Sunday, November 28, 2010

Victorian Gallows Ballads

Mary Arnold, The Female Monster
Former prostitute uses carnivorous beetles to blind her own infant child. Hopes to increase its value as a tool for begging, but wins only prison and transportation.

The Execution of Nathaniel Mobbs
Drunken bully cuts his wife's throat in a fit of jealous rage. Bungles his own suicide attempt, and lives long enough to be hanged at Newgate.

Mrs Dyer, The Old Baby-Farmer
Reading woman takes in illegitimate babies for cash. Strangles 40 or more, then dumps their bodies in the Thames.

The Gallows Child
Nine-year old boy is condemned to death for stealing six handkerchiefs from an Oxford Street shop. Shopkeeper had paid five shillings each for them.

The Life and Trial of Palmer
Boozy, gambling doctor poisons family and friends to clear his debts. Hanged at Stafford Gaol, but survives as footnote in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Silent Grove
Young man gets his girlfriend pregnant, then kills both her and the baby to avoid responsibility. One of many Bloody Miller/ Berkshire Tragedy variants - a combination of which eventually became Knoxville Girl.

The Liverpool Lodger
Evil lodger slaughters family and robs them. Victims include pregnant mother and two very young boys.

The Unnatural Murder
Disguised sailor returns home to his parents, hoping to surprise them with his new-found wealth. They mistake him for a stranger, kill him, and steal his gold.

Murder at Westmill
Nine-year-old boy brutally murders his infant sister. Mother driven mad by the crime.

Streams of Crimson Blood
Burglar breaks into rich old couple's house and kills them both.

The Murdered Maid
Poverty-stricken yokels kill lodger for her savings. But it's really their own daughter.

Cruel Lizzie Vickers
Housekeeper bullies her way into elderly employer's will then beats him to death for the £1,000 involved. That's the ballad's version, but the Old Bailey jury found her not guilty.