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Dale M. Brumfield

In 1951, a little boy was found dead in Goochland County, Virginia. And that was just the beginning of this tragedy that continues today

If you have any information about this case, please email Dale Brumfield at

SEVENTY YEARS AGO TODAY, ON MARCH 5, 1951, the decomposed body of an estimated five-year-old boy was found stuffed in a blue denim army duffel bag just south of U.S. 250 near Oilville Virginia, about 26 miles west of Richmond. This little boy was never identified. His mode of death was never publicly divulged. Unbelievably, he was never reported missing and his body never claimed.

Today, his identity and death remain shrouded in secrecy.

On that cloudy and chilly March morning, Virginia highway employees were cleaning…

Part 2 of 3: 1900–1936

The hanging of Rainey Bethia in Owensboro, Kentucky, August, 1936. It was the last public execution in America. AP File photo.

Tom Horn, Nov. 20, 1903

A vengeful and crooked Deputy Marshall in Cheyenne, Wyoming seemed to have a real problem with Tom Horn, an Army scout who had gained some infamy when Geronimo surrendered to his party in 1886. When 14-year-old Willie Nickell, the son of a prominent Laramie County sheep rancher, was found shot to death, intense public pressure to solve the case led the local law enforcement to adapt an unusual tactic.

They set up a fake interview process for a fictitious Montana cattle detective job, and while it is unknown exactly how many interviews they conducted, Tom Horn showed up, seemingly inebriated…

Part 1 of 3: 1642–1899

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS INDELIBLY WOVEN into the fabric of American history. Possibly no other western civilization has killed as many of its citizens as America, who despite putting to death over 15,000 people, still ironically holds herself up to the world as an example of compassion, order, and enlightenment.

With the Commonwealth of Virginia on the cusp of abolishing the death penalty, and with similar legislation being introduced at the federal level, it’s time to re-visit some of the more strange and horrific executions throughout America’s history.

Thomas Granger, September 8, 1642

Sixteen-year-old Thomas Granger was hanged in Plymouth, Massachusetts for sodomizing 12 animals, including…

Is the song “Hokey-Pokey” really a parody of the Catholic Latin Mass?

Americans doing the Hokey-Pokey on the beach in Australia, 1953. Wikimedia Commons.

ANY AMERICAN BABY-BOOMER who went to a roller-skating rink or a home birthday party in the 1960s and 70s especially remembers singing and playing a corny, almost nonsensical game called “The Hokey-Pokey.” As the instructional music played, Kids playfully followed directions as the music boomed over the loudspeaker:

“You put your right hand in,

You put your right hand out.

You put your right hand in,

And you shake it all about.

You do the Hokey-Pokey and you turn yourself around,

That’s what it’s all about.”

Repeat for the left hand, right leg, left leg, head, and even backside.


The Absolutely Horrifying Story Behind Kuru Laughing Sickness

Kuru victims, early 1960s.

AMERICAN PHYSICIAN AND VIROLOGIST Daniel Carleton Gajdusek listened intently as Vincent Zigas, a district medical officer in the Fore Tribe region of Papua, New Guinea, described a devastatingly fatal illness he had been observing.

Women and children primarily were presenting symptoms that he at first attributed to Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, which included body tremors, weakness, and slurred speech. But there were additional symptoms that followed, including strange, uncontrolled laughing. And like Creutzfeldt–Jakob, it was always fatal.

Zigas was a native Estonian who after a months-long course at the Australian School of Pacific Administration went to Papua New Guinea in 1950 to…

An anti-masturbation pamphlet became an international bestseller — maybe for unintended reasons

1756 edition.

UNTIL THE EARLY EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, self-pleasuring was generally considered throughout Europe as a relatively inconsequential habit. Other than a wagging finger from the Catholic Church, doctors at the time saw nothing wrong with the vice and even argued that the retention of sperm by men could actually be physically unsafe and that women could avoid such distinctly female maladies as hysteria and madness if they pursued auto-erotic release. It was considered simply a natural part of human sexuality

But thanks to a 12-page pamphlet titled “Onania” that appeared one day in London around 1712, the act of self-pleasuring suddenly became…

First successful ovarian surgery was potentially fatal to both patient and doctor

18th-century medical school dissecting room.

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

-Jonathon Swift, “Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting,” 1706

IT WAS DECEMBER 13, 1809, and Danville, Kentucky physician Dr. Ephriam McDowell finally arrived after a punishing 60-mile horseback ride at the Green County home of Jane Todd Crawford, who believed she was pregnant with twins but was far past her due date and deathly ill. …

Testicle theft a real problem in 1922 Chicago

Joseph Wozniak, America’s first victim of live organ harvesting.

THE STORY EXPLODED NATIONWIDE over the Associated Press wire service on October 14 and 15, 1922. A married, 34-year-old “husky” World War I veteran and marginally employed Wisconsin beet farmer living in Chicago named Joseph Wozniak reported to police that he and a friend went to a Chicago bar, where they drank heavily with four other men. Later, as Wozniak explained to a physician named Dr. Sampelinski, the four men threw a bag over his head, forced him into a car and chloroformed him. He woke up on a sidewalk under a viaduct near 17th Street.

Then, he discovered that…

Bloody noses, cracked ribs, even death on early roller coasters

The Flip-Flap, Coney Island, 1902

ROLLER COASTERS enjoy unprecedented popularity with both the riding public, who enjoy the latest thrills, and theme park management, who enjoy the enthusiastic crowds new coaster technology fetches.

While a modern roller coaster packs a tremendous wallop for the buck, thrills experienced by nineteenth-century coaster enthusiasts who dared venture on the weekends to the coal mines, the timber mills, or the end of the trolley lines got a truly death-defying experience for pennies on the dollar without the inconveniences of built-in safety features that today only provides an illusion of real danger. …

In 1910, a young immigrant girl lost her life due to a simple misunderstanding

West entrance of the Blue Ridge tunnel, 1963.

WHEN 18-YEAR OLD VIRGINIA RONCOLI (also spelled Roncali) awakened, it was after midnight and her pitch-black railroad car was filling with acrid, black coal smoke. Many of her fellow Italian immigrant passengers noticed at the same time, and soon there was a stampede toward the doors at the front and rear of the car.

Being seated at the rear, Virginia reached the back door first. She grabbed the handle and threw open the door, only to be sucked from the safety of the car underneath the screaming, grinding wheels of the train, where she died an immediate and gruesome death.

Dale M. Brumfield

Anti-death penalty advocate, cultural archaeologist, “American Grotesk” historyteller and author of 11 books. More at

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