Thursday, February 23, 2012

Get Sh*t-faced and Get Off Scot-Free

Did you know that the term "sh*t-faced" originated in Edinburgh, Scotland?  Well, it did.

Back in the old days before toilets and sewar systems were invented, people would relieve themselves in a great big family-style pot.  Family sizes back then averaged 12 children.  You can only imagine how much urine and feces they could manufacture in one day.  Local laws at the time were pretty strict with regards to diposing of the buckets full of poo.  Citizens were only permitted to dump their waste into the city streets after 10pm.  Well with family sizes being so big, and living situations being so crowded, people were pretty eager to hear that 10 o'clock church bell ring.  At this time the youngest sibling of the family would dutifully unleash the family fertilizer out the window through the door into the street gutters to let it flow down into the loch. 

10pm also happened to be the time when the pubs closed.  You can imagine the fellow who after being booted from the pub is stumbling down the narrow streets.  He leans against a wall to catch his balance and hears a window open above him.  He looks up....just in time to get a face..full... of ...crap.....and BOOM....he's sh*t-faced.

don't worry it's only chocolate pudding

In the center of Edinburgh their used to be the great Nor Loch, a lake.  This lake as  you can imagine, quickly became the town's toilet with all the fecal runoff ending up here.  Upon draining the loch in 1759, the town found nearly 400 dead bodies.  Not that they didn't know they were there.  The loch had become the water burial ground for prosecuted witches.  They would wrip their breasts off, make them eat their tongue, burn their faces off, stick bamboo shoots under their nails down to their bottom knuckle then turn the bamboo shoot 360 degrees...and if the witch still didn't die, they would burn them on a crosss until they were nearly dead and or throw them in the fecal lake.  All this to "cure" the witch of the evil demon.  If they were really human, they would die.  And if they were really a witch, well they would torture you until they could get rid of the evil demon that possessed you and then you would die.  Either way, they're going to kill you.   Best to die early...

One accusations:  "The sheriff of Caithness was said to have killed two witches based on the complaint of William Montgomery who was plagued by cats."  Crazy cat guy blames witches for his love of felines...

Edinburgh has a fairly grim and haunting history, not just with the which trials but also with it being one of the first Universities to research human anatomy and develop the science of surgery using real human cadavers. (SIDE NOTE: Charles Darwin graduated from University of Edinburgh).  At this time in Edinburgh there were pleny of prostitutes, homeless people, criminals, sick people, blind people.  Homelessness was a crime punishable by hanging.  So if you didn't have a job and a home you went into the underground vaults and crypts under the city streets.  Police didn't venture down there and no real rules applied.  Babies were born in this underground dungeons and some of them never saw the light of day.  It was completely dark.  Candles were too expensive.  It was hard enough to see, let alone see who is missing.  People started to vanish. And two Irish men men named William Burke and William Hare began making themselves a pretty little fortune in the body snatching business.... 

Doun the close and up the stair,

But an' ben wi' Burke and Hare.

Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief,

Knox, the boy that buys the beef.

—19th-century Edinburgh skipping rhyme

The two murdering men would lure unsuspecting people from the street, buddy up to them,  bride them with whiskey, and get them intoxicated. Then Hare would sit on their chest while Burke covered their mouths and jammed his fingers up their noses... suffocating them.  Once the victim was dead they sold the cadaver to Dr. Robert Knox at the university for what would be equal to $1-2,000.  This was a fortune...and a relatively easy way to make it...until they eventually got caught....after 12 months and at least 17 bodies...

People eventually caught on and even though the evidence against the pair was not overwhelming at the time, the authorities offered Hare immunity from prosecution  if he confessed and agreed to testify against Burke in court. He testified against his partner in crime and subsequently Burke was sentenced to death.  He was hanged on 28 January 1829, after which he was publicly dissected at, you guessed it, the same place he brought all his bodies, the Edinburgh Medical College. The dissecting professor dipped his quill pen into Burke's blood and wrote "This is written with the blood of Wm Burke, who was hanged at Edinburgh. This blood was taken from his head." His skeleton and death mask are displayed at the University of Edinburgh's Anatomical Museum. Items made from his tanned skin are displayed at Surgeon's Hall. A calling card case made out of Willliam Burke's skin is on display at The Police Information Centre in Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

While Burke was made an example of and subjected to the same fate of his unfortunate victims, Hare got off "Scot-free"..... 


s-to-the-ally said...

awesome post julie jules!

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