Murderous juvenile says he did it just to see what it was like.
Seventeen-year-old Walter Tjunin, sometimes referred to in historical accounts as Vladimir Walter Tjunin or Walter Tunin, sits in the rear of a police car after his arrest today in 1962 for the murder of fourteen-year-old Suzanne Grskovic. Tjunin strangled the girl to death in Queens, New York, after walking her back from a dance. Asked why he did it, Tjunin said, “I just wanted to feel what it was like to kill someone.” Newspapers of the time focused on this macabre utterance, but there was much more to the crime than that.
Tjunin and Grskovic were sweethearts—an old-fashioned term, but one that surely fits considering the girl wore a charm necklace bearing the inscription “Sue and Walter.” The young couple left the dance together that night, witnesses recalled. About five blocks from her home Tjunin steered Grskovic into a weedy lot, ripped off her dress and raped her, then strangled her with her bra and carved an “S” and “X” on her abdomen with a beer can opener.
The murder, then, seems to have been committed not out of mere curiosity, but as a clumsy attempt to cover up the rape by disposing of the only witness. This thought process may well have come easily to Tjunin, since he had been in trouble since age twelve, and was actually on probation from reform school at the time of the crime. He eventually stood for second degree murder. After the shortest murder trial in Queens history—one and a half days—an all male jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to serve twenty years to life.
Lady, my flag may be down, but you're making my pole go up.
Originally published in 1948 by E. P. Dutton & Co. as My Flag is Down: The Diary of a New York Taxi Driver, this 1949 Bantam paperback titled simply My Flag Is Down tells the story a New York taxi driver and his nocturnal passengers. We gather the author James Maresca was a real cabbie who kept a diary for seven years before converting it into a novel, and what he ended up with is a jargonized and loosely structured log of socialites, deviants, unhappy couples, strippers, and hustlers all behaving as though the cab is either a confessional or a motel room. The excellent cover art is by Casey Jones, and an earlier Bantam cover from the year previous, with the cabbie looking considerably less thrilled with the action in his back seat, appears below.
Only good hot sax could make a girl move her body that way.
In 1958's hit novel The Horn beat author John Clellon Holmes tells the story of Edgar Pool, a talented tenor saxophonist who makes his mark on the NYC jazz scene and grows into a global legend. The last twenty-four hours of his life are related via the recollections of friends and lovers, so what you get is a rise-and-fall biography centered around a booze-drugs-women nexus, which Holmes based on the lives of jazz masters Lester Young and Charlie Parker and set in 1954 to give it a tinge of documentary nostalgia. It's a really nice piece of literature. Holmes had already written Go, which is considered the first beat novel; The Horn is the definitive jazz novel from that genre. This 1959 Fawcett Crest paperback comes with worthy cover art from Mitchell Hooks.
What's heartless, barely talks, and weighs 250 pounds? Normally, a man, but in this case it's a man-like machine.
Elektro the Moto-Man and Sparko his dog were made by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation and displayed at the New York World's Fair in 1939 and 1940. Seven feet tall and weighing 250 pounds, Elektro could walk, smoke cigarettes, count, and unleash simple quips like, “My brain is bigger than yours.” Sparko, well he just barked, as dogs are wont to do. Probably he smoked too, if his circuits got too hot. Elektro may not seem impressive now, but at the time he amazed millions of visitors to the New York Fair. The hole in his chest was not built there in homage to Frank L. Baum's heartless Tin Man, but so spectators could see there was no operator inside working his levers and gears. Possibly the hole grew larger when World War II's metals shortages prompted Westinghouse to scrap plans to build him a female companion. Today Elektro resides at the Mansfield Memorial Museum in Mansfield, Ohio, where Westinghouse was once based. And little Sparko, well he's gotten lost, as dogs as wont to do. The photo dates from 1939.
Novedades Editores takes readers on a five city tour of street crime and murder.
