Person of Interest? Sherlock? NCSI? Today, everyone’s got their favorite criminal mystery show, but did you know that crime investigation has its roots planted deeply back in the late eighteenth century in England?
The Bow Street Runners were the first organized detective force of the era. But even they couldn’t solve some mysteries . . .
An Unusual Tale
Elizabeth Canning was a maidservant who disappeared for four weeks in 1753. Her story of what happened ultimately divided the nation.
She claims she was abducted—not by aliens, but thugs—and taken to a brothel in Enfield, a town just outside London. She refused to be forced into prostitution, so they locked her in an attic, where they stole her corset and fed her stale bread. Somehow, she managed to escape out a window.
When she told her employer what’d happened, he led a mob to the establishment, a brothel run by Mother Wells. Henry Fielding—the creator of the Bow Street Runners—acquired convictions
for Mother Wells and her gypsy accomplice, Mary Squires. Wells was branded and Squires was sentenced to hang for the corset theft . . . but Squires had reliable alibis that put her in a different part of England during those four weeks.
The Lord Mayor of London intervened, and Squire’s conviction was overturned. This angered the public, because hey, they were missing out on a hanging, which was great entertainment back then.
So, what really happened? Who knows? Speculation says that Canning was likely trying to hide a pregnancy and may have run away to get an abortion or maybe even birth an illegitimate child.
Wells ended up getting convicted of perjury and was sentenced to seven years in America. She never came back.
An Unusual Corpse
Recently London archeologists excavated the graveyard of St. Pancras Old Church in preparation for yet another rail terminal.
Why were archeologists called in instead of hard-hat wearing construction workers?
Because this site had been used for mass graves during the first part of the nineteenth century. Care needed to be used instead of backhoes.
As expected, they found lots of coffins, but one in particular grabbed everyone’s attention. It contained the remains of eight people—and a thirteen-foot walrus.
No one knows how it got there, where it came from, or even why. In the early 1800’s, a walrus would’ve been considered a sea monster, and there were precious few of those roaming the London streets. Okay, none, but obviously there was one, because they found the bones to prove it.
An Unusual Code
On the grounds of an English country manor, there is a beautifully carved monument. No big deal, right? Wrong, Watson. Not even Sherlock could solve this one.
The inscription on Shepherd’s Monument at Shugborough Hall is a cryptic sequence of letters that has contemporaries and historians scratching their heads. It reads:
Those ten letters are known as one of the world’s top uncracked ciphertexts. From Charles Dickens to Charles Darwin, no one who’s put his mind to it has been able to figure out what the message means.
Some speculate it might’ve been left by the Knights Templar as a clue to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail . . . yet no one really knows.
These mysteries remain unsolved, but if you’d like to read an intriguing tale that ties up all the loose threads by the end, pick up a copy of my latest release, BRENTWOOD’S WARD . . .
There’s none better than NICHOLAS BRENTWOOD at catching the felons who ravage London’s streets, and there’s nothing he loves more than seeing justice carried out—but this time he’s met his match. Beautiful and beguiling EMILY PAYNE is more treacherous than a city full of miscreants and thugs, for she’s a thief of the highest order…she’s stolen his heart.
Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.
About the Author
She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance shegets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones.
Follow her adventures at her blog WRITER OFF THE LEASH or visit michellegriep.com, and don’t forget the usual haunts of Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.