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  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 43

Cult Rooms

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Deaths rendered gruesome crimes
in divine miniatures.
Words by Stephanie d’Arc Taylor.

Our fascination with murder is enduring. True crime is one of the most popular podcast categories, and police procedurals are bigger business than ever: The CSI franchise alone has an estimated audience of two billion people. But it’s not everywhere you find depictions of ghastly murders that could also be described as twee. In 1940s America, however, Frances Glessner Lee achieved this feat by rendering crime scenes in adorable dollhouse miniatures. 

Glessner Lee, born wealthy in Chicago in 1878, was a strange girl. At age four, she allegedly told her mother that she “had no company but my doll baby and my God.” In addition to typically feminine pursuits like dolls and sewing, she was fascinated by medical texts and Sherlock Holmes. Forbidden to go to school by her father, she was adrift for decades until the rest of her family died, leaving her with the family fortune.

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This story is from Kinfolk Issue Forty-Three

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