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This head of a serial-killing bandit has been preserved in a jar since 1841
09:36 am


serial killers
Diogo Alves

This is the head of Diogo Alves. Don’t be fooled by his seemingly placid, almost benign, yet surprised look. Diogo was a robber and a brutal serial killer who murdered some seventy people between 1836 and 1839, at the Aqueduto das Águas Livres (Aqueduct of Free Waters) over the Alcântara valley in Portugal. Diogo robbed his victims then tossed their bodies over the side of the 213-foot high aqueduct. At first, the local police thought this rather staggering number of inexplicable deaths were copycat suicides. When access to the aqueduct was closed to prevent any more “suicides,” Diogo formed a gang and turned his attention to the homes of the valley’s population. After a raid on the house of a local doctor, where Diogo murdered four of the people inside, he was arrested and sentenced to death by hanging in February 1841.

His execution coincided with the rise of the bogus science of phrenology. It was suggested by physicians that Diogo’s head be preserved in formaldehyde for examination in order to determine whether there were any signs or abnormalities in the shape of his skull that could explain why he committed such terrible crimes. This may seem utterly fantastic today, but it’s worth noting that the scientific desire to find some physical cause for behavior is not new. As recently as just after the Second World War, American scientists obtained sections of the brain removed from the skull of executed Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. This gray matter was examined in a bid to ascertain whether there was any physical cause to Il Duce’s anti-Semitic and racist beliefs.

Diogo’s well-preserved head still remains in a glass jar at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.

See more pictures of Diogo’s head and the aqueduct where he committed his crimes here.
A portrait of Diogo Alves from 1840.
Photo: Rafaela Ferraz.
See more pictures of Diogo Alves’ head, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Medieval Death Bot shows the various terrible and horrible ways people died in the Middle Ages
08:29 am


Medieval Death Bot

The slogan of the Medieval Death Bot is “real deaths from medieval coroner’s rolls,” and that’s precisely what the deliciously informative Twitter feed has been serving up for several years now.

It’s kind of like a Chaucerian version of the TV show Cops. Everywhere you turn there’s a guy receiving a fatal arrow wound because of a “quarrel” or having his brains “struck ... from his skull.”

The person behind the Medieval Death Bot informs us that “tweets are all (highly condensed) accounts of death from medieval coroner’s rolls.” Further, the reader is reminded that the death rolls do not cover what were considered “good deaths” that took place in a bed with a priest giving last rites, for instance. The rolls cover death by misadventure.

The Twitterer also provides some of the many reasons so many people died by drowning in rivers (rivers are cold; wool clothes get heavy when wet; buckets were very heavy).
In a way, the trick of the feed is the same as Twitter itself, which is that awful situations are best described with extreme & bland terseness. So it’s hard not to laugh when you read that Nicholas le Clerk perished at the age of 14 in 1432 because he was “dragged to death by a horse which had been startled by a bird.” No further information is given, and that image can imprint itself on your brain in any number of ways, and if you want you can go to your own grave wondering what the hell happened with that bird and that horse.

If you’re really lucky, someone will write a tweet about your death that’s as funny as that one.

Here are a few of the more interesting deaths:


Several more terrible deaths, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Hell on Wheels: New York City’s subway system as seen in the 70s and 80s
12:53 pm


New York
Willy Spiller

It’s difficult to reconstruct for a typical member of the NYU’s Class of 2019 just how fucked up the NYC subways were in the 1970s and 1980s—indeed, much of Manhattan was an undisguised war zone. Sure, many have “heard” about this on some level, but when you’re perambulating through today’s clean and spacious Union Square station, you’re not likely to be reminded of Bernie Goetz, are you?

Bernhard Goetz made national headlines when (almost certainly as an entirely calculated act) he blew away four would-be muggers on the downtown 2 line in December of 1984. The white Goetz was held up as a national hero because he “fearlessly” entered the dangerous NYC subway system and seriously wounded a quartet of black guys with malice aforethought. The word vigilante was suddenly on everyone’s lips; Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels were a related icon of the time. The Clash even sang about them.

All of this is to explain why, when he decided to commence a project of documenting the city’s subway, photographer Bruce Davidson felt the need to outfit himself as if he were about to go into battle, complete with brass knuckles, a jackknife, pepper spray, combat boots, and an army jacket. That’s just what you did then! Davidson’s pictures eventually became the landmark book Subway

Late last year saw the publication of a book that can honorably be placed alongside Davidson’s—I refer to Willy Spiller’s Hell on Wheels, which includes the Swiss photographer’s subway-related output from the 1977-1984 period. Sturm & Drang Press brought out the book last year in a limited edition; they promptly sold out, which means that prices for the volume have become rather inflated.

