Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gilles De Rais

I have decided to try something different.

I was doing some light reading yesterday and stumbled across a site that had posted their top 15 worst serial killers list. A commenter had added their dismay that Gilles de Rais hadn't made it on the list.

Having no previous knowledge on de Rais I did a google search. I spent the rest of the morning reading (when I should have been studying o.O) and compiled here, just for you, the information that I found.

Happy reading ;)

Gilles de Montmorency-Laval (AKA Baron de Rais) lived in France between 1404 and 1440.

At the time of his birth France was at war with England (The Hundred Years War) over who was the rightful heir to the throne.

As was typical in that time period, Gilles was raised by absent parents. He began his studies at the age of seven and proved to be a quick learner in every subject -- with the exception of politics.

In 1415 his mother died. Shortly after, and just before the quagmire that is now known as Agincourt, his father, Guy, was mauled to death while hunting wild boar.

Guy made sure that his will kept Gilles and his younger brother, Rene (two years junior), away from their grandfather, Jean d'Craon.

d'Craon, being one of the wealthiest people in France, challenged the will and the boys became his wards in the middle of 1416.

What Gilles learned from his influential grandfather was that as heir to the second richest man in all of France, he was above the law.

d'Craon made three attempts at marrying off his oldest grandson. Only the third, when Gilles was 16, finally happened. Gilles married Catherine de Thouars of Brittany on November 30th 1420. She was his cousin and they wed after Gilles kidnapped her, under instruction and tutelage from his grandfather. This marriage served to increase the family's already vast wealth.

Gilles was primary advisor and general to Joan of Arc. They fought together against the English during the war. In this he was able to partake in the carnage he seemed to enjoy so much. He was soon appointed the title Marshal of France which made Gilles the highest ranking soldier in France. He still hadn't learned how to politic, though, and his blunders made a lot of enemies for him.

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Gilles, as well as everyone else, abandoned her in her time of need. She was seen as a threat and so, she was thrown to the wolves.

Soon after, on November 15th, 1437, d'Craon died. He renounced Gilles on his death bed and stripped him as heir to the family wealth.

In May of 1440 (the 15th), Gilles kidnapped a cleric during a dispute. The Bishop of Nantes started investigating him from that point.

On July 29th the Bishop released his findings. A second investigation, this one by authorities, was concluded in September and Gilles and two of his servants were arrested on the 15th under charges that included sodomy, heresy and murder.

The court planned on torturing Gilles into confessing to the crimes, but he admitted to them on October 21st.

Gilles confessed that between the Springs of 1432 and 1433 he began assaulting children. No account survives of the actual first murders, but he also admitted to murdering or ordering the murders of countless children after he sodomized them. According to one of the servants who was arrested with him, sometimes Gilles would issue a fatal wound and sodomize the child while they bled out. Other times, the man alleged, Gilles would sodomize the dead.

Afterwards he would have the bodies burned in the fireplace in his bedroom and then have their ashes scattered.

The accounts were apparently so graphic that the courts ordered certain parts stricken from the records.

The number of victims was placed somewhere between 80 and 200, although a few have said that the number is as high as 600. All victims were between the ages of 6 and 18. They were both male and female.

The servants confessed and were sentenced to death. Gilles was sentenced on October 25th. He was allowed to make confession and was granted his request to be buried in the church of the monastery of Notre-Dame des Carmes.

Execution by hanging and burning was set for Wednesday the 26th of October. At 9 am the trio made their way to the place of execution on the Ile de Biesse.

Gilles told his body servants to die bravely and to focus on salvation.

His request to be the first to die was also granted and at 11 am the platform was set on fire. Gilles was hanged. His body was cut down before the flames consumed his body and his remains were claimed. The bodies of the servants were burned to ashes and scattered.

Gilles' daughter Marie erected a stone memorial at the site of execution which was destroyed during the French Revolution.

Was Gilles framed?

The Duke of Brittany received his lands after he was executed. He split them among his lords. This was a man who could have protected Gilles. He was also one of King Charles's lords - who played the king and continuously switched sides during the war.

