Adam Worth, sometimes given the same epithet as the fictional villian                                                                        Moriarty, who challenged Sherlock Holmes, “The Napoleon of Crime”, was a                                                              German-born criminal mastermind.
                                                           Worth was born in Germany in 1844, the first child of a poor Jewish family;                                                               his original surname is believed to have been “Werth” or “Wirtz”. When he                                                                 was five years old, he and his parents moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts,                                                             where his father got a job as a tailor. Worth spent his childhood as a part of the Jewish working class. At the age of 14, he ran away from home and went to Boston. A few years later, in 1860, he moved to New York City. It was there that he had what he later called his “first and only honest job” as a clerk at a department store, which he held for only a month. In 1861, when Worth was 17, the Civil War broke out. Lying about his age, he enlisted in the Union army, partly because he wanted the adventure but also because of the $1000 bounty he was paid. He served in the 34th Light Artillery regiment of Flushing, New York and was promoted to the rank of corporal and then sergeant within months. He was put in charge of a cannon battery and led his troops in several fights against Robert E. Lee’s soldiers. In August of 1862, he was injured by shrapnel during the Second Battle of Bull Run in Virginia and was shipped to Georgetown Hospital near Washington D.C. While recovering, he learned that he had accidentally been listed as killed in action and seized the oppurtunity to leave the Army.
After being declared dead, the criminal comes of age
After being declared dead, Worth became a bounty jumper and started enlisting in various regiments under assumed names, serving in it long enough to receive his bounty. He occasionally took part in full-on combat even though he detested violence, and then deserting with the money. As a result of these activities, he was eventually pursued by the Pinkerton Agency, but slipped away from them on several occasions. Giving up his bounty jumping, Worth went to New York City, which during the post-war years was teeming with illegal prostitution, gambling, and liquor. Though neither a drinker nor a gambler, Worth worked his way up among the gangs of the underworld. He began working for other criminals as a pickpocket before establishing his own gang of pickpockets and becoming a planner and financier of heists. However, he was arrested while taking part in a cash box theft from an Adams Express wagon. He was sentenced to three years of hard labor at Sing Sing, but escaped after only a few weeks. In order to change his appearance, he grew a mustache and a pair of mutton chops.
Worth also stopped operating as a freelancer and started working for Fredericka “Marm” Mandelbaum, one of New York City’s most infamous fences and criminal financiers. During his time working for her, Worth strived to improve the criminal techniques of his time and to make them more effective and safer. During the later half of the 1860s, he masterminded several heists and robberies. In 1869, Worth was hired along with Max “The Baron” Shinburn to spring a robber named Piano Charley Bullard out of jail. They did so by paying off the necessary guards and digging a tunnel under the jailhouse walls. Though the collaboration was a success, Worth and Shinburn became rivals afterwards with Worth always surpassing Shinburn. However, Worth and Bullard became partners for a long time afterwards. Together, they robbed the Boylston National Bank in Boston in November of 1869 by setting up a fake health tonic shop next door and digging through the wall. When the Pinkerton Agency came down hard on the investigation and tracked the shipment of trunks from the storefront to Worth and Bullard, they left town and went to Europe. They spent the following years living under the respective aliases “Henry Judson Raymond”, a financier from the East coast, and “Charles H. Wells”, an oil magnate from Texas.

