The Magic Lantern Punch and Judy Clockwork Orange Horrorshow
The current controversy over whether murders have been inspired by violent films or computer games is nothing new. In fact, similar debates have been raging in London for almost 2000 years.
In Roman London, this controversy first reared its head after the unveiling of a new mosaic of the fall of Carthage at the forum. Its depiction of the violence inflicted on the stricken city was said to be graphic, and within a week a man was found two street away cut into half-inch squares. The mosaic was swiftly covered up.
Another notable instance was the infamous furore that surrounded the growing popularity of magic lantern picture shows in the 1830s. At one particular establishment - Messrs Lagrange And Their Coloured Light Amazeum - a show entitled "Mrs X Walks Her Dogs" is believed to have sparked a craze for dog ownership - a harmless enough pursuit, you might think, until you consider that the show ran as an unending loop and thus led to several cases of exhaustion and The Vapours.
Indeed the Lagranges' establishment seems to have courted controversy. A showing entitled "The Wronged Customer Wreaks His Bloody Revenge" was accused of directly leading to the Umbrella Salesmen Massacre of 1839. The Lagranges hotly contested this claim, but undermined their case by following The Wronged Customer with an attraction called "The Satisfied Customer Gives The Lagrange Brothers All Their Money".
We shall not linger long on the Punch & Judy killings of the 1890s but to say that the culprit was almost certainly a man in a crocodile suit rather than an actual crocodile, all shows at the time carried clear warnings that that was not the way to do it, and that the murderer's modus operandi led directly to important safety laws that finally banned the inclusion of six-inch nails and lead shot in sausages.
On a related note, the world’s first clockwork orange was shown at the Great Exhibition in 1851. The spring-driven geared citrus could be an orange at three different speeds, easily adjustable by switch, and only needed winding every four hours. It was a popular success, easily outselling Stevenson’s Patent Steam-Piston Pear, which had a tendency to overheat.