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Documentary Photograph 6 – Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

July 18th, 2014

Documentary image 6 – restored by Caniglia – concerning the events of Bog Farm, 1890:

The goat in the living room, from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg

A brief mention of the goat found in the living room and the scurrilous rumors surrounding it.

In the aftermath of the events of October 1890 at Bog Farm, and particularly what was found within Bog House itself, the talk of Black Masses and sacrifice spread throughout the local village and traveled quickly to the pages of the New York Tribune, the San Francisco Bulletin, the Chicago Herald — even the Beeville Bee — and every newspaper in between.

American readers could not get enough of the horrifying scenes of Dr. Windrow’s asylum.

The famous photograph depicted the goat wearing one of the many fur coats owned by Mrs. Windrow herself.

Three different furriers in Manhattan soon-after produced a replica of this coat for high society women who wanted that naughty “Windrow feeling,” although few sold.

Still, the always-shocking Newport heiress, Augusta “Gusty” Schermerhorn-Jones wore one of these Windrow furs to that pinnacle of society gatherings, the Patriarch Ball in February of 1892, igniting a scandal among the newly-rich and the gilded ancients — not two weeks after the sudden and mysterious death of her husband.

But who took this picture of the goat?

Upon later examination, it was thought that it would have been impossible for this photo to have come from the scene of the crime.

Had a savvy photographer — who knew the tricks of his trade — created this picture in order to feed into the public’s frenzy for all things dark and Windrow?

Or was this authentic?

There were unsavory stories about Bog Farm, even before the tragedy. The revels of witchcraft celebrated out along the bog had become part of local folklore.

What part did the Windrow girls play in such midnight games?

Perhaps, as The Illustrated Bog House of Horrors suggested, they weren’t girls at all, but creatures summoned by Dr. Windrow himself at the lonely bog while his hysterical minions danced around him.

Had Dr. Windrow himself — using the infamous Aunt Sapphronia’s power of mediumship — summoned terrible spirits to possess his own children?

Could the patients of the asylum be trusted as they spoke of winged harpies and the man with a thousand eyes and moonlit hummingbirds that whispered secrets of the dead?

The girls in 1890 were found within the house and whispered a few words before they stopped speaking altogether.

Their silence endured.

Until now.

Get your copy of Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:
http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/clegg13

Check back daily for more documentary footage of Bog Farm and Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg. You are encouraged to share this with your friends or point them to it. Thank you.

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters, a short novella by Douglas Clegg

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Murder, Fascination, Mystery – Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

July 15th, 2014

Scandalous Murder + Public Fascination + Mystery = Legend

Lizzie Borden - wronged innocent or bloody guilty?A brief excerpt from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:

“New Englanders in particular protected such families, enclosing them within a secret garden of silence, away from the eyes of the world.

Lizzie Borden—who frequented the theater—ran a lively salon in Fall River. She contributed to animal charities. Those who lived in her hilltop neighborhood argued against the murdered parents themselves and the incestuous nature of wealthy families.

The aptly named Butcher Boy of Beacon Hill, at fifty, walked the streets of Boston after his imprisonment and even made a run for political office.

Edwin Mortimer of Crannock Bay continued to drop his lobster pots out among Maine’s islands, despite the strong possibility that he had tossed his wife and children from the edge of a cliff just six years earlier.

And then the Windrows, “the girls”—in their thirties at the time of my journey—protected by an interfering stranger on a train.

Twenty years earlier, the Windrow story set the nation on fire with tales of wealth and madness, horror and pity. A popular rhyme about the girls appeared in print soon after the discoveries. A frenetic dance called The Cannibal Rag became popular in the Dance Halls. Illustrated chapbooks and pulps detailed the exploits at The Bog House of Horrors. The newspapers—every year on the anniversary—mentioned the place and its events, but no one got close enough to speak to the Windrow sisters…”

Until now.

Get your copy of Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:
http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/clegg13

Check back daily for more documentary footage of Bog Farm and Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg. You are encouraged to share this with your friends or point them to it. Thank you.

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters, a short novella by Douglas Clegg

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Documentary Photograph 5 – Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

July 13th, 2014

Documentary image 5 – restored by Caniglia – concerning the events of Bog Farm, 1890:

The Ouija board from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg, image by Caniglia. The rules on Bog Farm, leading up to the terrible events, encouraged freedom among the patients of Dr. Windrow. 

This accounted for the animalistic nature of the two girls. They had been raised in this dangerous environment for too long. They’d reverted to savage and primitive behavior.

A rumor within the nearby village had begun long before the tragedy that Dr. Windrow and his wife led their children in rituals of witchcraft and unnatural vice. Stories circulated of moon-baths during which residents of Bright Colony would lie naked in the open fields after midnight; strange chanting; wild dances that went on at all hours; libertinism; unbridled nudity in the noonday sun.

And then there were the nearby tragedies blamed on the Windrows and their madmen — the sudden disappearance of cows at a neighboring farm, a blight on local crops, strange toads that emerged one spring and could be found in gardens in the village — and not three days since Dr. Windrow said that horrible thing about the villagers’ treatment of an escaped patient; the rough summer storms that occurred a few months before the horror began; those harsh words Mrs. Windrow said to Elizabeth Snow which sound like a foreign curse of some kind, soon after which Miss Snow began to experience skin rashes from head to toe.

The strange puppets that were discovered, strung from trees along the edge of the bog, the week before the events at Bog Farm began.

Yet no one in the village or among nearby farms would anticipate the terrors to come as October arrived with its shocking discoveries.

But twenty years have passed. The story of the Windrow sisters has been kept alive in pulp publishing, True Tales magazine, penny bestsellers like The Bog House of Horrors! and The Bloody Windrow Sisters and The New Hampshire Madhouse Orgy of Sin, as well as in more legitimate newspapers like the Times and the Post and the Press-Herald.

Annual pilgrimages are made by newspapermen, the curious, the thrill-seekers — and the twisted souls who have become obsessed with the sisters. Often, these visitors to Bog Farm return with dangerous tales of wild creatures roaming the bog, strange fires in the woods, ghostly figures at the windows of Bog House, and evidence of devil worship.

But none have so much as exchanged two words with the Windrows themselves.

As the fog of time has begun to obscure specifics of the deadly events, the truth at the heart of the Windrow story has become that no one has spoken to Lucy and Sally Windrow in the intervening years. They are virtual prisoners of the farm, it’s said. They live like hermits. They hold their secrets close.

There are those who still believe these two women kidnap children from their beds at night, or grab young workmen at knifepoint in nearby fields, that their hunger has never diminished.

But no one really knows. No one talks of them in the local village. No neighboring farmer can be paid enough by a newspaper or magazine to deliver details of the ladies in their natural environment.

Is this silence bought with threats of murder and terror — or with the legendary Windrow fortune?

Are the Windrow sisters truly monsters?

No one has spoken to them about the events of 1890 in nearly twenty years, or sat down at their table, or spent the night in Bog House.

Until now.

Get your copy of Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:
http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/clegg13

Check back daily for more documentary footage of Bog Farm and Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg. You are encouraged to share this with your friends or point them to it. Thank you.

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters, a short novella by Douglas Clegg

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Documentary Photograph 4 – Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

July 12th, 2014

Documentary image 4 – restored by Caniglia – concerning the events of Bog Farm, 1890:

The Ouija board from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg, image by Caniglia.A particular member of the Windrow household — who became part of the dark legend — was the woman known to the children as Aunt Sapphronia. 

Sapphronia Wilson had, in younger days, been an astrologer and  medium of note among the upper Hudson Valley of New York’s spiritualist elite. It was rumored she had once  been a member of the unholy circles in Paris which, at the time,  explored deviltry and debauchery.

This aunt arrived to the Windrow house primarily because Mrs. Windrow — the girls’ mother — sought her out. Mrs. Windrow had been raised in a home which included table-rapping parties, mediumship and the like. She had never given up on her belief that there were spirits wishing to contact her about some urgent matter.

Aunt Sapphronia conducted seances frequently at Bog House. Round the table might be Mrs. Windrow, Lucy and Sally, as well as their brothers, all taking part in these nocturnal games.

Dr. Windrow frowned upon such interests, but had written at least one paper on the psychological importance to certain susceptible individuals of exploring the irrational side through theatrical moments like the seance, the church service, the political campaign.

Aunt Sapphronia’s Ouija board itself was found among the rubble within Bog House.

Lucy — when taken into custody —  clutched the board, whispering to it.

“And what exactly,” the magistrate asked one particular officer of the law, “was Miss Windrow saying?”

“Well, your honor, she kept whispering, ‘take us with you, take us with you.’”

But no one really knew what Lucy and Sally Windrow did, how they managed it — and what had caused this sudden madness.

Until now.

Get your copy of Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:
http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/clegg13

Check back daily for more documentary footage of Bog Farm and Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg. You are encouraged to share this with your friends or point them to it. Thank you.

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters, a short novella by Douglas Clegg

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Documentary Photograph 3 – Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

July 11th, 2014

Documentary image 3 – restored by Caniglia – concerning the events of Bog Farm, 1890:

There are no actual photographs of Lucy and Sally Windrow at their unspeakable feast.

After the story broke of these young and proper New England girls and the events at the “Bog House of Horrors,” a morbid fascination with that October weekend in 1890 caught fire in the American imagination.

And it sold newspapers and magazines like hotcakes.

Photographs circulated depicting the girls during their diabolical revels (see the accompanying photo).

The Turner twins of “Sunshine and Roses” fame — Bonnie Lil and Darling Ethel, the sweethearts of the New York stage — posed in bloodied skirts and ate lamb shanks for the New York papers’ photographers in order to woo backers to their father’s production of a musical revue about Lucy and Sally.

The publicity stunt worked — The Windrow Tragedy played for several years on Broadway until the girls turned twenty-two and retired from the theater.

The musical highlight from the show — “The Cannibal Rag” — got audience members up on their feet clapping and stomping; the song and its unusual dance steps became an overnight sensation.

An industry of fakes exploded around the instant notoriety of Bog Farm and its inhabitants. Everyone wanted details — whether true or not. Artifacts surfaced. Bent forks and rusty butter knives and broken china plates sold at exorbitant prices when rumored to have been taken from Bog House’s kitchen.

Magazine articles claimed that the nation’s children might soon turn against their loving parents. Child-rearing articles in Harper’s and Ladies Home Journal often included the tried-and-true methods for raising a child who would not turn out to be “the next little Windrow.”

Paper dolls of the Windrow sisters — knives in their hands — became all the rage among young sophisticates in Manhattan. Traveling shows featured jars purportedly filled with gruesome items taken from the crime scene. A famous preacher of the day exhorted parents to beat their daughters severely if any signs of unnatural hunger or lust showed itself.

Even Freud weighed in, briefly, when asked by the press during a conference in Vienna. “The Windrow girls. Yes. Surrounded by such suffering. I wonder what they dream of? But I’d need to talk to them, of course.”

The rumors of dreadful and disturbing maps brought new horrors to anyone fascinated by the Windrow saga. Those who manufactured these items got rich quickly.

But the girls have never spoken of that night.

Until now.

Get your copy of Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:
http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/clegg13

Check back daily for more documentary footage of Bog Farm and Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg.

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters, a short novella by Douglas Clegg

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Documentary Photograph 2 – Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

July 11th, 2014

Bog House from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas CleggDocumentary image 2 — reconstructed by Caniglia — from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:

The events at Bog Farm, New Hampshire, horrified the nation in the fall of 1890.

The idea that two girls might be at its center fostered a morbid fascination with the tales of strange cargo found in the abattoir, the hysterics running screaming through the woods, the macabre items found in cupboards and cabinets, the unspeakable photographs discovered in the cellar, the rumors of unnatural depravity leading up to the events of that October day.

The Bog Farm story sold newspapers and penny dreadfuls like wildfire: madness, wealth, murder, horror, and two young girls at the heart of it.

Twenty years later, in 1910, despite all the pulp stories of The Bog House of Horrors and the disturbing children’s rhyme about Lucy and Sally Windrow and the old dance number called “The Cannibal Rag,” no one had ever gotten a confession out of the Windrow sisters.

The circumstances of the original criminal investigation had been murky and flawed. Vast wealth — and the sorts of lawyers it could attract — kept the girls out of prison.

But that didn’t keep their legend from taking root and growing.

Everyone knows what they did. No one who ever read the papers each year on the October anniversary missed the expected item concerning the Bog House and Bright Colony mystery and dread. Broadway plays were drawn from its horrors, a bestselling book would be released fictionalizing that dreadful weekend, but the world never received a direct confession from the Windrows.

