"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Friday, August 26, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the Ancient Religious Order of Cats.

via Rob Kroenert

via Telegraph

via Flickr

Where the hell is Henry VIII buried?

Why the hell were these Salem girls hiccuping?

What the hell are these ancient tracks?

Watch out for those mummy curses!

Watch out for those totem pole curses!

Watch out for those meteorite curses!

Watch out for those hotel tablet curses!

Early Modern exercise routines.

Photos of a 1920s road trip through Death Valley.

In which Samuel Wilberforce talks to a ghost.

The kindness of fairy children.

The birth of the sewer crocodile.

So now I know who to blame for Daylight Saving Time.  Curses be on your head, William Willett.

Killer bagpipes!

18th century poisoner cheats the hangman, is gibbeted anyway.

The story of the Wright Sister.

A vision of seven moons.

A well-publicized murder trial in 1890 Indiana.

Traditional games of the British Isles.

Spotted Stones and Trance Girls.

Henry Tufts, colonial bad boy.

London landmarks that are thankfully extinct.

The disappearing burial mounds of Bahrain.

A mysterious ancient structure has been discovered near Scotland.  Yeah, nothing at all ominous abut that sentence.

Mars likes big buttes, and it cannot lie.

Nero as depicted in artwork.

The father of paleontology.

How JFK got the goat vote.

A Polish UFO.

Elizabeth Crofts and the Voice in the Wall.

Gone for a soldier.

A Mayan mathematical genius.

Walking in a dead man's bones.

That most enigmatic of punctuation marks, "..."

The Real Housewives of 19th Century Westminster.

A clock whisperer.

The philosophy of "As if."

Mysterious "final phone calls."

A look at that delightful early Hollywood performer, Ann Pennington.  I had no idea she came to such a sad end.

The birth of "folklore."

A look at one of my favorite writers, H.H. Munro, aka "Saki."  (His "Sredni Vashtar" is one of the most perfect short stories ever written.)

The murder of the Duchess de Praslin.  (My take on that story is here.)

Anglo-Saxon culture as revealed by their artwork.

Investigating female Civil War soldiers.

Investigating the strange case of "Patience Worth."

Investigating chairs.

The original Siamese Twins.

More on Jim of the Union Square Theater.

So now you know where the Devil takes his vacations.

A remarkable recovery from a double arm transplant.

This week's Advice From Thomas Morris consists of two words:  Birth control.

A life-saving World's Fair attraction.

Welsh "mine spirits."

The Eiffel Tower's secret apartment.

A major Polish painter.

Napoleon's snowball fight.

The Prophecy of the Six Kings.

Lethal North Carolina.

Victorian cat houses.  It's not what you think.

"What is more appealing to the eye than a hand-painted knee?"  Ah, life in the 1920s.

Soccer's con man.

I love clips like this: just another day in 1901 Manchester, England.

And, finally, this week in Russian Weird:  Watch out for those sewage trucks.

Also beware of the Nooscope.

And let's not even discuss their fashion shows.

The needles are pretty weird, too.

Their windows are terrific, though.

That's a wrap for this week!  See you on Monday, when I'll be hiding the gin bottles.  Never mind, you'll see why.  In the meantime, let's dance like it's 1965!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Number 7 of the "Boston Post's" "Famous Cats of New England" is a short, but very sweet story. Meet Napoleon, the Angel of Angell Hospital:
Napoleon, the gray cat that visits the patients at the Angell Memorial Hospital, has lived for five years at the institution.

Whether it be a horse, dog, cat, monkey, parrot or squirrel that is ill matters little to the charitable Napoleon. With equal impartiality he visits them all. The smell of ether is as incense to his nostrils, and whenever operations are being performed Napoleon takes care to be on hand.

Through every ward he goes; has particular cats and kittens with whom he stays longer times than others. Black ones seem to be his favorites. Hours at a time he sits besides Inky, a little black kitten laid up with a strained shoulder, received apparently in a fight.

