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Category Archives: Dismemberment

Georgia Weekly Telegraph, April 16, 1880. The level of detail here proposes sort of a PSA agenda: Robbing graves isn’t cool, kids, plus it can liquefy your eyes. This item would make for a swell high school instructional film, or an equally fine E.C. horror comic.

By the by, my most recent post on Oom the Omnipotent generated a handsome uptick in traffic to the Hope Chest after someone posted a link to it at the MC Forum, which a message board for folks who write and share handcrafted stories about “erotic mind control”–hypnosis porn, if you will. Hello and welcome, sexy mind control aficionados! Feel free to drop by any time, and please do keep us posted should anybody post any Oom-themed slash fiction. I’m dead serious: I wanna read that.

The Daily Picayune, September 25, 1883. Oh maaaan, that is beyond Gothic. Inferably the animal must have pulled and torqued and worried the man’s neck until his head broke clean off. Then there would have been a season of intense insect and scavenger activity until the bone was stripped. But exactly what kind of evidence underwrote the supposition that said skull was that of a negro? Was this the opinion of some armchair physical anthropologist, or did the hard-luck scenario that produced this trophy just strike our hunting party as a black thing? Read More »

Dallas Morning News, October 14, 1922. I’ve been invited to appear on This American Life again (yay!), this time to talk about the great Gland Larceny Panic that gripped Chicago and squeezed in 1922. While refreshing my acquaintance with the story, it struck me that I could have done a better job organizing and analyzing the available material, plus I never cross-posted any ‘nad theft stuff from the BNFTP annex at the Chicago Reader‘s site. Anyway, I’m going to give it another go. Read More »

Recently I finished reading a very interesting history of American popular music, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music by Elijah Wald. Both the title and the subtitle are sort of misleading, though in ways that are more amusing than off-putting once you’ve read the book. The Beatles don’t even show up until the last 20 pages, and what comes before that is actually a rigorously non-alternative history of popular music. By that I mean that the guy is interested in the dialectics of the stuff that was actually popular in its time as a opposed to what we venerate as cool now. 90% of such music has been dismissed as beneath notice if not contempt by the sort of people who write histories of popular music. Wald isn’t championing this stuff aesthetically, just proving its cultural significance while demonstrating the total bankruptcy of writing music history as a genealogy of one’s own superior taste.

It’s just a really smart book: The macro-arguments are persuasive, and the micro-details are fascinating. Among the many things I’ve learned as a consequence of reading it is that old Trinidadian calypso music is really fucking weird and bears virtually no resemblance to the pop music marketed under that name in the U.S. in the 1950s. (Notice how I didn’t say “real calypso music”?)

Take this awesome track by early calypso star Lord Executioner: It’s like the Hope Chest set to a Betty Boop cartoon score as interpreted by moonlighting brass players from the Portsmouth Sinfonia. Lately if I’m not singing this, it’s because I’m listening to it.

Haven’t been able to find out a damned thing about Lord Executioner except that the young Louis Farrakhan was apparently a big fan. (Did y’all know that Farrakhan started out as an entertainer, name of Calypso Gene, aka “The Charmer”? I did not, although I did know about the calypso backgrounds of such luminaries as Robert Mitchum and Maya Angelou. I wonder if the three of them ever jammed together?)

Anyway: here’s the song, plus the lyrics as best as I could make them out. If anyone can help with those blank spots in the last verse, I’d be grateful. Take it away, your Lordship!


Hideous discoveries and monstrous crime
Always happen at the Christmas time
Hideous discoveries and monstrous crime
Always happen at the Christmas time
For the old year murders and the tragedy
For the New Year serious calamity
What shocked Trinidad
Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

What marred the Christmas festivity
Was a New Year double catastrophe
When a man and a woman on the ground was found
With bloodstains upon the ground
The husband was arrested but they were too late
For the poison he drunk sent him to the gate
That shocked Trinidad
Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

In Saint James the population went wild
When in the savannah they found a child
The hair was auburn and complexion pink
Which placed the watchman in a mood to think
“How can a mother despise and scorn
A little angel that she has born?”
That was more sad
Than the seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

A lorry was speeding to Port of Spain
When it knocked down the cyclist into the drain
It was going as fast as the lightning flash
When the cyclist received the lash
The mother cried out in sorrows and pain
I am not going to see my boy-child again
That is more sad
Than the seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

While the workmen they were digging the ground
They [ ? ] all human beings they found
Feet together and head east and west
Number five was a watchman among the rest
Number six had the hands and the feet on the chest
And number seven [something "serious guest"?]
That shocked Trinidad
Those seven skeletons that the workmen found in that yard

Oh, and I really, really love that this is a Christmas song. I’ve long favored a comprehensive turnover of the Christmas musical canon (backed by force of law), and this gets my vote as the replacement for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Norwich Courier, November 8, 1826. I love the white-gloved, pornography-for-Puritans delicacy of that two-sentence preamble. “We shall barely mention some particulars as we understood them” is also quite good. Read More »

Philadelphia Inquirer, January 1, 1913. Some of these deaths leave me wondering if we’re not looking at a disguised suicide. Read More »

Chicago Inter-Ocean, September 2, 1894. That bit from silent movies in which the bad guy ties his victim to the railway tracks before an oncoming train? That is totally Stuff People Actually Used To Do. Not just once or twice either. It seems to have been an enduring favorite in the Blackguard’s Playbook. Read More »

Wilkes Barre Times Leader, October 16, 1922. We’re not talking about the pituitary here, nor the thymus. But do not leap to the conclusion that we’re looking at the Chicago equivalent of bang-utot or that African hysteria whereby a stranger shakes a feller’s hand and the latter’s johnson disappears. The above-named victims really were sporting conspicuously clean trouser lines. Some of the blanks will be filled in, others not. But is “gland banditry” not an awesome phrase? [Thanks to krrraft for putting me onto this phenomenon.]

Anagrams for “gland banditry”:

Try bang, Dad: nil.

A dry blind gnat.

A dirndl by Tang.

Macon Daily Telegraph, August 22, 1908. Okay, who took the time to divide the excised phalange into two equal portions for the pups? Pretty sloppy reporting.

San Francisco Bulletin, June 11, 1891. I appreciate it when some obliging newspaper editor has done all the gleaning and gathering for me. Thank you, nameless long-dead newspaperman.

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