Death in a Nutshell.

I was never particularly interested in dolls or dollhouses as a child, but if I'd had something like this, you couldn't have dragged me away:

Frances Glessner Lee, a Chicago heiress, provided for just about every creature comfort when she fashioned 19 dollhouse rooms during the 1940s. She stocked the larders with canned goods and placed half-peeled potatoes by the kitchen sink. Over a crib, she pasted pink striped wallpaper.

But you might not want your dolls to live there.

Miniature corpses  --  bitten, hanged, shot, stabbed and poisoned  --  are slumped everywhere. The furnishings show signs of struggles and dissolute lives; liquor bottles and chairs have been overturned; ashtrays overflow.

Lee, a volunteer police officer with an honorary captain's rank whose father was a founder of the International Harvester Co., used her ghoulish scenes to teach police recruits the art of observation.

She called her miniatures the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, after a saying she had heard from detectives: "Convict the guilty, clear the innocent and find the truth in a nutshell." At her thousand-acre estate in Bethlehem, N.H., she set up a workshop called the Nutshell Laboratories. The first woman to become a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, she noticed how often officers mishandled evidence and mistook accidents for murders and vice versa. After endowing a new department in legal medicine at Harvard, she created the Nutshells as classroom tools, packing them with tiny but detectable clues: lipstick smears on a pillowcase, a bullet embedded in a wall.

"The inspector may best examine them by imagining himself a trifle less than six inches tall," she suggested in her curriculum notes.

NYT  review by Eve Kahn (at SFGate) of  The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corinne May Botz,  via Bioephemera. The photo is from an exhibit called Visible Proofs at the National Library of Medicine.

By the way, do you notice anything odd about the placement of the corpse in the photo?

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Well, i think it's obvious what's odd about this particular case. The women was murderd! But there is more evidence to be seen then just her positioning. If you look closely, you can see a cake in the opening of the oven, along with kitchen gear used for making the dough. Now the story the murderer is trying to tell us is that of an accidental tragedy, caused by an unsuspicious housewive who left her oven on after the cake was done.

Now my question is, why would she leave her oven on if the cake she was baking was done, knowing that it would burn her cake?

Answer: she wouldn't, not by life anyhow. So she had to be dead before the monoxide poisoning could have had it's effect.

Not really deductive reasoning but i bet old Sherlock would be proud.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Her feet are under the stove. It looks like she was moved and positioned because no one dies in a violent death and just has there arms perfectly straight at the sides.
Also there's no blood.
Was it perhaps carbon monoxide poisoning? But then she would have to be pliable (like drugged?) to the murderer to place as they wished.

I think these would make a neat little mystery online game!!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Death in a Nutshell."

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More