July, 2004

July 7, 2004

Today's Filthy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

To be born a Hindu in India is to enter the caste system, one of the world's longest surviving forms of social stratification. Embedded in Indian culture for the past 1,500 years, the caste system follows a basic precept: All men are created unequal. At the very bottom of the caste hierarchy are the Untouchables. Untouchables are outcasts - people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down. Untouchables perform society's "unclean work" - work that involves physical contact with blood, excrement, and other bodily "defilements" as defined by Hindu law. Untouchables cremate the dead, clean latrines, cut umbilical cords, remove dead animals from the roads, tan hides, sweep gutters. At the very bottom of the Untouchables caste are the Bhangis. In villages and cities they cart away feces from public latrines, clean the toilet holes of private houses, and sweep up animal droppings from streets. One morning in Ahmadabad, one of the Bhangis, 25-year-old Dinesh Parmar, removed a manhole cover and dropped into the sewer hole - with no gloves, no gas mask. His body hidden inside, he methodically lifted bucket after bucket of excrement over his head, upending them on the street. Flies clustered thickly. Then he stopped, dizzy from the carbon monoxide seeping out of the sewer. The supervisor nodded, allowing Parmar to climb out. The previous year 30 Bhangis had died from gas poisoning in the sewers.

Culled from: National Geographic, June 2003


Bill feels the urge to criticize:

"I think they've been reading the Ambedkar website, and made a few lazy mistakes. It's 'Ahmedabad', and Untouchable is not a caste, that's the problem.



"Bhuj is a holy pilgrimage place right out of the way in Gujarat, so it is more conservative than most of India whose president (head of state, not govt) was (is) a Dalit (untouchable) - but of course on the streets, everyone knows who the untouchables are. There's a lot of politics there too. Muslim vs Hindu, and even Clinton doing a photo-op. I was there just before the earthquake and liked it a lot, but then, even as an untouchable, I'm an honourary 'tourist-caste' member.

"Sorry, I'm being boring, but this is a huge subject which covers much more than I know about, but does not seem so different in many ways to the poor & rich of, say America. I have the Dalits to thank though, as one hosed me off after I fell into a septic tank."

And my girlfriend wonders why I have no desire to go to India...

Yes, I have returned from Chicagoland, where I spent a fun-filled long weekend with my girlfriend. Among the morbid highlights of my trip were a lovely photographic stroll through majestic Graceland Cemetery (a travelogue is forthcoming, of course), and the viewing of the rather morbid flicks "Elephant," "Monster," and "Mystic River". If you haven't seen them, I'd highly recommend "Monster" (about your favorite prostitute serial killer Aileen Wuornos) and "Mystic River" (more murder, more mayhem) which both feature performances that are TRULY Oscar-deserving. "Elephant" is a Gus Van Sant film about the Columbine killings, and I found it rather disappointing. It's still well-worth a watch - I just expect MORE out of Van Sant.

It was also kind of morbid to sit on the porch on the 4th and close my eyes and imagine that the incredible, loud fireworks explosions all around town were actually the sounds of a war zone. It was kind of ironic, actually... It really made me appreciate the privileges of being an American, where I have to close my eyes and imagine what a war sounds like because I haven't ever experienced one firsthand. If only other countries could be so lucky...

Oh, and speaking of America - if you STILL haven't seen Fahrenheit 9/11 - what are you waiting for? The Power Of The Comtesse Compells Thee!!!! (Yeah, I know - it doesn't work with my GF either...)


Morbid Mirth Du Jour!

This Dead Baby Joke comes courtesy of nohemi:

Q: What's pink, red, silver and crashes into walls?
A: A baby with forks in its eyes.


Most Magnificent Morbid News!!!

How ecstatic am I that the brilliant German exhibition of plastinated corpses entitled "Body Worlds" is now playing in L.A.? Well, I hopped around the room in happiness when I read this online last week, and to get ME to hop around the room? Well, it could only mean something wonderfully bleak is afoot! Definitely a must see!!!


(Thanks to Sandy for this particular link.)

Holly is equally excited:

I was stoked about BodyWorlds, too. My friend Beth and I looked over the website yesterday and were highly amused by the donor consent form. It has a bunch of boxes for you to tick, one of which reading 'I'm interested in plastination because I find the idea of burial or cremation unpleasant.' Another howler was 'I don't object to laypeople touching my plastinated body.' As an aside, Gunther looks like he's been testing the technique on his own person. He's all cadaverous! And he wears an Indiana Jones hat. "I don't object to Gunther putting his Inidiana Jones hat on my plastinated body."

