Strange Lives

The Club of Queer Trades, Part 2

Nineteenth-century newspapers seemed fascinated by odd jobs. And, to be honest, there seems to have been a great deal of ingenuity displayed by the entrepreneurs in the stories. In honor of Labor Day, let us stroll down to the employment agency and scan some of the unusual jobs posted on fly-specked cards tacked up in the window.

Encore: The Bird-Woman Horror

“It was rather dark, for the lower half of the windows were boarded up; but in one corner, on the floor, was plainly distinguishable what looked like a heap of clothes flung together in disorder. It appeared to be in motion, however, and the mistress of the house once more turning to her follower had just time to utter the mysterious words—”Don’t be frightened. If she likes you, she’ll hoot; if she doesn’t, she’ll scream…”

The Wizard of Graphology: Rafael Schermann

An unassuming little man who worked for an insurance company found that he had a strange gift. He had only to touch a writing sample for it to conjure up accurate visions of the person who had written it. Sometimes those visions solved crimes.

Jack the Stripper

The story of “Jack the Stripper,” who shocked a Cincinnati, Ohio neighborhood from about 1875 to 1878, wore nothing but a coat of grease, caused a rather prurient panic, and evaded both bullets and arrest with ease. No one knew where he came from; he simply melted away in the dark, to the despair of the police force and the titillation of the ladies.

The Spirit Stalker of Emma Hardinge Britten

Spiritualist Emma Hardinge Britten tells of a terrifying phantom stalker who could apparently project himself through time and space.

The Childers Claimant: A Drowned Kentucky Girl’s Return

The story reads like fiction: Tiny footprints leading to a river; a drowned child’s skeleton recovered; then, years later, a young woman returns, claiming to be the dead child. Who was she?

Mothered by a Ghost: Patience Worth’s Daughter

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and as I am nothing if not topical, today we look at a a strange case of spiritual motherhood: the mother-daughter duo–or perhaps trio: Pearl Curran, her daughter Patience, and the “ghostly mother,” Patience Worth.

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