These photos are a reminder of an era when two art forms were finding their footing in the city—that is to say, graffiti and hip-hop. The relative lack of a bourgeois and “safe” culture on the subways meant that the outlaw accoutrements of aerosol cans and boom boxes were permitted free rein.

And yet, these pictures do not actually document violence or really anything dangerous. Many of the photos seem like they were taken during the sultry summer, and (as is always the case in New York) you have dissimilar people seated side by side and (in many instances) enjoying the environment for the opportunities it provided to lounge and chat and people-watch.

As Tobia Bezzola has written of Spiller’s subway photographs,

His charming chutzpah is the root of the extraordinary quality of these photographs. It seems only logical that this wildly colourful underground performance appeared highly exotic, fantastic and often bizarre to the eyes of this young greenhorn just arrived from the innocent city of Zürich, Switzerland.

Anyone who finds our sanitized world dispiriting will surely find succor in these vivid and interesting pictures.


Much more after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Terrifying nuns looking down their noses at you
10:30 am


cabinet cards

A ‘cabinet card’ featuring an image of a nun from Quebec. Notice the strategically placed crown of thorns to the left on the table.
After its creation in 1860, the use of the cabinet card became a hugely popular photography trend, quickly eclipsing other emerging photographic methods. Used primarily for portraiture, the styles of vintage cabinet cards were widely variable when it came to color formats, the types of card stock to which photographs were mounted, as well as other design elements such as inscription, embossing, and lettering. Cabinet cards were derived from another widely used photographic style of portraiture known as “carte de visite” which was popularized by Andre Adolphe Disderi in Paris around 1854. It is important to note that cabinet cards were much larger than Disderi’s small 2 x 4 inch photos. The idea was that they would be large enough for someone to see clearly from across a room.

Cabinet cards were used for many purposes, such as remembering loved ones and commemorating events—happy or horrible, perhaps—through pictures. As demand rose, the cards virtually put photo album companies out of business, which was how people had traditionally displayed their photos during the heyday of the carte de visite. Another interesting historical fact about cabinet cards—and something that is rather relatable now—is that the individuals charged with taking the portraits also would often employ the services of an artist who could doctor the photograph to improve (or more accurately, remove) any unpleasant facial attributes in the portrait. So you see, the people of Victorian times were just like us—obsessed with looking flawless in a photo by any means necessary.

This background on the historical relevance of this type of photography doesn’t change the fact that the potently nightmare-inducing images of these nuns appear to be solemnly judging you. If you’re a collector of offbeat things, a wide variety of cabinet cards, such as cheeky partially nude models to hauntingly morbid post-mortem images from the past, can easily be found on auction sites like eBay.

Quebec, 1874.

Many more nuns after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
A Beatles fan is hunting down all the original photos from the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ cover

It’s obvious almost to the point of tedium to point out that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, along with all of its merits as a work of music and a cultural touchstone, boasts one of the most surpassingly iconic album cover photos of the rock era. It was staged and shot by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake (who won a Grammy for their effort) using photo enlargements and wax figures of famous and obscure figures to whom the Beatles’ members wished to pay tribute, over 70 in all, including the Beatles themselves, both in real life and waxwork form.

Parodies of the cover abound (including one rather spectacular recent example by Blake himself), and diagrams identifying all of the personages and objects in the photo have been around for about as long as the album—half a century as of this year, as it happens. But I’m not aware of anyone undertaking this endeavor until now: one Chris Shaw is trying to hunt down all the original photos used to create the cover. He’s documenting his progress on his Twitter feed (@Chrisshaweditor) and on a blog.

Shaw was recently quoted about the project by The Poke:

Being a bit of a Beatles obsessive, I’m excited about the 50th anniversary rerelease of Sgt Pepper. The legendary album cover is regularly popping up on my news feeds and I became curious as to the origins of the photos Peter Blake used to create the iconic sleeve.

My first search was for Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller (the picture behind Ringo and Paul). When I eventually located the source image, with the unexpected chimp and horn, it was so bizarre and out of context it piqued my interest.

I’ve now set myself the challenge of hunting down all of the original pictures on the sleeve. I may be some time.

