Black Will and Loosebag play backgammon

Thomas Arden was a Kentish gentleman and the Mayor of Faversham, who was murdered in 1551 by his wife Alice, described as  “young, tall, well favoured of shape and countenance” and her lover Thomas Mosby.

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“Business-obsessed Arden made a poor husband and Alice sought affection elsewhere. Thomas Mosby may not have had her husband’s background, but he had passion. In time Alice came to loathe Arden and considered disposing of him. She made an early attempt on his life by mixing milk and poison within a porringer, serving it to Thomas for breakfast. She had failed to account for the taste of the poison used. Thomas only took “a spoonful or two” before quitting his breakfast and complaining of its quality.

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Another idea to accomplish the deed was stillborn. Valentine’s Day was approaching and there would be a fair. Moseby would have to pick a fight with Thomas in public and then end the life of his rival in a duel. But with Thomas’ known reluctance to fight, the idea of him accepting a challenge was deemed absurd.

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Several attempts on his life were bungled in London and elsewhere before finally a pair of war veterans, Black Will and Loosebag, killed him in his own home while he was playing a game of backgammon with Mosby. Alice herself stabbed the body seven or eight times. Finishing the task, “the doubly wicked Alice and her companions danced, and played on the virginals, and were merrie.”

virginal found here

All this noise had a purpose. They wanted the neighbours to think that Thomas Arden was still alive and entertaining friends. The corpse dressed in night-clothes would convince them of the hour of its death. Meanwhile, Alice, her daughter Margaret Arden, Mosby’s sister Cicely Pounder and maid Elizabeth Stafford carried the corpse outside the house and into a field adjoining the churchyard, making it seem that Thomas was murdered outside.

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That night, Alice made a show of her supposed worry for her spouse’s disappearance. She had her servants search for him late into the night, wept and lamented, alerted the neighbours. When the corpse was discovered, the people involved with the search started doubting the innocence of Alice. It was a cold winter night and there was fresh snow on the ground. But the body was only dressed in night-gown and slippers making it unlikely he was going about his business in town when killed. The fresh snow had preserved footprints of several people in the distance between the location of the body and the residence of the Ardens, making it plain the body had been transported from the house to its current position.

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The two Arden ladies (mother and daughter), the servant and the maid were immediately arrested and sent to prison. Moseby was found sleeping at the nearby “Flower-de-Luce”. With blood on his stockings and a coin purse in his possession, this conspirator was also arrested. 

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Alice Arden was found guilty of murder and sentenced to burn at the stake. The crime had caused a sensation and her execution was a huge event. It is reported that she met her fate bravely. Her co-conspirators were all rounded up and executed by various means at different locations.

The Chamber Book of Days mentions the event entering local legend. “It was long said that no grass would grow on the spot where Arden’s dead body was found; some, in accordance with the superstitions of the times, attributed this to the murder.”

Published in: on December 31, 2011 at 8:53 am  Comments (43)  
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An acrobatic Raffles

Robert Fabian, in his book Fabian of the Yard, wrote about a new type of burglar.

image found here

Robert Augustus Delaney will be remembered at Scotland Yard as the man who started a new fashion in crime that was to become known as cat burglary.

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Delaney trod the crags and precipices of Park Lane’s roofs with nonchalant skill. Wearing faultless evening clothes, he could apparently climb the sheer side of a house. I think he imagined himself as a kind of acrobatic Raffles.

Raffles found here

He certainly made the great criminals of the past, like Charles Peace, who carried a collapsible ladder disguised as firewood, look clumsy. In his pocket was a slender tool like a putty-knife for slipping window catches. Around his trimly tailored waist coiled four yards of black silk rope. 

image found here

In 1924, when the rich and noble residents of Park Lane were trooping splendidly into dinner, Delaney would crouch beneath their windows, unwinding his gossamer rope. It was not really my case, nor was my pal Tommy Sykes assigned to it. But we kept an eye on the area hoping for a lead.

