William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Friday, 16, September, 2011

Filed under: Books,History — williamthecoroner @ 18:16

As the Toledo Museum of Art has let me know, today is the 4ooth aniversarry of the publishing of the King James Bible. It is the edition I prefer the most, I like the poetry. And yes, it is harder to read than the more modern texts, but not as hard as, say, O-chem.

Thursday, 16, June, 2011

If Breda Can Swoon Over A Historical Figure

Filed under: History — williamthecoroner @ 21:45

As she does HERE, well then, so can I. I’ve always thought this lady was really rather attractive. She had a lot of style. Indeed, she was well known in her day as a beauty. I also like this photo of her with her two children: . This one was from 1889. If the fellow on the right looks familiar, he should. You probably know him, but you’re more familiar with him when he was older.  I put that picture of him below the fold. (more…)

Wednesday, 15, June, 2011

Deaths In Tudor England

Filed under: Forensics,History — williamthecoroner @ 11:23

The Showtime series The Tudors was quite popular, if historically incorrect. But what’s not to like about Tudor England. You got intrigue, politics, modern realpolitik and belief in witchcraft, Shakesperean language and great clothes.

Of course, there’s more than just what makes good TV. And life outside of the halls of power was quite different than in it. What else is new? But the Tudors were good at administration, and kept records, the need to to keep a handle on everything that was going on. A scholar at Oxford has been looking at coroner’s reports from the Tudor period. There were deaths from things that don’t happen today. Story HERE.

My personal favourites are Killed by a bear, the fellow who shot himself in the head with a bow and arrow, and death by maypole. You gotta watch out for them maypoles.

Hat tip, Lili

Monday, 6, June, 2011


Filed under: History,In Memoriam — williamthecoroner @ 08:06

On 6 June 1944, Allied forces landed in Normandy to open up a second front in the European theater.  Many, many men were killed that day, and deserve remembering.

Saturday, 4, June, 2011


Filed under: History — williamthecoroner @ 20:52

Midway, the turning point in the Pacific war June 4-7 1942.

Thursday, 28, April, 2011

Burke and Hare

Filed under: Forensics,History,Poetry,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 21:00

‘Round the town with Burke and Hare
Through the close and down the stair
Burke’s the butcher, Hare’s the thief,
And Knox is the boy that buys the beef.

In the early 1800’s in England, the study of anatomy was severely hampered by the lack of suitable cadavers.  The specimens were usually executed criminals, who were sentenced to be hanged and then dissected, as a sort of insult after injury.  But the number of hanging offenses had been greatly reduced as a result of penal reforms at the turn of the century.  When there is a demand and a greatly restricted legal supply, extra-legal methods are employed to fill the demand.  Ressurectionists, also known as body-snatchers, would dig up recently buried cadavers and sell them to medical schools.

In the early 1800’s Edinburgh, Scotland was a boom town.  People were flooding into the area to work in industry and all sorts of public works projects to support that industry.  One of those projects was the Union Canal, connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow by water, to move coal and other raw materials between those industrial cities. The canal was built between 1818 and 1822.  William Hare and Brendan Burke emigrated from Ireland to work on the canal and stayed in Edinburgh working on the canal.  Hare married a widow who kept a boarding-house.  When one of their lodgers died without paying his rent, Hare sold the body to Dr. Robert Knox.

They realized that this work was profitable, and avoided all that hard work of messing around in graveyards with shovels.  However, not enough lodgers died of natural causes, so the pair began getting them drunk and suffocating them.  Hare would hold a pillow over their faces, and Burke would sit on their chests, killing and leaving very few marks on the body.  Burke and Hare killed seventeen victims between 1827 and 1828, taking them from the poor and indigent who lived in and near Hare’s boarding house.  Unfortunately, two of the victims were known to the students when they appeared on the dissecting table, and they were known to be in good health.

The authorities were notified, Hare turned King’s evidence and Burke was hanged on 26 January, 1829.  He was dissected by the medical students at Edinburgh University, and his death mask and skeleton can still be seen in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.  The popular outrage and need for anatomy education that the Burke and Hare case spotlighted lead to the passage of the Anatomy Act of 1832, and greatly increased the supply of cadavers for medical education purposes.  Hare was released from prison in February, 1829; Dr Knox eventually moved to London, where he still taught anatomy.  The house where Knox lived is now part of Edinburgh University Medical School.

Thursday, 21, April, 2011

Ab Urba Condita

Filed under: History — williamthecoroner @ 13:09

It’s April 21.  Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill on this date, 2764 years ago.

Tuesday, 19, April, 2011

Concord Hymn

Filed under: History,In Memoriam,Poetry — williamthecoroner @ 09:01

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Monday, 18, April, 2011

Paul Revere’s Ride

Filed under: History,In Memoriam — williamthecoroner @ 09:01

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march

By land or sea from the town to-night,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch

Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–

One if by land, and two if by sea;

And I on the opposite shore will be,

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every Middlesex village and farm,

For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good-night!” and with muffled oar

Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,

Just as the moon rose over the bay,

Where swinging wide at her moorings lay

The Somerset, British man-of-war;

A phantom ship, with each mast and spar

Across the moon like a prison bar,

And a huge black hulk, that was magnified

By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street

Wanders and watches, with eager ears,

Till in the silence around him he hears

The muster of men at the barrack door,

The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,

And the measured tread of the grenadiers,

Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,

By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,

To the belfry chamber overhead,

And startled the pigeons from their perch

On the sombre rafters, that round him made

Masses and moving shapes of shade,–

By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,

To the highest window in the wall,

Where he paused to listen and look down

A moment on the roofs of the town

And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,

In their night encampment on the hill,

Wrapped in silence so deep and still

That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,

The watchful night-wind, as it went

Creeping along from tent to tent,

And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”

A moment only he feels the spell

Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread

Of the lonely belfry and the dead;

For suddenly all his thoughts are bent

On a shadowy something far away,

Where the river widens to meet the bay,–

A line of black that bends and floats

On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,

Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride

On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.

Now he patted his horse’s side,

Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,

Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,

And turned and tightened his saddle girth;

But mostly he watched with eager search

The belfry tower of the Old North Church,

As it rose above the graves on the hill,

Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.

And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height

A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!

He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,

But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight

A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,

A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,

And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark

Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;

That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,

The fate of a nation was riding that night;

And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,

Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,

And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,

Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;

And under the alders that skirt its edge,

Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,

Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock

When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.

He heard the crowing of the cock,

And the barking of the farmer’s dog,

And felt the damp of the river fog,

That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,

When he galloped into Lexington.

He saw the gilded weathercock

Swim in the moonlight as he passed,

And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,

Gaze at him with a spectral glare,

As if they already stood aghast

At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,

When he came to the bridge in Concord town.

He heard the bleating of the flock,

And the twitter of birds among the trees,

And felt the breath of the morning breeze

Blowing over the meadow brown.

And one was safe and asleep in his bed

Who at the bridge would be first to fall,

Who that day would be lying dead,

Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read

How the British Regulars fired and fled,—

How the farmers gave them ball for ball,

From behind each fence and farmyard wall,

Chasing the redcoats down the lane,

Then crossing the fields to emerge again

Under the trees at the turn of the road,

And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;=

And so through the night went his cry of alarm

To every Middlesex village and farm,—

A cry of defiance, and not of fear,

A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,

And a word that shall echo for evermore!

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,

Through all our history, to the last,

In the hour of darkness and peril and need,

The people will waken and listen to hear

The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

And the midnight message of Paul Revere

Tuesday, 12, April, 2011

Yuri Gagarin First Man in Space

Filed under: Circle Game,History,In Memoriam — williamthecoroner @ 15:31

On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin blasted off the launch pad in Baikonur at 9:08 AM local time. His call-sign for the flight was “Cedar.” Sergei Korolev, the Program’s Chief Designer, would call from the ground, “‘Dawn’ calling ‘Cedar.’” Gagarin made his historic 108 minute flight (orbiting around the whole Earth once) and parachute landed near his Vostok 1 capsule in the plains of Russia. This flight made him the first human to orbit the Earth and an international hero. Yuri was only 27 years old..

The Cosmonaut program is rich with traditions that honor Yuri’s first flight. It is customary to visit the Gagarin Memorial before your mission, to sign the log book in Yuri’s unchanged office, and to urinate on the tire of the bus that brings you to the launch pad (mostly because Yuri had to himself right before his flight). We hope the world will celebrate 12 April together and create new traditions of space and unity.

From yurisnight.net

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