Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 15, 2018

Today’s Honorable Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Perhaps the most celebrated “vanquished honor” suicide was Marcus Procius Cato (95-46 BC). He was a man who inspired respect rather than affection from his fellow Romans. A brave soldier, he fled to Greece and then to Libya when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC. Refusing to compromise his high principles by living under the rule of a tyrant, Cato decided upon suicide. After having ensured the safety of his men, he ate supper with his son, after which he retired to bed to read Phaedo, Plato’s treatise on the soul. At dawn, after a short sleep, he drew his sword and plunged the blade into his chest. Cato’s alleged last words, ‘And now I am master of myself,” epitomize the sentiment of men who hold that to choose the moment and mode of one’s own death is an inviolable human right.

Even had Cato been captured by Caesar, it is likely that the victor would have given to the vanquished the opportunity to commit suicide. It represented honor in defeat. (Indeed, Caesar might have spared Cato altogether, since he is reputed to have said, “Cato, I grudge you your death as you have grudged me the preservation of your life.”)

Culled from: Death: A History of Man’s Obsessions and Fears

Here’s an additional tidbit from Wikipedia on Cato’s death:

According to Plutarch, Cato attempted to kill himself by stabbing himself with his own sword, but failed to do so due to an injured hand. Plutarch wrote:

Cato did not immediately die of the wound; but struggling, fell off the bed, and throwing down a little mathematical table that stood by, made such a noise that the servants, hearing it, cried out. And immediately his son and all his friends came into the chamber, where, seeing him lie weltering in his own blood, great part of his bowels out of his body, but himself still alive and able to look at them, they all stood in horror. The physician went to him, and would have put in his bowels, which were not pierced, and sewed up the wound; but Cato, recovering himself, and understanding the intention, thrust away the physician, plucked out his own bowels, and tearing open the wound, immediately expired.

Now, that takes guts!


The Death of Cato: Artistic Interpretations

It’s always fun to see how those Renaissance artists depicted famous scenes in Roman/Greek history.  My favorite is the last one: Cato as seductive suicide in the gay bath house. 

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 14, 2018

Today’s Convenient Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Sticking your head into an oven, or at least sitting quietly in your easy chair with the (unlit) gas jets on and the windows closed, was once a standard suicide method on stage, screen, and in real life. Black and white movies and mid-century pulp fiction are filled with nick-of-time rescuers breaking down doors, shouting “Gas!” and frantically opening the windows; real life victims include poet Sylvia Plath. Yet you never hear about this anymore. What happened?

Suicide by gas didn’t go out of style – it just became a whole lot less convenient. The gas piped into your house these days is not your grandfather’s gas. Modern gas companies deliver “natural gas,” a naturally occurring fossil fuel that is a benign mixture of methane and ethane. It only smells terrible; it’s really not that lethal. Safety types call it a “simple asphyxiant.” Turn on your gas jets and yes, you will die, but only after the gas displaces most of the oxygen or, more likely, reaches the pilot light and explodes. Who has that kind of patience? And who can stand that smell that long?

The gas it replaced, “coal gas” or “illuminating gas” was another matter entirely. It was manufactured locally at “gasworks” from coal heated in airtight chambers. The gas produced, a mixture of methane, hydrogen and carbon monoxide, not only burned beautifully, but was perfect for the suicidally-inclined. The active ingredient was, of course, the carbon monoxide. With blood having more than 200 times the affinity for carbon monoxide than oxygen, it doesn’t take much to saturate the blood and starve your brain and nervous system of oxygen. A few breaths of 1% carbon monoxide is enough to knock you out; a few minutes breathing it will kill you. With coal gas running 10% carbon monoxide, it’s not hard to see why one psychologist called old fashioned coal gas ovens “the execution chamber in everyone’s kitchen.” Like all good technologies, it was fast, convenient, and effective.

