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
10:51 am
Murderers and Meths Drinkers: A strange, grim tour of ‘The London Nobody Knows’

The great actor James Mason stands in a Victorian urinal in London talking about goldfish. Here, Mason says referring to this Holborn convenience, is true democracy as “All men are equal in the eyes of a lavatory attendant.” It’s one of the many quirky moments in an excellent documentary called The London Nobody Knows.

Another instance is Mason turning up at the door of a resident on Hanbury Street to view the garden where Jack the Ripper brutally murdered Annie Chapman. The streets look little changed in the seventy-nine years since her killing—dark, derelict, and foreboding.

Mason was a major box office star when he fronted this delightful short. He had recently starred in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and was yet to make the few ill-considered choices that briefly dimmed his star at the start of the seventies. Between acting commitments in early 1967, Mason donned his brown brogues, wool cap and camel jacket to play—or rather perform—the role of inquisitive tour guide across the cobbled lanes, the dereliction, the people, the buskers, the down and outs, the nooks and crannies of a radically changing city.

The London Nobody Knows is a delightful yet oddly haunting film. The tone is set at the beginning when Mason visits the derelict Bedford Music Hall—the favorite venue of the legendary Marie Lloyd, the queen of music hall. As Lloyd is heard singing “The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery,” Mason recounts how the ghost of a little known performer Belle Elmore was said to haunt the theater. Belle, Mason explains, was better known as Cora Turner—wife and victim of one Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen—the notorious murderer. This mix of the comic and the darkly tragic filter through the whole film—as can be seen by the later sequences of down and outs and meths drinkers—those poor unfortunates who sought inebriation—and usually blindness and death—in the consumption of denatured alcohol. Even an almost picturesque scene by the River Thames is tinged by the tale of pirates chained hand and foot by the edge waters to drown. Locals came and ate picnics while watching these poor brigands die.

As a side note: the Bedford Music Hall was where Peter Sellers parents performed and Sellers was born and raised in a tenement apartment next to the theater. Sellers later claimed he was a reincarnation of another Bedford artiste—Dan Leno.
Now, when I said Mason performs as “tour guide”—he is in fact giving his interpretation of Geoffrey Scowcroft Fletcher—a journalist, writer, artist and long forgotten pioneer of what is now ponderously termed “psychogeography”—on whose work the film is based. Fletcher wandered London drawing its inhabitants, noting down events, sights and things of historical importance which he then wrote up in a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph. Fletcher’s books—The London Nobody Knows (1962), Down Among the Meths Men (1966) and a pinch of London’s River (1965) are the source material for Mason’s journey. (The Situationists were, of course, also known for taking similarly drifting “revolutionary” strolls, which they termed “dérive.”)

The London Nobody Knows was directed by Norman Cohen and produced by Michael Klinger. Cohen went onto make his name as a director of hit British comedy films like Till Death Us Do Part (1969), Dad’s Army (1971), and Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall and the series of seventies sex comedies—-Confessions of a Pop Performer, Confessions of a Holiday Camp and Confessions of a Driving Instructor. While Klinger who produced Roman Polanski’s early films Cul-de-Sac and Repulsion went on to produce Michael Caine in Get Carter and Pulp and the Lee Marvin/Roger Moore feature Shout at the Devil.

If there’s one thing you are going to watch today then make it this—as it’s a rewarding look back at a world long gone (London during a year change) the year of so-called psychedelia and the “summer of love.” As can be seen from this film—that world was media hype—the world of The London Nobody Knows was very, very real.
Watch ‘The London Nobody Knows’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
09:46 am
That ‘Star Trek’ episode where Jack the Ripper takes over the Enterprise so everyone gets super high
09:08 am

I didn’t want to write this post, but the burden of TV history weighs heavy on my shoulders. The 50th anniversary of Star Trek came and went, and in all the fanfare, I saw no mention of the original series’ single most bizarre episode. Forget the one where they’re back in the 1920s, or the one where they’re at the O.K. Corral with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, or the one where Kirk and Spock fight Genghis Khan alongside Abraham Lincoln; this right here is the goods.

Before last night, I hadn’t seen “Wolf in the Fold” for about 30 years. I watched it again to make sure my memory was accurate, and I can confirm that this is without a doubt the most insane episode of Star Trek that ever made it to the screen. It is actually even weirder than I remembered. A space séance is involved.

I don’t want to give away much more of the plot, but you’ll see what I mean if I set it up briefly. Kirk, Bones, and Scotty go whoring on the “hedonistic” planet Argelius II, which looks just like foggy London town. Next thing you know, Scotty’s standing over a dead belly dancer with a bloody knife in his hand. Kirk asks what kind of legal process they have in this jerkwater, when the Prefect, making a grand entrance, declares: 

The law of Argelius is love.

Then comes the Jack the Ripper business and the whole crew getting messy on tranks. And there is so much more I’m deliberately leaving out.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
09:08 am