"...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, September 30, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

It's the last day of September, and Autumn is in full swing here at Strange Company HQ!

That time a bucket started a war.

The Wright brothers as babysitters.

An ancient rock art site tells quite a story.

The place where you can get away with murder.  I hope I'm not giving anyone vacation ideas.

The Tavora Executions.

The "real" Count of Monte Cristo.

The vampire of Rhode Island.

A man with interesting tastes in home decor.

Finding a wife for Philip, Duke of Burgundy.

A 507-year-old clam.

A 2,600-year-old cheese.

The Donora Smog Disaster.

The difficulty with prosecuting a deaf and dumb man in 1825.

The liner that was hit by one freaking big wave.

The Disneyland of graveyards.

The tale of a pauper's coffin.

The magician who was shot on stage.

Being cuckolded in the Regency Era could have its financial benefits.

That time when W.B. Yeats and Aleister Crowley got into a magic duel.

That time when Galileo tried to determine the size of Hell.

Jane Toppan, a particularly enthusiastic serial killer.

Kingsley Amis didn't think too much of John Keats.

For those of you who are sick of theories about who Jack the Ripper was, here's a theory about who the Zodiac Killer was.  Unless you're sick of those, too.

The Lord Lucan case in contemporary newspapers.

Ancient party islands.

The murder of a grave-robber.

The display of human remains in museums.

Why men stopped wearing hats.  I wish men today would go back to wearing them.  And three-piece suits.  With spats.

History's largest chariot battle.

I am now wondering how many Spanish Flu victims were really killed by their medicines.

A man who did much good, and much evil.

Raccoons are really, really smart.  We have some raccoons in my area, and that was an observation I made some time ago.  You don't want them anywhere near your garden, though.

Leveling the Lords.

A brief history of the Rosetta Stone.

Nazi merchant raiders in the South Pacific.

In which Mr. Graverol meets the Devil.

Related: Five ways to summon the Devil.

How to make Irish seaweed pudding.

The India Office holds a yard sale.

Lampo, the Railway Dog.

Baltimore, the Fire Dog Mascot.

Hester Stanhope, Queen of the Desert.

William Marwood, famed hangman.

In which Charles Dickens discusses the news.

The Fenland bog oak table.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at yet another cautionary tale about angering fairies.  In the meantime, here's the Rose Ensemble.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day


A very odd and mysterious burial was described in the "Sydney Morning Herald," September 7, 1866. (Via Newspapers.com)

In demolishing a house recently, for the purpose of widening the Rue Guy Lussac, near the Pantheon, the workmen discovered in one of the chimney jambs a cavity in which was the skeleton of an infant of about a year old. The bones reposed on a layer of eggs, still entire, to the number of more than 60, and near the hand was a little leather ball, which had formerly been white. The heat had partly calcined the bones of the legs, and the eggs had been dried till the centres were not larger than a pea. The infant appears to have been in this receptacle for some 25 or 30 years, which besides had been made and closed up by some practised hand, as there were no external signs of any derangement. Conjecture is quite baffled as to the reasons for such a singular tomb, and for the accompanying eggs. Towards 1804 the house was inhabited by a religious community, but in the year 1807 it became a furnished lodging-house.

Monday, September 26, 2022

A Shot in the Night: The Murder of Mary Ludwig

"Asbury Park Press," January 27, 1975, via Newspapers.com

There have been real-life "locked-room murders" that gained fame as classic unsolvable puzzles:  The deaths of Isadore Fink and Joseph Bowne Elwell are probably the most famous examples.  However, there was a killing just as weird as those two renowned cases, which has sunk into near-total obscurity.  This week, let us look back at one of the New Jersey shore's most puzzling unsolved crimes.

For most of the year, sixty-year-old widow Mary Ludwig lived in Kearney, New Jersey, where she worked as a school custodian.  However, every summer she vacationed in a bungalow she rented in the bayside area known as the Highlands.  It was in the section of town known as "Water Witch," about 400 yards from the bay.  In July 1965, Mary was at her summer home, along with her daughter and son-in-law, Dolores and Edward Gunner.  Also there were the four Gunner children and a family friend, Joseph Rodgers.  It was the usual placid, happy holiday gathering, with no hint that something was about to go very, very wrong.

On the night of July 16, Mary was sharing a room with her twelve-year-old granddaughter Marie Gunner.  Their bedroom was in a back corner of the house.  All was completely still in the darkened, quiet neighborhood until around 4 a.m., when the family was rudely awakened by the sound of a gunshot.  This was immediately followed by the hysterical screams of young Marie, running through the house and crying for her grandmother.