Next to patients, "cats" have first claim with Napoleon. Being a hospital cat, he is brought up on strictest diet. The worth-whileness of system in feeding cats is evidenced in Napoleon's sturdy frame and sleek maltese coat. No bloated, sleepy, overfed cat is Napoleon, to sleep away the most of the hours of his multiple lives. Instead, while pleasingly plump, he is very sturdy and active. 
~December 14, 1920 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Shooting Party At Ardlamont

Ardlamont House

The stereotypical setting for an Agatha Christie novel is a quiet, elegant British country estate. Therefore, it is only too fitting that 19th century Scotland's most famous death riddle, which in its day enthralled newspaper readers around the world, should have one as its backdrop.

The unwitting catalyst for this particular Series of Unfortunate Events was an army major named Dudley Hambrough. A member of a wealthy and aristocratic family, Hambrough was well-respected, well-connected, and seemingly highly fortunate. Sadly, the major had one fatal flaw: he was an irresponsible spendthrift with absolutely no aptitude for managing his once-vast fortune. Although his share of the family's estate netted him around four to five thousand pounds a year, by 1885 he was practically broke. As a last-ditch measure, he mortgaged his interest in the estates for £37,000, but he soon managed to blow through that as well. By 1890, Hambrough and his wife were reduced to the humiliating position of living in dismal rented rooms in London.

Hambrough had one son, 17-year-old Cecil. Unfortunately, the younger Hambrough was even more of a wastrel than his father. The major aimed to have his son schooled for a military career. The army would not only provide for Cecil's future, but hopefully have a taming effect on the wayward boy. With that in mind, Hambrough sought a tutor for his son: some solid, responsible man who would take Cecil under his care and steer the young man into a wise direction in life.

Instead, he wound up with Alfred John Monson.

On paper, Monson's credentials were impeccable. He was an Oxford graduate with an upper-class pedigree and a suave manner that inspired confidence. Hambrough took an immediate liking to the man, and hired him as Cecil's tutor. Monson, along with his wife and three small children, leased a Yorkshire estate called Risley Hall, and Cecil, who shared his father's enthusiasm for the charming would-be mentor, happily joined the household.

Life at Risley Hall was essentially one long house party. Cecil's "education" largely consisted of fine dining, heavy drinking, outdoor recreation, and the pleasant art of doing nothing in particular. It all suited the dissipated young man perfectly. Major Hambrough had hired Monson in the hope that he would discourage Cecil's bad habits. Instead, the tutor allowed them to flourish.

By April 1893, it had finally dawned on the Major that things were not exactly going according to plan. He sensed that Monson's influence over Cecil was now far exceeding his own. Also, Monson, under the guise of acting as financial adviser, had embroiled the major in a series of highly complicated financial juggles, and Hambrough was beginning to realize that Monson's real aim was to line his own pockets, at Hambrough's expense. The Major ordered his son to leave Risley Hall and return to the family's flat in London. Unsurprisingly, the prospect of giving up his lavish home with the Monsons in return for a dreary, financially-strapped existence with his strict father failed to appeal to Cecil. He flatly defied his father's command.

This was exactly what Monson wanted. It later emerged that he had his own secret reasons for winning the young man's favor. The tutor was not nearly as rich as he seemed. Like Major Hambrough, he had long since blown through his inherited wealth, and as the idea of earning a living was distasteful to him, Monson found other ways of maintaining the upper-crust lifestyle he felt he deserved. Like many other clever and totally unscrupulous men, he turned crook. Monson had a long history of insurance frauds, shady business deals, loans he had no intention of ever repaying, running up huge debts with creditors, and other such financial shenanigans. Monson was fond of boasting that he never pursued the acquaintance of anyone who could not be useful to him, and Cecil was no exception. When the young man turned 21, he would inherit £200,000 from the Hambrough Bank of London. Monson was determined to somehow get his hands on it all.

Early in 1893, a large Scottish estate named Ardlamont came on the market. The place appealed to Monson, and he rented it out for the shooting season. By June, the Monson family--and, of course, Cecil--had settled into their new home. The move was funded by heavy borrowing and extensive lines of credit.

It was at this point that Monson's activities began taking a decidedly curious tone. He paid a call on the Glasgow branch of the New York Mutual Assurance Company. He informed them that his pupil, Cecil Hambrough, wished to buy Ardlamont. The young man was due to inherit a great deal of money, but it would be awhile before the cash actually came into his hands. In the meantime, Monson's wife Agnes was advancing Cecil a loan of £20,000 as a down payment on the estate. As security for this loan, Cecil wished to have his life insured for that same amount.

The company accepted this story unquestioningly, and two days later Cecil came to their offices and signed the forms. Mrs. Monson was named beneficiary of this policy.

In August, the household at Ardlamont hosted a shooting party. Several friends of Cecil's were invited to the estate, as well as a friend of Monson's, who was introduced to the household as an engineer named Edward Scott.

Two days after Scott's arrival at Ardlamont, he, Monson, and Cecil went out fishing. While Monson and Cecil went out to sea in a borrowed boat, Scott stayed on the beach.

When Monson and his pupil were far from land, things began to suddenly go very wrong. A hole appeared in the bottom of the boat, sending water gushing in. They were about to sink!

And darn the luck, Cecil did not know how to swim.

Happily, the water was much shallower than it looked, and Cecil was able to make it to shore. Scott and Monson congratulated him on his lucky escape. His friends had a wonderful idea: how about if on the following day, the three of them celebrated by going out shooting?

Early on the next morning, the trio headed out to the woods. Monson carried a twelve-bore shotgun, while Cecil had with him a twenty-bore. As Scott did not shoot, he would merely tag along and collect whatever the other two killed.

Just three minutes after the men had disappeared into the trees, a shot was heard. Soon after that, Monson and Scott rushed back to the house with shocking news: Young Cecil had suffered a terrible accident. Some of the servants accompanied them back to the woods. In a small clearing, they were horrified to see Cecil lying on his back, dead from a gunshot to the head.

Drawing of the site where Cecil's body was found

When a doctor and police arrived Monson told them that Cecil had veered away from the other two men to hunt for game. When he was out of sight, Monson and Scott had heard a shot. When they went to join Cecil, they found him dead. Cecil's gun, Monson sighed, undoubtedly went off accidentally while the young man was crossing a dyke. Sad, of course, but these things happen.

The doctor saw no reason to question this story. He ruled that Cecil's death was a tragic mishap, and the unfortunate young man was buried several days later.

This would have been the end of the matter, if several disquieting facts had not come to the attention of police. First of all, there was that business of Monson arranging for Cecil to take out a sizable life insurance policy mere days before the shooting. Then, there was that boating accident. Someone had very recently cut a hole in the bottom of the rowboat and stopped it up with a cork plug. When Monson and Cecil were in the water, it was obvious that the boat sank when this plug happened to come loose.

Or had someone removed it?

When the police also discovered that Monson and Scott had not informed anyone of Cecil's accident until after they had carefully cleaned the two shotguns the men had been carrying, it was decided that young Hambrough's death deserved much closer attention. Cecil's body was exhumed, and an inquest was held. This inquest revealed an interesting detail: Cecil had been shot not with the twenty-bore shotgun he had been carrying, but by Monson's twelve-bore. Monson attempted to shrug that off by claiming he and Cecil had switched guns, but this was the final straw as far as law enforcement was concerned. Monson was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder. Police launched a manhunt for Monson's presumed accomplice, Edward Scott, but that enigmatic man had vanished. No one had seen any trace of him since a few hours after Cecil's death, when Scott was seen waiting for a ferry in Glasgow. When Monson's trial opened in December 1893, Scott had yet to be found.

Monson pleaded "Not guilty." The evidence against him was entirely circumstantial, and relied almost solely on expert witnesses, mostly in the field of ballistics. As is usual in such trials, the "experts" for the prosecution gave testimony completely contradicting that offered by the defense. What position had Cecil been in when he was shot? From what distance had he been shot? No one could agree. The defense strategy made the most of this general air of uncertainty, arguing that it was impossible to prove that the young man's death was anything more than an accident. The case against Monson was weakened further when it was revealed that Cecil's insurance policy stipulated that no money would be paid out if he died before the age of twenty-one. He died one year short of that age. Therefore, Monson gained no financial benefit from the death. (Although, naturally, Monson claimed that he knew about this clause all along, we will never know if he was speaking the truth. If he was unaware of it, that would be one of the greatest dark punchlines in crime history.)

