10. Smarter than the Av-er-age Bear!
Macedonia, 2008; a fed-up beekeeper approached Macedonian authorities because of a bear of a problem. A giant bear had been making a habit of raiding poor Zoron Kiseloski’s beehives which Zoran had hoped to harvest come the right season. Reportedly, Zoran got a generator and kept the area lit in addition to playing loud funky folk music from Serbia which seemed to scare away the bear. Sure enough though, as soon as the generator ran out of power the bear came back and destroyed even more of Mr. Kiseloski’s property. As this case went to court, a defense attorney was provided on behalf of the bear but mostly he defended the State – the bear had no owner and therefore was part of the state wild game population. The judge that presided over the case declared the bear guilty of damages totaling $3,500 for the lost honey and hives which the State could make payable to Mr. Kiseloski. No effort was made to corral, banish or kill the offending bear.
If ever in Macedonia beware: there’s a bear in the woods that’s extremely upset over owing the government just under four grand for a few handfuls of honey so tread carefully!
9. The Cockerel’s Stone
Switzerland, 1471; the setting is Basle, a city of adamant religious and God-fearing folk who had it out for a rooster. Apparently any rooster that was found to lay eggs was practically “aiding and abetting” known sorcerers in the area of Basle who were known to perform Satanic rituals using combined ingredients in potions including the yolkless egg of a rooster and other classic witch lore: newt eyes and frog toes and such. In light of the purportedly evil and black market magic potion crafting, the rooster was tried before a Swiss judge and found guilty if laying an egg that was defiant to nature. As a sentence, this rooster was burned at the stake because it was believed to possess an evil soul akin to the likes of Satan. The kicker argument that won the case for the prosecutor was that while the animal may have involuntarily laid an egg, in the gospel Matthew, there is mention of the Devil possessing animals. At the point this was mentioned, the cock’s doom was sealed and it was expediently burned at the stake.
8. Dong-loving Donkey Declared Decent
France, 1750; the setting is Vanvres – an apparently rural and ‘backwoods’ community in its hay day as it was this year that a man was found guilty and killed as a sentence for raping a female donkey. According to the court decision, bestiality was a sin against God and punishable by death. What was unique is that in a day when animals were put on trial as surely as men, the animal in this case was acquitted because the she-ass was found to be the victim in the case of the rape and had not committed the act in accordance to her own free will. Church leaders and town citizens came together to create a document that was submitted to the court in defense of the poor animal. They collectively stated that they had known the female donkey for years and that she had always been well behaved. An exact statement from the document said of her that she, “in word and deed and in all her habits of life is a most honest creature.” Having the town in her defense, the animal was acquitted. In this case of rape though, the State didn’t have to award time for group therapy and psychologist visits.
When questioned about how she felt knowing that she missed out on possible recuperation time, the donkey said she felt “like a smacked ass”.
7. Bad dog!
Pennsylvania, 1924; Perhaps both as a punishment and a service to the prisoners, Governor Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania ordered a black Labrador retriever to spend life in Philadelphia State Penitentiary; Philly State Pen has since been closed and is featured as a top haunted house attraction during Halloween and has a long history of scary sightings. Whether Pep the Lab had ever been seen by people reporting ghost sightings is a mystery: what is known is the reason why this poor pup wound up in the slammer – he killed Pinchot’s cat.
Apparently from reports, Pinchot held a trial that he presided over to put Pep in jail for life because he killed the Governor’s wife’s cat. Pep died in jail six years later. Needless to say, the old bag loved her cat and a doting husband exercised executive power to issue life without parole to an unsuspecting pooch.
As it turns out, Governor Pinchot had a long standing relationship with the warden of the Eastern State Penitentiary. While he alleged that the dog was sent to the prison to be a mascot for the prisoners, the real motives were in part, at least, related to the death of a cat. During Pep’s six year stay, he was well loved by inmates and prison guards alike and while he may have been on lock down, he always ate and got petted.
6. Caterpillar Crack-Down
France; 1535; in Valence, the Grand Vicar resided and grew illustrious crops every year until this year when an infestation of caterpillars began ruining everything. As he was afforded the right given his position, the Vicar and his attorney fought vehemently against the hairy little critters and won the case against the defense attorney appointed on their behalf (since the caterpillars decided not to show up for court). The decision was final that the insects must be banished from the Diocese. Whether this was a simple decree stating that the caterpillars must leave or if it was a full out Anathemiziation is unclear. One thing is for sure, getting caught up in the legal system during your mid-life crisis as a caterpillar can put a major hampering on your advancement to butterfly – crime doesn’t pay!
5. Big Mary
Virginia, 1916; a tiny town dedicated to the art of mining called St. Paul found in the Clinch River Valley was host to a circus called “Sparks World Famous Shows” when an elephant committed major trouble. While the animal handler was experienced, he was hired practically on the spot and had little if any large animal training skills, Red Eldridge met his end a little too quickly, sources say. According to various reports, anything between an accident to an enraged stomping ensued which crushed poor Red under the weight of a five ton animal. Her usual act of playing musical horns, pitching baseballs and batting quite well was just not in the cards the day that Mr. Eldridge passed under the weight of this monstrous mammoth known as “Mary”. Well, in this story, Mary didn’t get away “red” handed.
Rather than a trial, a mob ensued after the trainer’s death: war and rage were running hot in 1916 and the residents threw such a fit, they wound up deciding and executing a full on lynching of Mary the elephant. This may be astonishingly impractical but believe that these people did all they could before actually killing Mary.