Some were surely not terribly elusive—W.C. Fields, Tony Curtis, and Marlon Brando were culled from widely circulated promo pictures, and Bob Dylan was enlarged from the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. But some of his finds are quite marvelous; the Johnny Weismuller photo Shaw cites in the quotation above really is quite wonderful, and he even found the doll in the Rolling Stones sweater. I’d imagine some Dangerous Minds readers might have some insights to share with Shaw, and I’ll bet he’d be delighted if you’d point him toward any as-yet-unfound photo sources using the hashtag #SgtPepperPhotos, or through the contact form on his blog.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Murder, self-crucifixion & suicide by guillotine: Old-school paper ‘The Illustrated Police News’

July, 1895.
The first issue of what is best described as a pioneering tabloid-style publication, The Illustrated Police News hit the street corners of London back in 1864. It was modeled after The Illustrated London News (established in 1842) which used illustrations in their news reports, as their readers quite literally could not get enough of them. Essentially The Illustrated Police News ran with the notion that “readers” would rather look at pictures of the crimes that were being committed from Manchester to Birmingham than actually “read” about them. Ah, how little has changed since the eighteenth century, wouldn’t you agree?

Incredibly popular with the working class population, the paper often found itself in hot water for its ultra-sensational illustrated pictorials concerning booze-hungry monkeys run amok, a fatal impalement at a traveling carnival or an old man being eaten by his cats. The more stupefying the news, the better. Police News was Yellow Journalism at its best though the actual term “Yellow Journalism” would not actually be coined until the late 1890s. The tabloid didn’t even shy away from reporting news items that concerned folklore or supernatural shenanigans like gun-toting ghosts or a chance encounter in the woods with a giant serpent. Kind of like when the Weekly World News discovered Bat Boy (the internationally-known boy/bat hybrid created by WWN artist Dick Kulpa) hiding in a West Virginia cave in 1992. Did your neighbor drop her baby in the bucket full of boiling water? The artists behind the IPN would draw a titillating grim depiction of it to print for their blood-thirsty fans as fast as possible. In a detailed article about the publication, The British Newspaper Archive notes that in 1886 the readers of the classy sounding Pall Mall Gazette, which touted itself to be the voice of the “higher circles of society” voted The Illustrated Police News as the “worst newspaper in England.”

The owner of the IPN George Purkiss was so dedicated to capturing the essence of a crime scene that he would deploy his large team of 70 to 100 artists to wherever there was a dead body or some sort of mayhemic event had transpired as soon as the story was reported. In fact, the paper enjoyed a rise in circulation after running stories and illustrations of Jack the Ripper and “Negro Jack the Ripper” stories when the killer was stalking streetwalkers in the late 1800s. Purkiss also didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about what the stuck-up Pall Mall Gazette had to say about his salacious paper. Here’s more from Mr. Purkiss on why he believed The Illustrated Police News was so important:

“I know what people say, but as I replied to a friend who asked me why I did not produce some other paper than the Police News I said that we can’t (have) all have Timeses and Telegraphs. And if we can’t have the Telegraph or the Times, we must put up with the Police News.”

The fearless leader of the IPN would pass away in 1892 from tuberculosis but the paper would continue to report the news using its graphic depictions of murder and crimes of passion until 1938. There’s a motherlode of images from the paper for you to eyeball below. Some are NSFW.


More murder and mayhem, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Body of prolific ‘White City’ serial killer H.H. Holmes to be exhumed
10:49 am


H.H. Holmes

In 1893 Chicago unveiled its massively impressive World’s Columbian Exposition, which had been organized under an extremely tight schedule by Daniel Burnham, and the impact of the idealized (white) urban setting, complete with newfangled electrical lighting, is difficult to overstate. The attractive power of Chicago and its fair, however, drew many thousands of unattached females to the city in search of clerical work, a startling percentage of which a medical doctor named H.H. Holmes would end up dismembering. Holmes’ totally creepy “Murder Castle” featured a gas chamber, a dissection table, and a crematorium to dispose of the cadavers.

Both sides of this story, the fair and the murderer, had become mostly forgotten until they were exhumed with great effectiveness by Erik Larson in his 2003 book The Devil in the White City, which rapidly became a bestseller and has become a fondly remembered staple of reading lists ever since. (As it happens, I reviewed The Devil in the White City for Publishers Weekly—you can read my review on the book’s Amazon page—and I’ve been joking ever since that I “made” the book.)

Diagram of the layout of Holmes’ “Murder Castle”
That word “exhumed” is an interesting one, because that’s what’s about to happen to Holmes’ body. One of the key points of Holmes’ life is that, in addition to his dozens of murders going unnoticed for quite a long time, there has arisen speculation that “he actually conned his way out of the death penalty and escaped to South America,” in the words of Stephen Gossett at Chicagoist.

Holmes has a plot at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. In order to put the scuttlebutt about his escape to bed, officials in Philadelphia and Holmes’ descendants have chosen to open up Holmes’ sepulcher and see what’s inside. If the official sources are to be believed, Holmes died in Moyamensing Prison in Philadelphia in 1896 at the age of 34.

