Sunday, 23 August 2009

Lily Dale Continued

My friend Bridget just recently went to Lily Dale on a visit home and she took some pictures for me. I've done a couple blog entries that have mentioned the village, so I thought I would post her current pictures of Lily Dale as it looks today.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

All Souls' Day

All Souls' Day, also known as Day of the Dead and Feast of All Souls, commemorates the departed. This holiday is primarily observed within the Catholic church.

The Roman Catholic celebration is based on the doctrine that the souls of the faithful which at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to venial sins, or have not fully been purged from attachment to mortal sins, cannot attain the beatific vision in heaven yet, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass. In other words, when they died, they had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven. This sanctification is carried out posthumously in Purgatory.

In Slovakia it is custom for friends and relatives to go at night to the cemetery and place flowers and candles on the graves of deceased loved ones.

While reading this article I learned that cemeteries in Slovakia are often "active, colorful and vibrant places". Year round there are always many people in the cemeteries maintaining graves and visiting lost loved ones. It's fascinating to think just how uncomfortable our culture is with death, if you mention an interest in cemeteries many pass it off simply as 'morbid'. I urge anyone to read The Victorian Celebration of Death.. the author James Stevens Curl touches on some interesting subjects about our view of death today.

I found this awesome entry at Pumpkin Rot, which prompted me to do my own entry.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Madeleine Smith & the poisoned cocoa

Madeleine Smith (abt 1835-1920) was a Glasgow socialite involved in a sensational murder case in Scotland during the summer of 1857. The notoriety of the case was such that it was known not only in Great Britain, but also in Europe and America.

Madeleine came from a wealthy, upper class family. Her father was well known architect James Smith. Madeleine went to boarding school in London and returned to Glasgow when she was 18. Not long after this she met Pierre Emile L'Angelier.

Emile L'Angelier was a French nurseryman and warehouse clerk who had moved to Glasgow in 1852. Glasgow is where Emile first took notice of the beautiful Madeleine Smith. Emile then began to search for a mutual acquaintance who could introduce them, as was the custom of the time in polite society. In the spring of 1855 the two finally met.

It was not appropriate for a lady of the upper class and a warehouse clerk to be seen together, but Madeleine found him exciting and exotic so she commenced correspondence with him. Meetings between the two were arranged and when Madeleine's father found out he demanded an immediate end to the friendship. Despite her father's forbiddance, Madeleine continued to secretly meet with Emile.

The correspondence continued, and they would refer to each other as husband and wife. Their romance intensified and they began planning their wedding and in the summer of 1856, the unthinkable taboo of Victorian times was broken - they became lovers.

All the while Madeleine's parents, unaware of their daughter's affair, were searching for a suitable husband for their daughter. They finally settled on William Minnoch. In September of 1856 he stayed with the Smiths at their summer home in Helensburgh where he and Madeleine spent some time together. Madeleine accepted William's marriage proposal in January 1857.

Madeleine wrote Emile in February to sever all ties with him. Emile, however, refused to comply and instead he threatened to show all the letters he had kept to Madeleine's father (they had wrote some 250 love letters between them). Madeleine wrote more letters begging Emile not to expose their actions to anyone and requested that he meet her in secret.

Emile L'Angelier is what they called an "arsenic eater", meaning he would take arsenic for various 'health benefits'. Around this time (February 1857) he began to complain of stomach pains and nausea. He told a friend he did not know why he felt so sick after taking coffee and hot chocolate with Madeleine. He also claimed that if she were trying to poison him he would forgive her. During this time Madeleine had gone to a few local apothecaries and bought arsenic which she claimed to be for killing rats (this is known because she had to sign the poison book as was required).

Emile died the 23rd of March 1857 of arsenic poisoning. Madeleine, at 22 years old, was arrested on the 31st of March (based on the stack of letters found). When questioned about the arsenic she purchased (3 separate occasions) Madeleine claimed she bought it to mix with water and use on her face and arms for her complexion.

The case of Madeleine Smith was moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh due to such strong, popular interest. The news of the case was in papers in both America and Europe. The evidence in the case was this:

Evidence against Madeleine

  • Her letters obviously threatened her with scandal
  • Her insistence that Emile meet with her
  • She bought three doses of morphine shortly before Emile died
  • On the morning of Emile's death, she left her home and travelled alone to the family summerhouse in Rhu
  • She had carried out a clandestine love affair and was clearly capable of deceit
  • When her fiancĂ© Minnoch caught up with her, she said she was ashamed of something she had done.

  • Evidence against Emile

  • Killing Emile would not have averted the scandal, as he still had possession of the letters
  • There is only Emile's notebook to prove that they did actually meet – no one witnessed any meetings
  • She bought the first dose of arsenic after Emile first records feeling unwell
  • The morphine she bought was coloured with soot; the morphine found in Emile's stomach was white. (Arsenic sold in chemists was routinely coloured to differentiate it from other household products like flour.)
  • Emile's friends testified to his use and knowledge of arsenic. Indeed Chambers Journal (July 1856), which he had read, suggests that people who dabbled with arsenic write a letter exonerating friends lest they become implicated in murderOn July 9th 1857 the jury reached a verdict of 'Not Proven' which in Scottish law means there was not enough evidence to prove she was guilty.
  • He told his friends that he wanted revenge on Madeline
  • Emile "coached" Miss Perry, suggesting the notion of poison to her. On the night he took ill, he asked for her – in the expectation that she would alert doctors to the possibility of arsenic poisoning. Fatefully she was delayed in arriving, and by then it was too late.

  • After this Madeleine disappeared from society. It is believed that she had moved to America where she lived in New York City and died there under the name Lena Wardle Sheehy in 1928, but this is highly unlikely since according to the death certificate Madeleine would have been born 30 years before this woman. There are other theories that she went to Australia or New Zealand, but no one knows for sure whatever happened to Madeleine Smith.

