January, 2005

January 1, 2005

Welcome to a new dawning for Morbid Fact Du Jour!

Yes, I know, I've been away for a very, very, very long time. Since July, actually. During that time, I was preoccupied by an intense workload, the chaos of moving across the country, vacations, network and e-mail problems, and various other distractions that kept me off the computer for almost six months. Literally, I had to catch up on months worth of e-mail before I could even be in the position to write this newsletter. And that has, certainly, never happened to me before, being a compulsive e-mail junkie.

But now that the job that kept me so busy is complete, and I've finally (nearly) settled into my new Chicago home, and the holidays are over, and the post-election depression has lessened, I figure it's time to get back to doing what I seem to do best: disturbing people. And so with a new year, comes a new era of MFDJ - hopefully, the best one yet.

A heartfelt thank you to all of you for sticking by me despite my absence.

And now, without further ado, let's get back to the facts with ...

Today's Aromatic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Preservation by pickling was occasionally used as an embalming method. During alterations to Danbury church in England in 1779 the village doctor came across the grave of Sir Gerard de Braybroke who died in 1422. The elm coffin and inner lead shell were opened to reveal a tolerably preserved corpse lying in an aromatic fluid which the doctor proclaimed, after tasting, resembled Spanish olives in mushroom ketchup.

Information culled from: Death: A History of Man's Obsessions and Fears by Robert Wilkins


He tasted the fluid. Talk about a man with absolutely NO sense of squeam! Hmmm, I suddenly have a marketing flash... "Baybroke's Embalmic Vinaigrette". Pre-orders, anyone?


Morbid Film Du Jour!

I finally got around to viewing the highly-anticipated (by me, anyway) film version of my all-time favorite book, Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0826321933/theasylumeclecti). And I was by turns enthralled and bitterly disappointed. In case you're not familiar with the book, it is a collection of excerpts from a newspaper in the small town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin in the 1890's, which are presented together with a collection of found images from a local photographer taken during the same timespan. Many of the newspaper excerpts are delightfully deranged and mesmerizingly tragic, and depict a time of great hardship and despair, during an era before welfare or diptheria immunizations, when the tides of fate could destroy families so quickly and cruelly that mental breakdowns were the only sane response. The book is a truly thought-provoking and fascinating read.

The film starts out to be a faithful rendering of the book, with black and white re-enactments of many of the more compelling tales. The director did a fantastic job of casting individuals who looked like they crawled right out of the vintage photographs, and the period details are just right. I turned to my girlfriend and remarked on how brilliant it all was - they had done the impossible by making a film worthy of the book.

And then something went horribly, horribly wrong. Suddenly, the beautiful black and white period scenery was replaced by color footage of the ugly citizens of modern-day Black River Falls. Various unconnected vignettes of modern small-town American life played before me: parades, football games, cars driving down boring streets, children playing. Stupid people saying stupid things. And for what? No explanation is given for the appearance of this modern footage. I'm imagining that the director thought it would be oh-so-profound to juxtapose the modern Black River Falls with its despairing past, but it completely ruined the film for me by breaking the spell of nostalgia that was so expertly cast.

And so the film continues - with brilliant vignettes of 1890's insanity and crime and sadness followed by boring, ugly footage of smalltown 1990's America.

My recommendation? Skip the modern footage and focus on the sad tales in black and white. You'll have a much better time than I did, believe me!

Wisconsin Death Trip (2000)

January 2, 2005

Today's Cramped Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One of the many notorious cells beneath the Tower of London was known as Little Ease. Currently, just a doorway links the eastern chamber with the sub-crypt in the basement of the White Tower, but it is believed that originally it was a stone alcove-like cell secured by a heavy door studded with iron bolts. Its dimensions were about four feet square and nine feet high, making it impossible for the occupant to lie down and rest. In the pitch darkness, he could only crouch on the damp earthen floor, gradually becoming disorientated and so more amenable to impending coercion. A prisoner could remain in this crouched position for a week before their "torture" began.

Information culled from: Rack, Rope, and Red Hot Pincers by Geoffrey Abbott


Jeez, I kneel to pet my cat for 10 seconds and I start to cramp up. I can't imagine being in that situation. I'm soooo ill-equipped for torture. It's like Alvy Singer said about Annie Hall: "If the Gestapo would take away your Bloomingdale's charge card, you'd tell them everything." I really need to toughen myself up... After all, with the current political climate, the probability of torture doesn't really seem so remote...


Morbid Read Du Jour!

But anyway, the real reason I wanted to feature a fact from "Rack, Rope, and Red Hot Pincers" is because it turns out that the old guru of torment himself, Geoffrey Abbott, has come out with a new book. And it sounds positively delightful as described in this uncredited review forwarded to me by dyanna:

"A British author has written a new book that is certainly not for those with weak stomachs. Geoffrey Abbott's book, "The Executioner Always Chops Twice," offers a blow by blow account of executions gone wrong. Abbott got the inspiration for his novel from his many years of service as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. One story recounts the hanging of John Bartendale in 1634. His body was buried near the scaffold, but when a passer-by saw the dirt moving above Bartendale's grave, the stranger discovered the "living corpse." Then there was the tale of James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, who was to have his head chopped off in 1685. Even after Scott tipped the executioner six guineas to do the job right, it still took him three or four whacks to cut off Scott's head with a knife."

Ooooh, this one is going to the top of my Morbid-Must-Have list immediately!!!

The Executioner Always Chops Twice

(Special thanks to dyanna for the tip.)

January 3, 2005

Today's Mortifying Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Here's a particularly tasty excerpt from Amos M. Judson's "History of the 83rd Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers" [1865], describing the aftermath of a battle occurring at Gettysburg, PA in July, 1863:

"They laid in every conceivable position among the rocks in that low swampy ground, some crouched behind the rocks as if about to fire, some lying upon their faces, and some stretched upon their backs, like corpses laid out for a funeral, as if they had determined to observe the propriety of attitude even in the hour and article of death. The rains had, during the interval, descended and the hot sun had beat down upon them, and they were now swollen and turned black with mortification, and millions of maggots could be seen rioting upon their flesh. Ah me! thought I, could the fathers, the mothers, and the wives of these unfortunate men suddenly appear and gaze upon the forms they had once fondled in their arms, they would curse to the bitter end the traitors who had brought the desolations and miseries of this war upon their once happy households."

Excerpt culled from:
Killed In Action: Eyewitness Accounts of the Last Moments of 100 Union Soldiers Who Died at Gettysburg
by Gregory A. Coco


Funny how war commentary always seems topical...

Mary Jo has a story to share: "You know I live near Gettysburg and about 8 years ago I delivered pizza there. There is a railroad track that runs through town and one day one of the engineers saw something sticking out of an embankment that borders the Chambersburg Pike. He reported it and it ended up being a human foot. So all of these archeologists came down and they pitched a tent over it and began a dig because they assumed it was a civil war soldier. It turned out to be much much older than that. A Native American. I delivered pizza regularly to one of the archeologists who was in town working on the dig (boy, he ate a LOT of pizza). It was cool. I forgot all about that until I read this."


Morbid Sightseeing Alert!

Oh, I'm beside myself with excitement!!! (Literally, out of body experiences are quite common around The Castle DeSpair.) Gunther von Hagens' "Body Worlds" exhibit of plastinated flayed corpses in many fascinating poses is coming to the Comtesse's adopted home of Chicago in February!! Oh, you just KNOW my heart jumped 20 beats when I saw that, especially since I've been grieving over the fact that I haven't had time for a trip to L.A. to see the current run of the exhibit at the California Science Center.

In any event, for those of you in a better position to travel to Chicago than Los Angeles, here's the info:

BODY WORLDS will open in Chicago
Feb. 4, 2005 through Sept. 5, 2005

Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637

Here's a link to the article on the museum website: http://www.msichicago.org/bodyworlds/index.html

And for those of you still interested in catching the exhibit in California, you have until January 23rd:


Oh, how can I be expected to go about my "normal routine" when I am filled with such intense anticipation????

January 4, 2005

Today's Jazzy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Melvin Rees, a jazz musician, told a friend: "You can't say it's wrong to kill. Only individual standards make it right or wrong". One night, under the stimulus of benzedrine, he told another friend that he wanted to experience everything -- love, hate, life, death. That was on Saturday, January 10, 1959, by which time Rees had already realized his ambition, having killed and sexually assaulted at least one girl, possibly even five. The following day, Rees tried to force a car to drive into the ditch, but as he got out of his own car, holding a gun, the other driver managed to reverse and drive away. Rees's intention was to kill the driver and rape his wife, who was also in the car. Rees's next attempt, later in the day, *was* successful. His old blue Chevrolet forced another car off the road; it contained a family on an afternoon outing. Rees shot the husband, Carrol Jackson, and tossed his body into the ditch, together with their eighteen-month-old girl (who suffocated under her father's body). He then forced the wife and five-year-old daughter to drive off with him. What happened to them during the next few hours is not certain. When the two bodies were found some months later, all that was clear was the Mildred Jackson had been strangled and the child beaten to death with a heavy instrument. Rees was arrested in 1960 and executed by the state of Virginia in 1961.