H.H. Holmes
The exhumation comes at the request of Holmes’ great-grandchildren John and Richard Mudgett, who hope that DNA tests will settle the controversy of the identity of the body. A Pennsylvania court has approved the request.

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have been said to have been working on adaptation of Larson’s book for several years, but that possibility is looking increasingly unlikely. Perhaps the exhumation is a last-ditch attempt to revive interest in the project?
via Chicagoist
Newspaper clippings: Illinois State Historical Library

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Earliest known footage of the Beatles FOUND. Sort of.
10:26 am


The Beatles

The Beatles sitting on the roof of the indoor toilet at Paul McCartney’s family’s home in Liverpool in 1963, the very same location as seen—from a distance—in the footage below.
Okay, a bit of background here: This 1958 police training film is the earliest film footage known to exist of Paul McCartney, John Lennon and (perhaps) George Harrison.

Although they are seen from a very great distance, the tiny figures in the shot are in fact sitting on the roof of the indoor bathroom (a real rarity at that time in Britain in working class housing) on the backside of the Liverpool council house where Paul McCartney’s family was living on 20 Forthlin Road. Google Earth alone is enough to match the house’s address, but furthermore, it was confirmed by McCartney’s younger brother Mike McGear that the figures are in fact John, Paul, George and Mike himself.

From Barry Miles’ book Many Years from Now:

The back of the house overlooked the grounds of the Police Training College, headquarters of the Liverpool Mounted Police. Paul and his brother would watch them training horses, knocking pegs out of the ground with lances just as they had done in the British Raj.

“We used to sit on the concrete shed in the back yard and watch the Police Show every year for free,’ Paul remembered. “One year, Jackie Collins came to open it and we were entranced at the sight of her comely young figure.”

Armed with that tiny sliver of information, Liverpool-based Beatles fan Peter Hodgson did some primo detective work, looking at footage of the 1958 Police Show which shows the back of the McCartneys’ home on 20 Forthlin Road which was adjacent to the grounds of the Police Training College, and the Liverpool Mounted Police headquarters. John (18), Paul (16) and George (15) were in The Quarrymen together in 1958.

Hodgson posted on Facebook:

“They are seen, stood on top of their outside toilet roof, watching the annual Police Horse and dog display.”

When contacted about Hodgson’s amazing find by the Liverpool Echo newspaper, Paul McCartney’s 70-year-old younger brother Mike McGear said that’s he’s pretty sure the footage shows himself and his brother, but that John Lennon and even George Harrison might have also been present that day:

“Wow! That could definitely be us. It was a really big occasion in Liverpool and that’s what we used to do every summer, take deck chairs and climb onto the concrete shed and watch a free show. I think there is every chance John would have been there that year, absolutely. His friend, Pete Shotton, was a police cadet. George could easily have been there, too. It’s bloody mad – absolutely fascinating and unbelievable.”

Watch the footage after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Siouxsie and the Banshees on early TV documentary ‘Punk’ from 1976

There had been a killing. But no one was quite certain where it had happened or where the body was hidden. Maybe it was in the library bludgeoned with a lead pipe? Or sprawled across the conservatory floor throttled by some rope? The press carried snippets. People were shocked by the news. How could this happen on our streets? How could this happen to our children when Abba was still number one? There was outrage. There was fear. There was a dread that this was only the beginning of far greater horrors to come.

They were right.

In some ways, it was a mercy killing. It had to happen. It was inevitable. It was putting the poor beast out of its misery. The old horse was now lame and blind and in constant pain and could barely perform its act. Yet still, they wheeled it out for one more turn for the rich people to ride and clap and cheer while the old nag bravely tried to canter around the ring.

But the children turned away. They wanted something different.

There had been noises of strange new things going on for months. Small signs in venues all across London. A growing sense that something had to change. The old horse was dead and the business was out of touch with its audience. The kids wanted something to happen.

A band called the Sex Pistols were playing gigs in and around London. Promoter Ron Watts saw them rip up the joint at a gig in High Wycombe in early 1976. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before. This was the start of the future. This was what everyone was waiting for. He booked the band to appear at the legendary blues and jazz 100 Club in London. He organized a weekend festival called The 100 Club Punk Special for September 20th and 21st, 1976. The line-up was the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, Stinky Toys and Chris Spedding & the Vibrators.
Sex Pistols poster for the 100 Club Punk Special, September 1976.
When the Sex Pistols hit the stage, everything changed. “In one night,” Watts later wrote in his autobiography Hundred Watts: A Life in Music, “punk went from an underground cult to a mass movement.”

