It’s a lighthearted nightmare in here, weirdos! Morbid is a true crime, creepy history and all things spooky podcast hosted by an autopsy technician and a hairstylist. Join us for a heavy dose of research with a dash of comedy thrown in for flavor.
The Black Sisters and the Murder of Ocey Snead
This episode comes out for free on 12/04 and is available early and ad-free for Wondery+ subscribers.
When East Orange, New Jersey police were called to the home of Virginia Wardlaw in late November 1909, they knew only that there had been an accident involving Virginia’s niece, Ocey Snead. Once they’d arrived, however, officers discovered Ocey’s body in an upstairs bathtub, dead from what appeared to be suicide by drowning.
After just a few weeks of investigation, it became clear that Ocey’s death was no accident. Suspicion quickly fell on Virginia and her two sisters, who were soon charged with Ocey’s murder, which investigators believed was committed in order to collect on a large insurance
The murder of Ocey Snead was an undeniable tragedy, but her death was only the beginning of what would become one of the early twentieth century’s most captivating crime stories. As detectives and the press dug deeper into the background of the three women accused of starving and drowning their niece, a bizarre story emerged that sounded as though it had been pulled directly from the pages of a classic southern gothic horror novel. And like any good gothic horror story, the trial of Virginia Wardlaw and her sisters was full of unbelievable twists and culminated in a shocking conclusion.
Thank you to the Wondrous Dave White of Bring Me the Axe Podcast for Research!
New York Times. 1910. "Alienists declare Mrs. Martin insane." New York Times, September 21: 6.
—. 1909. "Bathtub mystery no murder, she says." New York Times, December 2: 2.
—. 1909. "Bathtub principals are twice indicted ." New York Times, December 23: 4.
—. 1910. "Miss Wardlaw dies; starved herself." New York Times, August 12: 1.
—. 1911. "Mrs. Martin pleads to manslaughter ." New York Times, January 10: 2.
—. 1910. "Mrs. Martin's cries halt lunacy trial." New York Times, November 8: 7.
—. 1909. "Mrs. Snead's family full of fatalities." New York Times, December 9: 20.
—. 1910. "Ocey Snead was drugged ." New York Times, January 21: 1.
—. 1910. "Say Miss Wardlaw is dying." New York Times, August 11: 4.
—. 1909. "The Snead msytery." New York Times, December 18: 12.
Rife, Luanne. 2016. "The Black Sisters." Roanoke Times, December 1: 116.
Roanoke Times. 1909. "Christiansburg woman is held." Roanoke Times, December 3: 1.
West, Mike. 2009. "Fearless Confederate died mysteriously in NYC." Murfreesboro Post, February 15: 8.
—. 2009. "'Sisters in Black' sour Ocey's domestic bliss." Murfreesboro Post, February 22: 8.
Zierold, Norman. 1968. Three Sisters in Black. New York, NY: Little, Brown.
Listener Tales 80
This episode comes out for free on 11/30 and is available early and ad-free for Wondery+ subscribers.
It is Listener Tales 80 and this installment is brought to you by HEROES with the spookiest of tales… A decomposing body, florescent yellow fluid, possessed toys, a baby seeing ghost, and a man in black. These are brought to you by you, for you, from you and all about you so if you have a listener tale please go ahead and send it to Morbidpodcast@gmail.com with "Listener Tale" somewhere in the subject line :)
The Murder of the Grimes Sisters
On the evening of December 28, 1956, fifteen-year-old Barbara Grimes and her thirteen-year-old sister, Patricia, left their home in Chicago, Illinois headed for a movie theater in Brighton Park to see the latest Elvis Presley film. When the girls failed to return home that evening as expected, their mother sent the two other siblings to wait for them at the closest bus station, but when they returned later without Barbara and Patricia, she became anxious and began calling their friends, before eventually phoning the police. Three weeks later, Barbara and Patricia’s bodies were discovered on the side of a rural road by a construction worker in Willow Springs, about an hour outside Chicago.
The murder of the Grimes sisters and the investigation that followed remains one of Chicago’s most notorious cold cases and one of the most costly and labor-intensive searches in the state’s history.
Thank you to the incredible Dave White of Bring Me The Axe Podcast for research assistance!
Chicago Tribune. 1957. "Suspect's mom says he's lazy, shiftless bum." Chcago Tribune, January 25: 3.
—. 1957. "Charged with murder of Grimes girls." Chicago Tribune, January 28: 1.
—. 1957. "Dsicloses how 2 girls ditched him and companion in theater." Chicago Tribune, January 27: 1.
—. 1957. "High points of the news." Chicago Tribune, February 3: 8.
—. 1957. "'I knew it!' sobs mother." Chicago Tribune, 01 23: 1.
—. 1957. "Nude bodies thrown beside country road." Chicago Tribune, January 23: 1.
—. 1957. "Rule out sex attack, strangling theories." Chicago Tribune, January 24: 1.
—. 1958. "Slayer of girl, 15, hopes he gets chair." Chicago Tribune, November 19: 1.
—. 1957. "Widen search for 2 young sisters missing four days." Chicago Tribune, January 1: 5.
