Tag Archives: murder

A Haunted Apple Tree: 1800s

A HAUNTED APPLE TREE

Murder Committed Under It and Now Its Fruit is Streaked Blood Red.

“It is probable that the town of Douglass, Mass., alone belongs the reputation of having a haunted apple tree,” writes Samuel S. Kingdon, in the Ladies’ Home Journal. “The tradition of the town is that a foul murder was committed in the orchard many years ago, and that since then it has been haunted by the spirit of the victim. As the story goes, a peddler, whose custom it was to sell goods from house to house from a pack, laid down to rest at midday under a tree in the orchard, and before the day was ended he was found with a cruel gash in the neck, from which his life blood had ebbed away. Suspicion rested on the owner of the orchard and he was said to have been constantly followed by the spirit of the victim. In an attempt to escape from its dreaded presence he moved away. Then the apparition became a terror to all who had occasion to pass over the road at night. So potent was its influence—standing, as it had a habit of doing, under the apple tree, with one hand at its throat and the other extended as though seeking aid, and uttering shrill cries that could be heard half a mile away—that the location of the highway was changed, and it is now a long distance from the orchard. The old trees still bear fruit, and the apples from the one beneath which the peddler was killed are said to be streaked with red, resembling blood, the streaks extending from skin to core.”

Our Horticultural Visitor: A Quarterly Journal Devoted to the Individual Interests of the Practical Horticulturists Everywhere, August 1900

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Well, good gracious. We all look forward to the spring blossoming of the apple trees, but one does not expect to find one’s pippin Exhibit A in a murder trial.

It is curious how often peddlers are murdered and then haunt the spot of their demise. Given their peripatetic nature, one would expect them to gather up their spectral packs and continue their rounds, but no—they must needs annoy the people in the neighbourhood of their death, such as the Fox Sisters, who called up the rapping spirit of a murdered peddler buried in the cellar. The sisters launched Spiritualism on the strength of this phantom peddler. Some say (and the sisters both confessed and recanted) that they made the rappings by popping their toe joints. Still, when the cellar of the Fox homestead was dug out many years later, a skeleton and a tin peddler’s box were found concealed in the walls…

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Coals of Fire: 1860s

woman-at-fireplace

COALS OF FIRE.

BY LUCY H. HOOPER.

The Countess de Castro was dying. People— that is to say, her relatives and immediate heirs— were so hard-hearted as to say it was time; for the Countess had passed her seventy-fifth birthday by some months, and had been a hopeless paralytic for over ten years past.

She was dying in the odor of sanctity. Her enemies, and even the Countess de Castro had a few, said that people who can stir neither hand nor foot, can very well earn a reputation, even for exemplary piety. Others said, more charitably, that there was no cause for anybody to grieve over her approaching demise, for that it was rare that any one was so well prepared to take her departure. They talked of the money she had given in charity, of her holy conversation, of her resignation, of her Christian example.

The Countess inhabited an antique hotel in Paris. It was her own by right of inheritance, for she had been, in her youth, a great heiress— Madamoiselle de St. Yvon, of Keriodec, in Brittany. She had been celebrated for her intellect and strength of character, and in her youth she had refused to marry, with a persistency rare in a French damsel of rank. It was reported that Louis XVIII. had sued to her in person, on behalf of one of the greatest of the Legitimist nobles of France, but in vain. She was over fifty years of age, when Parisian society was startled by the announcement of her marriage with the young Count de Castro, who numbered scarce half her own age, and who was notorious for his extravagance and his profligacy. But he was handsome as a picture, and possessed a winning tongue and a graceful address. And so the ill-matched pair were wedded, and took up their residence in the grand old hotel, in the Faubourg St. Germain. There the Countess gave stately balls, whereat all the gentlemen wore white lilies in their button-holes, and the ladies looped their tresses and their draperies with the same flower, and where a giddy young marquise was pitilessly snubbed by the hostess, because she came to the festival in question, wearing a dress trimmed with bouquets of the obnoxious Bonaparte violets. There were state dinner-parties given, also, whereat the guests were all old and dried up, and the ladies wore garments of antique fashion, scorning the mode that followed the lead of a parvenu Empress. But these formal festivities soon ceased, and it was whispered abroad that the Count de Castro was rapidly winning high favor at the Court of Napoleon III.

Of course, such a rumor meant that he had quarreled with his elderly wife; and that portion, at least, of the report, was true. They led but a cat-and-dog’s life of it, in that grand old hotel beyond the Seine. The Count was fast and frivolous, the Countess jealous and severe. He wanted money beyond the income secured to him by the terms of the marriage contract, and she refused to comply with his demands. Stories got abroad of fearful scenes between the pair. Their daily lives had long been as widely parted as possible, Madame going continually to church, while Monsieur frequented balls, and operas, and theatres. This kind of thing went on for some years. At last matters reached a crisis. The Count lost heavily at cards, at the Jockey Club, one evening, and confided to a friend that other claims were weighing upon him. There was a house at Burgival for which he owed, and the furniture, also, had never been paid for. And so the fashionable world was not much surprised when the Count de Castro disappeared, one fine morning, leaving all his debts, whether of honor or dishonor, unpaid behind him.

Madame de Castro behaved remarkably well at this conjuncture, as everybody remarked. She paid the Count’s debts, to the uttermost farthing, and was seen in her usual places of resort a trifle paler, sterner, and stiffer-looking than before, but otherwise wearing an unchanged and placid aspect. One only circumstance revealed how deeply she mourned for her vanished spouse. She caused the suite of apartments wherein she had dwelt with the Count to be closed up, and transferred her abode to the other wing of the hotel. But the servants averred, that after nightfall their mistress would occasionally enter the locked-up rooms, and remain there for a space, as if to mourn for her husband’s absence in solitude and secrecy. Few who knew the grave, stern Countess, would have fancied her capable of any such romantic action; but the story got noised abroad, nevertheless, and spread a sentimental halo about the deserted wife, prosaic and severe as her age and aspect might be.

The Count never returned. Occasionally, vague rumors were current of his appearance in far-distant lands. One story declared that he had gone to America with a certain celebrated dancer, and that he had been seen driving out with her, on the Shell Road, New Orleans. Another report averred that he was holding a high official position under the Governor of Java. Some said he had gone to Algiers; others, that he was in the employ of the French Legation at Hong-Kong. Some of these stories were traced to their source, and were found to be utterly groundless; others remained unquestioned and uncontradicted, till time proved their falsity. At all events, the Count never returned to Paris.