By the end of the nine-day trial, no one was any more sure about how Cecil Hambrough died than they were before it started. The judge's summing-up reflected this, cautioning the jury that "It is the business of the Crown to prove the case, not for the defence to prove innocence." After a brief deliberation, the jurors delivered that famously inconclusive Scottish verdict of "Not proven." Monson was freed, if not precisely exonerated.

He emerged from the courtroom to a less than rapturous public welcome. The trial's revelations about his fraudulent ways and his penchant for living on extended credit--not to mention the near-universal belief that he was a cold-blooded murderer--ensured that his name was now mud in Scotland. Cecil's family and friends were so enraged by the verdict that for many years, on the anniversary of his death, they placed notices in national newspapers: "Sacred to the memory of Cecil Dudley Hambrough, shot in a wood near Ardlamont, August 10th, 1893. 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' saith the Lord."

Monson and his family left Scotland for good and resettled in Yorkshire.

Most people who narrowly escape a murder conviction prefer to keep a low profile from then on. Not Alfred Monson. Rather, in his usual cheerfully sleazy fashion, he did his best to capitalize on his unsavory fame. He hooked up with a bogus hypnotist named Morrit, and the two gave shows where Monson would pretend to go into a trance. Then, Morrit would dramatically ask his subject if he had killed Cecil Hambrough. (Surprise, surprise, the answer was always, "No.")

Monson sued Madame Tussauds, on the grounds that his waxwork model was placed near figures of notorious murderers. He argued that this slur against his good name demanded substantial damages. (He blithely ignored the fact that he had offered to sit for his model, and donated the suit he had worn on the day of Cecil's death.) He eventually won his case, but was awarded only one farthing. (The case established the legal precedent of "libel by innuendo.") Monson even wrote a book, "The Ardlamont Mystery Solved," but it failed to sell.

Monson carried on his career of devising various financial swindles and prying money out of wealthy and not-terribly-bright young men. He also acted as a "tout" for several particularly crooked moneylenders.

It was his association with one of these loansharks, one Victor Honour, that led to Monson's undoing.  The two men were part of a particularly complicated life insurance swindle centered around Percival Norgate, a young debtor of Honour's whom the moneylender had been blackmailing.  Happily, the scheme miscarried and Monson and his confederates were arrested.  At their trial, not even the services of that legendary defense lawyer Edward Marshall Hall could save this disreputable crew from a "Guilty" verdict.  Monson was given five years in jail, which was surely the very least he deserved after such a long and varied career.  While behind bars, he divorced his wife on the grounds of her adultery with...the late Cecil Hambrough. Was this claim--possibly the oddest detail in this very odd case--true? No one knows. It seems to be unknown what finally became of Monson after his release from prison, but it is doubtful he came to a good end.

As for the now-you-see-him-now-you-don't Edward Scott, he emerged from hiding several months after Monson's acquittal. It turned out that, far from being "Edward Scott," respectable engineer, he was really a bookmaker from London by the name of Edward Sweeney. As the authorities had no further use for him by that time, Sweeney/Scott obtained a revocation of his sentence of outlawry. Sweeney followed Monson's lead in attempting to monetize the Ardlamont shooting: he sold his story--which was about as accurate as you'd think--to the "Pall Mall Gazette," and made an appearance at a Glasgow music hall. (It is pleasant to relate that he was instantly booed off the stage.) Whatever the circumstances surrounding Cecil Hambrough's shooting may have been, it is a certainty that no one profited from his death.

The Ardlamont Mystery remains officially unsolved. Of course, for most true-crime historians, the real mystery is how on earth Alfred Monson avoided swinging at the end of a rope.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is honored to have the sponsorship of the Cats of the Illustrated Police News!

What the hell is skin-writing?

Who the hell was Sydney's Dancing Man?

Watch out for the Men Stealers!

Watch out for those ghostly golfers!

Watch out for those ghostly cyclists!

Watch out for those cursed graves!

Watch out for those killer flies!

Watch out for those flying cockroaches!

Watch out for those screaming skulls!

Watch out for those Somerset woods!

How a New Orleans restaurant became the most famous eatery in U.S. history.