No one really knew what happened.

Until now.

Get your copy of Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:
http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/clegg13

 
Check back daily for more documentary footage of Bog Farm and Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg.

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters, a short novella by Douglas Clegg

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Documentary Photograph 1 – Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

July 10th, 2014

Items found within Bog House from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas CleggDocumentary image 1 — reconstructed by Caniglia — from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:

Dr. Thomas Windrow, the late father of the two notorious sisters, specialized in disorders of the mind.

Despite some scandal in his past, he rose to prominence when he successfully treated a Senator’s nymphomaniac daughter using his then-famous Body-Repulsion Cure.

From there, he established Bog Farm, with its dormitory — Bright Colony.

While Bog Farm — as an asylum — employed milder forms of therapeutic care (sunshine, daily recreation, farm-fresh food and herbs, healthful baths and sauna) Dr. Windrow also was given, at times, to more hands-on methods.

Find out more about Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters:
http://www.cemeterydance.com/page/CDP/PROD/clegg13 

 
Check back daily for more documentary footage of Bog Farm and Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg.

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters, a short novella by Douglas Clegg

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Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters

June 25th, 2014

Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg

 New Book Alert!

“In the fall of 1910, several months after Halley’s Comet blazed a corner of the sky, I took the train north to meet the famed Windrow sisters…”

–the first sentence from Dinner with the Cannibal Sisters by Douglas Clegg.

READ MORE, GET THE BOOK.

 

 

About the Book:


From Douglas Clegg, award-winning author of Neverland and Isis, comes a dark gem about a notorious family — and a feast like no other.

You’re invited to dinner…

In October 1890 authorities discovered two teenaged girls at Bog Farm surrounded by a scene of unimaginable carnage. A legend grew of their cannibalistic night of terror, but young Lucy and Sally were never put to trial and no one has ever before gotten close enough to interview them.

Twenty years later, an inexperienced reporter travels to their New Hampshire farm, determined to shed light upon the events of that night.

Lizzie Borden, Dr. Crippen, the Windrow Sisters — murderers whose mystique has lasted more than a century. But of them all, the tale of the Windrow girls is unrivaled in its legend of depravity and innocence corrupted.

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Writing Diary December 9, 2013

December 9th, 2013

Dear Diary,

The author in the Perseus/Medusa Room at Villa Diodati.I always need a break to post anywhere, including on this blog — and some days the writing leaves me too “empty” to post here. Instead, I watch a little tv, read, and get on the treadmill.

I feel like Aladdin in the cave of treasures when I write — a djinn-filled lamp in one hand and a pen in the other, a flying carpet beneath me.  But sometimes, it takes a lot of “Open Sesame” to get out of this cave.

And I’ve been in my cave too long today.

When not writing, I’m reading quite a bit. A friend gave me the book Generosity by Richard Powers, which I enjoyed — a different kind of reading experience for me — and then I re-read Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives.

I hadn’t read Stepford in several years.  It is deceptively good prose: breezily written but beautifully constructed, an economical stream-of-consciusness feel, a feather-light touch for a tale of paranoia. Not at all what the 1970s movie version (or later version) created. Nor is it how I remembered it when I first read it. To me, now, it’s not about the horror on the outside, but the horror on the inside, the feeling of terror, the anxiety of knowing the inevitable will occur. In fact, in reading it this past week, I think that Joanna — its protagonist — is mistaken regarding the nature of the threat, and this is more horrifying than if she were not.

And it’s a perfect satire of suburban life. I’ve spent half my life in cities and the other half in suburbs. The suburbs always seem much, much more horrific — psychologically — than anything urban.

I’ve also been reading and revisiting various stories by Roald Dahl. The collection, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, in particular.

My two favorite stories in it are the horrifying one — “The Swan” — and the rather sweet but somewhat eerily sad one, “The Boy Who Talked To Animals.” I like the title story up to a point — it delves into a rather interesting idea about using spiritual magic for personal gain, and although it plays this out, I’d been hoping for a darker ending than what was involved in Henry Sugar’s case.

One of the more interesting pieces in this collection is the tale of how Dahl began getting fiction published at all — thanks in some good measure to the author of the Horatio Hornblower novels, and this is followed by Dahl’s first published piece, called A Piece of Cake — nonfiction about a mission during the war.

In TV viewing, saw a great episode of one of my favorite reality shows: Naked and Afraid, on the Discovery Channel. It is what its title suggests: an odd couple of some kind (unknown to each other, with some degree of survival background) are dropped in a jungle, naked, with the most minimal of supplies — often a machete and a fire-starter or water goggles and a bowl — and they have somewhere in the neighborhood of three weeks to survive and travel to some goal-point in their geography.

Animals meet untimely ends when hunger takes over; thorns become murderous; ants and mosquitoes and jellyfish provide  moments of anticipated terror; if one of the partners has poor skills for the particular environment, arguments and hilarity ensue.

I don’t know why it’s interesting to watch naked people traverse  a hostile environment, but it is. It becomes riveting at times to watch them figure out how to overcome obstacles. One of the participants got a jellyfish sting on one of the blurred parts of his body. Very sadly, one of the contestants (although it’s not really a contest) got dangerously ill with Dengue Fever soon after the most recent episode.

The series begins its second season this coming March — worth tuning in if you’re a voyeur in a very PG-13 way. You could call it Survivor without clothes — and without a big cash prize.

Have not been out to the movies in ages. I find it best — when in the thick of writing — to stay close to home. But then I get a little stir crazy. Let me know what you’re reading, watching, etc., in comments. Thank you.

– Douglas Clegg

DClegg@DouglasClegg.com

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Writing Diary, December 2, 2013

December 2nd, 2013

Dear Diary,

The author in the Perseus/Medusa Room at Villa Diodati.I am a hostage to writing, pure Stockholm Syndrome, never want to be released.

Today, in my braincave, reading Richard Powers, Guy de Maupassant, nonfiction books on the underground beneath Manhattan and of course writing, taking a machete to the  underbrush within the jungle of mind.

For fun, I’ll post a little from this Work-in-Progress. It’s rough, of course, but that’s half the fun at this stage:

“In December, years later – and I mean years — I saw someone from that distant ledge of childhood when I went to steal gloves from Macy’s.

The gloves were dark, deep and lovely and reminded me of the kind Melanie might wear when going out to a nice dinner with Howard back in the old days when I was four or five years old.

Once I’d gotten out of the crush of the store, I stood at curb’s edge. I held the gloves just under my nose to smell the fresh leather. I glanced up for a second because I thought I heard a familiar voice.

A woman shouted for a cab in the holiday crush.

This woman stood out from the bullying herd –  nearly Christmas time and push came to shove if you held your ground on the sidewalk – and there were those black-framed glasses and that Brooklyn Bridge nose and jagged chin, beneath which spread a long turquoise coat reaching her knees, black gloves on her hands – almost like the ones I’d just picked up.

Leelah Castle. I wondered if I’d conjured her in some way.

And now, so long after, past the struggles and unsentimental education of the pit, I saw her for the first time in a decade.

I stared because I wasn’t completely sure it was her, but it was her. I knew it on some instinctive level. She had changed, in fact I think she’d blossomed in the intervening years.

Her hair – mostly covered by a snug wool cap – had lightened a bit into a metallic burgundy shade. I’d have a hard time guessing she must’ve been in her forties by then. My first thought was that she was some kind of vampire, on the hunt at two in the afternoon, getting younger and younger.

I half-expected to see a man with her — perhaps Howard? But Leelah was solidly alone in the crowd.

She stood near the crosswalk, waving at every passing cab. She didn’t see me, but as I watched her I knew. By “knew” I mean I was struck – suddenly, effortlessly – by the realization that she had done something terrible that long-ago day in the Excelsior Hotel but I couldn’t really say what or how or anything else. I didn’t fault her for abandoning my brother and me – we were, after all, not hers. But she had done something else, I was sure of it.

I never believed my father had died. I believed that Leelah had stolen him in some way, enchanted him with her lonely witchcraft, spirited him elsewhere while my brother and I went to live like goblins down below.

Without even thinking it through, I followed her. ”

Copyright 2013 Douglas Clegg.

I’m tackling a particular difficult section in this story. It has hounded me, trounced me, kicked me upside the head, all of that. But I keep returning to its slap and punch in order to tame it.

– Douglas Clegg

DClegg@DouglasClegg.com

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