July 8, 2004

Today's Touching Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Catherine de Valois, widow of King Henry V, was embalmed in 1437. When her grandson, King Henry VII, pulled down the chapel in which she was buried, he kept the preserved body above ground in an open coffin. And so she remained for 200 years. In 1669 the diarist Samuel Pepys saw, '... by perticular [sic] favour, the body of Queen Katherine [sic] of Valois, and had her upper part of her body in my hands. And I did kiss her mouth..."

Culled from: Death: A History Of Man's Obsessions and Fears


Talk about sloppy seconds! Poor Samuel apparently didn't get many dates...

Bill feels the urge to contradict:

"Au contraire.

"Pepys was a notorious shagger. (London Ladies, servant girls, even his wife.)

"I might look up some evidence on the innernet, but I think you owe him an apology."


"My Brush With Morbidity" by Vern

"During the latter part of the 1950's I worked around the waterfront of Sydney Harbour (only the prettiest and most beautiful harbour in the world), and had fairly good connections with the other harbour workers including the Water Police. I was told about a new officer recently transferred from 'normal' police duties to the Water Police. Now, they have a special punt for recovering bodies. This is normally towed behind the police launch. They received a report of a 'floater' out near the entrance to the harbour. With the new officer accompanying the regulars they went out and located the body. The newcomer didn't know the procedure where the boat would drift past the body, a 'volunteer' would go into the punt, and raise the body with a large roll of canvas. So, this new fellow, trying his best to be of help, grabbed the arm of the body as the boat drifted past. That's just what he got - the arm. He turned as green as the water."

I bet. See, this is why MFDJ is a valuable public service. Surely, none of you would do something as silly as try to pick up a floater by one arm? :)



"Cross my heart and hope to die / Stick a ... harpoon? ... in my eye"


Thanks to Tris for this one!

July 9, 2004

Today's Unusual Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

One of the more unusual punishments doled out in medieval times were collars bearing wooden playing cards, dice, and pipes. A collar of this nature was forced upon victims who were being punished for, appropriately, playing cards and dice, or smoking tobacco. The victim was shamed by being exposed in a public place wearing these symbols around his neck. Often, though, these instruments were only used to point out the reason why the victim was to be tortured. The real torture was to leave the victims to the mob who inflicted atrocious physical pain on them by subjecting them to stoning, beatings, wounding, and even mutilation.

Culled from: Tortura - Inquisizione - Pena Di Morte by Aldo Migliorini


Jason has something to say:

"I must question the time line involved in the Morbid Fact for July 9th. www.Dictionary.com lists medieval as 'The period in European history between antiquity and the Renaissance, often dated from A.D. 476 to 1453'. It also says that tobacco is a plant native to the new world. Now, According to a song I was forced to learn in the third grade,"In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.". So unless the person being punished was smoking something other than tobacco it seems an unlikely scenario."

I just love those medieval torture devices. Always so clever! This particular instrument was on display at the Torture - Inquisition - Death Penalty exhibit in San Francisco a few years ago, which was a touring exhibit of items from the marvelous Museo della tortura in San Gimignano, Italy:


When I eventually make it to Italy, you can bet I'll be stopping by...


Morbid Film Du Jour!

I finally got around to watching the 1931 Bela Lugosi version of Dracula a couple of weeks ago. Yes, it's hard to believe that it took me this long to see it, but it's true. I was actually a bit disappointed in it. I guess I expected something a bit more dramatic than what I saw... but I have to keep in mind this *was* 1931. I'm sure for its time it was quite frightening, but now it's actually very comical. Of course, Bela Lugosi is fabulously camp as the creepy count, and Helen Chandler is quite fetching as Dracula's primary obsession, but in my mind it's David Manners' hysterical over-acting as Dracula's completely mad servant Renfield that steals the show. It must be seen to be believed. Even if the acting - not to mention the vampire bats - are ridiculously dated, you have to hand it to Browning's staff: they certainly could create an amazing set! The Castle Dracula and the other sets are absolutely amazing, even by today's standards. This is definitely a good film to have on in the background during your next Halloween party... but you knew that already, didn't you?



Masterful Morbid Mirth!

Although I find it hard to conceive that anyone subscribed to this list has not already enjoyed the brilliance of Edward Gorey's "Gashlycrumb Tinies," I feel it only appropriate to send out this link that Remo so generously sent my way, "just in case". If you haven't experienced this delightful nugget, then you truly haven't lived. Proceed immediately to...


July 10, 2004

Today's Poisonous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

When Tanzanian Selemani Ngongwechile found his wife's half-eaten body, he calmly poisoned it, knowing the lion would return for the rest of its "meal". His plan worked, killing the lion, but the police say they will use more orthodox methods. Lindi local police chief Simon Dau said that "a few" lions remained in the area and warned villagers to stay inside after dark. After killing Somoe Abdallah near her home and eating her upper body, the lion might have gone for a drink. This is when Mr Ngongwechile found her remains hidden in a bush. But instead of panicking, he put the poison in her corpse and waited inside his house for the lion to return, before informing the authorities. "Nowadays there are very few animals in the area for the lions to hunt. So instead of starving they decide to kill humans rather than keep on looking for antelopes or deers which are scarce," Commander Dau said.

Culled from: BBC News
Generously submitted by: Bruce Townley


Why do humans find it so hard to believe that we are animals? Lions kill and eat other animals - so, it makes perfect sense that they would kill and eat humans. But still, the writer of this article chose to put the word meal in quotations, as if humans aren't *really* a meal for lions. I will never understand...

My e-mail has been down all day, so if you've tried to send me anything today I haven't received it. My e-mail server is becoming increasingly unstable... time to start searching for another one, perhaps...


Morbid Link Du Jour!

You may recall that I once did a travelogue on a trip to the Keddie Murder site in the mountains of Northern California. It has become the most controversial page on my site because of the rather flippant morbid humor I put in my comments. A lot of people from the Quincy area are very sensitive about this murder and don't appreciate my attitude. Ah well, I can't please anyone any of the time! But my point is that there is a documentary coming out about the Keddie Murders, entitled "Cabin 28," which are still unsolved, and I thought that some of you might find the website of interest:


Here's the link to my old disrespectful travelogue as well, if you're interested:



Torturous Link Du Jour!

We were discussing old torture methods the other day, so I thought it might be timely to mention this lovely site entitled "Historical Torture Museum" which details the San Francisco exhibit of items from the Italian Torture Museum that I was lucky enough to visit a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, they didn't let me take pictures... but you can see many of the items here.


July 11, 2004

Today's Tireless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Born in Spain in 1420, Tomas de Torquemada's name is synonymous with the Christian Inquisition's horror, religious bigotry, and cruel fanaticism. He was a fan of various forms of torture including foot roasting, use of the garrucha, and suffocation. He was made Grand Inquisitor by Pope Sixtus IV. Popes and kings alike praised his tireless efforts. The number of burnings at the stake during Torquemada's tenure has been estimated at about 2,000. Torquemada's hatred of Jews influenced Ferdinand and Isabella to expel all Jews who had not embraced Christianity. Ironically, Torquemada's own grandmother was a Jew who had converted to Christianity.

Culled from: The Scales Of Good And Evil
Generously submitted by: P. Girl


Some of you are probably curious, as I was, about exactly what the garrucha is. Well, I did a little research and this is what I found:

"A prisoner's hands were bound behind his back and he was then picked off the floor by his wrists by a chain suspended from the ceiling. When his body reached a certain height, his captors would begin slowly lowering him to the floor with jerky, bouncy pulls of the chain. By the time the victim reached the floor, both of his arms were usually pulled out of their sockets."

For some reason when reading that description I got the following images in my brain:

This is how they used to "exercise" babies back in the old days. It's from a 1904 book entitled "Physical Culture For Babies" by early twentieth century fitness and health wacko... er, "expert"... Bernarr Macfadden. It's quite the treat as far as demented old books are concerned - and listened to this enlightened introduction:

"Animals are gifted with an instinct which accurately dictates the best means of raising their young. The human mother, however, is not only devoid of such instinct, but is in addition, handicapped by ignorance, harmful customs and superstitions, that are the legacies of the dark ages and increase in power for evil with the lapse of each succeeding generation... "

Yes, thank goodness Bernarr came along to rescue humanity from the incompetent and ignorant mothers of the world!!

To learn all about Bernarr, which is actually quite entertaining, you can check this website. The guy was quite a character.


