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.
In the hard “g” Los Angeles of the fifties, Confidential File was the name of Paul Coates’ column in the Los Angeles Mirror and his weekly series on KTTV, the local station then owned by the Times-Mirror Company. Coates’ beat was vice: housewives on goofballs, medical quackery, La Cosa Nostra, the “tragic social problem” of homosexuality. According to Stephan Hoeller, the bishop of L.A.‘s Ecclesia Gnostica, Louis Culling and Meeka Aldrich performed a Thelemic ritual on one 1955 episode of Confidential File that we would all like to see uploaded to YouTube.
One of the social ills Coates set out to expose on his TV show was an epidemic of children reading books. In this broadcast, Coates said the Comics Code the industry had adopted the year before, after Senate hearings had exposed the link between childhood literacy and juvenile delinquency, did not go far enough. He came out swinging against Big Ink in the introduction, calling for crime and horror books to be outlawed:
In this comic book is a love story, a boy and girl in love. They get married, and after an offensively lurid description (illustrated, of course) of the couple’s wedding night, the book shows how the bride murders her husband by chopping his head off with an axe.
This comic book describes a sexual aberration so shocking that I couldn’t mention even the scientific term on television.
I think there ought to be a law against them. Tonight I’m going to show you why.
Street scene. New York. Time—the past. Man on a sidewalk named James McC., aged fortyish. He has a regular job, a regular life. He is nondescript, commonplace—just like any one of the other men walking up and down the sidewalks of this city. But today death has come for James McC. He has been infected by plague—the worst plague of all. A plague that will eventually rob him of his senses, his sanity, and his very life.
James McC.‘s mind is filled with the most “sickening pictures of lust, disease, melancholy, and insanity.” When the police arrest him on the corner of 6th Avenue, James McC.was literally trying to obliterate these images from his mind by smashing his head on the sidewalk. It was already too late to save him. The duty sergeant at the 29th Precinct Station House recognized James McC. He had been arrested twice before that same week. The sergeant knew it was too late. His only recourse was to send him to Bellevue where he’d be put in a straitjacket and locked in a padded cell—another victim of the curse of masturbation.
James McC. lasted almost a week before he succumbed to a painful wasting away from his obsessive self-abuse. According to his doctors at Bellevue:
Upon examination he is found to be suffering from acute mania, alternating with periods of intense melancholia in which he invariably attempts to take his own life. His language when excited exceeds in obscenity anything ever heard. During the intervals of quiet he is constantly practicing the vile habit which has undoubtedly been the cause of his insanity. He has lost all sense of shame and continues to practice before visitors, attendants and physicians. He makes no effort to go to the water-closet, and his clothes and cell are in a filthy and disgusting state. Ever since admission he has refused all food, and it has been necessary to feed him with a stomach pump. He is losing flesh and strength every day, and is fast wasting away.
From his relatives who have twice called to see him it was learned that his mental trouble came on very suddenly, although his memory and faculties have been failing for some time past. They say that he complained of sleeplessness, numbness and tingling sensations in the arms and legs, headache, and a peculiar itching of the skin, for months before any distinct symptoms of insanity appeared. They attribute it all to self-abuse, which he has admitted practicing from an early age.
August 28th.—Is now paralyzed in both lower limbs. Still violent.
Sept. 3d.—Died this morning about 1 A.M. Is so emaciated that he is little more than skin and bones. Rigor mortis entirely absent. Shortly after death the skin of the whole body changed to a dark chocolate hue.
A portrait of James McC. attempting to masturbate to the very end…
This story about James McC. is actually true. And his fate was the kind of “possible” scenario presented to hundreds of thousands of young men living in America and Europe during the 1800s. Scientists and medical practitioners declared there was a plague destroying the lives of young men which once contracted was nearly always fatal. These men were victims of a disease called Spermatorrhœa—an excessive and debilitating loss of sperm either involuntarily or through continuous “self-pollution” or over-indulgence of masturbation.
The best cure offered by the chief medical doctors was either circumcision or castration. Not exactly the kind of options most young men wanted. Therefore a whole new medical industry was created offering dubious cures for the curse of Spermatorrhœa.
Another poor man has wanked himself to death….
This may seem farcical today but it was a genuine fear backed up by the authority of doctors, scientists, politicians and OF COURSE religious leaders. We may laugh now but so too will future generations laugh at some of our own current SJW panic attacks.
