True Tales of the Macabre
The following accounts are all true, and you can easily verify them if you should find them too bizarre to believe. These narratives all have death as a common element, even if only peripherally, as in the first example.
You’ve heard of wrongful death lawsuits. The black family of a youth slain by police may be denied justice by the prosecutor failing to take action, so the family files a civil suit for wrongful death. These days there are also suits brought for “wrongful birth.” A baby is born with serious disabilities. Had the parents known of the condition earlier, they would have opted for an abortion, but the physician failed to diagnose it. The parents sue the physician for wrongful birth. It gets more bizarre, though. Now there are “wrongful life” lawsuits being brought by disabled children against their own parents for failing to prevent their birth. From freedictionary.com: “The computation of damages in a wrongful life action is based on the claim that the value of the life of the disabled child is less than the value of never having been born.”
Le Petite Mort, or ‘little death,’ is a French expression for sexual orgasm. It’s also the name of a thriving business started a few years ago by Pamela Paquin, who lives in the Boston area. She makes neck muffs, scarves, leg warmers, hats, purses, and a host of other articles from road kill. She doesn’t care for the word, preferring to call it “accidental fur.” She says 365 million animals die on our roads every year, and the fur industry kills another 40 million. She has a network of volunteers, some being state or county police, who contact her with locations of the newly “accidental,” and she retrieves it. Others bring them in. And this is high end stuff — no tread marks or anything. Her pieces sell from between $800 – $2500. Understandably, the response from animal rights activists has been mixed.
From September 2009 — A South Korean couple were arrested for the death of their prematurely-born three-month-old baby girl, from malnutrition. The baby weighed 5.5 lbs. They had been binging from 8 – 12 hours a day at an internet café playing the video game Prius, where they were raising a virtual baby they’d named Anima. In May 2010 they were both sentenced to two years in prison, but the sentence for the mother was suspended because she was pregnant. A sad irony is that apart from the later Jungian definition, ‘anima’ translates loosely as vital principle of life, inner self, or soul.
January 6th, 2016 — Bruce Hopkins, 39, is an American expatriate software engineer living in Spain with his wife Schrell, 38, and their three children. The seven-year-old was an asthmatic, which may help to explain why one morning he didn’t wake up. The parents and two teenage children didn’t accept that he was dead, and went on living in the apartment for another several weeks while the boy lay in bed, wrapped in blankets. The landlord, who had been chasing them for rent due back to September, made the discovery and called the police. The two teenagers were placed in Spain’s version of foster care.
The first severed foot in the series was found on a British Columbia beach in 2007. It was a right foot, male, still inside an athletic shoe. Over the last decade, over a dozen have washed up on the shores of the Pacific Northwest. Nearly all are the right foot, and nearly all are of males. The foot is usually in athletic or hiking footwear. This past Feb. 6th another one washed up, then on the 11th, yet another. That makes sixteen so far, along the coasts of B.C. and Northern Washington. Two of the feet did belong to the same person. There are differing explanations, like shark attack, or the action of the sea on the human body over time. But no arms or torsos have been found. There’s what’s called the Vicious Cycle theory, which posits that the more these things are found and publicized, the more people will notice. Criminologist Kim Rossimo of Texas State University, who specializes in geographic profiling, says: “Any one given foot may have one or more different meanings or theories, but when you see an overall pattern like this, it certainly is highly suspicious.” I should note that ironically, one of these feet was found at False Creek, near a part of Vancouver known as Leg in Boot Square. In the 1800s, a boot with a leg still in it washed ashore. Police nailed it to the door of the station with a note attached: “If anyone recognizes this, come talk to us.”
The idea for this piece really goes back nearly fifteen years, to the events of 9/11. The nation was reeling from shock (I personally believe America is still struggling from PTSD), and everyone was flying the flag. Stores both online and brick-and-mortar quickly ran out of them. Over the next few weeks there were numerous reports from coast to coast of people stealing the flags from veterans’ graves. I remember thinking how macabre it was. I was also filled with disgust, and wondered what it said about Americans as a people. Well, they were freaked out, people said, it’s understandable. No, it isn’t.
Every Tuesday the mailman stuffs the weekly batch of ads into my mailbox. Mostly they’re ads for supermarkets, both direct and dish TV, coupon pages for fast food outlets. But a few weeks ago I found something else that I can only describe as macabre. It was a folded up ad from Globe Life and Accident Insurance Company. Across the top of the first fold, in all capitals, was the following: “DON’T LEAVE YOUR FAMILY BURIED IN DEBT.” My first thought was that it was a prank ad by the Onion, or some other satiric jest, a clever play on words to make some point. But no, it was legit. Did some ad writer have a good chuckle when they thought this one up? Talk about gallows humor. Or worse yet, atrocious taste. The only word that comes to mind is ghoulish.