Where the Hell are We Going?

New-Mind-Map (1)

Whilst I know that I am largely doing this for my own benefit as our listenership is far from large I want to plot our meandering, rambling and somewhat overgrown path through the gothic, mystery and noir genres.

At this stage, there will be a new book/movie comparison with both Brent and I (Morgan) on the 13th of each month. Every Saturday that I can I will release a new mini (or not so mini) episode. These extra episodes offer extra information on the texts we are discussing and other topics that relate to Frankenstein and the Gothic genre.

At the moment I’m busy writing and recording the last of our Oscar Wilde episodes for the time being. Oscar Wilde has a unique place in the Gothic canon that we will probably revisit, but I think there are about 4-5 episodes in total featuring Mr. Wilde in this chunk of releases, with our second proper episode Decorative Sex ūüĆļ – The Picture of Dorian Gray¬†due for release on the 13th of February. Once those are done our major focus will turn to more bloodthirsty creatures.

Our Frankenstein episodes are far from done. They will be peppered throughout the run of the podcast through perpetuity. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say the final word on Frankenstein, but I promise I’ll try to keep the additional episodes fresh and relevant.

As for our brief foray into true crime with The Body Snatchers, there will be a couple of crime and history related podcasts, but they will usually be collaborations and they will also be linked to a Gothic, mystery of noir text.

At the moment we are firmly entrenched in the 19th century legacy in the Gothic canon. We’ll probably be in this territory for a while, however, some of this may link directly with contemporary Gothic fiction. We want to explore a few more creatures of the monstrous¬†kind before we delve into the world of the genius detective and the hostile city.

I’m banking up readings of gothic short stories as my life is going to get very busy again as I go back to uni. Hopefully, my readings aren’t too awful.

We’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with some lovely people and podcasts. At this stage, there are 3 released collaborations:

Nick and Vince’s Podcast – Frankenstein Part 1 with Morgan from The FrankenPod

Cult of Domesticity – FrankenCult; Mary Anne Cotton with Morgan from The FrankenPod

The FrankenPod –¬†The Body Snatchers – It’s a Cult of Domesticity guest minisode¬†feat Gallus Girls and Wayward Women

There are some other collaborations in the pipeline and hopefully many more to come. Please send me an email thefrankenpod@gmail.com if you want to collaborate in some way.

The Body Snatchers

We try to trace a line from a from our topic to Frankenstein and Gothic literature. This week it’s pretty simple. The gothic preoccupation with death and confronting the gruesome fate of the body after death is explored in a wide variety of texts vampire and zombie fiction explores ideas of the undead, corpses that come back to prey on the living and ghosts and spectres present a more ethereal threat which occurs when the soul or spirit is separated from the physical body at death. Relating our topic to Frankenstein is even simpler; How did Frankenstein get his corpses?

We‚Äôre going to talk about body snatchers, grave robbers and the Resurrectionists today. This post will have information from my research, for Courtney’s research I would highly recommend listening to the episode.

Courtney hosts a podcast with her best friend Ashley called The Cult of Domesticity. They explore intriguing, disturbing and entertaining stories of true crime, disaster and history.

Body Snatchers – A 19th-century Origin Story

In the early 1800s, surgery and anatomical study were flourishing. Hundreds of young doctors studied diligently in medical schools, and many I dare say substantially less diligently. Theoretical knowledge of what squidgy bit did what and which bits to cut was all well and good, but what they really `needed to hone their skills was an actual human body to dissect.

Today cadavers are often donors who give their bodies to science. But the people Regency and Victorian England were quite a bit more religious and superstitious. Donations were not forthcoming.

The only legitimate source of cadavers was from the gallows. Criminals sentenced to death would be sent to medical schools as subjects.

This had some drawbacks. For a start, all of the subjects died from the same cause. Second, the bodies had to be dissected very quickly as preservation techniques were pretty much non-existent. Third this influx of cadavers was not nearly enough to keep all the schools supplied.

As tends to happen when something is in high demand and heavily regulated, a black market sprung up to fill the need. Grave Robbers, Body Snatchers, The Resurrectionists, whatever you call them, they began making a tidy profit from digging up fresh graves and selling the cadavers to medical institutions and schools.