Advances in metallurgy and welding technology in the 1930s and 1940s brought coal gas industry to an end. Natural gas, formerly a nuisance byproduct of oil drilling that was frequently simply burnt at the wellhead, could now be transported long distances cheaply and easily. After World War II, American cities and towns rapidly switched over to the new safer natural gas. The local gas plant joined horse trams and coal furnaces on the dust heap of discarded technology. The transition in Britain was a little slower, with a few gasworks limping into the ‘70s. The only remaining legacy of this formerly robust industry is numerous abandoned brownfield sites contaminated by the process’s coal-tar and ash byproducts.

The switch from coal gas to natural gas also had one unexpected effect. During the ‘50s and ‘60s, about half of the suicides in Britain were by coal gas. By the ‘70s, when the transition to natural gas was complete, the number of gas suicides had dropped to zero and the overall suicide rate was down a third. Even the suicidal appreciate convenience. If it’s too much trouble, as Dorothy Parker said, “You might as well live.”

You’d think I’d have an oven suicide photo in my collection, but I can’t seem to locate one and all the ones on the internet seem to be fake.  So I chose this one, which is fake, but quite stylish. 

Culled from: Gizmodo
Generously submitted by: Pemphigus

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 13, 2018

Today’s Abusive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

After the American Civil War, the ingrained slave-owner’s racist mentality in the Southern states led to brilliant abuse of the convict lease system: de facto slavery. Some historians and apologists use the devastating effect of the Civil War on the economy of the Southern states as an excuse for the criminal treatment of its incarcerated civilians. One major aspect is overlooked however; prior to the Civil War, the North and Midwest built large, castle-type prisons such as Auburn in New York and Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, while in the Southern states only Virginia had a penitentiary and it did not participate in the convict lease system in any significant manner. Prior to the Civil War, and for the following half-century, no other Southern state built a penitentiary. Enlightened Northern liberal penalogists struggled with various philosophies of proper prisoner treatment, constantly developing new concepts. Slave labor camps were the Southern philosophy – and only changed in the 20th century by dramatic federal intervention.

Those convicted of crimes were exploited by the Southern convict labor system. The inmates were leased out to owners of cotton and sugar plantations, coal and phosphorous mines, railroads, turpentine forests, and all sorts of other hard labor industries and were used by the states to build canals, dams, and roads. The reality was that the Southern mentality was that of slaveholders and that people convicted of crimes before and after the war were treated as slaves. This was far different from criminal justice systems in the rest of the country, which labored under the simple philosophy that prisoners had to pay for their upkeep (food, lodging, clothes, medical care) and not be a burden on the taxpayer. In the early 19th century two competing criminal justice systems were in vogue in the North: the Auburn, or New York, system in which prisoners labored in groups in varying industrial projects; and the Quaker, or Philadelphia, system where solitude, quiet, and individual labor, such as shoemaking, was the objective. Eventually the Auburn system prevailed as officials found that the inmates became bored or depressed if allowed too much idleness or solitude.

Several authors writing about particular states had addressed the metamorphosis from slavery into the convict labor system. Matthew J. Mancini in his seminal portrayal of the Southern convict leasing system clearly defines and exposes the practice. It was worse than slavery and resulted in the death of thousands. Mancini takes the title of his book, One Dies, Get Another, from a comment of a Southern penal expert at the National Prison Association’s 1883 meeting: “Before the war, we owned the negroes… If a man had a good negro, he could afford to keep him… But these convicts, we don’t own ’em. One dies, get another.” Costs for the care of convicts were much lower than for slaves. There was no initial purchase price, and since one didn’t care if they lived, medical care and food were minimal. Few countries, not even the Soviet Union, had such an abusive system.

Culled from: Deadly Intent: Crime and and Punishment

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 12, 2018

Today’s Debaucherous Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Let’s have another jolly story of Christian Martyrdom from the classic of the genre, Fox’s Book of Martyrs (1848).  This incident allegedly occurred during the Seventh Persecution, under Decius in A. D. 249:

Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, “I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish.— No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers.” Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded.

“What a dick!” – Venus

Culled from: Fox’s Book of Martyrs
Generously suggested by: Louise


Follow-Up Du Jour!

