Talking Pictures: Haunting Photos of the Dead

Growing up, I collected pictures of people I didn't know. I lived in South Florida, the land of junk stores, garage sales and big-tent flea markets, and if I didn’t try hard to avoid these places I would invariably be dragged to at least one a month, where amidst endless dusty aisles of sock monkeys and needlepoint portraits I found boxes of yellowing snapshots, discarded by old folks who had died or children who hadn’t seen fit to save them. It was in one such box that I found a photo of a teenage girl who I thought looked a bit like a friend of mine. It came sealed in a little cardboard frame. There was something about it that I really liked, so I bought it and stood it on a bookshelf in my room. This is it:

Eventually I needed the shelf space for books, so I decided to put the girl's picture, along with a few other old snapshots I'd collected, into an album. To fit the girl's picture in the album, I had to take it out of its frame. When I did, I found this written on the back:

That's when I realized that for the better part of a year, a dead person had been staring down at me from a shelf above my bed. In the back of my mind, I suppose I'd known she was dead all along -- it was an old picture, after all -- but the fact that she had probably died soon after the photo was taken disturbed me profoundly. She was no longer anonymous. Now she had a name: Dorothy. And suddenly I found myself grieving, in a small, quiet way, for a forgotten person, my own age, whose own family had probably not thought of her in decades. Smiling and doomed, Dorothy haunted me for some time.

Like Dorothy, all the photos in this week's column are of, or about, the dead. While most aren't terribly graphic, I'd advise sensitive readers to move on -- or check out last week's column, Love and Marriage, instead. I'm posting these with minimal commentary; they're powerful enough on their own.

Roy + Polly Adams
Butcher at local market

They were traveling by auto up the east coast of Florida at night. Had a flat tire and pulled onto the shoulder to change it. They were hit by another auto from behind and Polly’s leg was crushed. Later amputated but gangrene had set in and she could not be saved.

Mama + Grace -- 1953
Where Daddy was killed

Honey this is my mother's grave and I just wanted you to see it ok
love Ruth

darling little nephew
wish he was ours
Died July 1934

Boy pushed off the bridge over Schuylkill + drowned. I buried him. His mother is nearly distracted. She lives at 1306 Ellsworth Street. Her name is Mrs. Mowatt.

Jack Mord from the Thanatos Archive found the photo above, and also dug up an excerpt about it from the book Violent Death in the City:

The same jury finally managed to ignore a bill for murder brought against ten year old Frank Dougherty, perhaps because he was rushed before them in convulsions, a reaction to confinement without bail in Moyamensing Prison. He was accused of having pushed another ten year old, Nelson Mowatt, off the banks of the Schuylkill nearly a year earlier, on August 23, 1899. At that time an inquest had cleared him, partly because Mowatt's mother testified that the incident was accidental. The woman had since changed her mind and come to believe that Frank had killed her son out of rivalry for the affections of her employer, Henry Magilton, a kindly old gentleman who was wont to shower the boys with mandolins and bicycles.

This is not exactly a picture you would want to show to everyone but had one made for each of you, as I thought you’d like to have it as it is the last one we ever had made together. I’ll always be grateful for that 2 weeks alone at Desert Hot Springs as it seemed to mean so much to him. He seemed perfectly content and happy.

Around our anniversary (awful) 1951

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Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May

Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.


27: Gone Too Soon

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana


Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1

Beautiful Girls


God's Own Country

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City

Mr. Woodcock

My Perfect Romance

Pocoyo & Cars

Pocoyo & The Space Circus

Queens of Comedy: Season 1

Reasonable Doubt

Red Dragon

Scream 2


Simon: Season 1

Sliding Doors


The Bourne Ultimatum

The Carter Effect

The Clapper

The Reaping

The Strange Name Movie

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2




A Little Help with Carol Burnett


Busted!: Season 1

Dear White People: Volume 2

End Game

Forgive Us Our Debts

Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2


My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey

No Estoy Loca

The Rain: Season 1


Faces Places


The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale



Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives


Dirty Girl

MAY 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3

Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Spirit Riding Free: Season 5

The Kissing Booth

The Who Was? Show: Season 1

MAY 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

MAY 14

The Phantom of the Opera

MAY 15

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4

Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14

Only God Forgives

The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16

MAY 16


Mamma Mia!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The Kingdom


MAY 18


Catching Feelings

Inspector Gadget: Season 4

MAY 19

Bridge to Terabithia

Disney’s Scandal: Season 7

Small Town Crime

MAY 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

MAY 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

MAY 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1

Shooter: Season 2

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2

Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here

MAY 23


MAY 24

Fauda: Season 2

Survivors Guide to Prison

MAY 25


Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

The Toys That Made Us: Season 2

Trollhunters: Part 3

MAY 26

Sara's Notebook

MAY 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf

MAY 29

Disney·Pixar's Coco

MAY 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4

MAY 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern

The First-Ever Troop of Homeless Girl Scouts Just Crushed Their Cookie Sales Goal

Selling 32,500 boxes of cookies in a single week would be noteworthy for any team of Girl Scouts, but it's an especially sweet achievement for Troop 6000: The New York City-based chapter is the first-ever Girl Scout troop composed entirely of children living in homeless shelters.

According to NBC News, this season marked the first time the troop took part in the organization's annual cookie sale tradition. In early April, they received exclusive permission to set up shop inside the Kellogg's Café in Union Square. They kicked off their inaugural stand sale aiming to sell at least 6000 boxes of cookies: At the end of six days, they had sold more than 32,500.

Some customers waited in line an hour to purchase boxes from the history-making young women. Others gave their money directly to the troop, collectively donating over $15,000 to fund trips and activities. After purchasing their cookies, customers could also buy special Girl Scout cookie-inspired menu items from the Kellogg's store, with all proceeds going to Troop 6000.

The troop formed in 2016 as a collaboration between the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Mayor de Blasio, and the city Department of Homeless Services. Meetings are held in shelters across the city, and many of the troop leaders, often mothers of the scouts, are homeless women themselves. About 40 percent of New York's homeless population are children, and Troop 6000 had to expand last summer to accommodate a flood of new recruits. Today, there are about 300 girls enrolled in the program.

[h/t NBC News]


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