When the others came to investigate, they found that Marie had lost her grandmother, for good.  Someone had used a rifle to shoot Mary Ludwig in the head, killing her instantly.   She had been shot at very close range, so the killer must have been standing inside the bedroom.  However, it was never determined from what direction the shot was fired, or the type of rifle that had been used.

When the police came, they took statements from everyone in the house, but no one professed to have any idea how the murder had taken place.  Marie could only say that she had been awakened by a "loud blast."    

Both the front and back doors had been locked, and there were no signs of forced entry.  The screens on the windows in Mary's bedroom were firmly in place, with no tears or bullet holes.  Neighbors had not seen any strangers lurking around the area, and the bungalow was on an open, treeless plot of ground that did not provide any hiding places.  The rifle that was used to shoot Mrs. Ludwig was never found.  If, as the family insisted, all the doors were locked, then it stood to reason that someone already inside the house must have committed the murder.  But if so, what did they do with the weapon?  And who among the household would have possibly wanted to do such a deed--and in the presence of her young granddaughter, to boot?

Detectives spent days interviewing all the residents in the area.  They spoke to everyone who had known the dead woman.  And in the end, they were left with zero clues, zero suspects, zero possible motives.  Mrs. Ludwig was a well-liked, with no enemies.  She was a humble working-class woman with a tiny life insurance policy, so no one benefited financially from her death.  Not even the gossip mill which usually springs up around strange crimes could come up with any possible answers for the tragedy.  Police Chief Howard Monahan essentially threw in the towel, telling reporters, "We have absolutely nothing that you could hang your hat on."  Journalists described it as an "impossible" crime.  It was as if a malevolent ghost had materialized inside the house, shot a sleeping woman seemingly at random, and then instantly vanished back into nothingness.

Five months after Ludwig's murder, John Gawler, the chief of the local prosecutor's detectives, said "We are doing the best we can, and hoping for a ray of light to help solve this one."

That ray never emerged.  And Mary Ludwig's murder was soon forgotten.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

Welcome to the first Link Dump of Autumn 2022!

The Strange Company staffers are late returning from summer vacation.  Typical of them.

A baby mix-up with a happy ending.

A school in India has a new student.

Prehistoric stone tools from a previously-unknown civilization.

Corpse-hunting on a New York river.

The dubious joys of temperance melodrama.

A structure near Prague that's older than Stonehenge.

In 1978, a Navy frigate was attacked by an enormous (and still mysterious) monster.

 Believe it or not, we're still uncovering dreadful details about Nazi death camps.

That time when Londoners cracked down on freak dances.

When it looked like America might lose WWII.

The last time a king was buried in Westminster Abbey.

A newly-discovered cave that's something of an ancient time capsule.

When Japanese time met a European clock, and things didn't go too well.

There are few foods I love more than sourdough bread, but even I wouldn't want to eat any baked by a 19th century miner.

How nomads helped shape civilization.

JMW Turner's lifelong friendship with Henry Trimmer.

A UFO crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2014. And people would like to find it.

For this week in Russian Weird, crop formations come to Lake Baikal.  

How the Bronx got its name.

The sounds of meteorites crashing into Mars.

When ancient Rome had a monster problem.

The last days of John Keats.

A possible explanation of the "Wow!" signal.

Autumn fashions from 1822.

A very strange murder mystery.

Propaganda and the murder of Jane McCrea.

The last of the Spitalfields Market cats.

The adventures of HMS Nautilus in 1807.

Some autochromes of Tsarist Russia.

A "witchcat" gets away with murder.

The attack on Sempringham Priory in 1312.

Lady Arbella Stuart, the woman who nearly became Queen of England.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look one of those murder mysteries that are seemingly without any clues.  In the meantime, here's some Telemann.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

This quirky little ghost story appeared in the “Buffalo News,” October 25, 1892.  It is a reprint from the “San Jose News.”

"I used to ride in races,and only last year I spun around the track at my home in the East, but I was cured of the sport in a rather remarkable manner," said a visiting bicyclist at the races of the Garden City Cyclers.

The story is a strange one," he continued, "and I have never told it to any one yet that I really think believed it, but so firmly am I convinced of of the reality of an incident that was frightful in some of its details, that for fear of a repetition I have not had the courage to ride in a race since. 

