’s handwriting, but that the letter in evidence was not the original.  Rather, it was a copy the police had asked Perry to write out.  This copy was then substituted for the real thing.  Perry also denied that the bloodstained sock introduced in evidence was his.  The defense suggested that the papers found under Phennie’s body had come from her purse.  Perry claimed that on the night his wife was killed, she was carrying a large purse with $68 in it--the money intended for the trip to see her mother.  Surely, she was killed by some robber, he argued--perhaps that never-identified stranger who had told David Nutkis about the body?

The defense arguments again failed to convince a jury.  This second panel also returned a guilty verdict.  This time, the Court of Appeals upheld the decision.  Perry went to the electric chair in August 1939, asserting his innocence to the last.

Although I believe the two juries came to the correct verdict, there is one lingering mystery to the case: motive.  The insurance policy was widely considered to be too small to make a convincing reason for murder.  There is no evidence of any “other woman” in Perry’s life.  Phennie's sister said that Arthur was "jealous" of his pretty young wife, and there is the intriguing fact that when Phennie went out with friends, she had taken to using her maiden name, introducing herself to people as "Miss Brown."  Was she contemplating taking her child and going back to South Carolina...for good?  It's also possible that Arthur Perry was simply weary of the responsibilities of being a husband and father--so weary, that he was willing to sacrifice the lives of two innocent people and deprive his young daughter of her mother.  If it had not been for that accident of fate which kept Palm at his job until an unusually late hour, he may well have been the one to take a seat on Old Sparky.

Instead of becoming a murderer, Perry should have turned his hand to writing crime novels.  He obviously had an innate talent for them.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Weekend Link Dump

"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn


Welcome to this week's Link Dump!

Feel free to bring a friend!

Some real-life murders mentioned by Agatha Christie.

The Crimean War's White Sea Theater.

Three times when the American Civil War could have ended a lot earlier than it did.

The mysteries of the Crank Caverns.

The joys of collecting seaweed.  No, really.

The first female jockey to win the Grand National.

The first licensed American female pilot.

A guy who really needs to avoid bridges.

That time when the Soviets almost nuked New York City.

Stolen Charles Darwin notebooks have been recovered.

One of the last women in England to be burned at the stake.

A look at the world's oldest pants.  They're darn good pants, too.

Tombstones that tell murder stories.

Some notable food hoaxes.

A famous--and deadly--1935 dust storm.

One very dedicated autograph collector.

A look at the (very long) history of poisoning.

A really nifty photo of Jupiter.

Reconstructing the smells of ancient tombs.

Some newspaper guy was upset that Mark Twain thought Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare.

Witches, skeletons, and Edinburgh's Nor Loch.

The beginning of printing in England.

The world's most important missing treasures.

Some lesser-known facts about Jane Austen.

When Katherine of Aragon was Regent of England.

The cats and goat of Fire Patrol 3.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an inventive effort to get away with murder.  In the meantime, here's some German folk-rock with pagan trimmings.