spare me the bag inspection

Alexander Comstock Kirk (1888 – 1979) was a United States diplomat. I think he would have been rather a pleasure to hang out with…..

His family’s wealth was derived from America’s largest soap manufacturing concern. Its national brands were “American Family” for laundry and “Juvenile” for the bath.


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At age 9, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago until his family decided he was too young to be drawing nude models. He was then sent to work incognito in a soap factory until his identity was discovered. 


Andy Warhol as a child found here

Kirk joined the American Diplomatic Service in 1915. He managed the State Department budget for a time in the 1920s, and later said he thought it “an obligation” to spend the entire amount in order to support the argument for additional appropriations. While posted to Cairo, Kirk kept one house in the city for lunch, another near the pyramids for dinner and sleeping, and a houseboat on the Nile.

houseboat on the Nile found here

While posted to Berlin, he lived in an enormous mansion in the swank Grunewald neighborhood. A visitor described it as “one vast hall after another, and he quiet and alone in the midst of it. Very funny; a little like the theatre.” His staff of servants spoke only Italian. He held “a large buffet luncheon every Sunday noon, as a means of revenging himself for such hospitality as his position required him to accept.

Karl Lagerfield designed the Schlosshotel in Grunewald

In 1945 he attributed “his excellent health to the fact that he has never worn himself down by any form of exercise more violent than scratching, which he only does when suffering from insomnia at 6 a.m.”

A few years after Kirk’s retirement, as Senator Joseph McCarthy launched a campaign against suspected homosexuals in government, one investigator’s report charged that certain State Department employees “were very close personal friends of former Ambassador Alexander Kirk who is not now in the service but who had a very bad reputation of being a homosexual and certainly protected a lot of homosexual people.

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He was a carryover from an older day when to be rich entitled you to be eccentric, and he made the most of the privilege. As a gesture of defiance, and in the indulgence of a fine sense of the theatrical, Kirk presented himself as the sort of American career diplomat of which the American philistine has always been the most suspicious: elegant, overrefined, haughty, and remote. His conversation consisted largely of weary, allusive quips.

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Kirk claimed he escaped from diplomatic functions by whatever ruse the situation required. At one embassy in Rome he found it necessary to leave by a door he could only reach by going under a grand piano. “In a case of this sort, Kirk recommends slow motion, which, he says, often prevents witnesses from even noticing a maneuver which, if executed fast, might horrify them.”

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Retiring after his mother’s death, he disclaimed all further interest in the Foreign Service. He had entered it, he solemnly maintained, only to spare her having her bags inspected at frontiers.

Published in: on January 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm  Comments (49)  
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a wolfe at the door

Elsie de Wolfe (December 20, 1865? – July 12, 1950) was an American actress, interior decorator and a prominent figure in New York, Paris, and London society.

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De Wolfe began her professional career in theatre, making her debut as an actress in Sardou’s Thermidor in 1891, playing the rôle of Fabienne. On stage, she was neither a total failure nor a great success; one critic called her “the leading exponent of . . . the peculiar art of wearing good clothes well.”  She became interested in interior decorating as a result of staging plays, and in 1903 she left the stage to launch a career as a decorator.

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She introduced a variety of things, including the cocktail party, comfortable chaise lounges, faux finish treatments, animal prints and delicate writing tables. While Elsie designed the interiors of many prestigious homes she also did opera boxes and a dormitory.

Danish dormitory found here

She continued to design interior spaces for a long list of prestigious clients and wrote several books and articles. During World War I she volunteered as a nurse in France, and it wasn’t until nearly the end of her career that, at the age of 61, she married diplomat Sir Charles Mendl, making front page news in the New York Times.

Shortly after her marriage, she scandalized French diplomatic society when she attended a fancy-dress ball dressed as a Moulin Rouge dancer and made her entrance turning handsprings. A guest chided her: “Elsie, it is wonderful to be able to turn handsprings at your age. But do you think it is in perfect taste for the wife of a diplomat to perform acrobatics in a ballroom?”

unknown Moulin Rouge dancer found here

The Times said that “the intended marriage comes as a great surprise to her friends,” perhaps because since 1892 de Wolfe had been living openly in what many observers accepted as a lesbian relationship. During their nearly 40 years together, Elisabeth Marbury was initially the main support of the couple. Dave Von Drehle speaks of “the willowy De Wolfe and the masculine Marbury… cutting a wide path through Manhattan society. Gossips called them “the Bachelors.” Shortly before the First World War, they both set up house at Versailles with Ann Morgan, heiress to the Pierpont fortune, forming an eccentric menage a trois dubbed the Versailles Triangle. 

Anne Morgan and Anne Dike found here

The parties she gave were always a success as she knew how to hold people’s interest. In 1930, for example, she hatched the idea for “murder parties“, a type of party game that was entirely new. On her appearance, too, she lavished much fervour and fantasy. Her morning exercises were famous. In her 1935 autobiography, de Wolfe wrote that her daily regimen at age 70 included yoga, standing on her head, and walking on her hands.

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Having been at thirty a vaguely plain woman with a marmoset face, Lady Mendl improved her looks throughout the years. She maintained a svelteness of figure throughout her life and introduced pale blue or heliotrope coloured hair. She was also one of the earliest, most successful devotees of facial surgery. In later years there was much speculation about her age, and when she was over eighty Lady Mendl came into her own as a beauty, acquiring an almost mythical look of serenity.

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Published in: on January 26, 2012 at 11:38 am  Comments (56)  
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break a leg – twice

Émile Buisson (1902 – 1956), a French gangster, was proclaimed French Public Enemy No. 1 for 1950. One of nine children, he and his brother Jean-Baptiste, both turned to crime at an early age.

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Emile served his first term in jail at the age of sixteen in a penal battalion in North Africa. The brutality of these battalions was unspeakable, however Emile managed to distinguish himself and earn the Croix de Guerre. But back in France, he again turned to crime and served many short terms in jail.

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In 1932 he helped to rescue his brother from jail with a bold plan. Jean-Baptiste had himself transferred to Strasbourg model prison at Ensisheim by confessing to a crime in Strasbourg and getting three years added to an eight year sentence. Once there he broke his leg by smashing it with a table leg. He was transferred to hospital, and that same night he jumped from a first floor window, breaking it again. But with the help of Emile, he made a clean getaway.

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Emile committed his first big robbery in 1937, earning himself the nickname “Crazy Mimile”. He was arrested one month later but escaped while awaiting trial. In 1941 he robbed the Credit Lyonnais bank, killing two employees in cold blood. Shortly after this he was caught by the Gestapo and sent to a military prison. This time he escaped by simulating lunacy until he was transferred to an asylum. 

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Over the next few years he took part in many holdups, always using sten-guns and Citroen ‘traction’ front wheel drives. Following the war, Paris was considered a dangerous city where gang killings were commonplace. The police were armed with sub-machine guns but after accidentally shooting an old drunk gentleman and a bus full of passengers they were forced to be a little more cautious with their firearms.

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He was finally arrested in 1950 by Roger Borniche, a French detective of the Sûreté Nationale and author of a number of books.

more dogs here

Borniche had started out as a singer, but his fledgling musical career was interrupted by the German invasion. In 1943, he joined the Sûreté Nationale as an inspector to avoid being shipped to a forced labor detail.

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In 1947, he was assigned to capture the escaped murderer, Emile Buisson. Borniche kept critical investigative files in his office, forcing the other investigators to bargain with him for their contents. He also competed with the other agencies for informants, who tried to play the investigators against each other for more rewards. He was sometimes shadowed by other investigators and would have to lose his “tail” to meet with an informant.

He was able to bargain with informants by offering them a signed permit to remain in Paris (despite being banned from the city by other police forces) and by delaying distribution of official warrants, keeping the notices locked in his desk. Borniche forced an informant to lead Buisson into a trap where he was captured eating lunch in a restaurant. Borniche was rewarded with a promotion and a 30,000 franc bonus. He retired in 1956 and  formed his own detective agency in Paris. His first set of memoirs, Flic Story, became the basis of a 1975 film featuring Alain Delon as Borniche and Jean-Louis Trintignant as Buisson.

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circumambulator of the globe

John “Walking” Stewart (1747 – 1822) was an English traveller and philosopher.

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He’d shipped out to Madras as a young clerk for the East India Company in 1763, only to decide that – as he announced brusquely in a resignation letter – “he was born for nobler pursuits than to be a copier of invoices to a company of grocers, haberdashers and cheese mongers“. 

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And he was right: joining an Indian prince as a secretary, he rose through the ranks to become an army general and a chief minister for the Nabob of Arcot – before  throwing it all over to walk alone across Persia, Abyssinia, Arabia and Africa before wandering into every European country as far east as Russia.

Nabob of Arcot found here

When he reached London he was dubbed by the incredulous press “Walking Stewart”. Never was there a more apt name; for he later hiked through Lapland and down into central Asia, and after sailing to New York walked all the way down to Paraguay. 

Paraguayan pineapple found here

He wouldn’t talk of his fabulous travels; instead he was always distributing bizarre pamphlets he’d privately printed, bearing titles like “The Roll of a Tennis Ball Through the Moral World“. Stewart’s works exhibit a naive arrogance, frequently asserting that their author is the “only child of nature” to have ever lived.

Vintage Child of Nature found here

The few who could read past their strange diction and publication date – for Stewart had invented his own calendar – found all sorts of curious ideas inside. He saw nothing wrong with prostitution, and considered it a typical city business like lamp lighting or driving a taxi, indeed, he saw little wrong with sex, and believed that there should be promiscuous intercourse so that the population might not become redundant.

unusual calendars found here

Stewart had a notion of preserving his pamphlets for posterity. He asked that his readers, when done reading him, bury his books in their gardens at a depth of seven or eight feet. They were to tell no one else of the location; but on their deathbeds they were to breathe the secret to a trusted few. These fellows would keep the burial place secret until their own deathbeds years later, and would communicate it again – down through the centuries, a secret society of philosophers passing down the sacred memory of the location of Stewart’s writings. 

buried books found here

But it occurred to him that his works might eventually prove unreadable because the English language might one day molder away. Thereupon he decided that first his readers should translate the works into Latin and then bury them. 

After retiring from travelling, Stewart eventually settled in London where he held philosophical soirées and earned a reputation as one of the city’s celebrated eccentrics. He was often seen in public wearing a threadbare Armenian military uniform—a souvenir, one assumes, from his many adventures.

Armenian children in army uniforms found here

Published in: on January 22, 2012 at 7:58 am  Comments (48)  
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the benefits of naked dancing

Karyn “Cookie” Kupcinet was born to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Irv “Kup” Kupcinet and his wife Essee.

Karyn found here

At his peak Kup delivered six columns a week, hosted a late-night talk show, and added color commentary for the Chicago Bears. And while Kup was everyone’s friend, Essee wouldn’t cross the street to piss on you if you were on fire – unless, of course, you were on the “A” list. From the moment Cookie was born, Essee was besotted and determined to make her a star.

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She introduced her daughter to diet pills and crash dieting. Around the time she moved to NYC to study with Lee Strasberg, Karyn began a two-year odyssey of plastic surgery on her chin, nose, ears, and eyes that resulted in the loss of much of her natural beauty and expressiveness on camera.

She moved to Los Angeles in 1960 after Jerry Lewis offered her a walk-on part in The Ladies’ Man. She continued to work sporadically for the next couple of years including small parts on Hawaiian Eye, Perry Mason, and The Andy Griffith Show – while developing an addiction to amphetamines and getting arrested for shoplifting - two books, a sweater and a pair of Capri pants.

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In 1962 she was dating a young actor named Andrew Prine. Karyn took the relationship seriously, talking family and marriage. Prine – not so much. While being seen with a fresh face in Hollywood was good for his career, her constant amphetamine-fueled clingy act was wearing a bit thin and Prine broke it off to date other more glamourous (and less neurotic) women.

Andrew Prine found here

Karyn took to stalking Prine, cutting letters and phrases out of magazines, composing profanity-filled hate mail and sending them anonymously to her ex-boyfriend. 

On 30 November 1963 friends drove to her West Hollywood apartment after not hearing from her since the previous Wednesday. An acrid smell was emanating from the second story porch, where several newspapers, two magazines and a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer were surrounding her WELCOME mat. Inside, her nude, decomposing body was discovered laying face down on the couch with the television turned on.

Henry Miller playing ping pong found here

A cup of coffee was on a stand near a pile of magazines shredded and cut up with scissors. Drawers were pulled out and clothes thrown about the room. In the bathroom, 13 bottles of medications were found in the cabinet. The autopsy reported the cause of death was “murder by manual strangulation.”

As the years passed, several theories surrounding her death emerged. A favorite theory of the lunatic fringe / JFK conspiracy nuts is that Karyn was overheard by an operator in Oxnard, California screaming “The President is going to be killed!” twenty minutes before the assassination, and that she was the victim of a mob hit.

phones to scream over found here

Another theory held by writer James Ellroy, is that Karyn was stoned to the gills, danced alone naked in the apartment, fell or hit her neck on an object then slumped face down on the couch and died. He bases his theory on the fact that a book on the benefits of naked dancing was found in the apartment and the coroner may have been a drunk prone to mistakes.

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There were five other possible suspects in her death – Andrew Prine, Edward Rubin, Robert Hathaway, William Mamches, and David Lange.

According to police interviews, writer Rubin came over to Karyn’s apartment on Wednesday evening. They talked for an hour and then Karyn went for a walk around the block. She ran into actor friend Hathaway and asked him back to her place where the three of them hung out together. Rubin and Hathaway stayed watching TV until 11:00 pm and then left, locking the door behind them. Karyn spoke briefly with Prine on the phone around midnight. Unemployed actor Mamches claimed not to have seen Karyn for three weeks. Rubin, Hathaway, and Mamches were all friends of Prine and shared a rental house together. Lange (brother of actress Hope Lange) lived directly below Karyn and claimed to return home drunk from his date with Natalie Wood around midnight on Wednesday, and did not hear anything unusual.

Natalie Wood and Christopher Walken found here

In police interviews Rubin, Hathaway, and Mamches all stated that they had never dated, hit on, or had sex with Karyn and all just knew her as a mutual friend of Prine. Lange was questioned repeatedly because he was known as a full-blown, falling-down drunk who had a habit of walking into other neighbors’ apartments unannounced. Kup and Essee always felt the Prine was the killer.

Karyn’s brother Jerry lives in Los Angeles and has directed such shows as The Dating Game, The Richard Simmons Show, and Susan Powter infomercials, as well as Judge Judy. His daughter Karyn “Kari” Kupcinet briefly took to the stage and worked in daytime soap operas. However she quit show business and opened an erotic storefront called G Boutique in Chicago. Andrew Prine lives in the Valley just outside Los Angeles and slowly started working again appearing in CSI, JAG, Six Feet Under, and ironically enough, Murder, She Wrote.

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they really knew how to party

The most memorable costume balls in France occurred between the two world wars. *

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Prince Jean-Louis de Faucigny-Lucinge, who attended all of them and gave two with his late wife, Baba, a noted beauty, has described some of the better ones. “It was a mixture that created the event. Let us say Picasso would have done the decor, Valentine Hugo the costumes, Georges Auric the music, Lacretelle or Cocteau or Morand would have written a little scenario.”

Valentine Hugo by Man Ray found here

The theme would be announced several months in advance so that costumes could be made and invitiations be argued over (the people one invited to costume balls were not necessarily the ones one would have dinner with). The most important part was the guest’s arrival, or entrée, for which he or she might have commissioned an aubade by Poulenc or a verse by Cocteau.

Jean Cocteau found here

Sometimes guests included professional dancers in their entrées and underwent a training program to be able to keep in step. Although Elsa Maxwell once came as Napoléon III and the bearded Christian Bérard as Little Red Riding Hood, travesties were not the thing. The point was, quite simply, to look marvelous. And everyone did.

Christian Berard found here

To record the evening such photographers as Horst and Man Ray would snap individuals or groups. Among the inevitable beauties at each ball were Lady Abdy who, says Cecil Beaton, invented size, being over six feet tall, the Duchess de Gramont, Baba de Lucinge, Countess Jean de Polignac, Princess Natalie Paley and Daisy Fellowes. Chanel attracted attention among the frills of the Second Empire ball by wearing black widow’s weeds and attended another party dressed as a tree.

Coco Chanel and Lady Abdy found here

Some went to great expense, while Man Ray appeared in a rayon laundry sack whose corners he had cut out for his arms and legs and carried an egg beater in one hand. The Surrealist Roland Penrose attended another ball dressed as the clock that struck at the moment Tristam Shandy was conceived. 

Roland Penrose and Lee Miller found here

“People had taken such trouble to dress and prepare themselves that sometimes they weren’t very comfortable and they were so excited about appearing that by two in the morning they were tired out. It never lasted terribly late.”

One party where Lucinge and several other guests were extremely uncomfortable was the Bal des Matières in 1929, at which guests were asked to wear costumes of strange materials. Charles de Noailles wore an impeccable tailcoat in oil cloth, Lucinge was a knight in paper armor designed by Valentine Hugo. “It was rather coarse packing paper. I hated it. I disliked the look of it and it was very uncomfortable. I was pleased on no account.”

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For the same ball, the writer Maurice Sachs pondered on whether to wear feathers or furnishing fabrics and decided instead to cover himself in pebbles, causing his dancing partners considerable discomfort. “I should have worn shells,” he said later. 

cicada shell headpieces found here

* extract from A French Affair by Mary Blume

Albert takes a bubble bath

In 1989, Albert Spaggiari, a photographer who confessed to being the mastermind of an elaborate 1976 bank robbery on the Riviera, was found dead outside his mother’s house.

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He was 57 years old and had reportedly suffered from lung cancer. Before his death, Mr. Spaggiari had evaded and taunted law enforcement officials for 12 years, since his escape through a window in a magistrate’s office. His picture periodically turned up in newspapers and magazines, above captions such as ”Hello from Albert.”

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The robbery took place in Nice in 1976. A team of 20 men, led by Mr. Spaggiari, burst into the vault of the Societe Generale bank from a 25-foot tunnel they had carved over the previous several weeks between the bank and a branch of the city sewer system. They worked from Friday to Sunday, emptying safe-deposit boxes and seizing most of the bank’s cash reserves. The group, which became known as the ”sewer gang,” escaped with $8 – $10 million in gold, cash, jewelry and gems. During their stay in the vault, they cooked meals, drank wine and used antique silver tureens as toilets.

image from the movie found here

When officials discovered the scene on Monday, July 19, they found a message from the gang, ”Without Guns, Without Violence, Without Hate,” scrawled on one wall of the vault. 

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After a lengthy investigation, detectives closed in on Spaggiari in Nice and pried his confession from him. He was jailed shortly thereafter but escaped on March 10, 1977, from a magistrate’s office. He complained of the heat, got up and opened a window, and leaped out of it, landing on a car nine feet below. He was whisked away on the back of a motorcycle. The driver, Gerard Rang, was later arrested, and Mr. Spaggiari was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

Six other men were arrested with Mr. Spaggiari in the robbery, which inspired a film, ”The Sewers of Paradise.” Three of them were acquitted and the others were given prison sentences of five to seven years.

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In his book Mr. Spaggiari complained of the messy conditions under which he worked to bring off the Nice heist. He also mourned that he was unable to open 3,500 safe-deposit boxes because he lacked the proper equipment, and described using massive quantities of bubble bath to help scrub off the sewer slime.

scrubbing off in the bath found here

Published in: on January 16, 2012 at 7:39 am  Comments (47)  
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corset friday pops up again

It’s been over 6 months since I stopped doing Corset Friday, but here it is, a New Year, and I had an urge to play around in the dress up box. This is not a return to the regular corset Friday shots, just a one-off for old time’s sake.

Published in: on January 13, 2012 at 11:05 am  Comments (47)  
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Love, Hermann

Hermann Schmidt took the time to scribble his will on a wall beside his bed just before he died.

Herman Munster tattoo found here

“Yesterday, the 18 inch square section of pink painted wall was cut out and filed for probate in Philadelphia. Schmidt, a 49 year old German immigrant, left his $12,000 estate to his belly dancer fiancee, Genevieve Decker.

NOT this Genevieve found here

His last scribbled words were: “Genevieve, you take care of all my belongings. This gives you the authority. Love, Hermann.”

An earlier message gave the name and address of his doctor but it was too late for it to be of any use. Schmidt, a glass polisher, was already dead when police broke into his modest, two storey home.

NOT this modest two story home found here

Published in: on January 12, 2012 at 7:37 am  Comments (49)  
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pinko wins again

Allan Pinkerton tells us of yet another case he solved

“Captain Sumner was a resident of Springfield, Massachusetts with a moderate fortune, and he was a most estimable man. He was about fifty years of age, but well preserved.  I was very favorably impressed by his appearance and much pleased with his frank, manly simplicity.

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“Mr. Pinkerton, when I retired from the sea I thought my cares were over. My father trained me when I was quite a boy,  putting me through a thorough course of seamanship and navigation. My most intimate friend back then was Henry Thayer. Whenever we returned from a voyage, I would bring Henry out to the farm where he became warmly attached to my sister Annie.

Annie Oakley found here

The first voyage in my new ship was a long one, and on my return I found there had been many changes in my absence. Henry and Annie had been married for some time and seemed more devoted to each other than ever. 

When I next arrived in New York after another lengthy absence, I visited Annie. Much to my surprise, I found that she was teaching music in Brooklyn, at a very high salary. I had called in the evening, intending to ask her to accompany me for a walk, but she was surrounded by company, among whom were several gentlemen who were paying her great attention.

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It appeared that Annie had plunged into all the gayety and dissipation of New York fashionable life. I saw some things in her deportment, which were far from proper; she showed a carelessness of appearances not at all becoming a married woman. I felt compelled to ask about Henry.

On hearing Annie relate in an off-hand manner that she had separated from one of the best husbands that ever lived, I was thunderstruck. Henry had loved her passionately, and her conduct must have driven him away in despair. I determined to search for him in the hope of bringing them again together, and effecting a reconciliation.

Henry VIII as a child found here

On my next visit to New York, I hurried over to see Annie. She introduced me to a gentleman friend with whom she was about to go to the opera. He was a man of about forty-five years of age, with easy manners. His eyes were restless and snaky; I noticed that he never looked straight into my face when speaking to me.

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I felt great anxiety about Annie, and I was decided to resign my command immediately, to live on a farm with her, and remove her from the temptations of a gay city. Having settled my affairs, I hurried to fetch her but found she had moved to Greenville, where she was teaching music to Mr. Pattmore’s children.

I went to Greenville where Annie was glad to see me, but confessed that she was enceinte, and that Pattmore was the father of her unborn child.  Mr. Pattmore loved her, and she returned his affection; it was true that they were both married, but she preferred to obey the laws of nature to those of society. I fear she had forgotten her husband Henry, who was liable to return at any moment. After much deliberation she decided to undergo an abortion, return to Springfield with me and never see Pattmore again. She seemed so deeply and truly penitent that I was won over to her wishes, and agreed to stay with her until the operation was performed.

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There was a physician in Chicago who was a noted operator in such cases and he brought Annie through in safety. She was recovering fast, when one day, on entering her room, I found Pattmore there. I besought Annie never again to admit him to her presence. She would make no promises to me and fell back in a swoon.

Pattmore had told her that he was in great hopes of receiving the democratic nomination to Congress. He also said that his wife was in failing health and growing weaker every day. I could see by Annie’s manner that she hoped to be Pattmore’s partner in enjoying the gay life of the National Capital.

National Capital Brewery found here

A day or two after, she received a letter from him saying that his wife was seriously ill, and the physicians considered her life in danger. Our conversation then turned to the subject of wills, and I told her that I had made her my sole legatee, and that she would be in comfortable circumstances when I died. She was very much pleased at this but said she hoped it might be a long time before she should become heiress to my property.

Skipping gaily into the next room she brought out a bottle of ale to reward me for being good. She poured us both a glass and we drank to each other’s health. In about half an hour I became very sick; I vomited and retched terribly, while my bowels seemed to be on fire. I casually glanced at my lucky ring, and was surprised to see that the stone had turned to a creamy white—a sure sign that my life was in danger.

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“Mr. Pinkerton,” he said “I have positive knowledge that Annie has attempted to poison me three times. She put poison in that ale; she afterwards gave me some in a cup of coffee; and, the third time, it was administered so secretly, that I do not know when I took it. The first time, I recovered because the dose was too large, and I vomited up the poison so soon that it had not time to act. The second time, I took only a sip of the coffee, and found that it tasted bitter, so I threw it away, though the little I had taken distressed me exceedingly. The third time, I nearly died, and it was only by the prompt attendance of a physician that I was saved.”

When I recovered, I accused Annie of trying to poison me; she denied it vehemently at first, but I said: “The ring tells me that I have an enemy nearby, and you must be that enemy.” I spoke as if positive of her guilt, and, as she is a firm believer in the ring, she burst into tears and confessed having given me the poison three times.

three poisonous frogs found here

She was so wholly contrite, that I thought she would never undertake such a terrible crime again, and I freely forgave her. Pattmore had encouraged her to put me out of the way. He had told her that he would marry her when his wife was dead; that I was bitterly opposed to him, and would never consent to their marriage; and therefore it would be well for her to poison me before Mrs. Pattmore died.

“Mr. Pinkerton you are the only person who can help me; and so I have come to you to save Mrs. Pattmore and my sister.” I told the captain I needed time for reflection and asked him to leave me alone while I formulated a plan. 

I reflected that his sister was very superstitious, as shown by her belief in the Captain’s ring; it occurred to me that I might take advantage of that trait to draw her secrets out. I should entrust the case to one of my female detectives; she would be told all of Mrs. Thayer’s history; she would be required to learn enough of astrology, clairvoyance and mesmerism to pass for one of the genuine tribe.

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Just as I had concluded my deliberations, the Captain returned, perspiration standing in great beads on his forehead. “Mr. Pinkerton, we are too late! Annie has received a telegram from Mr. Pattmore, saying that his wife is dead.”

“If that is the fact, we must undermine his plot with a deeper one. I will accept a retainer from you, Captain, and we will proceed to work up the case.” I then told the Captain that he ought to have a quarrel with Annie, at the end of which he should burn his will in her presence, which would prevent her from again attempting his life as she would have nothing to gain by his death.

The Captain accepted this. All he desired was to save Annie from Pattmore, and from the ruin which would inevitably result from their further intercourse. He then went home to have his quarrel with his sister.

quarrelling brother and sister found here

I sent a detective named Miller to obtain board at the Pattmore House and to become intimate with the proprietor. He was to say that he wished to start in the lumber business in Greenville, if the prospects were good. The same day I sent for Miss Seaton, a female detective, and ordered her to take board in the same house with Captain Sumner and Mrs. Annie Thayer. Miss Seaton was very sharp, and nothing could escape her piercing black eyeBy pretending to be in poor health, she could obtain Mrs. Thayer’s sympathy, and their progress toward intimacy would be accelerated.  

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That evening Mrs. Thayer left the house shortly after the Captain. Miss Seaton followed her to the post office, where Mrs. Thayer deposited a letter, and received another at the ladies’ window. She tore it open, read it hastily, and crumpled it in her hand. I was anxious to know to whom she had written, and also who had written to her and immediately wrote to Miller to watch Pattmore’s mail to see whether there were any letters from Chicago.

Miller reported that Pattmore had received four such letters. I started for Greenville, to see the coroner about a possible exhumation of Mrs Pattmore’s body.  I also telegraphed for two detectives, Mr. Green and Mr. Knox, to meet me at the Clarendon House in Greenville.

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I instructed them to go into the office of the hotel and begin a conversation about Mrs. Pattmore’s death and to say it was due to poison. My men were soon surrounded by an excited crowd, all of whom were anxious to know the grounds upon which their suspicions were based. They replied in vague terms and insinuations, as if they knew a great deal more than they would tell. The news that Mr. Pattmore was suspected of having poisoned his wife was soon buzzed all round town.

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Sheriff Tomlinson was appealed to by the citizens to require the coroner to investigate the matter. An order was written to have Mrs. Pattmore’s body disinterred and a call for an inquest the following day. The coroner then told Pattmore he was investigating rumors that were circulating at hotels and on the street. Pattmore became very much excited when he heard this, and went immediately to his hotel office.

Mr Knox, playing the part of a confused guest, stumbled into Pattmore’s office where he found him writing a letter. Apologising for his mistaken intrusion he withdrew and reported to me what he saw. 

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“Mr Green,” I said, “go to your hotel, pay your bill, and proceed to the Pattmore House. When you register your name, you must hail the clerk as an old acquaintance. This will be an easy matter, as hotel clerks are known by hundreds of people. Miller, you must be in the office at the same time, and you must both remain there until Pattmore puts his letter in the mailbox. Then, Green must ask the clerk out for a drink, and while he is gone, Miller must get possession of the letter. When you have secured it, meet me at the Globe Hotel.”

mailbox found here

My men followed these instructions perfectly and Miller arrived at the Globe. He gave me the letter; I carefully opened it by a simple process, which did not leave any evidence of tampering. The letter began: “My own dear Annie,” and went on to caution Mrs. Thayer that she must not be alarmed at what he was about to tell her. Some of his enemies had started a report that he had poisoned his late wife. He begged her to excuse the haste and brevity of the note, as he could only dash off a few lines of reassurance. The letter was signed: “Your loving and devoted husband, Alonzo Pattmore.”

I resealed the letter and gave it back to Mr. Miller, with instructions to return to the hotel and keep a general watch on all that went on. As Miller went out Knox came in to report that Pattmore had been driven off in a hack toward the southern part of town. On the hack’s return, he had questioned the driver about Pattmore’s destination.

zebra driven hackney cab found here

He said he supposed that Mr. Pattmore had gone out to pay the grave-digger, since his visit had been made to that individual at the graveyard gate. Knox, Green and I then drove to the graveyard where we came upon three men. Their smoky lantern threw a ghastly light upon their work, it was evident that these grave robbers were professionals, for they had already succeeded in getting the coffin out of the grave.

We approached as quietly as possible then made a general rush forward. The ghouls were too quick however, running away at break-neck speed. After keeping watch for several hours, we returned to the city, convinced that the body-snatchers would not make another attempt to rob the grave now that it was daylight.

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The following day Dr. Forsythe testified he had attended the late Mrs. Pattmore in her illness, and dysentery was the cause of her death. As no other witnesses were called, the jury returned a verdict that Mrs. Pattmore’s death had resulted from natural causes. Her body was returned to the cemetery where I bribed the grave diggers to open the coffin long enough for a different doctor to remove the intestines and place them in a jar of alcohol to await analysis

braised intestines found here

Having completed all arrangements we returned to Chicago where I asked Miss Seaton to ask if she had been able to examine any of Mrs. Thayer’s drawers or trunks. She had succeeded in getting into her drawers, and there found a quantity of Alonzo Pattmore’s letters. 

At this moment, one of my clerks entered and said that Captain Sumner wished to see me. I requested Miss Seaton to step into the next room where, by leaving the door ajar, the conversation between the Captain and myself could be easily heard. We had a friendly chat about his family. I drew out the particulars of Annie’s history and obtained a full account of her, necessary for the next part of my plan.

I then engaged my chief female detective, Kate Warne, to play the role of a fortune teller. The tricks of the trade are easily learned and I gave her a book explaining all the secrets of the profession. It was called ‘The Mysteries of Astrology and the Wonders of Magic by Dr. Roback.’ 

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Next morning I received a telegram from Miller stating that Pattmore had left Greenville for Chicago. I sent word to Miss Seaton to call upon Mrs. Thayer. When Mrs. Thayer opened the door, Miss Seaton saw that she had been crying, and that she was evidently much disturbed. She asked to be excused, for she had company from the East.

As Mrs. Thayer did not come down to dinner, Miss Seaton again visited, and found her about to go out with Pattmore. On their return they went to Mrs. Thayer’s sitting room. At four o’clock, Miss Seaton found the door was locked and she was therefore obliged to withdraw to her own room to watch. It was six o’clock before Pattmore came out, having been nearly three hours in Mrs. Thayer’s room with the door locked.

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Mr. Knox shadowed Pattmore and saw him take the nine o’clock train for Greenville. I immediately notified Mr. Miller by telegraph, directing him to renew his intimacy with Pattmore, and to remain there until further orders. Mr. Miller had not been idle during the time that Pattmore was away and had managed to locate the nurse attending Mrs. Pattmore in her last illness. 

He learned that when she first became sick, Mr. Pattmore showed a tender solicitude for her health. He insisted upon preparing her medicine and giving it to her himself. Mrs. Pattmore did not seem to appreciate his watchful care, she told the nurse that she did not like to take her medicine from her husband; she also asked very particularly whether the medicine was that which the doctor prescribed.

The nurse had not liked the effects of the medicine at all. It came in small yellow papers, and when Mrs. Pattmore took a dose she was taken with violent vomiting and the pain would be so severe as to cause her to scream terribly. Then Mr. Pattmore would give her a dose of another kind of medicine, which would cause her to fall into a deep sleep.

Gaddafi’s nurse found here

In the meantime, Mrs. Warne reported that her Temple of Magic was in complete order and that she was ready to see me. At the appointed hour I called at the rooms, where I was received by a young negro of the blackest typeOn the walls hung several charts and mystic symbols, while the floor was painted with signs of the zodiac. A pair of skeletons stood facing each other and their ghastly appearance added to the unnatural effect.

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While I was examining them, Mrs. Warne slipped into the room and swept toward me. I should hardly have known her, so great was her disguise. “Now, Mrs. Warne, nothing remains to be done but to advertise you thoroughly,” I said, after I had inspected her preparations.

An advertisement for “Madam Lucille” was inserted in the daily newspapers and a number of  handbills were printed for street distribution. At that time fortune-telling was not common, and those engaged in it rarely had the means to advertise themselves extensively; hence Lucille’s half column in the newspapers attracted an unusual amount of attention.

image of Lucille Ball found here

The next morning Miss Seaton saw Mrs. Thayer eagerly reading Lucille’s advertisement. Miss Seaton asked whether she would like to go to Madam Lucille’s on their morning walk. “I have a desire to test her powers” replied Mrs Thayer. They therefore went to the published address and rang the bell.

Mrs. Thayer entered the room but what with the superstitious terror inspired by the strange appearance of the room, she was hardly able to walk to the visitor’s chair. She slowly removed her veil and sat motionless, regarding the fortune-teller as a frightened bird watches a snake. 

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Lucille examined the lines of her hand and commenced speaking: “Your parents are dead, and you have a brother who was a sailor. Your father left you moderately wealthy but you desire more, and you are not too scrupulous as to how you get it. Why, what means this?” she exclaimed, starting back and fixing a piercing glance on the cowering woman before her. “You are in danger! Yes; there is danger all about you. There is a man who claims to love you; and there is a woman who comes between you. Ah! what is she doing!” she cried starting back with a look of horror.

Mrs. Thayer was greatly agitated at this first interview with Lucille and left immediately. In the evening she wrote a long letter, which she asked Miss Seaton to post, being too weak to go out herself. Of course, Miss Seaton immediately brought it to me. It began, “My dear husband,” and went on to give an account of all that Lucille had said. She said she had been much alarmed by the references to the woman who came between them, for the inference was that Lucille meant Mrs. Pattmore. However, she was going to have her full fortune told the following day, and would write all about it in her next letter.

fortune teller found here

Meanwhile I asked my New York correspondent to make a thorough search for Henry Thayer, as I wished to learn definitely whether he was alive or dead. We found that Henry was in command of an English whaler in the South Sea. At the latest advice, he was nearly ready to sail for England,  needing only a few more whales to complete his cargo

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Shortly before ten o’clock the next morning, I took my place behind the curtain. In a few minutes Mrs. Thayer arrived and was admitted to Lucille’s presence. “You live with a relative some years older than yourself. He wears a peculiar ring obtained in the East Indies. He often consults this ring, and it informs him whether he is in danger or the reverse. As for the woman whom I mentioned yesterday; I cannot tell whether she is living or dead. The man you love has been with her; he gave her something in a spoon which she was forced to take. Ah! I see! it was a medicine, a white powder—but now it all fades into obscurity. 

“And here is yet another man” she said; “he, too, is a sailor; he is handsome; he is brave; he is an officer commanding a ship but he is now far away. This other man has come between you.” Then, pausing a moment, she announced: “Madam, you have deceived me! This captain is your real husband!”

Captain Beefheart found here

“That other man is not your husband, and you cannot be happy with him. Something terrible is about to happen to him and you are in danger; there is a strange fatality attending your fate where it comes in contact with that man.

That evening Mrs. Thayer was again not able to go out, and asked Miss Seaton to put a letter in the post for her. It was an account of the second visit to Lucille, and betrayed great fear of discovery. She begged Pattmore to come to Chicago and have his fortune told; to learn the extent of Lucille’s powers and decide what course to pursue.

Next morning Mrs. Thayer proceeded straight to Lucille’s rooms. “This man, whom you so wrongly love, does not return your affection; he loves you only for selfish, sensual purposes; he will fondle you as a plaything and then cast you off for a younger rival, as he has already put away his wife. When he wearies of you, have you any doubt that he will murder you as he has murdered her?”

young Lucille Ball found here

“I see an inquest; a sham investigation where he was cleared by a jury; but other eyes have been regarding the proceedings; keen detectives have been at work, and they now step in and take quiet possession of the corpse; the stomach is removed for analysis, and a chemist of great reputation takes charge of it; poison has been found; proof of your lover’s guilt has been obtained, and he will suffer the penalty of his crime. Only if you tell the truth will you be saved.”

“If you return to your brother and confess all, he will forgive you. If you do as your brother wishes, you will regain your light heart and sweet disposition; your real husband will come back to you, and your future will be one of happiness.” 

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“There is another man near you, whose presence you do not suspect; but he is watching you all the time. He is only of medium height, but he is very well built and powerful; he has a ruddy complexion, brown hair, and gray eyes; with full whiskers all around his face. He is a very determined man, and he never gives up until he has accomplished his object. He can save you from harm; but you must tell him the truth, for he can instantly detect falsehoods and it is dangerous to you try to deceive him.

Seeing that the fortune-teller had dismissed her, Mrs. Thayer drew down her veil and left the room. I walked at a distance behind until she was across the bridge; where I overtook her and said: “Mrs. Thayer, I believe?” Addressed thus by a stranger, whom she at once recognized as the man about whom Lucille had given her a forewarning, she was struck almost speechless with fear.

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I helped Mrs. Thayer into a carriage and told the driver to proceed to my office. She spoke of her early married life, when Henry made several long voyages. While he was away she became acquainted with Pattmore and his wife. Afterward Pattmore frequently came to Brooklyn alone, and he always spent time in her society. She did not realize the danger of his intercourse at first; but, gradually, he began to make love to her and finally, he accomplished her ruin.

dangerous intercourse found here

When she discovered that she was enceinte she was much alarmed, and decided to return to her brother after an abortion had been performed, but Pattmore had a strong control over her still. As soon as she was able to go out Pattmore wrote to her to get a certain prescription from a druggist. She did so, and sent the powders to him. Shortly afterwards he told her that he had arranged to poison his wife. She was much shocked at first, but he said that Mrs. Pattmore could only live about a year anyhow, and that she would suffer a great deal during her rapid decline; he argued that there could be no harm in hastening her death to save her from many weeks of pain.

Then Pattmore told her to poison her brother in order that she might inherit his property. Accordingly she made three attempts but was not successful. After Pattmore returned to Greenville, his wife died. She knew then that he had carried out his plan.

I told her I had received information that Henry was returning from the South Seas. “He may be willing to forgive and forget if you show yourself ready to return his affection. However, we must circumvent Pattmore, and you must lend your assistance. If you attempt to deceive me I shall be obliged to put you in prison.”

read about prison beauty contests here

My lawyer prepared an affidavit for Mrs. Thayer to sign. That evening I took the train to Greenville and read Dr. Stuart’s analysis. He had found enough poison in Mrs. Pattmore’s bowels to make it certain that she had died from that cause, and not from natural disease. Pattmore was charged with murder and I filed Mrs. Thayer’s affidavit in the court. Everything was done quietly, so that he was arrested before anyone except the sheriff and the judge knew that a warrant had been issued. 

The testimony of Mrs. Thayer, the nurse and the grave-diggers made a strong case; but when I clinched the matter with the testimony of Dr. Stuart, there was no longer any doubt as to Pattmore’s guilt. He was indicted for murder in the first degree.

The trial took place soon afterward and the defense team put up a strong fight to clear their client. They were successful to the extent of saving him from execution, and he was sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary. As for Mr and Mrs Thayer, they were reunited and moved to China where they made a lot of money and raised two lovely and healthy children.

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