"The races were run on a half-mile horse-racing track that had been rolled and otherwise partially prepared for the purpose. I had never been especially fast, but just before the event I had bought a new pneumatic-tire racer, one of the first seen in that part of the country. The machine was a beauty, full nickeled and with the object of making a display more than anything else, I entered for the five-mile race with a 15-minute limit, the conditions being the same as those of the last race in San Jose yesterday that Wilbur Edwards won. 

"There were seven starters in the race, and we had 10 laps to make. I thought we were making rather slow time, and from some remarks that I overheard from the judges' stand when we passed on completing the eighth lap I was certain that it would be no race, as the winner would not make the distance within the time required. By this time I was well winded, and was sure that I would not come out first, but I did not feel in the least disappointed, as I had not expected to win the race when I started.

"In the beginning of the ninth lap, however, as I was tolerably well in the lead, I thought I would spurt a little. So I forged ahead and was allowed to make the pace for awhile, each of the riders having done this in turn before me. I had been in the lead seemingly only a second when to my surprise I saw just ahead of me a strong-looking rider on an old-style solid-tire wheel. I had not seen him pass and. did not know that any such man had entered the race in the first place.

"The stranger was well in the lead, and felt so much ashamed of myself to think that I was plodding behind on a new-style racing pneumatic while he was making the pace at a swinging gait on a solid tire that I just dug my toenails into the truck, so to speak, and did my utmost in an attempt to pass him. It did no good, however, I could not decrease the distance, although, spurred on as I was, my speed, as I afterwards learned, became something terrific.

"When I passed the grand and judges' stands at the end of the ninth lap for the finish there was tremendous cheering. I could not understand what it was all about, as I did not consider that my efforts on a pneumatic flyer to catch a man on a solid tire with a spring frame were worthy of much applause. I did not have time to look around and see what the rest of the riders were doing.

“On I flew like the wind, every muscle strained to the utmost in my endeavors to catch the stranger, who kept swinging along about 10 feet in the lead. I felt that he must tire out at last, so I did not relax, but rather increased the immense strain to which I was putting every fiber of my being. When we neared the grand-stand I could hear thunders of applause rolling up to greet us, and when I was within 50 yards of the scratch I made a last desperate effort to pass the stranger. 

"In the strain that was upon me I shut my eyes and paddled like lightning. When I was certain that I had crossed the tape I looked up just in time to see a terrible spectacle. The wheel of the rider ahead struck something. He was thrown forward and struck on his head. I was sure his neck was broken and blood gushed forth from his nose, mouth and ears. The sight was horrible, and in my exhausted state I could stand the strain no longer. I fainted and fell from my wheel. 

"The next thing I knew I was stretched out on a blanket in the rubbing-down room with a crowd around me. As soon as the boys saw that I had recovered consciousness all of them began to talk to me at once. They congratulated me on my wonderful victory, all declaring they had never seen anything like it before. They all wished to know, however, why I had exerted myself so much when I was so far in the lead. I had left all the rest of the riders far behind, and yet I swept forward and saved that race, coming in just inside of the 15-minute limit.

"When I spoke of a rider that I was trying to catch all were dumb with amazement. They had seen no such wheelman and the judges had given me the race. When I described the man I saw and his wheel he was recognized as being identical in appearance with a man who was killed under similar circumstances several years before in a five-mile race on the same track. It is scarcely necessary to state that I almost fainted again when I learned that I had been urged forward by a spook. I have never had the courage to get in a race again, for fear that there would be a repetition of my former terrible experience. I had before heard of ghostly riders on horseback, but it was my first, and I hope it will be my last, experience with a spook on a bicycle."

Monday, September 19, 2022

One Night in Maracaibo

The sober pages of "Scientific American" are among the last places where you expect to find a slice of The Weird, but on at least one occasion, that's exactly what happened, courtesy of the following letter which appeared in the December 18, 1886 issue:

The following brief account of a recent strange meteorological occurrence may be of interest to your readers as an addition to the list of electrical eccentricities:

During the night of the 24th of October last, which was rainy and tempestuous, a family of nine persons, sleeping in a hut a few leagues from Maracaibo, were awakened by a loud humming noise and a vivid, dazzling light, which brilliantly illuminated the interior of the house.

The occupants, completely terror stricken, and believing, as they relate, that the end of the world had come, threw themselves on their knees and commenced to pray, but their devotions were almost immediately interrupted by violent vomitings, and extensive swellings commenced to appear in the upper part of their bodies, this being particularly noticeable about the face and lips.

