Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tamam Shud, And A Bizarre Connection?

What does the mystery of Tamam Shud, and John Willie's 1940's fetish magazine Bizarre have in common? 

Read on...

and I'll tell you, and then perhaps you too can help solve a mystery.

Tamam Shud in brief:
A dead man was found lying on Somerton Beach in Adelaide Australia on December 1st 1948. This man could not be identified by the residents, carried no ID, and was unknown in Australia. He died from an apparent poisoning (from possibly having been given an overdose of the muscle relaxant digitalis).

He was an extremely well dressed man whose coat was made from a feathered stitching not available in Australia at the time. The stitching suggested the coat (and possibly the man himself) came from North America (perhaps an immigrant of eastern european descent). 

What's so interesting is this man is said to have had extremely well developed calf muscles, abnormally high and well developed ones, as if he were a man who frequently wore women's high heels, and his feet were also discovered to be curiously 'wedge shaped'. His suitcase was later found at the Adelaide train station with an odd combination of items and all of the tags ripped out.

The book in question
Despite the fact there was no motive ever determined, traces of violence, or anyone capable of positively identifying him, one clue stood out after having been missed by all previous investigations. This clue came in the form of a small piece of paper, having been sown into a secret pocket hidden within the dead man's pants. On the paper were the words Tamam Shud, persian meaning "It is Ended"

From Khayyam's Rubaiyat

After the news went public, a doctor told investigators that on the previous day, a copy of Omar Khayyam's The Rubaiyat  had been thrown into the open window of his car, and that book turned out to be the source of the ripped piece of paper.

Within the book was found some scribbled letters appearing to be a code of some sort, but to this day, it has yet to be cracked. (Personally, I think the 'code' is bogus, probably a 'red herring' placed by the murderer to make investigators think the man was involved in espionage)

Following the evidence, investigators noticed the name of a local woman had been written in the book. She was questioned by authorities, yet her identity was never officially disclosed and she was henceforth simply referred to by the pseudonym 'Jestyn'. 

The woman denied ever knowing the man, yet was visibly shaken when she was shown a plaster bust of the dead man. (other leads suggest the man may have been the father of Jestyn's son, who had similar and unique ear and tooth abnormalities.) When they questioned her, she also told investigators that her neighbours had informed her that an 'unknown man' had come by earlier in the year looking for her. 

Jestyn admitted to having given a copy of The Rubaiyat to a man named Alfred Boxall during the war years, but police were able to confirm that Boxall was at that time still 'alive and well' and living in Melbourne. 


John Willie in brief:
Willie was born in Singapore, grew up in England then moved to Australia, where he became a fetish photographer in Sydney. He married one of his models in 1942 a woman named Holly Faram. However, later that decade (1946),  Willie left his wife behind, and decided to move to North America. He set up shop in New York City, yet officially published and distributed his magazine via his post office box in another city, and another country, in Montreal, Canada… Why?

Published periodically between 1946 and 1959.  His magazine Bizarre concerned itself with all things fetish, not just photos of deviant Dominatrixes sporting rubber macs, and damsels in bondage, but also images which included body piercing, tattooing and other forms of body modification not socially acceptable during the forties, and also the corseting and the wearing of extremely high heels, by not only women, but by men too.

All this to say Bizarre was pretty racy stuff for the 1940's, the magazine contained letters to the editor confessing to hidden fetish desires and lifestyles. But there's another piece of very noteworthy info that ties this all together:  Willie adorned his magazine consistently with quotes from
the12th century poet Omar Khayyam. His poetry was a constant throughout Willie's twenty volumes of Bizarre.

The magazine was filled with delightfully naive fetish photography (way cooler than the extreme stuff you see today) He published correspondences from readers who confessed to him their hidden fetishistic desires, and lifestyles. 

Just Supposin'
Now I'm just supposin' here, supposin' what if this unknown man with the american made suit, and well developed  womanly calf muscles, holding a piece of paper with a quote by Omar Khayam mysteriously sown into a secret pocket in his trousers had gone to Australia  (a once in a lifetime trip for most in those days) to perhaps visit someone he may have made contact with secretly via Willie's magazine. Not a far fetched speculation given the nature of his possible, and  socially unacceptable fetish,  and what if, and once again I'm just supposin' here, that the person he met had 'other plans for him' (maybe robbery, extortion, or even moderately less sinister possibilities)?

Willie's wife was living in Australia at the time, Could Willie and his wife have been working together, or on behalf of others who were running some kind of correspondence scam via his magazine? Or even used the correspondence section to lure lustful rogues to faraway lands? Could there be a connection?

After moving to Hollywood, California in the late 1950's, John Willie developed a brain tumour in 1961. This prompted him to destroy all his files, (why?) and move back to England where he eventually died in 1962. (I don't know if his wife joined him)

Why did Willie destroy all his files once he learned he was dying, to protect his wife, to seal a mystery, or conceal knowledge of other criminal activity?

A real life Glen Or Glenda Down Under?
It's worthy of investigation at the very least. I'm not suggesting for a moment the Willies were involved in the Tamam Shud body, but given the nature and distance of their odd separation, and Willie's involvement in the highly clandestine world of fetishism, there might be a connection somehow, so it's at least worth taking a closer look.

Given Jestyn's severe reaction to seeing the dead man's bust, the connection to the writings of Omar Khayyam, the lower leg clues of a cross dresser of unknown origin, wearing a coat made with a feathered American stitch not seen in Australia at the time, the local residence of Willie's wife, the cautious nature of Willie's mail order fetish business and correspondences, my 'spidey senses' are sniffing out some kind of connection. 

Could Willie's magazine have privately offered (perhaps for a small fee) the service of making contacts between mutually interested fetishists? Could this man have been lured down under and found himself on the losing end of someone else's diabolical scheme? Someone had wanted the Tamam Shud quote, and the man's body to be found, so once again the question remains why?

Given the fact that there was a greater stigma associated with fetishism during that era than there is today, it would be understandable that this very private man would have had engaged in his 'secret life' with other like minded individuals. One could go wild speculating and theorizing, so why not?  

Is it possible the muscle relaxant given to him was meant merely to sedate him, placing him on the beach to wake up dazed and confused once the drug wore off, without any recollection of how he ever got there?

Now mercifully, I will put down my monocle, and take off my investigatorial dunce cap, and conclude without a shadow of a doubt, that this is officially  'an open and Shud case'  …ba-dum-pum…tschhhhh!

Moral of the story: Men should not walk around wearing women's high heels!

Sherlock CT   May 2012

Eyewitness Report: Jestyn's Reaction


  1. Sounds plausible to me.

  2. Jessica Ellen Harkness

    married Prosper McTaggart Thomson.

    She was Jestyn.

    Check wikipedia talk page