the pugilist poet

Arthur Cravan (born Fabian Avenarius Lloyd on May 22, 1887) was known as a pugilist, a poet and a larger-than-life character.

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“Cravan was born and educated in Lausanne, Switzerland, then at an English military academy from which he was expelled after spanking a teacher

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He set out to promote himself as an eccentric and an art critic, though his interest was showing off a striking personal style rather than discussing art. To a degree, Cravan was a charlatan as well as a genius. He staged spectacles and stunts with himself at the centre, pulling down his pants in public and once acting on the front of a line of carts where he paraded his skills as a boxer and singer.

After the First World War began, Cravan left Paris to avoid being drafted into military service. On a stopover in the Canary Islands a boxing match was arranged between Cravan and the reigning world champion, Jack Johnson, to raise money for Cravan’s passage to the United States. Posters for the match touted him as “European champion.” Johnson, who didn’t know who he was, knocked Cravan out solidly, noting in his autobiography that Cravan must have been out of training.

Jack Johnson found here

His style involved continuous re-invention of his public persona, and outrageous statements and boasts. As the nephew of Oscar Wilde (his father’s sister, Constance Mary Lloyd, was married to Wilde) he even produced hoaxes—documents and poems—and then signed them “Oscar Wilde”. In 1913 he published an article claiming that his uncle was still alive and had visited him in Paris. The New York Times published the rumor, even though Cravan and Wilde never met.

On the page and in person, Cravan paraded himself as “the poet with the shortest haircut in the world.”  Penniless most of the time, he drank in dive sports bars in the Bronx and slept rough in Central Park. Marcel Duchamp invited Cravan to a conference at Grand Central Palace. His lecture caused a sensation: drunk and undressing, he cussed out an audience who called the cops, shocking the Greenwich Village avant-garde.

Marcel Duchamp found here

It was in New York that he fell in love with the poet Mina Loy. They moved to Mexico together and married in 1918. The couple planned a trip to Argentina but did not have enough money for both of them to book passage on the same vessel. Loy took the trip on a regular ship and Cravan set out alone on a sailboat. He never arrived in Argentina and it is presumed that he died, aged 31, in a storm at sea. Mina gave birth to their daughter, Fabienne, in April. She spent a year searching for him, and decades fantasizing his return. Although theories abound, the mystery of his disappearance has never been solved. 

Mina Loy found here

Lemonade Ley

Thomas John Ley (1880 — 1947) was an Australian politician who was convicted of murder in England. It is highly likely that he was also involved in the deaths of a number of people in Australia.

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The Australian Minister for Justice became known as the Hanging Minister because of his enthusiasm for the death penalty. In fact, the evidence suggests that he was a serial killer.

Ley was a millionaire in his 60s. He had a mistress and owned properties across fashionable London. As a young man, he lied about his age, raising it so that he could marry a wealthy older woman named Lewie Vernon. When it came to social status, Ley was unstoppable.

Fashionable London 1920s found here

Not only did he lie about his age but he lied his way into the NSW Parliament. In 1917, he campaigned against the evils of alcohol and called himself ‘Lemonade Ley‘, as if he were the scourge of the publicans. And the voters fell for it. But once he got inside he sold them out. In fact, ‘Lemonade Ley’ was in the pay of a brewing company.

Lemonade Pie found here

By the mid-1920s, Ley was riding high, revelling in the privileges of a conservative politician. Appointed Minister for Justice, he earned hatred from both sides of politics with his brutal enthusiasm for capital punishment. State Labor leader Jack Lang wrote of Ley, “There were many times in the NSW Parliament when we believed he was not only mad, but bad.

Hanging coffins found here

By 1925, Ley had his ambitions trained on the prime ministership of Australia and targeted the Federal seat of Barton. Ley’s campaign was to have deadly consequences for the man who held the seat, Labor’s Fred McDonald. He tried to bribe McDonald so that McDonald would effectively run dead in the election.

Fred McDonald found here

A defeated McDonald pursued Ley with allegations of bribery. But the wealthy Ley retaliated by threatening to ruin him with a defamation suit. McDonald backed down, he apologised and even, it was claimed, signed a document exonerating Ley. Then McDonald changed his mind. He would charge Ley with bribery after all. This placed Ley in a very sticky situation. But on 15 April 1926, his problem – Fred McDonald – simply disappeared.

Fred McDonald’s body was never found. Another politician, Hyman Goldstein,  fell prey to T.J. Ley some months later. Ley had set up a company to rid Australia of prickly pear, the weed that threatened the nation’s farmers and graziers. Goldstein had invested heavily in a business scheme of Ley’s to manufacture poison but he didn’t realise just how poisonous the scheme – or scam – would become.

Read how Australia eradicated prickly pear here

The Prickly Pear company went bust. Ley had stolen the funds and spent the shareholders’ money on a holiday with his mistress. Shortly after, Hyman Goldstein left his Coogee home at twilight for a stroll up on the cliffs. But he never came home. He was found later at the bottom of Coogee cliffs, stone dead.

Coogee cliffs found here

Under pressure to disappear, Ley beat a hasty retreat to England. Stanley Bruce, the Prime Minister of Australia, assisted by writing letters of introduction for Ley to take with him. He left behind his long-suffering wife Lewie and took along his mistress Maggie Brook instead.

As the years passed, Ley grew fat and rich. But then, sexual jealousy brought him unstuck. Ley became so delusional that he accused Maggie of having an affair with John Mudie, a barman half her age. Mad with jealousy, he paid to have Mudie kidnapped and killed.

When Mudie’s body was discovered in a chalk pit, the media went into a frenzy, with eager journalists digging up every last detail of Ley’s public life back in Australia. It had the sex angle: he had wealth, he had a mistress, he had a wife, he’d been a politician and he was a murderer. Front-page news right through the trial.