As the years went on, the Countess dwelt more and more in solitude. She did not put on mourning, neither did she assume any of the privileges of a widow. But she never spoke of her husband, nor would she permit his name to be mentioned in her presence. It was ten years after his mysterious disappearance, that she was first stricken with paralysis. She then insisted upon again changing her quarters, and took up her abode anew in the rooms wherein the troubled years of her married life had been spent. At first she used to be drawn in a wheeled chair around the garden, or through the long corridors of the hotel; but years had passed since she had relinquished even that form of locomotion, and had refused to quit the room wherein she now lay.

It was a vast and cheerless apartment; the wood-work, black with age, even to the waxed and polished floor, whose boards, warped and loosened by time, creaked noisily beneath the unwary tread. Some antique tapestry, saved from the sack of the Chateau de Keriodec by the Republican troops, during the first Revolution, clothed the walls, its tints of dull and faded green and sickly yellow adding an unnecessary touch of gloom to the aspect of the room. The ceiling overhead, with massive cross-beams, was of the same dark wood as the wainscoting and the floor. The chairs were mostly huge, carved arm-chairs, with cushions of faded needle-work, the only exception being a patent invalid-chair, lately used by the Countess, which stretched itself out in one dusky corner like some shapeless and huge antediluvian lizard. The fireplace, vast and cavernous, with a chimney-piece that towered to the ceiling, was filled with blazing logs; for the month was November, and the weather was chill, even for the season. At the extreme end of the room stood the bed, a large, old-fashioned structure, with curtains that matched the hangings on the walls. These were drawn aside, and the figure of the Countess could plainly be seen there, stretched out, stark and straight, as though life had already departed, and looking, with her white draperies and bandaged brows, like some monumental effigy on an ancient tomb. She still lived, however, if the faint pulsation at heart and wrist, and the feeble flutter of breath upon her lips, could really be called life. And but for one point about her pallid, wrinkled face, one might readily have supposed that she had passed already beyond the reach of mortal aid. That point was her eyes. Wide open, keen, and glittering, they were turned with a fixed and steady gaze, not forward or upward, but toward the vast dim-lighted room, seeming to seek a particular point in the flooring, and to watch that with unwavering fixity.

Around the wide fire-place were clustered a number of individuals, who talked together in subdued whispers, and only stirred with due precaution and noiseless movements. These were the blood-relations and heirs of the aged Countess, summoned, by her direction, some days before, and now gathered together in the chamber of death, awaiting the event which the doctor, himself also present, declared to them might take place at any moment.

Prominent among these persons was the Count de St. Yvon, an elderly gentleman, with gray hair and most polished manners. Then there was the Demoiselle de Savarre, a hard-featured old maid, with the bluest blood in all Brittany flowing in her withered veins; a devout Legitimist, who passed her time between saying her prayers and embroidering fleurs de-lit upon banners and mantles, to be used at the future consecration of Henri Cinq, when the glad day of the restoration of the ancient monarchy should dawn for France. Then there was the Chevalier de Keriodec, a little older and more wrinkled than his cousin, the Count; and his daughter, a peachy-cheeked demoiselle, Anne Marie Antoinette de Keriodec by name, to whom the eldest son of Count de St. Yvon was whispering soft nonsense in the embrasure of one of the windows. These were all, the Countess having announced her intention of excluding from the succession such of her relatives as should be tinged either with Bonapartism or Republicanism; and as one or the other of these poisonous principles had crept even into Brittany, that sacred stronghold of Legitimism, she had been forced to restrict her bequests to a very few individuals. There was also present, as we have said before, her physician, Doctor Dumaresq, and her confidential maid. This last, a long, thin, stern-looking female, with a face like a German nut-cracker, was fast asleep in the large arm-chair, worn out with protracted vigils and constant toil in her lady’s service.

The silence in the room was very great, broken only by the subdued whispers of the waiting heirs, and by an occasional snore from Agathe, the maid. Outside, the wind went tearing down the Rue de Varennes, banging aristocratic shutters, and whistling around ducal chimney-pots, with no more reverence than it had shown to the shop-signs in the Marais, or the vanes on the Halles Centrales. Occasionally Doctor Dumaresq would rise and go to the bed to lay a finger on the pulse of the patient, and would then, with a sigh and a shake of the head, return to his seat. And so the night went on. The wind howled, and Agathe slept, and the heirs whispered together, and the Countess lay and watched the floor. Thus the hours wore away without change or incident.

Suddenly the blast, that had been sweeping and shrieking along the street, took a sudden turn, and came careering down the great, wide chimney, sending a volley of sparks and smoke into the room. It could do but little more than that. The heavy logs, of which the fire was built, scoffed at the puny efforts of a puff of wind. One glowing coal, however, was dislodged, and flew into the room, alighting on the very plank on which the eyes of the Countess were so pertinaciously fixed. Nobody noticed the coal. The Count was lost in thought; the Chevalier and Mademoiselle de Savarre were conferring together respecting the possible amount of the estate, in an undertone; the two young people were absorbed in each other; and the doctor was half asleep. And so it glowed, and scorched, and sparkled, gnawing its way into the dry oak of the ancient flooring, surrounded by an ever-widening ring of red and charring fire.

Suddenly the dying Countess, she who had been paralyzed for years, arose from her bed, walked straight to the fire-place, picked up the tongs, took up the coal, and threw it back into the fire, and then returned to her bed. Stiff and stark, and stretched out straight as before, she lay, only the wide-open eyes were closed, and her face was, if possible, a shade paler than before.

This strange incident, this sudden revival of vitality in that seemingly lifeless frame, and the apparition in the midst of that listless group, of the white-shrouded, spectral form of the Countess, startled every one present. The heirs ceased musing or whispering, and gathered together, amazed and startled. The doctor, aroused from his doze, sprang to his feet. Only Agathe slept on in peaceful unconsciousness.

Doctor Dumaresq approached the bed, and once more laid his finger on the patient’s wrist. Then he touched her breast gently, and bent his ear to her parted lips. After a brief pause, he turned to the bystanders.

“Pray for the soul of your noble relative,” he said, solemnly. “The Countess is no more!”

