Notorious Chrimes: The Blackmail Pills

Richard and Edward Chrimes

In 1890s London, the ‘Lady Montrose Pills’ blackmail scheme efficiently and heartlessly targeted more than 8,000 victims. In this comprehensive account of the case, Dick Weindling introduces the Chrimes brothers, who manufactured this audacious scam.   In April 1896 adverts began to appear in newspapers across the country. Addressed to ‘Ladies …

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Victorian asthma cigarettes: who was Dr Batty?

Dr Batty's Asthma Cigarettes

While browsing your local newspaper in the 1890s, an asthma-cure advertisement might distract you from tales of the latest sensational crimes. ‘Agreeable to use, certain in their effects, and harmless in their action, they may be safely smoked by ladies and children,’ ran the promotional copy. The product was Cigares …

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Forthcoming events

Join me for some quack-filled talks in London this summer! I’ve been invited by the London Fortean Society and Antique Beat to share my stories of fraud, advertising and the occasional gruesome death. I’ll cover different material each time so do come along to both – it would be great …

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To raise false hopes

Antidipso British Monthly Dec 1903

I appeared on Great British Railway Journeys, series 7, episode 11, on 18 Jan 2016. The episode is available on BBC iPlayer, and here’s some more information about one of the remedies featured:   ‘Tears and prayers are of no use,’ warned the eyecatching pictorial advertisement in the Penny Illustrated …

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The mysterious Doctor Du Brange

Du Brange mentioned in The Times, Sat 30 Oct 1869 (

While researching in the British Newspaper Archive, Kilburn historians Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms discovered a practitioner with the unusual name of Du Brange. They were intrigued to find that he appeared in court several times. I’m intrigued too, as Du Brange has a lot of similarities with other London …

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Dr Wheeler and the Bacillus of Death

In May 1895, a low-key but intriguing advertisement appeared in British local newspapers. What could this ‘death microbe’ be? Did it refer to the lethal pathogens such as anthrax and tuberculosis that had been identified within the past two decades? Announcements of newly isolated bacilli regularly reached the general population …

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The bogus lady doctor

The Alleged Bogus Lady Doctor

In a recent post for the British Newspaper Archive, I mentioned Maria Owen, who posed as a doctor in late Victorian Birmingham. Here’s some more information about her, adapted from my book, The Quack Doctor: ‘I can cure you,’ the representative of the Ladies’ Medical Association told 37-year-old Julia Ann …

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Luminous spectres and electrical kisses

Decapitation - from 'How to Entertain a Social Party' 1875

The Quack Doctor wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Thank you to all who have read the blog, bought the books, liked and shared my posts on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, or been in touch to share fascinating family history stories and pictures of medical ephemera during …

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Detective Caminada and the quack doctors

Advertisement for the Rev E J Silverton, 1884

Angela Buckley’s book, The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada, published in March 2014, tells the story of a real-life Victorian supersleuth. In this guest post, Angela relates Caminada’s encounter with an ecclesiastical con merchant touting a dodgy elixir. . Urban life in Victorian England was precarious enough, …

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A Patent-Medicine Song, 1892

Some of the most famous patent medicine brands of the late Victorian era found their way into this humorous song by John Johnston, MD, in 1892. Originally from Dumfriesshire, Johnston settled in Bolton in the 1870s and worked as a general practitioner, also devoting time to literary pursuits. During the …

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