Ley denied the charges to the end. At the last minute, his death sentence was commuted on the grounds that he was insane. A petition from Australia probably helped his cause. The ‘Hanging Minister’ escaped the gallows.

Roof of the Gallows by Laszlo Baranyai found here

what happened to Percy and Jack?

Percival Fawcett was an archaeologist and explorer who disappeared around 1925

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Fawcett’s first expedition to South America was in 1906 when at the age of 39 he travelled to Brazil to map a jungle area at the border of Brazil and Bolivia at the behest of the RGS. Whilst on the expedition in 1907, Fawcett claimed to have seen and shot a 62 feet long giant anaconda, for which he was widely ridiculed by the scientific community. He reported other mysterious animals unknown to zoology, such as a small cat-like dog about the size of a foxhound, which he claimed to have seen twice, or the giant Apazauca spider which was said to have poisoned a number of locals.

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In 1925, with funding from a London-based group of financiers called The Glove, Fawcett returned to Brazil with his elder son Jack for an exploratory expedition. He had studied ancient legends and historical records and was convinced a lost city existed somewhere in the Mato Grosso region, a city Fawcett named “Z.” 

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Fawcett was a man with years of experience traveling with all the necessities, things such as canned foods, powdered milk, guns, flares and of course a sextant and a chronometer for gathering latitude and longitude. His travel companions, both chosen for their health, ability, and loyalty to each other— were his oldest son Jack Fawcett and Jack’s long time friend Raleigh Rimell.

Jack Fawcett and Raleigh Rimmel found here

The last communication from the expedition was on 29 May 1925, when Fawcett telegraphed his wife that they was ready to go into unexplored territory. A final letter, written from Dead Horse Camp, gave their location and was generally optimistic.

Many presumed that local Indians had killed them. Both of the younger men were lame and ill when last seen, and there is no proof they were murdered. It is plausible that they died of natural causes in the Brazilian jungle. During the following decades, various groups mounted rescue expeditions without results. They heard only rumours that could not be verified. In addition to reports that Fawcett had been killed by Indians or wild animals, there was a tale that Fawcett had lost his memory and lived out his life as the chief of a tribe of cannibals.

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On 21 March 2004, the British newspaper The Observer reported that television director Misha Williams, who had studied Fawcett’s private papers, believed that Fawcett had not intended to return to Britain but rather meant to found a commune in the jungle based on theosophical principles and the worship of his son Jack.

Theosophist Madame Blavatsky found here

Before Jack’s birth in Ceylon, Buddhists and soothsayers had predicted that he would be born on the Buddha’s anniversary, May 19, 1903, one month later than the expected date of birth. They also predicted that Jack would have a mole as birthmark on his right foot, unusual toes, and that his eyes would have an “obliquity,” all of which turned out to be exactly what happened as per Fawcett’s article for the Occult Review. Thus, Fawcett believed the prophecy that his eldest son was a reincarnated spirit destined to become some kind of messiah. Fawcett wanted to deliver his son Jack to the “Earth Guardians” of the Great White Brotherhood…… 

unusual gecko toes found here

fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a bumpy night

Alfred Loewenstein (1877-1928) was, at one stage in the 1920s, called the richest man in the world.

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Admittedly a brilliant financial mind, Loewenstein was devoid of either financial or personal ethics, with a reputation as a serial adulterer.

His first big break came when he joined the Belgian armed forces during the First World War and was sent to London, England where he was placed in charge of military supplies. Zeroing in on the incredible profits to be made contracting to the British Army, by the end of the war Loewenstein was a pound sterling millionaire. How he managed to accomplish this on the salary of a lowly captain was never explained.

Vote for Captain Kangaroo here

On the morning of July 4, 1928 a Fokker tri-motor aircraft took off from Croydon airfield just outside London, bound for Brussels. On board were the plane’s owner, 51 year-old Alfred Loewenstein, the pilot, former WWI ace Donald Drew, as well as mechanic Robert F. Little, a valet, a male secretary; and two female stenographers who had just been hired from a temp agency that day, making a total of seven people.

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According to the four people in the passenger compartment, soon after the plane crossed the English coast off Dover, flying at 4,000 feet, Loewenstein, who had been reading a book, laid it down after carefully marking the place, took off his collar and tie, went to the washroom.

Onboard lavatories were a new development in aviation comfort, this particular model of Fokker being one of the first ever equipped with such an amenity. It was in a small compartment at the back of the plane. After passing through the compartment door, Loewenstein went to the left and entered the bathroom. On the right was another door, which led out of the plane. There was also a door in a bulkhead separating the head from the rest of the aircraft, so anyone coming and going into rest room was not visible from the main compartment.

aircraft toilet in its case found here

After about ten minutes they noticed he had not returned and his valet went to check on him and found…nothing. The ‘richest man in the world’ had vanished. 

After circling for a short time in an unsuccessful search for Loewenstein, at about 6:30 pm the plane landed on a deserted beach on the Normandy coast for half an hour, and no clear account was ever obtainable as to what the passengers and crew did there. The plane took off again and made a three or four-minute flight, landing a second time at a French military airfield nearby, where the crew told authorities that their boss Loewenstein was missing.

Omaha Beach, Normandy found here

Speculation surrounded the possibility that Lowenstein may have become confused when leaving the lavatory and opened the wrong door, plunging several thousand feet to his death in the English Channel.

 Officials of the Fokker Aircraft Corporation said indignantly that their doors were intentionally designed so that the blast of air would make it absolutely impossible for them to be opened in flight, except by the united efforts of two very strong men. 

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Among the rumors surrounding his disappearance, some suspected a criminal conspiracy in which his employees murdered him, others speculated that a growing absent mindedness, noted by many of Lowenstein’s acquaintances, may have caused him to walk out the wrong door of the plane.