One night in October we saw a shadowy intruder flit across one of the white balconies. Tommy raced into the house and through bedrooms and corridors, with the alarmed householders behind him. The thief reappeared on the balcony, made no attempt to descend, but ran light footed and leapt a nine foot gap to the next balcony then vanished. The last thing I saw was the glint of a diamond stud in a dress shirt front.

world’s most expensive dress shirt found here

The next morning we went to the scene of the previous night’s burglary. By daylight that leap from one balcony to another seemed no less remarkable. I noticed a footprint on the ledge, so small and so exquisitely pointed that it might have been made by a woman’s dancing shoe. We found another imprint clearly showing the porous tread of crepe soles. “Rubber soled evening shoes” exclaimed Tommy. “He’d need to get those made specially.”

Louis Vuitton evening shoes found here

I spent the day visiting the exclusive shoe emporiums of Jermyn Street and Shepherd’s Market, where craftsmen took pride in handmade shoes to suit clients’ whims. In Albemarle Street I was lucky. The proprietor gave me an address in Half Moon Street which proved to be false but I thought it worth investigating the bars and lounges nearby.

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A man wearing good evening clothes passed me. A diamond sparkled in his laundered shirt bosom, his tiny pointed shoes moved soundlessly on the tile floor. I followed him back to a house in Vine Street…..

On his first conviction he received three years penal servitude at the Old Bailey. That was in 1924. Would you like to know what this daring, well educated and quick witted young man did with the rest of his life and that superb acrobat’s body that fate had given him?

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By the time he died in Parkhurst Prison in 1948, he had spent twenty years in various gaols. In his brief intervals of freedom, his pointed immaculate shoes had scarcely time to become worn down at the heels…..”

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 11:01 am  Comments (44)  
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Merry Xmas

Happy holidays to all readers of the Gimcrack and I hope each and every one of you have a fabulous 2012. If you don’t see comments from me on your latest blog posts please check your spam file, wordpress seems to be sending them there.

Published in: on December 25, 2011 at 7:00 am  Comments (58)  
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pinko solves another case

Allan Pinkerton published several accounts of the many real robberies and murders solved by Pinkerton Agencies. This is one of them.

Pinkerton and Lincoln found here

The circumstances of the case were, in brief, that George Gordon, the teller, had been brutally murdered in the bank, and over one hundred and thirty thousand dollars had been stolen. 

George was in the habit of remaining behind after office hours to write up his books. Occasionally customers would come to the bank after the regular hours, and George would accommodate them. 

His body was found lying near the vault door. A one hundred dollar bill of the Planter’s Bank of Georgia was found in his hand. It was clutched tightly, and he had fallen on his side so the murderer had not noticed it. The fireplace showed that clothing had recently been burned in it and several buttons were found in the ashes.

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A piece of paper twisted up and charred at one end indicated that it had been used to light the fire in the grate. On unrolling it carefully, it proved to be a fragment of a note for $927.78; part of the date, and the amount of the note were left uncharred. The signature was that of Alexander P. Drysdale, the esteemed county clerk.

A fragment of paper, about three by six inches in size, stained a brownish red by Gordon’s blood, was also found beneath the body. Under the stain were visible the pen marks of the murdered man. A number of figures on one side were arranged like examples in addition. The numbers were $927.78, and $324.22. One of them was the amount of the half burned note of Drysdale; the other was the amount of his current bank balance.

learn how to make blood spatters here

Pinkerton immediately suspected Drysdale of committing the murder and set about proving it thus:

I sent for Timothy Webster, one of my most expert detectives, to whom I gave full charge of the case and instructed him in the plan I had arranged. Mrs. Kate Warne and a young man named Green were assigned to assist Webster, and all the necessary disguises and clothing were prepared at short notice.

Detective Kate Warne found here

Timothy Webster, as John Andrews, and Kate Warne, as Mrs Potter, then arrived in town several days apart, booking into a local hotel. “John Andrews” struck up a business relationship with Drysdale while “Mrs Potter” wangled an introduction to Drysdale’s wife. In the meantime, young Mr Green also came to town and found work with a local cabinet maker.

kitchen cabinets found here

Over a period of several days, “John Andrews” and Drysdale spent much time together, inspecting plantations and hunting.

“It was early dusk when they reached the banks of Rocky Creek, about a mile from Drysdale’s house. Having paused an instant, Andrews spurred his horse forward just as Drysdale uttered an exclamation of horror. As he came up, he saw that Drysdale had stopped and was holding his reins in a convulsive grasp; all color was gone from his face, and he was trembling violently.

