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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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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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matrimonial bargains

Mary Blandy was a female murderer in 18th century England. In 1914 William Roughead, who appears to be the Truman Capote of his day wrote of her trial for the killing of her father

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“Mr. Blandy, business-like in all things, wanted full value for his money; as none of Mary’s local conquests appeared to promise him an adequate return, he and his wife and daughter spent a season at Bath, then the great market-place of matrimonial bargains.

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The first suitor to appear with matrimonial intent was a thriving young apothecary, but Mr. Blandy quickly made it plain that Mary and her £10,000 dowry were not to be had by any drug-compounding knave who might make sheep’s eyes at her, and the apothecary returned to his gallipots for healing of his bruised affections.

Japanese gallipots found here

Dining with her parents in the summer of 1746, Mary Blandy encountered her fate. Among the guests was one Captain the Hon. William Henry Cranstoun, a soldier and a Scot, whose appearance, according to a diurnal writer, was unprepossessing. “In his person he is remarkably ordinary, his stature is low, his face freckled and pitted with the smallpox, his eyes small and weak, his eyebrows sandy, and his shape no ways genteel; his legs are clumsy, and he has nothing in the least elegant in his manner.” The moral attributes of this ugly little fellow were only less attractive than his physical imperfections. “He has a turn for gallantry, but Nature has denied him the proper gifts.” He was at this time thirty-two years of age, and, as the phrase goes, a man of pleasure.

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Mr Blandy found to his surprise and joy that the little lieutenant, with his courtesy style of captain, was no less a person than the son of a Scots peer. As a very much “younger” son, he probably had little more than his pay and a fine assortment of debts. But for Mr Blandy it was a chance to marry his daughter to a man who called the daughter of an Earl grandmother, and could claim kinship with half the aristocracy of Scotland.

Scottish slippers found here

Cranstoun, formally proposing to the old folks for their daughter’s hand, was well received.  The mother enjoyed for the first time the company and conversation of a man of fashion, and Mary felt amid the Henley meadows paradisiacal experiences with her beau. But her happiness received an unexpected check when her father was told the amazing news that his daughter’s lover already had a wife and child living in Scotland.

The old attorney was justly incensed at the unworthy trick of which he had been the victim. In all the majesty of outraged fatherhood, he sought an interview with his treacherous guest. That gentleman, whose acquaintance with “tight corners” was extensive and peculiar, rose gallantly to the occasion.

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Mr. Blandy, accepting his guest’s denial, allowed the engagement to continue in the meantime, until the result of legal proceedings should be known. He was as loath to forego the chance of such an aristocratic connection as was his wife to part from so “genteel” a friend; while Mary Blandy–well, the damsels of her day were not morbidly nice in such matters, more than once had the nuptial cup eluded her expectant lips, she was nearing her thirtieth year: such an opportunity might not occur again.

nuptial cup found here

We hear nothing further of their doings until Thursday, 28th September 1749, when Mrs. Blandy became seriously ill. The complaint of which Mrs. Blandy died was, as appears, intestinal inflammation, but, as we shall see later, her daughter was popularly believed to have poisoned her. 

Francis Blandy was much affected by the loss of his wife. At first he seems to have raised no objection to Cranstoun’s constant presence in the house, but soon Mary had to complain of the “unkind things” which her father said both to her lover and herself. 

Miss Blandy states that, apropos to her father’s unpropitious attitude, her lover acquainted her of the great skill of the famous Mrs. Morgan, a cunning woman in Scotland, from whom he had received a certain love powder. Mary said she had no faith in such things, but Cranstoun assured her of its efficacy, having once taken some himself, and immediately forgiven a friend to whom he had intended never to speak again. “If I had any of these powders,” said he, “I would put them into something Mr. Blandy should drink.” Such is Mary’s account of the inception of the design upon her father’s love–or life.

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One morning, Mary states, Cranstoun put some of the magic powder in the old gentleman’s tea. Mr. Blandy, who at breakfast had been very cross, appeared at dinner in the best of humours, and continued so all the time Mr. Cranstoun stayed with him. After this, who could doubt the beneficent efficacy of the wise woman’s drug?

A day or two afterwards, when Cranstoun was out, Mary, so far anticipating her wifely duties, entered his room in order to collect his things for the wash. She found more “dirty linen” than she expected. In an unlocked trunk was a letter of recent date, addressed to the gallant captain by a lady then enjoying his protection in town. Even Miss Blandy’s robust affection was not, for the moment, able to overlook a treachery so base. A disgusting scene ensued. For two hours the wretched little captain wept and raved, imploring her forgiveness. On his knees, clinging to the skirts of her gown, he swore he would not live unless she pardoned his offence. Mary foolishly yielded.

Begging monkeys found here

From about that date Francis Blandy’s health began to fail. He was in the sixty-second year of his age, and he suffered the combined assault of gout, gravel, and heartburn. He ordered Mary to write to Cranstoun telling him on no account to show his face until his matrimonial difficulties were “quite decided.”

But if Miss Blandy were to secure a husband and Cranstoun lay hands upon her £10,000, some step must be taken. Both knew that while his wife lived Cranstoun could never marry Mary. At any moment her father might learn the truth and alter the disposition of his fortune. That they openly agreed to remove by murder the obstacle to their mutual desires is unlikely. Cranstoun, as appears from all the circumstances, was the instigator of the plot; probably nothing more definite was said between them than that the “love powder” would counteract the old man’s opposition; but from her subsequent conduct, it is unlikely that Mary acted in ignorance of the true purpose of the prescription.

In April, she received from her lover a letter informing her that he had seen his old friend Mrs. Morgan, who was to oblige him with a fresh supply of her proprietary article, which he would send along with some “Scotch pebbles” for his betrothed’s acceptance. “Ornaments of Scotch pebbles,” says Lady Russell, “were the extreme of fashion in the year 1750.” Mary consented to give the love philtre a fair trial.

Scotch pebble cross found here

Miss Blandy was seen by the maids at mid-day stirring gruel with a spoon in the pantry. On Tuesday Mr. Blandy had become seriously ill in the night, with symptoms of violent pain, vomiting, and purging. The strange circumstances attending this gruel aroused the maids’ suspicions. They examined the contents of the pan and found a white, gritty “settlement” at the bottom. They prudently put the pan in a locked closet overnight. Next day Susan sent for Mr. Norton, the apothecary, who removed it for examination.

apothecary shower curtain found here

Dr. Addington arrived at midnight. From the condition of the patient, coupled with what he learned from him and Mr. Norton, there was no doubt Mr. Blandy was suffering from the effects of poison. Mary was that evening confined to her chamber and a guard was placed outside.

The person charged with the duty of warding Mary in her chamber was Edward Herne, parish clerk of Henley. Next morning, Ned Herne leaving his fair charge unguarded, went off to dig a grave for her now dead father. As soon as the coast was clear, Mary, with “nothing on but a half-sack and petticoat without a hoop,” ran out into the street and over Henley bridge, in a last wild attempt to cheat her fate.

Henley Bridge found here

She was quickly recaptured and removed to Oxford Castle. At first, we are told, “her imprisonment was indeed rather like a retirement from the world than the confinement of a criminal.” She had her maid to attend her, the best apartments in the keeper’s house were placed at her disposal, she drank tea twice a day, walked at her pleasure in the keeper’s garden, and of an evening enjoyed her game of cards.

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Then a rumour reached the authorities in London that a scheme was afoot to effect her rescue. The Sheriff of the county was instructed “to take more particular care of her,” the felon’s fetters were riveted upon her slender ankles; and there was an end to the daily walks amid the pleasant alleys of the keeper’s garden.

image found here

Mary Blandy’s trial lasted thirteen hours. The Crown case clearly established the fact that arsenic was the cause of Mr. Blandy’s death. Mary was found guilty and condemned to hang.

As she was climbing the fatal ladder, covered, for the occasion, with black cloth, she stopped, and addressing the celebrants of that grim ritual, “Gentlemen,” said she, “do not hang me high, for the sake of decency.” 

The reader may care to know what became of Cranstoun. That “unspeakable Scot,” it has regretfully to be recorded, was never made amenable to earthly justice. He was, indeed, the subject of at least four biographies, but human retribution followed him no further.

a milkman, an artist and a winkle boiler

During the second world war, conscientious objectors  were allowed to choose non combative roles such as ambulance drivers and orderlies. Some also opted to be “human guinea pigs” in medical trials.

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“In early 1941, a dozen male volunteers arrived, suitcases in hand, at the Sorby Institute, a research facility in Sheffield, Yorkshire. They included a milkman, an artist, a maths teacher, a ladies’ hairdresser and a winkle boiler. They were destined to spend the war years allowing themselves to be infected with scabies, undergoing lengthy periods of vitamin deprivation, and taking part in potentially dangerous investigations into how long the body could cope without water.

milko found here

Scabies infestation, or ‘the itch’, then affected about two million Britons. At the time there was no effective cure. In a flash of inspiration, Major Kenneth Mellanby CBE, saw a well of available ‘volunteers’ on whom non-life-threatening experiments could be carried out, fitting in with their pacifism.

He shipped in army bedding previously used by those with scabies, and the volunteers slept naked between the sheets. Others were given unwashed underpants that they wore for a week at a time. Nothing happened.

At a lecture to military officers, Mellanby stated that scabies was contracted by picking up a young adult female which caused the audience to erupt with laughter. He meant a female mite, but the gaffe made him wonder if infected women could be hired to sleep with the volunteers. Would experimental adultery look good in the scientific report?

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Fortunately, before any women were enlisted two volunteers became infected; the combination of close contact and infected underwear had done the trick.

The volunteers had to remain infested for nine months, which must have been a relentless ordeal. Some wandered the corridors naked in the cold air to mollify the itch, probably wondering if life under fire in the Western Desert would not have been easier.

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Treatment started with scalding baths and vigorous scrubbing, followed by a coating of sulphur ointment. The most effective treatment proved to be painting the entire body, except the head, with benzyl benzoate. 

To keep up morale, pacifist meetings were held and allotments maintained. A mock coat of arms was devised depicting a sarcoptes mite atop the motto ‘Itch Dien’.

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Dietary experiments were also carried out, and the effects of vitamin A deprivation were logged. This task required participants to deliver every bowel movement to the lab. In 1943 one final, even more controversial, experiment was undertaken. Aimed at establishing the life expectancy of shipwrecked sailors, it required volunteers to go without water for up to five days. Only lifeboat rations, such as chocolate and dried meat, were allowed.

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The Sorby Institute closed its doors in 1946. Many of the recruits remained until the end, enjoying a kind of macabre bond. A jokey newsletter was produced to help people remain in contact and recount tales of the bizarre years they spent together. Some of the recruits also wrote this poem:

Recondite research on a mite

Has revealed that infections begin

On leave with your wife and your children

Or when you are living in sin.

Except in the case of the clergy,

Who accomplish remarkable feats,

And catch scabies and crabs

From door handles and cabs,

And from blankets and lavatory seats.

image found here

how do you rate your pain sir?

Entomologist Justin Schmidt has developed a pain scale for stings.

Justin Schmidt found here

1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.

1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. Like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.

light switch found here

1.8 Bullhorn acacia ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.

2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.

2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W. C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.

Read about W C Fields’ ghost here

2.x Honey bee and European hornet: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.

3.0 Red harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Somebody is using a drill to excavate your ingrown toenail.

image found here

3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.

4.0 Tarantula hawk: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.

image found here

4.0+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

And a couple more insect related stories to liven up your day.

In one horrific case in southern Africa, a man was attacked so relentlessly by honeybees that he had to jump into a river and hide beneath the surface. The bees continued to sting him every time he came up to breathe. The swarm was so dense he had to suck bees into his mouth and chew them to get any air. The attack went on for four hours, producing diarrhea, among other systemic effects, so that he was passing bees out one end while still ingesting them at the other. Finally, nightfall drew the bees back to their hive, and the victim dragged himself ashore. His face was literally black with embedded stings, and his hair was matted with dead bees. The doctors who treated him over the next few days counted 2,243 stings.

Stinging, says Schmidt, is a far more complex and paradoxical business than we might think. For instance, harvester ants, found from California to Florida, possess painful venom. In fact, one North American species has what Schmidt calls “the world’s most lethal arthropod venom.” And yet harvester ants are what American parents give the kids to play with almost every time they buy an ant farm. Luckily, these ants happen to be ideally suited for life in a plastic box, and they are so unaggressive that there’s little chance a child will suffer even a single sting, much less the hundreds needed to cause death.

image found here

Published in: on November 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm  Comments (56)  
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just like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy

We’ve written about eating insects already at the Gimcrack but now that I’ve discovered The Food Insects Newsletter, I see there’s lots more to talk about

Buy the book here

“According to Dick Reavis, one restaurant providing this kind of fare is Don Chon’s in Mexico City, “a back-street landmark for rustics and adventurous connoisseurs. The owner, Leopoldo Ortega, notes that back in the fifties, the restaurant was mainly patronized by the vendors who came from the countryside. Because pre Hispanic food has become relatively expensive, tourists and people with bohemian tastes now outnumber the country folk. A plate of red agave worms is priced at 30,000 pesos or about $11, nearly two times the daily wage of most Mexicans. Reavis also tried a side dish of live worms and describes the indelicate maneuvers required to remove one when it bit him.

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Reavis concludes his article with the following paragraph: “In my opinion, the finest delicacy at Don Chon’s is escamoles in green sauce, sprinkled with diced onion and bits of cilantro. Escamoles are the larvae of black ants. When boiled, they look like cottage cheese. Rank amateurs scoop them up with a spoon, and ordinary Mexicans with a corn tortilla But the blase know, and the bold quickly see, that a torta de ahuatli – a wafer made of batter and the eggs of a swamp fly – does the trick in higher style. The season for escamoles is in the spring. By then, Don Chon’s will also be serving white worms as big as your fingers. I don’t know if they bite, but take my advice:” They’re tasty when toasted, but I wouldn’t eat them alive.”  

Escamoles found here

The eggs of water bugs are toasted, ground up and made into little cakes held together with turkey egg. In the late 18th Century, they were apparently a garnish for the festive dish called revoltijo, served on Christmas Eve. Other insects still eaten include locusts, which can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, jellied and mashed, and are a seductive combination of a crisp exterior and a creamy filling; mountain chinch bugs, eaten toasted or living; oak-boring beetles which are popular as snacks among Mixtec peasants; ant larvae and pupae; and wasps.

Edible locust farm found here

For those of you who turn up your nose at the idea of eating insects, the Food and Drug Administration have published a booklet listing the allowable percentages of “natural contaminants” in processed foods.

CHOCOLATE AND CHOCOLATE LIQUOR

Insect filth: Average is 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when 6 100-gram subsamples are examined OR any 1 subsample contains 90 or more insect fragments

Chocolate Wine found here

 Rodent filth: Average is 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams in 6 100-gram subsamples examined OR any 1 subsample contains 3 or more rodent hairs

CITRUS FRUIT JUICES, CANNED

Insects and insect eggs: 5 or more Drosophila and other fly eggs per 250 ml or 1 or more maggots per 250 ml

RED FISH AND OCEAN PERCH

Parasites: 3% of the fillets examined contain 1 or more parasites accompanied by pus pockets

MACARONI AND NOODLE PRODUCTS

Insect filth: Average of 225 insect fragments or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples

Rodent filth: Average of 4.5 rodent hairs or more per 225 grams in 6 or more subsamples

Noodle chair found here

 PEANUT BUTTER

Insect filth: Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams

Rodent filth: Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams

Peanut Butter Mice found here

Published in: on November 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm  Comments (66)  
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spot the spider bite victim

The Brazilian Wandering Spider‘s venom is 30 times more powerful than that of a rattlesnake. A native to Brazil and northern Argentina, its diet includes lizards and mice. There is enough poison in an adult’s bite to kill 225 mice.

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It is incredibly hardy and can survive being frozen, thrown in boiling water and even microwaved for a short periodIf one of its legs becomes damaged it will amputate it with its own mouth – a new shorter leg growing within a few weeks.

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They have a distinctive defensive display in which the body is lifted up into an erect position, the first two pairs of legs are lifted high (revealing the conspicuous black-striped pattern on their underside), while the entire spider sways from side to side with hind legs in a cocked position.

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In Brazil, emergency room staff can immediately spot the victims of a bite from this spider. Patients not only experience overall pain and an increase in blood pressure, they also sport an uncomfortable erection.

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Scientists separated the different components of the spider venom and ran tests on rats to seek out the erectile enhancer. Then they injected the venom-chemical into rats stimulated to begin an erection. A tiny needle-like device inserted into each rat’s penis measured the pressure change, which corresponds with the increase in blood flow to the blood vessels inside the penis. Compared with control rats, those injected with the peptide showed a significant increase in penis pressure.

image found here

But erections don’t last forever. The erectile party crasher, a substance called PDE-5 breaks down the cGMP and in turn transforms the erect penis into its normal limp stateThe most popular erectile-dysfunction drugs work by blocking this party crasher.

image found here

The spider chemical works in a different manner, affecting an earlier step in the erection process. Somehow, the toxin ups the amount of nitric oxide, which sort of sets into motion an erection. The scientists suggest that a combination of a synthetic version of the spider venom with a drug like Viagra would result in a magnified effect.

the cult of the cricket

Royal courtiers in China kept singing crickets as early as the eighth century, housing the insects they’d caught in small golden cages next to their beds.

cricket cages found here

In their relations to crickets the Chinese have passed through three distinct periods : during the first period from early antiquity down to the T’ang dynasty, they merely appreciated the cricket’s powerful tunes; under the T’ang (A.D. 618-906) they began to keep crickets as interned prisoners in cages to be able to enjoy their concert at any time; finally, under the Sung (a.d. 960-1278) they developed the sport of cricket-fights and a regular cult of the cricket.

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As happened in China frequently, a certain custom first originated in the palace, became fashionable, and then gradually spread among all classes of the populace. The women enshrined in the imperial seraglio found solace and diversion in the company of crickets during their lonesome nights. Instead of golden cages, the people availed themselves of small bamboo or wooden cages which they carried in their bosom or suspended from their girdles.

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During the summer the insects were kept in circular pottery jars made of clay and covered with a flat lid. Many potters made a special business of these cricket houses, and impressed on them a seal with their names. The crickets were kept cool as the heat did not penetrate the thick clay walls. Tiny porcelain dishes decorated in blue and white contained food and water for the insects, and they were also provided with beds or sleeping boxes of clay. Jars of somewhat larger size served for holding the cricket-fights.

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In summer the insects were generally fed on fresh cucumber, lettuce, and other greens. During their confinement in autumn and winter, they ate masticated chestnuts and yellow beans. In the south they were also fed on chopped fish and various kinds of insects, and even received honey as a tonic. It was quite a common sight to see idlers congregated in tea-houses laying their crickets out on the tablesTheir masters washed the gourds with hot tea and chewed chestnuts and beans to feed them. Then they listened to their songs and boasted of their grinding powers.

chestnut tree found here

The fighting crickets received particular attention and nourishment, a dish consisting of a bit of rice mixed with fresh cucumbers, boiled chestnuts, lotus seeds, and mosquitoes. When the time for the fight drew near, they were given a tonic of bouillon made from the root of a certain flower. Some fanciers allowed themselves to be stung by mosquitoes, and when those were full of blood, they were given to their favorite pupils. The good fighters were believed to be incarnations of great heroes of the past, and were treated in every respect like soldiers.

mosquito larvae found here

Those with black heads and gray hair in their bodies were considered best. Next in appreciation came those with yellow heads and gray hair, then those with white heads and gray hair.

The tournaments took place in an open space, on a public square, or in a special house termed Autumn Amusements. There were heavy-weight, middle and light-weight champions. The wranglers were always matched on equal terms according to size, weight, and color, and were carefully weighed on a pair of wee scales at the opening of each contest.

image found here

A tickler was used for stirring the crickets to incite them to sing or fight. In Peking fine hare or rat whiskers were inserted in a bone handle for this purpose; in Shanghai, a fine blade of crab or finger grass. 

A referee who was called “Army Commander” or “Director of the Battle”, announced the contestants, recited the history of their past performances, and spurred the two parties on to combat. For this purpose he availed himself of the tickler described above, stirring their heads and the ends of their tails, then finally their large hind legs.

image found here

The two combatants would fight each other mercilessly. The struggle usually ended in the death of one of them, and it occurred not infrequently that the more agile or stronger one pounced with its whole weight upon the body of its opponent, severing its head completely

The sum of money staked on the contest was lodged with a committee who retained ten per cent to cover expenses and handed over the balance to the owner of the winning cricket. The lucky winner was also presented with a roast pig, a piece of silk, and a gilded ornament resembling a bouquet of flowers. The names of the victorious champions were inscribed on an ivory tablet carved in the shape of a gourd and these tablets like diplomas were religiously kept in the houses of the fortunate owners. The victory was occasion for great rejoicing and jollification and the jubilant winner strutted in the procession of his overjoyed compatriots, carrying his victorious cricket home.

image found here

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 8:04 am  Comments (57)  
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she goes off with a bang

From a medical journal found here

SIR,-While I was reading the history of a newly admitted patient on the final ward round before Christmas a loud crack, like a pistol shot, rang out from the other end of the ward disturbing the proceedings. We found no commotion and no weapon, not even a prematurely pulled Christmas cracker.

Instead, there was a timid woman of 40, Mrs. A, who called out apologetically that it was her and her capsules. She told us that her general practitioner had prescribed Duogastrone (a special preparation of carbenoxolone sodium), which according to her doctor would dissolve beyond the stomach and heal her duodenal ulcer. She then explained in detail that since taking her capsules a loud shot would occur in her bowels from three to seven hours after swallowing them. She and her husband had many sleepless nights awaiting the “shot” at 2 a.m. after the evening meal at 7 p.m.

pill art found here

Two weeks before Christmas the television repair man had called in the afternoon to adjust the set while Mrs. A sat watching on the settee. Just as he was tuning the set she ” exploded.” The man dropped his tools and pulled the wires from the socket but could not find any electrical fault. He then turned to Mrs. A and suggested that the metal springs of the settee had broken.

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Mrs. A, too shy to explain her abdominal secret, let him examine the settee. The medical and nursing staff and last but not least the patient herself can vouch for the truth of this story, which was not the result of surrender to Christmas spirits. It is felt that this new and somewhat dramatic Duogastrone side-effect should be known to others. We shall indeed be interested to hear if other patients have experienced intra-abdominal shots after taking Duogastrone.

We are, etc.,

C. C. EVANS.

J. B. RIDYARD.

The Royal Southern Hospital,

Liverpool 8

don’t let your husband go bike riding alone in San Francisco

Cordelia Botkin was the star of a sensational and lurid murder case in 1898

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Thirty-year-old John P. Dunning had a good life with a comfortable marriage, a young daughter and a job with the Associated Press bureau in San Francisco. However in September 1895, John Dunning’s life would take a dramatic turn when, while taking a leisurely bicycle ride, he spotted an attractive woman sitting on a bench.

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The estranged wife of  Welcome A Botkin, Cordelia Botkin was already 38 years old but still possessed a powerfully seductive charm. During the next two years, Dunning became a frequent guest at the Botkin house on Geary Street. Besides cheating on his wife, and on occasion Cordelia Botkin, Dunning began to drink and lose money at the racetrack. In early 1898, Dunning’s employer, suspecting embezzlement of company funds, fired him. His wife and daughter returned to Delaware to live with family while Dunning moved in with Cordelia who now resided at the Victoria Hotel on Hyde Street.

Hyde St San Francisco found here

Cordelia was thrilled to be living under the same roof with her lover, but her joy was short-lived. Dunning received a reporting assignment to cover the Spanish-American War. Before leaving San Francisco, Dunning had bad news for Cordelia: he missed his wife and daughter. When he completed his assignment, he would rejoin his family in Delaware. The affair was over. Cordelia did not take the news very well. In her mind the affair was not over, not by a long shot.

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Mrs. Dunning began receiving anonymous letters mailed from San Franciso, letters referring to her husband’s affair with an “interesting and pretty woman.” The letters were signed, “A Friend.” In August, Mrs. Dunning received an anonymous note signed, “With love to yourself and baby. Mrs. C.” The note was accompanied by a Cambric handkerchief and a box of chocolates.

chocolate sushi found here

After dinner on August 9, 1898, Elizabeth passed the mystery box of bonbons around to family and friends. A few of those gathered that evening passed up the chocolate while Mrs. Dunning and her sister, Leila Deane, helped themselves to several pieces. That night, everyone who ate the candy became sick. Mrs. Dunning and her sister, having eaten so much of the chocolate, became violently ill.

