Episode Three – What happened in Whitechapel?

WARNING!!!! There are some very graphic descriptions and photos in this post, so this is your WARNING!!!!!

Living Fur Real podcast – The Whitechapel Murders

Today, we will be traveling across the pond to the United Kingdom and stopping in a district of London’s East End called Whitechapel. Our subject was referred to by the name of Leather Apron, and the Whitechapel Butcher, but he is most famously known for the name he gave himself, Jack the Ripper.  Before I go on though, I know that many who are listening are likely aware of the crimes committed by the Ripper, but I am going to get a bit graphic with some of these descriptions so if that sort of thing bothers you, you have been warned. Okay, let’s get going.

At the end of the summer of 1888 from August 31st to November 9th there were a series of murders in the Whitechapel neighborhood which had the city of London in a panic.  Whitechapel was one of the areas most affected by crime and poverty at this time, and due to its less than affluent social conditions it was not given the same protections and considerations of the wealthier districts.  Not much has changed in that aspect in many parts of the world, unfortunately.  The latter part of the 19th century was an unimaginable world of great wealth and great poverty and a lot of this became part of the public awareness due to the attention of the media.  Life was not the romantic flower-filled parlors of the Victorian images we see much of today.

I want to begin with the victims, because it is due to their quite horrific deaths, that we are aware of this particular killer.  There are several women who have been identified as being “possible victims” but due to the way they were killed it is likely they were not Ripper victims.  We will not be discussing those victims, here we will be talking about the women referred to as the five “canonical” victims.  

The first victim was Mary Ann (Polly) Nichols. Mary had been married to a man who was a printer by trade was named William Nichols from 1864 until they divorced in 1880 and they had 5 children together.  During those days there were no social programs, no welfare that could help someone during a difficult time in their life, and many women like Mary, or Polly, as she was mainly referred to by acquaintances, who were labeled as “unfortunate” would have had few opportunities of earning a living.  Let’s remember that women were not really part of the workforce unless they were employed by a rich household as maids or cooks and perhaps in hospitals helping the infirmed.  Because of the lack of training and societal norms many women in her same situation would sometimes turn to prostitution as a way of navigating through a difficult life, hoping to at least earn, enough money to get themselves a nights doss, which meant a night in not the greatest accommodations.   

Two of the lodging houses she frequented were Wilmott’s and The White House, and for the amount of four pence, which at that time would have been 8 cents in US currency and today about $2.55, and you could go to Wilmott’s.  And don’t think that this would have been a private room, no, this would have been a large open area where several people would have been able to pick a spot and try to sleep with a roof over their head. On the night of August 30th, which was a Thursday, Mary didn’t have the money to pay for lodging and was turned away, but not before claiming “I’ll soon get my doss money, see what a jolly bonnet I have now?”  One of the last people to see her was a friend named Emily Holland.  She had been drinking and told Emily that she had made her money several times over, but drank most of it away, and so a little past 2 o’clock in the morning, drunk and stumbling she made her way down the street, never to be seen alive again.  Her body was found at approximately 3:45 in the morning on August 31st.  Her throat had been cut so deeply that she was nearly decapitated.  Her body was taken to a mortuary and after further examination, it was found that she had also been disemboweled, she was 43.   At this point, Mary Nichols is the third prostitute killed in the Whitechapel district, but she is considered to actually be the first victim of the Ripper. Remember, there were a series of killings during this same time, but only 5 are attributed to this particular killer.  The police began to question other women in the area and had been told by several that there was a man who they had nicknamed “Leather apron”, who had been strong-arming them for money for the past year. During this time the police had to tread lightly because at the time much of the Jewish community had occupations that required them to wear this type of clothing and they needed to be careful not to stir any feelings of anti-Semitism.  The police did eventually find a man who had been identified to be Leather Apron, but he was able to provide alibis for the times of the murders of Mary Nichols and Annie Chapman.

The Mary Nichols Murder Site In Buck’s Row
Mary Ann Nichols morgue photo

Which leads us to, the second victim Annie Chapman.  Annie was said to be a cordial and pleasant woman her only vice was she drank too much. She was able to make a minimal income from crochet work and selling flowers but also had to turn to prostitution to supplement her earnings.  There were two men that saw Annie on a regular basis at Crossingham’s, which was the lodging house where she would often stay.  One of these men was named Ted Stanley, and it was because of him and a bar of soap, that Annie had been asked to leave the lodging house and thus began the events leading to her death.  In the early days of September 1888, Annie was involved in an argument with another lodger named Eliza Cooper.  Annie had borrowed a bar of soap from Eliza so that Stanley could use.  After a few days, Eliza asked for her soap back, and for some reason instead of just giving back the soap, she threw money at Eliza and told her to go buy two pennies worth of soap.  This caused an argument between the two woman and Annie was asked to leave Crossingham’s. A few days later the two women ran into each other at a bar and they had a physical altercation in which Annie came out on the losing end.  

One of the last people to see Annie was Amelia Palmer.  Amelia saw how bad she looked and asked her if she had sought out any help.  Annie told her that she had not, but if she began to feel worse she would get herself to a “casual ward”, which was a place where the poor were able to seek, assistance for a night or two and some food.  Amelia gave Annie two pence and told her to get herself some food and not spend the money on alcohol.  Amelia last saw Annie on September 7th, just before 6:00 pm. According to her, Annie looked worse than when she had previously seen her.  When asked if she had anywhere to stay, Annie stated that she felt too ill to do anything, but she needed to pull herself together or she would have no lodgings that evening.  That was the last time she was seen alive. 

Annie’s body was found close to 6:00 am by three men walking along a narrow alley.  Her skirt was pulled up to her waist and again, her throat was cut.  During her post mortem exam they would find that her womb had been removed and the killer had taken it with him.

It was shortly after Annie’s murder that a letter had been sent to a news agency called Central news.  The letter was addressed to “The Boss” and it hinted at what he would do to the next victim.  It was this letter, that he would sign with the name he would forever be referred to as, Jack the Ripper.

Annie Chapman’s Murder site, 29 Hanbury Street
Annie Chapman morgue photo

The third and fourth victims were both killed on the same day.  The first to be found was Elizabeth Stride.  Elizabeth had been living off and one at a lodging house and was paid sixpence by the keeper for cleaning rooms, on the evening of September 29th.  When she finished her duties, she dressed herself up and left the house at 7:30 pm. She set off and spent the evening being spotted at several different pubs in the company of different men.  The last time she was seen. Was by a witness by the name of Israel Schwartz and he estimated the time to have been between 12:45 to 1:00 am in the early  morning of September 30th.  He described seeing her with a man in his 30’s, of average height, 5’5” and a fair complexion with a moustache.  Honestly though, I think that would have described half of the male population of London at the time. I mean I have rarely seen a photo of a man from that time without a moustache. But, I digress. Now, while he was a good witness to what may have been the beginning of the end of Elizabeth, he did not speak English and his account was given through a translator, so we are not sure how accurate the translation may have been.

            Her body had been found and the police was called for immediately.  A Police Constable arrived and began to examine her body.  He said she had felt warm and upon lifting her chin he noted her throat had been deeply cut.  He had then noted there had been a stream of blood leading from her head to a nearby doorway. By all accounts, had they not seen the wound on her throat and the blood, she would have been mistaken for being asleep.  She was 45 years old.

Dutfield’s yard, Scene of Elizabeth Stride’s murder
Elizabeth Stride morgue photo

            At the same time they were taking Elizabeth’s body to the morgue, the fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes was being released from a police station in the City of London.  She had been arrested late in the evening of September 29th.  Catherine, quite drunk, was performing an imitation of a fire engine in front of a very excited crowd.  As she finished she sat down and promptly fell asleep.  A constable showed up and asked if anyone knew her and no one did.  He picked her up with the help of another constable and together they took her to Bishopsgate Police Station where she slept until about 12:15 am. After about 15 minutes she asked if she could leave and stated she was fine to walk on her own and she was released.  From that location she headed toward Mitre Square and soon meet the killer of Elizabeth Stride.  And as with Elizabeth, she had last been seen by witnesses in the company of a man.  Only one witness, Joseph Lawende caught a glimpse of the possible killer. Joseph described the man to be about 30 years old, 5’9” with a fair complexion and, wait for it, a moustache.  Shortly after the witnesses passed the couple, a constable was walking into Mitre Square and immediately saw a body on the ground.  When he reached the body he noted that it was a woman and she was lying in a pool of blood with her skirt hiked up above her waist. The time would have been around 1:45 am.  Her post mortem exam would describe her to have suffered extensive injuries, among which were a cut over the bridge of her nose that exposed the bone, her throat cut, part of her ear was missing, and she also had the lower part of her abdomen opened exposing part of the breast bone and opening her all the way down to an inch behind her rectum.  It was believed that since he had likely been interrupted earlier, he did to Catherine all he planned to do to Elizabeth, and then some.  Catherine Eddowes was 46 years old.

            Now the public was really in an uproar.  Not only was there a killer on the loose, but he had killed twice in one evening, and they were now just finding out that he had been communicating with the police! A total of four women had been brutally killed and the police were no closer to finding a suspect now than when the first woman was killed. they had actually been patrolling the area close to Mitre Square in plain clothes patrols.  That night there was finally a clue found by one of the constables on patrol, a small piece of an apron near a doorway with what looked to be blood.  However, this really would turn out to be of little use since the only thing it proved was which direction the killer had been going as he fled the scene and the fact he may have had some blood evidence on his clothing. Another thing that was found at the location of the piece of apron was a message that had been written on a nearby wall.  It read, “The Juwes are the men that will not be blamed for nothing.”   This message is a huge point of contention for those investigating the murders at that time and today.  Mainly because it was evidence that was erased at the behest of Sir Charles Warren who was the chief of police of the London Metropolitan Police at that time, much to the disgust of the Police Commissioner.  It was argued that this graffiti was likely not produced by the Ripper since it already look as if it had been there for a while and was pretty faded, and also, would the killer really take the time to stop and write something on a wall as he’s trying to evade capture?  And once again thought was given that erasing this sentence would have spared any anti-Semitic rhetoric.  Looking back, I really don’t think this message was really meant to be a clue as much as it may have just been a way to redirect the investigation to target someone in the Jewish community.  And who knows, it sounds like there had been some problems in the area the community already and that could have very well been there for a long time and had nothing to do with the murders and the murderer.

            After the double murders things were fairly quiet for a couple of weeks.  On October 16th another letter was received at the Central News Agency, this letter was addressed “From Hell” and it contained a piece of a kidney.  It was believed that this had belonged to Catherine Eddowes.  It would be another three and a half weeks before the Ripper struck again.    

The Corner of Mitre Square, Scene of Catherine Eddowes Murder
Catherine Eddowes morgue photo

The fifth and who is believed to be the actual last victim of the Ripper is Mary Kelly.  Mary had also been married but she had lost her husband to an accident.  She lived in London for several years after coming from Ireland.  Most who knew her said that she was quite an attractive young woman and she was well-liked among most of the locals. From what I have been able to find of her she seems to be the only one that actually had a small private room that she stayed in and she would share this room off and on with a man named Joseph Barnet.  Two weeks before her murder they had an argument that became physical and resulted in a small piece of glass from a window being broken and this was often covered up with newspaper or a rag.  As a result of the argument, she asked Joseph to leave.  After that, she would invite other women to stay with her when they needed a place to stay.  But it was Joseph Barnet who would be the last person to have seen her alive.  He had stated he saw her last on the evening of November 8th between 7:30 and 7:45 pm.  She was not alone and there had been another woman there with her, who he could not identify by name. At 4:00 am on November 9th several people reported they had heard someone cry “Murder”.  No one though did anything, since this area was in a part of town where it was commonplace to hear arguments and fights. 

            At around 11:00 am Mary’s landlord sent one of his workers to the room to ask for the rent which had already been late. When he got there he knocked on the door and there was no answer.  He went around to the corner where there was a window and noticed the broken pane, so he bent forward and poked at the paper covering it in order to look inside.  He said that he had seen quite a bit of blood and didn’t want to look on any further so he went back to his employer and brought him to the site. The Landlord, John McCarthy bent down and looked through the hole.  This was the statement he gave at the time about what he had initially seen “The sight that we saw I cannot drive away from my mind. It looked more like the work of a devil than of a man. I had heard a great deal about the Whitechapel murders, but I declare to God I had never expected to see such a sight as this. The whole scene is more than I can describe. I hope I may never see such a sight as this again.”

            Her post-mortem was performed by Dr. Thomas Bond.  I won’t read the entire thing because it really is incomprehensible that one human being could do that to another, but I will give you a short description:

            The body was lying naked in the middle of the bed, the shoulders flat, but the axis of the body inclined to the left side of the bed. The head was turned on the left cheek. The left arm was close to the body with the forearm flexed at a right angle & lying across the abdomen. the right arm was slightly abducted from the body & rested on the mattress, the elbow bent & the forearm supine with the fingers clenched. The legs were wide apart, and the whole of the surface of the abdomen & thighs was removed & the abdominal Cavity emptied of its viscera, her breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds & the face hacked beyond recognition of the features.  The uterus & Kidneys with one breast under the head, the other breast by the right foot, the Liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side & the spleen by the left side of the body.   It is believed that the reason she was so utterly butchered was due to the privacy the room gave him.  Mary Kelly was 25 years old.

            None of these women deserved to die, especially under the circumstances in which they did.  Had there been programs in place that could have given them training to gain certain skills useful to society, perhaps they would have gone on to live long and fruitful lives.  Also, had they not had events in their own lives that led to them having to support themselves they may have also lived happy lives.  We see that some of these women were most likely alcoholics, but was that due to the circumstances they fell into or could they have just been addicts and therefore would have died young anyway, we’ll never really know because there is an outside factor in that one man ended them all. 

Mary Kelly Murder Site, 13 Miller’s Court
Mary Kelly crime scene photo

So now, let’s talk about this man.  Who was he?  In 1888 he was known as “The Whitechapel Murderer”, “Red Fiend” and “Leather Apron”, and finally Jack the Ripper. What we do have is quite a few suspects.  It was believed that he could have been either a doctor or someone with at least some medical knowledge, or a butcher, for obvious reasons I’m sure I don’t have to go into again. We have quite few suspects though, so let’s go through some of them.  We’ll begin with Montague John Druitt.  He was a favored suspect because his father had been a surgeon until he died of a heart attack, so it was assumed he had some rudimentary medical knowledge, he was also a barrister and part time schoolmaster.  He was dismissed from his latter position for unknown reasons, but it is said it may have been due to some sexual misconduct.  It was thought that because of this dismissal and his subsequent dismissal from the barrister position that he went on this rampage, he committed suicide because he was close to being caught, and because the murders stopped after his death he was naturally thought to be the Ripper.  However, it is more than likely his life had been in a downward spiral since the death of his father and his mother being committed to an asylum.  Couple that with the dismissal from two jobs this is the more accepted reason for his suicide.  He was not the Ripper.  

Another to add to the list was Michael Ostrog.  He was a Russian doctor, but had mainly spent his life as a thief and con man and spent most of his time between prison and mental asylums.  It was when the police began to look into possible former asylum patients and upon receiving information that Mr. Ostrog had recently been release and was also a doctor that he became a suspect. That along with the coincidence that the killings began around the same time of his release made him a pretty good suspect. Regardless of this less than stellar description, he was also never known to have been homicidal.  Also, there is evidence that he wasn’t even in England at the time of any of the murders.  So, he was not the Ripper.

Still other suspects are Francis Tumbelty, who was suspected only because he had been at one point arrested and charged with “gross indecency” toward several men, as well as his alleged penchant for collecting medical specimens, including uteri.  The latter of which there is just simply no evidence of. Again, likely not the Ripper. 