The funeral took place two days later. It was a grand affair, with much display of nodding plumes and silver-spotted draperies, of mourning carriages, and of mighty candles, and of all the other accessories of funereal pomp, as imagined by the great Burial Company of Paris. It was a first-class affair in every respect. The cords of the hearse were held by two dukes, a marquis, and three counts, all of the bluest blood in the Faubourg St Germain. The funeral sermon was preached by a bishop, who was himself of princely extraction. Nobody shed any tears, it is true. The only sincere mourner that followed the widowed and childless Countess to her grave, was probably her faithful old servant, Agathe. And she, serene in the knowledge of a snug little annuity, secured to her by the will of her late mistress, was far from feeling wholly broken-hearted.

On the evening of the following day, a mysterious meeting was held in the bed-room of the departed lady. The heavy tapestry curtains were closely drawn across the windows, so that no intrusive outside gaze could penetrate the chamber wherein sat the three principal heirs of the deceased, the Count, the Chevalier, and Mademoiselle de Savarre, in solemn conclave. Three flickering candles threw a pallid light upon the group, and vainly strove to dissipate the darkness that filled the farthest corners of the spacious room.

The Count was the first to break silence.

“We have decided, I believe,” he said, “that it is our duty to examine that point in the flooring which our departed relative watched so constantly.”

“And whose peril roused her to such strange and sudden exertions,” added the Chevalier.

“Who knows what may not lie concealed beneath the scorched plank?” said Mademoiselle de Savarre.

“Family papers, political secrets,” suggested the Chevalier.

“Coin or jewels,” remarked the Count. “Aged people are often like magpies, in their propensity for hiding things.”

“Let us look at once!” cried the old maid, fired to activity by the suggestion.

Each had brought a chisel, or some other tool, and they set to work with a will. The solid oaken plank was soon removed, revealing a cavity between the floor and the beams of the ceiling beneath, large enough to have contained the crown-jewels of an empire, or the archives of a republic. Within there appeared something, neither papers, nor jewels, nor gold, but a long, irregularly-shaped bundle, that rattled strangely when dragged forth to the light. A cry of horror broke from the lips of the three searchers, as the dim rays of their candles fell upon the thing that they had found—a human skeleton, clothed in remnants of what had once been superfine broadcloth and delicate linen; a jeweled pin, gleaming on the discolored shirt-front; a massive seal-ring, hanging loose upon the long hand, and great stains and streaks of rusty-brown upon the linen, which was revealed by the rents in the decaying cloth, splotches; that had once been of a ghastly red.

As if turned to stone, the three seekers after wealth stood speechless, in the presence of Death and Crime.

The Chevalier was the first to recover his presence of mind.

“It is the Count de Castro!” he said, in a horror-stricken whisper. “See, these are his arms!” And he picked up the seal-ring, which had dropped from the fleshless finger and rolled upon the floor.

“And who could have killed him? It must have been the Countess!” cried Mademoiselle de Savarre, trembling from head to foot.

“Hush—sh—sh!” whispered the Count, looking fearfully around. “No doubt it was she.”

“We had better hush this matter up,” remarked the Chevalier, with chattering teeth. And it was hushed up, accordingly. A roaring fire in the mighty chimney soon consumed every vestige of the poor, dried remains of what had once been the gay and gallant Count de Castro.

And when, a few years later, a grand new street was run right over the site of the demolished hotel, the few who remembered anything at all about the deceased Countess, spoke of her with bated breath, and called her “a saint upon earth.”

The Peterson Magazine, 1876: pp. 395-8

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: A dark and gothic tale, is it not? While Mrs Daffodil enjoys the odd spot of fiction but rarely, she reads such narratives as the above with a professionally critical eye. Poisoned wine was the obvious solution to the Countess’s wayward husband, yet a more bloody method was selected, perhaps in the heat of the moment. One understands the reluctance to involve others in a private domestic murder, but to leave the corpse under the floor-boards for future discovery argues a carelessness quite out of keeping with that lady’s prudent character.

Surely she and Agathe, whose annuity must have been the result of her discretion, could have managed to do what the Count, the Chevalier, and Mademoiselle de Savarre did: cremate the mummified Count de Castro in the immense fireplace. But perhaps paralysis overtook her before this could be done or it was a case such as we have seen at the courts of Versailles and of Spain, where certain members of the nobility feel that certain tasks are beneath them. Mrs Daffodil seems to remember a King of Spain who died because no person of lowly-enough rank could be found to move a red-hot brazier. Perhaps the Countess did not deign to soil her blue-blooded fingers with the dishonourable corpse of a—one shudders to think of it—Bonapartist.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Warning Ghost: 1795

18th-century-couple-and-man-with-knife

THE WARNING GHOST.

Its Timely Appearance Prevented a Dastardly Crime.

A German count, who had served with distinction many years in the Prussian army, found himself, after the treaty of Basel [1795], about to leave the service, not only from his own inclination, but also because called to the management of a large estate, fallen to him through his mother’s early death, but according to her will held during his minority by his father, with whom it was to remain in case the son died first without children.

As a child he had but seldom seen his father, and since his mother’s death, never without aversion, and could all the less love the man, ever unfriendly to him and cruel to his mother, when all the glow of his heart was turned to one whom he, with unceasing pain, had seen at last succumb a victim of many years’ suffering.

After passing some merry weeks among his comrades, and half promising not to leave the regiment forever, he departed, accompanied by a thousand good wishes from his friends who reluctantly saw him go, and went straight to an old castle that belonged to him to make with his father, who dwelt there, the necessary arrangements for the impending change. Reluctantly he approached the parental abode, and a presentiment almost persuaded him to turn back, but from conviction of the necessity for one conference he continued his journey.

The father had married again, and with the second wife had other children. The son, whose remembrance of a beloved mother made him feel ill at the bare idea of a stepmother, was made the more unhappy by knowing how, even in his mother’s lifetime, she stood in relations with his father which had caused the dead much grief. However, the few days he intended to stay there once over and the business done, there opened before him the smiling prospect of a life of independence, which he meant to devote to the improvement of his wide estate. Filled with these thoughts, and more cheerful the nearer he came to his property, already recognizing forests on the side and green mountains in the background as his own, he lost by degrees that unpleasant feeling which had till now accompanied him, and wholly abandoned himself to the happiness of standing on the threshold of a new course of existence.