Masturbation was described in the 1860s as a hideous “vile demon” which “like the vampire” will:
...suck his very life-blood, steal away his strength and life and vivacity, besmirch and weaken his mind, take the strength from his muscles, the courage from his heart, sap the very foundation of his existence, unsex and unnerve him, render him feeble, wavering and imbecile, dog his footsteps to the very steps of the altar, to curse and blacken and disappoint those joys of parentage and marital right that should be his. The shadow deepens with him as life advances, and follows him, bringing shame and misery and despair at every step, until the poor victim, driven too far, sinks into an early grave by disease or suicide, or is lost to the world and to all joys and friends behind the doors of an insane asylum.
Among the many “cures” for this dreaded Spermatorrhœa and/or compulsive masturbation was the Jugum penis.
This was a steel clip or ring with an inner ring of serrated teeth. The teeth would literally bite into the penis when it became engorged. The searing pain inflicted on the encircled member by this nasty cock ring would stop any erection or possible episode of “self-pollution.”
Medical doctors believed that when men lost sperm through a wet dream or masturbation they were literally losing their life force. Therefore it was advisable for all teenage boys and young men to wear a Jugum penis at night to prevent any “nocturnal emissions.”
A mannequin peering out of a ‘Lunatic Box’ on display at the Glore Psychiatric Museum in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
In 1874 the state of Missouri opened the “State Hospital for the Insane #2” more commonly referred to as the “Lunatic Asylum #2.” The asylum prided itself as the kind of institution that took on the “noble work” of “reviving hope in the human heart and dispelling the portentous clouds that penetrate the intellects of minds diseased.” While this claim does sound noble, the methods that were used to “penetrate” the minds of the patients who found themselves in one of the institution’s 25 beds were often medieval at best. At their worst the treatments administered by the staff were variations of what would be considered torture and were often experimental in nature—usually causing more harm than good.
The asylum would fill all of its available beds. In 1899 the institution changed its name to the far more friendly sounding St. Joseph State Hospital. Five decades later over 3,000 patients had passed through the hospital including dangerous criminals who had long taken leave of their mental faculties. These criminally insane people walked the halls alongside of residents who were struggling with depression. The hospital would continue to operate for 127 years. In 1967 a long-time employee of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, George Glore opened a museum in one of St. Joseph’s many wards. Glore’s on-site museum housed various mental health related artifacts that had been used over the centuries to treat patients with mental health problems, such as the horrific sounding “Lunatic Box” which was routinely used to treat patients that could not be easily controlled and were prone to act out, perhaps violently. The box, which strongly resembled a fucking coffin of all things, would house the patient in complete darkness in a standing position for hours. Patients were not even allowed to leave the box to go to the bathroom, leaving them to do their business in the box until a member of the staff felt that they had reached the appropriate level of zen.
In 1997 what is now known as the Glore Psychiatric Museum moved to a large, three-story building in order to provide enough room for its vast array of oddities. Below you’ll find many images from exhibits on display at the Glore including some haunting artwork done by patients who resided at St. Joseph’s during its century-plus existence. If you’re planning on visiting Saint Joseph, Missouri anytime soon the museum is open Monday to Sunday and kids get in FREE. Yikes.
A long shot of the ‘Lunatic Box’ which was used during the 18th and 19th century.
A display containing 110,000 cigarette boxes that were collected by a resident of the St. Joseph State Hospital.
A group of children riding their bikes while wearing gas masks, late 1930s.
By the time 1939 rolled around in Britain somewhere in the neighborhood of 38 million gas masks had been delivered by hand to homes in the event of a gas-related attack. On September 1,1939, Germany had invaded Poland leaving Britain and France with little choice but to declare war on Germany in order to help stop the advancement of Hitler’s military.
The masks were made to be portable, a rather terrifying aspect of what had become a way of life in Britain during wartime. In order to try to take away some of the fear regarding the omnipresent notion that bombs full of toxic gas could at any moment start raining from the sky to the din of air raid sirens, masks for children were manufactured to be more appealing to kids. In addition to making colorful masks Walt Disney even got in on the gas mask game and designed a “Mickey Mouse” gas mask in 1942. Only about 1,000 of Disney’s offputting Mouse masks were made.
During wartime it was also commonplace for schools to run emergency drills and there is almost nothing more chilling than the photographs taken during such drills that show children, some still clearly in diapers holding hands while wearing gas masks. Unless of course you consider that hospitals would also run drills and were instrumental in helping teach caregivers and parents of how to put their infants into special “baby gas respirators” that covered everything but the baby’s legs.