It is to be noted that the brilliant light was not accompanied by a sensation of heat, although there was a smoky appearance and a peculiar smell. The next morning the swellings had subsided, leaving upon the face and body large black blotches. No special pain was felt until the ninth day, when the skin peeled off, and these blotches were transformed into virulent raw sores.

The hair of the head fell off upon the side which happened to be underneath when the phenomenon occurred, the same side of the body being, in all nine cases, the more seriously injured.

The remarkable part of the occurrence is that the house was uninjured, all the doors and windows being closed at the time.

No trace of lightning could afterward be observed in any part of the building, and all the sufferers unite in saying that there was no detonation, but only the loud humming already mentioned.

Another curious attendant circumstance is that the trees around the house showed no signs of injury until the ninth day, when they suddenly withered, almost simultaneously with the development of the sores upon the bodies of the occupants of the house.

This is perhaps a mere coincidence, but it is remarkable that the same susceptibility to electrical effects, with the same lapse of time, should be observed in both animal and vegetable organisms.

I have visited the sufferers, who are now in one of the hospitals of this city; and although their appearance is truly horrible, yet it is hoped that in no case will the injuries prove fatal.

Warner Cowgill, 

U.S. Consulate, Maracaibo, Venezuela, 

November 17, 1886.

Modern students of Forteana have noted the obvious similarity to radiation sickness, with some broad hints that UFOs may have been responsible, but what caused this unsettling incident is still a matter for debate.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump could be called a real fishing expedition.

Street harassment in Victorian London.

The world's most isolated civilization.

This is for all of you who have asked, "Why do you never post photos of Agatha Christie surfing?"

Elizabeth II's life in contemporary newspapers.

The Great Smoke Pall of 1950.

"Playing the game" of Sherlock Holmes.

The time the U.S. Treasury was robbed.

Remembering the "ice widows."

Women go to court, 1300-1800.

"Scraps" of Victorian tradesmen.

The mysterious deaths that inspired a famous horror movie.

A successful amputation from 31,000 years ago.

Jean-Pierre Cherid, the man whose life sounds like something from "The Day of the Jackal."

The mystery of the Orang Pendek.

A lost Iberian civilization.

The Dari Mart murder.

I love the "just" in this headline.

The mourning for a queen.  Victoria, this time.

The hunt for ghost islands.

America's first uprising.

The Victorian journalist and the highly unpleasant sport of rat-baiting.

Another rat-baiting link.  It's just been that kind of week, I guess.

The woman who survived jumping off the Empire State Building.

The days of boxing cats.

Some really cold crime cases.

The first known color photos of Ireland.

Comparing Georgian England's criminal code to that of Austria's.

The abbey and the wood of...Abbey Wood.

The 1860 New York visit of the Prince of Wales.

Some newly-discovered ancient hieroglyphs.

Why 1950s American women were inspired by Elizabeth II.

The Ashland Outrage.

The mystery of the "bog bodies."

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a story that might be UFO-related.  Or might not.  It's one of those strange tales that's hard to categorize.  In the meantime, here's, uh, this.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

People who work in cemeteries often wind up with some odd tales to tell, as this item from the “Iowa County Democrat,” April 11, 1895, amply demonstrates:

Sexton Gorham, of Marietta City cemetery, is not a believer in ghosts, but during the many years he has been at work among the dead he has seen two mysterious persons suddenly disappear, that astonished him, says the Atlanta Constitution. 

Eleven years ago, he says, he was at work one Saturday and he noticed a man, dressed in black, standing about where the tool box is now. He says he worked on a short distance from him, and for one hour the mysterious man stood there like a statue. When Mr. Gorham concluded to quit work he placed his tools in his wheelbarrow and started towards the man to put up his tools. When he got within 15 or 20 yards of the man he looked down to guide his wheelbarrow, and when he looked up again the “man in black” had disappeared. 

He said it was an open space where he stood and there was no place for any one to hide. He said he looked all around, but he couldn't find him anywhere. Recently Sexton Gorham has had another experience. He said that he was coming from the new cemetery to the old, through a drizzling rain, and at a newly made grave he saw a woman dressed in black. He watched her closely, and walked toward her to see who it was out on such an inclement day, and when he got very near her he passed around a monument, and when he looked for the “woman in black" again she, too, had suddenly vanished. He went to where she stood and he could see no tracks and he made a diligent search for her, but nowhere was she visible. Sexton Gorham says it put some “curious feelings" on him, and he did not propose to explain the matter.

