Saturday, December 13, 2014

ISDP: Cheesy Merchandise Edition

To keep our fingers limber while pecking out each winter-time installment of ISDP, we like nothing better than wrapping our gnarled hands around a hot mug of Ovaltine. It’s also calming to watch the steam rise into the chilly air of our garret atop FirstNerve Manor.

We recently tired of the chipped, crack-spidered mug we’d been using for years and decided to splurge on a new one. We designed it ourselves and may we say we are very pleased with the results. So pleased, in fact, that we have made it available for purchase on (Follow the link or look for the FirstNerve store).

You know you want one. Especially if you or your loved ones work in a medical examiner’s office, the county probate office, the homicide squad, or the maintenance department of any largish apartment complex. Imagine how delighted they’ll be to get one as a gift!

And with that we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

The Lone Star State has been on a tear, with items in the previous three editions of ISDP. The Houston Chronicle’s Dale Lelzon had a story on November 24 that looked to extend the streak: “A 29-year-old man has been arrested after the body of his common-law wife was found wrapped in a blanket in a closet at her apartment in southwest Houston.” However, since the woman’s body (and associated “foul odor”) was discovered only after her concerned family came looking for her, the case fails to meet our strict criterion. Sorry, Dale.

But wait! Two weeks later another Houston incident kept the Texas streak, uh . . . alive. On December 9, Karla Barguiarena from television station KTRK filed this story: “Amber alert remains in effect for baby after mom found dead in refrigerator.”
Maintenance workers at the Braeswood Oaks apartments made the gruesome discovery after residents reported a strong, foul odor coming from the air conditioning vents.
Police estimate the victim may have been in the fridge for nearly a week. The 11-month-old baby and his 38-year-old father are both missing.

Three New Nominees for the Norman Bates Award, International Division

That’s So Cold

The headline says it all: “Man kills, hides cousin’s body in freezer for 9 years. Duo fought with each other over financial issues.” Well, almost all. How was the frozen corpse discovered?
Due to the power cuts [in Alexandria, Egypt], the freezer had broken down, which led to the spread of the dead body’s foul smell in the neighbourhood. The neighbors informed the police about the foul smell. Police rushed to the scene and opened the fridge only to find the body, which was still intact.
Mummy Dearest
Woman shared a bed with the body of her dead mother for FIVE YEARS in Germany… and it had mummified by the time social workers found it.
An 83-year-old woman’s mummified remains were found by social workers who visited her home in Munich after neighbors became suspicious because they hadn’t seen her in years. The woman’s 55-year-old daughter had been living there since her mother died in 2009, and was evidently sharing a bed as her mother’s corpse.

Apparently once you get past the odoriferous, active-decay phase of things, it becomes just regular creepy, not epic creepy.

The Family That Prays Together

A 52-year-old Hamilton, Ontario, man died of an untreated illness because he and his family believed that God would cure him. Afterward, his wife sealed the bedroom door and air duct to contain the odor of decay, and continued, along with her five children (ages 11 to 22) and seven live-in adult friends, to pray for the man’s resurrection. It hadn’t happened by the time, six months later, that the sheriff arrived to evict them for nonpayment of the mortgage. FirstNerve nominates the entire Canadian mini-cult for this year’s Norman Bates Award.

Department of Closure

There’s been a resolution to an ISDP case we reported on three years ago. In the middle of his murder trial in Pitt County, North Carolina, Joey Owens decided to take a plea deal. He pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder, and will serve a 30-year minimum prison sentence. He shot and killed Samuel Bradley and Alice Hardy in their mobile home in 2011. Their bodies were discovered after neighbors called deputies to complain of a foul odor.

UPDATE December 16, 2014
Commenter Tara C. points out that we posted a link which didn't go to our specific store. The link is fixed now and goes directly to the FirstNerve store. Or click here. Thanks Tara, and happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A New Kindle Edition of What the Nose Knows

I recently received back the rights to What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life. Today I released a new Kindle version of the book on It has a new cover (above) and corrects a few typos. Best of all, I lowered the price to $5.99. If you don’t have a copy, now’s the time to grab one. What are you waiting for? Get yours here.

P.S. The original hardcover printing has long been sold out. Right now I’m working on a print-on-demand paperback that I hope to make available soon.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Return of an Olfactory Memory

Raymond Leon Iddings died November 14, 2014 at the age of 93. He grew up on a small farm in Putnam County, Indiana, and, like so many Americans of his generation, joined the army and fought in World War II.

Here’s a passage from his obituary:
His combat experienced forever identified Raymond Iddings as a professional soldier, and left scarred stories that he never told. Daughter Cheryl was recently told a final story while helping him eat some chicken soup. A few weeks after crossing the Rhine, on April 4, 1945 the United States Army liberated the first concentration camp prisoners from Ohrdruf, Germany. The conditions were so appalling that words fail description; the smell of feces and rotting corpses overpowered the senses. General Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley were all sickened during their tour and Eisenhower actually vomited. In his memoirs, Raymond wrote of the “foul odor that blanketed the area,” but said he never entered the camp. While Cheryl recently helped father eat some soup he began to cry and apologized to her for never telling this story before: He then shared with her a memory from that camp . . . a day that he held a spoon of chicken broth for a severely starved prisoner at this camp; the starved man was too weak, the man took a deep breath and died. Raymond told Cheryl that for all these years he repressed this story as his most painful memory — a war memory he was never able to talk about.
Trauma and repression, war and compassion, the great events of history—all brought to the surface by the aroma of chicken soup fed to an elderly man by his loving daughter.

With Raymond Iddings goes a small but infinitely valuable piece of the American experience. We salute him.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Scent of Mystery Comes to Video

The New York Post’s Lou Lumenick has the story: “Elizabeth Taylor’s forgotten Smell-O-Vision adventure arrives on video.” He’s talking about Scent of Mystery, the first (and only) film to use the revolutionary Smell-O-Vision process promoted by Mike Todd, Jr. and his father. Elizabeth Taylor (then married to Todd, Sr.) was an investor in the technology and makes a cameo appearance in the movie. (Your Hollywood trivia of the day: Mike Todd, Sr. coined the word cameo.)

I researched the story of Smell-O-Vision—and its rival, AromaRama—for my book. Along the way I interviewed inventor Hans Laube’s wife and daughter, and saw a prototype of his scent-generating device, along with all the promotional material for the film’s premiere. It’s a great story in the history of technology.

Until now, Scent of Mystery was only available in a badly butchered VHS of a television mashup version. I’m looking forward to seeing the newly restored re-release. Sure, it was slightly corny even for 1960, and unspools at the leisurely pace of that time. But I look forward to viewing it end-to-end while imagining all the odors (there are lots of them).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ISDP: Foul Odors from Foul Deeds

It's the thirteenth of the month and therefore time to offer up our periodic collection of macabre episodes triggered by the detection of the uniquely disturbing smell of bodily decay. We're typing as fast as we can; the wind is picking up ahead of another Polar Vortex that shortly will force its way through the poorly insulated windows of FirstNerve Manor and cause our gnarled fingers to stiffen in place on the keyboard.

An employee at a storage facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba, noticed a foul smell coming from inside one of the lockers. Investigation showed the source to be the bodies of four small infants.

Police in Brownsville, Texas, were asked to investigate the source of a foul odor. They discovered the bodies of a woman and her 4-year-old son in a pile of rubbish in the backyard of a home. The woman's husband has been arrested and charged with murder.

In the trial of Charles Hicks Jr. who is charged in Pennsylvania with the 2008 murder and dismemberment of Deanna Null, Hicks' former landlady testified that
she was cleaning the house in preparation [for his departure] when she noticed a foul odor in a bedroom closet area. She dismissed it at the time as maybe a mouse that died in the walls.
According to further testimony, the smell was likely from "severed hands, later identified as Null's, which had been wrapped in old newspaper inside baggies, and large socks containing detergent."

As we like to remind readers here at ISDP--Always Trust Your Nose!

A woman in East Memphis, Tennessee, would have saved herself a lot of grief had she sniffed around a bit before renting a house (she only looked in through the windows). Turns out it had been the scene of murder a couple of months earlier, in which a man had killed his roommate and butchered his body. Despite the blood stains and foul odor, the landlord was under no obligation to reveal the home's history as a crime scene. 


Rurik Jutting, a 29-year-old British investment banker in Hong Kong, has been arrested in connection with the murder of two women whose bodies were found in his apartment after a neighbor complained of a foul odor coming from the unit. One of the bodies was found stuffed inside a suitcase on the apartment balcony. 

It appears that shortly before she was killed, the second woman
had texted a friend to raise concerns over her visit, saying: 'Something smells really bad – I want to get out of here'.
The smell was evidently from the body in the suitcase; that victim had been murdered five days earlier.