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Friday, 7 October 2016

The Patchwork Poisoner





Hello all, and a warm welcome to a slightly spine-chilling post!

Blogposts are few and far between here at the moment, but what better reason to put in an appearance than a new challenge starting at A Vintage Journey.  The brilliant Anne is our host for October and she would like us to Make It Spooky.

I picked up an 8x8 Regions Beyond paper pad on sale at Michael's as well as a small set of Tim Holtz Halloween stamps, so fortunately I was able to join in with the spookiness.

And really this tag is all about the story (though there are a few making-of details right at the end if you're interested).

As I cut and layered my patchwork collage of ephemera, the story of the Patchwork Poisoner wove itself out of my imagination and into the tag... read on if you dare!














This rather formidable looking woman is Lilian Grace Brewer.  Well, as far as anyone can tell that was her original name.  As you will hear, she was married many times, and often changed her first names too, so it's hard to know for sure.










We would know nothing at all of Brewer and her history were it not for the efforts of one John Franklin Whitlock, a journalist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, who, in 1907, noticed a curious coincidental pattern in the reporting of some deaths stretching back over a number of decades;  deaths which, until then, had not been linked in any way.





The murders were geographically remote from one another.  In some cases, poison was confirmed as the cause of death - though different poisons were used in each incident.






Since poisoners tend to stick to a preferred poison, this varying use of substances - as well as a lack of communication between officers of the law in different states and substantial time delays between the deaths - meant nobody made any connection between them.












Some deaths were not even regarded as suspicious until Whitlock's investigations resulted in a series of exhumations - more than seven - taking place from Ohio via Illinois all the way to North Dakota, confirming poisons ranging from Carbolic Acid to Formaldehyde as the causes of death in each of these unfortunate gentlemen.













The thing which first caught Whitlock's attention in two or three reports he happened upon, was the mention of the bodies - all those of moderately prosperous, middle-aged men - being found laid out peacefully in their beds, warmly wrapped in what were clearly newly completed patchwork quilts of beautifully intricate design.







As he dug further into this curious coincidence, he started to uncover evidence of a decades-long murder spree by one woman - Lilian Grace Brewer.

He was able gradually to piece together her modus operandi, and in the resulting newspaper story - an exclusive for the Cincinnati Enquirer which was later syndicated nationwide - he dubbed her "The Patchwork Poisoner".









Lilian Grace Brewer would arrive unobtrusively in a small but prosperous town to take up a post as a teacher or librarian, or sometimes - in a more direct approach - as the governess in the household of a widower.

Before long, her calm demeanour and upright character would attract the attention of a lonely older gentleman, and a quiet wedding would take place.










That wedding certificate would also serve as the death warrant for the unfortunate man.  Once married, Lilian would begin sewing her patchwork quilt and, as she gathered her fabric swatches she would also be gathering sufficient supplies of whatever poisonous toxin she had decided to use in this case.











Upon completion of the patchwork - which might be a work of months or sometimes even years - she would deploy her poisons, tuck her husband securely in his bed under the quilted work of art, and leave the town as quietly as she had arrived.










If John Franklin Whitlock's evidence is to be believed, she carried out this pattern of behaviour at least a dozen times over nearly three decades, and possibly even more often than that.  As far as he could discover, she never benefited financially from the killings.  By the time probate was proven, Lilian Grace Brewer - or whatever name she was going by at the time - was long gone.

We can only assume that she found some sort of satisfaction in her patchwork poisonings.









Perhaps she selected her victims deliberately because she felt they deserved their fate for some reason.

What it was which made her adorn each body with a patchwork quilt of reportedly exquisite design will remain forever a mystery.  In one form or another, she was an artist, and this was her work.










So that there's not too much mystery about this tag, here are a couple of details.  I've used the Tim Holtz Autumn stencil in the background layers, and the fluffy white "cobweb" is made of my tumble-dryer softening sheets after they've been through the cycle.  (I've no choice about tumble-drying, I'm afraid... I'm in a hotel with nowhere to hang the clothes up!)













The advertisements, photo and labels in my patchwork collage are all from the Regions Beyond paper pad, and the textured black paper which forms the frame and the topping came as the wrapping around the fragranced candles I bought to make the hotel room a little cosier.






Thanks so much for stopping by today.  If you want some more Halloween inspiration, do hop over to A Vintage Journey and see what my fabulous team-mates have been creating.  We hope you will come and Make It Spooky with us this month!

Belladonna (noun): In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison.  A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.
Ambrose Bierce

I see poisoners—so calculating, so cold-blooded—as most like the villains of our horror stories. They’re closer to that lurking monster in the closet than some drug-impaired crazy with a gun. I don’t mean to dismiss the latter—both can achieve the same awful results. But the scarier killer is the one who thoughtfully plans his murder ahead, tricks a friend, wife, lover into swallowing something that will dissolve tissue, blister skin, twist the muscles with convulsions, knows all that will happen and does it anyway.
From The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum



I'd like to enter this in the Simon Says Stamp Monday Challenge where the theme this week is Halloween

NB All names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of my own fevered imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.  I really hope there's nobody resembling my Patchwork Poisoner out there...

50 comments:

Lauren Hatwell said...

Completely enthralled by your spinechilling tale and wonderful work Alison. Lx

Anita Houston said...

Oh my word...you do this so well...the story...the spooky neutrals...all fabulous! PINNED!

Julia Aston said...

Wonderful foggy look to your beautiful tag Alison - and your story gave me the chills - I'll find it hard to sleep under my quilts now!! LOL!!! Julia xx

Andrea Ockey Parr said...

You absolutely had me at "Patchwork Poisoner"! How absolutely clever and I really liked the way you created so many layer of depth. I think the stitching detail looks fabulous and I like how the colors have a wonderful aged vibe. I would've never guessed that the background had leaves, so it was a treat to see the steps behind the creation of this! As always, it's a joy to see your work!

maria's knutselplezier said...

What a great but scary tag, great elements did you use, I love the layering a lot, and the old colours give the whole a scary vieuw!!

Have fun!
Maria

Barbara Schiassi said...

Alison your touch of class is incredible! You know I adore your amazing talent to work with neutral colors! Another stunning tag! barbara

Jennie Atkinson said...

Stunning !!! ..... the background, the patchwork and then the spooky tale ..... Fabulous! Jennie x

Brenda Brown said...

Wonderful collaged layers, fabulous spooky atmosphere and brilliant post Alison, this has it all xxx

Helen said...

I was so gripped by the incredible story I nearly forgot to look at the pictures.. fantastic tag and as ever I am in awe of your imagination!

brenda said...

What a fabulously unique take on the theme Alison and your tag depicts the events so well.

B x

chrissie said...

A chilling tale well told to go with the tag Alison. You certainly got a lot of interest on your project in words and pictures

Thinking of you

Love Chrissie xx

craftytrog said...

I love your tag and spooky story Alison! Very entertaining! :-)
Have a good weekend,
Alison xx

Diana Taylor said...

I love your stories as much as the art work that goes with them! Absolutely enthralling and it makes me look at the tag in such a different way. I love the layers, and your upcycling - I really should look more closely at what I throw away! Just a beautiful tag, with a touch of creepy!
Diana x

Marci said...

Wonderful tag and story!

Sara Barker said...

Ok, what's spookiest about this entire post is that you have been reading and referencing 'The Poisoner's Handbook'!!! Seriously, Alison, are you a writer for one of my favorite series "Crime Scene Investigation"? If you ever need another career, I strongly suggest you look them up. Not only has your story sitting on the edge of my seat, your tag is so darn beautiful in a spooky way! I love your layered background and use of all those non-crafty craft supplies! So envious that your Michaels has the Halloween crafty goodies--on sale, no less! Big hugs!

Cestina said...

I believed every word and was about to go and google her....

Can you save some of those cobwebs for a Small Worlds attic or two? Something else for people to guess at next year.

xx

Redanne said...

Seriously Alison, you should write a book (if you have not already done so!), your stories always grip me and I get lost in the story and then have to go back to see the project! Of course, since I adore all things spooky, your tag is just perfect! I love the layering up of your collage pieces and those spiders made me shiver - love it all!! Anne xx

Dorthe said...

OHHH Alison, this was read in hast and with my breath hold !! You should be a writer, too, so wonderful imagination you have.
And your tag, is gorgeously telling the story ,too. The poison tags, makes me shiver, and the "layers "of evil thoughts about how and with what, is given this Grace Brewer , a cold eye !!!
Dorthe xox

Astrid Maclean said...

So your story had me so enthralled, I nearly forgot to look properly at the tag (I have now gone back and done so). Both are totally brilliant. You are a sublime story teller as well as a weaver of magic in both words and pictures.This woman really gave me the creeps and may well haunt me tonight, what on earth was her motivation really??? Somewhere I just feel sad for her, - what a life... What is so creapy also is the way the photo somehow matches the story. Now I am just hoping that irl she may have had something to redeem her...

Der Wollmops said...

Great story - I got drawn in immediatley! And super great tag, can't stop watching it over and over. Thanks for showing!
Tamara/HerzKoeniginsPaperTales.com

Monika Gulyas said...

Brrrr, Alison :-) I loved your eerie story about this mysterious lady killer and of course I loved your tag too! Hugs

rachel said...

What a wonderful tag and such a chilling story!!!@ hugs rachel x

Lynn Price said...

What an enticing post! I agree with Anne - I get so transported by the telling that although the beautiful visual details are scrolling by, I need to go back to properly acknowledge them. Love this tag!! xxx Lynn

Meggymay said...

Oh wow. first of all the story had me reading it all, then having to go back to have a closer look at your photos. Its a fantastic tag, all the more so for having read the story first.
Yvonne xx

Gio said...

