Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s Hangman.

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Albert followed his father and Uncle into the exclusive club of British hangmen. There were few executions in Britain in 1932, and the first execution Pierrepoint attended was in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, on 29 December 1932, when his uncle Thomas was chief executioner at the hanging of Patrick McDermott, a young Irish farmer.
He engaged his nephew as assistant executioner even though Pierrepoint had not yet observed a hanging in England and thus, despite being on the Home Office list of approved Assistant Executioners, was not allowed to officiate in England.
Pierrepoint’s first execution as “number one”  was that of nightclub owner and gangster Antonio “Babe” Mancini at Pentonville prison, London, on 17 October 1941; Mancini said “Cheerio!” before the trapdoor was sprung.
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Karel Richter (centre) shows MI5 officers where he hid documents after he had parachuted into England.
On 10 December 1941, Pierrepoint executed German spy Karel Richter at Wandsworth Prison. Writing about the execution in his memoirs, in which he changed Richter’s name to “Otto Schmidt”, Pierrepoint called it a “terrible mess”.
When Pierrepoint entered the condemned man’s cell that morning he saw that something was wrong. Richter should have been sitting at the table with his back to the door.
Pierrepoint could then easily approach the man as he stood up and pinion his wrists behind him. Instead, Richter was seated at the table facing the door. As Pierrepoint entered, Richter glowered and clenched his fists.
He stood up, threw aside one of the guards and charged headfirst at the stone wall. Stunned momentarily, Richter rose and shook his head. Two guards threw themselves on him.
After a struggle, Pierrepoint managed to get the leather strap around Richter’s wrists. As the guards pulled Richter to his feet, Pierrepoint was called back, for Richter had burst the leather strap from eye-hole to eye-hole and was free again.
After another struggle, the strap was wrapped tightly around Richter’s wrists. He was brought to the scaffold where a strap was wrapped around his ankles, followed by a cap and noose.
Just as Pierrepoint pulled the lever, Richter jumped up with bound feet. As he plummeted through the trap door, Pierrepoint could see that the noose was slipping but it became stuck under Richter’s nose. The prison medical officer determined, however, that it was an instantaneous, clean death.
On 29 August 1943, Pierrepoint married Annie Fletcher, who had run a sweet shop and tobacconist two doors from the grocery where he worked. They set up home at East Street, Newton Heath, Manchester.
Following the Second World War, the British occupation authorities conducted a series of trials of Nazi concentration camp staff, and from the initial Belsen Trial 11 death sentences were handed down in November 1945.
It was agreed that Pierrepoint would conduct the executions, and on 11 December he flew to Germany for the first time to execute the 11, plus two other Germans convicted of murdering an RAF pilot in the Netherlands in March 1945.
Over the next four years, he travelled to Germany and Austria 25 times to execute 200 war criminals.
The press discovered his identity and he became a celebrity, hailed as a sort of war hero, meting out justice to the Nazis.
The boost in income provided by the German executions allowed Pierrepoint to leave the grocery business, and he and Anne took over a pub on Manchester Road, Hollinwood, between Oldham and Failsworth.
Pierrepoint resigned in 1956 over a disagreement with the Home Office about his fees.
via Albert Pierrepoint – Wikipedia.

Pearl Curran, Ghostwriter for Patience Worth (deceased).

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Artistic Rendition of Pearl Curran.
Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name. Wait, I would speak with thee. If thou shalt live, then so shall I… Good friends, let us be merrie.
On July 8th 1913, after months of experimentation, a St. Louis housewife named Pearl Curran finally had a breakthrough with her Ouija board.
From this initial correspondence, Pearl Curran wrote (or depending on your perspective, transcribed) millions of words she attributed to a seventeenth-century poet who called herself Patience Worth.
Historical novels, religious tracts, and lyric poems were published and embraced by mainstream scholars as authentic examples of early American literature mediated from beyond the grave.
The figure of Patience Worth was commended as an exemplary writer by organizations such as the Joint Committee of Literary Arts of New York.
She was included in journals alongside such future canonical authors as Edna St. Vincent Millay and she appeared in collections such as the Anthology of Magazine Writing and the Yearbook of American Poetry.
All the more amazingly, readers and critics agreed that this was new work by a woman who claimed to have been dead for more two and a half centuries.
Please read on via Ghostwriter and Ghost: The Strange Case of Pearl Curran & Patience Worth | The Public Domain Review.