Monday, September 12, 2022

William Allen White and the Little People

William Allen White (1868-1944) was a prominent Kansas newspaper editor, author, and politician who was a leading member of the “Progressive movement” of the early half of the 20th century.  Sometimes called the “Sage of Emporia,” White saw himself as a spokesperson for small-town middle America.

This is all very nice, but the estimable Mr. White would not be ushered into the hallowed halls of Strange Company HQ if it wasn’t for one memorable brush with The Weird he claimed to have experienced in 1891.  The following account comes from his posthumously-published autobiography.

One other thing I remember--a strange thing and quite mad. The August harvest moon, under which a few nights before I had come home feeling most poetical from my day’s fishing with my visiting editors, was still shining high in the sky when I walked home another night.  Not unconscious of the night splendor, I turned in and slept deeply. Then I remember waking up, when the moon's beams were slanting and the dawn must have been but two or three hours away. Now this is sure: I did wake up. Something--it seemed to me the sound of distant music--came to my ear. The head of my bed was near a south window and I looked out. And I will swear across the years during which I have held the picture, that there under a tree--a spreading elm tree--I saw the Little People, the fairies. I was not dreaming; at least I did not think so then and I cannot think so now. They were making a curious buzzing noise, white little people, or gray, three or four inches high. And I got up out of bed and went to another window and still saw them. Then I lay on my belly on my bed and kicked my heels and put my chin in my hands, to be sure I was not sleeping, and still I saw them.  For a long time, maybe five minutes, they were buzzing about, busy at something, I could not make out what. Then I turned away a moment, maybe to roll over on my side or to get upon my knees, and they began to fade away; an instant later they were gone. And there I was like a fool, gawking at the bluegrass under the elm. I got up and sat in a chair. I was deeply upset, bemused, troubled. I thought: “Maybe I’m going crazy!” I knew well enough of course even then that what I saw I did not see, but when you are cold sober and have the conviction spread over you that you are made, you are bothered--and I have been bothered ever since. It is not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Many years later I heard of transparent fish--with other eyes, other creatures see other things; with other ears they hear much that escapes our human ears. Perhaps in our very presence are other beings like the transparent fish, which we may not feel with our bodies attuned to rather insentient nerves. Heaven knows! For an hour I thought I was crazy. And when I recall that hour and am so sure that I was awake, I think maybe I am still crazy.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

This week's Link Dump is off to the races!

A visit to Morden College.

OK, let's talk deviant nuns.

Examining a weird double death.

That time Geoffrey Chaucer's father was kidnapped.  It's quite the medieval soap opera.

The context behind some famous Napoleon quotes.

The world's oldest bottle of wine.  And, no, you would not want to drink it.

The famed Kentucky Meat Shower of 1876.

Cremation in Victorian Britain.

Yes, there are such things as eyelash superstitions.

A man involved in the Berners Street Hoax.

How we began comforting people with the words, "there, there."

The magical calendar which gives the secret to everything.

Scientists are squabbling over a 7 million year old fossil.

So, who's up for having a whisky featuring beaver anal glands?

A Dutch Halloween party, 1899.

Dangerous dancing dandies!

The Bradford Sweets Poisoning.

In search of Mary Seacole, innovative nurse.

The significance of a rock from ancient Greece.

Alaskan UFOs.

Julia, life-saving dog.

A hypnotic murderer.

MONGOLIAN DEATH WORMS.  I am so happy to have the opportunity to add those words to my blog.

Thomas Bewick talks cats.

"Honey, what's for dinner?"  "36,000 year old bison meat."  There are times when I think scientists have way too much spare time on their hands.

A woman who married not wisely, but too damn often.

A leaden coffin and a gloomy vault.

The village that just keeps humming.

One very lonely house.

Meet Jonathan, the world's oldest living animal.

The adventures of a 19th century aeronaut.

Every parent wants their kids to do well at school, but this may be going a bit too far.

The last fight between mounted lancers.

Some archival papers of Prime Ministers.

That time when America banned sliced bread.

A marriage drama in 19th century high places.

Emile Zola, photographer.

Astronomers are seeing some freaky things, and they're not happy about it.