Excerpt culled from:
The Mammoth Book of The History of Murder


As always, I blame it on the jazz. Is it any wonder they once called it "The Devil's Music"?? ;-)



This photo of a tsunami-devastated beach has been making the rounds, so you may have already seen it, but I had to share it anyway. Can you imagine having to clean up this mess? I mean, where do you BEGIN??? This is also shows that the best place to be when a tsunami hits is in bed - check out all those mattresses that survived quite well!

(Warning: This is a 627KB image so it may load slowly, but I didn't want to cut out any of the detail by making it smaller.)


Special thanks to Linehan718 for sending the image my way.

Oh, by the way, there's a nice collection of videos of the tsunami hitting here:



Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

A new, and particularly lovely, Autopsy Zombie Staple Doll is up for auction on Ebay. Oh, if only I had money to burn...


January 5, 2005

Today's Rural Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A girl was killed Tuesday, February 8, 2004 near Cedar City, Utah when her coat got caught in a car door and she was dragged for about three miles on rural roads. The girl, believed to be 7, was waiting for a school bus at a stop on a country road when a relative drove up to a mailbox nearby. The girl asked for a ride to school and climbed into the back seat, but got out again when she was told the relative did not have time to drive five miles into town. "She apparently became caught and tangled," Deputy Sheriff Michael Crouch said. "The relative was not aware this had happened and drove off with the little girl caught in the rear passenger door." A witness stopped the driver about three miles down the road. No charges were filed.

Culled from: The Associated Press
Generously submitted by: Neil Langdon Inglis


As Neil said, what a drag...


Morbid Read Du Jour!

Stephen sends a Fiction recommendation for us all:

"I was surprised to find that the fiction section of The Library Eclectica was missing Iain Bank's novel "The Wasp Factory". The entries you made back in March/April 2003 about the man with an exposed brain being eaten away by maggots reminded me of this book, as there is a hospital scene with much the same scenario, only involving a baby instead of an old man. There's also dogs being set on fire, wasps being tortured, a pre-teen serial killer, and tons of other weird stuff. Definitely a must-read for the morbid set."

Here's an Amazon link to the book:



I Want My M(orbid)TV!

Recently (because I'm always behind the times), I discovered a most compelling series on A&E entitled "The First 48" which details the first two days of a murder investigation. The title refers to the well-known maxim that most murder cases are solved within the first 48 hours following the death, and after that the odds of apprehending the guilty party go downhill quickly. The brilliant thing about this show is that it's a documentary, not some made-up hooey like CSI. You're taken directly to the scene of the murder as the detectives search for evidence, follow leads, and interview witnesses and family members. At the end of the 48 hour time period, an update is provided as to the current status of the case. Absolutely fascinating.

And the best news is that a new season is starting tomorrow at 10PM (9PM CST)! I'd highly recommend you check it out if you have the chance.


January 6, 2005

Today's Overpowering Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On June 14, 2002, a mountain of garbage collapsed onto a factory and workers' dormitory in western China, killing 10 people inside. Four people were dug out of the garbage after the collapse near the village of Shandong in Chongqing municipality. The garbage pile had been waterlogged after days of continuous rain. Rescue work was difficult because the collapse also severed power lines and buried roads. Workers digging through the waste also had to contend with the "overpowering stink" of the rotting garbage. The dump had been in use for more than 10 years and contained tens of thousands of square meters of garbage. The factory and dormitory were in a gully at the base of the garbage mountain.

Culled from: The Associated Press
Generously submitted by: Bruce Townley


Note to self: Never buy real estate located in a gully at the base of a garbage mountain.