Los Angeles' oldest elevator operator.

Some Slavic Midsummer's Eve folklore.

One guy was determined to win a race if it killed him.

A hotel you would not want to own.

Reporting the death of Austria's Francis I.

The spirits of Auchenleck.

How Georgians viewed democracy.

The short shelf life of obscenities.

Calling all Forteans:  An online collection of Charles Fort's notes.

Regency sunburn cures.

Back in the day, people certainly liked their whale bone arches.

England is asked "20 Questions."

Not even Gods are immortal.

Victorian inventors being, well, Victorian.

18th century boxing rules.

19th century holiday fashion.

Marital advice from George Washington.

A salute to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  When I was 13, I came across this edition in a local library, and wound up spending a whole summer browsing through it...yes, I was that weird a child.  A dumpy, badly-dressed little smartass with the social skills of Vlad the Impaler. In retrospect, I understand why most of my peers treated me like I was a Martian.

Hold on.  Come to think of it, I'm still a dumpy, badly-dressed little smartass with the social skills of Vlad the Impaler.  Uh-oh.

But I digress.

An ancient earthwork has been uncovered in Spain.

H.G. Wells and the future.

Richmond VA's 1827 "Carnival of Death."

The 19th century mascot cat of Union Square Theater.

East Asia's oldest piece of jewelry.

The world's greatest solo mountain climber doesn't experience fear like the rest of us.  In which we present "The week's least surprising news flash."

Intelligence is beyond our intelligence.  Week's second least surprising news flash.

The first broomstick witches.

If you've been looking for a poison antidote, here you go.

If your week won't be complete without knowing what books Aaron Burr checked out from the library, feast your eyes.

Why you might not want to drink circus pink lemonade.

An Englishman visits post-Waterloo France.

Serial killer elephants.

A murder and a message in a bottle.

The Horse Plague of 1872.

A tale of early 19th century domestic abuse.

That time Havana was a British city.

That time Irish fairies played a game of Hurling.

That time Gertrude Stein wrote a children's book.

That time WWI soldiers took up gardening.

This week's Advice From Thomas Morris:  Gentlemen, here's what not to do with, uh, your most treasured body parts.

We're all being driven mad.  Yes, I know you didn't need me to tell you that.

The women of 1066.

The secret lives of spices.

17th century B&Bs.

A Napoleonic warrior in 1894.

A look at technology's influence on art history.

The last execution at the Tower of London.

Why we shouldn't go to Mars.

Stonehenge has one big next-door-neighbor.

The scientist who's spying on trees.

The Victorian language of flowers.

The pyramid hidden in a mountain.

Lombard's Musical Cats.

Victorian bathing.  Or lack of same.

A brief history of synchronized swimming.

One of the more credible photographs of the Loch Ness Monster.

Kitty Genovese, truth and legend.

How to punk the plague.

A Victorian hydrogen bomb.

One really freaking old shark.

Remembering Willikin of the Weald.

The birth of Napoleon.

An Englishman visits 18th century Rio.  He wasn't impressed.

When it didn't do much good to be defended by Daniel Webster.

The Iceman's wardrobe.

How the pencil conquered the world.

This week in Russian Weird:  When it doesn't pay to come back from the dead.

And then there's the Russian statue to a loyal dog.

And, of course, we can't leave out this charming ad from Soviet-era Estonia:

That wraps it up for this week.  See you on Monday, when we'll visit perhaps the most notorious house party in 19th century Scottish history.  In the meantime, here's a bit of my man Telemann:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

"The Case of the 13th Coffin" sounds like an old Sherlock Holmes mystery, but it really happened in 1950s France. This story comes from the "Lowell Sun," September 14, 1953:
Fronsac, France, Sept. 14--This French village buzzed today over the mystery of the 13th coffin.

It all began when P. Dorneau asked the village cemetery watchman to open the family mausolem and rearrange the 12 coffins it contained to make room for additional burials.

Jules Taris, the watchman, went about the task. When the mausolem was opened, he inspected the coffins. There were 13 instead of 12. He counted again...thirteen.

He notified P. Dorneau, the latter could not explain. Only 12 members of the Dorneau family were buried there. He notified the mayor, who refused to believe his story.

