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  • Eleven Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Strange Deaths October 20, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    A slow day in Beachcombing’s world. Exams, exams, exams… In any case, onto the post. The following extracts – yet more death, sorry – come from a rare eighteenth and nineteenth century sub-category of low journalism: the weird death. The closest in today’s world is to be found in Fortean Times’ very enjoyable Strange Deaths column: Beachcombing’s subscription ran out a couple of years ago but he imagines that it is still there. The FT concentrates on the mechanics of death, these accounts written in the early 1800s (and not published together) are though more interested in the surrounding details.

    1) In August 1796, died at Crookhaven, near Cork, Patrick Grady and Eleanor his Wife: they were born in the same. house on the same day: were married in the same house, they were born in: fell sick at the same time, and died on the same day, after having lived 96 years. Their bodies were escorted to the grave by 96 of their children, grand and great grand children.

    2) In the year 1797, died at Harpenden, Herts, Mr and Mrs Wetherell, of St. Alban’s. Mr. Wetherell (who was 33 years of age) was not taken ill till his wife’s decease; but after giving the necessary orders for the funeral, he took to his bed, and died one day after. What is very remarkable, Mr Wetherell, for many years, was very desirous that they might both be interred on the same day, which they were, and in one grave.

    3) In March 1791, died at Horsham in Sussex, Joseph Gatford, and on the same day, Mary his wife, each aged 78 years. It is extraordinary that the above old couple were both born on the same day, and died within two hours of each other They have since been interred in the same grave at Horsham.

    4) Saturday July 16 [1820], a most remarkable circumstance happened in Wych-street near the Strand, opposite the gates of the New Inn. About ten o’clock in the morning, a woman very decently dressed, came, up to a man who was coming that way, and attempting to lay hold of him fell back and immediately expired. On being searched, there was nothing that could lead to a knowledge of her name, or who she was; for though some duplicates were found in her pocket, the articles appeared to have been pledged under some other names, as the pawnbroker declared he was unacquainted with the person of the woman. She was conveyed to the parish-workhouse, where, on the day following, the coroner’s jury found a verdict of ‘died by the visitation of God’. But the most extraordinary part of this circumstance is, that the man so accosted by the deceased woman, and who appears to have been a porter in the Brownlow-street, Lying-in-Hospital ; as soon as he came home, said he had received a shock, from which he should never recover, and died in the course of the same day.

    5) In December 1796, a young man named Graham, a resident of Lancaster, went to Workington, to fulfil a promise of marriage made to a young woman of that town. On entering the room in which she was, he became indisposed, and tottering to where she sat, fell dead at her feet. [349]

    6) Mr Williams, a tailor of Maidstone, died there the latter end of the year 1795, very suddenly, on the road between that town and Dartford. He had a presentiment of a sudden death, and always carried a paper about him, that in case he died in such and such places, he might be carried to his friends who lived there.

    7) An extraordinary circumstance attended the death of Mr Greensmith at Nottingham, in the year 1790. he went to bed in perfect health; early in the morning, without dressing himself, he went to the street-door, and after telling his neighbours his hour was come, returned to bed and expired in a few minutes.

    8 ) [269] In the month of June, in the present year, Mr. Isaac Evans, of Ashover, Derbyshire, was thrown from his horse, and received such an injury as to occasion his death in a few hours. One of his sons, some time back, unthinkingly placed the butt-end of a loaded gun between a wall and a tree, which went off instantly and killed him. Another of his sons shooting rooks at Alfretton a few days preceding the death of his father, the gun burst, and so violently shattered his hand, that it was obliged to be immediately amputated, and he is now nearly recovered. And about ten months since, his daughter (an infant) was scalded to death by falling into some hot liquor.

    9) In the year 1796, died at Wordley Workhouse, Berks, Mary Pitts, aged 70; on being accused of having rummaged the box of another pauper, she wished God might strike her dead if she had ; and instantly expired.

