Category Archives: Trials

1913: Sentenced to 20 days for winking


In 1912 conservatives in New York declared war on “mashing”. Flirtatious and inappropriate behaviour towards women had reached plague proportions in the Big Apple, they claimed. Attractive females could not walk down a New York street without being wolf whistled, propositioned or subjected to a barrage of provocative remarks. State assemblyman Richard F. Hearn carried out his own research into ‘mashing’ and declared it the leading cause of divorce in the United States. In early 1912 Hearn sponsored a bill that introduced prison terms for convicted “mashers”. This crackdown produced several arrests over the next two years – though judges tended to be lenient, if not dismissive. This was not always the case, however, as revealed in this report from November 1913:

winking


Source: Daily Capital Journal, November 12th 1913. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1691: Amusingly-shaped vegetable proves wife not impotent


In 1691 Joseph de Arostegui of Calahorra, northern Spain, petitioned for divorce from his wife, Antonia Garrido, based on her alleged impotence. According to his testimony, there had been no consummation of their four-year marriage because his wife “does not have her parts like other women”. Antonia contested her husband’s claim for divorce, her lawyer asserting that Antonia’s genitals were fully functional but had been affected by “evil spells and witchcraft”. As was usual in early modern trials where impotence was alleged, Antonia was ordered to submit to at least two examinations by doctors and midwives. At the second of these examinations:

“…the [surgeon] Francisco Velez inserted into the said parts of the said Antonia Garrido a stem of cabbage in a shape similar to a virile member… and seeing that it entered with liberty…”

The examiners, content that penetration had been achieved, ruled that Antonia was capable of intercourse, and the church court turned down Joseph’s petition for divorce. The fate of their marriage after this is unknown.

Source: Testimony of Dr Juan Munoz, Archives of the Diocese of Calahorra, folio 1. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1904: Mrs Lasher goes down for passive smoking


1904: Mrs Lasher of Binghamton will spend 30 days in jail – for “smoking cigarettes in the presence of her children”.

smoking

Source: Rock Island Argus, November 5th 1904. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1786: Danish murderer uses sneaky arsenic method


In the late 18th century a Danish physician, C. M. Mangor, delivered a curious report to Copenhagen’s Royal Society. It concerned a series of “fiendish murders”, carried out by an unnamed farmer living near the capital. According to Mangor, the farmer had gone through three young wives in the space of a few years. Each wife had been in good health but died within a day or two of contracting similar symptoms. The farmer’s own behaviour also aroused local suspicions. Six weeks after the death of his first wife he married a servant girl – however she lasted but a few years before falling victim to the mystery ailment, allowing the farmer to marry yet another maidservant. Eventually, in 1786, wife number three died from the same malady:

“About three in the afternoon, while enjoying good health, she was suddenly seized with shivering and heat in the vagina… Means were resorted to for saving her life but in vain: she was attacked with acute pain in the stomach and incessant vomiting, then became delirious, and died in 21 hours.”

At this point Dr Mangor, then serving as Copenhagen’s medical inspector, arrived to investigate. He discovered the farmer had been poisoning his wives by “introducing a mixture of arsenic and flour on the point of his finger into the vagina” after sexual intercourse, a theory supported by Mangor’s postmortem examination:

“Grains of arsenic were found in the vagina, although frequent lotions had been used in the treatment. The labia were swollen and red, the vagina gaping and flaccid, the os uteri gangrenous, the duodenum inflamed, the stomach natural.”

arsenic

The farmer was arrested and placed on trial. To prepare for his testimony Dr Mangor conducted a number of experiments on cows. “The results clearly showed that when applied to the vagina of these animals”, he wrote, “it produces violent local inflammation and fatal constitutional derangement”. The farmer, as might be expected, was found guilty; his punishment is unrecorded but it seems likely he was executed. The number of cows to die in the name of vaginal-arsenic justice is also not recorded.


Source: Dr C. Mangor, “The history of a woman poisoned by a singular method” in Transactions of the Royal Society of Copenhagen, v.3, 1787; Sir Robert Christison, A Treatise on Poisons &c., London, 1832. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1722: Man murders rival by “breaking the muscles” of his yard


yard
The ‘hanging tree’ at Walworth

In 1723 the mayor of Tenby, Thomas Athoe, and his son, also named Thomas, were apprehended and charged with murdering George Merchant. According to trial records, the two parties had quarrelled over the sale of some cattle. The Athoes also bore a grudge against George Merchant, who had “married a sweetheart of young Athoe’s”. Seeking revenge, the Athoes tracked Merchant and his brother Thomas to a place called Holloway’s Water. Using “great sticks”, the Athoes knocked the Merchants from their horses and beat them viciously. They then fell into a frenzy of genital grabbing, George Merchant coming off the worst:

“Taking fast hold of [Thomas Merchant’s] privities, [Athoe Senior] pulled and squeezed him to such a violent degree that had he continued so doing a few minutes longer, it had been impossible for the poor man to have survived it. The pain he suffered is past expression, and yet it fell short of what his brother endured. Young Athoe… seized him by the privy members and, his yard being extended, be broke the muscles of it, and tore out one of his testicles, and calling to his father said ‘Now I have done George Merchant’s business!’ This horrible action occasioned a vast effusion of blood.”

As George Merchant lay dying, Athoe Junior caught hold of “the deceased’s nose with his teeth [and] bit it quite off”. Surgeons who examined Merchant’s body post mortem suggested that his wounds were “sufficient to have killed six or seven men”. The Athoes claimed to have acted in self defence after been attacked by the Merchants, however they produced no evidence of an assault. The Athoes were found guilty and transported to London. In July 1723 they were dispatched from a ‘hanging tree’ on the Canterbury Road, near what is now Walworth.

Source: Select Trials for Murders, Robberies, &c., Vol. 1, December 1720-October 1723. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.