5 Gruesome Victorian Scandals Explained Using Marshmallow Peeps
History students at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada get to do one research assignment just a little bit differently thanks to Professor Amy Milne-Smith... using marshmallow peeps to stand in for Victorian murderers and their victims. Here are five of their best pieces of work!
1. The Burning of Bridget Cleary
Diorama by Lisa Christie
Here, we see Bridget Cleary, represented by the white ghost peep, being burned alive on a stove by her husband, Michael Cleary, the peep holding the frying pan. Michael and her father, the peep directly to the left of the stove, believed Bridget had been possessed by a fairy and were attempting to burn the fairy out of her by feeding her a mixture of milk and herbs, as seen in the pan, and then burning her alive on the stove. Bridget was also accused by several of her cousins and neighbors, the remaining peeps on the left. The remaining peeps on the right, however, represent her defenders in court, William Simpson and Johanna and Kate Bourke. The creepiest thing about this particular murder is that Bridget reportedly didn't even scream as she was being roasted. If you want to learn more, see the interactive online diorama!
2. Abusive Nuns
Diorama by Katelyn Leece
In 1869, Susan Saurin, a nun going by the name of Sister Scholastica, accused the Mother Superior of her convent, known as Sister Mary Joseph, of libel, conspiracy, assault, and imprisonment, of which Sister Mary Joseph (Mrs. Starr) was found guilty of libel and conspiracy to have Saurin removed from the convent and the Order of the Sisters of Mercy. In an attempt to force Saurin out of the convent, Starr had confined her to her room until she agreed to leave for over a month without access to fire, soap, or washing water, eventually moving her into a bathroom. It seems that Saurin was also repeatedly psychologically tortured and gaslighted by Starr and forced to write confessions regularly to offenses she did not commit. If you'd like to learn more about this strange case of nun on nun aggression, you can see the interactive online diorama here.
3. The Red Barn Murder
Diorama by Leah Parent
In the early 19th century, Maria Marten, the dead pink peep you see above, was lured out to a barn covered in red tiles, which gave a name to the famous Red Barn murder, on the pretense of an elopement with William Corder, the father of her illegitimate child. Once in the red barn, Corder shot and killed Marten, then buried her body in a sack with a green silk handkerchief. Although the bullet used to kill her was never found, early detective work was advanced enough to tell that her fatal injuries matched up with a gun Corder claimed to have purchased at the age of ten. Although, suspiciously enough, Marten's stepmother claimed to have had a dream revealing the precise location of her body. If you'd like to learn more about the Red Barn Murder, you can see the interactive online diorama here.
4. Christiana Edmunds, The Chocolate Cream Killer
Diorama by Samantha Schott
In 1869, Christiana Edmunds began seeing a doctor named Charles Beard. The two fell in love and exchanged several letters, but Beard was, unfortunately, married. After one direct attempt to poison Mrs. Emily Beard, Charles tried to break things off with Christiana. But later, she began sending him letters again, and soon after there was a long string of poisonings which included Edmunds herself. Ultimately, though, it was discovered that Edmunds was buying strichnine from a chemist named Mr. Garrett, pictured above, and then lacing chocolates purchased from a man named Mr. Maynard, lacing them with it, and returning some of it to him so that it would get sold to others who would think they had food poisoning. Finally, Edmunds successfully murdered Emily Beard, but was ultimately convicted of her murder in court. If you'd like to learn more about it, you can visit the interactive online diorama here.
5. Margaret Waters, Baby Farmer
Diorama by Lois Macdonald
Margaret Waters and her sister, Sarah Ellis, were notorious baby farmers, meaning they offered to take people's unwanted babies along with the cash it would take to keep them alive and then killed the infants afterward. Waters and Ellis' method was particularly brutal. They simply neglected the children, and when they were near death, they would simply take them out and dispose of their bodies. They were ultimately caught when one concerned grandfather who had given them his grandson kept coming back to check on the child and found him nearly dead with nine other kids, whom he immediately took away for medical attention. Their maid, Ellen O'Connor (the scary yellow duck peep in the corner) also testified against them in court. If you'd like to learn more, you can visit the interactive online diorama here.
What do you think of these marshmallow murder scenes? Talk to us about them in the comments below, and share with your friends to see what they think!