The verdict was based on testimony. But confessions in cases of witchcraft and heresy were often extracted through torture. Gilles de Rais himself confessed under torturous circumstances. The courts didn't want to hear the truth. They wanted to hear guilt.

Gilles de Rais

For more information:

TruTV

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo Prep

Sunday I signed up for my very first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Every November insane people sign up to write 50,000 words (for a novel) between the first and midnight on the 30th. This year I will be one of those insane people.

I am stoked. I am nervous.

Dead center in the middle of November are my exams. Somehow I need to juggle those as well as other commitments, and still find the time to write around two thousand words a day.

Not just any two thousand words. Two thousand words towards the same manuscript. No bouncing around.

For the next few days I will be preparing myself for this. Outlines, research... I feel everything needs to be organized so that I can spend the time I have actually writing - blogging about writing and being on twitter or facebook apparently doesn't count.

Thankfully I found my desk last week and it is now in proper working condition.

I am looking to use this event as motivation to get off my lazy butt (or get on my lazy butt?) and get some serious writing done. There's an idea calling to me...

For more info on this craziness, click here

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Serial Killer....

It's Sunday.

Normally that would mean that I post about a female serial killer. (And by 'normally', I mean for the last 5 Sundays...)

Today was a busy day and I don't know how to make time. I hung out with my son instead of diving into the twisted world of sadists.

Check back next Sunday for part six.

My apologies.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I am my own Worst Enemy

These days I find myself in a productivity rut.
What this means -- for me -- is that I am producing the bare minimum (or nothing at all).

I wanted to blame exhaustion. I wanted to use the fact that I haven't replaced my desk (which fell apart at the beginning of August) and therefore I am forced to do all my work in the heart of the home -- you got it, the kitchen table. I live with kids, dogs and (jinkies!) other humans. None of the above appreciate the value of the phrase "Shhh!I'm in mid-sentence" as much as I do.

Occasionally I will allow my sister the privilege of reading what I have. I make sure that I stop in mid-sentence. It annoys her to no end. My job is thus complete.

Anyway, back to the productivity rut. Some days I just don't have the energy to rouse and take the dog running at stupid o'clock in the morning and then sit and assemble words into sentences until I leave at 7.

It is too much like work to roll out of bed before 5:15 and it is much too pathetic to go to bed before 9 at night.

So instead I get half of what I need to done between 4 and 10. Then I force myself to get up early-ish the next morning so I can drink obscene amounts of coffee and will the gap between my brain and spine to close.

And the To-Do list gets longer and longer.

With my niece's leg freshly broken, and with it being rainy season, and with the sun refusing to align with the fifth moon of Venus, I have no choice but to replace/repair my desk and move back to the confines of my self-imposed dungeon.

By this time next week I will have stood up and kicked my un-productivity in the balls. (And maybe caught up on a lot of sleep as well!)

Does anyone else struggle with procrastination?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daisy De Melker

Born near Grahamstown, South Africa, on June 1st, 1886, Daisy was child five of eleven.

In her teenage years, Daisy enrolled at the Berea Nursing Home in Durban and took holidays in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). This is where she fell in love with a young civil servant in the Native Affairs Department, Bert Fuller. Their marriage was planned for the spring, then postponed until the fall so that Daisy could finish her education.

The marriage would never happen. Fuller contracted Blackwater Fever and died in the spring of 1907 - the day their wedding was originally planned.

Fuller had made sure that his affairs were in order, not one to take life and death lightly - they were in the midst of war, after all. He left his fiancee everything that he had - a 100 pound inheritence.

In March of 1909 Daisy married William Alfred (Alf) Crowle, a plumber whose body didn't agree with the local cuisine. He was thirteen years older than she. Together they had five children. Of those, only one, Rhodes Cecil (born in June of 1911), survived.

In January of 1923 Alf fell sick. He had experienced illness for most of his marriage, but this time he took a turn for the worse. Daisy called for help. The doctor, after seeing the symptoms -- Alf was foaming at the mouth, his face was blue, and his screams were agonized -- suspected that he had been poisoned with strychnine. He refused to sign the death certificate. The district surgeon conducted an autopsy and determined the cause of death to be "Brights Syndrome" which caused a cerebral hemorrhage.

Daisy inherited 1795 pounds and was considered to be 'a widow of means'.

Three years later Daisy married another plumber, Robert (Bob) Sproat. Poor sickly Bob. He too, had chronic digestive upsets, much like the husband before him. A year and a half later he suffered from a violent illness - one that was similar to Alf's.

His death on November 6th, 1927, was said to be caused by arteriosclerosis and cerebral hemorrhage. No autopsy was performed.

The twice widowed Daisy - curse her bad luck - inherited 4560 pounds from Bob's will.

In January of 1931 Daisy married a widower, Sydney (Sid) Clarence De Melker - a former South African Springbok Rugby player who had taken up plumbing.

Remember Rhodes? Daisy's spoiled, obtuse, and epileptic son, had a hard time getting and keeping work. Daisy, ever the doting mother, sent flasks of coffee to work with Rhodes daily. He and his co-worker, sharing the flask one day, both took ill in March of 1932. The co-worker recovered a short time later. Rhodes, on the other hand, did not fair so well and died. The post-mortem concluded that Rhodes had died of cerebral malaria.

A few weeks before that Daisy had gone to a chemist out of town and bought arsenic under her second husband's name. She signed the poison register with her old name and address, having told the man that she needed it for a cat.

The next month Daisy's former brother-in-law reported to police that he was suspicious of all these similar deaths. They exhumed the bodies of Alf, Bob and Rhodes. Arsenic and strychnine were found in the remains of the two men. Arsenic was found in Rhodes. His co-worker went to the authorities and was tested for -- and found to have been administered -- arsenic.

A Judge found Daisy guilty and sentenced her to death by hanging for the murder of Rhodes. When asked if she had anything to say Daisy replied: "I am not guilty of poisoning my son."

She was hanged on the morning of December 30th, 1932, the second white woman to ever be hanged in South Africa.




Crime Magazine
Crime South Africa

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Moment of Frustration

Apparently, so I am told, today is International Moment of Frustration Scream Day.

I think that what this means for me is that, as my day took a drastic turn for the toilet, I was allowed to scream in frustration. It is my right to do so.

I waited for the house to be empty before I attempted such a thing.

For anyone wondering - yes, it made me feel better. It didn't change a thing, but it allowed me to release some of the negative energy that I had harbored since 10:15 in the morning.

I believe that everyone needs a good screaming at least once or ten times in their lives.

Please take the time to enjoy yours now.

That is all ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Quick Recap

I spent Thanksgiving Sunday at my adolescent home participating in festivities with my family.

Somewhere in all of that it occurred to me:

I don't belong here.

Have you ever gotten the feeling that you had to have been switched at birth?

They talk weddings, pregnancies and work. I talk quadratics, Hamlet and bodies.   

They are blatant in their discussions on say, the usefulness of reproductive organs. My eye will twitch, my face will flame and I will blurt out something silly (in this case: the number of years it will take before I can identify one of them if they get tossed into a wood chipper).

My son - still the only grandchild - wants to talk armpit farts and the digestive process of well... of anything. I am happy to oblige.

This is followed with a chorus of: "Don't encourage him!" or "Your mom is being gross, E-Man!"

What happened to the days when I could sit around the table at East Side Mario's and, with the help of friends, clear the section while we chewed through all you could eat pasta dishes and discussed decomps and floaters?

*Sigh*

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Big 3-Oh

I woke up this morning the big three-oh. Yeah, I know... But we are really as only old as we feel, and I don't feel thirty.

At the onset of 2011 I chose one word as a new years resolution instead of a list of things I would never actually accomplish.

The word:

FEARLESS

The object was for this word to become an extension of who I wanted to be. I chose it not because I am a cowardly lion, but because I often find myself disabled by fear.

As New Years drew closer I started to fully grasp the meaning of the word and understand how exactly fear had crippled my life in the past. This was the perfect word for me, I knew.

I am the kind of person who writes but never submits. Fear prevents me from reaching out to others. It stops me dead in my tracks and I have panic attacks over the idea of making a phone call to someone in a customer service position. I know that's ridiculous - I will never ever meet this person who is answering my call in the Philippines. But I am completely unable to rationalize that to myself in the moment.

And so. I welcomed 2011 with the idea of being FEARLESS in the forefront of my mind.

It has now been ten months and I thought I would reflect on whether or not this worked for me (since I have been suggesting it to people and all).

Long story short:

I found my biological father, reunited with my semi-estranged family, and even invited people over to my house to be social. I have figured out what I want to do 'when I grow up' and have left my bat cave to chase that dream.

All this without worrying what other people are going to say.

If you ask my friends - who can testify that there are times when I am extremely callous and they feel like slapping me - I am not hiding behind a mask and pretending to be someone I am not. I say what I want to say, even it is not the most appropriate thing and makes me seem like a cold and heartless person. That is just me - and the me I know and love is still learning certain social skills. (I still keep a lot of thoughts to myself. I don't randomly walk around calling people idiots or anything like that. I just mean that sometimes my opinion is not the popular one.)

There are still a few months left before we ring in 2012. I already know that my resolution will be a word rather than a list.

Right now I smell the birthday cake that is baking. I am unsure if the candles will set off the fire alarm or not - probably not, I will just remove the battery ;)

Live with joy!

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Grateful List

A friend of mine, we'll call him Puck, posts daily on his Facebook page a quick, five item list of what he is grateful for when he wakes up in the morning.

Christine Kane (a mentor to women whose thoughts on combating procrastination appear here and whose blog appears here) believes in the power of grateful lists. You get up in the morning and come up with a short list of all the things you are grateful for before you roll out of bed to start your day.

I have been in using this practice for a few months and I find that the more I do it, the easier it becomes, and the less grouchy I am before my first cup of coffee (only the dogs are up when I get out of bed, so I guess it's not THAT big a deal...)

They don't have to be different from day to day, and they don't have to be thought provoking. A list for me has been along these lines:

  • The entertainment value of the Toronto Maple Leafs game the other night;
  • Having the support of friends as I prepare my life and mind for a major shift in priorities;
  • Being invited to my parent's house for Thanksgiving dinner;
  • Writing a unit test on quadratic transformations in twenty-five minutes; and
  • My mini-me and the blessing of helping him on his journeys of discovery.
I think in this day - and with the stress of the holidays right around the corner - the minute is well spent on building up and choosing the right way to start the day.

What are you grateful for?

I wish you all a happy and safe Canuck Thanksgiving!

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Farewell, Unfaithful Swine

This weeks post brings us another poisoner - Vera Renczi of Romania.

Renczi has been dubbed the Black Widow. She was born in Romania approximately 1903 to a wealthy family.

In her childhood and youth she had trouble maintaining relationships with men.

The following is a chronology of her deeds:

Her first husband disappeared when their son, Lorenzo, was a year old.

Her second husband, Joseph Renczi, disappeared shortly after their marriage.

Vera had a string of lovers, all who went to visit her and then never came back. She was caught after the wife of one of her lovers insisted that the police search her home.

Authorities found thirty-five coffins in her wine cellar, containing the bodies of the missing men as well as the remains of Lorenzo, whom she had to kill when he discovered her grisly secret and tried to blackmail her for it.

The investigation revealed that her victims had been killed by being poisoned with arsenic.

Because the law did not allow for the execution of women, Vera spent the rest of her life in a maximum security prison.

What makes Vera Renzci an interesting Black Widow is that her motives were not monetary. Vera killed her victims because she was paranoid that they were unfaithful to her.

That the reason for her ultimate capture was the wife of one of her lovers taught me a valuable lesson:

Laughing out loud while coffee is in your mouth is not so good.

Moral of the story: If you are going to cheat, make sure the men who came before you are still walking. If you're going to kill someone, don't leave their corpse rotting in your basement. Doing so makes it easier for you to get caught red-handed. It is also incredibly unsanitary.

For a more dramatic version of this story, click here.

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~~
The Serial Killer Files are posted weekly, on Sundays. If there is someone you want to hear about or if you have any questions, leave a comment or e-mail me at keeleystjames@gmail.com

"Unclean" is available at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com

Saturday, October 8, 2011

When Hamlet was Alive, were there Dinosaurs?

Last night I ditched book two and left Andie propped against her crutches, again frozen in time. Instead I had a small gathering of friends. We had a few beers, a lot of really great food stuffs, and some awesome laughs.

The later it got the weirder the conversation became. We discussed Hamlet and his telling Ophelia to go to a nunnery. Is he saying go to a convent or go to a brothel? I need to re-read the scene to make my clearest choice, but I am pretty sure he is telling her to go to a brothel. He just accused her of sleeping around. Is it just me, or does anyone else see how this would not pass over well in a convent?

For some strange reason this then brought us around to STI's and whether or not they were around during the time the play was written.

I said yes.

Hamlet, written around 1601 (1599, according to some sources), came after the 1547 death of King Henry VIII. There has been much speculation as to whether or not this King had syphilis (see On the Tudor Trail for details). That could explain the remarkable change in his demeanor and the rate at which his various wives lost pregnancies.

From there we discussed what the cause of syphilis was. I won't go into much detail here. Let's just say that someone said bestiality with sheep and someone else said general uncleanliness. Well... Didn't that launch us into an even weirder conversation about the Irish Ritual of Enthronement. (I first read about it in a Diana Gabaldon book.)

Naturally, last night (after more than a single beer but less than a half dozen), I couldn't find any information to back up my claim. One of my guests laughed in disbelief and decided that I was full of something that was not beer.

I hate when that happens.

The Irish Ritual of Enthronement has been a tough thing to find actual sources for, but I didn't make it up! (Take THAT, Puck!)

As the myth goes a king would mate with a white mare which would then be turned into a communal dinner.

To find out the why, check out these links:

Jules Watson
Law Library (page 11)
Lost Civilizations

How did you spend your Friday night?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Help! I got on the Train and can't get off!

Remember this?

Well, that day I exaggerated. There wasn't four million people on the bus with me.

For the last two morning there has been, though.

Normally I would stay far away from any topic that could be considered political. I sorta follow politics, but let me be honest: I am much too self-absorbed to blog about them.

Today I am going to break my own rule and offer a comment.

Some smart cookie in our city has gotten the great idea that herding us all like cattle into tin cans on tracks is perfectly fine. Can't sit, can't breathe, can't get off at your own stop without pushing through. Politeness and decency? Thing of the past.

There is talk of increasing the price of the transit. To pay for this amazing service.

Two days in a row I have had to elbow my way out of the soda can I use to get places. Two days in a row I have come way too close to missing my stop.

Cut backs, they tell us. Write to your reps, they say.

The amazing service I mentioned a few sentences ago? Also a thing of the past.

If I disappear for a while, don't panic. I am either stuck on the subway still trying to get out at my stop, or some kind soul sneezed...

Here in Toronto we seem to take our aggression out regarding these matters on inanimate objects. Case in point:



Poor paper box. Must have had news that nobody wanted to hear. Probably about cutbacks.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Maria Catherina Swanenberg

Born on September 9th, 1839, died on April 11th, 1915, Swanenberg lived in the Netherlands.

Before 1868 Swanenberg lost two young daughters. She married Johannes van der Linden on May 13th, 1868. This union was blessed with seven children (five boys, two girls) and lasted until 1886.

She earned the nickname "Goeie Mie" ("Goede Mie" in modern Dutch) by taking care of the sick.

Between 1880 and 1883 Maria poisoned approximately one hundred people with arsenic. Twenty-seven people died from the poisoning, an additional forty-five suffered from long term health problems as a result.

Her first victim was her own mother. After a while she also killed her father. 

In 1883, while she was in the process of poisoning an entire family, she was caught. Her trial began on April 23rd, 1885.

The motive for the killings was insurance policies and inheritances -- most of the policies she took out herself.

She was sentenced to life in a correctional facility and died there in 1915 at the age of 75.

From: Historici

Historici (translated)