faith and fasting and the mysterious man from Mayfair

Maurice Wilson MC (1898–1934) was a British soldier, mystic, mountaineer and aviator who is known for his ill-fated attempt to climb Mount Everest alone

Wilson found here

Often characterised as “eccentric”, he wished to climb Everest to promote his belief that the world’s ills could all be solved by a combination of fasting and faith in God. 

Mt Everest found here

He joined the army on his eighteenth birthday and quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a Captain. He won the Military Cross for his part in an engagement where, as the only uninjured survivor of his unit, he single-handedly held a machine gun post against the advancing Germans.

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Wilson left the army in 1919, and like many of the “lost generation” found the transition to post-war life difficult. For several years he wandered, living in London, the United States and then New Zealand where he ran a ladies clothes shop.

NZ Fashion Week 2008 found here

In 1932 he underwent a secretive treatment involving 35 days of intensive prayer and fasting with the aim of restoring his fading health. He claimed that the technique had come from a mysterious man he met in Mayfair who had cured himself and over 100 other people of diseases which doctors had declared incurable.

The idea of climbing Everest came to Wilson while he was recuperating in the Black Forest. He formed a plan to fly a small aeroplane to Tibet, crash-land it on the upper slopes of Everest, and walk to the summit. A practical problem was posed by the fact that Wilson knew nothing at all about either flying or mountaineering.

Black Forest found here

Wilson purchased a three-year-old Gipsy Moth, which he christened Ever Wrest, and set about learning the rudiments of flying. His preparation for the mountaineering challenge that lay ahead was even worse than his preparation for the flight. He bought no specialist equipment and made no attempt to learn technical mountaineering skills, such as the use of an ice axe and crampons. Instead, he spent just five weeks walking around the modest hills of Snowdonia and the Lake District before he declared himself ready.

Snowdonia found here

Ignoring the Air Ministry’s ban, Wilson set off, and remarkably, and in spite of the best efforts of the British government, he succeeded in reaching India two weeks later. After trying and failing to get permission to enter Tibet on foot, Wilson spent the winter in Darjeeling fasting and planning an illicit journey to the base of Everest.

Darjeeling found here

Most of what is known about Wilson’s activities on the mountain itself come from his diary, which was recovered the following year. He seems to have found the trek up the Rongbuk Glacier extremely difficult, constantly getting lost and having to retrace his steps. He wrote in his diary “It’s the weather that’s beaten me – what damned bad luck” and began a gruelling four day retreat down the glacier.

Rongbuk Glacier found here

On May 22, he made an abortive attempt to climb to the North Col. After four days of slow progress and camping on exposed ledges, he was defeated by a forty foot ice wall at around 22,700 ft. His last diary entry was dated 31 May, and read simply “Off again, gorgeous day

In 1935, a small reconnaissance expedition to Mount Everest found Wilson’s body, lying on its side in the snow and surrounded by the remains of a tent which had been torn apart by the elements.

But there’s one more twist to this adventure. Rumours have continued to arise that Wilson had a secret. Barry Collins, who’s written a play about Wilson says, “It appears that when Wilson was found there was women’s clothing in his rucksack and I’ve heard someone say that he was decked out in women’s underwear”.

The story was fuelled by the discovery of a ladies shoe at 21,000 feet by the 1960 Chinese expedition. Historian Audrey Salkeld says “We can’t conclusively pin the woman’s shoe find on Wilson but, knowing that he worked in a ladies dress shop in New Zealand, all these things have come together to build a picture of him as a transvestite or shoe fetishist.”

NOT this shoe found here

he had his father’s eye for women

Harry Crosby (1898–1929) was an American heir, a bon vivant, poet and publisher. He was the son of one of the richest banking families in New England.

Harry and friend found here

Tired of the rigidity of everyday life, he said he wanted to escape “the horrors of Boston virgins.” Profoundly affected by his experience as an ambulance driver in World War I, Crosby vowed to live life on his own terms.