Because he had left behind a tangled web of business ventures, others theorized that his business empire was on the verge of collapse. Some even asserted that corrupt business practices were about to be exposed and that Lowenstein, therefore, committed suicide.

 Then there were those who believed he was an early model for D.B. Cooper, having originated the idea of parachuting out of the aircraft to be picked up by a waiting yacht and spirited off to an unknown destination in order to escape his collapsing empire. 

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Immediately following Loewenstein’s disappearance an air and sea search came up empty-handed, but two weeks later his body was found, wearing only underpants and socks, floating in mid-channel by a fishing trawler.

An autopsy was carried out by Belgian authorities and it was discovered that Loewenstein did not die of drowning, but apparently of the pulverizing internal injuries which occurred when his body slammed into the ocean after falling for about four thousand feet.

Which makes Vesna Vulovic’s survival all the more amazing:

Vesna found here

There was really nothing special about this lady, except for the fact that she fell 33,000 feet and lived to tell the tale.

On January 26, 1972 she was working an extra shift due to a clerical error. She took the shift anyway to earn a little extra scratch, probably to supplement her bear-wrestling hobby or something. Anyway, some terrorists decided to blow up her plane and succeeded in doing so at the worst possible time, when the plane was really high up in the air.

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Not only did she survive the explosion that blew the plane to pieces, but she was the only person to live after hitting the side of the mountain. It was winter so the mountain was also frozen 

She did in fact break a bunch of bones and fell into a coma, but when she woke up she looked around and asked for a cigarette. She was left paralyzed … but then regained her ability to walk through sheer force of will. She also didn’t suffer any of those New Age, sissy boy “psychological effects” and continued to fly like nothing happened. As a bonus she collected a Guinness World Record for her troubles.

Vesna receiving her award found here

did Gabriel rise from the dead?

In March 1922, six inhabitants of a remote farmhouse in Germany were murdered by pickax. The case was discussed here

Hinterkaifeck found here

It was ascertained that all victims were dead for about 4 days when they were found. That meant the killer(s) had stayed on the farm for several days and fed the animals (cows, swine, and a dog) and milked the cows.

The six victims were: the farmer Andreas Gruber (63) and his wife Cäzilia (72); their widowed daughter Viktoria Gabriel (35) and her two children Cäzilia (7) and Josef (2); as well as the unfortunate maid Maria Baumgartner who arrived at the farm only the night before the murders.

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Andreas Gruber had told neighbours that he found footsteps in the snow which led from the woods to the farm but not back out again. One neighbour offered him a revolver, but he declined it. He also talked about hearing footsteps in the attic and finding an unfamiliar newspaper on the farm. Furthermore, the house keys went missing several days before the murders, but none of this was reported to the police.

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Andreas Gruber had a bad reputation. He was greedy and avaricious and it was well known that he had an incestuous relationship with his widowed daughter Viktoria Gabriel. Both Viktoria and her father had spent time in prison for incest.

Andreas Gruber, his wife Caecilia, Viktoria and little Caecilia were lured one by one into the stable and killed with a hoe or pickax. Maria was found killed in her room, little Joseph was dead in his bassinet.

from an article on post mortem babies found here

In the days following the murder several people came to the farm for professional reasons. They executed their orders and left without thinking much about no one being around. The postman delivered mail and newspapers, leaving it on the windowsill after no one answered his knock. A mechanic came and repaired a motor in the barn.

postman found here

On April 4 three neighbours discovered the bodies. By the time police arrived dozens of onlookers were on the farm. The neighbours had fed the animals, moved the bodies (they were hidden under straw and an old door, when discovered) and one of them allegedly even had a snack in the kitchen.

German kitchen (sober yet slightly kitschig) found here

On April 5 the autopsies were performed in the barn. A doctor removed the heads from the bodies and sent them to psychics in Nuremberg. The police made immense efforts to investigate the crime though they were overloaded with work because of numerous political murders committed by the early Nazis and the Communists at this time. Over 100 suspects and witnesses were questioned, but there were also a few omissions. The mechanic who came to repair the motor was not questioned until 10 years after the crime. Investigations went on until 1986, when the last questioning took place. Then in 1999 an old woman came forward with a story told to her by her former landlord around 1935, which could offer a clue to what happened.

image of Nuremberg rally found here

There were lots of rumours about the case which resulted in 3 main theories:

1. The murders of Hinterkaifeck were just another case of political murder committed by the early Nazis or another party from the far right spectrum. These kind of murders were called “Fememorde” to distinguish them from other political murders. “Fememord” meant a political organisation condemned and killed one of its members for treason or embezzlement. Hinterkaifeck being quite a lonely place would have been ideal for an arsenal or as a hiding place. And the few things known about Andreas Gruber make it easy to believe that he was a man capable of treason or other crimes (especially if some monetary advantage could be made of it) and that he shared the political opinions of the Nazis.

Spock as Nazi found here

2. The second theory concentrates on the fate of Karl Gabriel, the husband of Viktoria who was allegedly killed in action in 1914. His body was never found and there were rumours that he wasn’t dead at all but took a new identity and came back to kill the whole family as revenge for the incestuous relationship between his wife and his father in law. Over the years several men were questioned, because they were suspected to be Karl Gabriel. After the Second World War some men who were in Russian captivity claimed that they recognised a communist commissar as Karl Gabriel. Even the old woman’s story from 1999 is a new version of the Karl Gabriel story. The landlord allegedly told her that he travelled back to the front with Karl Gabriel after a brief stint with their families. Karl told his companion furiously “When I came home I found my wife pregnant although I wasn’t there for months. I would like to kill the whole family!” The landlord claimed Karl was still alive in 1918 and told him how he faked his own death.

