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Category Archives: Dismemberment

Plain Dealer June 27 1948 Page 52Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 27, 1948. It’s great that the market responded to the needs of WWII vets who left limbs behind at Normandy and Iwo Jima, but there’s something unsettling about those two chipper “Hey Kids!!”-style exclamation marks. (A big Hope Chest thanks to David L. for sending this our way.)

armChicago Defender, January 3, 1938. Leave it to the South to keep these old traditions alive. I wonder if the lawman’s curiosity was exhausted once the racial identification of the part came to a dead end. Chances are it was in fact a “sable arm,” as black people were vastly overrepresented on med school dissecting tables. The golden age of medical grave robbing is over by this time (1938), but back in the day there were actually organized rings that looted Southern black graveyards and shipped cadavers all over the country. Basically any poor population was vulnerable to the medical ghouls. Grave-robbing scandals were typically triggered by the discovery that ‘respectable’ white person had been “resurrected.”

tops 3 17 27New York Times, March 17, 1927. Yet again, med-school humor muddies the waters of what might be a murder investigation. There’s something really creepy about the isolation of skull tops either way. Read More »

3 19 1930New York Times, March 19, 1930. Hardy-har-har! More high-spirited med school japery. Either that, or some Depression-era serial killer is getting a free pass. I’m curious how a whilom police detective ends up leading a brush-cleaning crew. Seems like a downward professional trajectory. Gotta be a story there.

cheekWashington Post, November 27, 1879. I’m guessing that photographs weren’t yet admissible as evidence, even though the art of photography was more than sufficiently advanced at this time to serve that purpose.

perfect1Chicago Tribune, October 23, 1933. Resuming our series of “Till death does you into parts” domestic dramas, here’s a deluded dude who thought his familiarity with whodunnit fiction of the day would stand him in good stead with the law. This is even lamer than it sounds, given the tea-cozyish artificiality of what passed for a murder mystery in the so-called “Golden Age” of the genre (’20s and ’30s). There’s more practical criminal training in the opening credits of CSI: Miami then in all the combined works of S.S. Van Dine, Erle Stanley Gardner, Ellery Queen and Agatha Christie. Also: does a crime that culminates in living in a relief shelter even qualify as mediocre, never mind “perfect”? Read More »

pigA1ABaltimore Afro-American, June 12, 1909. That disemboweled Government inspector would have only been on the job for three years max, and owed his gig to socialist muckraker Upton Sinclair, whose novel The Jungle spurred the passage of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. But you don’t really care about such reformist folderol, do you? You just want to read some serious slaughterhouse mayhem. Well, brace yourself. Read More »

LangChicago Tribune, July 19, 1935. I really don’t understand this enthusiam–seemingly universal among hacksaw killers–for distributing body parts across the countryside. It only multiplies the odds of your crime being detected. When disposing of a murder victim’s body, it seems preferable to put all your eggs in one basket. And when I say “basket” I mean a well-considered and pre-excavated rural grave site, not a big black trunk in a ditch by a highway. If I found a trunk in a ditch by a highway, I wouldn’t even have to told what was in it: It’s either limbs or a torso, and either way I’m just phoning that shit in without opening the box. But I love how “Jung Moy Gee” is the guy’s “alias”. Hully gee, it sure does sound sinister. Read More »

LegsAChicago Tribune, September 4, 1933. It occurs to me that we’ve been a bit light on actual mayhem lately, so we’re running a special on post-marital dismemberments. “Roughly hacked” seems like a telling detail: “We’re looking for an amateur here, boys, someone with no finesse. Exclude all packing plant workers from your criminal canvass.” Read More »

Hope chest
Hope chest

From the Detroit News, March 7, 1931. Tragedy compounding tragedy compounding mystery.

Oh wait–it turns out Time magazine of April 13, 1931, has some inside dope: “At Pine Lake, Mich., Florence Tabor Critchlow, onetime mystery story writer, took poison, died. Neighbors remembered that twelve years ago, while rummaging in the cellar of her mother’s home, she had opened the ‘hope chest’ of her missing sister Maud, found Maud dead inside. Maud Tabor’s mother was tried for murder; but the jury disagreed when State pathologists discovered that the girl had died after an illegal operation. The mother, who is now 92, was never retried. She said she had hidden the body because ‘Maud did not want to be separated from me, even in death.'”

Translation: Maud died of a home abortion administered by Sarah, her mother. God, how inconceivably awful. The fact that the jury mercifully nullified the charge against Sarah mitigates the horror a little bit, though she plainly fell on hard times thereafter. The abortion angle makes the “dismemberment” part hard to fathom, but that could just be your standard bullshit tabloid sensationalism of the time.

Now I’m curious about the mystery writer angle. . .

What do you know: the writer angle checks out. Courtesy of Google Books we know that Flo published at least one story in Black Cat Magazine (subhed: “Clever Stories”). I didn’t get very far with reading it, I confess, but I might go back later and have a more serious whack at it. Black Cat, by the way, is the publication in whose pages Jack London, Clark Ashton Smith and Henry Miller all cut their authorial teeth, at least according to this guy’s Henry Miller blog.

From Wikipedia comes the news that Florence also wrote for The Nautilus, a magazine associated with “the New Thought,” which was basically a precursor to the “New Age” or a copyright-free knock-off of Christian Science, depending on where you set the parameters. That feels right, because the short story linked above has a kind of vaporous metaphysical tone.