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Henrietta Helen Olivia Robarts Durand-Deacon. I am tempted to say this is the only picture of her, but on closer inspection, it would appear there are two of them taken on entirely different days in completely different outfits, but nearly identical.

She was one of the victims of John George “Acid Bath” Haigh, mentioned in the previous post. He took her to his ‘workshop’ on the pretext of discussing an invention of hers, whereupon he conked her on the head and dissolved her in a vat of acid. For her lambswool coat and the small change in her purse. Kind of a moron, was Haigh.

I very nearly started a True Crime blog years ago, before this one. There are millions of them now — there were probably dozens of them then — but I like to think I’d have brought something a little different to the genre. A little weaselly.

Like, for example, I’d always rather lead with the picture of a victim than the killer (though I was awfully tempted to illustrate this with a picture of Mrs D-D’s gallstones: the only part of her body to survive the acid bath).

I am not fond of murderers. It’s a damn shame that cults of personality spring up around serial killers, because they are always, always, ALWAYS giant losers. Too dumb to make a living some other way or too stunted and damaged to relate to other humans like an actual person.

And it’s tragic when journalists refer to them as “monsters” — they love that. It’s sounds so powerful and scary. And aspiring not-yet-serial-killers hear that and think, “monster. Yes. That is just how I would like to be remembered.”

Anyway, every true crime story has one — or at least one — little nugget of…je ne sais quois. A little factoid, often overlooked.

In Olive’s case, it’s the invention she wanted to discuss with Haigh: artificial fingernails.

Mrs Olive Durand Deacon was the widow of a war hero and had been an active suffragette in her day, even spending a night in the cells after throwing a brick through a window. But now she was a respectable lady in her late sixties – and rich. She was delighted to hear that nice Mr Haigh, who sat on the table opposite her in the hotel, was an inventor. She had a scheme herself to produce and patent artificial fingernails. This was 1949 and the post-war period when women wanted a bit of glamour. Mr Haigh liked the idea, and suggested she come down to the workshop to look at a few blueprints he’d knocked up for the project. That was the last they ever saw of her.

I’m no expert on artificial fingernails, but a cursory Google makes this at least thirty years before artificial fingernails became a thing. I like to think there’s a universe in which Haigh wasn’t an insufferable twat and they both died stinking filthy rich cosmetics barons.

February 19, 2019 — 8:17 pm
Comments: 16



Welp, he’s gone. History’s most famous case of the Crazy Eye.

Y’all may recall I am (or used to be) muchly into True Crime, but I’ve never had much interest in Manson. He was a petty criminal who had spent more than half his life in prison when he was released in the late Sixties. He looked around at the shit going down and thought, “yeah, I can work with this.”

It’s not even certain whether he ever killed anyone his own self. He surely wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the famous murders. He egged other people on and mugged for the cameras.

A tiny, manipulative clown. And now he’s dead. Shame he lived so long.

And Mitchell has won the Dead Pool!

Good on yer, Mitchell. We shall reassemble here Friday for the next one. Which is good – I’ve got a seminar to go to Friday that includes four hours of car travel. I ain’t going to be fit to post.

November 20, 2017 — 8:13 pm
Comments: 19

Dammit, Carl!


I was really hoping someone would win dick with Ian Brady. Carl picked him, but forgot he’d made a pick earlier in the Dead Pool, so no soap. Damn.

Brady was the driving half of the Moors Murderers, a famous and horrible British true crime from the Sixties. He dead. At last.

The reel-to-reel recording of 10-year-old Leslie Ann Downey pleading for her life is still regarded as the most upsetting evidence ever revealed in a British courtroom. (Don’t worry – the transcript’s been out there for years, but the audio won’t be allowed to escape until we’re all safely gone).

Of the two, Myra Hindley was always more a hate object. Brady was a sexual sadist and wannabe Nazi, but he was undeniably screw loose. Hindley, though — her only motivation was to stand by her man. She did those horrible things without having a taste for horrible things.

I don’t think she ever really understood what the fuss was about. She went to her grave complaining that the famous mugshot (upper right) was so unflattering. So I guess she clearly had a screw loose, too — she just seems more evil to his sick, somehow.