Karl Lagerfeld teddy bear found here

3. A suspect who emerged quite early in the investigation was a neighbour identified as L.S. He was the official father of little Joseph, and the man who offered a revolver to Andreas Gruber. He was also among the neighbours who discovered the bodies, fed the animals and removed the corpses. And he was the one who is said to have sat down in the kitchen for a snack with the bodies of Maria and little Joseph in the next room. For all those reasons he was suspected early on. But allegedly the mayor told the investigators that L.S. was an honest man with a very good reputation and not capable of such a hideous crime and so police went on to look for a more appropriate suspect.

In 2007 the students of the Polizeifachhochschule (Police Academy) in Fürstenfeldbruck were given the task of investigating the case once more with modern techniques of criminal investigation. Their final report has been kept secret.

Published in: on May 1, 2011 at 8:38 am  Comments (45)  
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did the pig woman do it?

We love an unsolved mystery here at the Gimcrack and the Hall-Mills murder is a particularly interesting one. This is an excerpt from an original article by Katherine Ramsland found here

Eleanor Mills found here

On September 16, 1922 fifteen year old Pearl Bahmer had a date with Raymond Schneider, 23. They decided to go for a walk and turned onto De Russey’s Lane, an undeveloped road that would take them near an abandoned farm, in the hope of getting some privacy. In the tall grass Pearl noticed something odd. They walked closer and saw a couple on the ground, a man and a woman, both face up and fully clothed, not breathing.

Hall-Mills bodies found here

They ran to the nearby home of Edward Stryker, where the police were contacted. Both bodies had been shot in the head—the man once and the woman three times. His right hand was extended partly under the dead woman’s shoulder and neck, and their clothes were perfectly in order. Scattered pieces of torn paper, which turned out to be letters and cards, lay between them. A man’s wallet was lying open on the ground and inside was a driver’s license belonging to 41 year old Edward Wheeler Hall of New Brunswick. The torn papers turned out to be love letters that began to tell a sordid tale of secrecy and adultery.

Most of the people in Reverend Hall’s parish knew before it was made official who the unidentified woman was: Mrs. Eleanor Mills, 34, a choir singer and wife to James Mills. Their affair had been rather obvious over the past four years. 

The reverend had grown up in Brooklyn, getting his theological degree in Manhattan. In 1911, he had married Frances Stevens, a wealthy woman who was seven years older than him. She was related to the Johnson & Johnson medical supply founders, and several years into the marriage, she and her brothers inherited around two million dollars. She claimed that she trusted her husband and did not know of the affair.

Frances Stevens Hall found here

James Mills, 45, was the acting sexton at St. John’s and a full-time janitor at an elementary School. Hard-working, but unambitious and of limited intelligence, he had married Eleanor when she was only seventeen. On the night of the murders he arrived home just after 6:00 pm. Later, he sat out on the porch while his wife left the house to make a phone call to Reverend Hall. She came back, and left again, challenging him to “follow her and find out” when he inquired as to her destination. He kept working on the porch until 9:45, then read the paper. At ten thirty, he went to the church to look for his wife, stopping for some soda, and arriving around 11:00. She was not there, so he went home and went to bed. At 2 a.m., he went back to the church and failed to find her.

James Mills and daughter found here

The next morning, without reporting his wife as missing, he went to work. At 8:30, he went to the church and encountered Mrs. Hall, who mentioned that her husband had not come home the night before. He asked her whether she thought that they eloped. He claims that she replied, “God knows. I think they are dead and can’t come home.”

Mills heard on Saturday that his wife’s body had been found. He went directly to see Mrs Hall and her two brothers. One of them, Willie Stevens, suffered from a mental disorder that prevented him from managing on his own, so he lived with his sister and her husband. He was impulsive, explosive, and somewhat reckless, but usually had a sunny disposition. He wore thick glasses and had a heavy walrus mustache.

No one rocks the walrus like Neitzsche

The older brother, Henry Stevens, 52, was a retired exhibition marksman. He lived fifty miles away on the Jersey shore. He claimed to have been fishing when the murders took place, and he was not close with his sister. However, a supposed eye witness to the crime put him at the scene. The prosecutor also claimed later that it would take an expert marksman to place the shots so closely in Mrs. Mill’s head, so he became a strong suspect.

Get your marksman speedloader here

On Sunday, October 8, four people were brought in for questioning: Pearl Bahmer and Roy Schneider (the couple who had found the bodies), and two friends of Schneider’s, Clifford Hayes and 16 year old Leon Kaufman

Roy (NOT Ray) Sch(n)eider found here

On September 14th, Kaufman said he had met Schneider and Clifford Hayes on George Street at 10:30. Hayes had a gun. Pearl was with another man and they disappeared. After searching for them, the other boys walked around. Kaufman left them around eleven and went home.

Pearl said the “other man” was her father, walking off a drunk. They had been followed and abused by the three boys.

The Drunk Father by George Bellows found here

On October 9th, a statement was issued to the press that Clifford Hayes was being charged with the murders, based on a signed statement made by Schneider. It was a case of mistaken identity. He had thought the couple to be Pearl and her companion. 

Shortly thereafter, Pearl Bahmer’s father, jailed for incest, claimed that Schneider was the killer. Then Pearl was jailed for incorrigibility. Soon Schneider confessed to having lied, and the first solid suspect was turned loose.

image of famous corsetier Mr Pearl found here

Meanwhile, two bloodstained handkerchiefs were turned in to the police. One had no identifying marks, but the other was initialed in one corner with the letter S. Another discovery, this one by Charlotte Mills, was a package of love letters from Hall to Eleanor, and Hall’s diary. Mills immediately sold these for $500 to the New York American.

embroidered handkerchief found here

Interrogations were set up for Mrs. Hall, her brothers, and Charlotte Mills. Henry Stevens, the older brother, admitted that the handkerchief with the S on it was his. 

Dr. John Anderson released an analysis of the soil from beneath the bodies, concluding that Mrs. Mills had been shot before her throat was cut, and that they were murdered where they were found. A witness who claimed to have seen three men and one woman murder Hall and Mills came forward: Jane Gibson, better known as the Pig Woman.

Pig Woman found here

Jane Gibson raised hogs and  lived with her son in a converted barn near De Russey’s Lane. She told police that her dogs were barking around nine o’clock that Thursday night and she had seen a man in her cornfield. Mounting Jenny, her mule, she went after him, toward Easton Avenue where she spotted four figures near a crab apple tree. Then she heard a sharp report and one of the figures fell to the ground.

baby mule found here

With reporters eager to hear her story, she provided further details: She had lost a moccasin and at 1:00 a.m., rode back to look for it. As she came near the crab apple tree, she heard a woman crying. She saw Mrs. Hall kneeling next to her husband’s body, sobbing. The Pig Woman vehemently defended her story to all who challenged her.

However, reporters soon dug up some information that put her credibility into doubt: she said that her deceased husband had been a minister, when in fact he was not dead and worked as a toolmaker. The man, William Easton, refused to talk, saying only that she had a brilliant mind. Gibson denied that Easton was her husband.

In November, Jane Gibson identified Henry Carpender as the actual murderer of Hall and Mills. He lived two doors from the Halls, and was their first cousin.

A Grand Jury was convened. After five days and sixty-seven witnesses, no action was taken and the matter was laid over. Although there were assurances from the authorities that the case would still get attention, few believed it. For the next four years, people got on with their lives. Mrs. Hall even went to Europe.

Then, on July 3, 1926, Arthur S. Riehl, who had married Louise Geist, the maid who had worked for the Hall family, filed for annulment. He discovered that she had withheld knowledge about the activities of the family. He claimed she had told Mrs. Hall on September 14th, four years earlier, that Hall had plans to elope with Mrs. Mills. She went with Mrs. Hall and Willie Stevens that night, driven by the chauffeur, and received five thousand dollars for keeping quiet about what she knew. Louise claimed that his tale was a pack of lies.

Arrest warrants were issued for Willie Stevens and Henry Carpender. A hearing was scheduled that took four days; bail was denied for both men as they were committed to go before a Grand Jury. Another investigation was launched, which sought to break down Henry Stevens’ alibi, and which brought forth the testimony of St. John’s vestryman, Ralph Gorsline (rumored to have once had an affair with Mrs. Mills). This man admitted that he had been in De Russey’s Lane the night of the murder around 10:20 p.m. and had heard one shot, a woman’s scream, and then three shots. 

There was also a report from the ranks of the choir that Gorsline had threatened Mrs. Mills to get her to give up the rector, and that he’d been spying on her, along with a woman who wanted the rector for herself.

cup size choir found here

The Grand Jury indicted Mrs. Hall, her two brothers, and Henry Carpender for the murders of Reverend Hall and Mrs. Mills. Stevens was arrested and the four defendants were arraigned.

Prior to the start of the trial, both bodies were exhumed once more and autopsies performed. Two enigmatic statements issued were that Eleanor Mills’ tongue might have been cut out and that Hall was shot while either bending over or kneeling.

Three fingerprint experts testified that the left index finger print of Willie Stevens was on the calling card found at the scene, but the third expert was interrupted by news of the sudden failing state of the Pig Woman. Her physician stated that her blood pressure and rising temperature would make any courtroom appearances detrimental to her health. 

She was not dying, her physician said, but ought not to leave the hospital for several weeks. Meanwhile her own mother was busy undermining her credibility to anyone who would listen, saying that her name was not Jane and that she was a liar.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Dr. Otto Schultz, who had performed the latest autopsies, described what he believed had happened that night, claiming the likelihood that Hall had been struggling to get the gun when it went off, and then announcing that Mrs. Mills’ tongue had indeed been cut out, along with the larynx. He also mentioned that there was a cut in her abdomen, which pointed back to the two undertakers who, without authority, had opened her womb to see if she was pregnant. (First one cut into her, and the other had re-opened the incision to see for himself.)

Then the Pig Woman was brought in on a stretcher as the prosecution’s star witness. The defense seated her mother in front, to see if this might rattle her. As Gibson was brought in, her mother shouted, “She is a liar! Liar, liar, liar!” Nevertheless, Gibson told her story, claiming that Mrs. Hall, Willie Stevens, and Henry Stevens were there on De Russey’s Lane that night. (She seemed to have forgotten that in her earlier statements, she had seen only two people out there with the victims.) She had seen Henry Stevens and another man wrestling with a gun when it went off. Then she told how Mrs. Hall’s detective had warned her to keep her mouth shut.

Simpson immediately moved for a mistrial on the grounds of jury misconduct—they had not paid attention, they were openly hostile, and they had not been properly guarded. He got nowhere with this, so he gave his closing remarks, and while the jury deliberated, he returned to Jersey City, leaving the Somerset prosecutor to hear the decision in his place.

The jury took three separate votes (10-2, 11-1, then unanimous) over the five hours and eight minutes during which they weighed the evidence, before they reached a verdict. They decided to acquit all three defendants

Eventually, Mrs. Hall, Henry Carpender, and Willie Stevens sued the New York Daily Mirror for libel, and it was settled out of court. No one else was ever accused of the crimes. No murder weapon was ever found, and the evidence never led anywhere.

Although this 1922 double homicide is still unsolved, there are numerous theories as to who the killer was:

1) The Ku Klux Klan did it as vigilante justice, because they frowned on loose morals and because they might have posed the bodies in the way they were found.

Ku Klux Clan on ferris wheel found here

2) Mrs. Hall did it by herself, out of revenge.

