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Category Archives: Witchcraft

Idaho Statesman, Februay 4, 1891. Magic isn’t all bats and black cats, you know. “You ought to be scragged” is a lovely bit of self-explanatory onomatopoeia.

Okay, so I’ve roughed out a provisional draft of alternate lyrics to “My Favorite Things” for our own Jackie of Finland to record, per our contractually-binding exchange in this comment thread. I’m also in negotiations to get the two surviving Seidlitz Brothers to dub some backing vocals, though according to their agent, Shlomo’s voice box is pretty much shot from three packs of Chesterfields a day since the McKinley administration. No matter: that’s why God made Pro Tools and the electrolarynx.

I’m kind of going back and forth on the first verse here, as it lacks the 100% concrete historicity that the other verses have. Though maybe I could fix that by nailing down concrete references to back it all up.

Barrel-clad hobos and window-ledge pastries
Irish patrolman and drunks with the DTs
Blackguards and maidens and oncoming trains
These are a few of my favorite thangs

Phials of acid in ex-lovers’ faces
Naked wild women in desolate places
Negroes with blue gums who kill when they bite
This is a load of my favorite shite

Mince pies for breakfast, and luncheon, and dinner
Corpses injected to make their eyes glimmer
Med school students defiling the dead
This sort of thing tends to fuck with my head

Cuckqueaned wives killing spinster cult leaders
Cats sold as rabbits to unwitting eaters
Show-offs igniting their cee-gars with bills
These are symptoms of society’s ills

When the dog brings
Dynamite back

When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I feel truly bad

Jackie: Far be it from me to impinge on your creative process, but I was thinking this would work best Lento assai and in a minor key.

astralAChicago Tribune, March 20, 1921. I think we all instinctively feel the same way about “brown spirit rays,” whatever their source. Then again, if Egyptian mummies turn out to be the primary or sole source of these brown emanations, then charges of Orientalism are sure to follow. In that case, our very favorite color of spiritual radiation is brown–we don’t want any trouble from the late Edward Said’s ronin bodyguards. Read More »

Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1873. Meet the Benders, a Kansan family of saloon-keeping, highway-robbing, serially-killing, corpse-plundering spiritualists. Seems they were doing all right in their chosen line of work until they bumped off the brother of a state senator.
medium cruel1A

Okay, okay: enough with the forensics, however lurid. Let’s get to the spooky stuff!

medium cruel2A

So: the cops, unable to locate the missing persons, enlist the psychic aid of medium Kate Bender, who stalls them long enough for her whole murderous clan to get away. They were never caught, by the way.

That last sentence–“Altogether the murders are without a parallel”– strikes me as wholly licensed by the facts.

witch7-3-1899Chicago Tribune, July 3, 1899. “Spiritualist” is a pretty broad and diffuse category at this time, but basically we’re talking about someone who saw dead people, or at least purported to communicate with them. The bit about the killer losing $250 to his victim is intriguing. Was she the local “conjure woman,” scamming credulous neighbors? Was he a paranoid psychotic who randomly fixated on the blameless Swedenborgian lady next door? I say we hold a seance and interview the principals of the affair.

The word “genius” in “evil genius” is being used in its old, almost forgotten sense of “spirit,” as opposed to “clever bastard” or “MacArthur Grant recipient.”

hex-4-11-2
Detroit News, April 11, 1931. Case closed. But this is rank sexism and ageism. Had Mrs. Thomsen and Mrs. Dilley been men fighting over a woman, Frances Thomsen might have been able to stand trial and win acquittal courtesy of the “unwritten law,” whose simple precept was “The libertine must die!” In the 19th century, American juries took it as a given that husbands, fathers and brothers were justified in killing a man who had been sexually intimate with their wives, daughters or sisters, and would nullify charges accordingly. The unwritten law was becoming a bit of a back number after the turn of the century, but there were still instances of its application in the 1920s and ’30s. I’m sure an example will pop up on this blog sooner or later.
Women could also benefit from the unwritten law when facing trial for killing their seducers, but as far as I know no woman ever successfully used it to get away with killing their husband’s mistress. Turns out I was wrong on that last count. The unwritten law goes through all kindsa wacky changes toward the end of its tenure. More on that later.

cult-4-102
Detroit News, April 10, 1931. According to Google Earth, it’s 269 freakin’ miles from Pittsburgh to Forty Fort, Pennsylvania–quite the walk home for Frances. But then what is a Wellesley girl supposed to do when a 76-year-old witch ensorcels her husband with intent to build a sex cult around him?

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