So you may recall back on January 5, I shared the story of twin sisters Alice and Sally Richard12.  Alice was resentful of Sally’s popularity, shot her in the head, and then showed absolutely no remorse for what she did.  The last bit of information that I could track down was that Alice had been committed to a mental hospital, but that’s where the story went cold. 

A couple of you did some additional research and were able to find Alice’s gravestone via Find-a-Grave.  Nic sent me the link with the following comment:

“I don’t know what she did for the remainder of her years, but Alice ended up living a fairly long life, married and apparently died in Sitka, Alaska. 
“A quote from the movie Insomnia seems appropriate about her. When the protagonist, Al Pacino, is speaking to the hotel desk clerk/manager, she tells him something about the area.
“‘There are two kinds of people in Alaska: those who were born here and those who come here to escape something. I wasn’t born here.'”

Find-A-Grave: Alice Elizabeth Richard Schoenenberger

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 11, 2018

Today’s Executed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Louis “Lepke” Buchalter was one of the great Jewish gangsters of the 20th century, a violent goon who led the Mafia’s own private hit squad. He worked with key bosses of his day, helped build the mob we know today, and became the only major Mafia figure sent to the death chamber.

Louis Buchalter was born February 6, 1897, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, an area with large Jewish and Italian-American populations. He got his nickname, Lepke, because his mother called him “Lepkeleh,” which means “Little Louis” in Yiddish.

Buchalter did his first prison stint at age 20. In 1917 he was sentenced to 18 months at Sing state penitentiary in New York for larceny. He finished his term and was back two years later on a two-and-a-half year sentence for attempted burglary.

Buchalter’s criminal jobs and his trips in and out of the Castle paired him up with the mobsters who would make his career. Among them were Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, a friend from childhood.

Together these two infiltrated the unions that represented New York’s garment-industry workers. It was the start of a labor racketeering scheme that would last Buchalter’s entire career: The mob-run unions would threaten strikes unless management paid the union bosses, and the bosses would rob the unions blind.
Buchalter eventually built his labor scam into a small empire, partnering with future Italian Mafia boss Tommy Lucchese to run the garment district. It made him wealthy enough that he was able to set his family up in a luxurious penthouse on Central Park West.

Shapiro and Buchalter were charged with the attempted murder of a bootlegger in 1927. But the police lacked evidence, and the charges were dropped. By the next decade, Buchalter was an associate of some of the biggest young stars in the mob world. He knew Lucchese, ” Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky.  Indeed, he joined them in 1929 as one of the founding members of the National Crime Syndicate, a loose group of Italian and Jewish mobsters that ran organized crime in the United States in the 1930s and ‘40s. And from the start, he played a key role in the Syndicate’s most gruesome duties.

Murder Inc. was a group of hit men who acted as the enforcement arm of the Mafia, acting under the Syndicate. Most of the assassins were Jewish. And they all answered to Lepke Buchalter.

This hit squad, known to gangsters as The Combination, was formed by Siegel and Lansky. But its killers included members of Buchalter’s labor racket and a gang from Brooklyn. Siegel and Lansky were nominally in charge. But as their own rackets grew, Buchalter became the operational chief of Murder Inc.
The group took its directives from the Syndicate itself or from the bosses of the various Mafia families around the country. Buchalter worked with future mob boss Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia, and other key gangsters carried out their orders.

Murder Inc. was responsible for as many as 1,000 murders, including hundreds during Buchalter’s time at the helm. They used guns, knives, ice picks and countless other weapons to kill Mafia enemies, witnesses, informants and others who displeased Buchalter or the bosses. Buchalter’s most famous hit came in 1935, when Jewish gangster Dutch Schultz plotted to kill New York Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey. The prosecutor had been called in by an anxious grand jury because the district attorney wasn’t doing enough to fight the mob.
Dewey declared war on Schultz, and Schultz wanted revenge, but the bosses said no. When they realized he planned to disobey them, they sent killers Emanuel “Mendy” Weiss and Charles Workman, both of Murder Inc., to assassinate him.

