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10 Shocking Facts About The Black Dahlia, Hollywood's Most Famous Unsolved Murder



Ann Marten was tired of the awful dream. Twice she shews her daughter, Maria, dead and buried under the dusty floor of a barn a half-mile from the cottage Ann shared with her husband, Thomas, in Polstead, England. At first, Ann thought it was just a bad nightmare-to interpret it otherwise irrational claptrap-but when the dream returned, she started to have a second thought.

One day, she approached Thomas and asked him to bring her some peace of mind. "" I think, I was in your place, I would go and examine the Red Barn, "she suggested.

Bewildered, Thomas asked why.

" I have very often dreamed about Mary, "Ann said, "And twice before Christmas, I dreamed that Mary was murdered, and buried in the Red Barn." She would've told him sooner, Ann explained, but what afraid he'd think she was superstitious.

The Red Barn What a prominent landmark in Polstead, a quaint corner of England's Suffolk County countryside. The last known meeting place between Maria Marten and her lover, William Corder. The pair had used the barn as a rendezvous point before Ipswich on May 1

8, 1827.

Maria's family had not heard of her in the 11 months since. The Martens often wrote letters to the couple, but Maria never responded. Whenever Corder returned to Polstead, he was offered a handbook of excuses explaining why Mary was not writing: She was busy, her mail must have gotten lost, she had injured her hand and could not write back. He reassured them, however, that Maria was happy and basically fine.

But when his wife started having bad dreams, Thomas Marten decided to check the Red Barn for any indication of foul play. He slipped off the floor and then noticed an unusual slump in the dirt. According to one account, Thomas, a mole-catcher by trade, began loosening the ground with a mole-catching spike and, upon lifting the tool, dredged up a chunk of human flesh.

Thomas did not have to dig more than two feet to discover his wife's prophecy might be true: In a shallow hole lay a decomposed human skeleton wrapped in a sack. It has long hair and a green handkerchief around its neck.

He started for home.

When he found his wife, Thomas asked if they recalled Maria wearing a handkerchief the day she ran off to elope-and, so what, what color.

Ann searched her memories and nodded , Mary had been wearing a bandana that William Corder had given forth. "A green one," she said.

William Corder was a troublemaker. The son of a wealthy farmer, the sly lady's man (who went by the nickname foxey ) what are known to forge checks and steal animals from neighboring farms. On one occasion, he kidnapped his father's pigs and pocketed the money from the sale.

By some accounts, that's not the life the young man aspired to: Corder purportedly wanted to become a teacher or journalist, but when his father refused to financially support those endeavors, Corder instead of sustained his bank account with the fruits of petty crime.

Whatever Corder's motivations, none of that mattered to his paramour Maria Marten, a 24-year-old single mother. Her first child (whose father was Corder's older brother) had died early, but her second child (born to be a member of the gentry who had no interest in marrying the daughter of a lowly mole-catcher) was still alive. This second father regularly receives money from Mary's life. So when William Corder returned to Polstead to help his family's farm in 1825, Maria quickly fell for the wily smooth-talker.

After all, Corder said he could handle some responsibility. The same year he came back to town, his father became a member of the family.

At first, the couple tried to keep their relationship secret, but had had other plans. In 1826, Maria became pregnant for a third time. Corder proposed that they marry shortly after the infant was born.

Tragically, the baby dies in Maria's arms only two weeks after birth. Maria's father and stepmother carefully placed in a box and wrapped in a napkin. Corder promised to bury it somewhere safe.

Corder therefore promised that he wanted to marry Maria, child or not. There was just one stipulation, he said: It had to happen soon. According to Corder, rumors were floating that way to punish Maria for having a third child out of wedlock. Called bastardy, the crime was punishable by public whipping.

Around noon on May 18, 1827, Corder ran to the Marten cottage and told Mary that it was time to go. The constable, he said, was prepared to arrest her at any moment. Maria started to sob. Meanwhile, Maria's sister, Ann, noticed that the young man was carrying a gun.

To avoid capture, Corder told Maria to dress in disguise and handed her a men's waistcoat, a hat, a pair of trousers, and a green bandana. Red Barn down the road where she could get dressed in her own clothing. Afterward, they'd flee to Ipswich and get married.

Corder then slipped out the front door, and Maria-in male costume-left out the back. She was never seen again.

William Corder married to a different woman and running a boarding school for girls in west London.

"I never knew any person even by name," he responded.

Immediately, the crime captured people's attention and imaginations: Here's the story of a poor country girl, a single mother no less, who was seduced and fooled by a wealthy cad who lured her to her death with the promise of marriage. No less amazing what the fact that the poor woman's body was purportedly discovered thanks to a dream. For newspapers, the story was pure catnip.

