In August 1900, the New York press reported the sad death of Mrs Lyda Wank. According to the New York Times, Mrs Wank was out driving with her young son Jesse in an open-top carriage. The horses pulling the carriage were spooked and:
“…Mrs Wank became frightened. She begged the driver to stop them and let her out, but the driver could not quiet the animals long enough…”
The panicked Mrs Wank tried alighting the carriage while it was still moving, however:
“…in her excitement, her foot missed the step and she was thrown. Her skirts caught in the step… and she fell with her head between the wheels. The hind wheel passed over her neck. When she was lifted from the pavement a moment later she was dead.”
Doctors later concluded that the victim died almost instantly of a broken neck. According to census records, she was the wife of Samuel I. Wank. Their son Jesse, who was nine years of age when his mother died, later became a Broadway producer.
Maurice Delafosse was a French anthropologist and researcher who spent several years living and working on the west coast of Africa. Delafosse specialised in native languages and other cultural and behavioural aspects of tribal groups.
Writing in the first decade of the 1900s, Delafosse described how native Africans in what is now the Ivory Coast responded to threats or hostility, in this instance from the Okou:
“The women would assemble and, with their back to the enemy, make violent and exaggerated thrusts of the buttocks in the direction of the hostile party while shouting “My arse for Okou!”
According to Delafosse, the menfolk would resort to a time-honoured tradition: the obscene song. He recorded some of the lyrics used:
“Okou is our enemy, cut off his head!”
“Okou is the excrement out of my backside!”
“Okou enjoys the sexual company of dogs!”
“The genitals of Okou are rotten and smell of feces!”
The Zuni are a Native American tribe whose ancestors lived along the Zuni River in what is now New Mexico. Like other American tribal groups, the Zuni had a rich cultural heritage, particularly in the production of arts and crafts. They were also known for their lively communal events, which included games, rodeos and entertainment by a group of clowns called the Koyemshi.
Performances by the Koyemshi began with jokes and slapstick, much as one might expect from Western circus clowns. But Koyemshi clowns didn’t stop there, as government researchers reported in 1902:
“Each [Koyemshi clown] endeavours to excel his fellows in buffoonery and in eating repulsive things, such as bits of old blanket or splinters of wood. They bite off the heads of living mice and chew them, tear dogs limb from limb, eat the intestines and fight over the liver like hungry wolves… The one who swallows the largest amount of filth with the greatest gusto is most commended by the fraternity and onlookers. A large bowl of urine is handed to a Koyemshi, who… after drinking a portion, pours the remainder over himself by turning the bowl over his head.”
Today there are approximately 10,000 descendants of the Zuni – but no active Koyemshi – living in the United States.
Percy Grainger was an Australian musician, best known for his esoteric and inventive compositions, and his popular arrangement of the English folk tune Country Gardens. Grainger was also into sadomasochism and sexual activities involving violence and cruel fantasies.
Grainger’s favourite hobby was whipping, both as a ‘giver’ and a ‘receiver’. He owned a large collection of leather whips of all sizes and often took them on tour. Writing about his sexual proclivities in 1932, Grainger described himself as:
“…a sadist and a flagellant… my highest sexual delight is to whip a beloved woman’s body. Her screams, her struggles to evade the whip, the marks of the whip arising on her body, all give me a feeling of male power and exultation that swells my love and devotion towards my sweetheart a hundredfold, and makes our love-life more intense and impulsive.”
Grainger’s impulses were apparently worse in his youth. Again writing in the 1930s he recalled a recurring fantasy from his teens that involved:
“…sticking two fishhooks, slung on four pulleys, one into each of a woman’s breasts, and then pulley-raising the fishhooks till the weight of the woman’s body caused the fishhooks to rip thru (sic) the breast flesh…”
In 1961, Italian avant-garde artist Piero Manzoni manufactured and sold 90 small cans, each one filled with his own dung. Their lids were numbered and signed by Manzoni and each sported a label that read:
Net content 30 grammes
Preserved in its natural state
Produced and packaged in May 1961
Manzoni sold his canned dung for $US37 each, basing this on the equivalent per-gramme price of gold. In recent years, Sotheby’s has sold cans of Merde d’Artista for 124,000 euros (2007) and 97,250 pounds (2008).