    William Minnoch's grave can be found in the Glasgow Necropolis: you can see a picture of his monument here.

    *Pictures: Madeleine Smith at her trial and 7 Blythswood Square, Glasgow, where the Smiths lived.

    *Sources: A Most Curious Murder, Crime Library and The Scotsman

    Monday, 10 August 2009

    Encyclopedia of The End & Bees

    I recently bought this neat little book (only 160 pages). I finally got a chance to really skim through it last night. I was pleased to see they had entries on both The Fox Sisters and Lily Dale in the book and it also covers everything from the term Goth to food for mourners to bees...

    The entry I found on bees was new to me. I was unaware that in British folklore the bond between humans and bees lasts unto death. Bees were so important to people they were referred to as "the little servants of God" and it was believed they could see the future, thus making it unlucky to kill them.

    Most churches kept beehives and would use the wax to make candles used at funeral masses. It was thought the relationship between humans and bees was so strong that bees could be led away by a human death, so survivors would "tell" the bees when a relative died.

    In the 18th c. in rural England when a person died a relative would tie a crepe band around a resident beehive as failure to do so might risk the bees abandoning the hive.

    In learning this I immediately thought of how millions of honey bees are mysteriously dying all over the US right now, in a phenomena which is called Colony collapse disorder.

    Friday, 7 August 2009

    Ye Olde Coffin House

    Located in the small fishing town of Brixham in Devon, England, this house holds the distinction of being "the only coffin shaped house in the world".

    This fascinating building dates back to 1640 and it's story is just as interesting: there was a dispute between a father and his daughter's sweetheart. The Father proclaimed that he would rather see his daughter in a coffin than allow them to wed. Well the sweetheart took this to heart, and constructed a house in the shape of a coffin. The father was so impressed with this that he finally allowed his daughter to wed the man and that they lived happily ever after, or so the story goes.

    Also, as I was looking up The Coffin House I came across something called 'a coffin corner', which was prevalent in Victorian homes.
    This is an architectural myth which states that back in the 19th century when most people died in their homes, which is the same location the wake would have been, getting a coffin down the narrow stair case became an issue. The solution to this problem was to create a niche in the wall where the coffin could be turned.

    Tuesday, 4 August 2009


    Taphephobia is the fear of being buried alive, which was a widespread concern in the 19th century. Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell left instructions not to be buried until they were absolutely certain he was dead. I'm guessing there was no more certain a way than waiting for decomposition to set in.

    There were many accounts of 'revival after death', as well as evidence of premature burials. One example is of the incredible naturalist Frank Buckland's 16 day venture into the vaults of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, searching for John Hunter's coffin so the anatomist could be re-interred in Westminster Abbey. While down there, Buckland found evidence from at least 3 coffins that premature burial took place.

    This prompted people to come up with precautionary measures to ensure their loved ones were adequately expired before interment. Cemeteries in Germany were often provided with a 'corpse house'. This was essentially a waiting room for the bodies to begin showing signs of decay so that they were able to be buried. Other efforts included contraptions where a rope was tied to the corpse's hand so if it were to move it would ring a bell above ground. There were also vaults where a body was kept inside for a number of days until they were absolutely ready for burial.

    The German poet Gottfried Keller (1819-1890) wrote verses entitled Lebendig begraben or Buried Alive.

    The top picture is of a body buried in the 1840's... however, the skeleton was found posed in a very distressed position suggesting this person was most likely buried prematurely. You can read more about it here.

    Sunday, 2 August 2009

    Hamilton Mausoleum

    The Hamilton Mausoleum is located in Hamilton in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The Mausoleum was built for Alexander the 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852), and took 15 years to complete from it's commencement in 1842.

    -It was built with out using any mortar, just brick stacked on brick.

    -The Mausoleum has actually sunk 18 feet since it was first built, thus leaving it prone to flooding.

    -The 10th Duke of Hamilton's body was to occupy not a coffin, but an Egyptian sarcophagus. However, when the sarcophagus arrived it measured 6' tall and the Duke measured 6'2"-6'4" tall. Various accounts have his legs being cut off, folded over or smashed with a sledgehammer. Any road, it was a tight squeeze.

    - Alexander was a Master Mason. The mausoleum is still used by the Freemasons for Masonic ceremonies.

    The lower level of the Mausoleum is the crypt where the corpses were kept, until the building was deemed too structurely unstable to house them any longer. All the bodies have been interred elsewhere.

    As you can see by this picture there are three gates leading into the crypt. The gate on the left signifies 'life', the middle is 'death' and the last one is 'immortality'. At the time of a interment the mourners would walk through 'the gate of life' the coffin would be carried through 'the gate of death' and the entire party would leave through 'the gate of immortality'.

    Here is a close up of the faces life, death and immortality (respectively). Note the rate of decay on each of them...

    The upper level is the chapel, where the 10th Duke of Hamilton's sarcophagus was kept. The pedestal is still there on which it sat and you can still see an eerie outline of the sarcophagus on the black marble. In the chapel there is an reverberation time of 15 seconds (when the old brass doors were still there it was 30 seconds). The chapel is also noted for it's 'whispering walls'. These are alcoves where two people can stand either side, whisper into the wall and are able to hold a conversation this way. We tested this out and it worked perfectly, even with all the noisy echo's going on!

    With in the past month the South Lanarkshire council has erected a locked fence around the premises of the mausoleum to deter vandalism, which was becoming a serious issue. We were told they plan on washing off the unsightly graffiti in the upcoming months.

    Please take a look at the other photos I took (of the crypt, ect.) here on flickr.