An image of a baby enclosed within the confines of a gas mask can never been unseen. So as crazy as this world has gotten over the course of this last year or so, the photos in this post are a somber reminder that things can always be (and used to be) much worse. Have some perspective.
Nurses in Britain helping test out gas masks for babies (under the age of two), 1940.
A group of mothers with their infants inside their gas masks.
For three nights the children came to the “City of the Dead.” They carried knives, clubs and stakes—even a crucifix. Two hundred or more children came to the Gorbals Necropolis—a large cemetery situated in the south of the city of Glasgow. They were aged between four and fourteen. A few were just toddlers accompanying older brothers on this terrifying hunt. There was a sense of excitement. A sense of danger. Some thought it thrilling. Others were terrified. Most set with a grim determination of what had to be done. They said they were ready—they knew they were ready. Ready to hunt and kill a vampire.
In September of 1954 the children from the Gorbals district of Glasgow were terrorized by tales of a hideous vampire. A ghoulish beast, he was supposedly seven feet tall with blood red eyes and sharp iron teeth. The children called this creature the Gorbals Vampire. They said it had already killed two young boys—drinking their blood and feasting on their flesh. The police refused to comment but when pressed claimed they had no knowledge of these missing children or the vampire who had eaten them. But the children thought they knew better…
Tales and half-truths spread word-of-mouth: Wee Jimmy had heard it from Rab; and Rab heard it from Billy; and Billy should know ‘cause his cousin’s a policeman.
On September 23rd, police constable Alex Deeprose was called to a disturbance at the Gorbals “City of the Dead”—the Southern Necropolis. PC Deeprose was shocked on arrival to find up to 200 kids roaming the graves looking for signs of a vampire. At first, he thought the children were joking—but when they begged him to help find the vampire and drive a stake through its heart, he realized that this was no joke.
Tam Smith was a seven-year-old schoolboy at the time. He recalled the scene in a newspaper interview:
“The walls were lined with people. We ventured through the gatehouse and there were loads of kids in there, some wandering around, some sitting on the walls. There were a lot of dogs too, and mums and dads with kids.
“We found a place to stand out of the way because there were so many people there. I think the whole of the Gorbals was in that graveyard. It’s hard to put an estimate on the number of people.”
But what had caused so many people to believe there was a vampire in their midst? Ronnie Sanderson was an eight-year-old from the Gorbals when the vampire story first spread through the city:
“It all started in the playground - the word was there was a vampire and everyone was going to head out there after school. At three o’clock the school emptied and everyone made a beeline for it. We sat there for ages on the wall waiting and waiting. I wouldn’t go in because it was a bit scary for me.”
“I think somebody saw someone wandering about and the cry went up: ‘There’s the vampire!’ That was it - that was the word to get off that wall quick and get away from it.”
“I just remember scampering home to my mother: ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ‘I’ve seen a vampire!’ and I got a clout round the ear for my trouble. I didn’t really know what a vampire was.”
The vampire hunt and the story of the two missing children spread panic across the city. Still, the police had no report of any missing children. At the local school the headmaster denounced the story as nonsense and warned children against believing such a ridiculous tale, but the following night and the night after that the Gorbals children came out in force looking to kill a vampire.
The press picked up on the story. “AMAZING SCENE AS HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN RUSH CEMETERY” ran one headline. The Gorbals Vampire was dismissed as an urban myth—an example of mass hysteria. The press began to investigate how this fiction of the murderous bloodsucking monster came about. They claimed American comic books like Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror were responsible. These comics with their graphic tales and gruesome imagery were the cause of the mass panic. Yet some academics disagreed stating they had found no reference to any iron toothed vampire in either comic. Instead they claimed there was “a monster with iron teeth in the Bible (Daniel 7.7) and one in a poem taught in local schools.”
Then another story spread about a woman—most probably a witch—who was said to be in league with the Gorbals Vampire:
“There was an old lady who used to carry two cats in a basket. She would go to the graveyard to get peace away from the kids and let her cats have a wander. But she was in there the night we went looking for it and people were involving the ‘cat woman’ with the iron man. It was a shame when you think about it, she was an eccentric with wiry hair, but we called her Tin Lizzie. She was the iron man’s ‘burd’.”
In fact, the press were half right. The story of an iron-tooth vampire had been inspired by an American comic—but not Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror—rather Dark Mysteries.