The need for fresh cadavers meant that thieves would often hover just out of sight while the funeral was still in progress.

Grieving families started alarming their loved one’s graves, or keeping vigil until the cadaver was useless to the body snatchers.

In summer medical schools undertook fewer dissections because the heat made it harder to store bodies. A fresh cadaver could fetch 8 pounds. In winter the schools conducted way more dissections so demand was higher and you could get 10 pounds a corpse. That is about one thousand  American dollars and one thousand and two hundred  Australian dollars at the time of recording.

But Robbing Graves was becoming a high-risk venture, and before long people started resorting to other means for obtaining a fresh corpse.

In England The anatomist William Harvey who was famous for discovering the circulatory system dissected his father and sister after their death. The London Burkers killed three boys and attempted to sell them to an anatomist who blew the whistle on them. At least one of the trio claimed to have robbed between 500- 1000 graves.

And in Edinburgh Scotland Burke and Hare had a system.

170px-William_Burke
William Burke

Scotland’s Fresh Cadaver Delivery Service

It all started in 1827 when a lodger called Donald died in the boarding house Hare ran. Having heard there was money to be made in selling fresh corpses they brought the guy from upstairs to a guy called Doctor Robert Knox who needed a supply of bodies for his anatomy lectures. Hare rationalized this by reminding himself and Burke that Donald owed him four pounds in unpaid rent.

Knox paid them seven pounds and 10 shillings. This was no small amount. And bolstered by the windfall they went back to their jobs.

When another lodger called Joseph contracted some sort of fever Hare became concerned she might deter lodgers.

So he called over his mate burke and they suffocated him with a pillow and sold his body to Knox.

The next victim is an unnamed Englishman selling tinder and matches who fell ill with jaundice while staying at the boarding house.

They developed a new method that they would use for most of the subsequent victims. Hare smothered the man’s face with his hand and Burke lay on top of him to prevent him from moving and flailing around noisily. Again Hare said he did it, for the good of this business‚Ķ. Because you know the non-contagious condition of jaundice might scare away customers. In no way was it motivated by the 10 pounds they got for from Knox.

Abigail Simpson possibly next, accounts differ. She was a pensioner, who also sold salt and was travelling from the village of Gilmerton. They got her drunk and shoved her in a tea chest and sold her to Knox.

198px-William_Hare
William Hare

Maybe a month later Hare’s wife lured in an old lady and got her so drunk she passed out, Hare then covered her mouth and nose with a mattress cover and left her to slowly suffocate. ¬†Again Knox took the body, no questions asked.

 

It was then Burke‚Äôs turn to lure Janet Brown and Mary Paterson with alcohol. They went on a bender together, eventually ending up at Burke‚Äôs brother’s house. His Brother went to work and Mary Paterson passed out. That left Janet Brown and Burke up talking when Burke‚Äôs girlfriend Helen McDougal burst in accusing Burke of cheating on her. Both women left, angry with Burke leaving Mary Paterson passed out. Alone.

Her friend Janet would later be told she ran off to Glasgow with a salesman.

Burke rushed out and grabbed his buddy, Hare. They went back to the house, Mary was still asleep. They suffocated her, and shoved her in the same tea chest as Abigail Simpson, selling her to Knox and keeping her petticoats for Helen,  Burke’s girlfriend.

Knox was delighted as the corpse was still warm.

People were going missing, and their relatives began to look for them. Mrs Haldane, who was smothered in an intoxicated slumber, had a daughter possibly called Peggy who came looking for her.

Burke listened to her story and they got talking., talking turned to drinking. Burke killed her without assistance for the first time, then shoved her in the tea chest and collected his 8 pounds.

There are 16 murders in total to get through. Including a range of unnamed intoxicated lodgers, a homeless salvager called Effy and even a visiting relative of Helen’s called Ann.

The tea chest got a lot of use and all the while Dr. Knox is not bothered by any of this.

