Friday, July 4, 2014

Whoa, Nellie

The Detroit Free Press, October 1, 1908
How does that breezy modern rock summertime song go? "With a squeeze and a sigh and that twinkle in your eye... la de la da" Or something to that extent. Whichever way, it was basically the same method that landed Nellie Bishop in the nuthouse. Except that she wasn't in love and the object of her disaffection was a Reverend named Frank Fitchett.

Mrs. Bishop had accused the holy man of winking and rolling his eyes at her in church--obviously a moral offense for the day--and she attempted to swear out a warrant for his arrest. Furthering the insult was the congregation's mockery of her mannerisms at the reverend's instigation which caused her great embarrassment and shame. But in the he-said, she-said world of that time, when husbands readily shipped their wives off to asylum for disobedience, his testimony was of greater authority. Off she went to Eloise.

The fact that she claimed to be indigent upon arrival didn't help her credibility as the big brother sleuths soon discovered bank books from several establishments on her person. These fiduciary instruments showed that her coffers weren't overflowing but sufficiently enriched in the amount of $2,422.55.

The Detroit Free Press, October 4, 1908

A Suicide Named Gerdis

The Detroit Free Press, May 23, 1871
There were many methods and locations for suicides at Eloise but this is one of the stranger cases. In the kitchen by hanging from one of the grates. Which I assume were for smoke ventilation and probably caused the cooks quite a fright when they reported for duty.

The incident wasn't Mr. Gerdis's first foray into madness or self-immolation. The previous winter he, along with his then insane wife, destroyed the contents of the house he was residing in. A week after being released from jail for that incident he attempted to strangle himself with a cord.

A move to the country town on Howell returned Mrs. Gerdis to her proper wits while her husband slipped back into the holds of madness. His return trip to Eloise provided the stage for his final act of lunacy which he carried out with fatal success.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dostel Goes to the Insane Hostel

The Detroit Free Press, June 28, 1914
When a mother kills her children it's rarely looked upon by society as anything but an act of insanity or pure evil. Clara Dostel was given the benefit of the doubt for drowning one child, 3-year-old William, in the Detroit River and nearly accomplishing the same with another, 2-year-old Freddie, due to the fact that she also attempted to drown herself along with the tykes.

Fortunately, Freddie survived the ordeal, having been saved by rescuers, and was taken in by Dostel's brother, a Mr. Emde, who promised to raise the boy as his own. The charity of Detroit's residents was also on display as flocks of concerned citizens visited the boy at St. Mary's hospital and one kind fellow, Frank J. Blake, took Freddie on a two hour automobile ride.

Sorrowful Sight Seen At Eloise

The Detroit Free Press, June 7, 1909
Oh, the woe seen by the estimators at the County House! Yet, nary a thing was done in most cases to alleviate the human suffering of the truly afflicted at the institution. The Free Press would periodically run this sort of story of the depressed state at the house intermixed with a few character sketches of nameless inmates along with an over-reaching deed done by an employee's wife who gave charity without salary or accolades. Except that it seemed to often find its way into the paper.

In this case it was Mrs. Prenslauer, wife of the Secretary of the Poor Commission, who always carried out a bag of fresh fruit large enough to feed a whole ward. What bags you had Mrs. Prenslauer! The nameless two were an elderly woman who was a sort of treasured queen in her ward living out the final years of life in the relative bliss of charity. And what about the old Mason who recognized one of the estimators as a brother-in-arms? The frail old man talked rationally about how the fraternity allowed him to remain in custody despite his wishes to the contrary. This was only a moment of sanity, of course, because the Masons would never allow an outrage of the sort among their minions. Surely the man was insane.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Slave of Morphine

The Detroit Free Press, April 26, 1893
What's in a name? More specifically what sort of weight does a title carry? In the case of Dr. F. W. Rowley, enough to level the scales of societal justice to a mere instrument of moral relativism. The prestige of name and career afforded him the title of victim and slave instead of fiend or degenerate as was readily delegated to others of a lesser social strata.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Baby, I'm Crazy About You

The Detroit Free Press, February 14, 1877
I don't know if there was a Valentine's Day in 1877 but if there was the noonday calm on its eve of that year in Detroit was shattered by the antics of an insane old man. Gotfried Stenicke was his name and snagging a young tot and rushing down the street was his passion of that day. The four-year-old son of Charles Bresher was the object of his delusion and the young boy could be heard wailing as Stenicke whisked him away. Two men came to his aid and chased the man near the intersection of Watson and Riopelle where he ascended a lumber pile and threatened to kill anybody who tried to thwart his aim.

Which, of course, nobody could ascertain at the time as anything but a madman's folly to kidnap a child. Stenicke verified that assumption by playing monkey with the mob. When officers Blakely and Opfer arrived on the scene and tried to reason with him he covered his ears and grinned like a simian at his own antics. If any man tried to climb the wood mountain to save the child old Gotfried, in beast-like fashion, would begin to tear at his hair, beat his breast manically and swing a club in the pursuer's direction. All the while the young Bresher cried bitterly for his mum.

The keystone cops finally designed a plan to leave the scene of the unfurling crime and approach from behind to foil the old fool. It worked, of course, but not before the child teetered perilously close to falling from the mound. His mother managed to maneuver a rescue while the coppers hauled away the fighting mad German, retrieving fresh clothes from the man's home on Benton to replace the ripped and frayed outfit he donned in the scuffle, before transporting him to the Little Sisters of the Poor hospital en route to a final destination at Eloise.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Love Is Not Always Gentile

The Detroit Free Press, August 31, 1899
So it seems that the love between William Levy and Johanna Zaul (he was referred to as Leo previously) was not quite kosher after all. Their mental states were less a concern to the Levy family than the fact that Zaul was not Jewish. Or at least Zaul thought as much, whether dementedly so or not. This lead to the halt of their marital bliss, that commenced on July 24th in Sandwich, Ontario after an elopment across the border, through Levy's re-institutionalization, and as previous reported a writ of Habeas corpus being procured.