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Showing posts from August, 2018

Live fast, die young, and leave an exploding corpse

History records numerous instances of exploding corpses, usually caused by a buildup of combustible gases that are the natural byproduct of human decomposition, and since we found these articles to be quite fascinating, we thought we'd share them with our readers.

George Marlow: America's Greatest Bodysnatcher

While pillaging graves may seem like a revolting idea, it was a lucrative business in the United States during the 19th century. As the medical profession began to flourish, schools required a steady supply of cadavers for dissection and anatomical study. Enter the "Resurrection Men"- professional body snatchers who provided medical schools with stolen corpses. While hundreds of resurrection men operated throughout America in the late 1800s, few were as prolific as George Marlow.

In January of 1893, an inventive journalist concocted a creative scheme in order to get an interview with Marlow by pretending to be an agent of a medical college. Never one to turn away an opportunity to do business, Marlowe spilled his secrets to the undercover reporter. He acknowledged that his best customers were the medical departments of Georgetown University, Howard University, Columbian University (which later merged with George Washington University in 1904) and the National University Medi…

The deadliest bridge in Indiana?

In 1891, a railroad bridge over Stucker's Creek in Scott County, Indiana, had to be replaced because it was so low that it anyone standing on a train risked losing their head. The above newspaper article, from September of 1891, indicates that the bridge developed a reputation for being haunted after claiming the lives of 39 railroad employees.

Metaphysical Murder: The Strange Theory of the Duplicate Crime

One of the most accomplished detectives in history, Inspector Thomas F. Byrnes, developed an unusual theory which he called the Law of Duplicate Crimes. He believed that every unusual crime in which passion or intelligence played a role was psychically mirrored in another part of the world. While the two crimes may occur days apart, the crimes were virtual duplicates of each other, right down to remarkable coincidences and minor details.

Since Byrnes' pet theory had a ring of the supernatural to it, his Law of Duplicate Crimes is little remembered today, But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the rise of spiritualism and theosophy, many leading detectives of the era adopted the famed inspector's theory, and even achieved remarkable results by putting it to use. Other contemporary supporters of Byrnes' theory included the likes of French statistician Jacques Bertillon and Hungarian social critic and author Max Nordau.

While modern criminologists may refer to per…

Half-Hanged Maggie and other survivors of the gallows

Although execution by hanging fell out of favor in the United States by the end of the 19th century, the last execution by hanging in this country took place in Delaware in 1996. But, throughout history, hanging has been the most practiced form of capital punishment around the world; and while countless convicts-- guilty and innocent alike-- have met their demise at the end of a rope, history records several interesting examples of individuals who managed to  survive this barbaric death penalty.

One of the earliest recorded cases took place in Cambridgeshire, England, in 1264 when a woman by the name of Inetta de Balsham was sentenced to death for colluding with robbers. After she was hanged, her body remained on the gibbet for three days. Yet historical records indicate that de Balsham not only survived the ordeal, but was actually pardoned by King Henry III.

Botched hangings, it seems, were commonplace in England around this time; in 1313, Matthew Enderby was hanged until he was pron…

There's something spooky about white cats

A few weeks ago, while 'talking shop' with a fellow paranormal enthusiast, I casually mentioned that white cats have played a strange premonitory role in my life.

The first unusual encounter I had with a white cat occurred when I was in junior high. In order to get in shape for the upcoming football season, I had gotten into the habit of going out for a run every night, usually after midnight. One hot August night, as my footsteps echoed through the rain-dampened alleys and backstreets, just as I rounded the corner of my block and sprinted toward home a large white cat darted out from behind a trash can and dashed across the alley into an abandoned garage, nearly entangling itself with my feet. Although the unexpected incident scared the crap out of me at the time, I gave the matter little thought until the following morning, when my parents informed me that my ailing grandmother had passed away the previous evening in a local nursing home.

Of course, the death of my maternal g…

The ghost who plowed a field

This story comes from the Philadelphia Times, Sept. 4, 1892.

Unsolved Mystery: The Skeletons of Grape Island

Last week's post about the sale of the notoriously haunted Getter's Island in the Delaware River brought to mind another spectacularly spooky island, this one situated in the Kankakee River, about ten miles south of Joliet, Illinois.

Grape Island, at first glance, is hardly worthy of notice. It's a tiny speck of land, overshadowed by its much larger neighbor, Bardwell Island, and easily overlooked by most boaters and fishermen. However, this tiny island has a chilling history that dates back to the days before the Civil War.

In those days, the island was occupied by an early settler named Steele, who was a hunter and trapper and was generally known throughout the region as something of a mean-spirited recluse.

In 1861 Steele was visited by a fellow named Burrington, who had departed from Momence, Illinois, with $10,000 to purchase cattle for the U.S. army. Steele offered Burrington lodging for the night at his tiny house on Grape Island. He was never seen again, and in the…

Driven out of home by ghosts

The above article is from the Los Angeles Herald, April 27, 1905.

Notorious Haunted Island for Sale

One of America's most notorious haunted islands is for sale. Getter's Island, which lies in the Delaware River near Easton, Pennsylvania, is up for grabs for $150,000. The price includes more than just six acres of heavily-wooded land, however; it also includes a gruesome backstory and possibly even a ghost or two.

The legend of Getter's Island dates back to 1833, when Charles Getter was sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, Rebecca Lawall. As one of the prosecutors stated during Getter's trial, the marriage was "a union commenced in crime, consummated in tears, and determined in blood."

According to newspaper reports from the era, Charles was forced to marry Rebecca after she filed a lawsuit claiming that he had impregnated her. The local magistrate, a name by the name of Weygandt, essentially gave Charles an ultimatum: Marry Rebecca Lawall or go to jail. He agreed to marry her, although he did so under protest.

As one can imagine, this was certainly …