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He had his father’s eye for women and in 1920 met Mrs. Polly Peabody, six years his senior. Harry reportedly fell in love with the buxom Mrs. Peabody in about two hours, confessing all in the Tunnel of Love at the amusement park. Their open affair was the source of scandal and gossip among blue-blood Bostonians. Polly divorced her alcoholic husband and married Crosby. Two days later they left for Europe, where they enjoyed a decadent lifestyle, drinking, smoking opium, traveling frequently, and having an open marriage.

image found here

Harry worked at Morgan, Harjes et Cie, the Morgan family’s bank in Paris. They found an apartment overlooking the Seine, and Polly would don her red bathing suit and row Harry down the Quai d’Orléans in his dark business suit, formal hat, umbrella and briefcase. As she rowed back home, the well endowed Polly would enjoy whistles and waves from workmen. She said the exercise was good for her breasts.

“The Young Rower” found here

Even by the wild standards of Paris in the 1920s, Harry was in a league of his own. The couple lived a hedonistic life. Harry was a gambler and a womanizer; he drank “oceans of champagne” and used opium, cocaine, and hashish. They wrote a mutual suicide pact, and carried cremation instructions with them.

more of Harry’s photography to be found here

In 1924, Harry persuaded Polly to formally change her first name, as he felt Polly was too prim and proper. They briefly considered Clytoris before deciding on Caresse. Harry and Caresse became known for hosting small dinner parties from the giant bed in their palatial townhouse, and afterwards everyone was invited to enjoy their huge bathtub together, taking advantage of iced bottles of champagne near at hand.

image by Burt Glinn found here

Crosby claimed to be a “sun worshiper in love with death.” He added a doodle of a “black sun” to his signature which also included an arrow, jutting upward from the “y” in his last name and aiming toward the center of the sun’s circle: “a phallic thrust received by a welcoming erogenous zone“.

In Morocco Harry and Caresse took a 13-year-old dancing girl named Zora to bed with them. His seductive abilities were legendary and he engaged in a series of ongoing affairs, maintaining relationships with a variety of beautiful and doting young women.

NOT this Zora (Hurston) found here

His wildness was in full flower during the drunken orgies of the annual Four Arts Balls. One year, Caresse showed up topless riding a baby elephant and wearing a turquoise wig. The motif for the ball that year was Inca, and Harry dressed for the occasion, covering himself in red ocher and wearing nothing but a loincloth and a necklace of dead pigeons.

pigeon ring necklaces found here

Embracing the open sexuality offered by Crosby and his wife, Henri Cartier-Bresson fell into an intense sexual relationship with Caresse that lasted until 1931. Meanwhile, in 1928 Harry found 20-year-old Josephine Rotch. Ten years his junior, they met while she was shopping in Venice for her wedding trousseau. She was dark and intense and had been known around Boston as fast: a ‘bad egg’ with sex appeal. 

image by Cartier-Bresson found here

Josephine and Harry had an affair until the following June, when she married Albert Smith Bigelow. Briefly, their affair was over, but only until August, when Josephine contacted Crosby and they rekindled their love. But unlike Caresse, Josephine was quarrelsome and prone to fits of jealousy. 

In December, the Crosbys returned to the United States. Harry and Josephine met and traveled to Detroit where they checked into the Book-Cadillac Hotel as Mr. and Mrs Harry Crane. For four days they took meals in their room, smoked opium, and had sex. On December 7, the lovers returned to New York. Crosby’s friend Hart Crane threw a party to bid Harry and Caresse bon voyage, as they were about to sail back to France. Josephine said she would return to her husband but instead stayed in New York, writing a poem to Harry, the last line of which read: Death is our marriage. 

refurbished Book-Cadillac Hotel found here

On the evening of December 10, Harry was nowhere to be found. It was unlike him to worry Caresse needlessly so she called Stanley Mortimer, whose studio Harry had used for trysts. Mortimer forced open a locked door, behind which he found Harry and Josephine’s bodies. Harry was in bed with a .25 caliber bullet hole in his right temple next to Josephine, who had a matching hole in her left temple, in what appeared to be a suicide pact. 

A picture of Zora, the 13-year-old girl he had sex with in Egypt, was reportedly found in his wallet. The coroner reported that Harry’s toenails were painted red, and that he had a Christian cross tattooed on the sole of one foot and a pagan icon representing the sun on the other. The coroner concluded that Josephine had died at least two hours before Harry. There was no suicide note, and newspapers ran sensational articles for days.

