Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Kaiser Conspiracy.

 On a road outside of Norristown, Pennsylvania, on October 28, 1896, Frank Mancil and his daughter came upon an agitated man shouting, “Murder! Help!” The man was bleeding from his arm, and, in a buggy nearby, a woman lay prostrate.

The man, Charles O. Kaiser, Jr., told Mancil that he and his wife Emma had been attacked by highwaymen who shot them both then left with their watches and her purse containing $53. Mancil thought the woman was only unconscious, so they went in two carriages to the office of Dr. Mann in Bridgeport. Dr. Mann could see right away that Emma Kaiser had died from a bullet wound to the left temple.

They returned to Norristown and reported the crime to the police. Kaiser told them the highwaymen snatched a diamond stud from his shirt and in the process pulled two buttons off his vest. He said a highwayman shot his wife as she was drawing her watch-chain over her head to hand it to him. The highwayman meant to shoot Kaiser in the head as well, but he raised his arm, and the bullet hit him in the shoulder.

The Norristown Police were skeptical of Kaiser’s story; his grief seemed overblown. Frank Mancil led detectives to the crime scene, where a search of the area uncovered Mr. Kaiser’s watch and Mrs. Kaiser’s empty purse hidden under a stone. About 60 yards away, they found a .32-calibre revolver with two empty chambers. Kaiser’s vest buttons were found 180 feet from the attack.

The autopsy on Emma Kaiser determined that the bullet could only have been fired by someone close to her on the buggy, not out in the roadway. An investigation revealed that the Kaisers made a joint will two months earlier, each naming the other as beneficiary, with a peculiar clause providing both bodies be cremated. Within the past five months, Kaiser had also taken out life insurance policies on his wife and himself, totaling over $10,000. Some of the premiums, amounting to $54, were about to fall due, and Kaiser would probably have difficulty meeting them.

For several hours, the police questioned Charles Kaiser then informed him he was under arrest for murdering his wife. Kaiser replied that he would commit suicide before he would be locked up and quickly pulled out a penknife and lunged at his throat. Two detectives overpowered him before he could injure himself. The following morning Kaiser appeared to have several epileptic fits; detectives said he was shamming.

Charles Kaiser was 24 years old at the time of the murder; his wife, Emma, was 32. They met two years earlier in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he worked as a crayon artist, living in a hotel where Emma worked as a waitress. Charles fell ill, and Emma nursed him back to health; they fell in love and married in Philadelphia. Eventually, they settled in Norristown, where Charles opened a store.

Prior to the murder, witnesses saw Charles Kaiser together with an unknown couple; a well-dressed man and a woman in a black dress (whom the press would dub “the mysterious woman in black”). When Charles and Emma left on their buggy ride, the afternoon of October 28, witnesses saw the mysterious couple following them in a buggy.

By the time of the inquest, the couple was identified. The man was insurance agent, James Clemmer, and the mysterious woman in black was Lizzie De Kalb. The coroner’s jury determined that Emma Kaiser was murdered by her husband in conspiracy with others. A reward was offered for Clemmer and De Kalb, who were still at large.

In February 1897, Charles Kaiser was tried and convicted of first-degree murder. That July, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear Kaiser’s appeal for a new trial. In November, as Kaiser awaited their decision, the police arrested Lizzie De Kalb. She was living in Bristol, Pennsylvania, where “a sneaking lover” betrayed her for the reward.

De Kalb was ready to confess. “I do not propose to put my neck in a noose,” she said. “I mean Clemmer.”

When first arrested, she said that Clemmer jumped out of the buggy as they neared the Kaisers and left her with the reins. Kaiser held his wife as Clemmer approached with the revolver, but Clemmer appeared to lose his courage. Then Kaiser hissed, “Shoot, dog, or I’ll kill every one of you.”

After meeting with an attorney, Lizzie De Kalb issued a statement—21 typed pages—that was significantly different than her original one. James Clemmer, she said, had hypnotic powers, and she was under his spell. He spoke, and she obeyed. Lizzie had no prior knowledge of a conspiracy to kill Mrs. Kaiser. 

Clemmer jumped off the buggy, put on a black overcoat and false whiskers, and walked toward the Kaisers. Lizzie had no idea what he intended to do. She heard two shots in the distance but did not see what happened. He came back to the buggy, and they sped away. In Norristown, they took a trolley to Philadelphia, and after they checked into a hotel, he told her what happened. After her arrest, Lizzie confessed to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Following Lizzie De Kalb’s confession, Charles Kaiser dropped his appeal for a new trial and made a confession of his own. He, too, was under James Clemmer’s hypnotic power. Kaiser was upset upon learning that his wife had been untrue, and Clemmer came up with the insurance scam and the plot to kill her. He convinced Kaiser that, since Clemmer would pull the trigger, Kaiser would not be guilty of murder. 

James Clemmer was arrested on November 26, 1897, in Trenton, New Jersey, after responding to a decoy personal ad purporting to be from Lizzie. He agreed to return to Pennsylvania, where he was tried and convicted of first-degree murder in July 1898. He would hang on May 18, 1899.

Charles Kaiser was sentenced to hang on September 6, 1898. On August 18, Warden Gotwals of the Norristown Jail met with the Board of Prison Inspectors to discuss placing a death watch on Charles Kaiser until his execution. When they went to question Kaiser, they found him dead on the floor. He had cut both wrists with a broken bedspring and strangled himself with bedsheets.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Mrs. Halliday in Handcuffs.


In 1894, Lizzie Halliday was sentenced to death for murdering her husband and two others and. A state commission judged her insane and commuted her sentence to life in an asylum. Though she exhibited all the signs of a woman who was violently insane, many believed that Lizzie was merely a gifted actress.

At Mattawan State Asylum, she killed her favorite nurse with a pair of scissors. No one disagreed when the press dubbed Lizzie Halliday “Worst woman on earth.”

Read the full story here: The Worst Woman on Earth.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Rogers Murder.

The morning stillness on East 12th Street, New York City, was shattered on December 31, 1869, by cries of “Murder!” Charles M. Rogers lay bleeding on the sidewalk in front of his house as two men were seen running from the scene.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Rescue of Ameer Ben Ali.

This week’s guest post from Howard and Nina Brown of Jack The Ripper Forums - Ripperology For The 21st Century ( continues the story of Ameer Ben Ali (aka “Frenchie”) who was falsely convicted of the 1891 murder of Carrie Brown. "The Rescue of Ameer Ben Ali" focuses on the evidence that led to his release.


In the last Murder by Gaslight article of ours, along with the photograph of Ameer Ben Ali, an article was transcribed which featured a prominent stage actor proclaiming he had been told by Ali's court interpreter that Ali had confessed to being in the same room as murder victim Carrie Brown and inferring that he had committed the heinous crime. 

Whether Ali stated that he committed the crime is irrelevant since he didn't murder Carrie Brown.  He didn't have the key which was necessary to lock the door to Room 31.  Within days a handful of people associated with the real killer's employer knew that and it would not be until a decade passed that this miscarriage of justice would be resolved resulting in the pardoning & exoneration of the Algerian.  There were three efforts towards pardoning Ali; one following the sentencing, another in 1897, and finally in 1901.

The proof of his innocence all along was the key to Room 31 at the East River Hotel taken by the killer and left by the same at the residence of his then employer, 51-year-old George Damon of Cranford, New Jersey.

Damon was the proprietor of a printing firm at 44 Beekman Street, Manhattan, which was not far from the Brown murder site.  Damon was also a pillar of his community in Cranford, situated in Union County 18 miles from Manhattan.  Damon, in addition to his printing firm, dabbled in real estate, held patents, & was a member of the Chamber of Commerce.  This photo is of the Damon residence as it looked 100 years ago. 


Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Murder in Pantomime.

Lizzie Lochner returned home from a night on the town sometime after midnight the morning of June 2, 1894. Her husband Joseph, who stayed home with the children—4-year-old Rosa and her infant brother— berated Lizzie for her for coming in so late. They began to loudly argue the matter as they had done many times before.

Their lodger, Gus Englund, was used to being awakened by the Lochner’s arguing but this night was different. The voices grew to a crescendo followed by a few minutes of silence, then the sound of a gunshot. Joseph Lochner burst into his room and said, “Oh, Gus, Gus, I have done it. I have killed my wife.” He then ran out of the building by the back door.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Murdered Alice Brown.


Read the whole story of Alice Brown's mysterious, 1897 murder in Boston here: 15 Corning Street.

Illustrations from Boston Post, November 6, 1897.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Good News! Three Cheers!


The Hangman, a newspaper dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment, celebrated the commutation of Orrin DeWolf’s death sentence on September 9, 1845.

Did this young, drunken, diseased, conniving, duplicitous, murderous, libertine deserve mercy? You decide: Orrin DeWolf

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Mabbitt Mystery.

Luella Mabbitt.
Luella Mabbitt and Amer Green made a handsome couple. 23-year-old Luella was an attractive,   well-formed young lady—“of the blonde type of beauty and very winning in her ways.” Amer Green, 34-years-old, was tall and good-looking with manly features. But Luella’s father, Peter Mabbitt, did not approve of his daughter’s suiter, so, reluctantly, Luella told Amer that they had to break up. She would return his letters and he was to return hers.

On August 6, 1886, Amer Green, with his friend William Walker took a buggy ride to the Mabbitt home in Wildcat, Indiana. Her parents saw Luella leave the house with the letters, but she never came back.

Peter Mabbitt believed that his daughter had been kidnapped by Amer Green. Green and Walker were questioned by authorities, but both denied any knowledge of Luella’s whereabouts. In the days that followed search, parties were organized in the area around Wildcat Creek. Peter Mabbitt hired a private detective and offered a reward of $500 for the apprehension of his daughter’s kidnappers.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Mrs. Minnie Walkup.

The beautiful Minnie Wallace Walkup, married at 16, widowed a month later, may have gotten away with murder...three times.

Read her story here: Vamp of New Orleans.

Picture from National Police Gazette, November 14, 1885.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Connell Homicide.

A little past midnight, January 4, 1868, William Connell, age 21, was standing at the corner of Bowery and Bayard Streets, New York City, conversing with Maggie Brown and Emma Gardner, two young women in their teens. Richard Casey came up to them and flourished some bank notes in the faces of the women in an insulting manner, implying that they were prostitutes—which in fact they were. Connell took offense to the action and asked Casey what he meant by it. Casey asked if he was going to defend the women and Connell replied that he was a stranger there but did not like such conduct.

“Well I’m no stranger here,” said Casey, and knocked Connell’s hat off his head.

As Connell stooped to pick up his hat, Casey drew a revolver from a breast pocket and fired at his head. Connell cried out in agony and fell into the gutter; Casey shot him again. Then he pointed the pistol at Maggie Brown and said with a foul epithet, “I’ll finish you too.”

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Rough on Rats.


Rough on Rats was a cheap but effective over-the-counter rat poison. It was a very popular product, and in the 1880s, the company published an almanac and had its own theme song.


R-r-rats! Rats! Rats! Rough on     Rats,

Hang your dogs and drown 

    your cats;

We give a plan for every man

To clear his house 

    with Rough on Rats.

Reportedly, Rough on Rats also caused an increase in human deaths by poisoning. While that might be difficult to prove statistically, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Here are three cases, from the 1880s, of murder by Rough on Rats:

Monster or Maniac?
Though Sarah Jane Whiteling poisoned her husband at the devil’s request and murdered her daughter to save her from a life of sin, her jury did not believe her insane.
A Troubling Spirit.
Haunted by his victim’s face, John Delaney confessed to poisoning Mary Jane Cox.
The "Rough on Rats" Murder.
After deliberating for 18 hours, the jury found Mrs. Korun Larson guilty of poisoning John Guild with Rough on Rats.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

A Fatal Jealousy.

Deidrich Steffens, a bottler of lager beer, was making a delivery on Park Avenue in Brooklyn, the afternoon of April 17, 1883, when he was called to by John Cordes, a wholesale grocery dealer. Cordes was standing in front of the grocery store of Steffens’s friend, Diedrich Mahnken, and as Steffens crossed the street, Mahnken emerged from his store brandishing a “British bull dog” revolver. Without a word Mahnken fired five shots into Deidrich Steffens—four to the head, one to the chest.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Fiend, or Innocent Victim?


The prosecution claimed that Adolph Luetgert, "Sausage King of Chicago," dissolved his wife Louisa in a vat of lye, but without a body, how could they prove she was dead?

Read the full story here: The Sausage Vat Murder.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The East River Murder.

The morning of February 8, 1898, the nude, dismembered body of a man was found floating in the East River, near a ferryboat slip on Roosevelt Street, New York City. The entire front portion of the head was missing, leaving only the right ear and a portion of the back of the head. The left leg was missing from a point just above the knee and the right leg had been cut off at the hip. Both arms had been cut off at the shoulder.

The cuts were smooth and intentional, eliminating the possibility that they had been taken off by steamboat paddle-wheels. The police were convinced that the man was murdered and butchered. 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Who Murdered Dr. Cronin?


Old Cap. Collier, the fictional dime novel detective, tries his hand at solving the murder of Dr. Cronin.

The real murder of Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin was stranger than fiction, with the good doctor found naked and dead in a Chicago sewer after confronting the corrupt leaders of an Irish secret society. As Edmund Pearson said, “It was one of those murders over which men nod their heads and look portentous and intimate that ‘everything hasn’t come out yet.’”

Read the whole story here: Clan-na-Gael and the Murder of Dr. Cronin.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Theatrical Execution.