"I never knew or heard of a case in my life which ended with so many extraordinary incidents as the present," M. Wyatt, a magistrate, explained at the time.

Within days of the body's discovery, Polstead became a bustling place "literally crowded with strangers from all parts of the adjoining country, for the news of this appalling The journalist J. Curtis reported in his contemporaneous book, An Authentic and Faithful History of the Mysterious Murder of Mary Marten .

In fact, as Corder sat in jail, Polstead would hold his most well-attended summer fair in history, with amusements that included roving ballad singers and theatrical productions, all told sensationalized versions of the Red Barn murder story.

By the start of Corder's trial in early August, the whole country is familiar with the twisted story. Thousands of people flocked to Polstead to witness the proceedings, and nearly all of the inns and public houses in the county ran out of rooms. Demand to watch the proceedings

The crowd outside the courthouse numbered in the thousands. The scene was so jammed that the ticket-taker-even members of the court had trouble reaching the front door. When the sheriff's carriage arrived, it could not squeeze through the crowd. The Lord Chief Baron had to be taken off his legs on his way to the bench, "Curtis writes. It was mayhem.

"Counselors, magistrates, jurors, & c. & C. were wedged together, and one of the former gentlemen had their forensic wigs hooked off, and one was actually unowned. Some lost their hats, some their pocketbooks, and others their money-and not a few of their coats, "according to Curtis.

Once all who could fit in the courthouse was settled, the counts against William Corder -All 10 of them, which included shooting, stabbing, and strangulation-were read. A model of the Red Barn was placed on the table in the courtroom and the counsel for the Crown began to make its case against the young farmer. [19659002TheCoroner'sinquestisthelastwordinthestoryofCorderandMaryforMaria'sarrest:Corder'swhereabouts"AndinCorder'sLondonresidenceshehadaFrenchpassport-asuspiciousindicationthathehadbeenplanningtofleethecountry[19659002] In a trembling voice, Corder defended his name and blamed the press for landing his reputation and sealing his fate. Reading from a written statement, he declared: "By that powerful engine, the press, which regulates the opinion of so many persons in this country, and which is too often, I fear, though unintentionally, the slanderer and destroyer of innocence, I have had the misfortune to be depicted in the most humiliated and revolting characters!

Corder went on to claim that he had indeed argued with Mary in the Red Barn, but he did not kill her-rather, she had shot and killed herself. The young man claimed he had panicked and had "buried Maria as well as I was able to."

The jury deliberated for just 35 minutes before returning a verdict of guilty.

"My advice to you is not to flatter yourself with the slightest hope of mercy on earth …" the judge said. "That's when you're dead, on Monday next, at a place of execution, and that's when you are dead; and that your body should afterwards be dissected and anatomized;

Days later, on August 11, 1828, a crowd of at least 7,000 people gathered around the gallows and watched a visibly weak Corder step upon the scaffold. Earlier that week, he had confessed to a prison chaplain, claiming that he had gotten into an anarchic relationship with a deadly baby, who had never received a proper Christian burial and had accidentally shot her in the face during a scuffle.

As Corder stared out at the crowd, the air fell silent. "I'm guilty," he said, quivering. "My sentence is just-I deserve my fate-and may God have mercy upon me!"

A cap was then draped over his face, a rope was tied around his neck, and gravity did the rest.

William Corder's corpse swung gently in the wind for an hour where the county surgeon slipped into the chest and folded back to the skin of the muscles chest. Then the doors were opened to the public. Thousands of spectators marched single-file to gawk at Corder's remains.

The following day, the body became the centerpiece of an autopsy attended by doctors and medical students from across the county. In 1966, Punch magazine would cynically joke that "Murder is , doubtless, a very shocking offense; In spite of this fact, the Red Barn continued to be the object of the public debate wrote songs, plays, penny-dreadfuls about the incident.

Polstead would be a macabre pilgrimage site, where tourists-some 200,000 people visited the town in 1828 alone-eventually stripped the Red Barn bare. Maria Marten's Polstead resting place was taken from the grubby hands of souvenir-hunters, who mercilessly chipped away at her gravestone until it was little more than a stump.

Interest in the murder what is so great that little physical evidence of the grisly happening remains. The book bound in Corder's skin, however, is still stored at Moyse's Hall Museum at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk. And the Cock Inn, where Polstead's coroner carries out his inquest to identify the skeleton of Maria Marten, is still in operation.

Come all you bold young thoughtless men, a warning take by me;
I think I'm the only one I've ever seen.
I marry Maria Marten, 19659050] I promised I would marry her on a certain day,
I went into her father's house the 18th of May,
Saying, my dear Maria, we will fix
I'll take you to Ipswich town,
I then went home and fetched my gun, my pickaxe and my spade,
I went into the Red Barn, and there I dug her grave.


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