Harry’s poetry possibly gave the best clue to his motives. Death is “the hand that opens the door to our cage, the home we instinctively fly to.” Harry’s biographer Wolff wrote:

He meant to do it; it was no mistake; it was not a joke. If anything of Harry Crosby commands respect, perhaps even awe, it was the unswerving character of his intention. He killed himself not from weariness or despair, but from conviction, and however irrational or ignoble this conviction may have been, he held fast to it as to a principle. He killed himself on behalf of the idea of killing himself.

found here

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 8:22 am  Comments (53)  
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imaginary solutions

Alfred Jarry (1873 – 1907) was a French writer and inventor of a pseudoscience or “science of imaginary solutions” which he called ‘pataphysique. 

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In collaboration with his classmates at the Lycée of Rennes, he wrote Ubu Roi to ridicule a pompous and fat mathematics teacher, Monsieur Hébert. At the age of 18 he moved to Paris to pursue his studies and to write two sequels, Ubu Enchaîné and Ubu Cocu. 

Ubu found here

When Ubu Roi was first presented in 1896 at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, the coarseness of the language and anarchistic tones were too much for the audience, which rose in outrage after the first word, “Merdre!” One reviewer said: “Despite the late hour, I have just taken a shower. An absolutely essential preventive measure when one has been subjected to such a spectacle.”

When he was drafted into the army in 1894, his gift for turning notions upside down defeated attempts to instill military discipline. The sight of the small man in a uniform much too large for his less than 5-foot frame was so disruptively funny that he was excused from parades and marching drills. After five months, Jarry was discharged for medical reasons.

dwarf in uniform in walnut shell coach found here

He then began to frequent literary salons and devoted himself to writing. Jarry’s first book was a collection of prose and verse. It was followed by an unperformable play and a novel, even more obscure than anything he had previously produced. Le Surmâle (The Supermale) was Jarry’s last work. “The act of love is of no importance, since it can be performed indefinitely,” states Jarry in the beginning of the book. The hero of the erotic fantasy is a superman who wins a bicycle race against a six-man team, he has sex 82 times with a women, and experiences the final climax with an amorous machine.

amorous machine found here

‘Pataphysics – the initial apostrophe was deliberate – mixed science, science fiction, technology and art. Jarry defined it as the science of imaginary solutions, “which will examine the laws governing exceptions, and will explain the universe supplementary to this one.” Paul McCartney paid homage to Jarry’s branch of metaphysics in his Beatles song Maxwell’s Silver Hammer from 1969.

image found here

Until his death at the age of thirty-four, Jarry was a familiar figure stalking the streets of Paris with his green umbrella, wearing cyclist’s garb and carrying two pistols. According to an anecdote, once he was asked for a light in the street and discharged a pistol shot instead. He also adopted the gestures of his creation, Ubu, speaking in a high falsetto and always employing the royal “we.” In response to a neighbor’s complaint that his target shooting endangered her children, he replied, “If that should ever happen, madame, we should ourselves be happy to get new ones with you” (though he was not at all inclined to engage with females in the manner implied).

Jarry and child found here

His fortune was soon spent, and Jarry lapsed into a chaotic, Bohemian life. He discovered the pleasures of alcohol, which he called “my sacred herb” or, when referring to absinthe, the “green goddess”. A story is told that he once painted his face green and rode through town on his bicycle in its honour (and possibly under its influence). He lived in a bizarre apartment where each storey had been cut horizontally in half to make double the original number of floors. He lived and died a virgin, and although he hated christianity, he felt compelled to seek God on his deathbed.  It is recorded that his last request was for a toothpick.

Captain Marvel

John Whiteside Parsons (born Marvel Whiteside Parsons 1914 – 1952), better known as Jack Parsons, was an American rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology.He married Helen Northrup in April 1935.

