Thursday, May 24, 2012

Weenie in the White City

Ray Johnson just hipped me to a very interesting article from the summer, 1896 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. In it, Dr. Eugene S. Talbot talks gives the results of a very thorough medical examination he conducted of serial killer H.H. Holmes in January, 1896, a few months before his execution in May of that same year. He goes into great detail about all the bumps and ridges of Holmes skull, and states that he doesn't believe Holmes to have been insane, and that murder was just incidental to his careers in swindling and womanizing. I'm often of this opinion myself - Holmes himself claimed that he killed because of an inner drive to do so, but most of his murders seem to have had a motive beyond pleasure.

Conspiracy theorists will surely like to hear that the doctor said that Holmes didn't look anything like he did in his pictures, but the most striking thing in the study, to modern eyes, are two particular sentences: "Depression on left side of skull at bregma, said to be due to fall of brick at age of 30. Sexual organs unusually small."

It's likely that he took this brick to the head during construction of the castle, if it happened at all.

As for the second sentence.... well, I was a bit relieved to find that Dr. Eugene Talbot died of natural causes in 1924. I was afraid it would turn out that he'd died in a freak accident shortly after the article was published, and I'd have to go back and change up the book about the Holmes Curse!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ghostly Piano on the Tour (again!)

The ballrooms of the Congress Hotel are not a regular stop for me these days - I can't guarantee that we'll be allowed in when we go there, for one thing. But last night one of our usual stops was definitely a no-go, so I took a chance and was able to bring a group into the notorious Florentine Room - the gorgeous old ballroom where, just about a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt announced he was leaving the GOP to be a third party candidate. He's sometimes said to haunt the place - he didn't DIE there, but from a certain point of view, his career did. He never held elected office again.

One night, a few years ago, someone asked me if I knew what kind of music they might have played at those rallies, so we could try some "era cues." That's a trick where you play music from a ghost's era to see if it will make them want to show up. I'm not sure that it WORKS, but it's fun to try, and it probably can't HURT anything. The Bull Moose Party's theme song in 1912 was the Battle Hymn of the Republic - people would spontaneously break out in full-throated renditions in the middle of TR's speeches.

So, when first asked, i strolled up to the piano and picked out a scratchy soprano version, stopping in the middle of a phrase. Nothing happened, but it sounded so cool and spooky in the darkened ballroom that I decided to try it every time I was in the room.

One two occasions over the next year or so, there was another soft piano note as I walked away.

On the tour last night, there were FOUR of them.

As usual, it wasn't the RIGHT notes to come next in the tune, but no one ever said that ghosts were good piano players!

For the record, I didn't hear it, but just about everyone else on the tour did. A few people asked me why I hadn't reacted, and then a show of hands on the bus indicated that practically everyone else had heard four more notes as I walked away.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ebook: The Murder Castle of HH Holmes

Chicago Unbelievable Presents:

A Scrapbook of Eyewitness Accounts, Diagrams and Ephemera

What was the "Murder Castle" really like? Accounts of eyewitnesses and neighbors collected from the 1890s through its destruction in the 1930s, with photos and diagrams - many reprinted here for the first time. Our first MINI ebook is now 2.99, and includes an active table of contents and internal links. Newly revised, corrected, and updated in 2012.


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