At this point, Hare’s wife Margaret Hare suggests to her husband ¬†that they should kill Helen because she was ‚ÄúScotch‚ÄĚ.¬†The Hares and Burke were Irish. Thankfully he refused.

Their second last victim was unfortunately known as Daft Jimmy. Daft Jimmy preferred snuff to alcohol. So their usual trick just didn’t work. He fought back. But the murderers prevailed.

However, Daft Jimmy was a  familiar face on the streets of London, and Knox’s students recognised him at the initial inspection. So Knox presented Jimmy’s cadaver headless and without feet.

Other lodgers made the final murder very difficult for Burke and Hare.

The murder of Michelle Doherty was supposed to take place at the Broggan boarding house. Trusting a fellow person from Ireland she drank with the Hares. Everything went wrong. Fellow lodgers, Ann and James Gray, were so obstructive that they paid for them to stay at Hare’s lodging house. The Gray’s were witnesses to the drinking party and the next morning they came back and discovered the body in a pile of straw.

The police were called.

The two were arrested.

1920px-Execution_of_BurkeHare turned state’s witness and after the trial, he disappeared into the night. Margaret also turns states evidence

Helen and Margaret upon their separate releases were chased by mobs… I cannot believe Margaret and William Hare got off pretty much scot-free3.

Knox the doctor who …totally knew what was going on was found entirely without fault which was crazy, and that was because Burke said Knox knew nothing about it.

“docter Knox never incoreged him neither taught or incoregd him to murder any person”.

William Burke was found guilty sentenced to death and was hanged on the 28th of January 1829 in front of a crowd of over 20,000 people.

His body was sent for public dissection and students fought for tickets.

Professor Monro lead the dissection and dramatically dipped a quill in Burke’s blood

and wrote “This is written with the blood of Wm Burke, who was hanged at Edinburgh. This blood was taken from his head”

170px-William_Burke_s_skeleton
William Burke’s Skeleton

His death mask and a book supposedly bound with HIS TANNED SKIN are on display in the Surgeon’s Hall museum…

 

His skeleton on display at Edinburgh Medical School.

So that’s the story of William Burke and William Hare.

Up the close and doon the stair,
But and ben’ wi’ Burke and Hare.
Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief,
Knox the boy that buys the beef.

‚ÄĒ 19th century Edinburgh rhyme

Thank you to Courtney from Cult of Domesticity for joining me and contributing so much to the conversation!

And another huge thank you to Tom of Gallus Girls and Wayward Women for reading the Burke and Hare poem.

ShitTown ACTUAL EPISODE 1

Instead of jumping up and down about the mistake that happened in my podcast app I’m deciding to embrace the misunderstanding. And it’s a good thing too because episode 3 is much stronger, and its no wonder because it flips the entire story on it’s head.

S-Town is an amazing and intricate story that suffers from the same issue as many podcasts with a massive twist suffer from, the people working on the podcast know why the story is worth telling, but it’s hard to convey to the audience the worth of the story without giving anything away. So the listener has to just trust in the host that this story is going somewhere.

So now the allusions in the later episodes to John’s maze make sense, and people being frustrated with the large swathes of exposition also makes a lot more sense.

I wonder the whole episode was needed.

But I still love it.

I still love John, even if he suddenly reminds me more of my father in law than he did previously. The maze also adds another dimension to the treasure hunt foreshadowed in what I now know to be episode 3.

What has this experience in misplaced chronology told me?

Apart from the eccentricity of podcast apps, the importance of editing, the dangers of immediate publishing and that I’m a sucker for non-chronlogical narratives? Well listeners and readers don’t need ALL the details right away. I must remember that in my own writing.

Chronology and time are abstract and fallible, huh, how fitting for a podcast featuring a depressed, fatalistic, genius clockmaker.

Buy Books From Book Depository So I can buy coffee!

ShitTown – Chapter 2

Bahh I listened to episode 3 as episode one so any references to earlier episodes are referring to episode 3…

ūüėĎ This is why you need to fact check even if you don’t want to research and come at the podcast with fresh eyes….