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“He was an acolyte of Aleister Crowley, an employee of Howard Hughes and a victim of L. Ron Hubbard. Though obscured by wild rumor and sinister presumptions, Parsons’ reputation has survived among devotees of rockets and of magic. His relationship with his mother was intense and possibly incestuous. He has been described as good looking and promiscuous, working his way through the secretarial pool at Aerojet.

still from Secretary found here

Along with his more scientific pursuits, he also tried to create a “Moon Child,” a magic being conjured via mystic ritual who would usher in a new age of unfettered liberty and signal the end of the Christian era and its outmoded morality.

Parsons had no formal education beyond high school. Yet his deep knowledge of explosives, formed through early issues of Amazing Stories and stints with explosive powder companies, earned him a leading role in a small gang performing rocketry experiments at and around Caltech in the ’30s. In those days, rocket science was the province mostly of twisted dreamers, not serious scientists. His gang was not-so-affectionately dubbed the Suicide Squad for the series of alarming explosions they caused on campus. Eventually they were exiled to the Arroyo Seco canyon to conduct experiments in discovering stable, usable rocket fuels. (They discovered plenty of unstable, unusable ones along the way.)

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Then World War II changed things. The U.S. military called upon these smoke-streaked stepchildren of Caltech, hoping to use their crazy rocket gadgets to propel planes into the air in places without adequate runways. Gradually the gang of misfits evolved into the Jet Propulsion Laboratories. Parsons designed new rocket fuel after rocket fuel, and eventually they succeeded in inventing jet-assisted take-off.

image found here

While inventing the castable rocket fuel that made the space age possible, Parsons simultaneously explored the frontiers of inner space, building the other half of his weird reputation. He became enraptured with the writings of the British occultist Aleister Crowley and joined the L.A.-based Agape Lodge of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Crowley’s American lieutenants seized on the charismatic and successful scientist as a potential savior for their movement; he began donating almost all his salary to the upkeep of his lodge brethren. 

image found here

Eighteen year old Sarah Northrup began living with Parsons and Parsons’ wife, Sara’s half-sister Helen Northrup; later, Parsons and Sara became involved in an affair, which caused strife with Helen and eventually led to Helen leaving with another Lodge member, Wilfred Smith, who also had a reputation as a legendary womaniser.

Wilfred Smith found here

After the war Parson’s occult activism attracted the young L. Ron Hubbard into his life and home. The pulp writer, pre-Dianetics, took off for Florida with Jack’s mistress, Sarah Northrup, and most of his money, supposedly to buy boats to bring to California and launch a business operation they’d jointly own. Hubbard never came back. The official Scientology line –unsupported by any evidence–is that Hubbard was sent by Naval Intelligence to break up Parsons’ evil occult sex ring.

Hubbard found here

During his last days Parsons was reduced to working for Hollywood movies, making tiny explosive squibs that mimicked a man being shot. This from someone who once dreamed of blasting man into outer space. Some people regard the 1952 explosion that killed him in his Pasadena backyard lab as mysterious. One close pal, though, didn’t see much of a puzzle. He noted that “Jack used to sweat a lot and [a coffee can in which he was mixing explosives] just slipped out of his hand and blew him up.”

A crater on the dark side of the Moon has been named after Parsons. His last girlfriend, Marjorie “Candida” Cameron went on to become a successful painter and actress in avant-garde films. She is sometimes cited as the inspiration behind the Eagles song “Hotel California”

image found here

a ring of wandering birds

Perhaps, like me, you thought that youth culture began after the Second World War. Jon Savage tells us otherwise:

Beginning in Germany during the early 1900s, the Wandervogel—literally, wandering birds—rejected the onset of the materialist, consumerist, mass-production society in favor of researching folklore and tramping around the countryside. After the Great Crash of 1929, Germany’s economy went into meltdown and youths were disproportionately hit: Half a million adolescents wandered round the country in hopeless vagabondage. 

image found here

One of the most bizarre groupings was discovered by the investigative journalist Christine Fournier in Berlin during 1930, who called them “Ring” youth gangs and typified their attitude with the phrase “a hatred of society.” A year after the Crash, there were about 14,000 feral kids between 14 and 18 living rough in the outskirts of Berlin (a district that was circled by a “Ring” of avenues, hence the term).

image found here

Homeless and adrift from adult society, these kids organized themselves into gangs with bloodthirsty—often Indian-derived—names like Blood of the Trappers, Red Apaches, Black Love, Black Flag, and Forest Pirates. They supported themselves through crime: petty burglary, theft, larceny, and prostitution, both male and female.

image found here

This was fairly standard-issue stuff for juvenile delinquents, but what was extraordinary about the Ring youth gangs was their sheer number and the sophisticated savagery of their social structure. In the late 1920s, they had consolidated into one large federation with geographically zoned groups (e.g., the South Ring, the East Ring) led by a “Ring Bull.”