When she died in 2002, there were people who were and had been agitating hard for her release for years, including obligatory celebrities. And this, chilrun, is why I favor the death penalty.

Today’s gut fact: a NYT article on a guy who gave up soap in favor of deliberately colonizing his skin with beneficial bacteria.

May 16, 2017 — 9:36 pm
Comments: 8

I love these


Victorian mugshots from Gloustershire, dug up by Ancestry. Lots of these have gone online in the last few y ears, and I just love them.

This was in the Mail today, so you’ve probably seen it. (There are times I think the Mail is more widely read in the US than the UK. Certainly more frequently linked).

Dude top left looks like Magnifico the Magician, shatterin’ mirrors with his mind.

Have a good weekend, folks! We have another couple days of fêtes to come, so hopefully stories to tell.

The blog is moving hosts over the weekend. If it goes down, do not be alarmed.

June 17, 2016 — 9:11 pm
Comments: 16

Inspirational quotes


Angry eyes in the picture belong to serial killer Carl Panzram (1891–1930). Ordinarily, it isn’t necessary to explain that a serial killer is a bad person, but Panzram is pretty much in his own little world of evil badness. Theft, arson, murder and sodomy. Lots and lots of sodomy. He claimed he didn’t like sodomy all that much, but it was a terrific put-down.

Doesn’t really pass the smell test, does it?

Anyway, they caught him and hanged him, eventually. As they were putting the noose around his neck, he spat in the face of the executioner and uttered this famous quotation: “I wish the entire human race had one neck and I had my hands around it!”

I find that catchy phrase coming to mind more and more often of late, in different contexts. Like, “I wish the entire European Parliament had one neck and I had my hands around it!” and “I wish everybody running for President of the United States had one neck and I had my hands around it!” and “I wish every single lying sack of shit in the media had one neck and I had my hands around it!”

Try it! It’s fun!

p.s. his other famous quotation is “In my lifetime I have murdered 21 human beings, I have committed thousands of burglaries, robberies, larcenies, arsons and, last but not least, I have committed sodomy on more than 1,000 male human beings. For all these things I am not in the least bit sorry.”

Please don’t try that one.

March 14, 2016 — 10:06 pm
Comments: 17

…and then there was this…

But this is what I was after, really: I heard there was a new True Crime Museum in Hastings. Some may recall I am an aficionado of the genre. Me likum murder.

Anyway, this was fun. It’s on the seafront, next to pubs and shops, but this building is actually 3,000 feet of rough space hacked out of limestone. It’s a big, damp cave. Perfect.

They didn’t have an awful lot of genuine artifacts, though. Mostly information boards and simulacra. A glass case full of real bullets of various calibers. Pretty low threshold. Needs more lurid. It would have been a let-down if I’d paid full price, but I had a voucher, so I was happy enough.

Anyway, that’s the centerpiece up there. Six carboys that once held the acid John George Haigh used to dissolve his last victim. He mistakenly believed he couldn’t be convicted of the crime if there wasn’t anything left of the bodies.

These are the actual SIX CARBOYS which contained the acid Haigh used to dissolve the body of Mrs. Olive Durand-Deacon (pictured) on 18th February 1949.

Not true, of course. People have been convicted of murder without a speck of the corpse remaining, although it’s a tough sell. But in this case, poor Mrs Durand-Deacon left behind an undissolved upper denture and a small pile of gallstones. Haigh was hanged.

Got to chatting with the owner afterwards. Turns out, Haigh only used three carboys of acid to dissolve m’lady, but there were six in his workshop and they didn’t know which three. So, there. Now you know something.

May 14, 2015 — 10:42 pm
Comments: 10

Forty whacks…well, nearly twenty, anyway

Hey, I bought a Lizzie Borden hatchet! We went to a big nursery today, set in an old Victorian walled garden with beautiful ornate greenhouses. It was part of a gorgeous old estate, now a school. That would have been an awesome thing to post about but, ummm…I forgot to take pictures, so here’s the thing I bought from the antique tool shed.

I used to be a Lizzie Borden aficionado. I’m not usually a fan of (technically) unsolved cases, but you have to love a prim Sunday-school-teaching spinster who wakes up one fine August morning and takes a hatchet to the old folks.