“Indeed he is to be congratulated who turns his mind to the cultivation of the earth, and brings to it art and knowledge. Nature is grateful toward those devoted to her, and only with the shallow brains who embrace her without ardor can she, in rain and drought, and failure of crops, seem to be angry. The true farmer, who knows how to profit by her manifold gifts, she will never destroy.”

Amid such contemplations he arrived at nightfall at the castle, and could not repress a shudder upon entering. His father, to whom he had written announcing his coming, was absent, but was hourly expected. In the meantime the newcomer visited the garden and the adjoining field, because he did not wish to see his step-mother yet. Later, long after dark, they announced to him his father’s return. He went in, and found a chilly reception. After supper they wished each other “goodnight,” and separated. A servant of the house lighted him to his room, where, wearied by the journey and disagreeable fancies excited by the sight of such strange yet near relatives, he soon found uneasy sleep.

About one o’clock he awoke from deep dreams. A little dog which was very dear to him. and had accompanied him on this journey, sprang anxiously to the bed, and with complaining whimper seemed to want to show his master something. He raised himself, and after he had taken the dog on the bed and caressed him without his ceasing to cringe with fear and softly whine, he gave him closer attention, and observed by the moonlight that the dog’s eyes remained always directed toward one corner of the room. He looked there to learn what could frighten the dog, and his blood ran cold and his hair bristled, when he saw a mist-like figure that resembled his dead mother in every line, and, crouching in the corner, seemed sinking with trouble and fear. She looked sadly at him, and then with audible groans toward the door, while she lifted her arms in lamentation and warning. The count was beside himself, and unable to speak to the phantom; his breath seemed to fail him. Outside he heard heavy steps go up and down, then stop close beside his door, as if someone doubted whether to come in or not.

This lasted by turns a long while, and still more perplexed his stupefied senses. It was impossible for him to scream or move a hand. By and by he sought again to collect himself, and as he again looked in the corner the apparition was no more to be seen, but the walking up and down outside, and the doubtful pauses before the door, went on all the plainer. Then he suddenly took courage, sprang up, seized his sword, and tore open the door, with the words:

“What do you want?”

He could see nothing in the dark vestibule, but he heard something fall near him, and some one flying down the stairs. Looking about, he picked up a large knife, which he kept, and went back to his room, where he watched through the rest of the night, with a thousand torturing thoughts. In the morning, when the servant came with breakfast, the count asked him what had been the disturbance in the house that night.

“So it awakened you, too,” answered the old huntsman. “I thought there were thieves, and would have given an alarm; but when I saw it was the gracious master who went about the house, probably because he could not sleep, I stayed quietly in bed and went to sleep again.”

When the huntsman had gone the count drew the knife from its sheath and found his father’s name on it. An icy chill ran over him. He at once ordered horses. The dog had sprung out when the door was first opened, and could not be brought back by caresses or threats. Just as the carriage came he returned to his master. The count traveled away without speaking to any one, and in melancholy turned back to the city. The fearful thought that his father would have murdered him, and the ghost of his mother appeared to waken and to warn, pursued him incessantly with terrible pain. A riddle to his friends, since he could disclose the horrible affair to no one, his dark meditations not to be dispersed, he had to be given in charge of a skilled physician, who could not learn from him the cause of his sullen behavior.

He died in deep melancholy a few months later, after hearing of his father’s sudden death and his mismanagement of the property. Among his papers this story was found, written down with the same particulars as told here. — Translated for the Argonaut from the German of Barnhagen von Ense.

The Argonaut 13 February 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This tale illustrates perfectly what Mrs Daffodil always says, viz., that the Germans really have no talent for ghost stories. If this had been a good, wholesome English ghost story, the young count would not have died at the end, but would have struggled in the dark with his nefarious father and cut his throat. Upon turning up the light, he would discover that not only was his father dead, but the “ghost” was his mother, held captive while her death was simulated and the count’s inheritance falsely reported to lure him within reach of his dastardly parent. The story ends as the count tenderly enfolds his mother while blood from the unpleasant incident soaks into the floor, leaving a stain which can never be eradicated.

And that, Herr Barnhagen von Ense* (where do they get these names?) if you will be guided by Mrs Daffodil, is how a proper ghost story ends.

Mrs Daffodil will pass over in silence the florid paragraph about ardour, knowledge, and the gratitude of Mother Nature. She would like to see Herr von Ense spout that sort of rubbish to any sturdy yeoman farmer after his crops have been destroyed by a hail-storm.

*Mrs Daffodil is informed that the correct spelling of the author’s name is Karl August Varnhagen von Ense. The Argonaut did not scruple about “borrowing” foreign authors’ work and Mrs Daffodil suspects that they were often late with royalty cheques.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Something Nameless, but Unutterably Awful: 1868

misty drapery ghost of woman and man

THE GHOST’S SUMMONS

BY ADA BUISSON

“Wanted, sir—a patient.”

It was in the early days of my professional career, when patients were scarce and fees scarcer; and though I was in the act of sitting down to my chop, and had promise! myself a glass of steaming punch afterwards, in honour of the Christmas season, I hurried instantly into my surgery.

I entered briskly; but no sooner did I catch sight of the figure standing leaning against the counter than I started back with a strange feeling of horror which for the life of me I could not comprehend.

Never shall I forget the ghastliness of that face—the white horror stamped upon every feature — the agony which seemed to sink the very eyes beneath the contracted brows; it was awful to me to behold, accustomed as I was to scenes of terror.

“You seek advice,” I began, with some hesitation.

“No; I am not ill.”

“You require then—”

“Hush!” he interrupted, approaching more nearly, and dropping his already low murmur to a mere whisper. “I believe you are not rich. Would you be willing to earn a thousand pounds?”

A thousand pounds! His words seemed to burn my very ears.

“I should be thankful, if I could do so honestly,” I replied with dignity. “What is the service required of me?”

A peculiar look of intense horror passed over the white face before me; but the blue-black lips answered firmly, “To attend a death-bed.”

“A thousand pounds to attend a death-bed! Where am I to go, then ?—whose is it?”

Mine.”

The voice in which this was said sounded so hollow and distant, that involuntarily I shrank back. “Yours! What nonsense! You are not a dying man. You are pale, but you appear perfectly healthy. You—”

“Hush!” he interrupted; “I know all this. You cannot be more convinced of my physical health than I am myself; yet I know that before the clock tolls the first hour after midnight I shall be a dead man.”

