Friday, November 17, 2017

Ghosts and Kidnapers Mean Naught To Stella

Detroit Free Press, May 21, 1927
I found this while tracking down ghost stories. Though I'm not sure that this story qualifies as "weird", save for the parent's denial of their son's truancy, it is definitely interesting and humorous.


Keywords: Stella Janek, Judge Charles Bowles, 6829 Mansfield Avenue, Julius Janek, Dale Wilder, 6914 Plainview Avenue, John Raniszewski, 6327 Hyden Avenue, Warrenville, Grand River Avenue, ghosts, Warren Avenue, Rouge Park, 1927.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Ghost Story #13: Tillie's Wraith

Detroit Free Press, April 15, 1888
On a rain-shot evening in early November such as tonight it's easy to think of Tillie Sparks and feel a tinge of regret for the seasons lost and passions allayed. Surely her grave in Woodmere Cemetery is unmarked. Unlike the pocked earth scarred and salved over by a century's worth of sediment turning in its natural course, top to bottom, over and under until all is returned to clay and loam.

Hers was an unfinished script. A life mulled over and expended upon the hourly chafed bed-springs of a flophouse nearby the whorish slumbers of Madames Flo Fleming and Carrie Dalton where she witnessed her life come full circum through the fire and rain of human afflictions. As sure as her grave is bereft of monument and memorial she was a lower-dreg courtesan. A harlot. A common prostitute. Her address spoke of such ill-behavior. That the law and press were in on the tawdry scheme proves that life is a bastard enterprise. As such, Tillie Sparks peddled her flesh for God-knows what return and the only persons concerned with her welfare were the Reaper and his insouciant scythe.

It's hard to know what sentiment lay beneath her skull cap into the brain and heart of her circuitry. What thoughts and puerile instinct to live, learn and love as kings and commoners do. Surely she wanted the full spectrum of what life offers but she was beneath the domain of human compassion because she sold her body to assuage the pulsing trigger seed which begets the egg its vitality. Certainly her eyes were dim behind that ebony skein which concealed the wicked filament of illicit behaviors and vexed her mercilessly so.

Though not as much as William Brown. One could make a million masks--truthful or libelous--and all would turn out Devilish for our design here. Perhaps he was upstanding and kind. Maybe his gracious charity gave Tillie Sparks hope where only the animus to subsist on nothingness resided previously. Something caused this supposed hard woman to become brittle and break before the altar of Cupid and he's the only pillar standing between her happiness and demise.

She had expected to meet William for a tryst or perhaps something more sentimental. Clearly William was not equally enamored. So when she stepped out onto Fort Street in lieu of their "date" and saw him embroiled in commerce with another woman she became unhinged with jealousy and hopeless disdain for her own existence. She followed the erstwhile acquaintances as they followed up their footfalls with the intimacy that only lovers know. Yes, I realize that I'm devolving rapidly into a pantomime of Danielle Steel but indulge me as I allow the torrid hobgoblin to entirely envelop my psyche.

When they alighted from the street to a known carnal roost Tillie set her mind towards a return to Eden. To eat the poison apple and die a martyr in preference to a slavish and unrequited love. She booked her own funeral in a room near to her rival and love, departed to exchange money with a pharmacist on a nearby street corner, once more returned to commence the fulfillment of her destiny with the aid of laudanum and entered death's eerie chamber as a slumbering suicide eagerly awaiting the expiration of breath which came more gradual than her desire. All while William passionately remade himself upon his mate's tilting womb. Whatever it was that made Josephine Day more desirable than Tillie ended there as well.

But Tillie could not rest. Or so said the patrons and matrons of the brothel at 84 Fort Street East. Her visage could be seen at the midnight hour escaping its nocturnal prison only to lose itself in shrieks of sorrow and weeping moans, as lost and meandering as the wind in her death as she was in the living sphere. Perhaps the police could have assuaged the suffering of each or so thought the unnerved tenants. Even a cursory glance at the two buttressing articles from the Detroit Free Press proved that the strumpet calls had merely begun in earnest with those two so-called entities of justice and truth and no help would be forthcoming neither then or presently.

Detroit Free Press, May 7, 1888

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dodges Her Ancestral Ghost By Loafing On Halloween

Detroit Free Press, October 28, 1910
As a Halloween offering I will present this article about show girl Esther Lee whose family suffered many Halloween tragedies throughout the family tree. So while her acting troupe Midnight Sons was in town performing at Detroit's Garrick Theater she was taking the day off.  The story is as follows:

Esther Lee, show girl in the "Midnight Sons" company, playing at the Garrick theater this week, refuses positively to play on Hallowe'en. Miss Lee's family history for generations back is a chapter of calamities on witches' night, and she inherits the ancestral dread of goblins.

No one to look at the sprightly, insouciante Esther as she cavorts upon the Garrick stage would take her for a haunted mortal, which she is. Miss Lee is pursued by shadows, literally trailed by a family ghost, which she has never seen. The ghost has materialized for nearly every member of her family but herself, and she admits to hourly anticipatory qualms.

The ghost first made its appearance at the castle of her ancestral relative, Count Von Getlar in Holland. The apparition struck a gardener dead. Since that coup, it has been pretty constant in materializing on Hallowe'en.

When Miss Lee's branch of the family transplanted to Georgia, the ghost took passage. It followed them Beaufort, South Carolina. Finally they left their beloved south for Newark, New Jersey, by way of escape. Again enter the ghost.

An uncle of the young woman flew in the face of destiny by playing at Robinson's Opera House, Cincinnati, on that fateful Hallowe'en in 1892 when the great dome fell. A little brother was badly burned when playing with fire on the eve three years ago.

All these reasons decide Miss Lee not to play. She is afraid of bringing destruction on any company which includes her on the night of October 31. During the rest of the year, she entertains a wholesome dread of her unhappy, wandering ancestor, for it has been known to appear at sundry and diverse times without fair warning.

Miss Lee denies that she is superstitious; she is "merely on her guard."  "I know show girls are expected to have a past," said Miss Lee pensively, last night. "And to be haunted by it on Christmas eve, but it's worse to be haunted by other people's pasts on Hallowe'en."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Spirit Paintings of Marion Gruzeski

(enlarge)
With this series of Detroit Free Press articles by writer Elden Small published in consecutive weekes in May of 1923 we learn of and are shown examples of the "spirit paintings" of young Detroit artist Marion Gruzeski but next to nothing about him or his life as a spiritual medium. He is briefly mentioned in the second article as Small described his paintings as grewsome [sic] and weird and states that Gruzeski was presumed to be under the trance of a dead artist.

The lack of information is hardly a setback as Small gives leads to various other Spiritualists in the movement which was rapidly gaining traction. A fact that was evidenced by the dozen or so churches in Detroit following the Spiritualist philosophy. Some of the names of interest included in the expose are Dr. Burrows of the Occult Temple, Rev. Thomas Grimshaw, Dr. J. H. Hyslop, King Benjamin and Mother Elinor (AKA Ann Odelia Diss Debar. All of whom I've never heard of, ignorant as I am in the field of spirituality.

Also featured are several photos of both Maude Roose and her spirit paintings. Roose, previously featured on this blog, was a novice artist who painted phenomenal replicas of famous paintings without any formal training and very little experience practicing her art. She, like Gruzeski, claimed to be inspired by the spirit of dead artists.

(enlarge)
(enlarge)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lupus Homo: The Man-Wolf of Windsor

Detroit Free Press, April 8, 1871
To state the fact that Windsor, Canada is not a part of Detroit is to discount the lyrical prowess of Steve Perry and even the Nain Rouge would be inclined to hex your dismissal of our sister city to the south as anything except a geographical equal. Likewise, location and mutual respect were not in a favorable orbit for the Man-Wolf of Windsor. The lunatic with wild eyes and a physical appearance to match his temperament was more-or-less a kept beast.

The Windsor of 1871 was still la Petite Côte (the little coast) in both population and land mass in contrast to Detroit's burgeoning transformation into a major city. A fire in October of that same year kept the town of less than 5,000 a stopping point at the fringe of the wilderness frontier. So the fact that the Man-Wolf was living in the woods would be of no particular concern to the sociologist or psychologist. The fact that the scraggly-bearded, long-haired man with severe physical deformities lived in a small shed and was bound with chains caused alarm with some of the citizenry and especially the Detroit Free Press, though their motives might be questioned in lieu of the sensational article above.

It was said that his screams and howls often pierced through the relative silence of the night. During the day he was left to the mercy of probing eyes and the cruelty of neighbors who were allowed to taunt and prod the pitiful creature. His public display in both the town centers of Windsor and Detroit were no less injurious and there was even talk of making the Man-Wolf the main attraction in a traveling freak show.

Several theories abounded at the time that he was an escaped lunatic. One story claimed he was a man named Roscommon who had been exchanged between family members in Montreal and Sarnia. Having been kept in a chamber room his violent reaction to his bondage forced the family to erect a small building on the property where the man was often chained.

The farmers of the area, who were subjected to his sorrowful groans, either helped in his escape or aided in harboring the man after his own jailbreak. Either way he was said to have been found near a swamp eating roots and tree bark where he put up a ferocious battle against both man and dog in ensuring his escape. Facts which don't gibe with the newspaper reports of his extreme physical deformities. Obviously, the wilderness injects its own truth into reality and men's minds follow suit.

Similarly, a story that he was an escaped lunatic from the Malden Asylum clashed with facts of that case where an equally healthy and robust man forcibly made his way to freedom.

Detroit Free Press, March 12, 1871
Whomever he may have been he was the captive of a man named Edward Clark. Not much is to be ascertained about Mr. Clark through newspapers though he was known to have been incarcerated in the House of Corrections in Detroit for a brawl that he was part of in March of that same year. He was subsequently released a few days later.

Detroit Free Press, April 11, 1871
Clark denied the charges and welcomed an investigation into the matter. The nameless Lupus Homo, minus a voice in the matter, was likely lost to history and redemption.

Detroit Free Press, April 14, 1871
Not that his suffering ended there because nary a week after the initial horrifying reports of his bedraggled existence emerged he was attacked by several drunken men. The sots broke into his quarters on Michigan Avenue, roughed him up, unchained his shackles and were in the process of freeing him into the streets when the police intervened to disperse the ne'er-do-wells and their captive audience.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Virgie Longs to Be a Boy

Detroit Free Press, November 3, 1907 (enlarge)
I was going to write out a synopsis for this interesting article but since there's really no preface or follow-up that can be gleaned from the realm of the written page I should probably leave the original document to speak for itself.

In the spirit of page hits I will add that this is an early foray into transgenderism in Detroit. I won't espouse an opinion on the matter because this is an historical account and not a matter of debate. Not that the Free Press hasn't been fraught with errors in fact since its inception but this is their version of the events leading up to Alice Virginia Marsh's transformation into a boy for a week.

Also, as a matter of aesthetics and utility, the article has been formatted into two columns. It was originally one long strip of text which formats horribly on Blogspot.

Monday, January 2, 2017

All Around Detroit: Tea Leaf Lane

The Owosso Argus-Press, August 27, 1930 (enlarge)
The Detroit of 1893 was at the cusp of the new industrial revolution while still mired in the superstitions of the past. An economic crisis and a steady influx of immigrants would exacerbate both trends.

Tea-leaf readings were a fashionable trend at that time but would grow into a burgeoning industry. With it came public and internal scrutiny from the Spiritualist ranks.

By the 1930s tea shops featuring free readings were numerous and coming under attack by law enforcement. So popular were the renderings that the theatrical production of Tea for Two had live readings during its dates at the Paramount.

The crackdowns were unsuccessful as the courts ruled that since the service being provided was free of charge the unlawful act of "fortune-telling" for profit could not be forbidden.

The top article above by William H. Beatty focuses on the area east of Woodward in Detroit on Broadway in the early 1930s which encompassed seven tea shops in one block dubbed "Tea Leaf Lane".

Several of these are anonymously profiled. They entail some interesting facts and characters. One such person was "a turbaned, dark-skinned gentleman" from Ann Arbor who graduated from the University of Michigan and set up shop in Detroit to start his business career. Catering to intellectuals his shop floundered. Bring on the tea leaf readers and voila! his enterprise became a hit and more importantly, financially tenable.

Who were these readers and willing specimens of his fortune-telling? The best seers were Scottish bred. Far outweighing the stereotypical gypsy these Scots answered to mainly women thrill and curiosity-seekers and sob sisters with the earnestly-inclined accounting for a small portion of their business. Of course, these were only gratis side-amusements that accompanied a ham on rye or a cup of tea and surely not a serious portent of the future. At least that's what the proprietor's right hand man was claiming to the fourth estate.