Worth and Bullard went ashore in Liverpool, England, where they met a barmaid named Kitty Flynn, whom they both wooed. Despite being told their true identities, she wound up marrying Bullard, though Worth never resented him for it. They eventually had two daughters together. While they were on their honeymoon, Worth robbed a number of pawn shops, eventually dividing the loot with the couple when they came back. Shortly afterwards, in 1871, all three moved to Paris together. With what was left of the loot from the bank heist, they bought an abandoned three-floor building near the Paris Opera House and turned into the “American Bar”, a bar and restaurant with an illegal gambling den on an upper floor. The gambling tables were constructed so they could be easily concealed and the guests could pretend to be doing something else. The place attracted several guests, honest people and criminals alike. Among the guests were employees of the Boylston National Bank, who had no idea who owned the place they patronized. The bar flourished until 1873, when one of the Pinkertons (some sources say it was the founder, Allan Pinkerton, while others say it was his son, William) came into the bar. As Worth suspected that they were on to him, he and the Bullards decided that they would have to close the bar. They did however put it to use one more time to rob a customer, a jewelry salesman, of a bag of diamonds worth thousands on closing night.
After the assets were liquidated, Worth and the Bullards moved to London, where they bought the Western Lodge, a Georgian mansion house, at Clapham Common and Worth leased an apartment in Mayfair, London’s most fashionable district. While leading a double life in the high society as “Henry J. Raymond”, Worth formed a vast criminal syndicate and ran it through trusted intermediaries. None of the people who actively took part in his operations, which mainly included robberies, armed and otherwise, and burglaries, but also larceny, safe-cracking, and swindling, knew the identity of the man behind it all and were forbidden from using violence.
At one point during this time in Worth’s career, his brother, John, sought him out in England hoping for a job and became involved in an international forgery scheme. Having received an amount of English cash, John was sent to Paris to exchange the pounds for francs. Unfortunately, he accidentally went to one of the banks he had been warned against using. When the bank discovered that the bill of exchange was fake, John was arrested and extradited to England into the custody of John Shore, one of Worth’s most persistent adversaries. However, worth was able to provide his brother with a good legal defense and get him acquitted in court and then sent him back to the States. On another occasion, four of Worth’s most trusted employees were arrested in Turkey after carelessly spending a lot of forged credit notes all over Europe. They were convicted and sentenced to seven years of hard labor in prison, but Worth was able to bribe the right officials and get them released before the Pinkerton Agency could get them extradited to the U.S.
In 1876, Worth organized one of the most notorious heists of his career, one of the few in which he personally took part. That year, a painting of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Cavendish by 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough reemerged. After being bought at an auction by art dealer Thomas Agnew and sold for 10,000 guineas, it was put in his art gallery. Upon seeing the painting, Worth took a liking to it and hired Jack “Junka” Phillips, his bodyguard, and “Little Joe” Elliott, another of his associates, to join him in breaking into the gallery and stealing the painting. However, though he told the people who worked for him that he would sell it within a few months, he never did so. Eventually, Junka and Little Joe became impatient. So much that Junka tried to trick Worth into talking about the heist in front of an undercover policeman at a bar. Upon realizing what he was doing, Worth knocked the table on top of Phillips. He never associated with him again. Worth then gave Little Joe money he had asked for to return to the States, where he was arrested for robbing the Union Trust Company. When he was put in prison, he told the Pinkerton Agency about Worth’s activities. They notified Scotland Yard, but since Elliot had no idea where the portrait was being kept (he had hidden it in various locations in his mansion and concealed it in a custom-made briefcase when he was travelling) and both agencies were already aware that Worth was a criminal, nothing came of it.
Worth sought to regain some funds that had been lost in the Turkey incident. He and a group of followers went to Cape Town, South Africa to look into the possibility of exploiting the local diamond mining. Eventually, Worth and an accomplice, Charley King, tried to rob a horse-drawn wagon transporting uncut diamonds at gunpoint, but were fought off by the guards. King fled far away, but Worth stayed in the area. He planned another robbery, using a more sophisticated approach. Posing as a feather merchant, he befriended the postmaster of the local post office, where the diamonds were to be stored if they missed the ferry to England. While alone in the postmaster’s office, Worth made a wax impression of his key and had a copy made. When the next diamond transport was due, he beat it to the harbor and cut the express ferry loose. The diamonds were then stored in the post office. Overnight, Worth robbed the post office’s safe and stole the diamonds, valued at $500,000, and returned to London, where he used a new associate, Ned Wynert, to open up a jewelry store and sell the loot from Africa at lower prices than the competition.
Sometime in the early 1880s, Worth got married. The bride, whose name remains unknown, was the daughter of a family whose lodging house Worth had stayed at when he first came to the country. They had two children together, a son named Harry in 1888 and a daughter named Constance in 1891. In September of 1892, Worth went to Liege, Belgium, where he found out that Bullard had passed away. Impulsively, he concocted a haphazard plan to rob a money transport, aided by Johnny Curtin, an American bankrobber, and Alonzo Henne, a Dutch small-time crook. On October 5, they carried out the robbery. However, they were spotted and Worth was apprehended by the gendarmes. He was held in prison for a week, refusing to admit to any crime or even reveal his name. When the Belgian authorities circulated photos of him to European and American investigators, the NYPD and Scotland Yard caught on to him. Most shockingly, his rival and former associate Max Shinburn made contact with the police and gave a testimony of everything he knew about Worth and his crimes. His trial began on March 20, 1893, where he kept flatly denying all the accusations and claiming the botched Liege heist was a desperate act done because he needed the money. Ultimately, he was found guilty of robbery and sentenced to seven years in Leuven prison.
The time in prison was awful for Worth, not just because his   authority was taken away from him, but also because Shinburn, who was given a reduced sentence of one year in exchange for his testimony, hired people within the prison to abuse Worth whenever he could afford it. Later, Worth received word that his wife had been date-raped by Johnny Curtin, after which she had become insane and committed to an asylum. Their two children were left in the care of Worth’s brother in New York. In 1894, Marm Mandelbaum and Kitty Flynn both died of illness. In the fall of 1897, Worth was released early for good behavior. Determined to have his children grow up to have a different career than him, he robbed a diamond store in London to get enough money to go to America. After bidding his institutionalized wife goodbye, he left and visited his children. Afterwards, he visited the Pinkertons in Chicago.
Worth admitted to possessing the portrait of the Duchess and offered to return it to Thomas Agnew and give the Pinkertons the credit for finding it. If and only if, he got  immunity from prosecution and $25,000 from Agnew. All parties involved agreed to the terms since everyone would benefit from it and the painting was returned. Worth spent the rest of his life living in London with his children. He died on January 8, 1902 and was buried under the alias “Henry J. Raymond”. His son, Harry, handled his estate and funeral, paid for his and his sister’s move to the U.S. and got a job at a foundry. However, William Pinkerton, as part of a deal he made with Worth, got him a better job as a career Pinkerton agent.  I cannot help but wonder if the younger Worth prospered in the position his father’s criminal skills had purchased for him.
Many believe that Worth was the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s “Professor Moriarty,” the arch villian of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  It is an odd kind of immortality to be the inspiration of an arch fiend in one of the world’s most widely read, and now seen, crime story series. “Moriarty” most recently appeared on the television show, Sherlock, though his gender was changed, I suppose to create a more interesting and surprising character for modern viewers.  I can’t help but wonder if Worth was really as smart and dangerous as Moriarty or whether Doyle had to work hard to make him enough of a super villian to face the greatest detective of all times. But when I think of how Worth used a known stolen painting to extort money from the Pinkerton Dective Agency (the greatest of  the 19th century), I must admit that Woth did have the dash of Moriarty, himself.

Posted in Sherlock Holmes, victorian crime | Tagged Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Victorian murders | Leave a comment
What would you gamble for a better life?

The great photographic adventurers of 19th Century India

I recently attended a meeting of the Historical Photographic Society and  had the pleasure  of seeing an image by one of my favourite Victorian adventurer-photographers. Samuel Bourne dragged his heavy wooden camera and tripod across rivers, deserts, up and down mountains, anywhere there was a subject he wanted to photograph. His images are superb. Perfect exposure, beautiful composition, while side-stepping everything the Indian subcontinent could throw at him. Along with men like Sache, and John Burke who has the distinction of being the first man to photograph Afghanistan–while following an army in the midst of its slaughter. When the British charged into Afghanistan, they had no idea of the difficulties facing them. They were cut to ribbons and John Burke captured it all. He photographed the living, the dead and the dying, shrinking from nothing, all the while carrying a heavy wooden tripod and large format camera.
Along with Sache, Bourne, Felice Beato, and a handful of others, these  intrepid Raj photographers have given us a vision of British India that cannot be forgotten. In fact, I was so fascinated by them and their images that I ended up spending seven years on a novel set during the 1870s in the city of Lucknow, where one of the most important sieges of the Indian Mutiny took place.
The images mesmerized me and led me to study the era, India and early photography. Now this early technology and the sad, terrible war fought in 1857 has resulted in putting Victorian images into the form of an exciting iBook that is available on Apple Books, and will allow other people to see these poignant documents of a forgotten age in crisp sepia tones. The images have become part of the story of Lucknow    Shadows of Empire that darken a young Englishman’s life when he falls in love with an Indian courtesan. 


Many people of the British Empire were ready to risk anything for a better future. People emigrating to India endured a three-month voyage on ships that were tossed about like corks. Then, they had to cope with conditions so foreign that many died within a few months. But the strong ones could become almost anything–kings even, rich beyond imagining. At home, in the British Isles the choices might be limited to the drudgery of becoming a house servant, a live-in teacher (governess), or maybe a miner or industrial worker working an eighty hour week for a pittance.
These were often the alternatives for second sons and workers without connections or education. For women, there were almost no choices. Become a servant, scullery maid, maid of all work, cleaner or risk everything, gambling on a life in India. There, if you were good looking, you might win big in the marriage lottery and marry a noveau riche immigrant who wouldn’t worry about who your family was or which school you went to as much as the people “at home.”
It often was an all or nothing proposition, especially for women like Jane Booth, heroine of Lucknow Shadows of Empire. She is my own fictional invention but she is based on thousands of women who played to win or lose all by “going out to India.”