Mexican pulp art has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the efforts of vendors and collectors. It differs from U.S. pulp in that it was produced decades later—during the 1970s and forward. The covers you see here today are prime examples of what is generally classified as Mexican pulp, made for the comic book series El libro policiaco, or "The Police Book," and published by Novedades Editores during the early 2000s. The series was so popular that, like the U.S. television show C.S.I., the books diversified into multiple cities—New Orleans, New York City, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. Each city's stories centered around a local police department staffed by a multi-ethnic array of cops and support personnel. And as the banner text proclaims, the interior art was indeed in color, ninety-two pages of it per issue. All the covers here were created by Jorge Aviña, an artist who began his career during the 1970s, and has had his work exhibited in London, Switzerland, Barcelona, and Paris. We'll have more from El libro policiaco a bit later.
Work halted on San Francisco renovation after 19th century coffin is uncovered.
In San Francisco, where high-end property renovations are occurring all over the city at breakneck speed, even the dead are being pushed out by gentrification. Last week workers digging beneath a home in the Richmond neighborhood unearthed a metal and glass coffin from the 1870s that holds the body of a little girl.
We had no idea such items existed, but after doing a little research we discovered that ornate metal caskets, usually made of cast iron or lead, were popular during the mid- to late-1800s among the more affluent. A Providence, Rhode Island man named Almond Fisk was the first to patent them, which he displayed in 1849 at the New York State Agricultural Society Fair in Syracuse, and the American Institute Exhibition in New York City.
He called them Fisk Metallic Burial Cases, and they came in an amazing variety, including Egyptian style sarcophagi. The coffins were airtight, helping preserve bodies during an era when the embalming arts were not as advanced as today and a week could elapse before arrangements were made to bury a loved one and family gathered for the send-off. They were also welded shut, preventing grave robberies—a serious problem of the times, not only due to valuables that might be buried with bodies, but also due to the price a well-preserved corpse could fetch from unscrupulous medical schools looking for research cadavers.
Fisk's sales materials boast that not only could his burial cases be drained of air, aiding preservation, but—if one chose—filled with any type of atmosphere or fluid. Just a year after he displayed them at those New York exhibitions, former U.S. Vice-President and Secretary of State John C. Calhoun died and was buried in one. The publicity caused a wave of nationwide interest that prompted Fisk to license his expensive invention to other companies. Eventually, Crane, Breed & Co., of Cincinnati and New Orleans acquired a license, and made coffins sporting the types of viewing windows featured on the San Francisco discovery.
What will happen the little girl's body is still unknown. San Francisco ordinances make her the property owner's responsibility. Reburial has been mentioned by said property owner, but we'd be surprised if anthropologists didn't get a look at the girl first. Autopsies on bodies ofthat age have uncovered troves of data about diet, disease, and more. Afterward she can be laid to rest somewhere well out of the way of San Francisco's ongoing makeover into millionaire Disneyland.
The law of this jungle is steal or be poor.
We don't need to tell you anything about The Asphalt Jungle because you've seen this film classic, right? So today we're all about the poster. Look at this beauty. It was painted by Italian artist Angelo Cesselon, complete with his distinct signature and its supersized “O”. Cesselon worked for many studios and mastered a distinct style featuring large character portraits such as the one you see here. His work is among the most immediately identifiable of the mid-century period. As for the film, when you get John Huston directing a heist story you can't go wrong. Don't let the poster fool you, though—Marilyn Monroe is a bit player. Why is she starring on the art? Because Cesselon painted it a few years after the film's initial release—by which time Monroe was world famous. The Asphalt Jungle premiered today in 1950.
Light and darkness in New York City.
Alfred Statler honed his camera skills in Europe documenting the chaos of World War II and brought his gritty sensibilities to bear on his fine art photography once he returned to the visual utopia he called home—New York City. This shot is from the mid-fifties and captures a nighttime scene in Manhattan, with its neon signs and sky aglow with metropolitan lightbleed. We love this.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled
by the official account of the assassination.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
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