No. 423
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
April 23, 2019

An Undertaker’s Assistant’s Mistake.

August 26, 2014
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Hanged April 23, 1845 for poisoning her brother Charles Dimond — and commonly suspected to have offed several other family members by means of arsenic — the “Shapwick Murderess” Sarah Freeman insisted her innocence to her very last breath. “I am as innocent as a lamb,” she said to the hangman William Calcraft as he […]
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ExecutedToday.com - 4/23/2019

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The Savoy bookstore in Westerly, R.I. was cram-packed with Borden case enthusiasts this evening as author Cara Robertson held forth …

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Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts - 3/26/2019
"Roses are red, Violets are blue, And my cat is, too." Cats and weird little stories from the past.  What could be more Strange Company than that?  For this reason, I'm delighted to temporarily pass the blog's steering wheel over to Peggy Gavan, whose upcoming book, "The Cat Men of Gotham: Tales of Feline Friendships in Old New York" (Rutgers University Press, May 3, 2019,) is now available
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Strange Company - 4/22/2019

Jeff and Joe Soapy Smith buries Joe Simmons The Illustrated Police News April 9, 1892 (Click image to enlarge) oe Simmons was a tall, slender gambler known to many as “Gambler Joe” Simmons, a member of the Soap Gang who managed Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, 1890, and Soapy's Orleans Club in Creede, 1892. According to William Devere’s poem "Two Little Busted Shoes," Simmons
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/25/2019
Rosa Buckstahlen and Ida Bjornstad, servants in the Chicago mansion of Amos J. Snell, were awakened at 2:00 the morning of February 8, 1888, by the sound of a gunshot from the floor below. They heard someone shout “Get out! Get out of here!” followed by more gunshots, then silence. Thinking that all was well—or more likely, too frightened to do anything else—the girls went back to sleep.
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Murder by Gaslight - 4/20/2019
I count six transportation options Brooklynites had in 1915, according to this rich and detailed postcard of Flatbush Avenue. There’s the elevated train, of course, as well as a streetcar, automobile, bicycle, horse and wagon, and of course, getting around on foot, as most of the crowd seems to be doing—when they’re not mugging for […]
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Ephemeral New York - 4/21/2019
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
The Drama of Life, | The Girls Have a New Game.

An Undertaker’s Assistant’s Mistake.

She wasn't the corpse.

She Wasn’t the Corpse.

The Queer blunder made by the assistant of an undertaker in a house of mourning, Bridgeport, Conn. [more]

In a town near Bridgewater, Conn., death entered an estimable household at midnight, and an undertaker from the city was summoned by telegraph. On arriving at the house the undertaker sent his assistant to an upper chamber to prepare the corpse. Taking her box of bandages, sponges, &c., the assistant went, as she thought, to the room indicated, but instead she entered the room of a young lady, a member of the bereaved family, who had fallen sound asleep from exhaustion caused by her constant attention at the sick bed. The attendant had an old-fashioned tallow dip, which she set on the stand, and depositing her box on the bed by the side of the sleeping beauty she began operations. Takin a soft sponged she carefully washed the face observing, what was not unusual, that the flesh was still warm. The young lady slept on, but when a fine-toothed comb was drawn through some tangled crimps of her hair she awoke with a suddenness that upset bot the attendant and the box of implements. Both ladies gave a shriek that could have been heard blocks away, and as soon as a match could be struck, for the candle had been overturned and extinguished, explanations followed. The attendant believed the corpse had come to life, and the awakened damsel thought she had been disturbed by a burglar. The household below was aroused, and they followed the undertaker in quick succession to the scene of the disturbance. Although the death had cast a gloom over the household there was a quiet laugh when the situation was explained.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, October 9, 1886.