Sunday, October 05, 2008


Price Slashed! Motivated Seller!

I'm in New Scientist this week with a favorite obsession of mine -- Orson Fowler and his Victorian fad for octagonal houses. Many old octagons are still around -- check out this strangely engrossing website that exhaustively catalogues them -- but the Fowler's own home in Fishkill NY isn't among them. The massive 60-room octagon that came to be known as "Fowler's Folly" had, shall we say, a checkered history.

Although it had been vaguely known that a Cuban and a falsely identified "murderess" occupied the home in its later years, digging around in archives for this article turned up new details of just how weird things got:
After the typhoid outbreak, the home ran through a succession of colourful owners. Cuban revolutionary Andrés Cassard used it in the 1860s to house a "Cuban Institute and Military Academy." Later, one Emma Cunningham ran it as a boarding house, until she was misidentified as an infamous jilted lover of the same name who had stabbed her dentist beau to death with his own instruments. Her boarders fled and the house went up for sale again.
Last year the Times covered Cunningham's case in all its jawdropping detail when new headstones marked "the most hideous, dysfunctional, psychopathic couplings between man and woman that I’ve ever read."

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