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

I can't exactly call this a "read" because there's really nothing to read, but David Winters recommends a fun little book that I've had the pleasure of perusing myself: The Pop-Up Book Of Phobias. To give you an idea of what it's all about, here's the Amazon.Com description:

"Fear of heights, fear of spiders, fear of flying, fear of death--everyone is afraid of something. And these pop-ups place you in the hot seat--whether it's the dentist's chair as the drill comes spinning toward you; looking over the edge of a skyscraper whose sheer face plummets thousands of feet to the sidewalk far below; or the window seat of a plane as the oxygen mask deploys, your drink spills, and the horizon line shifts to an angle that is suddenly, terribly wrong..."

Sounds like great fun to me!


And David has also pointed me towards The Pop-Up Book Of Nightmares by the same author (Gary Greenberg), which looks equally enticing!

"They're gripping, they're realistic, and they're universal--those primal scream-creating nightmares that every reader has had at one time or another. The Pop-Up Book of Nightmares brings them vividly to life with ten richly illustrated, over-the-top pop-ups that put the reader right in the center of a world gone mad. Which one of these nightmares did you have last night?

"--Being unprepared for a final exam
--Going for a midnight snack and finding a refrigerator teeming with rats
--Giving birth to a baby that's anything but normal
--Being chased by a menace that seems to be everywhere at once
--Free falling with no hope of a safe landing"

Let's see... I think I have the last two almost every night of the week. Sign me up!



Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Now, here's something that is both satisfying to look at and, I would assume, to munch on: a Thorax Cake! I must make something like this when I finally get around to throwing my Donner Party...


(Also check out the amazing Zombie Cake at the bottom of the page.)

Thanks to Bronwyn for the link.

January 9, 2005

Today's Gusty Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A sudden gust of wind uprooted a tent at a wedding moments after the couple recited their vows, killing one guest and injuring more than a dozen others. Tent poles, stakes and broken glass and china went flying through the air on Saturday, June 26, 2004 at the wedding of Jason and Carrie Guyette as a storm moved in. The bridegroom's step-grandmother was killed by a pole. "There was this 'whoosh,'" said Catherine LaBrecque, the bride's grandmother. "The tent went airborne. Everyone was screaming and then the next thing you know, people were on the ground and there was blood on all these people." The guests suffered mostly cuts and scrapes. One guest was held overnight at a hospital with a concussion and cuts. "Poles were flying by people," said Bruce La Bombard, the father of the bride. "The six-foot stakes they had in the ground were flying around like toothpicks."

Culled from: The Associated Press
Generously submitted by: FREAKYKITTIE


I guess Mother Nature couldn't forever hold her peace. I certainly hoped they took the hint and got a quick divorce. If not... hmmmm... I wonder if they decided to get married again at Phuket Beach?


Requiem For A Hamster

Oana has sent me a link to what has to be one of the finest pet funerals on the net. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.



Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

This one was sent to me by ~JR~:

Q: What did the necrophiliac pedophile say when he couldn't come in to work?


A: I'm sorry, I'm feeling a little stiff.

January 10, 2005

Today's Mournful Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Queen Victoria married her first cousin, German Prince Albert in 1840. Victoria was madly in love with Albert for the entire 17 years of their marriage. She depended on him utterly for clarity of judgment and companionship, as well as the erotic encounters that are recorded in her private papers with the utmost of discretion. His death on December 14, 1861 from Typhoid Fever left her devastated. From the moment of Albert's demise, Victoria dressed for forty years in what were known as "widow's weeds". The Queen withdrew from public life, and slept nightly with Albert's freshly washed and ironed nightshirts. Images of Queen Victoria attired from head to toe in mourning black abound. Victoria stayed in deep mourning, making a fashion of mourning outfits, until she departed this mortal coil in January of 1901.

Culled from: The Goth Bible by Nancy Kilpatrick


I have to tell you about the Goth Bible, from whence this MFDJ is culled, because I myself am featured in it. (And probably several of you good people are as well!) I've only just started reading it, but I've already found it extremely entertaining and I've learned quite a few things from it as well - such as Victoria's mourning attire, of which I amazingly was sinfully unaware. I'll be doing a full review on the book once I finish reading it, but in the meantime all you goths and wannabes might want to check it out yourselves.


Morbid Trinket Du Jour!