In Jane Booth’s case, she seemed to win the marriage lottery: she married a hero of the Indian army who was adventurous and seemed to adore her–at first. She had a child who was intelligent, and loved her. But all this changed around the time of the 1857 war of independence, which the British called, “The Indian Mutiny.” Caught up in this  nightmare war, which was so bitter and venomous that women were abused by enemies on both sides.
Jane gave up her son and sent him back to England to live with relatives. Many families who had the resources often sent children back to England before the age of seven so they would not fall too far behind in schooling. Of course, once Jane realizes the present danger of the war, she is glad she sent her son, “home,” the only word ever used by British people in India to describe England.

Murder Mysteries:LYDIA GWILT, 
A realistic 21st century portrait of a vicious female killer:

She even fascinated Charles Dickens! 

She was created by Wilkie Collins in the 1850s.Do you know who Svengali was, or Count Fosco, or Fagin? All were famous villians of enormously popular nineteenth century murder mysteries. All raised issues about the society of the time 1860s  to 1890s.
After the discovery of “mesmerism” in the 1700s, renamed hypnotism by James Braid during the mid-19th century, the phenomena of hypnosis became a source of public fascination  for thousands of people who attended demonstrations of its power. Long hat pins were thrust into arms or tongues or other parts of the body that the unhypnotized subject would have found intensely painful. In a hypnotic trance, people from the audience felt nothing. 
This power of trance was put to good use by James Esdaile, a Scottish  doctor in India where he used mesmerism as an anesthaetic for thousands of Indian natives at his surgical clinic. Yet, throughout the  19th century, hypnosis was viewed as something tinged with  the supernatural, villainous and threatening. An irrational fear that finally reached an apotheosis in the fictional character of Svengali, a Jewish mesmerist in the crime novel, Trilby, who takes control of a beautiful young Irish woman. This young woman, Trilby by name, when hypnotized, becomes an outstanding singer, but in her normal state is tone deaf. The point, one might say was that a hypnotist (assumed to be male) could take  control of a woman and “bend her to his will,” and there were real crimes committed during the century which were blamed on hypnosis. So the first villain on my must-know list is Svengali, who became almost as famous as the arch fiend, Count Dracula, in Bram Stoker’s supernatural mystery novel, Dracula.
Next on my list of must-know villians is Count Fosco, created by Wilkie Collins in the most famous gothic novel of the nineteenth century, The Woman in White. Fosco is a thoroughly modern baddie. No magic or supernatural things here. First, he has no remorse or concience. As he proudly tells one of the women he would make his victims: “I, Fosco, stick at nothing.” He is a great scientist and his knowledge of chemistry makes it possible for him to take life leaving no clue. Eventually, Fosco is defeated, but only just.
Last, and best of all is a remarkable murderer, Lydia Gwilt, again, invented by Wilkie Collins in the novel, Armadale. The thing that is remarkable about Lydia is that she is a very real human being: repenting her worst deeds for a few moments without feeling sufficient contrition to permanently change her ways. She is beautiful and from the age of thirteen on, is a hardened killer who will readily resort to murder when she wants something. The great question throughout the book is whether she will kill the male protagonist, Allan Armadale, or not. I will not spoil the story and tell you.
Lydia Gwilt is a true to life portrait of a killer. She will kill out of vanity, gain or many other motivations. When she acts, she murders without conscience and is highly effective. It is only when she becomes emotionally entangled with a “good” man that her murderous career is affected.

Will Downton Abbey Raise the Bar for an 
Appreciation of History and Historical Fiction?

The international phenomenon of the immensely popular Downton Abbey is the result of one man’s lifelong fascination with history and the lives of the upper classes in Britain. I am speaking, of course, of the tv show’s creator and main writer, Julian Fellowes, who is also a very accomplished actor, seen on such shows as Monarch of the Glen. 
A love and preoccupation with history is one of the most striking characteristics of British society, at least to a north American, a land where history is almost totally forgotten in the race to tomorrow.
Go into any small country town in the United Kingdom and you will  find historians, local historians, ordinary towns people, who have studied the local history of their village/town.I encountered such a man in the small town of Shaftesbury, which had only two streets. He owned and operated the local food market, continuing a tradition in the village which had been in place since the middle ages. For this little village was once an important market town. People came from all over the county to buy and sell their goods.
There was no manor house like Downton Abbey in Shaftesbury, but the village’s history made every tree, rock and right of way truly important and interesting to the people who lived there. Do you really think that Edwardian  servants, like those in Downton Abbey, were interested in their history? They  were. Not just in their own personal history but in the history of the great house and family that they served. The pride taken in that history was what sustained the British class system until the end of the Second World War. In the UK, even today, history trumps money and  false progress. Only a nation that had such a profound sense of its past could have produced a Downton Abbey or withstood Hitler’s terrifying onslaught during the Second World War.
Will the new awareness and appreciation of these factors in British life produce a new and better crop of historical novels, screenplays and television shows? As long as their are people like Julian Fellowes who  believe that where they’ve come from is at least as important as where they are going, that the past can and should inform our actions in the present, they will. Novels that come from this viewpoint can’t fail to be of interest.
Britain’s recent failure to have a historical viewpoint in Afghanistan cost lives and money. Anyone who knows the history of Britain’s incursions into Afghanistan knows that attempts to interfere in the life of that tribal society have been an unmitigated failure for two hundred years. Tony Blair should have had Julian Fellowes at his elbow when making policy decisions.  That way, he might not have forgotten about the valuable lessons of the past.
North America throws away its history, tears it down and destroys the past, even the personal history of families. Downton Abbey teaches us to revere what makes us who we are. That’s why it’s so popular.
Three cheers for Julian Fellowes and writers like him. Let’s hope it rubs off on others.
Posted in 19th Century London, 19th century women's rights, British royalty, Downton Abbey, Edwardian history in England, the "Great Game" | Tagged Downton Abbey, impact of Downton Abbey, impact of history on modern events, importance of history, lives of royalty, servants in great houses, social history of England, the Buccaneers, the value of Downton Abbey | Leave a comment


I recently attended a meeting of the Historical Photographic Society and  had the pleasure  of seeing an image by one of my favourite Victorian adventurer-photographers. Samuel Bourne dragged his heavy wooden camera and tripod across rivers, deserts, up and down mountains, anywhere there was a subject he wanted to photograph. His images are superb. Perfect exposure, beautiful composition, while side-stepping everything the Indian subcontinent could throw at him. Along with men like Sache, and John Burke who has the distinction of being the first man to photograph Afghanistan–while following an army in the midst of its slaughter. When the British charged into Afghanistan, they had no idea of the difficulties facing them. They were cut to ribbons and John Burke captured it all. He photographed the living, the dead and the dying, shrinking from nothing, all the while carrying a heavy wooden tripod and large format camera.
Along with Sache, Bourne, Felice Beato, and a handful of others, these  intrepid Raj photographers have given us a vision of British India that cannot be forgotten. In fact, I was so fascinated by them and their images that I ended up spending seven years on a novel set during the 1870s in the city of Lucknow, where one of the most important sieges of the Indian Mutiny took place.
The images fascinated me and led me to study the era, India and early photography. Now this early technology and the sad, terrible war fought in 1857 has resulted in putting Victorian images into the form of an iBook that is available on the iBookstore. Search for Lucknow Shadows of Empire by Alan McKee.