Apparently the crowd could find no better way than to use a crane with reinforced, inches thick chain link to hang the majestic beast. Before they got it right they had also tried electrocuting the animal and they tried shooting Mary. Neither method was successful. Even when they got the bright idea to lynch her, the chain link that they first used snapped and Mary was sent hurtling to the ground, breaking her hip upon impact. On the second run with better chain link, word had spread like wildfire about the elephant hanging and the small town residents young and old watched the event in numbers between two and three thousand.
According to Wade Ambrose who had been just twenty years old at the time of the hanging and had witnessed the event said this, “they had a time getting the chain around her neck. Then they hooked the boom to the neck chain, and when they began to lift her up, I heard the bones and ligaments cracking in her foot. They finally discovered that she’d not been released from the rail.” According to witnesses, before Mary was hung, she was secured by her foot to the rail of the railroad by chain. Well, turns out the executioner did a very shoddy job in the case of Mary… or was it executioners?
4. Underground Mole Operation Busted
Italy, 1519; in the agricultural town of Stelvio, a court declared warrant was placed on the horde of moles responsible for extensive damage to crops. While they were issued the proper summons in the mail, the moles failed to appear in court. Legal consul was provided for the moles that argued on their behalf. While he didn’t win the case, he won small battles through the judiciary system and wound up granting them unique provisions for their removal.
While many cases against animals in this era would result in the order for death, the procurator that was appointed to defend the moles was able to secure them “a free safe-conduct and an additional respite of fourteen days to be granted to all those which are with young and to such as are yet in their infancy,” according to court documents. Originally, the sentence had been exile yet the defense had been able to grant them safe passage from wolves and other hazards. In most cases of infestation, the pests were granted a period of time between five to seven days to vacate a premises though it seemed that the defense held water through their conscientious efforts.
The judge had declared also, that if the rodent infestation did not leave the area of crops within the period of his fourteen allotted days, that they would all be “damned” of sorts. Anathemiziation is a ritual that the very religious judges of the middle ages would use where animals would be considered cursed; a damned animal is of course, much easier to kill without fear of punishment than a holy creature of God. This excommunication of church reserved exclusively for animals would, if nothing else, give the farmers a perceived right and reason to shoot the moles on sight.
3. Bad Example
France, 1457; found heinously disfiguring and ultimately killing a five year old child, a sow and six piglets found their way into a home and began gorging on the young boy who had apparently been sleeping prior to the attack. All seven pigs were put before a court and the sow was found guilty and ordered to be hanged. Because of their mom’s bad influence and their age, the piglets were let off the hook, even though their snouts were covered in blood at the point they were found. Defense in this case was purportedly lacking on behalf of the mother pig – as she was mature it was much tougher to get her off the hook with a dead child still stuck in parts between her grisly teeth. This little piggy was not able to go running back home screaming “wee, wee, wee, wee wee…”
2. These Beetles that Didn’t Reach the Billboard Top 10
France, 1545; a vineyard filled expanse of plains and groves, St. Julien was under attack by snout-beetles that make their stomachs fat on grape vines. A legal battle began over the beetles but just didn’t make it to trial at first. About a year after in 1546, lawyers from both sides of the case got the court to issue a decree that stated that God made the flowers and the herbs and that sustenance was made for both humans and lesser creatures. The judge ordered that the people pray, say High Mass thrice and suffer contrition within the vineyards. According to the residents, the beetles disappeared.
After a long forty-one years in 1587 though, the beetles came back with a vengeance and instead of out of court negotiations, they actually went to trial and received further proceedings and hearings. Apparently this matter lasted months through which the defense attorneys argued that the creatures have a right to life and even when a counter-offer from the judge was proposed where another tract of land was offered for the plaintiffs use, the defense contended that the land was barren and even that the plaintiff’s use of the land would detriment the beetles natural habitat! Whether the snout-beetles were ever brought to sentencing is unknown and a mystery of France. Ironically enough, the last pages of the court documents were eaten up by either insects or rodents. Pests may have won this one on the account of disposing the evidence. Bugs, one; humans with wage loss and bad crops, zero.
1. When it pays for the Rat Race to go Slow
France, 1522; in a court found in the population of Autun, a case had been brought by members of the diocese against “some rats” for their part in destroying barley crops in the area. This was lodged as a formal complaint and the rats were issued a decree to appear in court. The defense lawyer for the rats, Mr. Barthelemy Chassenee, took the matter more seriously than a heart attack.
Chassenee argued fundamentals and wound up winning the case for the rats. When the rats first did not appear in court, their lawyer argued for a continuance because a single summons could not account for all of the rats in question as the complaint had come from several villages across the land. Therefore, all of his clients were not properly informed to show up. The judge granted him the motion that all pulpits of churches would read aloud the declaration of the summons for the rats. A second lack of appearance and Bathelemy Chassenee had yet another great argument. He stated that since the rats would be preparing a mass migration, it would take a little more time. Time was again granted. Upon not having all of the rats present in court on the third appearance, Chassenee moved to the premise that the rats had to be afforded the same legal defense as a human and that if a human cannot safely travel to court, even a writ cannot demand them to enter a known life-threatening situation. Chassenee argued that all cats owned by the plaintiffs and the community at large be locked up on the day that the rats come to court. The plaintiffs demurred the motion though the court found the argue compelling. Because of being unable to settle the proper time frame in which the rats ought to appear in court, the judgment was made by default for the rats.