Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dollhouse Murder Scenes...!

Some folks have hobbies that might seem strange to us. I've known a few people like that.

However, just because those hobbies may seem strange to us, doesn't mean they aren't useful to someone. Here is a case in point, straight from the folks over at KnowdgeNuts.

The Woman Who Built Dollhouse Murder Scenes
By Nolan Moore on Monday, September 29, 2014

Frances Glessner Lee wasn’t your run-of-the-mill heiress. Sure, she lived in a Chicago mansion, her parents were millionaires, and she enjoyed planning extravagant dinner parties. But Glessner Lee was fascinated by a rather lowbrow, “unladylike” topic—murder. Born in 1878, Glessner Lee was obsessed with medical books and murder mysteries and hoped to go to Harvard and become a physician. Sadly, her dad crushed her dreams, insisting college was no place for a woman.

However, everything changed in 1936. Her parents were dead, and she’d divorced her husband in 1914. Suddenly, she was filthy rich and could do anything she wanted. Still fascinated by forensic science, Glessner Lee established the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard, a special school that trained future medical examiners. She also created the George Burgess Magrath Library of Legal Medicine, named after the family friend and pathology professor who sparked her interest in criminology.

But Glessner Lee wasn’t content with just shilling out money. She wanted to get in on the action, and that’s when she had a rather brilliant idea. In addition to homicide investigation, Glessner Lee also enjoyed building miniature models. What if she were to combine her two passions? Inspired, Glessner Lee set to work on one of the most unique teaching tools in forensic pathology. Over the next several years, this Chicago socialite built 20 incredibly detailed dollhouses, each one complete with a dead body.

Dubbed “The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,” these dollhouses depicted actual crime scenes for detectives to investigate. Glessner Lee was worried that careless cops were destroying crime scenes, and really, it was a legitimate fear. In the early 20th century, there were quite a few detectives who didn’t know (or didn’t care) that it was a bad idea to walk all over a crime scene or handle evidence with their bare hands. By building intricate models based on actual cases, Glessner Lee hoped to train detectives how to properly read clues and observe evidence.

Each house cost between $3,000 and $4,500, and Glessner Lee analyzed crime reports and visited actual murder scenes to make sure her models were accurate. She had an amazing eye for detail, and her dollhouses were more than just teaching tools. They were art. You could actually lock the doors. There were little rolled-up cigarettes on the tabletops. She used wood from a 200-year-old barn to build her barn house murder scene, and she even took a blowtorch to one of her models to make it look like there’d been a fire.

But most important were the dolls. Each one was crafted by hand and wore clothes specially tailored by Glessner Lee herself. Most impressively, she paid special attention to the victims. If the bodies had been lying around a few days, they needed to look gross and swollen, and she painted the figures in such a way that they had that perfect corpse complexion. She then arranged them in grisly poses, perhaps drowned in a bathtub or sprawled out on the floor, covered in blood.

The dollhouses were then sent to Harvard where investigators practiced looking for clues. They searched for misplaced fibers or weapons hidden under furniture. They were taught to scan the room in a clockwise spiral so they wouldn’t miss anything. The real genius behind the “Nutshell Studies” was that sometimes, detectives had to consult with doctors or other scientists to learn what had happened. And from time to time, the dollhouses depicted a suicide or even a natural death.

What’s even cooler is that twice a year, Glessner Lee taught all these male doctors, detectives, and students herself. Even though she’d never attended a university or served with the police, she was considered an expert when it came to analyzing crimes. In fact, she was so good that she was made an honorary captain of the New Hampshire State Police. And after her seminars, she’d throw a banquet for all the detectives where they could eat dinner and swap murder stories.

Sadly, Frances Glessner Lee passed away in 1962, but her dollhouses live on. Today, they’re on display at the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office, and believe it or not, students are still studying them. And while you’ll probably never see one of her dollhouses in person, there’s a good chance this Sherlockian socialite has affected your life, especially if you’re a fan of TV crime dramas. As it turns out, Frances Glessner Lee was the inspiration for everybody’s favorite fictional female detective, Jessica Fletcher from “Murder, She Wrote.”

Now here's a case of a hobby turned teaching aid. It is a good thing when something you like to do can be put to a worthy cause. It must have been a true joy for her to know that her creations were a tremendous help in developing the role of forensic science.

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's still cool, but pleasant!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Devil's Fingers For Freaky Friday...!

Once more, a story that sort of ties in with the month of Halloween.

This fungus seems to be aptly named, if you ask me. I swear it looks like a gloved hand coming out of the ground, complete with the sleeve of a shirt! Scary stuff!

Devil’s Fingers Mushroom

Photo credit: Fendy/Blogger 

Clathrus archeri, better known as devil’s fingers or octopus stinkhorn, is a truly creepy mushroom. In its mature form, it has four to eight fingers as red as a fire engine with black spheres that resemble suction cups on an octopus’s tentacles. These black spheres are gleba, which emit a rancid smell reminiscent of rotting meat. This attracts flies, which disperse the plant’s spores. The smell explains the “stinkhorn” part of its name.

Like all stinkhorns, devil’s fingers start life in a white, partially buried, egg-like bulb. When it bursts from the bulb, the fingers are white and look like a corpse’s hand and sleeve rising from the grave. Eventually, the fingers stand erect, rising to 10 centimeters (4 in) in height and spreading out to 20 centimeters (8 in) in width. Although it is not toxic, its smell makes it inedible.

They don't have to tell me not to eat it, 'cause I have no intention of doing so!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, if you don't mind!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Deep Is Your Well...?

Well, chances are these folks in England have you beat, especially for a hand dug well!

When you read a story like this, it gives you an idea just what folks can do if they don't give up. Of course, it helps to have a lot of friends to help as well!

Woodingdean Well

 In 1858, in the town of Woodingdean, England, plans were drawn up for a new building to be constructed and added to a nearby industrial school for troubled juveniles. A source of water was required, but it was decided that pumping water in from elsewhere was not cost-effective. The construction of Woodingdean Well began, supplemented with adult laborers from a nearby workhouse to further lower the costs. All digging was done by hand, with buckets of earth hand-winched up to the surface.

The initial plan was for a 122-meter (400 ft) brick-lined well. After two years of digging, the well had reached 134 meters (438 ft) below the surface (and slightly below sea level), and still no water had been found. At this point, horizontal shafts were dug in four directions, also without success. The men in charge of the project refused to admit defeat, and ordered a new vertical shaft started at the end of one of the horizontal ones.

This shaft was dug for another two years with men working 24 hours a day to dig and lay bricks. The only light was from candles, and conditions were such that many men worked naked in the cramped shaft. Finally, on March 16, 1862, a bricklayer noticed that the ground at the bottom was beginning to slowly rise upwards. He and the other workers spent a tense 45 minutes climbing up and out of the well before water rushed upward, finally signaling success. After four years of stubborn digging, Woodingdean Well had reached 392 meters (1,285 ft) deep, making it the deepest hand-dug well in the world.

Four years of digging with the only light being that from candles...that makes a hard job even harder. I'd say these diggers had no quit in them. What a job!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

John Browning For Western Wednesday...!

The Wild West might have been much wilder if it weren't for the inventions of one Mr. John Browning.

Thanks to his many firearm improvements and patents, weapons became easier to use for both the novice and experienced. Truly he was the "father of the modern firearm!"

Jan 21, 1855:
Gun designer John Browning is born

John Moses Browning, sometimes referred to as the "father of modern firearms," is born in Ogden, Utah. Many of the guns manufactured by companies whose names evoke the history of the American West-Winchester, Colt, Remington, and Savage-were actually based on John Browning's designs.

The son of a talented gunsmith, John Browning began experimenting with his own gun designs as a young man. When he was 24 years old, he received his first patent, for a rifle that Winchester manufactured as its Single Shot Model 1885. Impressed by the young man's inventiveness, Winchester asked Browning if he could design a lever-action-repeating shotgun. Browning could and did, but his efforts convinced him that a pump-action mechanism would work better, and he patented his first pump model shotgun in 1888.

Fundamentally, all of Browning's manually-operated repeating rifle and shotgun designs were aimed at improving one thing: the speed and reliability with which gun users could fire multiple rounds-whether shooting at game birds or other people. Lever and pump actions allowed the operator to fire a round, operate the lever or pump to quickly eject the spent shell, insert a new cartridge, and then fire again in seconds.

By the late 1880s, Browning had perfected the manual repeating weapon; to make guns that fired any faster, he would somehow have to eliminate the need for slow human beings to actually work the mechanisms. But what force could replace that of the operator moving a lever or pump? Browning discovered the answer during a local shooting competition when he noticed that reeds between a man firing and his target were violently blown aside by gases escaping from the gun muzzle. He decided to try using the force of that escaping gas to automatically work the repeating mechanism.

Browning began experimenting with his idea in 1889. Three years later, he received a patent for the first crude fully automatic weapon that captured the gases at the muzzle and used them to power a mechanism that automatically reloaded the next bullet. In subsequent years, Browning refined his automatic weapon design. When U.S. soldiers went to Europe during WWI, many of them carried Browning Automatic Rifles, as well as Browning's deadly machine guns.

During a career spanning more than five decades, Browning's guns went from being the classic weapons of the American West to deadly tools of world war carnage. Amazingly, since Browning's death in 1926, there have been no further fundamental changes in the modern firearm industry.

It's amazing to see that not many changes to his designs have been made over the years. I reckon it's like they say...if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Temps in the high 60's, so it's pleasant

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Let's Cage Those Kids...!

Back in the days we often refer to as the "good ol' days" they had some pretty strange ideas.

Now we all agree that children need some fresh air from time to time, but this little invention might not have been the best way to accomplish that issue. See what you think.

The Shocking Baby Cage From 1937
By S. Grant on Thursday, July 24, 2014

They say that everything old is new again, but if there’s one thing destined to remain in the past it’s the 1937 baby cage. This disturbing contraption was designed to hang outside a window—even many stories up—so babies could crawl inside it and get fresh air. More astonishing than it being invented is the fact that it actually caught on and was used by a number of London mothers looking for a convenient way to get their little ones outdoors.

In 1930s London, lawns were scarce, cities were crowded, and apparently taking babies for walks was a hassle. Enter: the baby cage. With this wire enclosure, parents didn’t need to leave the house to give their children a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air. The only problem was that the cage was suspended precariously off the side of a building.

The cage was originally patented in 1922 by American Emma Read, yet for whatever reason, it didn’t attract much appeal in the United States. But in 1937, the Chelsea Baby Club distributed the device to its London members as a way for the mothers to easily get their babies outdoors, even if they didn’t have a backyard or garden. Instead of immediately shunning the thing as an infant death trap, many parents slapped the cage on their apartment windows and left their children’s fate in the care of a handful of bolts and screws. Not to be outdone by the Chelsea Baby Club, London’s East Poplar borough council offered to attach the cages outside its tenement windows as well.

Although the patent had designs for versions with roofs, the most commonly used cages were completely open to the elements and susceptible to bird droppings and whatever projectiles neighborhood kids wanted to throw. There was, however, plenty of room for toddlers to sleep and play with toys, and they did indeed get some fresh air.

In the patent, Read describes the purpose of the cage by stating, “It is well known that a great many difficulties rise in raising and properly housing babies and small children in crowded cities, that is to say from the health viewpoint. With these facts in view it is the purpose of the present invention to provide an article of manufacture for babies and young children to be suspended upon the exterior of a building adjacent an open window, wherein the baby or young child may be placed.”

The baby cage eventually fell out of fashion—probably around the 1940s, when even the most lackadaisical mothers knew a little fence wire wouldn’t protect their child from the Blitz. Unsurprisingly, the cage never made a comeback.

I don't think this idea would be allowed in today's world, what with all of the "watch dog" agencies keeping tabs on nearly everything we do. This is probably not one of the safest ways to get some fresh air for junior, but it is an interesting idea. Pretty creative actually!

Coffee out on the patio this morning!

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Lighthouse Tale For Monday Mystery...!

Probably fewer buildings in the world lend themselves to mysterious stories than the lighthouses.

While appearing peaceful and quiet on the outside during calm weather, many tales of hauntings and strange happenings during or after storms is not uncommon. This is one such tale, straight from the pages of Listverse!

The Eilean Mor Lighthouse Mystery

In 1900, the only living souls on the Scottish island of Eilean Mor were three lighthouse keepers, alone in the vast ocean.

The day after Christmas, a supply ship arrived at the island. To the crew’s surprise, the lighthouse keepers were not waiting for them on the island’s small dock. After blowing the ship’s horn and sending up a flare, there was still no activity on the island. A replacement lighthouse keeper named Joseph Moore was eventually sent to investigate.

As he climbed the narrow, rocky stairs leading up to the lighthouse, Moore recalled being struck with a sense of nameless dread. As he neared the door, he saw that it was unlocked. Stepping carefully inside, he also noticed that two of the three waterproof jackets usually kept in the hall were missing. Reaching the kitchen, he found the remains of a meal and a chair lying on the floor. The clock in the kitchen had stopped working. The lighthouse keepers were nowhere to be seen.

A further investigation revealed the disturbing final entries in the lighthouse log. The entry for December 12 was written by a keeper named Thomas Marshall. In it, Marshall claimed the island had been struck by severe winds, worse than anything he had experienced in his career. Even though the lighthouse was solid enough to outlast any storm, Marshall wrote that the Principal Keeper, James Ducat, was very quiet. The third keeper, William McArthur, was an experienced sailor and a famously tough tavern brawler. The log entry ended by noting that he had been crying.

Further entries recorded that the storm continued to rage for a few days. Secure in their lighthouse, the three men had nonetheless begun praying. The last entry stated: “Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all.”

Though the lighthouse was visible from the nearby island of Lewis, no storms were reported in the Eilean Mor area during the days noted in the log entry.

Strange that no record of any storms near the lighthouse could be found. Stranger still is the fact that no trace has ever been found of any of the three keepers. Strange things going on, I'd say!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. Kinda cool, but not cold enough to stay inside.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Funnies From Long Ago...!

Well, it's time for another infusion of the old classic cartoons of the past. I still think that some of the older ones are the best!

Ol' Elmer has changed quite a bit over the years, hasn't he?

I told ya Elmer had changed over the years!

Now let's go really way back, OK?

I reckon we are lucky we don't have any of that censor stuff around today, right? RIGHT...?

Coffee out on the patio this morning once again. Weather looks pretty nice right now.