“But—”

He shuddered slightly; but stretching out his hand commandingly, motioned me to be silent. “I am but too well informed of what I affirm,” he said quietly; “I have received a mysterious summons from the dead. No mortal aid can avail me. I am as doomed as the wretch on whom the judge has passed sentence. I do not come either to seek your advice or to argue the matter with you, but simply to buy your services. I offer you a thousand pounds to pass the night in my chamber, and witness the scene which takes place. The sum may appear to you extravagant. But I have no further need to count the cost of any gratification; and the spectacle you will have to witness is no common sight of horror.”

The words, strange as they were, were spoken calmly enough; but as the last sentence dropped slowly from the livid lips, an expression of such wild horror again passed over the stranger’s face, that, in spite of the immense fee, I hesitated to answer.

“You fear to trust to the promise of a dead man! See here, and be convinced,” he exclaimed eagerly; and the next instant, on the counter between us lay a parchment document; and following the indication of that white muscular hand, I read the words, “And to Mr. Frederick Kead, of 14 High-street, Alton, I bequeath the sum of one thousand pounds for certain services rendered to me.”

“I have had that will drawn up within the last twenty-four hours, and I signed it an hour ago, in the presence of competent witnesses. I am prepared, you see. Now, do you accept my offer, or not?”

My answer was to walk across the room and take down my hat, and then lock the door of the surgery communicating with the house.

It was a dark, icy-cold night, and somehow the courage and determination which the sight of my own name in connection with a thousand pounds had given me, flagged considerably as I found myself hurried along through the silent darkness by a man whose death-bed I was about to attend.

He was grimly silent; but as his hand touched mine, in spite of the frost, it felt like a burning coal.

On we went—tramp, tramp, through the snow—on, on, till even I grew weary, and at length on my appalled ear struck the chimes of a church-clock; whilst close at hand I distinguished the snowy hillocks of a churchyard.

Heavens! was this awful scene of which I was to be the witness to take place veritably amongst the dead?

“Eleven,” groaned the doomed man. “Gracious God! but two hours more, and that ghostly messenger will bring the summons. Come, come; for mercy’s sake, let us hasten.”

There was but a short road separating us now from a wall which surrounded a large mansion, and along this we hastened until we reached a small door.

Passing through this, in a few minutes we were stealthily ascending the private staircase to a splendidly-furnished apartment, which left no doubt of the wealth of its owner.

All was intensely silent, however, through the house; and about this room in particular there was a stillness that, as I gazed around, struck me as almost ghastly.

My companion glanced at the clock on the mantelshelf, and sank into a large chair by the side of the fire with a shudder. “Only an hour and a half longer,” he muttered. “Great heaven! I thought I had more fortitude. This horror unmans me.” Then, in a fiercer tone, and clutching my arm, he added, “Ha! you mock me, you think me mad; but wait till you see—wait till you see!”

I put my hand on his wrist; for there was now a fever in his sunken eyes which checked the superstitious chill which had been gathering over me, and made me hope that, after all, my first suspicion was correct, and that my patient was but the victim of some fearful hallucination.

“Mock you!” I answered soothingly. “Far from it; I sympathise intensely with you, and would do much to aid you. You require sleep. Lie down, and leave me to watch.”

He groaned, but rose, and began throwing off his clothes; and, watching my opportunity, I slipped a sleeping-powder, which I had managed to put in my pocket before leaving the surgery, into the tumbler of claret that stood beside him.

The more I saw, the more I felt convinced that it was the nervous system of my patient which required my attention; and it was with sincere satisfaction I saw him drink the wine, and then stretch himself on the luxurious bed.

“Ha,” thought I, as the clock struck twelve, and instead of a groan, the deep breathing of the sleeper sounded through the room; “you won’t receive any summons to-night, and I may make myself comfortable.”

Noiselessly, therefore, I replenished the fire, poured myself out a large glass of wine, and drawing the curtain so that the firelight should not disturb the sleeper, I put myself in a position to follow his example.

How long I slept I know not, but suddenly I aroused with a start and as ghostly a thrill of horror as ever I remember to have felt in my life.

Something—what, I knew not—seemed near, something nameless, but unutterably awful.

I gazed round.

The fire emitted a faint blue glow, just sufficient to enable me to see that the room was exactly the same as when I fell asleep, but that the long hand of the clock wanted but five minutes of the mysterious hour which was to be the death-moment of the “summoned” man!

Was there anything in it, then?—any truth in the strange story he had told?

The silence was intense.

I could not even hear a breath from the bed; and I was about to rise and approach, when again that awful horror seized me, and at the same moment my eye fell upon the mirror opposite the door, and I saw—

Great heaven! that awful Shape—that ghastly mockery of what had been humanity—was it really a messenger from the buried, quiet dead?

It stood there in visible death-clothes; but the awful face was ghastly with corruption, and the sunken eyes gleamed forth a green glassy glare which seemed a veritable blast from the infernal fires below.

To move or utter a sound in that hideous presence was impossible; and like a statue I sat and saw that horrid Shape move slowly towards the bed.

What was the awful scene enacted there, I know not. I heard nothing, except a low stifled agonised groan; and I saw the shadow of that ghastly messenger bending over the bed.

Whether it was some dreadful but wordless sentence its breathless lips conveyed as it stood there, I know not; but for an instant the shadow of a claw-like hand, from which the third finger was missing, appeared extended over the doomed man’s head; and then, as the clock struck one clear silvery stroke, it fell, and a wild shriek rang through the room—a death-shriek.

I am not given to fainting, but I certainly confess that the next ten minutes of my existence was a cold blank; and even when I did manage to stagger to my feet, I gazed round, vainly endeavouring to understand the chilly horror which still possessed me.

Thank God! the room was rid of that awful presence—I saw that; so, gulping down some wine, I lighted a wax-taper and staggered towards the bed. Ah, how I prayed that, after all, I might have been dreaming, and that my own excited imagination had but conjured up some hideous memory of the dissecting-room!

But one glance was sufficient to answer that.

No! The summons had indeed been given and answered.

I flashed the light over the dead face, swollen, convulsed still with the death-agony; but suddenly I shrank back.

