In the Tibidabo Museum of Automata in Barcelona among the curious machines depicting real life in mechanical form is a wooden case. Inside tiny metal figures play out the hanging of a hooded man – the piece is entitled Execution of Crippen. Visitors see the action transform before their eyes but have little clue to the mechanical workings behind the painted facade. It was the same of the real Dr Crippen – who stood impassively in the dock 100 years ago charged with one of history’s most notorious crimes. We will never know the exact details and motivation for the killing which sent Hawley Harvey Crippen to the gallows but those facts which are recorded have fascinated people for decades. American born Dr Crippen was, to use a phrase of the time, a “quack doctor” and had qualified as a homeopath and moved to New York after his first wife and mother of his only child died. It was there he met and married Corrine “Cora” Turner a would-be music hall singer whose stage name was Belle Elmore. But it was not a happy marriage with both having affairs. In 1897 they moved to London and Crippen became manager of… Read full this story
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