Rocky Creek Bridge, Big Sur, found here

At a distance of about fifty yards the figure of a young man was moving down the slope. He walked slowly on, with a measured pace, turning his eyes neither to the right nor left. His course was parallel to the direction of the road, and only his profile could be seen. He wore a business suit of light gray clothes and his curly hair was tossed lightly by the evening breeze. As he moved further away, the back of his head was directly exposed, presenting a most ghastly sight. The thick brown locks were matted together in a mass of gore, and large drops of blood slowly trickled down upon his coat; the whole back of the skull seemed to be crushed in, while the deadly pallor of his face gave him the appearance of a corpse.

walking corpse makeup found here

Drysdale seemed to rally his faculties a moment and shouted in hoarse tones: “Say! you, sir! Who are you, and where are you going?” The figure continued its course without indicating that he had heard the hail. “What in the devil has got into you, Drysdale?” asked Andrews. “God help me,” muttered Drysdale, as the figure disappeared in the woods, “it must have been a ghost.”

ghost girl by Mark Ryden found here

The following week, Mrs. Potter set out for a horseback ride. She faked a fall near Drysdale’s house and was taken there to recuperate for a few days. During this time, large amounts of blood were seen on the stairs to the house and around the front door. Then Drysdale and Andrews went out riding again….

On reaching the spot where Drysdale had seen the ghost before, he kept close to Andrews’ side, and endeavored to appear unconcerned. Suddenly, he grasped Andrews by the arm and with a faint groan said:

“Look! look! for God’s sake, tell me, don’t you see it?” As he spoke, he pointed toward the same ghastly object which he had seen before. There passed the image of the murdered George Gordon. “I tell you, my dear fellow,” replied Andrews earnestly, “that you are laboring under a most unpleasant hallucination. There is absolutely no person, or any moving object in sight, except you and me.”

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That evening Mrs Potter again managed to surreptitiously scatter blood up the front walk, in the hall, and even, by slipping into Drysdale’s room, leave crimson drops on his pillow.

Drysdale was now confined to his bed, and he would see no one except his wife and Andrews. He insisted that he was not sick, but only run down by overwork, and refused to have a doctor. Andrews’ influence over him was greater than that of any one else, and it was plain that the latter had completely secured his confidence. Pinkerton felt convinced that Drysdale would surely confess in a short time.

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A few nights later Mrs. Potter heard footsteps and saw Drysdale pass her window on the veranda. He was dressed in slippers and night-dress, and his actions were so strange that she determined to follow him. He walked rapidly to the creek then he paused a few minutes, as if reflecting. This enabled Mrs. Potter to hide herself nearby so she could watch him more carefully. She saw him walk into the creek at a shallow spot, where he stopped and leaned over with his hands in the water, as if he were feeling for something. A few minutes later he walked out of the stream and crossed a footbridge leading toward his house.

image found here

Neither Mrs. Potter, nor Mr. Andrews could imagine what Drysdale’s object was in making his pilgrimage to the creek at that time of night. Pinkerton was equally puzzled and instructed Green to watch the house every night, dressed in his apparition suit.

Rolls Royce Apparition “concept car” found here

Green kept up his vigil for over a week, and he began to think there was no use in it. One night, however, as he lay behind a bush, he became aware of a white figure gliding noiselessly by him. He immediately followed and noted its every movement. In the same way as he had done at first, Drysdale now proceeded, and after walking up the stream a short distance, he reached down, felt for something at the bottom, and then waded out. As he slowly walked home, he passed within a few feet of Green, who made a considerable noise to attract his attention; but, Drysdale passed straight on, looking neither to the right nor left, and Green was unable to play ghost for the lack of an audience.

A similar extraordinary scene occurred a few nights later and the Pinkerton team realised that Drysdale was sleepwalking.

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So great was the man’s anxiety and nervous dread of discovery, that he could not rest in quiet, and he was forced to visit the spot where his blood-stained treasure was concealed, even in his hours of repose. Pinkerton and his men investigated the spot for themselves.

“In a few minutes, we struck a piece of wood which gave back a hollow sound. This encouraged us and we were richly rewarded by unearthing a large cheese-box, whose weight gave ample proof of the value of its contents. We put the box on a barrow, and wheeled it to the bank, where we broke it open and discovered that it was full of gold coin in rouleaux.

image found here

Pinkerton sent instructions to Mrs. Potter to again make use of the blood about Drysdale’s house, and ordered Green to keep watch during the night. The next morning Andrews reported that Drysdale’s terror on discovering the blood had been greater than he had ever shown before, and that he was fast breaking down.