That's all for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at an early 20th century journalist's very strange encounter.  In the meantime, I felt I couldn't ignore the biggest news story of the week.  I'm no royalist, but I liked Elizabeth.  Fate handed her a very strange job, and she performed it as well and conscientiously as she could.  (I always suspected she would have been far happier as country village housewife Lizzie Windsor.)  I'm sorry to see one of the few remaining links to a bygone world go.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Via Newspapers.com

As I have mentioned before, some mighty strange things can happen at wakes.  This example appeared in the “Galesburg Enterprise,” February 12, 1892:

A neat-appearing two-story frame of modern architecture on the Springfield (Ohio) pike is enjoying a reputation as a place for ghosts to hold their carnivals. It is in the interior of this house that the ghostly scenes are enacted. The last person who occupied the house with his family was a gentleman by the name of Prentiss, but himself and family remained no longer than they could help. A little child of Mr. Prentiss died, and several of the intimate friends of the family were sitting up with the remains. 

It was about 12 o'clock at night, and the occupants of the room were dozing from their vigil, when, with a muffled exclamation, one of the ladies arose from the chair, and, with a trembling hand, pointed toward one of the walls of the room. Seemingly a hand of fire had suddenly appeared upon the wall. The hand first appeared near the ceiling, but did not remain motionless. With the index finger pressed against the papered wall, the hand moved downward until the floor was reached. It then returned to the ceiling and back again, making six perpendicular visits downward and upward, after which it disappeared and was seen no more that night. Lately though the apparition has continued nightly.

How long the mysterious proceedings will continue is, of course, unknown, but at the present time it appears as though the hand of fire is going to leave its mark upon every inch of paper upon the wall.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Murder and Mystery: The Tragic Tobin Family

All families experience tragedies, to one extent or another.  However, it is thankfully rare that any clan goes through a string of bizarre misfortunes like those suffered by the otherwise commonplace Tobin family.

In 1885, young Mary Tobin moved from her home in Pennsylvania to Staten Island.  In 1887, she found work as an assistant to a doctor named Samuel A. Robinson.  Tobin was described as an intelligent and extremely attractive girl.  Early in 1889, she excitedly told everyone she knew that she was engaged to be married.  Curiously, however, the identity of her fiance was a mystery to her friends. The only men they had ever seen her with were Dr. Robinson and his son.  By all appearances, Mary was a happy and rather fortunate person, without an enemy in the world.  

Samuel Robinson

On April 13, 1889, she left Robinson’s employ, saying that she was returning to Pennsylvania to visit her family, and would soon return for her wedding.  Two days later, she visited the doctor's office for a second farewell.  She told Robinson that before going back home, she would visit a friend in Long Island, Mrs. Frank McKinney.

That was the last anyone ever heard from her.  A few days later, Mrs. McKinney came to Robinson's office, reporting that Mary's trunk had arrived at her home, but there was no sign of Miss Tobin herself.  A week or so later, Mary's brothers, Daniel and David, also sought out the doctor, asking if he had any idea what had become of their sister.

On May 12, the question of Mary Tobin's whereabouts was finally answered when her body was found off the rocks in Clifton, Staten Island.  The Staten Island coroner stated that she had drowned.  However, another doctor, J. Walter Wood, disputed this, asserting that no water had been found in her stomach, causing him to believe she had been dead before she entered the water.  (Curiously, Wood was not allowed to testify at Tobin's inquest.)  The jury at her inquest gave the unsatisfactory ruling that Tobin had died of asphyxia, from unknown causes.  The mystery of what killed Mary was never definitively solved.  (The entire official investigation into Tobin's death was remarkably slipshod and inept--in the minds of some onlookers, deliberately so.)

A pathologist thought her body had been in the water for eight to ten days.  If so, that would mean her whereabouts were unknown for several days after she was last seen.  The pathologist also addressed some inevitable rumors.  He stated that there were no signs that the young woman had undergone an abortion--in fact, he believed she had been a virgin.  (Dr. Robinson responded to this latter statement by alleging that Mary had been sexually active, earning himself much public criticism for this "breach of good taste.")

It was only after Mary's death that the identity of her fiance finally became known: he was another doctor, William J. Bryan.  As it happened, Dr. Bryan was the last person known to have seen her alive.  After she left Robinson's office on April 15, she went directly to Bryan's place of work, after which he walked her to the train station.  He said that he had left her at the station before her train arrived.  (However, the railroad's ticket agent testified that she had not seen Mary Tobin--whom she knew quite well--on the night of the 15th.)  

William Bryan

Although Bryan conceded that he and Mary had been close, he initially refused to either confirm or deny that they had been engaged.  (A reporter from the "New York World" recorded that when he interviewed Bryan, the doctor presented a strange demeanor for someone whose girlfriend had just turned up dead.  He appeared to be "quite jovial and during the conversation frequently gave vent to laughter.")  Bryan also dished a bit of dirt about Dr. Robinson.  He claimed that Robinson had disliked Mary, and that he had owed the dead woman a sizable amount of money.  (For some years after Mary's death, Bryan and Robinson would keep themselves busy by accusing each other of having murdered the young woman, and then using "undue influence" to stifle the investigation.)

It was noted that there was a problem with Bryan's account of the night Mary disappeared.  He claimed that he left her at the station at 8:54 p.m. in order to make a medical call.  He returned to his office, whereupon an assistant, Timothy McInerney, drove him to the home of one of his patients, E.J. Field, where he arrived about 10:40 p.m.  This meant that according to Bryan, it took one hour and forty minutes to make a trip that should have only taken about half an hour.  (McInerney countered this finding by stating that he and Bryan had made three other house calls before arriving at Field's home, but this claim does not appear to have been verified.)

In May 1891, Bryan's former housekeeper, Mrs. W.S. Glassford, revived the Tobin mystery by going to the press with some scandalous accusations.  She claimed that Bryan had had a most improper relationship with the dead woman.  She also stated that when Bryan walked Mary to the train station, Miss Tobin was crying uncontrollably, and that the girl was "frantic" over Bryan's relationship with another woman.  The incensed Bryan vowed he would make Mrs. Glassford "smart for the lies she has uttered."  "I shall follow her now to the bitter end and force her to prove what she says or suffer."  Bryan went to the DA asking that the examination into Tobin's death be reopened, but he was evidently ignored.

Around this same time, the riddle of Mary's death became even more sinister when the Franklin, Pennsylvania home of her father, N.P. Tobin, caught fire and burned to the ground.  Mr. Tobin’s body was found in the ruins.  However, he had not died from the flames, but had been strangled before the fire was set.

Mr. Tobin had indicated to friends that he obtained some sort of information that would lead to the identity of his daughter’s murderer.  It was speculated that this dangerous knowledge was the motive for his own killing, but this second Tobin death was fated to remain as utterly mysterious as the first.  

This was not the last tragedy to hit the Tobin family.  Four months after N.P. Tobin’s death, the tin shop where Mary’s brother, D.S. Tobin, was a partner also burned down as a result of arson.  This crime was also never solved.  The younger Tobin declared that the same enemy was behind all these catastrophes and the entire Tobin family would be “wiped out of existence” if the fiend was not caught.

The fiend never was.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Weekend Link Dump


"The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan Mandijn

After you've read the links, feel free to join the Strange Company staff in a game of croquet!

The Victorian urban legend that scary stories could kill.

No, Lizzie Borden did not confess.

The first-hand account of a woman who survived the sinking of the Titanic.

How a bit of eavesdropping solved a kidnapping.

Not too many people get turned into a sex doll, but that's Alma Mahler for you.

The fugitive Nazi and the Syrian Secret Service.

The possible link between ancient coins and a supernova.

Here's your big chance to explore a really spooky old rail tunnel.

Cricket-player detectives.  Or is it detective cricket-players?

A look at the Isle of Iona.

The man who fought WWII using a bow.

A 1912 chat with a lady undertaker.

The decriminalization of heresy.

The remarkable life of Mughal empress Nur Jahan.

A look at the corpse lily, probably the flower you'd least like to get in a bouquet.

The Onion Pie Murder.

The life story of the girl in a famous Velazquez portrait.

The complicated job of caring for one of the most unusual cloaks in the world.

The lives of soldiers during the Wars of the Roses.

Percy Shelley visits the mountains of West Wales.

That time that America managed to lose a nuke.

Henry VI and the appointment of a Lord Chancellor.

New details about the wreck of the Titanic.

A brief history of the Tunnel of Love.

Digging for Pocahontas.

A rich businessman's puzzling suicide.

The man who loved corvids.

The 1864 Battle of Heligoland.

Rules for fairy fashions.

The untried diplomatic solution for the U.S. to avoid war with Japan.

That's it for this week!  See you on Monday, when we'll look at a family's mysterious multiple tragedies.  In the meantime, bring on the madrigals!