Ironically, Dewey turned his attention to Buchalter, the man who may have saved his life. Dewey wanted to prosecute Buchalter, like Schultz, for his racketeering ways and ties to the Syndicate. The pressure mounted. Buchalter was tied to the 1936 murder of Joseph Rosen, a former truck driver who sold his union to Buchalter in exchange for a candy store. Buchalter believed Rosen was ratting him out. That November, Buchalter and his old partner Shapiro were sentenced to two years in federal prison for violating antitrust laws. A year later, the feds charged Buchalter with conspiracy to smuggle heroin, and he faced serious hard time.

So he simply disappeared. In November 1937, a month before the indictment, a $5,000 reward was posted for information leading to his capture. That was raised to $25,000 two years later, following a massive manhunt that pursued leads in the United States and Europe.

Finally, in August 1939, Buchalter surrendered to J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, in a deal supposedly arranged by radio personality Walter Winchell. Police later learned that he never left New York. Buchalter was convicted on the heroin beef and sentenced to 14 years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. Soon after, he was hit even harder: He was convicted and sentenced to 30 years to life in state prison for labor racketeering. But the worst was yet to come.

In 1941, Buchalter was charged with a series of murders in New York, including the Rosen hit. Witnesses included two of his hit men, Albert Tannenbaum and Abe Reles. He was convicted at 2 a.m., after just four hours of deliberation.
In December 1941, Buchalter, along with Weiss and fellow Murder Inc. leader Louis Capone, was sentenced to death in the electric chair. His appeals reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard his case and voted unanimously to uphold his conviction.

On March 4, 1944, Lepke Buchalter became the only major Mafia figure to die by execution. He was buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens.

Sing Sing Prison details on Lepke from Condemned: Inside the Sing Sing Death House

Culled from: American Mafia History


Garretdom: Another Drunkard Gone!

It’s time for another edition of Garretdom, where I feature grim or weird old newspaper articles.  This one comes to us from Minnesota.

February 2, 1867
Froze to Death. Another Drunkard Gone.

Mr. Thomas Warner, a man of superior intelligence and information and once a minister of the gospel, froze to death, while in a helpless state of intoxication, near Elysian, Le Sueur county, on the night of the 16th of January. The day previous to his death and most of the night he had spent in a saloon in the village and left for his home, near morning, in a state of intoxication. When within one hundred rods of home, he commenced falling down every few rods until at last he was obliged to crawl on his hands and feet, which he did until he got within ten or twelve rods of his own door, but could get no farther, then falling forward from his crawling position died. He leaves a very interesting family.

Thus another victim to intemperance has gone − perished in a snow bank, almost at his own door, and the tears of the widow and orphan are falling and aching hearts are almost bursting in breasts that know no comfort.

We have been fearful for the past winter or two that we should have a similar case to the above to report, as having occurred in this village, but so far, thank God, all have escaped, but no one knows for how long.

Culled from the February 2, 1867 issue of the Chatfield [Minnesota] Democrat, as reprinted in Coffee Made Her Insane.

More grim old news can be perused at the Garretdom page.  

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 10, 2018

Today’s Horrible, Vile, Indecent, Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A news article from 1807 as recounted in the book The Chronicle of Crime:

Nineteen-year-old Ann Webb, who came to London from the country a few years ago, found – as country girls since Hogarth’s “Moll Hackabout” have done – that the streets of Covent Garden are paved with bawds waiting to entice would-be servants into a life of shame.

Moll Hackabout arriving in London

Ann was so enticed, and changing her name to Elizabeth Winterflood [Great Name! – DeSpair] came under the protection of carpenter Thomas Greenaway.

This wretch, under the assumed name of “Weeping Billy” White, lives off women in Southwark. His cruelty and infidelities have driven one of his charges to suicide, and in August this year Miss Winterflood decided to dispense with his protection.

