No survey of 19th-century journalism would be complete without a mention of The Illustrated Police News — a weekly tabloid that satisfied the prudish public’s appetite for the macabre.
As photography was still in its infancy, the artists who illustrated the crime and adventure stories were able to give free rein to their imaginations. The results were, to say the least, fanciful.
The original report tells of how two burglars were shocked by the contents of a closet, after breaking into a physician’s office in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
The original report reads: “A very terrible story reaches us from Texas. A lady, the wife of a merchant named Wilkinson, was, while on the borders of a forest, attacked by a huge boa constrictor, which wound itself around her body, evidently with the intention of crushing her to death. Mr Wilkinson was aroused by his wife’s piercing shrieks, and hastened at once to the spot. Happily, he did not lose his presence of mind, and he at once proceeded to attack the hideous reptile. At such a time moments seem ages. Mr Wilkinson severed the head of the reptile from its body, besides inflicting other injuries. Mrs Wilkinson, during this double encounter, became insensible, and it is anticipated that the shock to the system is of so serious a nature that a long time must necessarily elapse before she can hope to recover from the effects of the trial she has undergone.”