A lot of people visit London to see the stores and the glamour of a great city.But I would rather have the thrill of London time travel. I would rather walk in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper, see what he saw, visit the streets where he did his ghastly deeds, and, of course see if I can shed any new light on the identity of the world’s most famous serial killer. So, assuming I had a ticket to London, how would I start my time travel?
Well there are a number of “Ripper Walks” in London that guide you through the Whitechapel district in London’s east end. But I would go to the first and reputedly the best of these, guided by one of the most noted “Ripperologists”, Donald Rumbelow. Here is the tour operators own text from their website.
“Only by starting at Tower Hill can you unlock the truth about the Jack the Ripper murders.”
Donald Rumbelow, author of The Complete Jack the Ripper.                                                                        Rumbelow’s is the original – and complete –  Jack the Ripper Walk.It begins at Tower Hill, right on the boundary between Scotland Yard territory and City of London Police territory. Only by beginning there can you understand the conflict between the two London police forces and their leading personalities. A conflict which blurred the investigation and made it easier for the Ripper to slip through the police nets.
And please tread carefully and keep away from the shadows… for you are about to enter the abyss. Which is by way of saying, the setting itself couldn’t be more dramatic. Two minutes into the walk a back alley takes us into a hideaway where the grim old London Wall rears up directly before us. It’s a hideaway so dark and so still that you can hear people breathing, a place where the clock seems permanently turned back to 1888, back to the Autumn of Terror. So desperate were the police to track the mysterious killer known today as “Jack the Ripper,” they resorted to some unusual methods of detection. A letter to Sir Charles Warren, Commisioner of Police, was written by J.H. Ashforth of Nottingham:
“Some ten or twelve years ago a very dreadful murder was committed upon a young girl at Blackburn in Lancashire. I wrote to the Chief Constable at Blackburn respectfully asking him to employ dogs in discovering the criminal, and he did so with the most complete success.”
Ashforth went on to say that the reason he had such faith in dogs was that he had seen an an untrained dog, a spaniel, find its mistress in a crowded marketplace. However, the use of dogs was not customary but certainly not as bizarre as another investigative method the police examined to catch the Ripper.
On 13 September the Star suggested that the eyes of Annie Chapman be photographed in the hope that her retinas might have retained the image formed there. The belief that the last image formed on retinas of a dying person’s eyes was invested with spurious credibility by American press reports in the 1850s. In 1857  The New York Observer cited the Democratic Press, which noticed a series of experiments made in August of that year by Dr. Pollock of Chicago. The doctor, examining the retinas of a recent murder victim and found “in almost every instance…a clear, distinct and marked impression.” What was more to the point for the Ripper investigation, The Observer claimed Dr. Sandford had examined the eyes of a recent murder victim and detected in the pupil “the rude worn-away figure of a man with a light coat.” In February 1888, The British Journal of Photography published a New York Tribune claim that a killer had been convicted in France on the strength of eyeball photography.
One statement which could not be corroborated was that an attempt was made to photograph the eyes of Mary Kelly, the Ripper’s seventh victim.
According to Dr. Thomas E.A. Stowell, the Ripper was a member of the Royal family, Dr. Stowell claimed he had seen evidence that Jack the Ripper was Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Of course, others have mentioned the artist, Walter Sickert. The true crime writer Patricia Cornwell tore apart one of his paintings to prove it, but couldn’t. But for me the most conclusive statement ever made was that of the lead detective on the case, Frederick Abberline. He was not only an excellent and thorough investigator but he told Ike Godley, the man who took over from him, that Ike “had finally got Jack the Ripper.”
So who was he talking about?
The year was 1893, and at Wandsworth Prison a man had just been hung for murdering his wife when Detective Abberline made his remark. The executed man was named Stanislaw Kosloski and was also known as George Chapman. He had been trained in Poland as a surgeon, and therefore had the skill necessary to have performed the grotesque murders attributed to the Ripper. He also lived in the area where the Ripper murders took place.
Kosloski had actually been questioned during the investigation but was released. And if Abberline’s remark doesn’t impress you, take a look at Mr. Kosloski.
To me, he looks like a killer. What do you think?


Throughout his life, Arthur Conan Doyle, creator  of Sherlock Holmes was an ardent supporter of the spiritualist point of view. He had many debates (arguments) with eminent critics of spiritualist ideas, in particular, Harry Houdini, illusionist, escape artist and an ardent debunker of spiritualist beliefs, who often caught false mediums in the act.
Conan Doyle’s son was killed in the First World War and some have suggested that  the father’s desire to  contact his son overrode all other considerations. However, Doyle’s beliefs were not fleeting. He wrote what is probably the greatest history of the spiritualist movement ever penned. Highly readable even today and available on  Amazon.com. This book  is a skilled and serious attempt to clarify spiritualism. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this subject. Doyle attended many seances  and saw and heard the greatest mediums of his day. Perhaps the ultrarational Mr. Holmes was simply a compensating mechanism for the author, a personification of any doubts Conan Doyle may have felt.


The LilyDale Community
In the twenty-first century, few people still  believe in spirtualist ideas, though there are pockets even today in places like Lilydale, New York, a town in upstate New York, where Conan Doyal visited and whose chief qualification for permanent residence is proving that one is a capable medium. The community in upstate New York in Lilydale, NY is indeed unusual. If you wish to learn more about living, practicing Spiritualism today, visit their website. This is their greeting to internet visitors:
“We welcome you to Lily Dale Assembly, the World’s Largest Center for the Science, Philosophy and Religion of Spiritualism, now celebrating it’s 140 year.  Each day of the season offers a series of events and experiences to bring information, enlightenment, hope and peace to 
those who open their hearts to receive.
There are daily lectures on the wonders of mediumistic phenomena and the basic truths of God and Man, which Spiritualists adopt as their standard for living.” 
 Demonstrations of clairvoyance are given at services held every day for the visitors by mediums devoted to their service. 
The Healing Temple is available for meditation on the renewing and uplifting of spiritual and physical energies.  Spiritual healers are present to work with those who desire individual healing energies. 
The crossroads of a  belief in the  spirit world lay in the Victorian era when Darwin published his book “On the origin of the species in 1859. After publication public opinion  shifted very quickly to a rationalist point of view regarding anything spiritual. It also changed the form of many Christian beliefs.
My own thought is that faith  is  one of the most personal choices we make. To anyone who has read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, and works by Tibetan masters now living in the west, disbelief in the world of spirit seems equally impossible. Another important source of  pro spiritualist writers is to be found among professional exorcists, many of whom make Hollywood’s portrayal of demons and spirits seem tame. For  instance, how about a possessed doll that comes alive and causes catastrophic events in someone’s life? Farther out than a Stephen King novel, yet attested to by an exorcist who was tested, utilized, even famed among those who know the back streets of the human soul. Even today we are fascinated with paranormal subjects, as evidenced by such  movies as Paranormal Activity 3.

Who was “the great London Minotaur”?

“…not even the great London Minotaur himself—that portentous 
incarnation of lust and wealth—fill us with such sorrow
and shame….”
                          —W.T. Stead in the Pall Mall Gazette  July 8, 1885

In his epoch making series of articles on the Victorian business of child sexual abuse titled, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, W.T. Stead refers to an individual whom he describes as a “portentous incarnation of lust and wealth.” He never named this person but the fact that he began the most sensational series of his career by referring to this person shows how important Stead thought him. Here is a lengthier, additional reference to the Minotaur:

“Mr. ———, (is) another wealthy man, whose whole life is dedicated
to the gratification of lust. During my investigations in the subterranean
realm I was constantly coming across his name. This procuress
was getting girls for ———, that woman was beating up maids
for ———, this girl was waiting for ———, that house was a noted
place of ———’s. I ran across his traces so constantly that I began
to make inquiries in the upper world of this redoubtable personage. I
soon obtained confirmation of the evidence I had gathered at first hand
below as to the reality of the existence of this modern Minotaur, this
English Tiberius, whose Caprece is in London.”

No one who questioned Stead ever got him to provide the name of “the great London Minotaur.” It is unlikely that Stead invented this person. His reputation as an editor and journalist was on the line, and this series of articles were to be the most sensational and effective he ever wrote. Shortly after the series of articles was finished, the age of consent was raised and the contagious diseases acts, which Josephine Butler regarded as a legal basis for legalized prostitution, were repealed.
In the social history of nineteenth century England, The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon is almost unique in its impact  on society. Yet, as far as I know, no one has ever named the individual whose behaviour started Stead on his crusade. All we know for sure  is that he was rich and that he had a taste for young girls.
In my novel, The Minotaur’s Children, I suggest a fictional but plausible answer to the identity of The Minotaur. To me, it is as great and fascinating a mystery as the identity of Jack the Ripper, and it is likely that The Minotaur had many more  victims than those of the Ripper. Take a look at my novel, The Minatour's Children if you want to learn more.


The connection between crime and the supernatural in nineteenth century England often had to do with the gulf between the dangerous classes and the newly emerging middle class.Jack the Ripper was as much a magician as a criminal, otherwise how could dozens of policemen and vigilantes miss him in a small area of narrow lanes?
To this day, our fascination with the Ripper is that he eluded the many who sought to catch him. We know that in some cases he and his victims were only one or two blocks away from the police yet, no one ever heard or saw anything.
But the fear of the middle class was really based on a fear of “darkest London”, that it might rise against them and take away the newly won prosperity, safety and comfort.
When Henry Mayhew, the author of London Labour and the London Poor wrote: “A week of bad weather could prevent ships from landing and reduce thousands of dock workers to starvation,” he was expressing a fear of  the mob, a fear of the “dangerous classes” that existed in London since the 1700s.
This social context was part of the fear but why was  the fear so often cast in “spiritual” terms? The Salvationists (today the Salvation Army) saw their fight to rehabilitate the criminal and poor working classes as a fight against evil. Their armband read: Blood and Fire, Salvation Army. In its day, it was a radical organization led by fearless men and women who often ventured into thieves’ kitchens and alleys where the police were afraid to set foot. Who cast the struggle between good and evil in the form of “spirit?”
Oddly enough, Spiritualism, as it came to be known, had nothing to do with church leaders but resulted from the experiences of two young girls who were not from London but from America, the Fox sisters who, in upstate New York gave birth to the spiritualist movement. The mysterious knocks and noises they heard in their little house in Hydesville ,New York set off a world wide chain reaction that dwarfs every other western religious movement since the birth of Christianity.
Once the two sisters began speaking about their experiences in public, a wave of seances, hypnotic experiments and a fascination with “spiritualist” phenomena erupted around the world. The most sensational of them all was Donald Dunglas Home, a medium who’s extraordinary claims and performances have never fully been disproved. He will get his own post, later.

A monumental source of eye-witness information on the Victorian age

Where did Charles Dickens go when he needed first hand information on London street merchants? Of course, he went out with detectives as they made their rounds but what if he needed to know about the street people who worked out of  Covent Garden, or the teachers who taught for little or no wages in the so-called “ragged schools” which often consisted of a large, unheated room and rowdy children of all ages? Dickens probably turned to the source that thousands have used: Henry Mayhew’s monumental work of oral history, London Labour and the London Poor.
During the 1840s and 1850s, Mayhew interviewed hundreds of London’s poorest people. He talked to flower girls, who, having nothing, sold little bouquets of violets that they tied up out of broken flowers they found on the pavement. He spoke with costermongers who sold bruised fruit and vegetables at prices the poor could afford. He described in detail their brightly painted carts pulled by small donkeys in fancy reins and saddles, and even talked about the special bond between the costers and  their animals. He described the “medicines” sold by “mountebanks” and the fake posters that purported to be the “last words and confessions” of executed murderers (very popular items). There were vendors of printed cards detailing “the professor’s system” for improving memory and learning languages.
The “casual” dock workers who gathered at the “cage” at the end of Nightingale Lane and were later a force in the politics of the metropolis were subjects of Mayhews’ pen. London “jarveys” or cab drivers are described, how they slept in their cabs while their horses slept standing up. What they wore, how they spoke, a host of eyewitness details that we could never  know if not for Mayhew. As Thackery wrote, Mayhew provides us  with “a picture of human life so wonderful, so awful, so piteous and pathetic, so exciting and terrible, that readers of romances own they never read anything like it.” Readers will think they have picked up a Dore illustration from a Dickens novel, drawn even more vividly than the master illustrator.
This magnificent work of social oral history is available in many editions. It used to be only Dover who printed it. But no more! It is truly a masterpiece that is not  to be missed.


Few people today know the name, Philip Meadows Taylor. He came out to India when he was barely fifteen. Like many who came to the subcontinent, he had few resources in England. He did not attend Haileybury, the training school for the elite members of the  British civil service in India. He lived hand to mouth for several years before  he was employed by the Nizam of Hyderabad, largest of the princely states of India.
The Nizam was ruler of a vast region encompassing  the largest of the princely states, which included parts of present-day Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra states. Its ruler, the Nizam Osman Ali Khan was a Muslim, although over 80% of its people were Hindu. Today, the Nizam of Hyderabad, is Fifth on Forbes ‘All Time Wealthiest’ list of 2008 with Net Worth: 210.8 Billion USD. For some perspective: Bill Gates is twentieth, Net Worth: 101.0 Billion USD.
So how did a very young  man with no patrons or “connections” find a post with the Nizam? First, Meadows Taylor was  one of the first people to pursue the Thuggee, the cult of killers who haunted the back roads of India for centuries. If General W.H. Sleeman hadn’t rounded them up, Meadows Taylor would have.
Taylor was sent out to India to become a clerk to a Bombay merchant. On his arrival the house was in financial difficulties, and he was glad to accept in 1824 a commission in the service of his highness the Nizam, to which service he remained devotedly attached throughout his long career. He was speedily transferred from military duty to a civil appointment, and in this capacity he acquired a knowledge of the languages and the people of Southern India which has seldom been equaled. He studied the laws, the geology, the antiquities of the country; he was alternately judge, engineer, artist and man of letters, for on his return to England in 1840 on furlough he published the first of his Indian novels, Confessions of a Thug,
As a result of his experience with the Thuggee, subject of another post in upcoming months, Meadows Taylor wrote a book, Confessions of a Thug, which became a best seller in England.
Taylor worked for the Nizam for decades and when he grew old and tired and was about to leave India and go “home,” to England, thousands of the Nizam’s subjects followed him for days, sang to him and prayed, to show how highly they valued him. He was the exceptional Englishman who gave his all for India and its people. He built roads, reservoirs and looked for any way he could to improve the lives of the Nizam’s subjects, and they knew it.
As you can see from the image of Meadows Taylor I have posted, he was a big, powerful man with more than the ordinary share of bravery and love for his fellow man. To learn more, read Meadows Taylor’s own, Story of My Life.

Azimullah Khan: behind the scenes leader of the 1857 rebellion

Above is a portrait, believed to be drawn from life by Richard Doyle,
close relative of Arthur Conan Doyle, of the man who stood behind the scenes and pushed India into war with the British: Azimullah Khan.
Much is  known about this shrewd and careful man. How, as a boy from a British charity school, he had to wait on British officers at table,  how he harboured his resentment against the British and how he spent every waking minute thinking how he could chase them out of his country. He is also dis credited with getting Tatya Tope, field commander of the rebellion, to give the order for the butchering of over 100 British women and children, an act which made the titular leader of the rebellion, Nana Sahib, totally committed to a break with the British and an act of open warfare.
Nana and Tatya Tope were the official leaders, but the shrewd, ruthless and secretive Azimullah Khan is believed by many to have been the real  leader of the rebellion. He visited London in order to try to get a pension for Nana Sahib before the rebellion broke out. He made friends, even feminine conquests, but all the while he was watching for ways he could destroy the British. On his way back to India, he stopped to observe the Crimean war and was delighted to see the British beaten so badly by their Russian foes. The British were starving, wounded and nearly destroyed. An education in their vulnerabilities for the former charity school boy.
He returned to India vowing to destroy his enemies with Nana Sahib as his cats paw.
Once the rebellion started in May 1857, Azimullah Khan disappears from the pages of history. Was he killed? Or, did he flee India with an English woman named, Clayton, as some witnesses were reputed to say?
The riddle of Azimullah Khan is one that has always fascinated me. After researching my book on Lucknow and the British Raj and based on what I’ve learned, there are a few tantalizing possibilities. He may have eluded British troops in the Terai wetlands, he may even have left the country with a woman named, Clayton. I explore these possible scenarios in my book Lucknow Shadows of Empire.
If you want to find out more.


The Music of Lucknow After the 1857 Rebellion

In the mid-nineteenth century, Lucknow, Patna and Banaras remained the centres of the lively Purab bᾱj style of sitᾱr music, while the slower and more elaborate Delhi or Masitkhani style retained prominence in the areas of Delhi and Jaipur. Calcutta would soon emerge as the melting pot of 19th century instrumental music. By the end of the century, the movement of musicians all over North India would bring both styles into the repertoire of all professional sitᾱr players. Compositions in both styles attributed to artists of the last half of the 19th century still make up much of the prized repertoire of traditional instrumentalists.
With the British takeover of Avadh (or Oudh), the departure of Wajid Ali Shah for Calcutta with a large number of musicians, and one year later the fighting and aftermath of the rebellion, Lucknow’s musical activities were more or less suspended. Karam Imam says that a musician who returned after the British takeover saw that “the connoisseurs of Lucknnow  had ceased to hold musical concerts because of fear of the new regime” (Vidyarthi 1959:26. In popular history, little is heard of Luckknow in this period. Lucknow books on music such as the “Ghunchah-i rᾱg” (Khan, N.M.A. 1879) and the “Ma’dan al-mûsiqi” (Khan, M.K.I.).*
So, once again, we can see how the British occupiers of India tried to disrupt traditional culture and reduce the glorious arts of Lucknow to a shadow of itself. Also, the art of dance and poetry would also be affected by a curtailment of music. The fact that in the twenty-first century an exhibition of Lucknow art was held in Paris and Los Angeles, shows how truly great art cannot be destroyed.*

I am indebted to Allyn Miner’s Sitar and Sarod in the 18th and 19th Centuries for these concise and masterful comments which end with the asterisk.



They were perhaps the least talked about women in colonial India. Yet, they were the standard bearers of a unique and exquisitely refined culture rooted in the fabled city of the Nawabs, Lucknow. Universally known as the loveliest entertainers in Asia, the Lucknow courtesans of the highest kind, known as the deradwar tuwaif, were as different from the other prostitutes of the old  city  as emeralds from mud. The nobles of the Nawabs’ court hired these women to teach their sons courtly etiquette, poetry and music. The women were trained for years, learning multiple languages, musical composition, poetic composition and the art of dance.
The greatest of the courtesans lived on the grounds of the Nawabs palaces, often given a pension for life.
The grandees of Lucknow vied with each other in  building the most beautiful (or fantastic) structures possible.
William Howard Russell of The Times, the widely traveled war correspondent,  described Lucknow while covering the 1857 Uprising: “Not Rome, not Athens, not Constantinople, not any city I have ever seen appears to me so striking and beautiful as this; and the more I gaze the more its beauties seem to grow upon me.”
The walled gardens, the golden minarets and oddly shaped buildings cast a spell on many who ventured there. Artists of all kinds from all over Asia and Europe flocked to Lucknow to tap the apparently limitless wealth of the Nawabs.
The Nawabs ( a word meaning “governor”) were Shias from Persia. They were fabulously wealthy, free spending patrons of all the arts. Architecture, music, dance and poetry all reached a high point of cultivation in Lucknow.
Perhaps even more interesting was the fact that the dredwar tuwaif, who were the most accomplished of all the city’s entertainers also became opponents of the British occupation. They were  powerful people whose power was often hidden, and as an occupying force, the British did not like this.
In 2011, the beauty of the Nawabi  civilization resurfaced in an epoch making exhibition entitled: India’s fabled city: The  Art of  Courtly Lucknow. Held in both Paris and Los Angeles, this exhibition put on view many treasures created for the Nawabs.

Have you ever read a GREAT novel by Charles Dickens’ 
great literary friend?

His name was Wilkie Collins. Though trained as a lawyer, he took to writing at an early age. He is distinguished by having written what was probably the greatest thriller of Victorian times, The Woman in White. The story is told that Gladstone actually missed a seating of Parliament because he was reading  Collins masterpiece. Most of Collins work fitted into the category of literature that were known as sensation novels. That is, they were meant to make the reader feel sensations and were usually written about sensational  stories, sensational in the sense of tabloids.
In his own way, Collins was an early champion of women’s rights. The main women characters of his major novels: Armadale, The Women in White and No Name were all very strong, unusual people. They were the antithesis of helpless Victorian  women. One, Lydia Gwilt, was even a murderess. Collins manages to make her sympathetic regardless of her crimes. No Name’s heroine, Magdalen Vanstone, is a daring and talented young  women who is wronged by the law of England (at the time book was written). She is disinherited by an accident of circumstance which costs her, a home, a fortune and those whom she loves.
The heroine of Collins’ masterpiece, The Woman in White, is not the main love interest of the protagonist, Walter Hartright, but is, unknown to all, her half sister, Laura Fairlie. But Marian Holcombe, the central woman character is a heroine by anyone's measure. Again and again, Collins tells us that Marian has the resourcefulness, strength and intelligence of a man. Unusual statements at a time when women were actually supposed to be weak and less capable than men. But even Marian must have some truly “feminine” qualities which exist in the form of her half sister, Walter’s true love, Laura Fairlie, who is as wispy and bland a Victorian lady as any male of the era could wish for. But the greatness of the book lies in the character of its villian, Count Fosco. He is enormously fat but very light on his feet. Wears very exquisite waistcoats, eats cream tarts by the dozen and yet is as cold, calculating and ruthless as the worst real villian  you may know. I am unable to think about Fosco without seeing him played by Sidney Greenstreet of Maltese Falcon fame. The recent BBC dramatization of The Woman in White was unwatchable for me because of the miscasting of Fosco. Yet, where would you find someone worthy of playing such a great villian, one of the greatest since Shakespeare gave us his greatest baddies. I think that a not too aged Orson Welles might have done. Fosco is  a totally self-centered man with no qualms of  consience and a great share of intellectual talent. Welles played a man like this in his cinematic classic,  The Third Man.
The point is that Fosco is a great creation by a great writer. T.S. Eliot credited Collins with inventing the detective story with his other great novel, The Moonstone. Dickens tried the genre with The Mystery of Edwin Drood and in my mind, failed. I will not claim that Collins is capable of the great prose that Dickens often produces, but in his own way, for anyone who loves crime stories, Wilkie Collins deserves a much wider audience and greater appreciation than he usually gets when people talk about Victorian authors.
It was said by Collins’ friends that as he walked home one night, he heard a woman crying for help. The author rushed to her aid and would say nothing about the remarkable event afterwards. However, Collins had two homes simultaneously with two women, Caroline Graves and Martha Rudd. One was the woman who had cried for help in the night. Collins’ open liasons took place at a time when Dickens was afraid to speak publicly about his relationship with Ellen Ternan, for fear it would hurt his book sales.
Collins was not as good as Dickens at creating likeable characters, but he did create a cast of villians who will be remembered forever.


Most people know that Dickens worked in a boot blacking factory as a boy. What many may not know is that it caused him great personal distress. His family “fell” from being a part of the rising middle class and were incarcerated in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison. For an idea of what this meant to the boy, we have only to turn to one of Dicken’s masterpieces, Little Dorritt, for a powerful portrait of the prison and of the vanity of his father, whom Dickens cast as “the father of the Marshalsea” and  whom the author blamed for his own suffering.
Dickens was twelve at the time of the incarceration and was just beginning to feel the value of an education. Extremely sensitive all his life to the opinions of others, the boy felt the “fall”  keenly. He experienced what it meant to be hungry and to suffer the opprobrium of his “betters”. He was taken out of school and had to work in a dirty trade with companions who were from the underclass of the era. Whilst some people would have been crushed, it was Dickens’ genius that these  experiences gave him the phenomenal energy and determination to succeed which later became the hallmarks of his career.
To put it another way: Dickens wrote from his heart, a heart that had been bruised and broken just like those of many of his own characters–and reading public. There was no humiliation that the boy had not tasted to the dregs. Rising from his fall, gave Dickens the fire and energy and determination to become a great artist, and a good businessman who knew how to look out for his own interests. He was a tough negotiator and a shrewd judge of what the reading public wanted–in addition to having a gigantic literary talent. He also had a passionate and genuine empathy for the disenfranchised people he wrote about. The many characters who populate his books are always drawn with great compassion and humanity. Who else could have given us Jenny Wren, the courageous dolls’ dressmaker? This is why, two hundred years from now, Charles Dickens will still be loved and read.
The celebration of Dickens two hundred year anniversary is really a celebration of the most positive aspects of humanity: love, empathy, courage and intelligence.

Josephine Butler, W.T. Stead and the Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon
Posted on February 3, 2012 by hudsonhousemysteries

Mrs. Josephine Butler did more in the cause of feminism than any other women before her—or,arguably—since. Among other things, she was involved in one of the most sensational lawsuits of the nineteenth century, which was an outgrowth of W.T. Stead’s series of articles: The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. H.R. Fox Bourne, author of English Newspapers—Chapters in the History of Journalism, published in 1887, described the Maiden Tribute as “an elaborate combination of very ugly facts and specious fabrications in a set of articles, unexampled in their way.”
Also  involved in the case was the son of the founder of the Salvation Army, Bramwell Booth. Mrs. Jeffries, a notorious madame who came to court every day to throw rotten eggs at Mrs. Butler and Mr. Stead. Not your typical courtroom drama.
Stead and Mrs. Butler joined forces because they both wanted the same thing, though it is arguable that Mr. Stead’s motives  were not  as pure as Mrs. Butler’s. The sales of Stead’s paper, The Pall Mall Gazette rose sharply during the time the articles were being published and there was a near riot in Northumberland Street where The Pall Mall Gazette was published when the first of the articles came out.
The idea behind the articles was to scandalize the public and force the government to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts. Stead took it a long step farther by actually buying a young girl of 13 for £5 through an intermediary and using her case to substantiate some of his claims. What were these wildly debated acts? Why did they raise such a furor among both men and women? What was Stead trying to do?
The Contagious Diseases acts had one primary purpose: to reduce the incidence of venereal disease among British troops stationed in India. But the significance of the acts quickly extended itself to other questions of the day, and became a rallying point for the rights of women.
The Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts was established in 1869 by Elizabeth Wolstenholme and Josephine Butler. On 1 January 1870 the LNA published an article named ‘Women’s Protest’ in the ‘Daily News;’ this article gave a detailed explanation of what exactly the Ladies National Association felt was unjust and unlawful about these acts:
“2nd – because as far as women are concerned, they remove every guarantee of personal security which the law has established and held sacred, and put their reputation, their freedom, and their persons absolutely in the power of the police”“4th – Because it is unjust to punish the sex who are the victims of a vice, and leave unpunished the sex who are the main cause, both of the vice and its dreaded consequences; and we consider that liability to arrest, forced medical treatment, and (where this is resisted) imprisonment with hard labour, to which these acts subject women, are the punishment of the most degrading kind”.[3]
This was the crux of the whole thing: the CD acts treated women like criminals and men like innocent non-participants. Believe it or not, this was the widely held view of society at that time: men had “needs” and should be free to satisfy them but women who became prostitutes were “fallen” and should never be allowed to enter polite society again.
Into this fray of hotly debated views stepped Stead with his sixth sense for the sensational. Through a woman named Jarrett, Stead arranged for Eliza Armstrong, a girl of thirteen to be “taken” to the continent. If this programme were successful, he reasoned, then there could be no debating the assertions that the CD Acts was the hand maiden of crime, and not only didn’t protect women, but were a threat to their safety and supported the trade in English girls to the continental brothels. He even called the Archbishop of Canterbury to the witness box to attest to the fact of immorality on London streets.
As a result of the sensational articles and trial, the age of consent was raised to sixteen and the CD Acts were repealed, and Stead was tried for abduction of a minor. He was convicted and  for a time had to run his affairs out of a cell. For Mrs. Butler the ordeal of the trial and the glare of Stead’s public tactics were almost too much. Her health was affected but she managed to recover and lived into her seventies, writing two books and caring for her husband. Stead, a lover of publicity and an ardent spiritualist ended his life aboard the Titanic, in the greatest ocean disaster of all time.
For anyone who ever thought the Victorian age was a time of prudery and sexual inhibition, this post will be an eye opener. During Victoria’s reign there were more churches and more brothels in England than ever before. Is there significance that both kinds of institutions mushroomed at the same time? Interesting as that question may be, I will look at the trade in English girls that existed between England and the continent, especially, Belgium. Not only was there a huge demand for young English girls in the capital city of Brussels, there was little interest or concern about the girls who were kidnapped and forcibly detained in “lock houses” in the Belgian capital. The doors of the buildings used for the purpose of keeping the girls had locks on the inside and could be opened only with a key which was always guarded carefully by the overseer of the establishment.
Young is a relative term. In Victoria’s day, the age of consent for most of the nineteenth century was thirteen.  Many men wanted girls even younger because of a fear of venereal disease from any prostitute who was not a virgin. The horrors of the incurable outcome of syphilis was described in ghastly detail in Emile Zola’s novel, Nana. “Maids” or virgins were therefore targeted by brothel keepers in Europe, because they fetched a higher price. But the chief issue raised by those who objected to the trade in English girls was that many were taken to the continent by trickery and had no understanding of what they were agreeing to. Prostitution was generally agreed to be a “social necessity.” That is because it was assumed that no woman would willingly participate in sexual relations as often as most men  would want. This idea became sexual dogma through the widely read book printed in four editions: The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs in Childhood, Youth, Adult Age, and Advanced Life Considered in their Physiological, Social and Moral Relations by the physician,William Acton.
Then, a crusader nearly  forgotten in our century took up the cause of the kidnapped girls: Josephine Butler, shown above in an 1851 portrait, was one of the most beautiful and determined women of her era. She declared war on the “badhouse  keepers” in Brussels and in other cities of Europe. She took “fallen women” into her home and tried to help them get work. This at a time when prostitutes were considered beyond redemption. The Roman minister of justice once told Josephine Butler that ” …a woman who has once lost chastity has lost every good quality. She has from that moment all the vices.”
Mrs. Butler’s  crusade took the form of trying to prevent a continental system of prostitution in England and to get the Contagious Diseases Acts repealed. These were laws passed in India to try to reduce the spread of venereal disease among British soldiers. The Acts were written in such a way that a mere accusation of prostitution was enough to get a woman incarcerated and forced to submit to a pelvic examination. Incredibly, men were under no regulation at all.
Another woman, who was at the antipodes from Mrs. Butler was a notorious madame in London, Mrs. Jeffries. She owned and operated three establishments in London, one devoted to erotic whippings, one to torture and one in Chelsea that was a posh brothel. Mrs. Jeffries sent advertising circulars to her MP clients right on the floor of the commons, detailing her latest “finds” and the pleasures awaiting her customers.
How does all this look in the age of #ME TOO? Far in advance of its time. A cause pursued with far more vigor and energy than at any time since. Mrs. Butler used to stand on a stage to deliver her views of women’s rights while people in the audience threw pieces of brick at her. Undoubtedly, she was one the bravest and most determined crusaders for women's rights who ever lived.

Daniel Dunglas Home, the greatest psychic

​who ever lived

Regardless of what you think or believe about psychic phenomena no one can dispute the incredible feats of Daniel Dunglas Home. To this day, no one has disproved his astonishing feats of levitation and his immunity to fire. Here is a quote from an eye-witness:

“I was sitting on December 16, 1868, Lord Adare’s rooms in Asleym Place, London, S. W., With  Mr. Home and Lord Adare and cousin of his. During the sitting, Mr. Home went into a trance, and in that state was carried out of the window in the room next to where we were, and was brought in at our window. The distance between the windows was about seven feet six inches, and there was not the slightest foothold between them, nor was there more than a twelve inch projection to each window, which served as a ledge to put flowers on...the window is about seventy feet from the ground.”

--Lord Lindsay

He performed and was tested before kings and commoners, though more often kings since he had a great love of the expensive gifts they lavished on him. But he would never directly accept payment for what he did. At a time when psychics were everywhere, Home stood out above all others. Many of the other notorious psychics of the time were "debunked," caught in the act of false psychic performances, but Home never was, in spite of his international reputation. There have been books written about him that claimed to debunk him, but none of his contemporaries ever did. 

If you would like to know more about this extraordinary man, read his autobiography: Incidents in My Life.

William Crookes was a famous 19th century scientist who made many

crucial discoveries is shown with Katie King, the spirit guide of Medium Florence Cook.

Hudson House Mysteries