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Posted By Michael Bell

The second newspaper article concludes:

J. W. Jereczek, 300 Mankato avenue, at whose establishment the bodies of the Bloch children were embalmed, stated also that the bodies should be in a fairly good state of preservation. The location of the graves, he said, might hurry decomposition somewhat, but the bodies, he said, should hold their shapes for at least three years, indicating that in his belief complete decomposition has not yet come about.

Police Doubt Story


In the light of these statements, police are inclined to believe that unless unusual conditions have hurried the decomposition of the Bloch bodies, Mr. Bloch’s story is incorrect in this respect or he did not see the remains as he said he did.

While Mr. Bloch has already confessed to having opened the graves without authority for so doing, the investigation tomorrow will determine whether any further laws have been violated. County Attorney Simpson stated today that he is prepared to issue warrants whenever complaints are made and declared that if a crime has been committed, prosecution will be pushed.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

So, Bloch confesses but the cops still don’t believe him. And the guy who owns a furniture store-slash-undertaking business—a forensic authority, for certain—doubts that a body could decompose so quickly? But wait, there’s more, as the third installment begins, only adding to the melodrama:

Bodies Probably To Be
Exhumed On Monday, Is
Police Decision Today
_____

Chief Riebau Says Graves Will Be Opened and
Bodies Inspected to Satisfy Public Curiosity
Unless Later Developments Make Such
Action Inadvisable—No Prosecution Con-
templated Since Law Does Not Apply to
Present Situation—Merely a Question of
Whether or Not Public is to be Informed
Positively as to What Happened at Cemetery
—Would Ascertain Definitely if Bodies Were
Disturbed—Officials Say Matter is Up to
Police.
_____

BLOCH SAYS HE FOUND SKELETONS
_____


The graves of Miss Frances Bloch and her brother Joseph in St. Mary’s cemetery here will be opened Monday in order to ascertain definitely for the satisfaction of public curiosity in what condition the bodies are, unless later developments indicate that such an action would be inadvisable, Police Chief H. C. Riebau anounced [sic] this afternoon.


Tune in next time to see what twists this true tale takes.

 
Posted By Michael Bell

The newspaper coverage of the exhumation in Winona, Minnesota, in 1922, was featured for a second day, revealing information unknown the previous day. Following is a continuation of these new revelations:

This morning, however, new developments, in the form of statements by local embalmers and cemetery caretakers, caused authorities to doubt certain parts of Bloch’s story, and this afternoon it was again decided to re-open the graves and learn exactly what had been done.

Mr. Bloch, who is 69 years old and a retired member of the Winona police force, confessed to Chief Riebau last night that he had been led to believe, by the repeated suggestions of superstitious friends, that if the head of his daughter, Frances, was cut off from the body, the powers of her spirit to “call” the spirits of other members of the family would be ended. Four of his five sons, he said, had already died since Frances’ death a little more than five years ago, and his fifth son, Frank, was then lying at death’s door.

On Dec. 27, he said, he and Kobus, whom he hired for a few dollars to assist him, went to the cemetery. The grave of the dead girl was opened. The rough box, he said, was in good condition, but the coffin within was decayed and fallen to pieces. Nothing remained of the girl’s body, he said, but the skeleton, and for this reason the grave was refilled, he declared, without mutilating the body.

“Frankie kept getting poorer and poorer,” Mr. Bloch went on. “We knew he was going the same way the others went, and so on Friday, the day before he died, Kobus and I went back. This time we opened Joseph’s grave. Joseph died about four years ago, but there was nothing left of him either but the skeleton. We filled the grave again without doing anything to the body, and the next morning Frankie died.”

“Was Just About Crazy”


Tears rolled down Mr. Bloch’s cheeks as he spoke, and at times his voice sank to a whisper.

“I was just about crazy,” he added, “and I was ready to try anything to stop all these deaths. They told us that maybe Mrs. Bloch or one of our four married daughters, still living, would be next. One of them is sick now. I didn’t know that it was wrong to open one of my own family graves. I’ll never believe anybody again.”

The statement made by Bloch, with which the opinions of local undertakers clash, was that to the effect that both bodies had been decomposed to such an extent that nothing but the bones remained.