I do think she did it, though she was acquitted. Everyone in Fall River thought she did it, too, which made her later life a misery. Though her father left her rich, she was nicked for shoplifting not long after the murders. And may or may not have had a fling with a famous actress of the day. What’s not to love?

Well, in the end, lots. I lost interest after many years readying when it dawned on me that most of the mystery surrounding the case was due to the extreme incompetence of the police. Even by the standards of the day, they sucked. They didn’t search the house or anybody in it for days, didn’t verify the whereabouts of the principals. The whole business would be a lot more fun if it weren’t full of stupid, unnecessary holes.

Still, the sheer lousiness of the investigation has made the Borden murders a healthy cottage industry for upwards of a hundred and twenty years. I was amazed when I did an images search just now, how much stuff has come to light just since I last looked into it just a few years ago…including an autopsy photo of Andrew Borden. You can search for yourself, if you’ve a mind-ta.

As for the hatchet, it was never proved to be the murder weapon. It was found in the basement, snapped off just below the blade, covered in ashes. Still, I’ve always had a hankering for one like it. And not to bury in any particular skull, neither.

September 2, 2013 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 17

Yup, pretty much what I thought would happen…

Did you see the Drudge link to the Mail yesterday, the guy who tried to pay the property taxes on an old Oddfellows Hall by selling the coffin (and bonus enclosed skeleton) he found in the basement? And now the police are all after him because that shit’s illegal?

There but for the grace of God, ladies and gentlemen, go I. The seller, not the skeleton. Well either, I guess.

When I was in art school, my roommate and I were browsing our favorite junk shop when we overheard the owner talking to his brother about the skeletons they had just moved into the basement. And my roomie, who was a certifiable dangerous crazy person, hissed at me that we must have one. Because art school.

They were cagey as hell about it, but we were regular customers and we finally talked our way into the basement. It was stacked with coffins. I don’t know how many in total. I’d pulled an all-nighter finishing a project and it’s all a bit hazy. Anyway, three stacks of four I remember for sure, because the guys were shuffling them around to look inside.

One of the skeletons was papier-mâché, the rest were real. Several were children. The coffins were all different kinds. They were clearly very old (late 19th, early 20th maybe). We were told they had come out of an Oddfellows Hall, where they had played a part in some ritual (this is repeated in the Mail story).

Anyway, we picked the best skeleton (he had all his teeth) in a not very nice felt-covered coffin and paid $125 for it. I kept the receipt for years (“1 body in box”). We called him Uncle Wallace. I got stuck with him after school, of course, and dragged him around several apartments, still in his box. That was fun, said nobody.

At some point became aware that that shit’s illegal, but I didn’t know quite how to get out from under. I couldn’t imagine a scenario that didn’t ultimately lead to me and a big serious policeman in a little cement block interrogation room. I sweat bullets over that thing.

In the end, I…gave it to some guy. A long, long time ago. I don’t think I want to be any more specific than that. That article made my hands go clammy.

June 24, 2013 — 9:51 pm
Comments: 21


Houston couple had tequila, argued before man fatally stabbed by stiletto heel

Yeah, I got nothing. Only, I cannot beLIEVE anyone on the right wants to debate whether or not Snowden is an asshole. I so totally don’t care. Don’t care. Is the government hoovering up domestic phone metadata or not? All else is noise.

June 11, 2013 — 10:18 pm
Comments: 15

You could own Bonnie Parker’s snubby…!

Going up for auction, Bonnie Parker’s Colt Detective Special .38 revolver. It’s expected to fetch $100K. Referred to as her “squat gun” because it was found taped to the upper inside of her thigh with surgical tape, where no true gentleman would dare frisk her. I guess the same rules don’t apply to ladies’ corpses.

In the same auction, other objects from the death car, some of Clyde’s arsenal and general stuff associated with other outlaws and lawmen. Really interesting auction house, that — worth a poke around. They specialize in autographs and historic memorabilia.

For what it’s worth, my grandma was a nurse in Baton Rouge about the time the Bonnie and Clyde went down. She claimed to have seen Bonnie’s body in the mortuary. Said it was dirty. Like, old dirt. Like someone who hasn’t had a good scrub in a long, long time.

On the other hand, my grandmother was often — how you say? — full of shit.

July 16, 2012 — 7:19 pm
Comments: 39