Even as I gazed, the expression of the face seemed to change: the blackness faded into a deathly whiteness; the convulsed features relaxed, and, even as if the victim of that dread apparition still lived, a sad solemn smile stole over the pale lips.

I was intensely horrified, but still I retained sufficient self-consciousness to be struck professionally by such a phenomenon.

Surely there was something more than supernatural agency in all this?

Again I scrutinised the dead face, and even the throat and chest; but, with the exception of a tiny pimple on one temple beneath a cluster of hair, not a mark appeared. To look at the corpse, one would have believed that this man had indeed died by the visitation of God, peacefully, whilst sleeping.

How long I stood there I know not, but time enough to gather my scattered senses and to reflect that, all things considered, my own position would be very unpleasant if I was found thus unexpectedly in the room of the mysteriously dead man.

So, as noiselessly as I could, I made my way out of the house. No one met me on the private staircase; the little door opening into the road was easily unfastened; and thankful indeed was I to feel again the fresh wintry air as I hurried along that road by the churchyard.

There was a magnificent funeral soon in that church; and it was said that the young widow of the buried man was inconsolable; and then rumours got abroad of a horrible apparition which had been seen on the night of the death; and it was whispered the young widow was terrified, and insisted upon leaving her splendid mansion.

I was too mystified with the whole affair to risk my reputation by saying what I knew, and I should have allowed my share in it to remain for ever buried in oblivion, had I not suddenly heard that the widow, objecting to many of the legacies in the last will of her husband, intended to dispute it on the score of insanity, and then there gradually arose the rumour of his belief in having received a mysterious summons.

On this I went to the lawyer, and sent a message to the lady, that, as the last person who had attended her husband, I undertook to prove his sanity; and I besought her to grant me an interview, in which I would relate as strange and horrible a story as ear had ever heard. The same evening I received an invitation to go to the mansion. I was ushered immediately into a splendid room, and there, standing before the fire, was the most dazzlingly beautiful young creature I had ever seen.

She was very small, but exquisitely made; had it not been for the dignity of her carriage, I should have believed her a mere child. With a stately bow she advanced, but did not speak.”I come on a strange and painful errand,” I began, and then I started, for I happened to glance full into her eyes, and from them down to the small right hand grasping the chair. The wedding-ring was on that hand!

“I conclude you are the Mr. Kead who requested permission to tell me some absurd ghost-story, and whom my late husband mentions here.” And as she spoke she stretched out her left hand towards something—but what I knew not, for my eyes were fixed on that hand.

Horror! White and delicate it might be, but it was shaped like a claw, and the third finger was missing!

One sentence was enough after that. “Madam, all I can tell you is, that the ghost who summoned your husband was marked by a singular deformity. The third finger of the left hand was missing,” I said sternly; and the next instant I had left that beautiful sinful presence.

That will was never disputed. The next morning, too, I received a check for a thousand pounds; and the next news I heard of the widow was, that she had herself seen that awful apparition, and had left the mansion immediately.

Belgravia, Vol. 4, Mary Elizabeth Graddon, 1868

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One wonders what this gentleman did to arouse the enmity of his dainty wife. Even a husband with a private staircase leading to his bed-chamber is innocent until proven guilty. And, the last time Mrs Daffodil examined the criminal statutes of Great Britain (for one likes to stay abreast of  legal developments) the penalty for a gentleman proven guilty of infidelity or intemperance is still not death. Surely a separation agreement with adequate maintenance including a London townshouse and a pied-a-terre in Paris would be a pleasanter outcome than a conviction for mariticide. But, of course, that would make for a far less atmospheric Gothic narrative. The lady was unfortunate that her late husband chose such an observant death-bed watcher, although Mrs Daffodil notes that she got away with it, at least for the present. One suspects that she will try the same game with her next husband… The amateur never knows quite when to stop.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Most Expensive Christmas Card: 1874

Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda wearing a diamond necklace, suggestive of the riches of the dynasty.

Maharani Sita Devi of Baroda wearing a diamond necklace, suggestive of the riches of the dynasty.

The Most Expensive Christmas Card

The most costly Christmas card in the world was undoubtedly one made some years ago by an English firm in Calcutta, to the order of the Gaekwar [Gaekwad is the correct term] of Baroda, the potentate who was afterwards deposed for attempting to poison the British Resident by mixing diamond-dust with his food.

The “card,” which was of ivory, measuring 12 by 10 inches, and more than forty elephants were sacrificed before a piece of ivory of the required size was obtained. Four of the most skillful ivory-cutters in the province were employed to decorate the costly plaque, each devoting his energies to his own particular quarter. They worked almost incessantly at their task for six months, and when it was finished the eyesight of all four was affected, and one of them went totally blind shortly afterwards.

The carvings represented ten thousand scenes in the various lives, or stages of existence, of Buddha, and their execution involved more than eight million distinct motions of the graver.

Ranged round the edge, so as to form a sort of frame or setting to the whole, were forty-four diamonds, each as large as a hazel-nut, and of the purest water. Its value was estimated at half a million sterling, and it was intended as a Christmas gift to a certain European lady of high rank, with whose charms the Gaekwar was greatly smitten.

It never reached is destination, however, for before the anniversary came round the Gaekwar was arrested. Its ultimate fate was never known.

Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 24 January 1897: p. 34

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The Gaekwar above was Malharrao, a person of the “vilest character,” who had conspired to have his brother, the reigning Maharaja of Baroda, killed. Nevertheless, Malharrao still succeeded him in 1871, after the Maharaja’s widow gave birth to a posthumous daughter. Malharrao proceeded to empty the coffers of the kingdom, ordering solid gold cannons and a carpet of pearls.  He was just the sort of person who would sacrifice 40 elephants and four carvers’ eyesight to a whim. His tyranny and cruelty were reported to the British Resident, whom he tried to poison with arsenic rather than diamond-dust—a lovely touch one wishes were true. (Far too rich for Mrs Daffodil’s purse, but ground glass will do in an emergency.) Malharrao was deposed after four years of terror for his subjects and sent into exile. One wonders if the extravagant Christmas card still exists in some forgotten vault.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

