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Category Archives: Infanticide

Aberdeen Daily News, July 17, 1877. I’m not sure what’s the correct lifeboat logic to implement here. Is it better to start by feeding on the youngest and then work your way up the line, or should the mom have begun at the top by feeding the 16-year-old to the wee ones, then worked her way down? Tough call.

Grand Forks Daily Herald, November 25, 1883. Now there’s a headline to stir the blood, all quivering as it is with walrus-mustachioed dudgeon
and outrage and all good stuff like that. But the tragedy behind it is anything but “unparalleled”: We’ve got a father (fella named Finzer, in Pittsburgh) who’s unable to provide for his family (too sick to work) who solves the problem by murdering his dependents (a wife and two kids in this case) and then himself. Same basic thing happened all the time, folks. According to this very interesting book I read recently, German immigrants and German Americans had a particular bent for this kind of behavior when they were losing economic ground—it was the signature crime of the male German murder defendants. But there is one somewhat distinctive detail to this tragedy, viz: Read More »

Chicago Tribune, January 19, 1919. As we all know from Charles Bronson movies, shrinks and their natural allies, liberal judges, are soft on crime and that’s why the whole world has gone to hell in a gay, socialist, heroin-addicted handbasket. It wasn’t always thus, however: Here’s one tough-minded clinician who had the moral courage to advocate the wholesale execution of the violently insane. Okay, he wasn’t exactly advocating it so much as running it up the flagpole to see who saluted. Read more.

Philadelphia Inquirer, April 6, 1890. It gives me the jibblies, the way some people shove religion down their kid’s throats.

The Daily [New Orleans] Picayune, April 29, 1883. Kate Field was a celebrated journalist, lecturer and actress. For a time she had her own weekly magazine, Kate Field’s Washington, which I think is where Oprah and Martha Stewart both nicked the idea. Dunno enough about her life to speculate on her orientation, but she never married and definitely wasn’t into dudes. 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.”

SingularNew York Tribune, January 18, 1857. Boy, they just don’t publish blind items like this anymore. The third paragraph seems to proceed from the premise that women cannot be impregnated in their sleep. But if Sis was asleep at the time of her incestuous ruination, how did her cries arouse her mother and other in-mates of the house? It’s a puzzler, no doubt.

ate babyWashington Post, August 2, 1904. If you were omniscient and omnipotent, how many times would this happen on your watch? Zero, that’s how many, unless you’re the BTK Killer. So either God isn’t omniscient/omnipotent (in which case he isn’t God) or he’s the BTK Killer. Q.E.D.

WELLJun191857AChicago Tribune, June 19, 1857. This tragic story is a perennial: a depressed and desperately overtaxed mother kills her children just to buy herself permission to commit suicide. I could post dozens of examples had I saved every one I came across, but I’ve tended not to stockpile them just because they’re so awful to contemplate. With nine kids this poor woman could have had post-partum syndrome several times over.

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