Belladonna, it is also in Italian a plant, and we know from childhood it is poisonous. Such a gorgeous and thrilling story, maybe she was just having fun, on planning the killing and quilting. I love the tag, looks like mysterious for me, even without reading the story attached. Thank you Alison for sharing it with us and happy weekend :-)

Lys Scrap said...

I was caught by your tale, Alison! Watching the details of your tag with this story in mind makes it deeper and more mysterious. A poisoner lady... we had one in our region and your story inspired me scary and fascination feelings.

sally said...

How delightful to have a story! I've missed having one lol. You have produced a cracker with your limited supplies & time.

Sallyxx

Jackie P Neal said...

OMGosh!!! Alison!! You totally had me engrossed and captivated with that story!! and then to discover it was from your own creativity!! Holy cats!! Do you write fiction on the side? I was totally into that whole story so much, I forgot about your beautiful tag~sorry! heehee
I do love your tag with all of its scary poisonous layers-goes perfectly with your tale!! bravo!! xoxo

Annie said...

Love your patchwork tag and fabulous story tellin Alison x she was certainly a rascal of the highest calibre !!! Wish Dexter had gotten hold of her !!!!

Thank you for sharing and sending my best wishes

Hugs Annie xx

Fliss said...

A wonderful spooky tale Alison and your vintage tag is so full of detail and just fabulous!
Fliss xx

Sandra said...

What an amazing tag! Love the collaging with the distressed edges and the gorgeous neutral colors! Thank you so much for joining us at Simon Says Stamp Monday Challenge. Hugs, Sandra

Shirley Chillman said...

Fabulous post Alison love all the story (or should I say gory) details lol. The tag is brill as usual.

Warm crafty hugs from Shirl x x x
ShirlsCards.

Deb~Paxton Valley Folk Art said...

Fabulous spooky tale and tag Alison, I truly thought there was such a person named the Patchwork Poisoner until I read your disclaimer! You have such a knack for story telling, wonderful! Deb xo

Juliz Design Post said...

You always bring your tags to life in such creative writing you can't help but absorb the whole story. Love all your collaged layers.
Julie x

Sue said...

Brilliant collaged tag Alison, and your story was wonderful - she really does look like a poisoner lol xx

Evelyn Walter said...

Fabulous tag you made, dear Alison! I loved the story you told - you are so creative in so many ways!
Hugs
Evelyn

Hazel Agnew said...

How resourceful are you? Tumble dryer sheets eh! Loving this spooky tale and fascinated by her mugshot! Love the combination of elements that you have used and the finish that you have created. A great take on the spooky theme...thinking outside of the box! Xx

pearshapedcrafting said...

Good Grief Alison! I am supposed to be going to bed in a short while! LOL! I love all these fabulous layers and details and your story could match any of the ones my Dad used to tell at Halloween! Hugs, Chrisx

S@ndy Diller said...

Love your tag Alison, it's wonderfully vintage and spooky all at the same time. Sandy xx

Princess Judy Palmer said...

I was ready to Google the Patchwork Poisoner and learn more about her. Fabulous story and fabulous tag. When I first looked at your tag I was shocked and surprised at how many poison names you had found to show off on your tag. So evil! And then the bit of metal with the 13 tag, ooh spooky! I love that stitching stamp, so perfect for one into patchwork. Love it, love it, love it!

Jenny Marples said...

Love your statement at the end of the post - like Judy I was off to find out more about the Patchwork Poisoner! Your totally believable tale has been woven as your wonderful tag, with plenty of detail to draw you in. Even in the confines of a hotel room it seems you can still conjure up magic! Hope all is going well xx

Julie Ann Lee said...

What a great story, Alison! I was enthralled by your 'Patchwork Poisoner'! I really like the recycling aspect of the tag too! How ingenious to use the tumble-drier sheets and the packaging from the scented candles. Your travels and all that goes with the itinerant life are making for some amazing art. Thank You so much for taking us with you! xxx

Craftyfield said...

OMG I now know a lot more than I wished about Lilian Grace Brewer... how devious can you get! But the story you tell is fascinating and the tag it inspired just "right". I love the Vintage feel and admire the layering of the bits of papers to form a cohesive look.

A Pink said...

Your tag alone is an absolute stunner! Alison and then your creative word takes it to a whole new level giving it so much more depth , character and meaning. haunting Creativity at its best .
hugs x

Anneke said...

Ibreally love your styl at this moment! Hoop to see more!

Leslie Lineberry said...

Wow Wow Wow! I love everything about this AND your background story!! You are so talented!

Neet said...

Love all the elements you have used and put together so cohesively.
A most enjoyable read - but then you have the ability to always produce something I enjoy.
Hugs, Neet xx

Suzanne C said...

I know about the few and far between posts myself. But when you post is always fabulous. Love the patchwork background and the wonderful neutrals you built into the color story.

Kasia said...

Wow, love your tag!

Inkypinkycraft said...

Love this ! Gorgeous xx