3) James Mills did it, because he knew his wife was unfaithful

4) Mrs. Hall and Willie did it, with Willie being the killer. It was an accident, using the rector’s .32 caliber pistol, which Mrs. Hall quickly disposed of. Willie also posed the bodies and cut Eleanor’s throat, because when rage overtook him, he didn’t know what he was doing.

5) Ralph Gorsline did it. He was angry with Mrs. Mills for coming on to the rector, and also jealous, since they were said once to have had an affair. He and a woman who wanted the minister for herself often spied on the two, and though he originally denied it, he finally admitted to having been near the crime scene that night when the murder was going down. The day after the police, who suspected he had played a part, questioned him his expensive touring car caught fire and burned to a shell. There seems to be no doubt he knew more than he ever admitted.

6) A jealous rival of Eleanor Mills who wanted the rector’s attention did it. There were others in the choir and in the church who hated Mills for being favored by Hall. A few days after the murders, someone tore out of several hymnals the page on which Hall and Mills’ favorite hymn was printed. The favorite suspect is Minnie Clark, a plump schoolteacher, but there is no evidence against her.

7) Mrs. Hall hired an assassin. A one-time friend of Willie’s, Julius Bolyog, claimed some forty-eight years later that on the day after the murders, Willie hired him to carry two envelopes, each filled with $6000 to two young men in a New Brunswick alley.

8.  Some thug did it to rob them. But why would they cut out Mrs. Mills’ tongue and slice her throat so badly? There was some speculation, a la Lizzie Borden, that a wandering lunatic did it, but such people are generally not organized enough to pose bodies to the point of leaning a calling card against a foot. There is a remote possibility, but it’s very remote.

Lizzie Borden found here

9) Ray Schneider did it. He thought the couple in the dark lane were his girlfriend and the man he had seen her with, which turned out to have been her own father. However, whoever killed them did so at close range, not more than three feet away and probably closer. There was little chance of mistaken identity. He may well have stolen the rector’s watch and money.

10) The Pig Woman did it. The defense made this suggestion as within the realm of possibility, given the many inconsistencies in her story. But she had no motive, no pistol, and no awareness of who the couple was.

The murder remains a provocative mystery.

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 10:43 pm  Comments (36)  
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comrade corbu

Nicolai Ceausescu was the leader of the Communist Party in Romania for over twenty years. In 1978 he caused a civil engineer to doubt his own sanity when he turned up for work one morning…..

image found here

A new underground station was being constructed in Bucharest and a vast hole — at least 12,000 cubic metres in extent — had been excavated as an entrance to the station. When the civil engineer in charge of the project arrived at work he found that his hole had disappeared. It had been there the night before, but now in its place were trees and park benches on open park land. The perplexed engineer asked one of the dictator’s aides what had happened. Apparently, Ceausescu had been planning to make a welcoming speech to new students at Bucharest’s polytechnic and wanted to use the park. So he ordered the hole to be removed until after his speech. All night hundreds of laborers worked at fever pitch. Trees were uprooted from other parts of the city and grass taken from the rest of the park to cover the hole. The job was finished by 6am, thirty minutes before the engineer arrived.

image found here

In 1966, the Ceaușescu regime, in an attempt to boost the country’s population, made abortion illegal, and introduced other policies to reverse the very low birth and fertility rates. Abortion was permitted only in cases where the woman in question was over forty-two, or already the mother of four (later five) children. Mothers of at least five children would be entitled to significant benefits, while mothers of at least ten children were declared heroines by the Romanian state. However, few women ever sought this status.

66 year old Romanian mother found here

Nicolai was also extremely paranoid that foreigners would poison his clothes or that he would catch a fatal disease from shaking hands. He started wearing only clothes that had been under surveillance in a specially constructed warehouse and even washed his hands with alcohol after shaking Queen Elizabeth’s hand. He took his own bed sheets to Buckingham palace.

Elizabeth’s hand found here

Ceausescu was popular in the West for being staunchly anti-Soviet, and was given many gifts by visiting dignitaries. Perhaps most embarrassing was an honorary knighthood bestowed by the Queen of England, revoked only hours before his execution when the appalling nature of his regime became apparent. Ceaușescu also received the Danish Order of the Elephant, but this award too was later revoked.

Order of the Elephant found here

Among other gifts was a black Labrador puppy from British Liberal Party leader David Steel. Ceausescu named him Corbu and became so enamored with the dog that Romanian citizens called it ‘Comrade Corbu’.

Corbu became part of the dictator’s fantasy world and soon the dog was seen being driven through Bucharest in a limousine, with its own motorcade. Corbu always slept with Ceausescu at night. During the day he slept in Villa 12A, complete with bed, luxury furnishings, television and telephone. The Romanian ambassador in London was under official orders to go to Sainsbury’s every week to buy British dog biscuits which were then sent back in the diplomatic bag. Corbu was also given the rank of colonel in the Romanian Army.

image found here

Ceaușescu created a pervasive personality cult, giving himself the titles of “Conducător” (“Leader”) and “Geniul din Carpați” (“The Genius of the Carpathians“), and even had a king-like sceptre made for himself. Such excesses prompted the painter Salvador Dalí to send a telegram to the “Conducător,” in which he sarcastically congratulated Ceaușescu on his “introducing the presidential scepter.” The Communist Party Daily published the message, unaware that it was a work of satire.

Dali and Harpo found here

One unresolved mystery that followed the deaths of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu pertains to Romania’s Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon rock which was in Nicolae Ceaușescu’s possession at the time of his death, but has since disappeared. The rock was presented by the Nixon Administration to Romania and is said to be worth 5 million dollars on the black market.

the pyjama girl mystery

We love an unsolved mystery here at the Gimcrack, and Australia has plenty of them. In 1934 there was the famous case of the Dead Girl in the Silk Pyjamas. Her partially burnt body was discovered lying beside a culvert in the road.


The dead woman was in her 20s, she was about 5’1″ and she had bluish eyes. An X-ray revealed that she had been shot below the right eye. But the most probable cause of her death were around eight really horrific blows to her face. It was very hard to work out who she was; a problem the police had to solve first.

Artists drew their impressions, police made masks. Photographs of each were published but without result. The police then took an unusual step and had her body preserved in a formalin bath at Sydney University. She would remain there for 10 years.


In the 1930s, pyjamas were exotic, the sort of thing worn by young flappers. These so-called ‘new women’ dressed in skimpy clothes, they smoked, they drank, they partied and they laughed at convention. The straitlaced moral guardians of the day held up the Pyjama Girl as an example, a warning of what happens to young women who go astray.


The press leapt on this bandwagon and began to use the unsolved Pyjama Girl case to put pressure on the police commissioner, Bill Mackay. The police had a list of young women who had disappeared at the time. High on their list was Linda Agostini. She was a young English woman who’d married an Italian with fascist leanings named Antonio Agostini. Police questioned Agostini; he claimed that Linda had deserted him and that he had no idea of her whereabouts. They suspected Agostini but were faced with the fact that his wife Linda physically looked very different from the Pyjama Girl. Linda Agostini was full-breasted and she had brown eyes but the Pyjama Girl had small breasts and blue eyes. And the dental records didn’t match. Linda’s dentist had given her two porcelain fillings and these were not found in the corpse of the Pyjama Girl. So she was crossed off the list, which makes what happened 10 years later all the more incredible.

Not this Linda

Commissioner Bill Mackay was a regular at a posh Sydney restaurant called Romanos. Antonio Agostini just happened to be a waiter there. One day in the restaurant, so the story goes, Mackay noticed that Agostini seemed unusually sad. The commissioner asked him why and Agostini explained that he was a widower, indeed, widowed by his own hand. He confessed that 10 years before he had killed his wife, Linda. Suddenly, the police commissioner himself, Bill Mackay, single-handedly had identified the Pyjama Girl and had solved Australia’s greatest murder mystery.

Richard Evans, who wrote a book about this mystery thinks that the official explanation, the one police put forward at the inquest in 1944 and at the trial of Antonio Agostini later that year was fabricated and false.

What previously undiscovered documents appear to reveal is that Mackay, driven to solve a case that just wouldn’t go away, may actually have set up Agostini as the Pyjama Girl murderer. First, there is the question of the teeth. In February 1944, Mackay arranged for leading Sydney dentist Professor Everett Magnus to re-examine the corpse’s teeth, to look once again for the missing porcelain fillings that by now three experts had failed to find. Astonishingly, he found them and the evidence of the other experts was ignored.

Oops, wrong Linda again

And then there was the question of the eyes. Linda Agostini had brown eyes. An autopsy performed by Professor Arthur Burkitt showed that the Pyjama Girl had blue eyes. But at the coronial inquest, police called two expert witnesses who both gave evidence that the colour of the eyes must have changed from brown to blue after death. Medically, this is highly improbable but the coroner accepted it.

learn how to permanently change your eye colour here

And then there’s the matter of the confession. Agostini’s story was that Linda had become neurotic and an alcoholic. He said one morning he woke to find her holding a gun to his head. There was a struggle, the gun went off and Linda died. Panic-stricken, he put her in his car and drove off, finally dumping her body in a culvert and setting it alight with spare petrol he kept in a can. And, this is crucial, he used the rest of the petrol to fill the tank to get back to Melbourne. Yet Police Sergeant Kelly, the first policeman on the crime scene 10 years before, was very clear indeed – he smelled kerosene, not petrol.

By the time of the coronial inquest, Kelly had changed his story to say it was either kerosene or petrol, which smell nothing alike. And in Agostini’s confession there is no mention of the extensive injuries to the head. Eventually, he makes a ridiculous story of the body having fallen down a flight of stairs and hitting a flowerpot.

flower pot ring found here

Agostini said later that Mackay gave him whiskey and helped him to confess. Evans suspects that the confession is a fabrication – an attempt to make the events of one crime fit another. Agostini confessed to killing his wife, but she was not the Pyjama Girl. Evens also thinks Mackay had made a threat and a promise. The threat was that “If you don’t confess, you’ll be convicted anyway and you’ll be convicted of murder.”

At his trial, Agostini did get off with only manslaughter. He was sentenced to six years jail, but served just three years and nine months before being deported back to Italy.

Puglia, Italy

There’s a postscript to this. A suitcase of police evidence has turned up which contains a microscope slide with a tiny slither of the iris from the eye of the Pyjama Girl. A DNA test matched against one of Linda Agostini’s relatives might just solve the mystery. We’ve asked the police if they’re prepared to do it. But the situation is an historian’s nightmare, because the test would probably destroy the iris, which is the evidence.

coughing up an arm but no leg

Until 1986, Sydney’s Coogee Beach had a Palace and Aquarium. Bordered by Arden Street, Beach Street, Bream Street and Dolphin Street, the Palace included an indoor Swimming pool, an aquarium, a Great Hall that could be used as a roller skating rink, a Canadian toboggan run down the hillside for over 70 meters, a herd of 14 donkeys to ride as well as swings, whirligigs, rocking horses, toy boats, aviaries, flower beds, a bandstand and an open air bar.

On Anzac Day in 1935, something extraordinary happened in the aquarium.


A tiger shark which had seemed to be ailing for most of the afternoon caused a great commotion. It moved rapidly around the pool, up and down, and then suddenly it disgorged a human arm.

arm found here

The discovery of the arm caused a media sensation. A vital clue to its identity was a tattoo of two boxers shaping up to fight. After reading a newspaper report, Edwin Smith contacted police claiming the arm belonged to his brother who had been missing for several weeks. Because of its well-preserved state, police managed to obtain some fingerprints. These provided a match confirming that it had in fact belonged to Jim Smith, former boxer and small-time criminal. But there was another gruesome aspect to the discovery of the arm. Medical examinations revealed it had not been bitten off by the shark but had been removed from the body by a knife, and not in a surgical procedure.

image of Jim smith (on left) found here

The last time James Smith was seen he was in the company of his long-time friend Patrick Brady. They’d spent most of the afternoon in the Hotel Cecil in the middle of the town and then they came back to a cottage which had been rented by Brady and which was on the shore of Gunnamatta Bay.

image of Gunnamatta Bay found here

On the morning after Jim Smith was seen for the last time, Brady turned up at the cab driver’s home, and wanted a ride into Sydney. He was dishevelled, he had his hand in his pocket and wouldn’t take it out. He got in the cab, and, as the cab driver gave evidence later, it was clear that Brady was frightened. He kept looking out the back window, fearful that somebody was following him. At North Sydney he got the driver to pull up outside the home of Reginald Lloyd Holmes.

Read about the worst cab driver in Sydney here

Reginald Holmes ran a highly successful boat-building business on the harbour foreshore at Lavender Bay. But Holmes had a much darker side. He controlled a lucrative smuggling ring using speedboats built at his boatshed to pick up cocaine, cigarettes and other contraband thrown overboard from passing ships. Jim Smith was a sometime employee of Reginald Holmes, and often drove one of the speedboats during smuggling operations. They had fallen out over a failed insurance scam, and Smith had begun to blackmail Holmes using the boatbuilder’s position in society as leverage. All the evidence the police had collected so far against Brady and Holmes was purely circumstantial. The police were frustrated. They had no body, and their two main suspects refused to cooperate. They decided to charge Brady with the murder of Jim Smith, to maintain the pressure on him.

Lavender Bay by donnnnnny

Then a startling event took place. On May 20, Reginald Holmes got in one of the fastest speedboats in the country, pulled out a pistol and fired it at his head. A nickel-jacketed bullet splayed all around his forehead. It stunned him — he fell into the water, and a rope wound itself around one of his wrists as he fell. Falling into the water revived him. He crawled back into the vessel, started it up and drove the speedboat through the mid-morning ferry traffic, and then, for four hours, he was chased by the police down Sydney Harbour until, finally, he gave up just outside Sydney Heads.

Sydney Heads by Conrad Martens

After Reginald Holmes’s failed attempt at suicide, he made a statement to police, directly implicating Patrick Brady in Jim Smith’s murder. Holmes agreed to be the star witness against Brady. But at 1:20am on June 12, just hours before the start of the inquest into the death of Jim Smith, Reginald Holmes’s body was found slumped over the wheel of his car in the deserted docks area of Dawes Point, the victim of a gangland-style killing.

Dawes Point toilet

On the afternoon before his death, Holmes went to his bank, took out £500 and arranged for it to be paid to a hitman who was then told that he had to kill Holmes that night to make sure that Holmes wouldn’t have to make an appearance at the Coroner’s Court in the morning. Incredible as it may seem, Holmes actually organised and paid for his own murder.

bloody hell! all she needed was a big mac

There have been many people who claim to be stigmatics: Cloretta Robertson, Padre Pio, Louise Lateau and Gemma Galgani are just a few.


Therese Neumann, was born in 1898.

In 1918 Therese was partially paralyzed after falling off a stool while attending to a fire in her uncle’s barn. She sustained more falls and injuries during this period. After one particular fall she claimed to have lost much of her eyesight. In 1919, she was blinded completely. Bedridden, she reportedly developed horrible bed sores that sometimes exposed bone.


Therese reported that her eyesight was restored on April 29, 1923—the day Therese of Lisieux was beatified in Rome. She had been praying novenas in advance of this day. On May 17, 1925 Therese of Lisieux was fully canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. Therese Neumann said the saint called to her and then cured her of her paralysis and bed sores.

Therese would later apparently develop the stigmata. On Good Friday, according to her own testimony, she witnessed the entire Passion of Christ in her visions. She displayed wounds on her hands and feet accompanied by blood apparently coming from her eyes.  By November 5, 1926, she displayed nine wounds on her head as well as wounds on her back and shoulders. According to several sources these wounds never healed or became infected.

From the years of 1922 until her death in 1962, Therese Neumann apparently consumed no food other than The Holy Eucharist, and claimed to have drunk no water from 1926 until her death.

Monstrance for holding Eucharist

In July 1927 a medical doctor and four Franciscan nurses kept a watch on her 24 hours a day for a two-week period. They confirmed that she had consumed nothing except for one consecrated sacred Host a day, and had suffered no ill effects, loss of weight, or dehydration.


Inedia is the ability to live without food. The word was first used to describe a fasting lifestyle within Catholic tradition, which holds that certain saints were able to survive for extended periods of time without food or drink other than the Eucharist. Breatharianism is a related concept, in which believers claim food and possibly water are not necessary, and that humans can be sustained solely by prana (the vital life force in Hinduism), or according to some, by the energy in sunlight.

you get these muscles by living on air?

“Wiley Brooks is founder of the Breatharian Institute of America. In 1983 he was reportedly observed leaving a 7-Eleven with a Slurpee, hot dog and Twinkies. He told Colors magazine in 2003 that he periodically breaks his fasting with a cheeseburger and a cola, explaining that when he’s surrounded by junk culture and junk food, consuming them adds balance.

Twinkie-henge found here

In the “Question and Answer” section of his website, Brooks explains that the “Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese” meal from McDonald’s possesses a specialbase frequency” and that he thus recommends it as occasional food for beginning breatharians. He then goes on to reveal that Diet Coke is “liquid light”.


Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 7:48 am  Comments (37)  
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