The Sex Pistols had killed off one generation’s music and announced something new.

...[T]his was the big one, the first day of a new era. Nothing could compare with it either before or since.

Onstage, Johnny Rotten was “insulting, cajoling everyone in the room, his eyes bulging dementedly as he made the audience as much a part of the show as the band.” The group tore through their set to a thrilled and enthusiastic audience. The Clash played their set, while Siouxsie and the Banshees had improvised a set around “The Lord’s Prayer.” A week later, a crowd 600 deep formed a line at the door of the 100 Club.
Watch the Sex Pistols, Clash and Siouxsie in “Punk,” after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Smoker’s Delight: Vintage photographs of opium dens
10:03 am


opium dens

Opium. The word conjures up a louche exotic world of artists, writers, low-life criminals and nubile young women out looking for kicks. The word alone is intoxicating. It imbues a feeling of both fear and longing.

According to the dictionary, the word opium comes from Middle English, via Latin, via the Greek word opion, from diminutive of opos meaning sap or juice. Apparently, the word “opium” was first used in the 14th century.

Opium is cultivated from the papaver somniferum, a poppy which has white or purple flowers and a globe shaped capsule containing yellow seeds. This plant has been cultivated in India, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and China. Its principal active ingredient is the alkaloid morphine or C17 H19 N O3.

Opium gained its notoriety in the 19th-century with the advent of global trade and mass migration. Across Europe, upper-class writers and artists indulged their fancies by taking laudanum or eating opium leaves and pellets. The calming, soporific qualities of the drug were used in numerous medicines to treat babies, children, and adults. From teething problems to nervous disorders—opium was the medicine of the masses.

The word opium has a complex history that can often be misrepresented to mask racist and xenophobic fears. In the 1920s and 1930s, many writers of popular pulp thrillers (like Sax Rohmer) regularly featured villainous oriental types who intoxicated innocent blonde damsels with opium before selling them on to the horrors of “white slavery.”

It is always worth pointing out that the Chinese had grown the poppy for twelve centuries and used it medicinally for nine centuries before the middle of the seventeenth-century when “the practice of mixing opium with tobacco for smoking purposes was introduced” into the country—most likely by the Dutch or the Portuguese. Foreign opium was first introduced by the Portuguese via Goa at the start of the 18th-century. By 1729, opium’s deleterious effect led Emperor Yung Ching to issue an edict making opium smoking and the sale of all foreign opium illegal. It had little effect.

By the 1790s some 4,000 chests of opium were being imported into China. An all-out ban on the importation of foreign opium followed in 1796. Again, it had little effect. By 1820, 5,000 chests were imported. By 1830, 16,000. By 1858, 70,000. What was forced on China inevitably spread throughout the world.

From the 1850s on, the opium den spread across the world as a seedy place of refuge for commoner and lord. In Europe opium was viewed as a potentially liberating and creative touchstone. In America, it was seen as an evil and degenerate drug that led to vice, squalor, poverty, madness and death.

However, it should be noted that when the use of opium and the opium den was most prevalent or most virulent—depending on your view—that both America and Europe were at the peak of an industrial, social and cultural revolution. Opium did not appear to make people slackers. Even a fictional hero like Sherlock Holmes indulged in the occasional pipe—all in the line of duty, of course.

By the 1900s, the opium den was no longer quite so ubiquitous. There were dens still to be found in most cosmopolitan cities like New York, San Francisco, London, and Paris, but opium was now mainly a fashionable prop for the bohemian, artistic, and literary class to indulge. Those who wanted a real kick sought opium in other forms—first as morphine then as heroin.

In a rather horrific twist of fate, morphine was originally considered to be the cure for opium addiction. In the late nineteenth century, morphine pills were introduced to China to help cure opium addicts. These pills were called “Jesus opium” as they were given out by missionaries. This “cure” was also sold in America right up until the 1906 U.S. Pure Food and Drug Addict which meant drug content had to be specified and banned the sale of products with false claims.

Opium addicts and opium dens became a fixture of Hollywood movies and pulp fictions. In Hollywood, these low-rent places were often depicted as some kind of exotic harem, with scantily-clad women draped over cushions, while eunuchs looked on and a nefarious hand-rubbing villain cackled. The reality was far more disappointing and seedy. Dens were airless, usually windowless spaces with air vents and doors sealed with blankets to prevent the telltale smell of opium smoke from escaping. They were also makeshift, as they had to be easily dismantled or rearranged in case of a police raid.

The following selection of pictures show opium smokers in various locales—from seedy boarding house den to salubrious book-lined apartment.
Opium den 1920’s New York.
More opium dens, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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