Dressed in virginal white, she stood at her “beat” on the corner of Higglers’ Lane and Dirty Lane, where she was seen quarreling with Greenaway shortly before midnight. At 2:00 a.m. she was found lying on the ground, her legs indecently exposed and parted. She was dead, and her external genitals had been chopped off and thrown under a cart. This horrible mutilation is so extraordinary that the doctor summoned to examine the body failed to observe it until the mangled organs were handed to him.

Greenaway was charged with her murder, but Miss Winterflood’s landlady and other women friends were so vehemently hostile to this vile procurer that the judge warned the jury against their prejudice.

In consequence “Weeping Billy” has been acquitted, though it is hard to see who else could have performed this horrible, vile and indecent crime.

Culled from: The Chronicle of Crime

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 9, 2018

Today’s Completely Buried Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

A major rockfall occurred in Switzerland on September 5, 1618. A vast amount of rock became detached from the mountainside above the town of Plurs, completely burying it and all its people. From a population of 1,500, none survived. Four of the townspeople were away on business elsewhere on that day; they returned to find nothing left of their houses or their families.

The town of Plurs before:

And after:

Culled from: Catastrophes and Disasters

Morbid Fact Du Jour For January 8, 2018

Today’s Supercilious Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On the night of September 26, 1927 two petty English crooks, Frederick Browne, forty-six, and William Kennedy, thirty-six, set out from London by train to Billericay in Essex. Their intention was to steal a particular car that Browne had earmarked earlier. Thwarted in that desire – a barking dog scared them off – they broke into a garage belonging to a Dr. Edward Lovell, stole his blue Morris Cowley, and sped erratically back to London.

Some miles along a remote country lane, their haphazard progress drew the attention of Police Constable George Gutteridge, who flagged the Morris to a halt. He approached the car, shone his lamp on both men, and asked where they were going. Nettled by Browne’s superciliousness, Gutteridge reached for his notebook. As he did so, Browne drew a gun and fired twice. Gutteridge fell to the ground. Brown sprang from the car and stood over him. Perhaps mindful of the superstition that a murder victim’s eyes record the last image they see, he leaned over the prostrate officer and shot out his eyes. Later that night, the two killers ditched the car in south London before catching a tram to Browne’s Golden Globe Garage in Battersea.

Unfortunate Constable Gutteridge

First light saw a fast-moving chain of events: A motorist found Constable Gutteridge’s bullet-riddled body lying beside the road, Dr. Lovell contacted the police to report the theft of his car, and the Morris was discovered in London. Investigators soon linked the three incidents.

The stolen car provided several promising clues. There were splashes of blood on the floor and running board, and under the passenger seat lay an empty cartridge case. This was handed to Robert Churchill for analysis. Churchill came from a family of London gunsmiths that made and sold sporting guns and rifles, but his real interest lay in the study of weapons and their projectiles. On those rare occasions when Scotland Yard needed to consult a firearms expert, his was the opinion in demand. He identified the cartridge as a Mark IV, an obsolete bullet filled with black powder and manufactured at the Woolwich Arsenal in 1914. On its base he noted a tiny raised imperfection, the result of a faulty breech block on the gun that had fired it. Churchill said that the murder weapon was almost certainly a.455 Webley revolver.

The stolen car

Finding that revolver, though, proved tortuous. As one lead after another dried up, the investigation ground to a standstill. For three months, the deadlock continued; then came a vital clue. An ex-convict who was being questioned in connection with a string of car thefts angrily protested his innocence, claiming that the real culprits were actually two other crooks named Browne and Kennedy. Furthermore, he’d heard them brag about killing Constable Gutteridge.

There was plenty in Browne’s history to suggest he was capable of murder; he had a long history of violence and once, while imprisoned, had brutally attacked a guard. Detectives were understandably cautious as they staked out his garage. Their patience was rewarded on January 20, 1928, when their target drove up under cover of darkness. As Browne alighted from his car, they swooped in upon him. Inside the car’s glove compartment was a revolver. More guns were found indoors, together with two thousand pounds hidden in the lavatory cistern and medical instruments similar to those taken from the Morris Cowley.