Then the 13th coffin was opened. It contained the body of a fair-haired girl, dressed in a low-cut ball gown and dancing slippers.

No one in the village could identify her. The cemetery had no record showing the body was there.

Police believe the girl may have been murdered. There were indications of head injuries. But if a murder, who is the victim and what was the motive? Who was the murderer?

Police confessed that they did not even know where to begin an investigation of the mystery.

Judicial authorities in nearby Libourne are expected to send orders soon for an official exhumation and the opening of an official inquiry.
Doctors who examined the body came to the conclusion that the mystery woman likely died of meningitis, so police decided that at least they didn't have an unsolved murder on their hands. However, as far as I can tell, it was never learned who the girl was, or how she came to be buried in the Dorneau vault.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Where There's a Will, There's a Ghost; Or, A Guide to Post-Mortem Estate Planning

Tombstone of James Chaffin and his wife, via Davie County Public Library

As is well-known to the two or three regular readers of this blog, I like ghosts, especially the ones with an ax to grind. I have also made clear my predilection for Weird Wills. Hand me a story that combines both these topics, and Strange Company is off to the races.

The central figure in our little tale is one James L. Chaffin, who was a farmer in Davie County, North Carolina. His family consisted of a wife, Rachel, and four sons, John, James "Pink" Pinkney, Marshall, and Abner. On November 16, 1905, James made out a will--signed by two witnesses--leaving his farm and all his other goods to his third son, Marshall, who was also appointed executor. His wife and the other sons were left nothing.  James' reasons for disinheriting them are unknown.

In the summer of 1921, James Chaffin suffered a serious fall, which led to his death on September 7 of that year. On September 24, Marshall obtained probate of his father's will. Although Mrs. Chaffin and the other boys were naturally displeased by the ungenerous terms of James' will, they saw no grounds for contesting the document.

Life for the Chaffin family was uneventful until June 1925. "Pink" Chaffin began having unusually vivid dreams about his father. In these visions, old James would suddenly appear by his bedside. At first, the spirit said nothing. Then, Pink dreamed he saw his father standing by his bed, wearing an old black overcoat James often wore in life. The wraith pulled back his overcoat and told him, "You will find my will in my overcoat pocket." James then vanished.

The next morning, Pink went to his mother's house in search of that coat. She told him she had given it to his brother John. Shortly afterwards, Pink visited John and retrieved the garment. He saw that the lining of an inside pocket had been sewn up. After cutting it open, he found a small roll of paper. On this was written, in old James' handwriting, "Read the 27th chapter of Genesis in my daddie's old Bible."

Genesis XXVII featured the story of Jacob deceiving his father Isaac and fraudulently obtaining Isaac's blessing which had been meant for the first-born son Esau. Pink immediately understood the significance of his discovery, as well as his need to document the find as thoroughly as possible. He accordingly went to a neighbor, Thomas Blackwelder. Pink told him the whole story, and asked Blackwelder to accompany him to his mother's house, as an objective witness.

When the two men arrived at Mrs. Chaffin's home, they found the old Bible, and turned the pages to Genesis. You may not be terribly surprised to learn that they found a second will of James Chaffin's, dated January 10, 1919. Old Chaffin wrote that he had been inspired to write this new testament after reading Genesis XXVII. The document divided his property equally among his four children, along with a request that the sons provide for their mother.

This will was not witnessed, and James--while he was alive, at least--had never mentioned its existence to anyone. However, under North Carolina law it would still be valid, providing that the courts were convinced that it was in James' handwriting. By the time this second will was discovered, Marshall Chaffin had died of heart disease. He left a widow, Susie, and young son, R.M. Chaffin, who were eager to contest this--to them--very inconvenient testament.

In December 1925, the case was scheduled to be heard at the Superior Court of Davie County. However, on the first day of the hearing, Susie Chaffin inspected the second will for the first time. She reluctantly had to admit that it was indeed in James Chaffin's handwriting. Ten other witnesses unhesitatingly agreed. With that, the dispute was immediately resolved with the second will being admitted to probate.