Lastly, Walter Sickert.  In her 2002 book, Portrait of a Killer – Jack the Ripper Case Closed, author Patricia Cornwell makes a decent argument for her case.  Her main evidence are a series of paintings in which Sickert has portrayed murder scenes that bear a highly suspicious resemblance to the scenes of the murdered women.  This along with claims that he was impotent and hated women further point to him as a viable suspect.  However, there really is little evidence that he actually was impotent as his first wife divorced him for adultery, not to mention the handful of mistresses he had on the side, some of which bore him children.  Further, while he is suspected to having possibly written at least one if not all of the letters, there is little evidence his guilt went any further than bad writing.  Again, not the Ripper.

            Now we come to the two best suspects. First we have we have Carl Feigenbaum.  Feigenbaum was a German sailor known to travel throughout Europe and the United States.  He was convicted in the murder of a woman named Juliana Hoffman, a crime that eventually he was sentenced to death for.  The reason he is a Ripper suspect was due to the murder of a Carrie Brown, who was a prostitute and was killed in the same manner as the Ripper victims.  Whitechapel, London is very close to the water and it was believed he may have been on a ship docked in the area during the time of her murder.  After he was executed his attorney stated that he believed Feigenbaum was likely the Ripper.  Regardless of what his attorney believed, any evidence pointing to Feigenbaum as the killer of Carrie Brown was circumstantial at best and we can safely say he was also not the Ripper.  

Montague John Druitt
Michael Ostrong
Francis Tumbelty
Walter Sickert

Lastly we have Aaron Kosminski.  Kosminski was a Polish Jew who lived in the Whitchapel district.   His father was a tailor and as was the custom at the time, he also became a very successful tailor in London.  Although not much is known of his life, what is known was he had been admitted on several occasions to a mental asylum. He was said to have been observed with the following behaviors, Schizophrenia, delusions, paranoia, and sometimes he was incoherent.  During the times of the murders he was not living in an asylum and would have had the opportunity to have committed the murders.  Also there was talk among investigators in which they discussed a man named “Kosminski” was the best suspect they had.  However, there was never a first name associated with this surname.  It was further mentioned that this person was known to have a strong hatred of women and strong homicidal tendencies.  It must be noted that while he was in the asylum it was said that he was never a danger to anyone other than himself, as he often practiced “solitary vices” and “self-abuse”, he masturbated folks.   He was not arrested because at the time no actual physical evidence that pointed to Aaron Kosminski, but there actually was something found at the time that would prove useful today?

Remember that piece of apron found by the police just after the murder of Catherine Eddowes?  Recently a stained silk shawl that was said to have been found next to Catherine Eddowes.  Shawl?  Apron?  Hmm?  In 2007 this shawl made its way to an auction.  It was purchased by a man named Russell Edwards.  Being a self-proclaimed “armchair detective” Mr. Edwards went about procuring the services of forensic geneticist Dr. Jari Louhelained who worked at John Moores University in Liverpool in 2011.  Dr. Louhelained was able to extract mitochondrial DNA and matched it to a woman named Karen Miller who is a direct descendant of Catherine Eddowes along with a female descendant of Kosminski’s sister.  The samples matched.  So, was Aaron Kosminski Jack the Ripper?

            Yes, probably, maybe, you see even though we have this damned good DNA evidence, there are still skeptics.  If we are certain of anything though, it is that “Ripperologists” will likely never be satisfied with any evidence proving the identity and will always find some way to question it.  Everyone has a favorite suspect and will always believe that their suspect is the one.

            My opinion is, I believe that yes, Kosminski was the Ripper, based on this evidence.  And until there is further evidence that proves otherwise, then that’s who my choice is.

Aaron Kosminski


Episode 2 – The plan to steal the presidents body!

Hello everyone, welcome to the Living Fur Real and other stuff, I’m WickedCats and I’m happy you could join me.  Today, we have a slightly unbelievable and yet very true story.  I first heard about this maybe 10 years ago when I saw a documentary about it on A&E, way back when they used to show documentaries, remember that?  So what’s this hard to believe story? Just a small plot to steal the body of a dead president, that’s all. Okay. let’s get to it.

            In the 1870s, Illinois was home to one of the nation’s largest counterfeiting operations.  One of these groups was lead by a man named James “Big Jim” Kinealy.  One of the men who worked for Kinealy was named Benjamin Boyd who was one of the most talented engravers at the time, and his specialty was making dies for counterfeit money. He was so good at what he did that one gang he worked with successfully circulated over 300,000 five dollar bills made from one of his plates without anyone realizing they were counterfeit, and even the United States Treasury was so impressed that they recalled their own genuine bills from circulation and used his. Unfortunately for Big Jim though, Mr. Boyd was arrested in 1875, and worse, he was eventually sentenced to 10 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary!  This was terrible and a major inconvenience for Jim and his operation, Although, I have a feeling Ben was probably more upset about his own incarceration than Jim,, I digress. Seeing that his best man was seeing some jail time, Jim decided he needed to come up with a plan to help bust out his biggest money-maker. See what I did there? Hmm?

Jim was not about to wait 10 years for Boyd to get out of prison, and honestly, I’d love to know how he decided that stealing the body of Lincoln would be the best way to get this guy out of jail but I guess we’ll never know.  Today we may think stealing a body from a grave is incredibly disrespectful and macabre, and they thought the same at the time, but in those days body snatching was quite the profitable industry.  Resurrectionists, as they were more politely called because calling them body snatchers is way too uncouth a term, would dig up recently deceased bodies and sell them to local medical schools.  The practice was so out of hand that family members often took to standing guard over their loved ones’ graves until such time as the body was no longer viable for profitable sale.

One evening at a local bar in Springfield, one of Jim’s conspirators had a little too much to drink and he wound up talking to some of the other patrons about the plan.  Because of this, Jim had to uproot his uh, business and move the planning to Chicago.  Once there he got together with a friend who ran another saloon, by the name of Terence Mullen and an acquaintance of his, Jack Hughes, to be part of the crew to steal the body. 

The actual plan consisted of stealing the body and transporting it, by way of a horse-drawn wagon, across state lines into Indiana and burying him, temporarily,  in the sand dunes until the government paid them the ransom of $200,000 worth of gold,  that’s about $4.6 million today, and released Boyd with a full pardon.  Did you know there were sand dunes in Indiana?  I didn’t, but there are.  They formed after the ice-age on a long stretch on the shore of Lake Michigan  in Porter County in northern Indiana. Now,  Jim thought, as plans go, this was flawless and he was even fortunate enough to find himself a man by the name of Lewis Swegles, who said he was the best grave robber around.  And, as luckwould have it, Swegles had a friend who could help transport the body from point A to point B, this was Bill Nealy. I’m sure Jim thought he was the luckiest guy on earth, unfortunately, he was far from it, because  Mr. Swegles and Nealy were actually working undercover as secret service informants.  Uh huh!

On the night of November 6, 1876 the four men boarded a train to Springfield carrying a carpetbag full of body snatching tools. Also, boarding the same train, were several other men including Chicago Secret Service chief, Patrick Tyrrell, former US Secret Service chief, Elmer Washburn, and two Pinkerton detectives, John McGinn and George Hay, along with an independent detective John McDonald and John English who was working with the Illinois Humane Society.  Just an aside here, in case you’re wondering, the Secret Service did not begin the duties of protecting the president until nearing the end of the 1890’s.  Before then their job mainly consisted of investigating counterfeiting gangs, hence why they were involved in this comical caper.

The following night Tyrrell, Washburn, McDonald, and English hid inside the Lincoln Tomb and waited in complete darkness in their stocking feet. John McGinn and George Hay waited outside under cover of darkness.  Jim’s gang arrived at the cemetery two hours later. They discovered that Lincoln’s sarcophagus was behind a barred door chained shut by a single padlock. 

State-of-the-art body-snatching tools!

They began to file through the lock and were able to get into the tomb and to the resting place.  Sadly, though they were met with another hurdle, the lid of the sarcophagus, proved too heavy to be lifted, so they instead began cutting away at the panel on the end section and hopefully they would be able to slide the coffin out that way.  A coffin by the way that was made from mahogany and lead lined, which itself had to weigh several hundred pounds on its own. So, they toiled away and at last, they were able to get hold of the coffin and began to drag it out of the sarcophagus.  Remember though, the secret service was hiding inside the tomb, and at this point, one of the Pinkerton agents, whose gun was already cocked, was getting nervous and his gun was accidentally discharged! As you can imagine, all hell broke loose. Mullen and Hughes hauled ass out of the tomb!  At this, Tyrell came out from his hiding spot and yelled out for the robbers to surrender.  No answer! Duh.  He ran back into the chamber where they had all been hiding and yelled to the others to bring lanterns and they all ran out of the tomb.  They ran up a small hill about 70 feet away from the terrace of the mausoleum and all started to open fire towards the outline of two men running away.  As both groups of men began shooting at each other they realized after a short time, they were shooting at each other, Tyrells group was shooting at McGinn and Hay! Mullen and Hughes in the meantime made their way back to Chicago, straight to their saloon, where they were promptly arrested about ten days later, good grief.  Interestingly enough, even though they were arrested, stealing bodies from a cemetery was not a federal crime, nor was it a state crime either.  The two men were only convicted of “attempting”  to steal the coffin, which cost $75 at the time and spent only a year in prison.

Meanwhile, back in Springfield a man by the name of John Carroll Power and a few of his friends, took it upon themselves to try and do what the Government could not, and keep the body of Lincoln safe by moving the casket to the basement of the tomb.  Yes, the tomb had a basement, and that’s where the body of Abraham Lincoln spent the next two years, in a shallow grave.  After two years though, Mr. Power and a group of other trusted confidants decided to move the body, again seeing as the basement floor was constantly wet and dirty and was not a dignified location for the body of the president.  The body was lifted on to some dryer scrap pieces of wood and wanting to ensure that Lincoln was still in his coffin opened the casket.  They confirmed that Lincoln was indeed there and left the coffin on the wood pile where the men took turns guarding the body of the president, they would call themselves the “Lincoln Guard of Honor and earned such respect from Robert Todd Lincoln, the last remaining son of Abraham Lincoln, that when his mother Mary Todd Lincoln died in 1882, he asked the men to place his mother’s casket next to his father. 

You would think that this would be it right?  That the tomb would be repaired, and Lincoln and his wife and his younger sons would be buried in the tomb again and left in peace.  But no.  Lincoln’s body was actually moved several more times, due to constant reconstruction and the fear of his body was not actually inside his coffin.  In fact, his body was moved about 18 times and his coffin opened 5 between 1865 and 1901.  The final resting place of Abraham Lincoln was in a newly reconstructed tomb within Oak Ridge Cemetery.  Robert Todd Lincoln had grown tired of the constant moving of his father’s coffin and ordered that it be placed into a steel cage and lowered down into a 10 foot chamber which was then covered with 4,000 pounds of concrete.

And there you have it, folks.

Lincoln’s final resting place.