‘That’s funny, not a grain of lead’: A Strange Story from Monte Carlo: c. 1890s

gambling dice and cards

At the tables were sitting girls who had better been playing drafts in their schoolrooms, and hawkeyed beldames who seemed ready to stake the price of their coffins on the winning number. Only when they won did a muscle relax in their tired faces. The presiding croupiers were a perpetual lesson in the art of concealing emotions. But as they were never allowed to join in a stake, they shovelled the money like so many beans. What perfect flunkies they would have made for the Sphinx! “Messieurs failes vos jeux,” sang the croupiers, and a minute later came the warning signal, “rien no va plus!” followed in a few long seconds by the announcement of the winning number, red or black, odd or even, and the swift scraping in of the lost stakes. And so it would be all afternoon and into the night and the next day again and the day after . . . crack! a sudden shot broke through the great room and everybody who was not watching a stake rushed into a corner, where some unknown plunger had just taken the last plunge into eternity by blowing out his brains. The attendants collected from every corner and formed a hedge round the dead man. Quickly and soundlessly they began moving him out by a side-door, while gamblers picking up their stakes ran to dip a finger in his blood for luck. In five minutes he had disappeared as though he had fallen off a liner into a boiling sea. Monte Carlo cannot afford to have scandals on the premises any more than any well-established and well-connected institution, and is generally more successful than others in concealing them. Blood is soon mopped up, especially if the passers believe that it is a charmed fluid. The roulette ball was soon spinning round again, and the only trace of the tragedy was the struggle of a dozen gamblers to sit where the suicide had been sitting all the afternoon. It was a superstition that the dead gambler’s spirit does not leave the rooms immediately with death, but remains to avenge his ill luck on the bank; and against the unknown forces of the underworld even the bank cannot win….

[The narrator then speaks to a long-time gambler.]

I asked him what the pleasures of memory meant to him, and he confessed that they were considerable. I asked him if he believed in any gambling superstition, whether he thought sitting round a gambling-table ever produced any result one could compare with spiritualism; for instance, the result of touching a dead gambler’s blood, which we had witnessed an hour or two before.

“No,” he said, “but I have come to the conclusion that it often makes a difference to the luck at a table who is sitting at it. Some people cause others to win. That is how it works out.” I asked him if in all his experience he could think of an instance when a psychic influence had been at work. He sat back thinking. Then he said quietly: “I do not answer your question. I cannot say yes or no, so I say nothing.” “Then you must have met something that was inexplicable,” I pressed. “Perhaps,” he answered; “but I have never told anybody.” I knew my only chance of hearing it was to say nothing leading the conversation elsewhere, so I just waited. He got up and began walking again.

When we came in front of the pigeon-shooting green, which juts like a tiny grass-green arena into the sea, he stopped and pointed to a corner of the fence. A pigeon popped out of a trap, took flight, and fell to an invisible gun. Another flew out, but fell the wrong side of the fence into the open sea, where fishermen were waiting to retrieve it from boats. Each marksman was allowed two shots to bring the pigeon down. It seemed deadly monotonous. Then my friend spoke: “That is where the first incident happened.”

I knew now I had only to keep silent to hear what he had to say.

“I used to shoot pigeons a good deal in company with a friend of mine. When we lost at the tables we often made good by winning the prize for shooting. I sometimes won, but my friend never. Whatever he gambled at, he lost, roulette, chemin-de-fer, baccarat, and dice. He fell into the hands of the sharpers, a gang who induced him for a long time to believe that he was winning. Then they played him with loaded dice and he lost a fortune. One evening I was with him and the dice fell six times the same against him and every time for double or quits. He challenged the dice and they agreed to saw the ivory cubes asunder. A third party was called in and in breathless silence the dice were broken up. My friend picked up each piece with a face whiter than ivory himself, but there was no suspicion of a fraud to be found. If they had been playing with loaded dice they had substituted others. Sleight of hand can work wonders. I have no doubt my friend’s challenge had been perfectly justified, but he was up against the deliberate wickedness of this world. For a moment he turned over the fragments of the dice. The scoundrel who had been playing with him smiled and murmured: ‘C’est dréle, Pas un grain deplomb’ (‘That’s funny, not a grain of lead’). My friend put down his bank-book and went out. That evening he killed himself.

“After I had seen to his burying I felt miserable and went for a long trip. When I returned I instinctively made my way to Monte Carlo. I could not change my thoughts or get my friend out of my mind, so I decided to return to the scenes of our long companionship. I immediately found that my luck had improved at the tables. Then a very strange thing happened. I sent for my guns and entered for the grand prix at pigeon-shooting. I found myself in winning fettle. You always know at the tables or on the green if you are in a successful mood.

On the first day I killed fourteen pigeons out of fifteen. The second day saw me in the running for the championship. If you miss five birds you have to withdraw from the shooting, and soon only four guns were left. In the end two of us were left. We had each shot twenty-four out of twenty-six. Then the other missed and I only had to kill one bird to win. Seconds are long on such occasions and my eye was caught by a little sailing boat out to sea. I could not get my eye off it and out flew the pigeon, not like an easy owl but like a flighting snipe. Ping! I missed my first shot and he swerved. Then I fired to the other side. Ping! I thought, in fact I was sure, I had missed, but no, I had just done the trick. As he flew over the fence he suddenly shot low as though something rose in his path, struck the top of the fence, and fell stone-dead on the right side of the line.

I was heartily congratulated by everyone on my prowess. I can tell you it was one of the good moments of my life and, as the retriever brought back my last bird, I strolled to the man in charge to see where I had hit my lucky bird. The dog man was handling the pigeon all over. I asked him if I hit the head or the body. He began plucking the feathers. When the bird was bare he looked up with a perplexed grin and said: ‘C’est dréle, par un grain de plomb! ’ As soon as I heard the fatal words I walked away feeling sick. I did not shoot a pigeon again for many a long day, not until I was absolutely in want of money. And for months I tried to get those words out of my head.

“Years passed, but I never would let my mind dwell too long on the reason why that last pigeon could have shied and knocked its brains on the fence for my special benefit. It was possible that my last shot passed close overhead and drove it downward with the shock it caused in the air. I have heard of duck being killed by the sheer force of a gun’s explosion without being struck by the pellets. So I attributed my good fortune to a combination of natural reasons and my own skill. And the years passed. I went on gambling and gambling, and I must say I had begun to forget my companion of other days. But one evening at Monte Carlo sitting at a table I caught sight of a face opposite which instantly telegraphed my friend’s back to me.