Two years later, a representative of the Society for Psychical Research, J. McN. Johnson, interviewed Pink Chaffin and his family. Johnson wrote afterwards that he was "much impressed with the evident sincerity of these people, who had the appearance of honest, honourable country people, in well-to-do circumstances." When Johnson suggested that perhaps one of the Chaffins had had prior "subconscious knowledge" of the second will, they responded that "Such an explanation is impossible. We never heard of the existence of the will till the visitation from my father's spirit."

So. Were the Chaffins lying about having no previous knowledge of this new will? If so, why did Pink wait four years before revealing its existence? Could he or one of his equally disenfranchised brothers have forged the will? If such was the case, it is remarkable that these unsophisticated farmers did a good enough job for Marshall's widow to concede it was genuine, when she had every incentive to argue otherwise.  And if the will was fake, why invent the implausible and unnecessary details about old James' ghost?

Or maybe this is just a lesson to us all: Before you die, be sure you have all your affairs in order if you wish to avoid having to make a return appearance among the living.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Weekend Link Dump

This week's Link Dump is sponsored by the Band of Hermit Cats in Caves.

What the hell was the hairy man of New South Wales?

What the hell is Tabby's Star?  We still don't know, but it's getting weirder by the day.

Who the hell forged the Piltdown Man?  Now we know?

Watch out for those falling witches!

Watch out for those mummies!

Watch out for the Shoe Event Horizon!

Watch out for those bewitched cats!

Watch out for those Voodoo Priestesses!  On second thought, you probably already know to do that.

The Broad Mountain Mystery.

What we know--and don't know--about Hieronymus Bosch.

The oldest cave paintings are even older than we thought.

Hell now has wifi, and I'm guessing they use my internet provider.

A "lamented princesse."

Jacques-Louis David, turncoat propagandist.

The bleak story of Scott Joplin.

Ancient Romans took the theft of their clothes very seriously.

Mark Twain vs. the U.S. Postal Service.  Judging by the quality of my regular mail delivery, Twain lost.

The Model T and the birth of the middle class.

Babe Ruth and the birth of celebrity product endorsements.

Possibly the world's oldest gold artifact.

A tale of child-stealing fairies.

Stories with headlines like this rarely end well.

The South Shields poltergeist.

A creative Victorian travel journal.

This is old news to anyone familiar with Poe's "The Domain of Arnheim."

Victorian false eyelashes.

I Sing the Victorian Electric.

Henry V and the Battle of the Seine.

A bestiality case in 18th century Wales.

A Victorian woman who was a famed early naturalist.

Some new light on Raoul Wallenberg's fate.

The life-saving qualities of spiced ginger nuts.

How it could be argued that the Inquisition was right, and Galileo was wrong.

That time the Austro-Hungarian empire was invaded by vampires.

That time a mule won a major horse race.

A first-hand account of the storming of the Tuileries.

A--to my eyes, at least--offbeat theory of why the Neanderthals became extinct.

The Flying Pieman of Sydney.

Lizzie Borden, animal lover.

Chronicling the king's letters.

The afterlife of animals.

A haunted furnace.

Victorian tennis costumes.

Rape during the Civil War.

A Neanderthal Marco Polo.

The life of Eleanor of Austria.

The Queen's ass.  Luckily, it's not what you might think.

Life insurance fraud for fun and profit.

That "noble knight" Prince Eugene.

Pampered Victorian dogs.

Wayward women in Victorian Cornwall.

Ancient Serbian curse tablets.

The surgeon and the porcupine.

This week's Advice From Thomas Morris:  What not to do with a tobacco pipe.

Rowdyism and murder, 1873.

A brief history of dollhouses.

Bronze Age fashionistas.

Twitter is proving to be a bit too much for the Library of Congress.  Experts blame my tweets about Victorian children's books.

A near-legendary unsolved murder in Toronto.

The Victorian vegetarians of Torquay.

French toad showers.

The Battle of Romani.

Medieval crime and punishment.

A Napoleonic execution.

And finally, this week in Russian Weird:  Cthulhu has been uncovered in a Siberian mine.

That's it for this week. Happy reading, gang, and we'll meet again on Monday, with some ghostly estate planning. In the meantime, here are the Clancy Brothers. Love those guys.