Well, I'm on my way to do two-weeks' time as a corporate slave in Indianapolis, so I won't be able to send out the facts via e-mail for awhile. I will, however, try to make regular updates to the website, so if you check it out every day while I'm gone, you won't be suffering from those awful morbid lapses, which are so disfiguring. Of course, that all depends on whether work gets really busy or not... it has a way of interfering with my life, as you may be aware. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep up the morbid work, however. Fingers crossed.



July 25, 2004

Today's Mad Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A Romanian surgeon underwent a fit of madness while operating on a man's testicles and proceeded to amputate his penis and cut it into three pieces. The surgeon, Naum Ciomu, was said to be a senior member of the hospital staff and a professor of anatomy. He had been operating on a 34-year-old man for a testicular malformation when he committed the act. "We are shocked by what has happened. It is the first time we have had such a case," said Sorin Oprescu, head of the Bucharest emergency hospital where the operation took place. Doctor Ciomu had been banned from entering an operating theatre for two months pending the results of an investigation by the medical council. Meanwhile the wife of the unfortunate patient said she was suing Dr. Ciomu.

Culled from: AFP - Yahoo News
Generously submitted by: Bruce Townley


Although this is far from an amusing situation to find oneself in, I do find it somehow amusing that the wife is the one suing the doctor. Yeah, I can imagine that she's a little pissed-off about this situation! I feel like I should send her some brochures from Good Vibrations or something...

Obviously, I am a fool. Why do I keep thinking that I can find the energy to both work 16 hours a day AND to put out daily facts? As you may have noticed, I didn't manage to get a single fact loaded to my website while I was in Indianapolis. It's time for me to admit that I can't be both a full-time corporate slave and a MFDJ-creator. Luckily for all of us, I don't have to go back to Indy for three weeks, so we'll have a nice uninterrupted period of morbid enjoyment before the chains of corporate servitude come crashing down upon me again. And then I won't even pretend like I'll be able to update the website at all during the two weeks in Indy. As much as I wish I could...



Imagine yourself strolling across the street on a nice sunny day in Dayton, Ohio. You're just about to make the sidewalk when you hear screeching tires and a crash in the intersection and you turn to see smashed car rolling your way. With the second you have to react, you frantically begin to run out of the way, but there isn't enough time and the car smacks you down and rolls over you. In your last split-second before impact perhaps you'd be thinking, "I should have listened to Mom and never crossed the street against a red light" or "I should never have stopped going to the gym - my acceleration isn't what it used to be". In any event, this really happened on May 23, 2004 at 12:40 p.m. - and luckily there was a red light camera there to catch the whole thing on video, so all you rubberneckers can watch it as many times as you'd like. (I think I stopped at 8 times, myself.)


Generously submitted by Star Opal.


"My Brush With Morbidity" by Coffinrunner

"Well, about 11 years ago I was on my way home from work in Annandale @ about 10:30 p.m. going South on U.S. 1 in Woodbridge. To my left and just before me was a mini-van. All of a sudden something comes flying around the van and across my car and I had almost no time to react, but enough time to make out it wasn't a pile of clothes like I thought for one second. I remember seeing the man's face facing me as he went under my car and I felt the double thump as I passed over him before I could stop. He went under head facing my passenger side, but came out facing the other way and I could see the body rolling behind me in my mirror. I stopped and got out, hoping I could do something and prayed he was alive, but knew he was gone when I about stepped in his brain as I ran up to the body and found out I had crushed his skull and I realized I was looking inside his head behind where the eyes would be. Long story short, he was drunk of his ass and was balancing along the double yellow when he fell to his left and the woman driving the van struck him, knocking him under my car where he was not only crushed, but folded in half and back out as he went under. How do you make this scene worse? After the accident, but before EMT's arrived, some freak was creeping by in his car and was just staring at the body and leaning out as far as he could, like he was trying to touch it or something. I end up smacking the piss outta this ass and he takes off. Later, while the police talked to the woman and I and inspect our cars (the troopers looked them over inside and out, then the fire crews hosed mine down to get the mess off as best as they could. We were there for about 3 hours.), they arrest some people that were all drunk and laughing in the crowd: these were the friends he was partying with, I later found out. Nice friends. As long as this is, this is still the short version. I was even sued for 'wrongful death' by his family, and that was later thrown out of court. They sued me and the woman for over 1.5 million dollars, and in the end their own lawyer took them to the cleaners. People are screwed. Anyways, as f*cked as this all is, this is just a *piece* of those accidents y'all drive by and go 'damn' about."

Hey! But for the whim of fate, I could have been that "freak" you smacked the piss out of! Let's have some respect for morbid curiosity, here. ;-)

July 26, 2004

Today's Sexually Excited Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A sexually excited stallion bit a Polish man to death when he tried to calm the beast, which had become uncontrollably aroused by a nearby mare. The 24-year-old man, identified as Robert R., was bitten when he tried to calm his horse, which had become unsettled by the presence of a mare in the vicinity. The horse went wild and began straining and bucking while pulling a farm cart through the village. An autopsy would determine whether the direct cause of death was a severed jugular vein or damaged spine.

Culled from: Reuters
Generously submitted by: Skye


Okay, this one is just begging for a Morbid Caption Contest! Please reply to this e-mail with your suggestion, and I'll put together the contest specifics later this week. Rest assured, the gift will be quite nifty, as it always is. You have until Friday to submit your suggestions. Oh, and please change the Subject Line to Morbid Caption so that I can keep them separate. Thanks!



Few sights are quite as nasty as floaters - corpses that have been floating about in the tub a weeeeeee bit too long. And there are some absolutely fantastic - hence, atrocious - images of floaters in a technical article that my dear colleague Adipocere sent my way entitled, "Marine Taphonomy: Adipocere Formation in a Series of Bodies Recovered from a Single Shipwreck". "Enjoy" yourself here:


Also, you'll want to stop by Adipocere's wonderful website as well. I visit it frequently to see what's new on the slab.



Morbid Sightseeing!

I've been wanting to go and cast my eyes on the beautiful and allegedly quite spooky Franklin Castle in Cleveland for some time now. Unfortunately, the mansion is being turned into a presumably-snobby private social club, which means unless I kiss up to the owners I'll probably never get in. (Reminds me of the disgrace of the Carson Mansion in Eureka, CA - which is also a snobby private club.) However, MilsapsPro has sent me a link to a website for the club which has several lovely interior and exterior shots of the architectural delight. Enjoy!


To read about the castle's haunting history, please check out the always-compelling Forgotten Ohio:


July 28, 2004

Today's Terrible Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Breaking on the wheel was a terrible punishment that inevitably resulted in death. The wheel resembled a large cartwheel, about 7 feet in diameter, mounted horizontally on a post. The victim was tied spread-eagled, either to the spokes or to the rim; the executioner then took an iron bar, a sledgehammer, or a heavy club, and smashed each limb in two places. After this, it was customary to administer the coup de grace with a blow to the neck or the stomach, but sometimes the victim was not so fortunate. When 86-year-old Jean Calas of Toulouse was accused of having arranged the strangulation of his own son in 1761, he was sentenced to be tortured and then 'broken alive upon the wheel, to receive the last stroke after he had lain two hours, and then to be burnt to ashes'. In Germany, as many as 40 blows could be struck. One of the Nuremberg executioners is said to have been given the duty of administering the punishment to his own brother-in-law; it was reported that he gave him 'two tweaks with the red-hot tongs, [and] delivered 31 blows with the iron bar before despatching him."

Culled from: The History Of Torture


You know, you don't hear much about serial killers back in the olden days. And I am convinced the reason why is because they all had jobs as executioners. Think about it: what job would be more ideal for a psychopath than torturing people to death? Back in those days the Serial Killer had a place in society. They may have been quite well-respected and esteeemed. They were proud of their work and did their jobs well.

Then, over time, the laws were changed and torture/execution gradually became more "humane" and less creative. They could no longer break all of the bones of the convicts, or burn them, or slash them, or turn the screws on the rack. They were forced to start doing highly regulated, methodical chores like letting go of the guillotine rope or pulling the lever of the gallows trap-door. Notice that when those "humane" punishments went into wide use, that's when the serial killer made his big appearance on society. He had to: he was an outcast who no longer had a place in this world. What else was he to do? It's a tragedy, really. They must look at the ultimate sterility of lethal injections and weep. Profusely.

Hmmmm... I think I've found the topic for my thesis!



Burleyque kindly sent me a clip of a driver without a seatbelt nodding off and crashing, to rather dire looking consequences. I did a little searching and found it on the net at the below link. It's a compelling video. I'm not sure about the validity, but hopefully Snopes will have something on it soon If anyone has a scoop, please let me know: