Sad, Horrifying Picture

Yesterday, I mentioned a photograph I saw at the Municipal Archives in 2002 that has haunted me ever since. I decided not to post it, and if you follow this link to see it you’ll probably be shocked that I would even consider posting it.

The caption reads: “Homicide victim (male) undersize, naked bloated man [ship captain murdered by crew].”

With the exception of crime scene photographs involving children, this man is the most vulnerable, saddest, sorriest-looking homicide victim I have ever seen. I’ve come across photographs that are more gruesome, but the combination of his spread-out nakedness, the swelling, the squalid setting, it’s just so pathetic. Perhaps he was a miserable, awful human being and his crew had plenty of reasons to hate him, but still. Who was he? What led to this moment? What was the aftermath?

The photograph comes from a collection of glass plate negatives that are sitting in the basement of One Police Plaza. They sit in piles in a small caged room, cracking anytime someone steps too hard. They’re in bad shape and continually getting worse and eventually there will be nothing left if something isn’t done about them. (And maybe something has been done since the last time I was down there.)

I was going to post a more fun picture, but now that feels inappropriate! So I will post this one instead. I took this yesterday, walking back from the DMV.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

5 thoughts on “Sad, Horrifying Picture

  1. Speaking of sad, horrifying photographs – if you’re interested, there’s a TON of these at the daily rotten website. Amazing photos. One in particular is astonishing. A man’s entire leg has nearly been eaten away by disease and all that’s keeping him alive is the maggots who are consuming the dead flesh. There must be over two or three millions maggots in his leg.
    There’s other photos from crime scenes etc. The Black Dahlia is one sorrowful photo of a young girl literally cut in half and mutilated other ways too. The killer than spread her body out on the grass posed for all to witness her final disgrace. Poor girl.

  2. Actually, I don’t want more pictures to be haunted by! You’ve actually made me realize that perhaps I shouldn’t be pointing this picture out and traumatizing people!!

  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Consider how they depict the victims on the various police procedural TV shows. Nothing left to the imagination any more !!!

  4. I looked at the photo — it’s not that bad. What haunts me are pictures of cruelty to animals. I can’t even watch nature documentaries on Animal Planet because I don’t want to see the lion kill the gazelle and I do not want to even THINK about baby penguins in the South Pole winter.

  5. I am the same way!! I can’t watch any of those shows, and I want to, just because they always seem to have a horrible animal death in them at some point.

    Dave, yeah. I love Criminal Minds, for instance, but they are too gory at times.

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