Links you can further explore:

Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination – https://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln.html





Audiobooks and online streaming

in 2015 I moved out of the condo I was renting and wound up having to move to the only place I could find on such short notice which was an efficiency.  Actually, it’s a master bedroom which is closed off from the main house.  This wasn’t ideal, but I needed a place to live that would let me have my cats and dog.  I thought, okay this is just temporary, 6 months, maybe a year max.  3 years later, I’m still there.  Just can’t afford to move.

But, on the up-side, the place is small so I really don’t have to spend too much time keeping it clean and picked up.  AND, free wi-fi.  I don’t have cable, which I thought would be torture, but I’ve actually come to appreciate not having to spend that obscene amount of money monthly for 500 channels, of which I only watch 5.

What do I watch?  I have Netflix, of course, Amazon Prime, YouTube Red, and I also have a  monthly subscription for Audible.  I’m a little late in the game, but I have discovered Podcasts. I’ve been without cable for 3 years, and I really haven’t missed it.  At first, though, I was thinking, “OMG what the hell am I going to do now?”  But really, I love not having cable.  In fact, when I finally have a normal place to live I won’t be getting cable again.  I will set myself up with a good internet plan and that’s it.

If anyone is thinking about cutting the cable cord, DO IT!!!  You won’t be sorry.

Never say never again.

Last year I dove into the world of animal rescue.  Head first to be exact!  After coming home and finding a flyer posted next to the elevators at my condo complex, stating all stray cats would be trapped and taken to the shelter.  The shelter here in Miami is a high kill shelter.  They recently stopped taking in cats, and any strays brought to them are killed. See what I did there? I didn’t say euthanize.  That’s because if you take the word by its meaning, they you will see that you really cannot euthanize a perfectly healthy animal. No, our shelter kills, and it kills a lot.  Sure, their numbers have gone down, but only because they now ship dogs and cats to other shelters and sometimes work with rescues.

Anyway, when I saw this I knew I couldn’t just leave those cats to that fate.  I’ve been covertly feeding them for a couple of years and really knew nothing about where to take them for help.  I took to Facebook, and began my journey.  I hooked up with some good and caring people.  These people had been in rescue for years and knew the ins and outs.  I was able to make some connections and found out there was a program in my area that would help me in getting these cats spayed and neutered.

I was able to find a home for one cat that was feline leukemia positive, as well as four others.  At one point I had ten cats in my apartment.  Yes, ten!  I have six of my own, so the additional four was quite frankly a nightmare.  Of the four, two were about five to six months old, one was shy but the other was quite feral.  At one point I was keeping them in my spare bathroom and the feral one got out.  She gave me a hell of a scratch before she got into the carrier.  The other two were about four months old.

With some help, a home was found for the two older kittens, and I kept the smaller two until a home could be found for them.  This was eight months in the making.  I have had these two girls with me and while I will tell you it has been incredibly stressful at times, I absolutely adored these girls. My journey with them ended last night.  Today they are on their way to a new life.  I can’t even express the sadness I felt knowing that I had to let them go.  It was as though part of my soul was being torn from me, and I think it was.  They took a little piece of me with them, and in turn they left a big piece of themselves with me. Their impact on me will last until I take my final breaths on this earth.  I never wanted to foster, because I knew how hard it would be to let them go.  But they taught me that as hard as it is, when your part is done, you let them go.  You let them go because it was your job to prepare them, to show them how to trust and what it means to be loved.

As sat there in my car with my foster girls, Isis and Astra, and who I eventually came to call Smudge and Mochie, I said to myself, “I can never do this again.  I can’t allow myself to feel like this again.” I could very easily have been a foster failure, but my space dictates that I cannot bring any more cats into my home permanently.  Permanently being the key word here.  You see, as I was saying good-bye to my friend who is taking the girls on to their next stop in their new life, she asked me if I could foster a little kitten.  A tiny baby not even six weeks old yet, until the end of April or mid-May.  I smiled and didn’t even hesitate.   I hope to welcome my new charge this week.


Smudge and Mochie

Smudge and Mochie

Smudge Mochie

NEW Morningstar pizza – Baja Black Bean Review

I am always wary of microwave pizza.  That “crisper” rarely works well, at least for me, and many times I wind up turning it from a potentially tasty treat, to something I can make a shoe out of. But, I decided to give this a try.


I wasn’t sure about black beans and corn on a pizza, but it was either this one or the one with the garbanzo beans (Mediterranean Chickpea).  I love garbanzo beans, but on a pizza seemed more odd than the black bean combo.

So, here goes.  On the tray, for 3:45 minutes in the office microwave.


Looks like this when it’s out.


And now for the best part.  Tasting it!


It’s actually quite delicious!  A little spicy, so it’s got a bit of a kick to it. And guess what? It’s crispy!!!  I really really loved this.  Now I want to try the other one.   The price comparable to other single serving pizza’s on the market.

Here is some of the nutrition information.



I highly recommend this.  It’s vegetarian, tastes good and the price won’t kill you so you can buy a couple and have them for lunch at work, or dinner at home.

I’ll give this a resounding 4 tuna cans!

small tuna cansmall tuna cansmall tuna cansmall tuna can


Bookshelf 3 of 6

Another section of the bookshelf.  This is the middle section of the bookshelf on the left of the television.   Lots of books here and some DVD’s.  The small little pinkish box on the bottom left is a cardboard jewelry box.  I haven’t looked in there in a while.  It’s always nice to go through an old box full of interesting little things.  You managed to find things you often forgot you had and loved.


Bookshelf 3 of 6

Bookshelf project, 2 of 6.

Bookshelf 2 of 6

This is another section of my bookshelf.  It’s amazing to me that I never really noticed before just how much of “me” is in these little sections of my bookshelf.

From left to right, here we go:

The wood object you see there is an incense holder.  I found that, if I remember correctly, at a flea market over 15 years ago!  Wow, that’s a long time now that I think back. I hadn’t realized I’ve had it that long.  I particularly love this because when you open the top, you have the actual holder for the incense to stand and burn down.  The ashes fall down into this sort of basin.  You can see that there is a line going across.  That’s actually a small compartment, where the incense is kept.

The two statuettes:   The first, St. Therese, referred to as “The Little Flower”.  I bought her several years ago, when I was still living with my aunt.  I thought she was pretty, and now and then I go to the church named for here near where I work.  The second statuettte, is my Our Lady of Charity, the patron saint of Cuba, La Cardidad de el Cobre.  The national shrine for her is here in Miami.  My mother was a devotee to her, and to the day she died her faith never wavered.

At the front, a small round container with little plastic bands, for Sofie’s hair.  Next to it a ceramic box, a wonderful old woman gave me back in the late 90’s when I was living in some apartment building after I’d moved from my aunts home.  Inside there are some incense cones, and a hand from a statue of a goddess in Japanese Geisha clothing.  Her name eludes me, but the superstition goes, if you take her hand and wish for something, she will grant you your wish, in return for her hand.  And as you see, she’s never gotten her hand back, so my wish has never been granted.  Perhaps it’s time to ask for something else.

Behind the statuettes, is a box I bought at Pier One may many years ago.  It’s I believe Indian, and I keep old jewelry I never really wear anymore in there.  Next to that are very old photos I was given a little over 20 years ago.  They are photos from Cuba.  Many of family, that I admittedly don’t even know by name.  The photos are propped up against an old mirror I never got around to hanging.

Sometimes a picture can say a lot. Bookshelf project 1 of 6.

A picture can often say a lot about not just the subject, but the person behind the camera. Especially if it’s a photograph that reflects that person. I have a two bookshelves, that once were part of an entertainment center. Several moves over the years broke off the already flimsy middle section of the entertainment center, and since I can always use more storage space, I have kept the two bookshelf/sides.

Currently they hold a plethora of “stuff” I have collected through the years. As I sat watching some television yesterday afternoon, I looked at all of my stuff and realized that my bookshelves reflect me in a very visual way. I decided it would be interesting to take a picture of each section and show you all.

This is 1 of 6:

Bookshelf 1 of 6

So as you can see, my reading material is eclectic, as you will see with the next photo posts I make.

Vampires: Yes, they have always fascinated me.  Although I hate to admit this, but lately, I’m over it.  Maybe it’s just the total saturation of vampires both in movies, books and television.  I also don’t really go for the way they are portrayed these days.  Some sparkly, some sex obsessed, and some just dumb.

The Strange: I’m always up for reading about oddities!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Loved the show!  I really was very disappointed when it was cancelled.  I thought there was still one more good season there.

Pink ribbon bear:  I bought this many years ago, through Avon.  It was during a Breast Cancer awarreness campaign, and it caught my eye.  Proceeds of the purchase of the bear went to research.  My mother died of this horrible disease, and whenever I can monetarily, I try to support.

Nefertiti:  Another fascination for me. Not just her, but all things ancient, be they Egyptian, Roman or Greek. But, mainly it’s the ancient Egyptians that have always for some reason attracted me.

CD’s:  Not that they attract me but I have a lot of files saved on these.  I recently purchased a new laptop and have been in the process of downloading some saved files.  I’ve also lost many things over the years and have been searching through these files to see if perhaps I have them saved here.

Incense:  No explanation here.  I simply love the smell of incense burning. I am however particular with the scents I burn. I like the earthy scents.

The dark fidurine:  That is a figurine of Professor Severus Snape that a very good friend of mine sent me.  I love it!

That tiny bottle:  My boss got that a couple of years ago.  I have no idea where he acquired that odd little bottle with the leprechaun, but he was going to throw it away and I thought it was cute, so I kept it.

Opinions wanted about my article!

Some of you may have read I am writing a short article, in the hopes of submitting it to some cat magazines and having it published.  It’s finished, but still a work in progress.  I now I’ve got a bit more work to do here, and adding a little more personal experience with these different types of litter may be included, but I’d love some opinions from you all.  Even if you don’t have a cat, or any pets, your opinion would be appreciated.

Here it is…so far:

Litter me this, litter me that, what kind of litter is best for your cat?

I know what you’re thinking, another article about litter, OY!  But hey, litter is important, and we who serve the furry gods know just how important.  More so perhaps than making sure crazy uncle Fred doesn’t sit next to the boss’ wife at your wedding.

Most people I know who have cats buy the litter they like in the beginning, and while most cats cooperate, many don’t.  I’ve known many a cat servant who has gone through several different types of litter before they find one their cat likes.

As with ANYTHING, there are pro’s and con’s to each type of litter you buy and use.

Clay Litter:

To begin with, most of us start off with the clay litter.  This type of litter is fairly inexpensive, at first glance.  However, it comes with, I believe, the most issues.  The main one being when it gets wet, it stays wet for quite a while.  As we know, cats, most cats that is, hate getting their feet wet, so this will be an issue.  Each time your cat uses the litter, you would have to change out the old and add new.  Here is where your initial inexpensive litter becomes pricey.

Clay clumping litter:

A better option is buying clumping litter.  Here you can find clay-based and plant based options.  Clumping litter will form into a solid piece as soon as it becomes wet allowing you to just scoop the clump out of the box.  However, this type of litter can be very dusty, so you will have kitty tracks all over, not to mention this may present an issue with those who suffer from allergies, be they human or feline.   Also, if your cat is allergic to corn or wheat this litter will be an issue for you and it’s best you avoid it.  My own experience with clay based litter was I found it was too dusty for me, and I didn’t like knowing my cats were ingesting the product.  They get the dust on their fur and feet and the pieces get stuck in their paws and they swallow it.

Corn and Wheat clumping litter:

I have found that corn litter, while is advertised as a natural odor eliminator, didn’t quite work that way for me.  As for the wheat, it did control the odor slightly more, however the clumps eventually would get stuck to the box.  You may as well invest in a jack-hammer to help you clean the boxes, because it’s near impossible remove the clumps that stick to the boxes!  I wonder if the ancient Egyptians used wheat litter to build their pyramids because this stuff isn’t going anywhere!  I won’t tell you how many boxes I threw away before finally changing litters.

Pine pellets:

Pellet litter is made mainly from either pine/wood, recycled paper and recently I used a product made from walnut shells.  Of the three, I have found the pine to be the most effective for odor control.  I live in a not too large loft.  With 6 cats and a dog, believe me, I appreciate the odor control!  A trick many of us know is adding some baking soda, preferably the kind without aluminum, as this can also be ingested by your cat and cause health issues.  The biggest issue however with the pine is it could pose a health concern if your cat is asthmatic.  I recently have begun to suspect one of my cats suffers from what I hope is just a mild case of asthma.  There is a naturally occurring substance in both pine and cedar, plicatic acid in cedar and abietic acid found in pine, that can damage the respiratory tract and cause problems with asthmatic cats.  For this reason, I am looking at some alternatives.  This is an ongoing process, as these days funds are low and it isn’t easy finding something as cost effective as a forty pound of pine pellets for $8.00.

I was able to try out one product, a walnut based product, that seemed like a good alternative, but as with these previous litters, it has it’s pro’s and cons.

Walnut based pellets

I asked the feed store I purchase my pine pellets from if they could order me a bag of some walnut based pellets.   The pellets were slightly smaller than the pine pellets, mainly because this is made for “cat litter” purposes, and the pine litter I buy is used as “horse bedding.”  That’s why it’s so inexpensive, it’s the labeling.  Anyway, the first thing I noticed was how dark this litter is.  It’s like a really dark charcoal gray.  I immediately didn’t like that.  If you are like me, and regularly monitor the color of the litter, this dark color makes it impossible to see any change of color in urine.  By that I mean, finding blood. I recently  had one of my boys develop a case of cystitis.  I noticed Vlad using the box a little too frequently, and as I waited for him to come out of his box at one point, I noticed a drop of blood hit the litter.  Now, Vlad is black, and I saw the drop of blood as well as some pinkish color in the litter because of the yellowish coloring of the pine litter.  Had I been using the walnut based litter, I never would have seen this.  That concerns me.  Also, just for daily scooping it’s hard.  I mean, it’s REALLY hard to see the poop!  The odor control was so-so too.  I wasn’t a fan, even though two of my cats didn’t seem to mind it.  Actually the one that I do suspect as being asthmatic, Oksana, hasn’t set one foot in the litter.  She prefers the pine in the other boxes.


This is something I have never used.  When searching for a litter I stuck with the one that had been next on my list, which happened to be the pine pellets.  I also don’t like the idea of silica being something my cats can ingest.  I have however read that the odor control with this kind of litter leaves much to be desired.

Most litters I have highlighted come either unscented or scented.  In my opinion, I think the “scented” is more for the human, and not so much for the cat.  Cats don’t want to smell their own urine or feces any more than we do.  Finding something that can minimize the odor is the key. For me, pine has worked the best.  I do not have to dig for brown gold on a daily basis, because as long as it’s covered, the pine covers the smell.  Of course, unless my cat Czarina gets into the box.  I don’t mind telling you, her stuff is toxic.  She was a stray for about 3 years before I found her and brought her indoors, although I do suspect she at one time may have belonged to someone since she was already spayed and showed no sign of having been part of any TNR program.  She’s never really though learned how to bury her poop, and sometimes one of my other cats finds it so particularly offensive that they bury it for her.  But when they don’t, I have to dispose of it immediately, because it WILL fill the entire apartment with the smell.

Lastly, there is a product I have used that I would gladly use more if it were not so economically unfeasible for me. Dr. Elsey’s is a brand that has several products for different situations.  There is a special “Cat Attract”, “Kitten Attract” “Senior” and “Respiratory relief”, litters.  I have used the Cat Attract with the last stray I rescued.  Tatiana was nine months old when I brought her inside, and had no clue what a litter box was.  For several days she either went inside the carrier she was hiding inside, or on the floor.  After having to clean the carrier several times and lining the floor with pee pads, I decided to buy the “Cat Attract” litter.  It worked within the first hour of placing it in her area.  This is an excellent brand of litter.  It is pricey however.  Not so terrible if you have one or two cats, but I myself have six, so it’s very difficult for me at the moment.  If things change for me financially however, I do plan to move to this litter.  Let’s hope the cats decide to as well!