Death Stories: The George Mummy, Part 3

The full story is now available as an eBook:

Abraham Lincoln's Autopsy

The Nelaton probe used to find the bullet in Lincoln's brain; fragments of bone;
strands of hair; the bullet; the  bloody sleeve of Dr. Curtis.

An extract from the case history of Abraham Lincoln after he was shot by John Wilkes Booth:

CASE.-A. L-----, aged 56 years, was shot in the head, at Washington, on the evening of April 14th, 1865, by a large round ball, from a Derringer pistol, in the hands of an assassin. Dr. Charles A. Leale being close at hand, went instantly to the wounded man, whom he found "in a profoundly comatose condition,"… the breathing "exceedingly stertorous." No pulsation was perceptible at the right wrist. When the head was examined, "I passed my fingers over a large firm clot of blood,…[that] I easily removed, and passed the little finger of my left hand through the perfectly smooth opening made by the ball, and found that it had entered the encephalon. As soon as I removed my finger, a slight oozing of blood followed, and his breathing became more regular and less stertorous." After the administration of a small quantity of brandy and water,…the patient was removed to a neighboring house... His clothing was removed, and he was placed in bed. His extremities were cold. He was covered with warmed blankets, and bottles of hot water were applied to the lower extremities. It was now about eleven o'clock at night, the wound having been inflicted about half past ten. His family physician, Dr. Robert H. Stone, and Surgeon General Barnes, and Assistant Surgeon General Crane, arrived presently;... The Surgeon General accordingly kept the external wound open by means of a silver probe, until, a Nelaton's probe being brought, he made an exploration of the course of the ball. A splinter obstructed the track at the depth of about two and a half inches. An inch and a half further on the bulb came in contact with a foreign body, which proved to be the disc from the occipital forced out by the ball; passing beyond this the ball was detected, at a distance of over six inches from the entrance wound….it was decided that no attempt should be made to remove it or the foreign bodies, further than to keep the opening free from coagula, which, when allowed to form and remain for a very short time, would produce signs of increased compression, the breathing becoming profoundly stertorous and intermittent, and the pulse more feeble and irregular. The protracted death-struggle ceased at twenty minutes past seven o'clock on the morning of April 15th, 1865.

One of the doctors who performed an autopsy on the body later wrote to his mother:

Dr. Woodward and I proceeded to open the head and remove the brain down to the track of the ball. The latter had entered a little to the left of the median line at the back of the head, had passed almost directly forwards through the center of the brain and lodged. Not finding it readily, we proceeded to remove the entire brain, when, as I was lifting the latter from the cavity of the skull, suddenly the bullet dropped out through my fingers and fell, breaking the solemn silence of the room with its clatter, into an empty basin that was standing beneath. There it lay upon the white china, a little black mass no bigger than the end of my finger—dull, motionless and harmless, yet the cause of such mighty changes in the world's history as we may perhaps never realize.

The official autopsy report by Dr. Woodward includes the fatal injuries:

The eyelids and surrounding parts of the face were greatly ecchymosed and the eyes somewhat protuberant from effusion of blood into the orbits.
 There was a gunshot wound of the head around which the scalp was greatly thickened by hemorrhage into its tissues. The ball entered through the occipital bone about one inch to the left of the median line and just above the left lateral sinus, which it opened. It then penetrated the dura mater, passed through the left posterior lobe of the cerebrum, entered the left lateral ventricle and lodged in the white matter of the cerebrum just above the anterior portion of the left corpus striatum, where it was found.
 The wounds in the occipital bone was quite smooth, circular in shape, with beveled edges. The opening through the internal table being larger than that through the external table. The track of the ball was full of clotted blood and contained several little fragments of bone with a small piece of the ball near its external orifice. The brain around the track was pultaceous and livid from capillary hemorrhage into its substance. The ventricles of the brain were full of clotted blood. A thick clot beneath the dura mater coated the right cerebral lobe.
 There was a smaller clot under the dura mater of the left side. But little blood was found at the base of the brain. Both the orbital plates of the frontal bone were fractured and the fragments pushed upwards towards the brain. The dura mater over these fractures was uninjured. The orbits were gorged with blood.