Experts Give Opinions


O. P. Munson, sexton of Woodlawn cemetery, who has exhumed many bodies which have been interred for varying periods of time, stated this morning that he has never in his experience found a body which has been completely decomposed in a period of five years.

“The average body is in a fairly good state of preservation at the end of such a short time,” he declared. “It ordinarily requires from 10 to 12 years for decomposition to be so complete that nothing but bones remain. The location of the grave and the soil that surrounds it are factors to be considered, but on a hillside such as Woodlawn or St. Mary’s, it should take from 8 to 10 years at least.

George Hillyer, proprietor of Hillyer’s Furniture company and undertaking establishment, stated this morning that an ordinary body, with no embalming whatever, ought not to be completely decomposed within a period of five years.

 
Posted By Michael Bell

Following is the conclusion of the first newspaper article:

Fives Sons Have Died


Since the death of Frances Bloch, more than five years ago, five sons in the Bloch family have succumbed to an illness which official death certificates characterize as tuberculosis. The last son, Frank, 19 years old, died early Saturday morning and was buried yesterday in St. Mary’s cemetery. Four daughters, married, and living in their own homes, survive. The dead are: Frances, Joseph, August, Paul, John and Frank.

It was the belief of the police today that a mistake was made in the identity of the graves on the night of Dec. 27, when the first grave was molested. This grave was that of one of the sons. On Saturday night, it is believed, the person or persons hired to do the work, returned to the cemetery and carried out the purpose of their errand..

Police Have Clues.


Police Chief H. C. Riebau stated this afternoon that clues were in his possession as to the identity of the person who carried out the plan. The investigation tomorrow, however, will determine whether or not the work was carried out according to the rumor.

When questioned last Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch denied any belief whatsoever in the superstition. Both declared, however, that they did not believe any disease of the lungs has been responsible for the deaths of their children. They declared that no other members of their family had ever been afflicted with such illness and stated that it was more probable to them that stomach trouble had caused the succession of deaths.


--------------------------------------------------------------


The next day, new information about the event was published. Following is the first part of that newspaper article:

Police Reach Decision
To Open Graves Here To
Verify Man’s Confession
_____

Authorities To Carry Out Original Plan Despite
Claim of Thomas Bloch That He Did Not
Molest Bodies When He Opened Graves—
Will Ascertain Reliability of Bloch’s Story
That He Found Bodies Decomposed and
Nothing But Skeletons in Caskets—Local
Embalmers Say Bodies Ordinarily Would
Not Decompose in Five Years—Bloch Tells
Police Superstitious Friends Made Repeated
Suggestions That Led Him to Take Action.
_____

SAYS HE WAS DRIVEN ALMOST CRAZY
_____


The graves of Frances and Joseph Bloch in St. Mary’s Catholic cemetery here will be re-opened tomorrow, it was announced by the police today, to establish definitely the reliability of a confession made last night by Thomas Bloch, 879 East Sanborn street, the father of the dead.

In his confession, Mr. Bloch told Police Chief H. C. Riebau that while he, with the assistance of Thomas Kobus, 268 Mankato avenue, had opened both graves last week, neither of the corpses within had been disturbed. The police and cemetery officials had previously intended to examine the graves this morning, but following the confession, the plan was dropped.

 
Posted By Michael Bell

I recently found a newspaper article from 1874 that describes a vampire incident involving a prominent family in Poland (which was part of Germany at that time). The case was so similar to one that I had encountered almost exactly three years ago that I decided to compare the two. One of the remarkable things about the latter is that it occurred in Winona, Minnesota, in 1922.  You read correctly: in the United States, during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The Winona case unfolded over a period of less than a week, but each of the four successive newspaper articles that described the event added new information. The first revelation of this event appeared in the Winona Republican-Herald on January 5, 1922. Following is the first of several installments concerning this fascinating narrative:

GRAVE TO BE OPENED TO
FIND WHETHER BODY OF
GIRL HAS BEEN MOLESTED
_____

Police and Cemetery Officials to Determine
Truth or Falsity of Rumor That Girl’s Body
Was Beheaded in Superstitious Belief That
Such Action Would End Series of Deaths in
Local Family—Parents of Girl Deny Any
Knowledge of Body Having Been Molested
—Sexton Finds Two Graves Tampered With
—Five Sons Have Died Since Death of Girl
About Five Years Ago.
_____

FANTASTIC SUPERSTITION BLAMED

_____

To determine whether the body of Miss Frances Bloch, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bloch, 879 East Sanborn street, has been exhumed, and, according to persistent rumors, beheaded as a means of ending illness and death in the family, Winona police and officials of the St. Mary’s Cemetery association will tomorrow re-open two graves in the cemetery which, according to Sexton George Kammerer, former chief of police here, have been tampered with in the past 10 days.

No permits to open any of the Bloch family graves have been issued to anyone to date, Coroner E. M. McLaughlin stated this morning. If the graves have been tampered with or molested, local officials declared, it has been in violation of the law, and the offenders are liable to heavy punishment.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Bloch deny any knowledge that their daughter’s grave has been opened and the body decapitated.

The action of the police and cemetery officials were decided upon today in an effort to determine the truth or falsity of reports which have been current for several days. The rumors, some of which are highly fantastic, have found wide currency.

The superstition which is said to have formed the basis for the reported act is one that is said to be common among the peasant classes in many sections of Europe.

In families where death claims several, it is sometimes believed that the spirit of the first to die is responsible for the death of the others. By cutting off the head of this body, according to the superstition, and placing it in another part of the casket, the powers of the dead body are ended.The belief varies in different sections of the continent and among various classes of people.

---------------------------------------

To be continued . . .

 
Posted By Michael Bell

The following excerpt from an article about the increasing popularity of cremation, printed in today’s New York Times, connects rather eerily to a vampire narrative I recently found: “Whatever the precise cause for the shift, the funeral industry is having to adapt, making up for lost revenue with higher volume and more services, like catered receptions and ash pendants.”

And here are a couple of random on-line ads for ash pendants:

“Ash pendants also known as memorial pendants, keepsake jewelry or even cremation pendants are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for families to memorialize their loved ones. . . .Ash pendants can keep a loved-one’s spirit and memory alive and nearby for generations to come.”

“Cremation jewelry has many names and comes in a variety of forms, but no matter the words used, cremation jewelry is among the newest and most popular ways to memorialize loved ones. . . . Cremation jewelry, filled with tiny portions of a loved-one’s ashes assures that family memories will always be nearby for those wanting to preserve them. . . . Cremation Ash Pendants are very private and nobody will know you have your loved one with you.”

And now, an excerpt from Mrs. Farley’s 1842 article. Her neighbor was WAY ahead of his time:

In the house on my left lives a stout athletic man, of little more than middle age, of good natural abilities, and by no means destitute of cultivation, whose ruling error is of a graver cast. I had noticed his wearing a small box suspended to his neck by a cord, and, having once alluded to the circumstance, my neighbor gave me the following relation---

“My parents had twelve children, each of whom as they arrived at the age of maturity, sickened and died of consumption. Just twelve months elapsed between the different burials, until eleven sons and daughters were laid in the grave. When my last brother died I had just attained majority. The sympathies of the people around us were strongly excited. When the grave was digging for Joel, some of our friends opened the coffin of the next older child, and found the body as fresh and fair as if the soul had just departed. As each brother or sister died, they fed upon the life of the next in age. Our friends then urged upon my parents and myself the necessity of burning the heart of my brother and wearing the ashes about my person, as the only means of saving me from a like fate. But I could not consent to such a course, and he was buried. Two months passed away, and I could no longer conceal from my anxious parents the ravages of disease. They again urged burning the heart of my brother as being their only hope, and as I continued to resist, my mother called the aid of a still more powerful advocate. My wife, to whom I was then engaged, entreated me to consent. ‘If I am restored to health by such means, Abby,’ I replied, ‘I cannot live here. You must leave home and friends, and go with me to some uninhabited spot.’ ‘I will,--to any part of the world;’ was her firm response. So the deed was done. I came here with Abby when there were no inhabitants but bears, catamounts and loupcerviers. I hunted, felled trees, tilled the soil, and built this house with my own hands; yet I am, as you perceive, still strong and hearty.”

“But may not your recovery be attributed to air, exercise, change of climate and different mode of living?” I inquired. He shook his head, touched the box, (the charm) and turned away.

Hmmm . . . an apotropaic ash pendant; unique in America’s vampire arsenal, as far as I can tell.