Frederick Browne

Pat Kennedy. Does this man look like a cold-blooded criminal to you?  The English…

Five days later in Liverpool, Kennedy was detained after a struggle in which he attempted to shoot the arresting officer (only the jamming of the gun saved the policeman’s life).  It was a strange reaction for someone who subsequently claimed that his role in the murder had been that of a passive bystander. Browne, he said, had shot Gutteridge without any provocation. Bitterly contemptuous of his erstwhile partner’s attempt to save his own neck, Browne dismissed the statement as a “concoction”.

Within the arsenal found at Browne’s garage was a .455 Webley revolver loaded with the same ancient ammunition that had killed Constable Gutteridge. When test-fired by Churchill, each cartridge revealed an identical breech block imperfection. No fewer than thirteen hundred Webley revolver were tested in efforts to replicate the flaw, but none ever did. Churchill also noted that the black powder loaded into the Mark IV ammunition was identical to powder traces tattooed into the skin around Gutteridge’s wounds.

At their trial, Browne and Kennedy were apportioned equal guilt. On May 31, 1928, Browne was hanged at Pentonville Prison, while a few miles across London, Kennedy was similarly dealt with at Wandsworth.

Culled from: The Casebook of Forensic Detection

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 7, 2018

Today’s Isolated Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

If Blanche Monnier hadn’t made the wrong choice for a future husband, history might not have recorded her existence. She chose someone whom her mother disliked. In fact, Madam Monnier disliked her daughter’s love interest so much that she locked the girl in a tiny room until Blanche changed her mind. Blanche stayed with her choice, even after she had 25 years to think about her decision while living in the same tiny room. Perhaps she would have been willing to hold out even longer if it weren’t for the attorney general in Paris, who released Blanche from her prison cell.

Blanche was once a beautiful French socialite from a well-respected family. In 1876, when she was 25, the young Monnier fell in love with an older lawyer who lived nearby, and wanted to marry him. However, this decision made her mother unhappy, so she opposed her daughter’s will. Madam Monnier argued that her daughter could not marry a “penniless lawyer” and used all her means to prevent such a marriage. She tried to change Blanche’s mind, to forbid her decision, to plot against her, but with no success. The young woman had no intention of fulfilling her mother’s wishes.

Young and Beautiful Blanche

It seemed as if Blanche suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth, or at least Paris. None of her friends knew where she was. Her mother and brother mourned her and continued with their daily lives. Soon, Blanche was forgotten. Years passed, the lawyer she loved passed away, and Blanche’s fate remained a mystery. Until one day in 1901, when the attorney general of Paris received a strange anonymous note saying:

“Monsieur Attorney General: I have the honor to inform you of an exceptionally serious occurrence. I speak of a spinster who is locked up in Madame Monnier’s house, half-starved and living on a putrid litter for the past twenty-five years – in a word, in her own filth.”

Such claims were shocking for the police. It was a monstrous scenario, and no one could believe that Madam Monnier was capable of such a thing. She was a well-respected citizen in Paris, from an aristocratic family, awarded for her generous contributions to the city by the Committee of Good Works.

Officers were sent to inspect the house, and although they were denied entrance at first, they forced the door open and got inside. They searched the home and discovered a tiny, dark, foul-smelling room on the second floor. And when they pried open the windows, there was Blanche Monnier.

Or at least what was left of her. Covered in food and feces, with bugs all around the bed and floor, was the 50-year-old Blanche weighing barely 50 pounds. She didn’t resemble a human. Malnourished, lacking sunlight, and cut off from any social contact for 25 years, Blanche seemed like a scared animal when the officers took her out. Her mother was immediately arrested but died in prison after only 15 days. Before her death, she confessed to the inhumane treatment of her daughter.

