Arsenic and Old Lace Shawl

So this shawl I made will be auctioned at the Wildclaw Theater benefit tonight.

The Arsenic and Old Lace Shawl, designed by Bill Thoms, was inspired by the stage play and film of the same name, in which two kindly elderly women who run a boarding house use their special elderberry wine to put lonely old men out of their evident misery.

The play in its turn is believed to have been inspired by the true tale of Amy Archer-Gilligan, who ran what may have been the first nursing home in the country, although one hopes that her business plan was unique. Sister Amy charged $1,000 up front for the lifetime care of her elderly charges, a fee which included rat poison for their lemonade when their rooms were needed for new clients. Archer-Gilligan was suspected of killing up to 60 people, but was convicted of just one murder.

While the precise recipe for Mrs. Archer-Gilligan’s lemonade remains a secret, the helpful Brewster sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace reveal that they use one gallon of elderberry wine to one 1 tsp of arsenic, ½ tsp of strychnine, and a “just a pinch” of cyanide. Accordingly, the small bloom at the center of the shawl represents an elderberry flower, surrounded by larger versions of this flower with berries. These are surrounded by leaves of strychnos nux vomica, followed by long chains of cyanide molecules. The skulls of the poor old dears in the cellar are surmounted by peach pits and bitter almonds.

The Wildclaw Theater produces high-quality horror drama entertainment in Chicago. They are currently mounting an excellent production of The Woman in Black.The benefit tonight will feature the Devil in the Woodpile jug band, mentalist Eric Lindburg, and a live ghost story reading by Krista Solis Foster.

Tonight at the Globe Pub, 1934 West Irving Park Road, Sunday, April 2, 6-9 pm. Tickets here, $40.00.


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