In issue the December 1953 issue of Dark Mysteries #15 there was a story entitled: “The Vampire with the Iron Teeth.” This was the apparent source of the panic over the Gorbals Vampire.
The suggestion that “nasty” American comic books were corrupting young children led to an unholy alliance between teachers, Communists and religious leaders to demand a ban on sales of comics like Tales from the Crypt and the Vault of Horror to children.
Yet our two eyewitnesses to the events of September 1954 have said they had never seen a horror movie or read a horror comic.
On September 26th, 1954, the Sunday Mail newspaper ran the following story:
Hey America! Here’s a wild Donald Trump-inspired playlist that all the hip kids are tuning into! I did an expanded version of this on my Intoxica radio show on Luxuriamusic.com. This should keep you in “the mood” until the debate!
And here we go!
More Trump-inspired music for all you hepcats and pussycats after the jump…
Writing in Vintage Sleaze, Jim Linderman describes Pages of Death as the story of a teenage boy who “hung out reading pornography at Baker’s Variety Store until he couldn’t stand it any longer and murdered a girl in a whipped up frenzy of smut inspired rage.”
Two self-righteous, anti-smut-crusading, Dragnet-esque police detectives investigate the “sex fiend” murder of an eleven-year-old girl. The trail leads them to the rec-room of a teenage boy and his extensive porn stash. BUSTED.
The cops pay a visit to the shop owner to let him know he’s culpable in the young girl’s murder for peddling smut. Wrap-around segments narrated by Heisman Trophy winner, Tom Harmon deliver the Citizens for Decent Literature‘s over-the-top message that nudie magazines turn young men into raging sex maniacs. The exact same stock music Ed Wood used for Plan 9 From Outer Space plays over the soundtrack during the investigation.
Pages of Death is a hilariously dated exercise in nostalgic sex-paranoia that has been described as the “Reefer Madness of porn.” The Oregon Historical Society should be commended for making this lost classic available to the public.
Snuff started life as Slaughter, a dire exploitation film shot in 1971 by husband and wife filmmakers Michael and Roberta Findlay. The Findlays were prodigious in the field of exploitation. Whether working apart or together, they churned out films to meet current trends in the market, so cheap it was nigh impossible they could lose any money. One early production that Michael worked on (without Roberta) was Satan’s Bed (1965), starring the unknown Yoko Ono. The rest is a succession of cheese and grindhouse sleaze, including roughies like Body of a Female (1964) and horror pictures like Shriek of the Mutilated (1974). Slaughter was exceptionally bad, however. It fell between the cracks. Indeed, the film’s producer, exploitation specialist Allan Shackleton, had almost given up on it when he got the idea to film a new ending and precipitate its release as Snuff with a scurrilous marketing campaign.
Scrubbing all references to the Findlays’ movie, Shackleton removed the original title and credits and adopted a new title — Snuff, as in ‘snuff film’. Shackleton was ready to scratch a legend into the annals of exploitation history with a stunt comparable to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast, Orson Welles’ play that convinced 1938 America that Martians were invading Earth. Now, Snuff was primed to electrify the imaginations of a new generation, same as the old generation.
The next move was to engineer additional footage (running a little under five-and-a-half minutes) and splice it onto what was left of Slaughter. For this task, Shackleton hired Simon Nuchtern, a jobbing director with a handful of not altogether remarkable movies to his name.
In the newly-edited Slaughter, the scene cuts away to reveal the new material: A studio set with actors caught in the moment. Surrounding the actors are the trappings of movie making, including one archetypal bulldozing director.
The director confides to a pretty production assistant that the last take “was dynamite. That was a gory scene and it really turned me on.” She confesses it turned her on, too.
What follows is a stupefying descent into madness, and for the tawdry movie of the last seventy-odd minutes a contrivance as daft as it is unexpected. The director, wearing a t-shirt that bears the slogan VIVA LA MUERTE (Long live death), begins to lean on the girl. “Why don’t you and I go to the bed and get turned on… turn each other on, mm?”
“What about all these people watching?” she asks.
“Give ’em just a minute, they’re gonna be gone.”
Still in long shot, still in whispers, the director and girl engage in a little light petting on the prop bed. Contrary to leaving, however, the other people in the room slowly focus their attention on the couple, including the cameraman and soundman.
Point of view of the cameraman as the couple grope and fondle; the girl’s startled face as she suddenly becomes aware that the camera is on them.
“What are you doing? Are you filming this? They’re filming it!”
The girl struggles to free herself from the director’s pawing. “Don’t worry about it,” he says.
