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Weird Waxworks Displays

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Weird Waxworks Displays

Post by Karen on Tue 1 Nov 2011 - 4:40

A SAD EAST-END EXHIBITION.

Having finished a long day's work, I was returning home by way of Whitechapel-road when three shows attracted my attention. One, a waxwork exhibition, had outside a blood-curdling picture of Martha Turner, the victim of the George-yard murder, and of Mary Ann Nicholls, whose body was found in Buck's-row a few days since. The details were ghastly in the extreme, the head of the latter victim being depicted nearly severed from the body, and three fearful gashes streaming with blood being shown, extending from the abdomen to the ribs. I had only a few minutes before left George-yard-buildings, passing over the spot where the unhappy Martha Turner gasped out her life after fearful mutilation.
I wanted no more horrors. Next door was a rival show - "The Home of Mirth, Mystery, and Magic," apparently an illusionist performance; so closely does comedy follow tragedy in busy, vulgar Whitechapel as well as elsewhere. A few doors eastward, opposite the west wing of the London Hospital, in a side street leading to Buck's-row, stood, on a platform, three male and one female professional athletes. Like the immortals, Sullivan, Smith, and Kilrain, they wished to be noticed; and sometimes with unaided lungs, and sometimes with a huge speaking-trumpet, they called aloud for men with whom to box. One champion was Golding of Whitechapel-road, boss of the show; a second was Davis, of Walworth; a third, whose name I forget,hailed from Aldgate. All these were professors of "the noble art of self-defence," and each one wanted a friendly set-to with volunteers from the crowd outside, offering to each aspirant his choice of an antagonist. In the event of any one outside "spoiling for a fight," and not daring to tackle any of these three, a fourth champion was held in reserve. A young Dutchman quickly claimed "the little 'un from Aldgate - a tall, active man claimed Davis of Walworth, while a dirty, shabby fellow, apparently 50, and known as Mad Murphy, claimed Golding, who looked as if he could knock over three such objects as he at a single blow. "You're too old, old man; better have a set-to with the girl," was the Professor's answer, and this was arranged.
Miss Violetta, a girl apparently of 15 or 16, with fair hair, nez retrousse, and a bored look, stood in tights on the platform watching the proceedings. On the wall above her head hung a canvas, having on it painted representations of her feats of strength. In one corner she was depicted swinging heavy Indian clubs, in another, supporting on her body and chest six fifty-six pound weights; in a third, lifting by the hair of her head two hundredweights; and in the fourth, bearing on her upturned body a huge mass of stone, which a burly workman was breaking with a sledge-hammer. The centre piece represented her holding with her teeth a cask, on which rode an ugly Bacchus in the shape of a fat Jew of some twelve or fourteen stone weight.
To see her feats of strength the charge was one penny, and the boxing was given free. I entered. Two "ladies of the Whitechapel-road" were indulging in an informal set-to, but as soon as about fifty persons had entered the "hall" (a kind of coal-shed, about sixteen feet square), the ladies were called to order. Then the Dutchman and "the little 'un" put on the gloves and fought good-humouredly several rounds, the professor acting as second, umpire, time-keeper, &c., to both men. Then Davis and his antagonist, and, finally, Golding and Davis banged each other with considerable science and perfect good humour. It was now Miss Violetta's turn for her feats of strength. Her back hair was arranged in plaits, strengthened by twine, and lengthened by ropes, to which were attached meat hooks. It was explained that the strain of weight-lifting broke the ends of the hair, and so the rope was necessary. Then three weights were brought, one said to weigh 90lbs., and the others 56lbs. each. The girl stooped and attached the hooks to the ring of the 90lb. weight, and slowly raised it by her hair about a foot from the floor. Then, stooping, she detached this and raised at once the two smaller weights to about the same height. When she had finished, every nerve seemed to quiver with the strain. She rested for a few minutes, then put on the gloves and proceeded to box with Mad Murphy, who, with hat off, looked ten years younger, though as dirty and foolish as before. After a little sparring, she struck him several smart and, I thought, spiteful blows in the face which he, perhaps realising his own and her degradation, scarcely attempted to return. Eventually Mad Murphy was well banged amidst the plaudits of the crowd. As far as I was concerned this was the end of the performance for seeing the proprietor going out, I followed and told him that the strain was too much for the poor girl, and she ought not to be allowed to attempt such feats. "Oh, said he, she could lift two hundred-weight and a half; That doesn't hurt her." If this poor girl lifts much more and boxes after it, a ruptured body and an early grave are, I take it, within measurable distance. So far as I know no protest has up to now been raised, although the Sunday library and the organ performance at the Peoples' Palace hard by are by some thought to be demoralising. What of this?

J.H.S.

Source: The Echo, Saturday September 15, 1888

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Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"
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