Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sometimes, they just don't heal, do they?

A rather moving report of a Coroner's inquest, from the English newspaper The Standard, January 7, 1892.
"Mr. G.P. Wyatt held an inquest last night at Peckham, on the body of Richard Sheldon Chadwick, 64, a phrenologist . . .  He was well known as Professor Sheldon Chadwick, the phrenological lecturer, and in 1861 had the honour of receiving from the Queen the Royal bounty of fifty shillings for the merit of his poetical works, on the recommendation of Lord Palmerston, the then Prime Minister.

"Mary Ann Jackson said that she had lived in the same house as the deceased [and was likely the mother of his youngest child]. He had latterly been unwell and complained of spasmodic pains in the chest . . . She called his son, who entered the apartment and found him in an unconscious state. Some brandy was procured, but he was unable to swallow.

"A medical man was immediately summoned . . . but on his arrival found life extinct. He made a post-mortem examination, which showed both ventricles of the heart were ruptured, possible caused by an abscess burrowing round it.

"Death was virtually due to a 'broken heart' . . ."
Richard Sheldon Chadwick. A "professor" who had never been to any university, execrable poet, phrenologist, former stage "mesmerist" (hypnotist), traveling lecturer whose meetings may have included conducting seances during the Victorian craze for spiritualism. In other words, very likely the essence of the flim-flam artist that Houdini was so keen to expose.

And my great-great-great grandfather.


  1. Sometimes the apple does fall very far from the tree...

    I'm fascinated that they tried to pour brandy into a dead man.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Jayne, not sure why your comment was removed, but I received it as an email. Can you send me a note at I'm interested in your research, and I'll send you what I have on the subject. Thanks.