David J. Wood owned a thriving leather and shoe business in Dansville, New York, in the 1850s. He and his wife Rhoda were busy raising two children but found time to be active in church and civic events, always willing to donate their time and money to better the community. They were wealthy, prominent, and well-liked citizens of Dansville, living a perfect life—until the arrival of David’s brother Isaac.

Isaac L. Wood was 34 years old in 1854, when he left his home in New Jersey, hoping to start a new life with David’s help. Isaac was only eight years old when David left the family home in New Providence, New Jersey. The two brothers had not been close, but David was happy to give Isaac a helping hand, loaning him money to buy a small piece of land. Isaac began farming, making payments to his brother when he could. 

But Farming did not suit Isaac, and within a year, he gave it up and went to live in his brother’s house. He embarked on a career speculating in fruits, butter, eggs, and other produce. It was widely known in Dansville that David was still helping him out with loans and endorsements. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Dark Kentucky Tragedy.

Col. A.M. Swope and Col. William Cassius Goodloe happened to enter the Lexington, Kentucky post office at the same time on the afternoon of November 8, 1889. They greeted each other with icy glares then went about their business. Both men were leaders in the Republican Party in Kentucky, and both had national reputations. Swope was the former Internal Revenue Collector for the district, Goodloe had been Minister to Belgium, a state senator, and was the current Internal Revenue Collector; both men fought for the Union in the Civil war, and both rose to the rank of Colonel.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Two Shots, a Shriek.

“A dark, mean little bedroom, a woman, half-undressed, dirty and pale, and blear-eyed from long excesses, a male companion, leaning over her with a revolver at her head, two shots, a shriek, an ugly hole under the ear, and the vice and crime of Boston had added another murder to its long score.” The Boston Herald’s vivid description of the murder of Josephine Brown on Christmas Eve, 1891, served to underscore her sad and dismal life. Married and divorced by age twenty, Josephine’s family blamed her for the failed marriage and turned her away. Left to fend for herself, Josephine Brown spent the next twenty years as a prostitute.

Joe, as she was known on the street, had been working in a brothel run by Mrs. Mary Ann Fisher on Pitt Street, in Boston’s West End. The house had recently closed down with the arrest of Mrs. Fisher, and Joe was working as a street walker. The demise of Mrs. Fisher’s house meant more than the loss of shelter, it left Joe without protection from the potential violence of her profession, and without anyone to keep her away from whiskey, which, when she was left on her own, became Joe’s consuming passion.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Meyer Poisoning Sensation.


Dr. Henry Meyer, his wife Maria, and their associate Ludwig Brant devised an elaborate plan to defraud insurance companies. Maria and Brant held a mock wedding then took out several insurance policies on his life with Maria as beneficiary. The plan was to then obtain a cadaver, declare it was the body of Ludwig Brant, and collect the insurance. Unbeknownst to Brant, Dr. Meyer and Maria decided they didn’t need a cadaver; it was much easier just to poison Brant.

The plot was revealed after Brant’s death and authorities discovered that the doctor and his wife had been runnng similar scams throughout the country. Read the full story here: Professional Poisoners.

Picture from: “Sun Pictures of the Day,” Lowell Sun, July 21, 1893.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ameer Ben Ali & an Actor's Tale.

This week we are pleased to present a guest post from Howard and Nina Brown, experts on the Whitechapel Murders of Jack the Ripper. They are the owners of JTRForums.Com and have been Ripperologists for 20 years. Along with the website, JTRForums.Com, they also have pages on Twitter, Facebook, and a You Tube page. They're always looking for people interested in the Whitechapel Murders and can be contacted at

The article is on Ameer Ben Ali, convicted and later exonerated of the murder of Carrie Brown in New York City in 1891, and includes a rare photograph of Ali.

Ameer Ben Ali & an Actor's Tale.

Carry Brown
Carrie Brown

On April 24th, Nina and I decided to look into newspapers for articles in commemoration of the 129th anniversary of the murder of Carrie Brown at the East River Hotel in bowels of the Lower East Side of New York City.   There's a considerable amount of newspaper coverage of her murder during 1891 and the following years already on JTR Forums & on Casebook and the thought of finding something new was not something we were sure we'd do.  

As fate would have it, we did just that.

I came across the following article in the Buffalo Courier, containing the bold headline exclaimed that Glaswegian-born thespian, William H. Thompson, expressed his understanding that that the court interpreter for Ameer Ben Ali actually revealed to him, personally, that Ali confessed to the Brown murder. 

I haven't been able to find another article in which a confession by Ali in any form is made to the murder in Room 31 and obviously none that refute the charges made within it.  That doesn't mean one doesn't exist or that if it does it won't be found.