Okay before we get into the episode can we just have a moments appreciation for the S-Town website, that shit is beautiful. I love the way it moves and evolves as you scroll. It’s a nice change from some of the place holder websites you often see for podcasts. (No Usidore I’m not talking about Usidore Rocks, that is another exception {listen to Hello from the Magic Tavern for context})

Anyway onto potential spoilers for Chapter 2

Hearing John for the first time was exciting, he seems to be quite the story teller. Rambling frenetic anecdotes peppered with non sequiturs. Within the first sentence of Brian’s narration we get a tantalizing hint of the crime that John was obsessed with so it doesn’t look like that thread has been dropped. I’m so glad.

Kaybrum, Kabrum, Cabram, Kabram?

Who is Kabram Burt? And why can’t I google him properly? Yes I gave in and researched, well kind of. I’m currently paused on chapter 2 with 40 minutes to go of the episode and I couldn’t resist the allure of search engine spoilers. But without and easy answers I gave up.

Kyabrum? Kabrum (Kabram? Cybrum? Quebrim?) is the person that John suspected of murder, the murder that he was discussing with Brian prior to his death. You can find some speculative research here.

We hear about John walking into the tattoo parlour with his soapbox. We meet some rough, racist guys guys from Tyler’s tattoo parlour. We hear about John the miser, John the loner, John the shut in. But we also hear about the John who hated tattoos but propped up his friend Tyler’s business by getting multiple tattoos  and piercings

At the halfway point of this episode I think I may be in love with John B. McLemore…

But then we find out Kyabram Burt didn’t kill anybody. The guy he beat up didn’t die, and it was investigated thoroughly, there was no coverup, no murder. Just a fight… a nasty fight… but a fight. And there seems to be a weird rumour mill operating off half the truth that John seems to have latched onto for some reason which is strange for someone who is so meticulous.

The annoying truth of the situation seems to have depressed him more than before. He despairs for his town and “the clusterfuck” he sees around him. It’s like he was distracting himself from the apathy of the general population towards the slow detriation of the world and the futility of the human condition by looking into what turned out to be just another fight.

Buy Books From Book Depository So I can buy coffee!

ShitTown Chapter 3 mislabelled 1 dammit

So my podcast app messed up the labelling of this podcast…. and I ended up with episode 3 labelled as episode one…shit.

I pity the podcast that gets released today, surely the latest project from Serial and This American Life is one tough act to follow. S-Town is the euphamistic listing name for ShitTown, a new podcast narrated by Brian Reed in which he explores the unfolding drama in small town Alabama.

I WILL be binging this series, but I will not be posting all of my review articles today. I’m going through the episodes carefully, 1 at a time, and I WON’T be conducting external research yet, but I don’t rule that out in the future.

Spoilers to follow. You have been warned

“John B McLemore lives in Shittown Alabama”, he is a clockmaker and he is not a joyful man. He is extrodinarily clever, meticulous, intriguing and fatalistic. He has a fine sense of injustice and the world slowly turning to shit. He has a mother he cares for, friends who love him but he is deeply depressed a lonely in a way that people who feel the full weight of the problems of the world can relate to. He sometimes upsets people with his grim world view. Particularly his employee and close friend Tyler. Tyler maintains John’s house and helps out with his mum and is an unexpected saving grace for the middle aged, “celebate homosexual” as he termed himself. Tyler rides a motorbike, is covered in tattoos and has an unmistakable southern drawl. John is dependent on Tyler, John is a surrogate father figure for Tyler, Tyler  has a bed and clothes at John’s place, Tyler’s wife implores him not to go running everytime John calls in a suicidal funk.

So when John drinks cyanide one evening with seemingly no preparations made to deal with his estate or look after his mother confusion and chaos ensues. Including surprise appearances from suspiciously unconcerned distant relatives.

See John didn’t trust banks, he told his lawyer that he had a plan for his assets. A plan that seems to include gold…

Right out of the gate ShitTown is riviting and bewitching. John is relatable and endearing, and the chaos he left in his wake seems to be completely in advertant at this stage.

There are also hinted at connections to deeper mysteries that John was interested in which I hope will be a thread that gets picked back up.

Buy Books From Book Depository So I can buy coffee!

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: