The Mystery of the Severed Hand

Ah, the Mystery of the Severed Hand; it’s a great title for a post and if you want to know more about said hand, its severing and why it is important for the history of insurance fraud in New Zealand you should either track down a copy of Robyn Gosset’s book `New Zealand Mysteries’ (Bush Press of New Zealand, 1970, chapter 13) or look up the mysterious disappearance of Arthur Howard in 1885ACE. I’m just here to quote this from Gosset:

The case proved to be one of the most interesting heard in this country. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty in the case of the Godfreys but found Howard guilty of a charge of conspiracy.

When the judge pointed out that this was an impossible verdict as Howard could not conspire with himself, the jury retired and returned with a verdict of not guilty against Mr and Mrs Howard on the charge of attempting to defraud and not guilty against the two Godfreys.

I’m curious about the jury finding only one person guilty of being in a conspiracy. As the judge wisely counsels his jurors, this seems impossible.

Is it?

Other people’s thoughts (and my own)

Recently Münzenberg, at Soob, wrote a little piece on Conspiracy versus Conspiracy Theory. A lot of it dovetails nicely into my recent paper on what it is that Conspiracy Theorists believe; Münzenberg’s argument is that just because people believe wacky Conspiracy Theories isn’t a reason to have a wholesale dismissal of belief in potential Conspiracies now. Münzenberg uses the example of pre-9/11 conspiracy theorising:

The example was FBI field agent Ken Williams who wrote the Phoenix Memo about the possibility of Al Qaeda members training in flight schools. His memo was discounted by his leadership. Whether or not they thought his views were conspiratorial we don’t know, but Williams uncovered a smaller part of a greater conspiracy and he was discounted. We all know what happened after Williams theory was discounted right? Thousands of people died. But that is ok, because LE guys like Williams with his crazy theories are “prone to believe in nonsense” according to Shrinkwrapped.

Münzenberg raises the important object to wholesale scepticism of Conspiracy Theories; some of them will turn out to be warranted. We should not forget that.

I (of course) wrote a paper on this very subject just over a year ago (at that Kaikoura conference), which I kept promising to upload the final version thereof and never did. Well, now I have. LaTeX-ed and slightly reformatted (for the modern age), I present:

Conspiracies Then, Now and Tomorrow: How Do Past Instances Affect the Likelihood of Similar Events Now?