“Just move a little back up here — ”
“You’re crazy!” Scared.
“ — right back up here.”
“Let me go!”
“Shaddap!” Then to the crew he says, “Do all of you wanna get a good scene?”
Cutaway to the crew and affirmation.
“Okay… watch yourself… watch …”
“Let me up!”
“Let me go! You’re crazy!”
The director calls for assistance. A member of the crew expressionlessly complies, holding the girl’s arms down on the bed, while the director reaches for a knife.
“You’re crazy. You’re not serious. You’re not really gonna do it,” the girl pleads.
“You don’t think so?”
“Think I’ll kill her…”
The director slices through the girl’s blouse and across her shoulder. Blood (the colour of raspberries) oozes from the wound. She writhes and hollers.
“Scream, go on, scream!” the director demands. “That’s it, scream!”
The screaming becomes a pathetic sob.
Exasperated, he bellows, “STOP!! You want to play!?”
Following a few minutes of spectacular, if hardly convincing violence, the frame runs to leader-tape, then blackness. A whisper punctuates the void: “Shit, shit… we ran out of film.”
Another voice whispers: “Did you get it — did you get it all?”
“Yeah, we got it all.”
“Let’s get outta here.”
The sound of breathing. Ends.
The movie did not premiere with any of its stars in attendance (after all, they were supposed to be dead), nor did it boast any local luminaries. Not many people attended the premiere at all. Sixteen people in total turned out for the first evening show at 6pm. A uniformed security guard was on hand to make sure no one below the age of eighteen was admitted.
Ticket price notwithstanding, Monarch stuck to their original campaign and public awareness of the movie increased. By the time Snuff left Indianapolis it was already picking up momentum. More than 300 people attended the film’s opening night at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, Kansas, on January 30. Many of those in attendance were “laughing instead of moaning”, reported a theater spokesman. Shackleton was driving the print of the film in his car from one engagement to another on its route to New York, ballyhooing it at every turn. Having traveled from Cincinnati to St Paul, he witnessed people being turned away from the box office of the Strand Theater on the day of its St Paul premiere, February 20. Pickets and adverse press weren’t only conspiring to stop him in this instance: The theater itself had been closed down by police the day before the scheduled screening, pending a matter of theater licensing. The resourceful Shackleton simply packed Snuff back into his trunk and drove across the river to Minneapolis, where it played an impromptu engagement at the American Theater, fittingly an X-rated movie house, complete with ads proclaiming its ‘ban’ in St Paul.
The trailer—not really all that safe for work—for Shackleton’s ‘Snuff’
The Adult Film Association of America was not happy with Snuff. Not surprising really. Formed in 1969 to protect the interests of those involved in the production, distribution and exhibition of adult motion pictures, the AFAA fought against negative representation, which included among other things child exploitation and rumours of so-called snuff films. Shackleton, hitherto a member of the AFAA, was unceremoniously kicked out of the organization because of Snuff.
Aware that it was all a gimmick and that no one was actually killed in Snuff, the AFAA nevertheless took pains to distance itself from the film. It was the sort of attention they didn’t need. President Vince Miranda, owner of the Pussycat Theater chain, announced that AFAA member theaters would not be screening it. But by and large, Snuff circumvented adult theaters anyway and played the regular houses. The AFAA unwittingly played into Shackleton’s hands when its members joined picket lines on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. “We called a press conference to say the film was a phoney,” recalled AFAA chairman David Friedman, “and that we were proud to say we would not show it.” But the AFAA were not the only group protesting Snuff. Women’s groups were also up in arms.
The absurdity of a theatrical motion picture that dabbled in actual murder (of a crew member, no less) was lost on some; likewise, that such a movie, supposedly having been ‘smuggled’ into the country, should turn up in New York City and openly promote itself on Times Square and around the country. It didn’t matter because lobby groups still protested against it, media still arrived to document the protestations, and officials continued to look into the matter.
But the protests outside the National Theater, which included the presence of ‘high profile’ FBI agents, didn’t stop the movie grossing over $300,000 during its first eight weeks and it certainly didn’t halt the publicity, which shifted into gears possibly beyond the expectation of even Allan Shackleton. Snuff was a rampaging publicity monster.
Killing for Culture available now in special edition—out in paperback next year. And below you can check out the official new Killing For Culture documentary, The Death Illusion: Murder, Cinema & the Myth of Snuff, directed by David Hinds and written and narrated by occasional Dangerous Mind Thomas McGrath.