 Next: Continuing the mystery of The George Mummy

Death Stories: The George Mummy, Part 1

This story is available here:

Fellow Hunter Killed Grizzly Victim, Plus Another Bear Attack

Update on a previous story about hunters tangling with a grizzly in Montana. Earlier reports had said the wounded bear killed the man.

Hunter in Mont. grizzly attack shot by friend - TODAY News -

"A hunter attacked by a wounded grizzly in a Montana forest was killed not by the bear, but by a gunshot fired by a companion trying to save him, authorities said Friday."

In another story, bow hunters startled a bear, which retaliated by breaking an arm. Authorities aren't sure yet which species the bear was. 

American Crocodile

As promised--photos of the American crocodile, a specimen of which recently turned up in the unexpected locale of St. Petersburg, Florida. Photography by J.A. O'Ruiz Gutierrez. 

American Crocodile Turns Up in St. Petersburg

People find the most interesting things in their back yards:

Rare crocodile found by Florida woman -

"Crocodiles — which number about 1,500 in the state — are typically found some 300 miles (500 kilometers) south in the warmer Florida Keys. But the shy and reclusive animals are so rare in places like St. Petersburg that a wildlife official didn't initially believe Shondra Farner when she called to report the crocodile."

I'll have more photos of American crocodiles tomorrow. 

Phases of the Moon Correlate with Lion Attacks

Interesting study on Tanzanian lion attacks.

The full moon indicates impending danger from lion attack, a University of Minnesota study shows : UMNews : University of Minnesota:

"A look at attack rates aligned with phases of the moon shows a clear pattern. The rate of human attacks during the first half of the lunar cycle (when there is lots of moonlight on most evenings) is one-third the rate during the second half (when there is little or no moonlight). Lions are hungriest just after the full moon because the abundance of light just before and during the full moon limits their ability to hunt successfully."

Photo by J.A. O'Ruiz Gutierrez

Northern Red-Bellied Snake

Photography by D'Arcy Allison-Teasley

New Testimony in Fatal Killer Whale Attack

Tilikum, the Orca that has killed 3 people (Credit: Sawblade5/Creative Commons)

OSHA disputes SeaWorld’s findings about Orca attack on trainer -

""From my angle, I saw her left arm go underwater as the whale started descending," Herrera said.

SeaWorld officials have said repeatedly since Brancheau’s death that Tilikum grabbed her after her long ponytail drifted into his open mouth, which suggests the whale was reacting to a novel stimulus when he suddenly submerged with her. But some SeaWorld opponents have accused the marine-park operator of fabricating the theory to make Tilikum’s actions that day appear more benign."

Related Post: Captive Pilot Whale Attacks

Related Post: Earlier Post about Tilikum

Great White Shark Breaks Surfboard

Humboldt County surfer escapes shark attack |

"Benjie Rose was sitting on his board 40 yards off of Samoa Beach at a spot called Power Poles on Sunday when a white shark came up under him, hitting his board and knocking him into the air, according to his account for the Shark Attack Research Committee in Van Nuys.

His board badly damaged and with a bloody nose, Rose managed to paddle into a wave and rode it onto the shore, where it broke in half and he discovered teeth marks."

Tasmanian Devils Catch Cancer

Photo Credit: PanBK/Creative Commons

The Tasmanian devil is a marsupial carnivore, best known to most Westerners through the Warner Brothers cartoons. It has acquired a vicious reputation because of its array of screams and shouts, its voracity (it is capable of gulping down 40% of its own weight in half an hour, and often does so as part of a group activity, in a sort of miniature shark feeding frenzy), its indiscriminate diet (small mammals, perhaps including animals as large as sheep; birds, reptiles, insects; carrion; other Tasmanian devils), and its powerful bite (nine times as powerful as a dog's, and capable of shearing through the bones of cattle; it routinely eats every scrap of an animal, not just the meaty part favored by bipedal predators). Until recently, however, the most compelling reason to fear the devil was its odor, said by some to be the most offensive smell produced by any animal. Supposedly it’s more nauseous than the scent of the skunk, and a powerful deterrent.

What’s happened recently: A contagious cancer has devastated devil populations. The cancer causes tumors on the face and in the mouth. The species, already in trouble, is now on the brink of extinction. More from Scientific American:

Unlike human and most other known mammalian cancers, Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) spreads from one individual to another individual through physical contact—from a bite or even a casual touch. 'Just imagine a human cancer that spread through a handshake,' said study co-author Stephan Schuster.

The particular habits of devils—like biting each other during sexual intercourse—helps spread the disease.

This cancer is unlikely to ever affect humans. On the other hand—and this is the scary part—there’s nothing to keep us from evolving our own contagious cancers.

And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
--“The Mask of the Red Death”
   Edgar Allan Poe

Rider Saves Boy from Grizzly

Tremendous story of a wildlife encounter on a trail ride:

Gutsy wrangler, huge horse save boy from charging grizzly - - Sept. 18, 2011:

"“The last thing he saw over his shoulder as his horse ran away was the grizzly chasing his boy,” Bolster said.

With the bear on Scout’s heels, Tonk’s instinct was to flee with the group of horses. But Tonk responded to Bolster’s heels in his ribs as she spun the big fella around. They wheeled out of a 360 and bolted into the trees to wedge between the predator and the prey."

Wounded Grizzly Kills Hunter

Jcfw/Creative Commons

Wounded grizzly kills hunter in remote Montana -

"Stevenson's hunting partner, 21-year-old Ty Bell, shot and wounded a young male grizzly, then the two hunters tracked the animal to an area of heavy cover.

Faulkner says at that point, the wounded bear attacked and fatally injured Stevenson. Bell killed the animal with several shots."

Grice on Bears

The latest issue of Men's Journal (October 2011) features my article about this summer's slew of bear attacks. Check it out. 

Black Bear vs. Wisconsin Hunter

A sketchy news item about a defensive bear attack.

Bear attacks hunter in Lincoln County - WSAU News/Talk 550AM 99.9FM:

"Christopher Hoffman was taking part in a bear hunt. He shot the animal that attacked him. The injured bear then attacked Hoffman before running off into the woods. The wounded animal was eventually tracked and killed by another member of the hunting party."

Tree Frog on Window

D'Arcy's camera captured this tree frog lit by porchlight. It seems to be standing on air, but it's actually on the other side of D'Arcy's window.


Three nights ago there was a harvest moon. Two nights ago, belated, I finally went out to look at the moon with my kids. Full and bright, to be sure, and its seas were visible as a reptile squirming in its egg. But it was no brighter than many other full moons. Nonetheless, the evening was important, because after a day of 86 we opened the windows to the cool, and had to think what that sound was: dead leaves running before the wind, clattering down the pavement. I’m calling it the first night of autumn, no matter how the calendar may construe things.

Last year’s autumn post

Related Post: Moon

Photo by Parker Grice

Royal Beasts Return to the Tower of London

Of peculiar historical interest:

A Menagerie of strange Royal Beasts returns for Tower of London installation and exhibition | Culture24:

"There were many attacks on humans. In 1696 a lady living with the keeper of the lions, Mary Jenkinson, stroked the largest one and died after losing her arm whilst being mauled."

Cage-Diving with a Great White Shark

by guest writer Carly Samuelson

A fear of the unfamiliar, an adrenaline addiction, a curious case of unpredictability. I feel my body rise and fall atop the salty swells beneath me, my tongue curling around a lollipop in the hopes of curing a sea sickness bouncing about my core. I am not afraid, I’m sick. And I’m in good company. I cringe through a young woman’s heaving to my right and wonder whether she’s considered her chances of toppling into the territory of one of the most feared species on earth. Probably not because it’s too fucking cold to think straight. “We’re not feeding them, we’re playing with them.” A crew member delights in our blank stares as he tosses the chum into the sea. I close my eyes as the metal cage crashes into the Atlantic. And like divine intervention, they appear.

The crew tell us to get ready. I crunch my candy violently as I slip into a black wetsuit. I sing along to the Jaws theme song eating away at my consciousness. I want to go into the cage first. It is my egotistical way of avoiding an intense feeling of fear. I pull goggles over my frozen expression and slide down the side of the boat into the water. My lungs deflate as the biting tundra drapes over me. I shudder while my legs float upwards between the bars. They stop directly below a set of teeth marks in the padding where I place my hands. My toes wiggle like little guppies swirling around in the waves. Classic horror movie scene, pan to a 15 foot great white shark swimming ferociously nearby. My mind pulses with adrenaline, the most beautiful kind. Something like my first roller coaster ride, my first time sky diving and my first crush all intricately intertwined into some decadent piece of real living.

“Down in front! Down in front!” my thoughts shatter into a thousand pieces as I grip the metal in a fight with buoyancy until I can secure myself against the boat beneath the water. My heart beats slow for a moment. He is a curious case of unpredictability. Then out of the darkness he swims at me, veering to my right just before kissing the cage. And we thought we were playing with him. Seconds later, the epicenter of all things terrifying, the thrill becomes too intense to meditate on fear. I burst upwards, nearly drowning in laughter. My teeth chatter like a wind-up toy, animated and alive. I push myself back under, my eyes darting throughout the darkness until I spot him. This time he is modest, gliding effortlessly through the water in a blissful dance,  so ironic and so fascinating. He follows the crimson dripping from the chum, only snapping his massive jaw at the last possible moment as if not to scare us. His grey skin sparkles as it reflects rays of sunlight piercing the water. It reminds me of old leather with nicks and fading color. And the skin houses years and years of experience, in just the same way that leather does. He never looks at me; I don’t think he has any inclination to make friendly, yet he doesn’t appear the least bit bothered by our presence. He lets us watch and lets us scream,  likely laughing at our disbelief.

I can feel the water move through me as I force my body into a state of stillness. With every sweep of the shark, I feel a rush of energy. I begin to wonder why it is that humans conspire against these creatures. As people we have the ability to murder, but that certainly doesn’t mean we want to do it. Sharks have the ability to decapitate surfers, but that doesn’t mean they all have a desire to do it. I read an article prior to diving about the fact that most shark attacks aren’t even attacks. Sharks are curious and intelligent; they only want to know who’s swimming in their territory, so they “taste” them. Unfortunately even a small bite mark in human flesh can cause horrible bleeding, leaving sharks with a less than perfect reputation. I snap back to reality when the sharp water slaps me across the face. It’s refreshing and invigorating. I plunge beneath once more. This time it’s so cold that my body has little purpose while underneath the surface, and my mind becomes further engaged in my surroundings.

I relax, time slows. The icy water becomes an accumulation of my emotions. He is no longer unfamiliar to me.

Photo by Craig, who shot this on his own shark-diving adventure.

Related Post: Great White Sharks Fans of ACDC

Black Bear vs. Cows

I received these interesting photos in an email forward. (Thanks, Mom.) The bear seems to launch a predatory attack on the herd, only to receive a sound thrashing.

Teen Dies in Yard; Home Overrun with Animals

Another strange tale of animal hoarding, this one from Illinois. Animals can transmit many fatal diseases to humans, but there's no proof yet that such a disease is responsible for what happened to these children.

Mother investigated after boy dies, home found overrun with animals - Chicago Tribune:
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