—. 1956. "Young sisters reported seen in two places." Chicago Tribune, December 31: 6.
Gowran, Clay. 1957. "Re-enacts crime, and shows how he dumped two in ditch." Chicago Tribune, January 28: 1.
Lowry, Shirley. 1957. "Lost girls' mother keeps brave." Chicago Tribune, January 11: 3.
McGill, Nancy. 1957. "Mom denies Skid Row tale." Chicago Tribune, Janaury 28: 6.
Milwaukee Journal. 1957. "Grimes case tiff costs job." Milwaukee Journal, February 16.
Nix, Naomi. 2013. "1950s case gets new look from pro, amateurs." Chicago Tribune, 30 May: 1.
Taylor, Troy. 2015. The Two Lost Girls: The Mystery of the Grimes Sisters. Jacksonville, IL: Whitechapel Press.
United Press. 1957. "Bennie admits part in crime." Daily Chronicle, January 28: 1.
—. 1957. "New suspect is arrested." Daily Chronicle, January 24: 1.
—. 1957. "Two teen-aged girls killed." Daily Chronicle, Janaury 23: 1.
UWIRE. 2019. "'Chicago History Cop' making headway in Grimes sisters' murder case." UWIRE, October 25.
Bernie Tiede and the murder of Marjorie Nugent
When 39 year old Bernie Tiede confessed to the murder of his friend and companion, 81 year old Marjorie Nugent in November 1996, the revelation came as a shock to the small town of Carthage, Texas. The two had been inseparable friends since the death of Nugent’s husband in 1990 and as far as anyone in Carthage could tell, Nugent couldn’t have picked a more devoted companion than Tiede. Yet as the details of the crime began to emerge, a strange story began to take shape—Tiede’s supposed motive for the murder was to gain access to Nugent’s fortune, but what he did with that money once he had access defied the logic and expectations of greed.
The story of Bernie Tiede and Marjorie Nugent should have ended with the trial and conviction of Tiede, but a few years later, Bernie’s story became the subject of a big Hollywood film, shining a spotlight on the story and raising new questions about the extent of Bernie’s responsibility for the murder. Tiede remains a rarity in the history of American crime: a sympathetic killer almost no one in town wanted to see convicted.
Thank you to the wonderful David White, of the Bring me the Axe podcast, for research assistance
Associated Press. 1997. "Man indicted in death of banker's widow." Austin American-Statesman, August 29: 91.
—. 1999. "Shreveport man testifies about 'inappropriate kiss' he witnessed between murder suspect and victim." Marshall News Messenger, February 3: 6.
—. 1998. "Mistrial declared in confessed widow killer case; trial moved." Odessa American, October 28: 16.
Bernhardt Tiede, II v. The State of Texas. 2002. 12-99-00182-CR (Twelfth District Court of Appeals (Tyler, Texas), November 2).
Cieply, Michael, and David Montgomery. 2014. "Murderer who inspired the film 'Berni' is released to the director's garage." New York Times, May 8.
Grissom, Brandi. 2014. "Over 15 years, a town's stance on a convict shifts." New York Times, February 9.
Halmark, Bob. 2012. Carthage residents react to Bernie movie. March 8. Accessed June 13, 2023. https://www.kltv.com/story/17106798/carthage-residents-react-to-bernie-movie/.
Hollandsworth, Skip. 1998. "Midnight in the Garden of East Texas." Texas Monthly, Janaury.
Jacobs, Janet. 1997. "Slaying, arrest stun town." Longview News-Journal , August 21: 1.
—. 1998. "Deputy testifies about Tiede's arrest, confession." Longview News-Journal, October 29: 7.
—. 1999. "Emotions run high in Tiede trial." Longview News-Journal, February 7: 1.
—. 1999. "Tiede found guilty of murder." Longview News-Journal, February 10: 1.
—. 1998. "Tiede returns to court." Longview News-Journal, October 29: 1.
—. 1999. "Tiede sentenced to life in prison." Longview News-Journal, February 12: 1.
—. 1997. "Homicide shocks Carthage residents." Marshall News Messanger, August 20: 5.
—. 1997. "Tiede's troubles mount as new charge is filed." Marshall News Messanger, August 22: 1.
—. 1997. "Officials freeze Tiede's finances as murder investigation continues ." Marshall News Messenger, August 24: 9.
Jennings, Diane. 2012. "Austin attorney takes interest in Bernie Tiede's murder case." Dallas Morning News, August 7.
Longview News-Journal. 1998. "Confession gives details into slaying." Longview News-Journal, October 29: 1.
Marshall News Messenger. 1999. "Carthage man's trial set to begin in San Augustine." Marshall News Messenger, February 1: 1999.
—. 1999. "Tiede sobs as photos shown in court." Marshall News Messenger, February 4: 3.
—. 1999. "Videotape upsets Tiede jury." Marshall News Messenger, February 5: 2.
Rhodes, Joe. 2012. "A wacky Lonestar murder mystery." New York Times, April 15: SM40.
Texas Tribune. 2016. "Bernie Tiede painted as victim, calculating killer." Texas Tribune, April 6.
—. 2016. "Jury sentences Bernie Tiede to 99 years or life." Texas Tribune, April 22.
On June 22, 1932, a boy picking blackberries in rural Logan, West Virginia made a hideous discovery when he happened upon the dead and brutalized body of local woman, Mamie Thurman. At first glance, Mamie’s murder resembled a gangland-style execution; she had been shot twice in the head and her throat had been slit from one side to the other, as though whoever killed her wanted to make sure she didn’t survive.
The murder shocked the small town of Logan. Mamie was well-known around town as a devoted wife to her husband, Jack, a local police officer, and a good Christian who was actively involved in her church and community organizations. Yet as news of the murder spread, so too did rumors of Mamie’s infidelity and poor moral character. Ultimately, local Black handyman Charles Stephenson was arrested, tried, and convicted in a sensational trial that made national headlines. Yet many felt that conviction was obtained on questionable evidence and, in retrospect, largely the result of racial bias.
Was Mamie Thurman really just an unfortunate victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or was there a more personal element? Indeed, evidence suggests there was more going on in the case of Mamie’s death than a simple murder and that a number of powerful men conspired to cover up the true motive for Mamie’s death, allowing the true killer to walk free.
Thank you to the wonderful David White, of the Bring Me the Axe pod, for research assistance
Charleston Daily Mail. 1932. "Negro was at killing scene." Charleston Daily Mail, June 27: 1.
—. 1932. "Pair guarded in Logan case." Charleston Daily Mail, June 26: 1.
—. 1932. "Tests show blood in Logan official's car." Charleston Daily Mail, July 28: 1.
—. 1932. "Two men accused of Logan murder." Charleston Daily Mail, June 23: 1.
—. 1932. "Two more questioned in Logan murder case." Charleston Daily Mail, June 24: 1.
Davis, F. Keith. 2021. Secret Life and Brutal Death of Mamie Thurman. Charleston, WV: Quarrier Press.
Hinton Daily News. 1932. "Large crowd at hearing of Logan men." Hinton Daily News, June 25: 1.
State of West Virginia vs. Clarence Stevenson. 1933. 172 S.E. 533; 7621 (Supreme Court of West Virginia, December 16).
Nutty Putty Cave Incident
Discovered in Utah County in 1960, Nutty Putty Cave quickly became a popular destination for amateur and professional cavers and spelunkers as a kind of bucket list cave of considerable difficulty. Despite its popularity, beginning in the late 1980s, the cave became notorious for the number of explorers who became trapped and required emergency assistance to escape its twisting, narrow, and poorly mapped passageways.
In late November 2009, the inherent risk and dangers of Nutty Putty Cave made national news when twenty-six-year-old college student John Edward Jones became trapped upside-down in an uncharted and perilously narrow section of the cave.
Thank you to the incredible Dave White of Bring me the Axe Podcast for research assistance!
Ashton, Katie. 2006. "Nutty Putty Cave entrance getting a gate." Daily Herald, May 2: 23.
Associated Press. 2006. "Utah's caves remain open one year after Provo tragedy." Daily Herald, August 14: 8.
—. 2009. Man dies after day trapped upside-down in cave. November 25. Accessed October 12, 2023. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna34157005.
—. 2009. Man dies after day trapped upside-down in cave. November 25. Accessed October 13, 2023. https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna34157005.
—. 2009. "Recovery of caver's body deemed too dangerous." Roanoke Times, November 28: 4.
—. 2004. "Teen stuck in cave is rescued." Salt Lake Tribune, August 22: 20.
Cabero, Alex. 2009. Nutty Putty Cave discoverer doesn't want it to be closed. November 27. Accessed October 12, 2023. https://www.ksl.com/article/8824435/nutty-putty-cave-discoverer-doesnt-want-it-to-be-closed.
Canham, Matt. 2004. "BYU student freed from cave." Salt Lake Tribune, Septmber 5: 21.
LaPlante, Matthew. 2009. "Popular cave draws ill-prepared adventurers." Salt Lake Tribune, November 25.
Nokkentved, N.S. 2005. "State may close popular cave." Daily Herald, June 26: 21.
Outside Magazine. 2002. Exploring Caving Accidents, Deaths, and Rescues in the United States. August 3. Accessed October 12, 2023. https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/exploration-survival/exploring-caving-accidents-deaths-and-rescues-united-states/.
Peterson, Chris. 2005. "Father says daughter died doing what she loved." Daily Herald, August 19: 1.
Reporter-Times. 1999. "Deputies free teens from cave." Reporter-Times, July 29: 3.
Tanner, Steve. 1999. "Teens spend long day in dark." Daily Herald, July 29: 1.
Waqar, Jehanzeb. 2022. The Nutty Putty Cave and the untimely death of a young caver. December 15. Accessed October 12, 2023. https://interestingengineering.com/culture/nutty-putty-cave-death-young-caver.
Whitehurst, Lindsay. 2018. Nutty Putty: ‘I really, really want to get out’. July 9. Accessed October 13, 2023. https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/07/09/nutty-putty-i-really/.
—. 2018. Nutty Putty: ‘We’re going to get you out’. July 10. Accessed October 13, 2023. https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/07/10/nutty-putty-were-going/