Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Death Ring

A singular story of a poisoned ring appeared in the French newspapers a few years ago, to the effect that a gentleman who had purchased some objects of art at a shop in the Rue St. Honoré, was examining an ancient ring, when he gave himself a slight scratch in the hand with a sharp part of it. He continued talking to the dealer a short time, when he suddenly felt an indescribable sensation over his whole body, which appeared to paralyse his faculties, and he became so seriously ill that it was found necessary to send for a medical man. The doctor immediately discovered every symptom of poisoning by some mineral substance. He applied strong antidotes, and in a short time the gentleman was in a measure recovered. The ring in question having been examined by the medical man, who had long resided in Venice, was found to be what was formerly called a ‘death’ ring, in use by Italians when acts of poisoning were frequent about the middle of the seventeenth century. Attached to it inside were two claws of a lion made of the sharpest steel, and having clefts in them filled with a violent poison. In a crowded assembly, or in a ball, the wearer of this fatal ring, wishing to exercise revenge on any person, would take their hand, and when pressing in the sharp claw, would be sure to inflict a slight scratch on the skin. This was enough, for on the following morning the victim would be sure to be found dead. Notwithstanding the many years since which the poison in this ring had been placed there, it retained its strength sufficiently to cause great inconvenience to the gentleman as stated.

Source: William Jones, Finger-Ring Lore,Chatto and Windus 1877

The Plasma Gang

A gang known as the Plasma Gang was reported to be in circulation in Alexandra, South Africa, in August 2013. They were breaking into people's houses to steal their plasma TVs; if the victims awoke or came in during the robbery and saw what was happening, the gang would murder them. They wanted the plasma TVs not for the sake of the TV itself, but so that they could remove a powder from inside it to use in the drug cocktail nyaope.

(This story was reported on the TV, radio and in local newspapers throughout August and September, with claims, counter-claims and debunkings.)

The Alchemical Properties of the Black Prince Cicada

''Trevor Dallen's comments about fly cages and tormented cicadas have brought back a few childhood memories,'' recalls Gerry Fletcher, of Tamworth. ''As a boy, every summer I would search for a Black Prince cicada, as the rumour at the time was that if you found one you could sell it to the local chemist for two shillings - a fortune in those days when Cobbers were four for a penny. Apparently, the chemist used the cicada in the making of some form of medicine."

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 2013

"When I first started my pharmacy apprenticeship in the early '50,'' recalls Alice Sternhell, of Naremburn (big bucks from bugs, Column 8, last week), ''we were regularly pestered by children offering to sell us cicadas. My boss always told them that we had enough for now, but that Mr Spora, the chemist down the road, still needed some. So the myth lived on.''