The Salem Witch Trials, Massachusetts, 1692..

gileslong1The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the Devil’s magic—and 20 were executed.
Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice, and it continues to beguile the popular imagination more than 300 years later.
Several centuries ago, many practicing Christians, and those of other religions, had a strong belief that the Devil could give certain people known as witches the power to harm others in return for their loyalty.
A “witchcraft craze” rippled through Europe from the 1300s to the end of the 1600s. Tens of thousands of supposed witches—mostly women—were executed.
Controversy also brewed over Reverend Samuel Parris, who became Salem Village’s first ordained minister in 1689, and was disliked because of his rigid ways and greedy nature. The Puritan villagers believed all the quarreling was the work of the Devil.
In January of 1692, Reverend Parris’ daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, started having “fits.” They screamed, threw things, uttered peculiar sounds and contorted themselves into strange positions, and a local doctor blamed the supernatural.
Another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes. On February 29, under pressure from magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: Tituba, the Parris’ Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman.
Read on via A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials | History | Smithsonian.

The Skeleton Queen, Coastal Shoot by Rob Woodcox, Portland.

rob-woodcox-01Portland-based photographer Rob Woodcox has released “The Skeleton Queen,” a portrait series that tells the story of a woman and her harrowing journey to find love.
A group of Woodcox’s friends gathered on the beach, where artist Chelsea Sinks painted their bodies like skeletons.
Dressed in dark lace and torn rags, the model Chelsea Page posed as the weathered-but-powerful Skeleton Queen herself, and Michelle Hebert assisted with the photo shoot’s design.

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Like a contemporary retelling of an ageless story, Woodcox does an excellent job bringing Old-World-esque fairy-tale imagery to the haunted shores of Oregon.

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Unbroken by her desires and ambitious quest, the Skeleton Queen stands as a metaphorical figure of those who have survived the trials of love and found a greater personal fulfillment at the end.
See more via The Skeleton Queen: Spooky Coastal Photoshoot by Rob Woodcox | Illusion Magazine

The Earliest Patients of Brain Surgery.

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For more than three decades, two amazing relics of medical history lay rotting underneath a Yale University dorm—Dr. Harvey Cushing’s collection of brains, and his collection of patient photography.
The former has been given its own exhibition space in Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University, open to the public since 2010.
About 500 brains sit in the $1.4 million-dollar Cushing Center, carefully preserved in the leaden glass jars in which they arrived.
The 10,000 glass plates, though, have only just begun their journey to public consumption.
Its contents are finally beginning to be seen—the pictures in this story have only been digitized in the past year and they are published here for the first time. The images are staggering.
Babies with distended skulls sit on a mother’s knee.
Neat scars form patterns on patient skulls, like farmland seen from an airplane window. Often, the photos are taken in profile, or are a close-up of hands.
Some of the most bewitching pictures involve a patient staring at the camera head-on, with a directness rare in today’s selfie-strewn world.

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“They just keep revealing themselves,” says Terry Dagradi, Cushing Center Coordinator, “
They are amazing not because they were shot to be amazing.
See more Images via See These Stunning Photos Of Brain Surgery’s Earliest Patients | Atlas Obscura.

“Why are Clowns so Scary?”

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Children are frightened by clown-themed decor in hospitals, a survey suggests. How did the smiley circus entertainers become a horror staple?
Anyone who has read Stephen King’s “It” would probably never choose to decorate a children’s ward with clowns.
And it probably comes as no surprise to horror fans that a University of Sheffield study of 250 children for a report on hospital design suggests the children find clown motifs “frightening and unknowable”.
It is the fear of the mask, the fact that it doesn’t change and is relentlessly comical
One might suspect that popular culture is to blame.
In It, made into a television movie in 1990 and re-made as a cinema release in 2017 Stephen King created a child-murdering monster that appeared as a demonic clown.
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King’s It has sparked a slew of schlocky movies over the past 20 years, known as the killer clown or evil clown genre.
Examples include Clownhouse from 1990 where three boys at home alone are menaced by escaped mental patients who have taken on the identities of clowns they have killed.
S.I.C.K., Killjoy and the Camp Blood Trilogy are other low-budget examples of the genre.
But perhaps the highlight is 1988’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space, with the tagline “In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream”.
via BBC News – Why are clowns scary?.