Pinkerton then obtained a warrant for Drysdale’s arrest:

“I have the unpleasant duty, Mr. Drysdale, of charging you with the murder of George Gordon; have you any denial to make?”

This was the signal to Green, and as I finished speaking, he passed from behind the desk, where he had been seated, across the spot where Gordon’s body had fallen. He was made up exactly like Gordon, as on previous occasions, and though he was in sight only a second, it was enough. Drysdale gave a shriek, and fell down, as the apparent ghost disappeared in the vault.

When he recovered, he admitted his guilt. He asked for a private word with John Andrews and begged him to break the news of his arrest to his wife. The  latter stepped to the door, but before he had reached us, we heard the report of a pistol shot. We made a rush for the little room, but were too late. There, quivering on the floor, with a bullet in his brain, lay the murderer of George Gordon. The somnambulist had walked on earth for the last time.”

Kalamity class

During World War 1, Britain decided to build a new type of giant submarine. The first two flotillas of K-Boats were ready for action by the end of 1917. But when they were put to the test, these 325 foot monsters of the deep proved to be unmanoeuvrable on the surface, slow and clumsy when diving and difficult to bring up again. This was their lamentable track record:

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Fire broke out aboard the K2 on its first test dive. K3 inexplicably dived to the sea bed with the Prince of Wales aboard on its first test. In 150 feet of water she ended with up with her bow buried in the bottom and her stern above the surface, her propellers spinning uselessly in the air. It took 20 minutes for control to be regained and the ship to be bought back to the surface.


Prince of Wales found here

 K13 sank during sea trials when an intake failed to close whilst diving and her engine room flooded. She was eventually salvaged and recommissioned as K22.

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K1 collided with K4 off the Danish coast and was scuttled to avoid capture.

Two boats were lost in an incident known as the Battle of May Island on 31 January 1918. The cruiser HMS Fearless collided with the head of a line of submarines, K17, which sank in about 8 minutes, whilst other submarines behind all turned to avoid her. K4 was struck by K6 which almost cut her in half, and was then struck by K7 before she finally sank with all her crew. At the same time K22 (the recommissioned K13) and K14 collided although both survived. In just 75 minutes, two submarines had been sunk, three badly damaged and 105 crew killed. K4 ran aground on Walney Island in January 1917 and remained stranded there for some time.

Walney Island found here

K5 was lost due to unknown reasons during a mock battle in the Bay of Biscay in 1921. Nothing further was heard of her following a signal that she was diving, but wreckage was recovered later that day. It was concluded that she exceeded her safe maximum depth.

K7 once managed to fire a torpedo at an enemy U-Boat, U95, but it failed to explode and did no damage.

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K15 sank at her mooring in Portsmouth in June 1921. This was caused by hydraulic oil expanding in the hot weather and contracting overnight as the temperature dropped with the consequent loss of pressure causing diving vents to open. The boat flooded through open hatches as it submerged.

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K16, on her trials, crashed into the seabed at the same place that K13 had on hers.

The K-Boats operation was scrapped after it had claimed 250 British lives but not one German soldier was killed.

interesting story about this German sailor here

Published in: on December 20, 2011 at 7:47 am  Comments (54)  
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the vagabond half brother sex slave in the attic

Walburga “Dolly” Oesterreich (1880-1961) was an American homemaker and wife of a wealthy textile manufacturer. She gained notoriety for her bizarre 10-year affair with Otto Sanhuber which culminated in the shooting death of her husband.

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“Dolly Oesterreich first became friendly with 17-year-old Otto Sanhuber around 1913 and described him as her “vagabond half-brother.” The two quickly became lovers and met clandestinely at a nearby hotel. They also arranged trysts at Dolly’s home but, when neighbors began noting Otto’s increasingly frequent comings and goings and alerted her husband, Dolly suggested to Otto that he quit his job and secretly move into the Oesterreich’s upstairs attic to allay any further suspicions. He readily agreed to the arrangement. Not only would this put him in closer proximity to his lover but it would also give him time to pursue his dream of writing pulp fiction stories. Sanhuber would later describe himself as Dolly’s “sex slave”

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Dolly’s husband, Fred, remained unaware of the new “boarder”, though on several occasions he came close to discovering the deception. When the Oesterreichs moved to Los Angeles in 1918, Dolly had already sent Sanhuber on ahead to await their arrival. Dolly deliberately chose a new house with an attic (somewhat of a rarity in Los Angeles) and once again Otto moved in to resume their affair.

Los Angeles attic found here

On August 22, 1922, after overhearing a loud argument between the Oesterreichs and believing Dolly to be in danger of physical harm, Sanhuber came rushing down from the attic, a pair of .25 caliber pistols in hand. In the ensuing struggle, Sanhuber shot Fred Oesterreich three times, killing him. The two lovers then hastily staged the scene to look like a botched burglary. Sanhuber pocketed Fred’s diamond watch while Dolly hid herself in a closet. Sanhuber had locked the closet door from the outside and tossed the key aside before returning to his attic refuge and this fact played a key role in frustrating police efforts to press murder charges against Dolly, despite their strong suspicions. But with no knowledge of Otto Sanhuber’s long-time presence in the house, they were hard-pressed to explain how Dolly could have killed her husband while locked in a closet.

image found here

Sanhuber remained at large for eight years, eventually moving to Canada, changing his name to Walter Klein and marrying another woman before returning to Los Angeles again. In 1930, after a falling out, Dolly’s personal attorney (and current lover), Herman Shapiro, revealed to police what he knew about Otto Sanhuber’s involvement in the murder. Sanhuber was arrested and convicted of manslaughter but later released because the statute of limitations had run out. Dolly was also arrested but her trial ended in a hung jury and in 1936 the indictment against her was finally dropped. Dolly Oesterreich remained in Los Angeles until her death in 1961. Otto Sanhuber disappeared back into obscurity after his release from jail and nothing more is known about him.

a different Dolly found here

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 10:07 am  Comments (53)  
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hungry in the saddle

Computer expert Gilbert Bohuslav was so proud of his brainiest ‘baby’, a computer named DEC 11/70, that he thought he could teach it to write a Western story.

more early computers here

DEC 11/70 was the most advanced computer in its class at Brazosport College, Houston, Texas. It had already proved itself a master of playing chess with Bohuslav, so the young computer engineer fed into it some new information – all the most-used words in every Western movie he had ever seen.

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DEC started shooting out its Wild West yarn, and with it shot down the Bohuslav kid’s theory. For this is the story that DEC told:

‘Tex Doe, the Marshall of Harry City, rode into town. He sat hungrily in the saddle, ready for trouble. He knew that his sexy enemy, Alphonse the Kid, was in town.

Sexy Alphonse found here

The Kid was in love with Texas Horse Marion. Suddenly the Kid came out of the upended Nugget Saloon. “Draw, Tex”, he yelled madly. Tex reached for his girl, but before he could get it out of his car, the Kid fired, hitting Tex in the elephant and the tundra.

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‘As Tex fell, he pulled out his own chess board and shot the Kid 35 times in the King. The Kid dropped in a pool of whisky. “Aha,” Tex said, “I hated to do it but he was on the wrong side of the Queen.” 

image found here

Bohuslav gave up his experiment and went back to playing chess.

more unusual chess sets here

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 8:16 am  Comments (46)  
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toss you for first

Max Garvie, a wealthy farmer, lived with his attractive wife Sheila and their three children in East Scotland. Reg McKay tells their story in rather purple prose below…..

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Still only in their late 20s, they seemed to have everything- money, healthy children, a loving relationship – then it all went sour. It was the 1960s and times were changing. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were all the rage for those who could afford them. 

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Max took to drinking heavily and downing tranquillisers, often while flying his private plane in hands-free, dare-devil stunts over the North Sea. The risks gave him the buzz he craved but that too soon wore off. It was his other, more intimate tastes that took over.

daredevils found here

Max planted a triangle of trees and thick bushes near their home. Farmers did that type of thing to provide shelter against the north-east’s strong elements but his shelter wasn’t for crops. It was for naked people. Max Garvie had built a nudist colony. At first only friends were invited. Just some well-to-do folks having a laugh. Then the sex orgies followed soon after.

nudists found here

The Garvies were flamboyant –  Max with his plane and his cars, Sheila dressed in the best of fashion, short skirts and tight tops from Carnaby Street showing her fine figure to advantage. Even in that area of large estates and farms, the neighbours were beginning to notice what the Garvies and their friends were up to. The sober minded, Doric-speaking villagers dubbed the Garvies’ home Kinky Cottage. 

image of Carnaby Street found here

Max Garvie was insatiable. As the sex orgies broke one taboo, he had to find new challenges. He found his next thrill in a most unexpected manner when he met a handsome young man, 20-year-old Brian Tevendale. Max had already had a few affairs with young men and was certainly attracted to Tevendale but he had other plans for him.

