Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gruesome Materials: October 1934

The Dead Man

It is the truth and not a tale
That once there was a man named Dale.
Alas it was his bitter lot
To murdered be quite near this spot.
(Groans and pauses.)

Now we have with us his remains,
So first I give to you his brains.
(Passes to the person on his right
a sponge dampened in ice water)

Now next I pass as you surmise
the murdered victims mournful eyes,
(Passes two grapes from which the
skins have been removed.)

The veins through which flowed
blood so red
Are now all clammy, cold and dead.
(Passes two or three long pieces
of cooked macaroni.)

And now your shuddering touch reveals
the teeth with which he ate his meals.
(Passes kernels of corn.)

And next your startled nerves prepare
To touch the late lamented's hair.
(Passes corn silk.)

The ear with which he often heard
Alas now hearkens not a word.
(Passes banana skin.)

His skin, the kind you love to touch,
Is left alone with naught to clutch.
(Passes skin of a peach.)

The heart which once did fondly beat,
Is cold as ice bereft of heat.
(Passes a chicken heart.)

Here's something hard and 'tis not bones,
What can it be? Just his gall stones.
(Passes a handful of small pebbles.)

And here's his stomach soft and chill,
Long since freed of digestive ills.
(Passes a wad of dough.)

His hand no longer yours can hold;
Alas it now in death is cold.
(Passes a rubber glove with wet sand.)

And now his sheeted ghost in white,
Is standing in your midst tonight.
(Ghost rises and stands a minute.)

Ere he departs with woeful groans,
Just list the rattling of his bones.
(Starts to walk out and as he goes
suddenly rattles a watchman's rattle.)

Prop clarification: WATCHMAN'S RATTLE

This rattle would have been used by a 19th-century watchman in a town without a police force or the means for rapid communication in case of an emergency.

Although many American counties had sheriffs during the colonial era, it was not until the mid-1800s that cities, and later towns, formed police departments. Morris County's first sheriff took office in 1739, a year after the county was created, but Madison did not have its own police department until the 1890s.

Without a police force, towns relied on hired watchmen to walk their streets, especially at night. A watchman would have used a noisemaker much like the one shown here to alert people in the case of an emergency.