By the early 1930s, they had established elaborate codes of behavior. Prospective members had to go through sexual rituals—a pagan “baptism” often involving public intercourse or masturbation—before admission. The initiation ceremony almost always degenerated, according to Christine Fournier, into a “drunken binge, a mad orgy.” She called it “a spontaneous return to barbarism.”

human orgy art found here

In 1932 French journalist Daniel Guerin, on a visit to Germany, encountered a wild gang near Berlin. They looked like Wandervogel but “had the depraved and troubled faces of hoodlums and the most bizarre head coverings: black or grey Chaplinesque bowlers, old women’s hats with the brims turned up Amazon-fashion, adorned with ostrich plumes and medals.”

image found here

He also noted “handkerchiefs or scarves in screaming colors tied around the neck, bare chests bursting out of open skin vests with broad stripes, arms scored with fantastic or lewd tattoos, ears hung with pendulums or enormous rings, leather shorts surmounted by immense triangular belts daubed with all the colors of the rainbow, esoteric numbers, human profiles, and inscriptions.

image found here

Guerin thought they were “a strange mixture of virility and effeminacy,” and worried that “those who would know how to discipline these masquerade Apaches could make real bandits out of them.” Some did become Nazis—like Winnetou, a prominent Ring Bull. But others went underground: They continued to live free, wandering and harassing Nazis wherever they could.

image found here

The Nazi regime had been at its weakest in the industrial heartland, the Rhine-Ruhr region, and in the early war years neighborhood gangs in those cites began to form with the express intention of avoiding Hitler Youth service. They were given the generic name of Edelweiss Pirates—like the Ring gangs, they had taken edelweiss badges as their insignias—and had fabulous names like the Shambeko Band (Düsseldorf) or the Navajos (Cologne).

insignia found here

Inevitably, the Edelweiss Pirates came into conflict with the Hitler Youth, and when they did, they would clobber them. In 1941, it was noted that “they are everywhere. There are more of them than there are Hitler Youth. And they all know each other, they stick close together. They beat up the patrols, because there are so many of them. They never take no for an answer.”

Hitler Youth found here

As the war went on, the regime’s desire for control escalated, as did the opposition to it. In Cologne, a large group of Edelweiss Pirates hooked up with escaped concentration-camp prisoners, deserters, and forced laborers in a program of armed resistance that culminated with the assassination of the local Gestapo chief. The Nazis publicly hanged 13 Pirates in the city center, including the 16-year-old leader of the Navajos, Barthel Schink.

image found here


I dream of Genia

Queenwilly alerted me to this story about Eugenia Falleni via the Sydney Morning Herald from the archives at Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum 

Eugenia found here

The case of a transgender husband, Harry Crawford (Eugenia Falleni) convicted of murdering his wife had 1920s Sydney society in thrall, writes Tim Barlass.

By all accounts, Annie Birkett died a horrible death. Her charred body was found in open land near a flour mill in Chatswood, with cracks to her skull that could have formed through intense heat or by violence.

see larger image of Annie Birkett here 

Photographs of Mrs Birkett recently obtained by the Justice & Police Museum reveal her to be a refined and attractive woman, described later by one witness as ”very ladylike, a very quiet reserved woman never seen under the influence of liquor”.

But when she disappeared, Crawford told others that she had ‘‘cleared out with a plumber”, that she was a heavy drinker and that he had seen her a couple of times since then in Sydney.

It was not the victim that gave the case such notoriety in 1917, but her transgender husband, Harry Crawford, who was eventually convicted of her murder. 