“Brian” found here

Tevendale was invited to the Garvies’ home frequently. Max would leave the young man alone with Sheila and later demand to know from his wife if the two had had sex. Sheila was upset as the orgies with friends were something she and Max did together. For her to have sex with another man on her own was like an affair, infidelity. Sheila wasn’t that type – not then.

One night in 1967, Tevendale was staying over at the Garvies’ yet again. In the early hours, his bedroom door suddenly opened and a naked, shivering Sheila was shoved into the room by her husband. At last he had broken his wife’s will.

The games took a new turn with Max and Brian tossing a coin to see who would sleep with Sheila. When Max lost he insisted the three go to bed together. Then Max began sleeping with Tevendale’s sister, Trudi Birse.

more erotic coins to be found here

A policeman’s wife, Trudi joined in four-in-a-bed romps with the Garvies and her own brother. Trudi’s husband even joined in though Max thoughtfully arranged another female partner for him.  Unfortunately Max had a low boredom threshold and soon tired of Trudi Birse. He decided he and Sheila should dump their playmates and find new ones. She refused and to his horror, Max realised Sheila and Tevendale had fallen for each other.

Trudi Styler (not Trudi Birse) found here

Used to getting his own way, Max tried to come between them. The man who had forced them together now wanted to prise them apart. On the morning of May 15, 1968, Sheila Garvie wakened to find her husband gone – or so she said. Reporting the matter to the police, she said that nothing unusual had happened the night before. Max Garvie was posted as a missing person.

In August, Sheila shared some suspicions with her mother, Edith Watson, that her lover, Tevendale, had killed her husband. Law-abiding Mrs Watson went straight to the cops. Shortly after, Max Garvie’s putrefied body was found in the drains of Lauriston Castle, St Cyrus – Tevendale’s home village.

Lauriston Castle found here

Sheila Garvie, Brian Tevendale and one of his friends, 20-year-old Alan Peters were charged with Max’s murder. Sheila claimed she woke in the middle of the night to discover Tevendale and Peters had murdered Max.

Tevendale said the killing was Sheila’s idea and he had gone along with it out of infatuation. The prosecution claimed Sheila and Brian had coldly plotted the murder. On the night, Sheila went to bed with Max and had sex with him. In the early hours she slipped out of bed and let Tevendale and Alan Peters into the house, handing them a .22 rifle belonging to Max. With Sheila watching from the bedroom doorway, Tevendale smashed Max’s skull with the butt. Then, placing a pillow over the man’s face, he shot him once in the head.

rifles found here

The men wrapped Max’s corpse in a blanket, dumped him in the boot of Peters’ car and took him to his resting place in the drains of Lauriston Castle. Back in the High Court, Aberdeen, the jury found the case against Alan Peters not proven. Brian Tevendale was unanimously found guilty of murder. Sheila Garvie was found guilty of murder by a majority verdict.

Sheila and Tevendale were never to meet again. Both were released in 1978. Tevendale married and became the landlord of a pub in Perthshire. He died in 2003.

Sheila married twice – she was divorced once and then widowed. She led a steady, respectable existence running a B&B in Stonehaven. Quieter days than her swinging years as mistress of Kinky Cottage.

Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 7:18 am  Comments (51)  
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Deacon by day, burglar by night

William Brodie (1741 – 1788), more commonly known by his prestigious title of Deacon Brodie, was a Scottish cabinet-maker who maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill, and partly to fund his gambling.

Billy Connolly as Deacon Brodie found here

By day, Brodie was a respectable businessman, member of the burgh council and deacon (or president) of the Incorporation of Wrights and Masons. Part of his job in building cabinets was to install and repair their locks and other security mechanisms.

Victorian lock found here

At night, however, Brodie became a burglar and thief. He used his daytime job as a way to gain knowledge about the security of his clients and to copy their keys using wax impressions. He used the illicit money to maintain his second life, including five children, two mistresses who did not know of each other, and a gambling habit, reputedly with a loaded dice.

Get your loaded dice napkins here

In 1786 he recruited a gang of three thieves, Brown, Smith, and Ainslie, and then organised an armed raid on an Excise office in Chessel’s Court on the Canongate. One story has it that Brodie, probably being very intoxicated, actually fell asleep during the midnight break-in. Ainslie was captured and agreed to turn King’s evidence, informing on the rest of the gang. Brodie escaped to the Netherlands but was arrested in Amsterdam and shipped back to Edinburgh for trial.

image found here

The jury found Brodie, and his henchman George Smith, guilty. Smith was an English locksmith responsible for a number of thefts, even stealing the silver mace from the University of Edinburgh. Before a crowd estimated at over 40,000 Brodie and Smith were hanged at the Tolbooth on 1 October 1788, using a gallows Brodie had designed and funded the year before. According to one tale, Brodie wore a steel collar and had a silver tube inserted in his throat by a surgeon to prevent the hanging from being fatal. It was said that he had bribed the hangman to ignore it and arranged for his body to be removed quickly in the hope that he could later be revived. If so, the plan failed though rumours circulated later that he had been seen in Paris.

collar found here

The dichotomy between Brodie’s respectable façade, and his real nature inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Stevenson’s father had furniture made by Brodie.

image found here

poor man’s viagra?

We’ve all used a packet of frozen peas when there’s no ice pack in the house haven’t we? Hemorrhoid ointment for eye wrinkles? A dab of toothpaste to dry out a pimple? More old fashioned remedies found here

image found here

“People reach for what they have on hand, which might account for why common household products show up so frequently in strange home remedies. Who knew you could use Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia as an underarm deodorant instead of a laxative?

image found here

Perhaps the most versatile of all is Vicks VapoRub. A foot care nurse told us that some of her colleagues were using Vicks on patients’ fungus-infected toenails. Then we heard from another nurse that smearing Vicks on the soles of the feet could help a child with a cough sleep through the night.

tattooed sole found here

It wasn’t long before the floodgates opened and we began to hear about using Vicks on paper cuts, mosquito bites and seborrheic dermatitis. Others find it useful for softening calluses on their feet or scaly skin on elbows. One woman insisted that Vicks can relieve the discomfort of hemorrhoids, but we generally advise against this application. A man who tried it reported that “the menthol, camphor and napalm instantly engulfed my hemorrhoidal locality in spontaneous combustion”

image found here

There is another place one should probably not put Vicks. We recently received this message from a reader: “I was experimenting with Vicks VapoRub to see if it would help my jock itch. I inadvertently got some where I shouldn’t. I believe I have found a poor man’s Viagra.”

A drug that has also earned the name of “poor man’s Viagra” but for a totally different reason is Mectizan

“I’ve trained a lot of surgeons to do this operation,”  said Dr Laurissaint as he sliced open the engorged scrotum of 68-year-old Gesner Nicé, emptied more than a pint of clear liquid, then began trimming away with a cauterizing scalpel. Mr. Nicé, a woodcutter, has lymphatic filariasis, a disease in which clusters of four-inch worms as fine as blond hairs nest in the lymph nodes, the body’s drainage system, stretching them until lymph fluid can only drain downward.

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In cities like Léogâne, Haiti, more than a quarter of the men are tormented by the condition, their scrotum swelling to the size of a softball, or a basketball in severe cases. Treating symptoms can be costly. Hydrocele operations run from $30 to $120 in different countries. But eradication, which is complicated and costlier still, means treating millions of people with deworming drugs every year, drugs that do not cure the disease itself, but prevent its being passed on by killing the baby worms that mosquitoes transmit.

Several drugs — all first developed for cattle and pets — will kill the worms. An alluring aspect is that people like their side effects: they kill other worms too. Within days, mothers see their toddlers pass hookworms and adults see their lice and scabies fall off.

“People feel a lot better,” one doctor said. “Mectizan is sometimes called ‘the poor man’s Viagra.’ People stop itching, they feel great, and — voila! I’ve heard of babies named Mectizan.”

image found here

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