On August 20 Leila Deane died. The next day Mrs. Dunning passed away. Both women had suffered extremely painful and agonizing deaths. John Dunning, still overseas when he received the news, arrived back in Delaware ten days later. When he saw the anonymous letters, including the note that had come with the chocolates, he simply said, “Cordelia.”

NOT Cordelia Winterbottom found here

The uneaten chocolates were analyzed by a chemist who reported that they had been spiked with arsenic. Autopsies were not performed on the bodies because the physician in charge erroneously believed that the victims’ prolonged vomiting had cleansed their bodies of the poison. When presented with the basic facts of the case, a coroner’s jury ruled that the two women had been poisoned to death by the arsenic-laced candy which had been mailed from San Francisco.

arsenic poisoning found here

Police officers, bearing the key evidence—the candy, the paper it had been wrapped in, and the anonymous writings—boarded a train for San Francisco. The leading investigator, I.W. Lees, had been appointed chief of the San Francisco Police Department the previous year. An innovator, in 1854 Lees became the first American police administrator to regularly photograph arrestees. As a result, the San Francisco Police Department had a large rogues gallery. 

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Because the suspect vehemently proclaimed her innocence, Lees was forced to solve the case the hard way, by conducting a detailed, painstaking investigation. He began by tracing the arsenic to the Owl Drug Store where a clerk had sold arsenic, in June of 1898, to a woman meeting the description of Cordelia Botkin. Lees then questioned an acquaintance of the suspect who told him that Mrs. Botkin had expressed concern about having to sign her name when purchasing arsenic. Lees also spoke to a physician who had been asked by Cordelia to describe the effects of various poisons on the human body.

Owl Drug Store found here

Searching Mrs. Botkin’s room at the Victoria Hotel, he found wrapping paper, bearing a gold seal and a company trademark, that had enclosed the chocolates in the candy box. From this he learned that the bonbons had been purchased from the Haas Candy store. A sales clerk remembered the customer because the woman had wanted half a box as she planned to add her own, homemade chocolate. The clerk’s physical description of this customer matched that of Cordelia Botkin.

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To identify the person who had addressed the mailed package, and penned the anonymous letters as well as the note that accompanied the candy, Lees questioned document examiner Daniel T. Ames, considered the preeminent handwriting man in the country. When Ames analyzed and compared samples of Mrs. Botkin’s handwriting with the questioned documents, he confidently announced that she, to the exclusion of all others, had written the questioned material. Two other document examiners brought into the case agreed with his findings

Bill Gates’ handwriting analysis found here

Amid intense media coverage, the Botkin trial began in early December. Five hundred spectators were lined-up outside the courthouse door. Having pled not guilty, Cordelia Botkin, sat stiffly at the defense table dressed in black , holding a white lace handkerchief. She showed no emotion when the prosecution put John Dunning, a narrow-shouldered man with thinning hair, on the stand. Dunning admitted having an affair with the defendant as well as three other women in San Francisco. 

The defense had no choice but to put Cordelia Botkin on the stand, a move that thrilled the press and the millions of people following the case. Cordelia did not deny that she had purchased arsenic, explaining that she had used the poison to clean a straw hat. Following Botkin’s stint on the stand, the defense rested its case. 

hat cake found here

After four hours of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict: guilty, on two counts of first-degree murder. Cordelia could have been sent to San Quentin Prison to serve her sentence, but the judge, worried what would happen to her there, sent her to the county jail in San Francisco where, in exchange for sexual favors, Cordelia would come and go as she pleased. A few months after sentencing her, the judge saw Cordelia shopping in downtown San Francisco.

While Cordelia shopped, her lawyer appealed her conviction. The appellate court’s overturning of her murder convictions, led to a second, less sensational, trial. Once again, on the strength of the handwriting testimony, Cordelia was convicted and sentenced to life. Cordelia was transfered to San Quentin. On March 7, 1910, at the age of fifty-six, she died. The official cause of death: “Softening of the brain, due to melancholy.”

image found here