It was the scoundrel who had cheated him at dice of all his money and indirectly of his life. He was obviously down on his luck, shabbily dressed and playing small stakes with furtive apprehension. I know that look so well. A man often has it the first time he throws a stake. He generally has it when he throws his last. I could see that he had not recognized me, but to my horror, when I had a run of luck, he took special notice and came up to address me. He began talking about a system of his own in which he suggested that I should take a share. However, my own was working very well that day and I played on till I had won five thousand francs.

“When I came back to my hotel I was surprised to be told that a friend of mine was waiting in my room for me, and even more so to find that this ugly customer had followed me out of the Casino and somehow discovered where I was staying, for while I strolled home he had skipped ahead and imposed on the concierge with some trumped-up tale. Anyhow, he had been admitted and was there, staking his life and liberty on the chance of making me disgorge a little of my winnings. As he had a revolver pointing at me from the moment I entered my room, I would have been inclined to buy him off as cheaply as I could. But I remembered what he did not, that I had a blood feud with him of many years’ standing.

My revolver was in my outside pocket and we fired about simultaneously. I missed him, shattering the window behind, but he hit me in the shoulder. His pellet ran under my shoulder-blade like a knife. We stood facing each other and aiming. I was trying to fire, but something held me like a vice, and I could not. Every second I expected he would shoot me through the head. I could see his fingers twitching round the stock of his gun. But as I covered him I noticed a horrible look come into his features, and if I was held, he was held doubly. Though I had missed him clean, a look of fear shot through his eyes, not the fear of a coward or a fool, or even the fear of one man of another, but the veritable fear of the devil for the Evil One when he cheats them at the end. He was staring over my shoulder into the empty bedroom behind me with glazed eyes and a tremor running through his body. He never said a word but fell back dead!

“Just then the concierge and the police threw open the door and I found myself arrested. I declined to tell my story except in the presence of a British consul, and was taken first to a doctor, who found my wound slight, and then to the guardhouse, where I was detained for the night, but I must confess I never slept with a lighter conscience. In the morning there was an inquiry before the authorities and I saw from the first that I had matters in my own hand. It was shown that I had left the Casino a winner and my assailant a heavy loser, that he had made his way on a false excuse into my room and that I had been found wounded. There was every suspicion that he had provoked the quarrel.

I was only anxious that the affair should be taken down in black and white for my future good name, and I was quite ready to be accused and saddled with an act of justifiable manslaughter. The magistrates after consultation with the police said that they would be delighted to release me, but that they would be much obliged if for the purposes of their report I would tell them exactly how I had killed the deceased. I pointed to my revolver lying on the commissary’s desk.

‘No, monsieur,’ I was politely told, and they all shook their heads mysteriously. ‘No, monsieur, you may have fired, but you must have killed him in some other way.’ I looked bewildered. Then the commissary went on in a quiet voice to say that they had found no bullet-hole, and he ended: ‘C’est dréle, pas un grain de plomb!’

But whether from loss of blood or excitement, I had fainted.”

Scribner’s Magazine, Volume 72, Edward Livermore Burlingame, Robert Bridges, Harlan Logan, editors, 1922

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Now that is what Mrs Daffodil calls a story with a frisson! The world of gamblers is full of many such thrilling and grewsome superstitions, such as the use as a lucky charm of a hangman’s rope or some artifact from a murderer, so beloved of society ladies. That speculative person over at Haunted Ohio has written of “Dicing with Death,” about dead men’s hands and other dire talismans of gamblers.  Mrs Daffodil herself never gambles, having seen an otherwise blameless butler who was fond of a flutter descend, first into debt, and then to Australia.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

“Poison!” “Arson!” “Death His Bride!” How to Make a Newspaper Go: 1898

police news

The Path to Success.

‘Double Murder!”  “Suicide!”

‘Poison!” “Arson!”  “Death His Bride!”

‘Dead Man’s Message!”  “Poor White Slave!”

‘Earthquake!” “Landslide!”  “Tidal Wave!”

‘Crushed to Death by Cable Car!”

‘How to Run a Private Bar!”

“Prlze-Fight Makes a Strange Romance!”

‘Woman in Hypnotic Trance!”

‘Smallpox!”  “Typhus!”  “Spotted Death!”

‘Man with Poison in His Breath!”

‘Pretty Actress Breaks Her Leg!”

‘Russell Sage on ‘How to Beg’!”

‘Frightful Deluge!”  “Holocaust!”

‘Railroad Smash-Up, Ninety Lost!”

‘Cut in Two by Whirling Saw!”

‘Woman Smashed her Husband’s Jaw!”

‘Three-Eyed Baby!”  “Armless Man!”

‘Strychnine Put in Milking Can!”

‘How I Murdered Ninety Men!”

‘Raving Dog that Mangled Ten!”

‘Woman Samson!”  “Man Ate Glass!”

‘Blown to Atoms!”  “Killed by Gas!”

 

That’s the kind of stuff we know  

Makes the Yellow Papers go.  

McLandburgh Wilson , Life, 1898

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There has always been a moral divide between newspapers one could read aloud to the family circle and newspapers that one might actually enjoy reading. Some editors fulminated against the latter as in this editorial:

CLEAN NEWSPAPERS.

There is a growing feeling in every healthy community against journals which make it their special object to minister to a perverted taste by seeking out and serving up in a seductive form licentious revelations. There is reason to believe that the clean newspaper is more highly prized to-day than it was four or five years ago. It is also safe to predict that as people in all ranks of life, who protect their own at least from contamination become more conscious of the pernicious influence of a certain class of journals, they will be careful to see that the journals they permit to be read in the family circle are of the class that never forget the proprieties of life.

The Cambridge [OH] Jeffersonian  6 February 1879: p. 1

In a juxtaposition entirely overlooked by the Jeffersonian copyeditors, in the next column over from this editorial utterance is a lurid story about grave robbing. Just below it is an article containing the statement: “Dr. O’Donnell loaded a wagon with Chinese lepers, in San Francisco, and exhibited them in the streets as proof of his previous assertions that the leprosy was common in that city. He was arrested but a justice discharged him. He declared that he could fill the court room with lepers in two hours.”

As she writes this, Mrs Daffodil can hear the tweeny squeaking with delighted horror as Cook reads The Illustrated Police News aloud at tea…. 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.