Eugenia found here

On 19 February 1913 at the Methodist Parsonage in inner city Balmain, claiming to be a widower aged 38, Crawford went through a marriage ceremony with Annie Birkett, a widow of 35 with a 13-year-old son. Annie set up a confectionery shop in Balmain, evidently unaware that her husband was not a man, while Harry continued as a peripatetic manual worker.

Now Adriano Zumbo makes confectionery in Balmain

In 1917, after Annie had apparently threatened to report her husband to the authorities for his deception, the couple quarreled and Annie disappeared. Her body was discovered in October that year, partially burned and with cracks to the skull, in a forested picnic area near the Lane Cove River, but it remained unidentified for over two years. In the meantime, in September 1919, Harry Crawford underwent another marriage ceremony with Elizabeth King Allison, a spinster.

Spinster found here

Also in the intervening time, Annie’s son had alerted the police to his mother’s prolonged disappearance; the body of Annie was exhumed and identified, and Harry was arrested on 5 July 1920. At the time of his arrest, while living with Elizabeth in a house in Stanmore, he asked to be placed in the women’s cells and requested that his wife be not apprised that he was not a man. Among male clothing in a locked leather suitcase, police located an ‘article’, later exhibited in court, made of wood and rubber bound with cloth in the shape of a phallus or dildo.

image found here

At Falleni’s preliminary hearing and trial for murder at Darlinghurst courthouse in October 1920, the ‘Man-Woman case’ created a press sensation, with the accused appearing in the dock first in a man’s suit and then in women’s clothes. Falleni pleaded not guilty to the murder, but her alleged immorality in passing herself off as a man was made much of in the popular press, which portrayed her as a monster and a pervert.

Chief Justice Sir William Cullen in his summing up said: ”It would almost seem incredible that two people could live together for three years without Mrs Birkett discovering that an imposition had been practised …”

female johnny depp impersonator found here 

She was convicted and condemned to death, but her sentence was commuted to detainment at the Governor’s Pleasure. When released from Long Bay Prison eleven years later in February 1931 she became the proprietor of a boarding house in Paddington, Sydney. On 9 June 1938 she stepped off the pavement in front of a motorcar in nearby Oxford Street, and died of her injuries the following day.

Paddington Reservoir Oxford Street found here

the daring acts of a smiling bandit

Roy G. Gardner (1884 – 1940) was once America’s most infamous prison escapee.

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He was the most dangerous inmate in the history of Atlanta Prison and was dubbed by newsmen the “Smiling Bandit”, the “Mail Train Bandit”, and the “King of the Escape Artists”. He was said to be attractive and charming, standing just under six feet tall, with short, curly auburn hair and blue eyes.

red haired David Wenham found here

Gardner began his criminal profession as a gunrunner around the time of the Mexican Revolution. He smuggled and traded arms to the Venustiano Carranza forces until he was captured by soldiers from Huerta’s army and was sentenced to death by firing squad, but, on March 29, 1909, he broke out of the Mexico City jail along with three other American prisoners after attacking the guards.

Mexican revolutionaries found here

Eventually, Gardner ended up in San Francisco, where he robbed a jewelry store. He was arrested, and spent some time in San Quentin, but was paroled after saving a prison guard’s life during a violent riot. Gardner landed a job as an acetylene welder at the Mare Island Navy Yard, married, fathered a daughter, and began his own welding company. 

San Quentin prisoners found here

Gardner then gambled all of his money away on a business trip in Tijuana at the racetracks. On the night of April 16, 1920, Gardner robbed a U. S. Mail truck of about $80,000 in cash and securities. The job went smoothly, but the outlaw was arrested three days later burying his loot.  He was sentenced to 25 years at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary but vowed he would never serve the sentence. As he was transported on a train with Deputy U. S. Marshals Cavanaugh and Haig, Gardner peered out of the window and yelled, “Look at that deer!”. The lawmen looked, and Gardner grabbed Marshal Haig’s gun from his holster. He then disarmed Marshal Cavanaugh at gunpoint. The outlaw handcuffed the two humiliated lawmen together and stole $200. He jumped off the train, and made his way to Canada.

Muntjac deer found here

He slipped back into the United States the next year, and started robbing banks and mail trains across the country. Gardner tied up the mail clerk to Train No. 10 eastbound from Sacramento and robbed the express car of $187,000 on May 19, 1921. The next morning, Gardner told the mail clerk of Train No. 20 to throw up his hands or he would blow his head off. When the train reached the Overland Limited, the elusive bandit darted down the tracks with an armful of mail. 

image found here

Gardner was recognized at the Porter House Hotel and a convoy of police arrived in Roseville . Three federal agents captured him while he was playing a game of cards in a pool hall and he was sentenced to another 25 years at McNeil Island for armed robbery.

Trying to reduce his sentence he told Southern Pacific Railroad detectives that he would lead them to the spot where he buried his loot. The officers found nothing, and Gardner announced, “I guess I have forgotten where I buried it”. He was heavily shackled, with the addition of an “Oregon Boot”, and was once again transported on a train to McNeil Island, this time by U. S. Marshals Mulhall and Rinkell, both fast shooting veterans. During the journey, Gardner asked to use the bathroom, in which an associate had earlier hidden a .32 caliber pistol. Gardner came out of the bathroom, pointed the gun at Mulhall’s protruding pouch, and ordered another prisoner to handcuff the two humiliated lawmen to the seat. He relieved the officers of their weapons and cash before hopping onto another moving train.

Oregon boot found here

He arrived in Centralia, Washington, where he plastered his face with bandages to hide his identity, leaving one eye slit. Gardner told the Oxford Hotel staff that he had been severely burned in an industrial accident near Tacoma. Officer Louis Sonney became suspicious of the bandaged man, and when he saw a firearm in Gardner’s hotel room, he accused him of being the “Smiling Bandit”. Gardner fought back, but was arrested and a doctor removed the bandages to show that he was indeed the notorious train robber. This time Gardner, who was sentenced to another 25 years, was heavily ironed, and finally brought to McNeil Island.

Bandaged Berlusconi found here

After six weeks at the penitentiary, Gardner had convinced two other prisoners, Lawardus Bogart and Everett Impyn, that he had “paid off” the guards in the towers. On Labor Day, 1921, at a prison baseball game, they ran 300 yards to the high barbed wire fence where Gardner cut a hole, and the three men made it to the pasture as bullets whirled about their heads. Gardner was wounded in his left leg, but hid behind a herd of cattle. About the same time, he saw Bogart fall, badly wounded. Impyn was shot dead; his dying words were, “Gardner told us those fellows in the towers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn“.

image found here

Guards scoured the beaches and confiscated every boat on the shoreline, but no trace of the dangerous outlaw could be found. Gardner lived in the prison barn, getting nutrition from cow’s milk, and then swam the choppy waters to Fox Island where he lived off fruit in the orchards. Roy Gardner was now the “Most Wanted” criminal, and committed several crimes in Arizona before he was captured by a mail clerk during a train robbery in Phoenix in 1921. He was sentenced to an additional 25 years, this time at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Headlines screamed, “Gangster Gardner brags, ‘Leavenworth will never hold me'”.

image found here

In 1926, he tried to tunnel under the wall and saw through the bars in the shoe shop. The following year, he led a prison break and attempted an armed escape with two revolvers holding the Captain and two guards hostage, but the escape failed. In 1934 he was transferred to Alcatraz. While at Alcatraz, his wife divorced him. Gardner was paroled and released in 1938 after his appeal for clemency was approved.

On the evening of January 10, 1940, Garder wrote four notes at his hotel room in San Francisco, one of which was attached to the door warning: “Do not open door. Poison gas. Call police.” He sealed the door from the inside, then killed himself by dropping cyanide gas into a glass of acid and inhaling the poison fumes. 

“Please let me down as light as possible, boys,” Gardner wrote in a letter to newsmen. “I have played ball with you all the way, and now you should pitch me a slow one and let me hit it.”

Published in: on February 11, 2012 at 8:48 am  Comments (49)  
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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.

image found here

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.

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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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the benefits of naked dancing

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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Published in: on January 16, 2012 at 7:39 am  Comments (47)  
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