    10) On March 13, 1796, died at Kilberry, in Ayre, Scotland. Mr. Wyllie, at twelve at noon; and at twelve on the same night, died his wife, aged 70: they had been 58 years married,

    11) In the church-yard of Willingham, in Cumberland, an epitaph sets forth a memorable lad of that village, who, before he was a year old, had marks of puberty; before he was three years old, was above three feet and a half high; and before he was six, died as it were in an advanced age, in 1741.

    Any other pre-FT strange deaths? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Can any of these deaths be substantiated?

    23 Oct 2011: Invisible writes in with a some potential classics: You asked for more pre-FT strange deaths. I dug into my files and came up with a few of the shorter tales that I think are FT-worthy.  (All dates are Month/Day/Year). The Times 9-8-1825 p. 3 London On Sunday last, a respectable young man, named James Williams, residing in King-street, St. George’s in the East, while on a party of pleasure with some friends, was unfortunately drowned near Barking. The presentiments which the deceased had of the calamity which has occurred are rather extraordinary. On the nights of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, preceding his death, he was haunted by the most fearful dreams, each of which presented appalling pictures of drowning in every variety of shape, and with all imaginable terrifying accompaniments. The first dream he paid but little attention to; neither did he take much notice of the second; but the third, in consequence of its repetition, making a deep impression his mind, he communicated to his sister. She, knowing the engagement he had made for the next day, and his intention of going on the river, made use of the strongest and most sisterly arguments to dissuade him from his purpose. All her entreaties, however, were without effect—he still, though somewhat staggered, determined to keep his engagement, and not disappoint his friends; and asked what would be thought of him if he were to assign an idle dream as an excuse for his absence. His mind, notwithstanding, was strongly influenced by the conviction that what was meditated as a day of pleasure would eventually prove one of mourning, and fatal to himself. He therefore told his sister that should the catastrophe which he anticipated take place, that let his body be ever so long in the river, it would be recognized by certain marks on his [shoes?]; he then punched three letters on each of his shoes, which he pointed out to his sister, and set forward on his ill-fated excursion. Boats are dragging in all directions for the body, which has not as yet been found. Daily Gazette 11-4-1896 p. 3 Xenia, Ohio Both Called Husband and Wife Die Suddenly On the Same Day. Dublin, Nov. 3 Right Rev. Frederick R. Wynne, D.D., Episcopal Bishop of Killaloe, Kilfenora and Clonfert, was found dead at 5:30 this morning on the sidewalk near his residence in this city. The wife of the Bishop of Killaloe was found dead in her bedroom soon after the body of the Bishop was discovered on the sidewalk. An investigation of the strange death of the Bishop of Killaloe and his wife shows that the prelate recently left Killaloe for his home in Dublin on account of his wife’s health, and had left the house to fetch a doctor for her at about 5:30 a.m., when he fell dead near his residence. His wife must have died soon after the Bishop left the house. [I have to ask: where were the servants?] Spencer Herald 5-1-1907 p. 1, Spencer, Iowa Took Poison “For Fun.” Just for fun, Carrie Mattison, aged twenty and pretty, took a dose of strychnine at the farm house of Frank Richardson, in the eastern part of Woodbury county. “I took it just for fun,” was her only explanation. “I saw it there and thought I’d take some just for fun.” The young woman climbed from the cellar where she took the drug to the kitchen where she told Mrs. Richardson of her act. Before anything could be done to relieve her she was dead. The poison was kept to kill rats. It is believed the young woman thought a small portion would not hurt her, as no excuse for the act can be learned. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Mattison of Battle Creek , Ia. London Daily Mail 12-28-1896 p. 3 London Death From Fright At Braintree Workhouse, on Saturday, a little girl named Florence Rudkin, five years old, died from the results of a fright, through being shut up in a dark closet at a board school during play hours by another child. She was not missed for some time, and when found was quite deranged, and never recovered her senses. Brain fever set in and caused her death. Marion Star June 17 1885, Marion, Ohio Strange Fatality ERIE, PA., June 13 Mrs. Mary Kreshner suicided to-day under peculiar circumstances. A few weeks ago her husband’s dead and mangled body was brought home and the hearse containing the corpse ran over and killed her only child while enroute to the cemetery. She was about to return to her father in Germany when news came that he was drowned. Then Mrs. Kreshner resorted to laudanum for relief from further fatalities. Marion Daily Star February 16, 1899, Marion, Ohio Apples Poisoned by Rats Poison placed in a grocery cellar at Bucyrus, O., to exterminate rats was dragged by them over a lot of apples. Loren Haman bought some of the fruit and his whole family is sick. Ethel, aged 5, died in great agony. Many other purchasers of the apples suffered—New York World Newark Advocate, 8-7-1905, Newark, Ohio Bride for One Day CLEVELAND July 7 (AP) One day after she became a bride, Mrs. Helen Hideg was widowed when her husband, John Hideg, 21 drank poison by mistake, seeking relief from a severe headache. The Daily Times-News 11-28-1933 p. 9 Burlington , North Carolina Syme And Elliott, of N.C. Highways, Killed Hunting Raleigh , Nov. 28 (UP) George Frederick Syme, national known highway engineer, wrote a poem last Saturday to “Old Crooked Toe,” depicted as a wild turkey whose call heralded the coming of death—as a ghostly bird of the woods that led on hunters who never came back. Syme went hunting yesterday. He did not come back alive. As he vaulted over a stone wall, hunting in Chatham county near Pittsboro, his gun discharged accidentally. He was killed by the shot that discharged into his head. (standard obit follows) Newark Daily Advocate 5-3-1889 p. 1 Newark , Ohio  The Same Old, Old Story. Peoria, Ill., May 3 Yesterday Miss Jessie Benning, aged 18, while in the office of William Scott, a real estate agent to whom she was engaged to be married, pointed at herself a revolver supposed to be unloaded, and remarking, “I wonder if I can kill myself?” pulled the trigger. The weapon was discharged, killing her instantly. Many newspapers had round-ups of deaths. This typical selection, from the Massillon Independent 9-13-1906 p. 1, Massillon, Ohio, is headed CUT TO THE QUICK. T L Magruder, lawyer at Piqua , O., died suddenly of acute indigestion. Alfred Slutz’s 2-year-old child set fire to its clothing while playing with matches at Fredericksburg , O., and burned to death. Ethel Williamson, 25, of Muncie , Ind. , poured oil on her clothing, set fire to them and was fatally burned. Thought her lover was unfaithful. William Tanley, superintendent of Cross Creek mines near Bridgeport , O., dropped dead when told that his 5-year-old daughter died of diphtheria. New Smyrna Daily News 6-18-1915 p. 3, New Smyrna, Florida SHOOTS BROTHER AS GHOST Living in “Haunted House” in Georgia , Slayer Makes Tragic Mistake. Waycross , Ga. Mistaking his twenty-year-old brother Harley McQuaig, for a ghost, Lee McQuaig shot and almost instantly killed him, riddling him with a shotgun. The tragedy occurred at the home of their father, Anderson McQuaig, three miles northwest of Waycross . The younger McQuaig had been left at home, while his brother came to Waycross . Harley, who lives at Rustins, seven miles west, called at his father’s home unexpectedly. The younger brother evidently did not hear his hail for he shot Harley down before he reached the steps. The McQuaig place has for years had the reputation of being haunted and Lee has been heard to remark that if he ever saw a ghost he would surely fix him. The dead man leaves a wife and young child. No arrests have been made. The Elyria Democrat October 1, 1896 p 3, Elyria, Ohio Didn’t Want to Preach and Suicided Millersburg, Sept. 26 Aaron Miller, a prosperous Berlin Twp farmer, committed suicide Friday by hanging himself. He was a member of the Amish church and had been a year ago selected, according to an established custom, as one of the preachers of the church. This was against his wishes, and worrying over the matter unbalanced his mind and he took his life. Just as an aside, for strange deaths and lives, you might want to dip into a personal favorite: Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy, a collection of newspaper articles and photos from small, late-19th-early 20th century Wisconsin towns. Rich in religious mania, suicide by Paris Green, incendiaries, post-mortem photos, and lunatics of all descriptions. As Library Journal said: “The whole package seems to confirm that the good old days were actually awful.”Thanks Invisible, you are a legend!