In fact, I learned about today's Morbid Trinket from The Goth Bible as well. It's a card game called Gother Than Thou ("The Most Pretentious Card Game Ever Made") that looks absolutely hilarious for those of us who don't take our morbid sensibilities too seriously. The official website describes the game as follows:

"Gother Than Thou is a new card game of backstabbing and betrayal set within the gothic community. Cloves, Absinthe, Eyeliner, Boots. Everything you need to make it big on the scene is here, but so are Dire Fashion Blunders, Infections, Debt, and the dreaded Visit From Mom. Will you be the first to achieve 20 Goth Points and declare yourself Gother Than Thou? Or will you fall into sickness and debt, wallowing in your own misery?"

Unfortunately, the official homepage is sold out of the games (http://www.savant-garde.com/gother/index2.html). However, I was able to find some still available at various sites on the internet, so all hope is not lost.



Here's a clip from Snopes.Com (so you know it's legit) showing a suspect in an interrogation room offing himself with a pistol. As Snopes explains, the best thing about it is that it's so low-key, so casual, so opposite from the typical Hollywood action film fare. Which makes it all the more compelling in my non-fiction obsessed mind.

Go ahead, you know you want to watch it!


(Thanks to brooha for sending the link my way.)

January 12, 2005

Today's Tragic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

This one is an oldie but moldy taken from the Memoirs of Mrs. John Brown, 1847-1935, describing a scene in the late 1800's:

"In the bed was a young woman, wan and dazed. She was holding a week-old baby to her empty breast. It was so pitiful I did not know what do say.

"'I thought there were two children.'"

"'There was three days ago,' the woman said. 'Show her, Jem.' The man got up heavily, and opened the bottom drawer of a rickety chest and there lay a little dead child of about two. I gasped. He said, 'We be waiting for the parish to come and bury her.' The mother said, 'We couldn't put her upstairs, alone, in the empty room.'

"I stood still, sobbing, but the parents shed no tears, nor said a word, except when Jem closed the drawer: 'She were a nice lass, she were,' he said."

Culled from: Medicine & Health Through Time: An SHP Development Study
Generously submitted by: Tristan


Ah yes, the good old days... When diseases like yellow fever or diptheria could wipe out entire families in a matter of days. Reminds me of the graveyard in Elkhorn, Montana - a town that was devastated by a diptheria epidemic in the 1880's-1890's. If you haven't taken a look at my travelogue of the ghost town, including the sad little cemetery, you're welcome to peruse it here:



Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

Thanks to Gena for forwarding this very amusing website: One-Eyed Bob's Inappropriate Toys For Children


However, I have to ask: Am I insane for thinking that these gifts seem entirely appropriate???


January 13, 2005

Today's Sympathetic Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

In October, 2003 a Tanzanian man cut off his genitals in an attempt to win sympathy from creditors after squandering their money on prostitutes and alcohol. The 24-year-old reached the decision after realising he could not pay back millions of shillings lent to him by friends and relatives to invest in a business venture. It was the second such incident in the area in two months. Another man slashed off his genitals upon failing to settle a 300,000 shilling debt.

Culled from: Reuters
Generously submitted by: Paul


I guess this gives new validity to the phrase, "I'd give my left nut for a million bucks..." I wonder if he got the sympathy he was looking for or if they just shrugged and said, "Wow, that really sucks - now you have no money AND no penis! Now, pay up... or you'll have no life!" I suppose he probably figured that it was priceless to him, so why not to everyone else?

Ragin Ryan clarifies: "The debt specified (300,000) shillings is worth an American $340."


Morbid Game Du Jour!

It's been awhile since I've mentioned a morbid game, so why not let Joel tell us about a classic one?

"I'm not sure if this would really be considered morbid or not, but its at least close: Max Payne. Max, a NY cop whose wife and newborn are killed by 2 psycho druggies who had been tested on with a new drug called valkyr. It's a first person shooter, but with a great story line complete with a graphic novel thingy. Max's dialogue is well-written, which goes along with the graphic novel. There are a lot of little things in the game, like a lot of names and references to Viking lore. And Max is drugged twice, so you get to play through 2 bad trips. And the graphics are photo-realistic, so it's just a beautiful game."



Keddie Hate Mail

I received another e-mail laced with disdain regarding my infamous Keddie Murder Cabin travelogue. It seems many people take great offense at my tongue-in-cheek suggestion that instead of razing a cabin where several people were brutally murdered, they increase the tourist trade by turning it into an attraction. I decided to compile all my hate mail and post it on the website for the benefit of all. Next step is to compile a general hate mail page... that's on the horizon.

Here's the travelogue:

And here's the fan mail: