Albert Dekker (1905 – 1968) was a noted American character actor, with a career that four decades on stage and the silver screen. In that time, he accumulated a filmography of over 110 credits, and was praised for notable performances in films such as East of Eden, The Killers, Dr. Cyclops, Kiss Me Deadly, as well as in his final role in Sam Peckinpah’s classic western, The Wild Bunch. He also won acclaim for his moral courage in the midst of Red Scare early in the Cold War.
Dekker was one of the few actors in Hollywood who dared to stand up to and denounce the demagogic Senator Joseph McCarthy, as well as the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Hiccup with moral courage, however, is that comes with a cost, and often a steep one at that – otherwise the whole world would brim with moral courage. Dekker’s stance got him blacklisted in Hollywood and derailed his career. It took years, until the anticommunist fever finally broke and the McCarthyite hysteria waned, before Dekker was able to get back to work in Hollywood. Sadly, he is probably better known today not for his professional career or his moral courage, but for his macabre demise.
Albert Dekker’s life journey came to a weirdly macabre end in 1968. That year, he managed to land a great supporting actor part in The Wild Bunch. When he completed his final scene, he left the set, and seemed to fall off the map. Friends and family became concerned after days passed and nobody had heard from him. Among other things, he was a no show at a date with his fiancee, fashion model Geraldine Saunders. She tried to call him at home, but got no response.
So Saunders went to his apartment, knocked but got no answer, and finally pinned a note on a door that was already covered by notes from friends and acquaintances. When she returned later that day and found things still the same, she convinced the building manager to let her in the apartment. Once in the apartment, they found the bathroom door chained from the inside, and had to break it open. There, they were greeted with the macabre sight of Dekker’s corpse, hanged from a leather belt. That was not the worst of it.
In addition to the belt around his neck, there was another one around his waist, tied to a rope that bound his ankles. That, in turn, was wrapped around his wrist and clasped in his hand. Sun rays were drawn around his nipples in lipstick, which was also used to draw a vagina on his stomach. A hypodermic needle stuck out of each arm, and his right butt cheek had two needle punctures, above which the word “whip” was written in lipstick. Nor was that all.
In addition to the word “whip” on his butt, Albert Dekker’s body was covered in other words and phrases, also written in lipstick, such as “cocksucker”, “make me suck”, and “slave”. His death was initially ruled a suicide – albeit a decidedly weird one. However, after S&M toys and porn were found in his apartment, it was changed to accidental autoerotic asphyxiation that occurred in the midst of masturbation. Despite the coroner’s findings, foul play was suspected and the death was and remains suspicious.
In the long history of piracy, there were probably not that many pirates who were more ruthless than Jean-David Nau, better known as Francois L’Olonnais (1630 – 1669). One of history’s most feared pirates, his reputation for brutality and macabre acts stood out even in an age and within a profession where brutality and the macabre were the norm. He had a particular bone to pick with the Spanish, and his relentless pursuit of that vendetta earned him the nickname “The Flail of the Spaniards”.
Born in dire poverty in France, L’Olonnais was sold by his family into indentured servitude as a child. It was in that capacity that arrived in the Caribbean at age fifteen, to toil away the next ten years of his life on Spanish plantations. The menial work he was put to perform was back-breaking, and the conditions were exceptionally harsh. He endured so much mistreatment and so many humiliations that, by the end of his term of indentured servitude, he had come to greatly hate Spain and all things Spanish.
The recently indentured Jean-David Nau changed his name to Francois L’Olonnais and moved to Tortuga, a French island north of modern Haiti. At the time, Tortuga was a nest of piracy and lawlessness, and it did not take long before he joined its buccaneers. He showed such zeal in his new profession that within a short time, Tortuga’s French governor gave L’Olonnais his own ship, a letter of marque that authorized him to prey on Spanish ships as a privateer, and turned him loose. He set himself apart with a reputation for viciousness and ferocious cruelty in the treatment – or more accurately, mistreatment – of prisoners, especially Spanish ones.
An expert torturer, L’Olonnais got up to some pretty macabre stuff. Among other things, he liked to slice off strips of his victims’ flesh, burn them, or tighten ropes around their skulls until their eyeballs popped out of their sockets. Early in his career, he was shipwrecked off Yucatan. A majority of the crew survived and made to shore, only for most of them to perish soon thereafter when Spanish soldiers found and fell upon them. To survive, L’Olonnais covered himself in blood and viscera, and hid among the corpses. Later, he snuck into a nearby town that was celebrating the deaths of the pirates, and arranged for an escape back to Tortuga.
Francois L’Olonnais resumed his depredations against Spain and the Spaniards, and in 1666 he assembled a fleet of eight ships and 440 pirates to attack Maracaibo in modern Venezuela. En route, he came across and looted a Spanish treasure ship, which yielded 260,000 Spanish dollars, in addition to gemstones and cocoa beans. When he arrived at Maracaibo, L’Olonnais discovered that the citizens had fled. So he tracked them down into the nearby jungles, and tortured them until they revealed where they had hidden their valuables.
He and his men then spent two months engaged in widespread assault, pillage, and murder. They finally put the town to the torch and tore down its fortifications before they left. A year later, L’Olonnais led an even bigger pirate expedition against Central America, only for his men to get ambushed and massacred in Honduras. He was one of the few survivors who managed to escape back to a ship, but it ran aground off the coast of Panama. L’Olonnais disembarked and led his men inland in search of food, only to get captured, killed, and eaten by an indigenous tribe.
King Edmund II, better known as Edmund Ironside (circa 993 – 1016), ruled over England from April 23rd to November 30th, 1016. The son of one of England’s worst kings, the weak and hapless Ethelred the Unready, Edmund turned out to be a vast improvement over his father, and proved himself made of sterner stuff than his predecessor. He earned the nickname “Ironside” because of the staunch resistance that he put up against a massive invasion led by the Danish King Canute.
In 991, Edmund’s father, Ethelred the Unready tried to buy off the Danes who then occupied northern England, and stop their incessant raids into his kingdom. He figured that if he paid them tribute known as the Danegeld, or “Danish gold”, they would back off. Unsurprisingly, rather than get the Danes to back off, the tribute only emboldened them. They upped their demands for more and more gold, and secure in the knowledge that they had little to fear from Ethelred, they continued to raid his realm. Finally, after he bankrupted his kingdom and beggared its people with the high taxes necessary to pay the Danegeld, an exasperated Ethelred resorted to a macabre expedient: a massacre of all Danish settlers in 1002. It made things worse.
King Ethelred the Unready’s massacre of the Danes led to an invasion by the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard. He conquered England in 1013, and forced Ethelred to flee to Normandy. However, Sweyn died a year later, at which point Ethelred returned. He and his son Edmund, who played a key role, chased Sweyn’s son, Canute, out of England in 1014. Canute returned with a large Danish army which pillaged much of England, but Edmund mounted a fierce resistance that stymied the Dane. When Ethelred died in 1016, Edmund, by now known as “Ironside”, succeeded him on the English throne.
His reign lasted only seven months, and came to a macabre end on November 30th, 1016. That night, Edmund went to the privy to answer a call of nature. Unbeknownst to him, an assassin lay in wait in the cesspit for the royal posterior to show up. When Edmund sat down to do his business, the assassin stabbed upwards with a sharp dagger, and left the weapon embedded in the king’s bowels as he made his escape. Unfortunately for Edmund Ironside, even if his sides had been made of iron, his bottom was not.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading