Misc. Tidings of Yore

Forgotten Lore & Historical Curiosities

Clay-Cold Corpse Marries Warm, Blooming Bride (1856)

Edgefield Advertiser, 20 Aug. 1856

“SINGULAR MARRIAGE.-A young man residing in Bordentown, who was under an engagement of marriage with a young lady, died on Friday last. Both the gentleman and lady, as well as their families, were firm believers in the doctrine of the spiritualists, and notwithstanding the death of the former it was determined that the marriage should take place between the disembodied spirit of the young man, and the living, breathing body of his affianced bride.
Accordingly, on Sunday, the marriage ceremony was performed between the clay-cold corpse and the warm, blooming bride. It is understood that this was in compliance with the directions of the spirit of the bridegroom. The devotion of the lady to the spirit or the memory of her lover carried through this trying ceremony without faltering; but it must lead to unhappiness, for she, no doubt, considers herself as the wife of one whom she shall meet in the body never more. Her heart lies buried in the grave with him who should have been her guide and protector. Among all the singular things recorded of the Spiritualists, we have met with nothing parallel to this.”

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Dies at Behest of Baby Ghost (1907)

There were a handful of clippings from newspapers across the country in 1907 reporting that Mrs. Daniel Clauer of Springfield, Ohio died after repeatedly seeing visions of her niece’s ghost.

The Paducah Evening Sun printed part of a conversation between Mrs. Clauer and her daughter, Mrs. Yost:
Alice has been calling and beckoning to me for a month and now that Daniel is gone there is no reason that I should not go to be with them.

The Paducah evening Sun March 25, 1907
The Paducah Evening Sun, March 25, 1907

Continue reading “Dies at Behest of Baby Ghost (1907)”

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Society Is An Elixir of Bon-Bons: Washington’s Socialite Suicide Problem


I came across this headline while researching an allegedly haunted roof under which socialite Bessie Hillyer died in 1888. The article, which ran in The Princeton Union on February 24, 1898 provided the only image of Miss Hillyer readily available and also hinted that there was a suicide epidemic among Washington, D.C. debutantes which I found incredibly fascinating.

Continue reading “Society Is An Elixir of Bon-Bons: Washington’s Socialite Suicide Problem”

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An “Odd Superstition of Life and Death”

bloch The Bismarck Tribune January 06, 1922
The Bismarck Tribune, January 06, 1922
bloch 2 The Herald (New Orleans, La.) February 16, 1922
The Herald (New Orleans), Feb. 16, 1922


bloch 3 Great Falls Tribune January 09, 1922
The Great Falls Tribune (January 09, 1922) reported that Joseph’s grave was not opened.

Thomas Bloch was born in either Germany or Poland according to the 1910 census. It’s not far-fetched that he might’ve believed that his daughter was a vampire (or something similar) if he was familiar with that part of his native land’s folklore.

Bloch 1910 census

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Ballerinas On Fire (1861)

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, September 28, 1861

Philadelphia’s Continental Theater on Walnut Street was the site of a handful of deadly fires in the late 1800s, the first of these tragedies being the subject of this entry. At least eight, but possibly nine ballerinas perished in an inferno ignited after one of the dancer’s gauzy green costumes came into contact with flames from a gas tube backstage.

A crowd of fifteen hundred watched William Wheatley’s production of the first act of The Tempest on the evening of September 14, 1861. The show was interrupted by strange lights from behind the scenery, followed shortly by screams, stage carpenters rushing onto the platform and the appearance of a young dancer engulfed in flames. This dancer, Zelia Gale, screamed and waved her arms frantically as her costume and skin melted away. She finally fell beneath the stage where a carpenter covered her in a sea cloth from the set design.

Continue reading “Ballerinas On Fire (1861)”

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Revolutionary War Skeleton: A Love Story

The headline, “A Skeleton With A Romance” caught my attention while researching Hollywood Cemetery several months ago. Even though various newspapers across the country reported the alleged discovery of a Revolutionary War soldier’s skeletal remains found years later and the death of his heartbroken Richmond fiancee, I haven’t been able to find anything giving the story any validity. This doesn’t mean that pieces of the tale aren’t based on truth, but until I find more evidence, I’ll chalk this up to being just another deathly love story.

Continue reading “Revolutionary War Skeleton: A Love Story”

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Ghostly Lovers Wedded (1884)

A Phantom Marriage Feast-Royal Spirit Present.
Evening Star, 17 Dec. 1884
     A telegram from San Francisco, December 13, says: Many curious cabinet tricks of spiritualists have been exposed from time to time, but probably the most remarkable seance on record is that in which a ghostly marriage and a phantom wedding-feast took place under Elsie Reynolds. She was determined to excel all the other mediums in the world, and do something in the spiritual line that had never been attempted before. Elsie Reynolds is a materializing medium. Several years ago she converted to the spiritualist ideas Mrs. Eunice S. Sleeper, an aged and wealthy widow. Mrs. Sleeper’s only daughter died in 1877. She has a handsome residence on Fremont street, this city, and of late has become, under the tuition of Elsie Reynolds, a perfect monomaniac on spiritualism. Mrs. Sleeper took the spiritualistic Elsie to her heart and home, and fitted up a suite of apartments especially for seances and ghostly visitors. Mrs. Sleeper, during these seances, used to derive great consolation in communicating with her deceased husband and daughter, whose spirits were summoned and occasionally materialized. The climax was capped the other evening by the spiritual marriage of the deceased Miss Sleeper to the defunct Prince Otto, of Germany, a relative of Premier Bismarck. The wedding was held in the room of the medium described above, and was witnessed by a mixed company of mortals and spirits. When the lights had been lowered, the curtains of the cabinet were drawn and the materialized bride and groom appeared. A ‘diamond’ crown adorned the head of the bride and her form was completely enveloped by a long white veil. The groom was dressed in garments of the ancient pattern, comprising knee-britches, stockings and slippers, and his head was encircled by glittering jewels in conformity to his rank.
     The officiating priest was clad in black and wore on his head a white turban. His face was ghastly and his eyes gleamed with an unnatural luster. On the conclusion of the ceremony he gave the couple his blessing and faded away. The bride was attended by two bridesmaids, and asked her mother when they appeared, ‘do we not look like the three graces, Agalia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia?’ The queen mother of the groom and Empress Josephine of France were among the distinguished spirit guests, while Dr. Adams, P.H. Jackson, James Platte, George W. Brooks, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Day, Mrs. Leonard, and many others were present in the flesh. A bridal supper succeeded the wedding. Mrs. Sleeper was seated by the bride at the head of the table, bearing light refreshments, such as cake, fruit, etc. with the queen mother to her right and Mr. Sleeper to her left. The remaining guests also seated themselves around the table, a spirit alternating with a person in the flesh.
After wine had been served the bride and groom complained that they were becoming weak, and passing around the table raised the wine-glasses and touched to their lips. They then, followed by all of the spirits, trooped into the cabinet, the curtain of which fell and concealed them from view. The lights were next turned on, and the glasses and decanter on the table contributed about all that remained in evidence of the spiritual supper and wedding, the material guests being left alone to tell the tale.

     Mrs. Sleeper was interviewed recently and said: ‘My daughter was about six years old when she died in 1876. She appears to me almost every night in a materialized shape. I’ve talked with her, and walked with her, and she has lain with me in my bed. Her voice has changed somewhat, and she has grown larger and stronger since her death. A few weeks ago she appeared, told me of her contemplated marriage to Prince Otto, who is also an inhabitant of the spirit world, asked and obtained my consent.'”

Regardless of what I think about spiritualism or Elsie Reynolds’ reputation for being a fraud, I’ve gotta admit that this is a pretty great story.

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"Occult Science Course Fails to Locate Brains"

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Palmist’s Stolen Brain Hinders Messages from the Beyond

Stolen Brain Foils Spirits
Taken From Skull of Palmist, It Interferes With Messages From Other World.
     Boston, Mass.-Spirit messages and the story of a search for the missing brain of John W. Fletcher, a palmist noted in London, New York, and Boston, who died under mysterious circumstances in the Hotel Pelham in this city on April 22, will be features of a contest over the will of Mr. Fletcher begun in the Middlesex county court at Cambridge.

Continue reading “Palmist’s Stolen Brain Hinders Messages from the Beyond”

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Man Drinks Nitro-Glycerin, Explodes While Thawing

San Francisco Call 4 Feb. 1905

Continue reading “Man Drinks Nitro-Glycerin, Explodes While Thawing”

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“When Mary’s queenly form I press:” Poem Sparks a Fatal Duel (1873)

While researching the Haxalls buried in Hollywood Cemetery I stumbled upon the story of the Mordecai-McCarty duel of 1873, one of Richmond’s last (if not *the* final) fatal duel, ignited by an unfavorable poem published by a jilted lover. At the center of the conflict was Mary Triplett, who would later marry into the Haxall family, but prior to that was well-known in Richmond as one of the loveliest young women in the higher social circles. At one time she was engaged to Page McCarty, but after breaking off the engagement she severed all ties to him. According to an account written by William Royall, who would also play a role in the duel, Page and Mary were thrown together in a dance at the Richmond German in February 1873. Mary left her partner on the dance floor prematurely, an act which embarrassed and angered Page to the point of writing a poem to be published in the Enquirer the next day. When I first read that the poem was of a  risqué nature, I expected more than this, but being that it was 1873, I imagine it took much less to offend a lady’s honor than it does today.

“When Mary’s queenly form I press
In Strauss’ latest waltz,
I would as well her lips caress
Although those lips be false.
“For still with fire love tips his dart,
And kindles up anew
The flames which once consumed my heart
When those dear lips were true.
“Of form so fair, of faith so faint,
If truth were only in her;
Though she’d be then the sweetest saint,
I’d still feel like a sinner.” 

Continue reading ““When Mary’s queenly form I press:” Poem Sparks a Fatal Duel (1873)”

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"Graveyard Tryst Led To Shooting" (1919)

On June 6, 1919, The Washington Times ran an article with an intriguing headline. I’ve posted articles about people unable to resist the romantic allure of the graveyard before, but I somehow overlooked James Frank Kiser‘s murder at the hands of his jilted second wife, Alice. This chapter in Mr. Kiser’s story both begins and ends in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Taneytown, Maryland where his first wife, Annie, was buried. It was during a visit to Annie’s grave that Mr. Kiser struck up a dialogue with Mrs. Ida Reever (possibly “Reaver“) who was also visiting a grave. The Kisers and Reevers lived near each other in Harney so they probably already knew each other. The two left the graveyard together that day, based on the testimony of Dr. Benner, a physician who’d treated both Mr. and Mrs. Kiser on separate occasions. Mr. Kiser confided in the doctor that he felt as if “heads were popping up behind every tombstone watching them” and by the time he got home, Alice knew about her husband’s new friendship via telephone gossip.

Continue reading “"Graveyard Tryst Led To Shooting" (1919)”

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A (Death) Dream Come True

Anyone who knows me understands the complex relationship I have with my dreams and my desire to decode them.

So what does it all mean? I don’t know. The beauty of this post is that I don’t want to explain anything or support any kind of theory. I’m just going to share reported accounts of death dreams that allegedly came true and you can draw your own conclusions.

Continue reading “A (Death) Dream Come True”

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The Macabre Eccentricities of the Divine Sarah Bernhardt

Public Ledger [TN] 13 Nov. 1873
An 1873 blurb in the Public Ledger about curiosities piqued my interest in actress Sarah Bernhardt, who was sometimes referred to as “The Divine Sarah.” The article claimed that she was in possession of a letter-box that had been fashioned from a human skull. “The jaw moves by means of steel springs, and the teeth can be seen gleaming as white as snow. This ghastly bibelot is called Sophie, and its mouth forms the receptacle of M’lle Bernhardt’s letters, cards, etc.

Continue reading “The Macabre Eccentricities of the Divine Sarah Bernhardt”

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"The Two-Headed Nightingale" – Millie & Christine McCoy

El Paso Daily Herald 20 Aug. 1898
1886 ad for “The Two-Headed Nightingale”


While researching birth anomalies throughout history I came across an article on conjoined twins Millie and Christine McCoy, who have been well-documented but until this time were unknown to me. The article, “An Amiable Pair” referred to Millie and Christine as a “two-headed freak” and a “freak of nature.” (Read this disclaimer about terminology found in the old papers here.) This article mentioned that Millie and Christine, African-Americans who were about 40 in 1898, were very intelligent, able to speak several foreign languages, and were worth around half a million dollars. That was an astounding accumulation of wealth for anyone in 1898, and extremely impressive for the McCoy twins.

Continue reading “"The Two-Headed Nightingale" – Millie & Christine McCoy”

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Stomach Frogs

The Tucamari News, 5 Aug. 1915

I’m no doctor but it doesn’t seem realistic that a frog could survive inside of a person’s stomach, but these clippings from historic newspapers suggest that living frogs have been found inside of people on several occasions. Whether they’re fact-based or total fiction, they’re at least interesting to read.

Continue reading “Stomach Frogs”

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Pickled Infants

Among the more morbid topics that I’ve “collected” from historical newspapers is that of “preserved infants in jars.” After stumbling upon one article about the unexpected discovery of a human in such a state, I began to search for similar stories and found a few more. You have to wonder if the preserved remains of these babies were lost from a museum or medical college during transportation or after theft or if they were the grim souvenirs of infanticide. Another possible scenario is one where someone attempted to cover up the birth and/or death of a stillborn. Or were these pickled infants the products of grief-stricken parents who were unable to lower them into the grave? The background stories of some of these unfortunate souls we may never know. Ahhh, history.

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Devil-Baby Born With Tail, Horns & Hooves: Hoodoo in Plato

The Columbus Journal out of Columbus, Nebraska  printed a bizarre story on January 28, 1891 concerning the blasphemous birth of a cloven-hoofed devil-baby to a Minnesota couple.

Continue reading “Devil-Baby Born With Tail, Horns & Hooves: Hoodoo in Plato”

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Undertaker Houlihan’s "Creepy Estate"

The Bee, 5 Feb. 1964

When Edward Thibeault inherited property after neighbor John Houlihan’s death in 1964, me might have expected a clean-up would be in order, after all, the words “unkempt” and “dilapidated” were used to describe the house and surrounding land. The extent of what relationship, if any, that existed between the two men isn’t clear but because the first article that I found concerning this bizarre Missouri tale says that Houlihan was somewhat of a loner, it doesn’t seem like they were very close. If they had been friendlier Thibeault might have noticed some of the macabre items inside his neighbor’s three-room dwelling. While tidying up the property, which he waned to rent, Thibeault (and/or workers) discovered that Houlihan, a former undertaker, had been living with a mummified woman’s body, a cardboard container of cremated ashes, and a skeleton. The skeleton and mummy were both in caskets while a third casket was being used to collect rain. A blank tombstone served as Houlihan’s front step. A pair of steel vaults sat in the yard. Thibeault’s description of the property as “creepy” was putting it mildly.

Salina Journal [Kansas] 4 Feb. 1964

There was speculation that the mummified body might have been Houlihan’s wife Emily, who’d died in 1954 in a state mental hospital on the basis that the mummy, like the wife, was elderly and had poor posture. Houlihan lived with another lady after his wife’s death, but she had also died since and was reportedly buried in Camdenton. Houlihan once told Thibeault that he was keeping the cremains of someone whose family didn’t pay the bill, but he didn’t think he was serious.

Anderson Herald [Indiana] 4 Feb. 1964

After an investigation, a medical examiner announced that there was no indication of foul play on Houlihan’s part and that the skeleton and mummy were both male. They, along with the ashes, were people that he failed to bury while operating his funeral home. Because he’d closed that business 16 years before his death, Houlihan had been living with the remains for at least that long.

Anderson Herald, con’t.
Moberly Monitor [Missouri] 3 Feb. 1964
Moberly Monitor, 6 Feb. 1964


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Daring Corpse Attempts Train Escape (1910)

Daily Arizona Silver Belt, 31 Mar. 1910

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Reclusive Woman and Cocker Spaniel Buried Together

The Stars & Stripes, 24 Nov. 1954

Some people prefer the company of animals over humans in life and as in the case of Florence Meldrum, in death as well.

Dog, Mistress Get Double Funeral
     FALMOUTH, ENGLAND, Nov. 23 (UP)
A wealthy recluse who loved her dog so much she kept its body in a lead-lined coffin in her home for six years after it died, got her wish today when dog and mistress were buried together in a double funeral in this Cornish town.
     Two hearses carried the coffins to the churchyard-one containing the body of 77-year-old Mrs. Florence Meldrum, who died last week, and the other the remains of her cocker spaniel, Jim, who died in 1948.
     Neighbors said Mrs. Meldrum had stipulated in her will that Jim, who lay in a satin-lined coffin in her Victorian home for six years after his death, should be buried at the same time as she.”
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Death By Embalming Fluid

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

One would think that it would be fairly difficult to accidentally drink embalming fluid, but there are numerous accounts in historic newspapers of people who did just that in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Access to chemicals used to preserve bodies was greater during those times, in part because most funeral preparations took place in the home. In some cases, the undertaker had left behind embalming fluid instructing the family to sponge some of the solution on the body at specified intervals to keep it “fresh” before burial. Other times the fluid was left behind after the burial in the same fashion a plumber might accidentally forget to take his wrench when leaving a job site. A careless individual could spill the fluid on other food items or an unsuspecting victim would mistake the solution for water and take a sip, realizing their mistake only after the chemicals were in the system. Others drank embalming fluid, mistaking it for alcohol while looking for a  buzz and on at least one occasion someone (Mr. Lively) ingested the poison in order to commit suicide. The exact formulas of the embalming fluids that these people ingested  isn’t listed in these clippings, but the solutions could have contained formaldehyde, alcohol, arsenic, bichloride of mercury, sulfuric acid, zinc chloride, turpentine, and/or creosote.

Continue reading “Death By Embalming Fluid”

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Yours Thirteenly From The 13 Club

Menus in the shape of coffins, nose-thumbing at superstition, a thirteen-course meal…where do I sign up?

From The Herald (Los Angeles), January 21, 1895:

thirteen club menu Continue reading “Yours Thirteenly From The 13 Club”

Miss Santa Claus Inhales Gas (1909)

Image from the Harper’s Bazaar (full article linked below)

From The Marion Daily Mirror (Marion, OH), Aug. 12, 1909:

Inhales Gas Because Her Plans Were Not All Successful.
 She Gladdened Many Little Hearts.
Gave Her Time to Making Others Happy.
Assigning Poor Health As a Cause, Elizabeth A. Phillips Commits Suicide-Those Who Knew Her Best Say Her Rash Act Was Caused by Disappointment Due to Lack of Interest by the People. 
     Philadelphia, August 12.-Elizabeth A. Phillips, ‘Miss Santa Claus,’ committed suicide yesterday by inhaling illuminating gas. Despondent because part of her plan to make the less fortunate children of America a little happier failed, she ended the struggle. Pinned to her dress was a note, a planitive plea for the recognition after death which had not been given her efforts, wholly, during life. It read:
     ‘I have been failing in health for some time. I have always tried to do my best for mankind.’
     ‘Miss Santa Claus’ gave ill health as the cause for her suicide, but her friends say that the chief cause was the failure of her store, which she opened recently, the proceeds to go toward Christmas gifts to those children who wrote to Santa Claus but for whom there were likely to be few answers.
     But though ‘Miss Santa Claus’ is dead her work will live after her, a constant Christmas joy to thousands of little people for whom otherwise Christmas would have been but yet [another] pretty story to be enjoyed by the favored ones. For so thoroughly did ‘Miss Santa Claus’ plan touch the heartstrings of philanthropic persons throughout the country that the movement was established on a basis which provides for its future.
     Elizabeth A. Stewart was the daughter of a prominent merchant of Philadelphia. She enjoyed almost a national reputation by reason of her work at Christmas time among the poor children. For weeks prior to Christmas of each year she collected funds which she expended for toys and clothing for the needy, and on Christmas eve she visited the homes of the children in a big automobile. She was a familiar figure in all local newspaper offices and was the subject of a number of special ‘Christmas stories.’
     Two years ago at her request all the letters written by children and mailed to Santa Claus were delivered to her by the Philadelphia postoffice. These she sorted, picking out those from children who seemed to be in danger of being forgotten and getting up on Christmas morning to find empty stockings.
     But she did not confine her good deeds to the holiday time. At any time in the year, day or night, when she heard of distress she endeavored to relieve it, and if she lacked the necessary means she at once appealed for aid. Last year, with the object of making her charitable work national in scope, she asked permission of the postmaster general to have all letters addressed to Santa Claus, from whatever source sent to her here, but the request was refused.

  That the suicide was premeditated was shown by the fact that the cracks of the door and window of the room had been carefully stopped by bedclothing.
     Pinned to the woman’s clothing was a note which read: ‘I have been failing in health for some time. I have always tried to do my best for mankind.'”

Note: I’m not sure why her surname is mentioned as “Stewart” midway through the article. The only information I found about Elizabeth was that she was 35, single, and her father’s name was F.R. Philips.

The Washington Herald, 12 Aug. 1909

The Washington Herald suggested another factor contributing to Elizabeth’s decision to take her own life.

“Misplaced confidence in a man whom she took virtually from a prison cell and attempted to reform is said to have preyed upon the unhappy girl’s  mind and thrown her into melancholia.
Miss Phillips has been in a despondent condition since the man whom she befriended purloined the meager funds which she had reserved for her festivals for the children, and then used her name to defraud trades people.”

The Caucasian 24 Aug. 1909

In addition to a number of other clippings about Elizabeth’s suicide and efforts to continue her work after her death, I stumbled upon this feature detailing her cause printed in a 1907 Harper’s Bazaar.

*Originally posted in December 2013.

Danced to Death

The Guthrie Daily Leader, 19 May 1900
Bismarck Daily Tribune, 22 Nov. 1908
The Watchman & Southron, 15 May 1909
Daily Capital Journal, 8 July 1909
St. Johns Review, 3 Dec. 1909
Republican News, 12 May 1911

This one is probably my favorite because it’s slightly romantic, in a tragic sort of way.

The Logan Republic, 12 Apr. 1921

Death By Easter Egg

The Sun [NY] 8 April 1912

No matter how pretty they are, please don’t eat dyed Easter eggs. I hear that Cadbury Creme Eggs are pretty tasty and they probably won’t kill you.

The Hocking Sentinel [OH] 18 April 1901
Semi-Weekly Interior Journal [KY] 23 Apr. 1897
Norfolk Weekly News Journal [Neb.] 12 May 1905
The Democratic Banner [OH] 9 April 1912
The Daily Ardmoreite [OK] 6 April 1902

Christmas Feast Spread For 3 Phantom Guests (1908)

From the San Fransisco Call, Dec. 27, 1908:

Wanderer in Klondike Returns for Christmas Feast With Sister and Children
Relatives Being Dead, Prospector Places Plates and Dines Before Vacant Chairs

Continue reading “Christmas Feast Spread For 3 Phantom Guests (1908)”

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