Police were astounded and disgusted. One commented: “The unfortunate woman was lying completely naked on a rotten straw mattress. All around her was formed a sort of crust made from excrement, fragments of meat, vegetables, fish, and rotten bread…We also saw oyster shells, and bugs running across Mademoiselle Monnier’s bed. The air was so unbreathable, the odor given off by the room was so rank, that it was impossible for us to stay any longer to proceed with our investigation.”

Blanche as she was found

An article in the New York Times published on June 9, 1901, reads: “Time passed, and Blanche was no longer young. The attorney she so loved died in 1885. During all that time the girl was confined in the lonely room, fed with scraps from the mother’s table–when she received any food at all.  Her only companions were the rats that gathered to eat the hard crusts that she threw upon the floor.  Not a ray of light penetrated her dungeon, and what she suffered can only be surmised.”

From the July 14, 1901 Chicago Tribune

Blanche’s brother, Marcel, was first sentenced to 15 months in prison, but later released as he never physically restricted his sister’s movement. He even said that it was her choice not to move, not that she wasn’t permitted to leave. While the real author of the note that saved Blanche was never found, some people believe that it was Marcel.

As for Blanche, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. She never returned to society. She lived until 1913 and died in a sanatorium in Bois.

Blanche at the Sanitarium

Culled from: The Vintage News

Interestingly, the Chicago Tribune article states the following about the question of who sent the anonymous letter:

“Mme. Renard, who for forty years had been the housekeeper of Mme. Monnier and for over twenty-five years the trusted keeper of the family secrets, died a short time ago and was replaced by two young servants, Eugenie Tabot and Juliette Dupuy. It was that event which finally led to the discovery of the crime of the Rue de la Visitation.

“The two girls became acquainted with the family skeleton and confidentially talked about it to their friends. One of the latter informed the authorities by an anonymous letter that Blanche Monnier, although perfectly sane, had been kept for twenty-five years and was still kept a prisoner in a dark room of the Monnier residence, without clothing, and with barely enough food to keep her alive.”

I’m not sure why the modern tales don’t have that particular detail in them.  It certainly sounds like the brother didn’t attempt to save his sister at all, and I think he should have spent the rest of his life in prison as well!

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 6, 2018

Today’s Uncontrolled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The 1970s saw a significant increase in the number of celebrity car crash deaths. The decade’s casualties include former child actor Brandon de Wilde, who was driving through Denver, Colorado, on July 6, 1972, when his car hit a flatbed truck, killing him instantly. In Britain, the world of pop music was shaken by the untimely death of Marc Bolan, amphetamine sage and lead vocalist of the group T-Rex, who was killed in the early hours of September 16, 1977, when he and his girlfriend, Gloria Jones, were returning from a nightclub. Gloria was at the wheel; Bolan, despite a lifetime’s fascination with cars, had never learned to drive. The Bolan crash took place in Barnes Common, North London; Jones, having just driven over a humpbacked bridge, took a sharp curve and lost control of the car, which came off the road at high speed and crashed into a tree; Gloria Jones survived, but the twenty-nine-year-old Bolan was killed on impact.

Gloria Jones and Marc Bolan during happier, alive-r, times.

Bolan’s car crash, like many later accidents, provoked a considerable media-based frenzy of mourning. The day after the fatal crash, which made front-page news, crazed fans broke into Bolan’s home and stole almost everything they could get their hands on; a hospital worker even tried to sell the blood-splattered clothes the eccentric star had been wearing the night of the crash. The funeral was a circus of grieving fans, and even now the “death tree” on Barnes Common remains a roadside shrine for tender messages and other sentimental ornaments of tribute and grief. 

The death car at the accident scene

The accident site as it looks today

Culled from: Car Crash Culture


Vintage Car Crash Du Jour!

One of my favorite books is Car Crashes and Other Sad Stories by Anaheim photographer Mell Kilpatrick. It’s a collection of car crash photos from the 40’s and 50’s, often with corpses still strewn across the enormous interior (or out of it, since there were no seat belts in those days). It combines my love of old cars with my love of morbidity and is the perfect ambulance chaser book!

Westminster & Los Alamitos