Friday, November 20, 2009
Adolph Luetgert was known as the “Sausage King” of Chicago. He owned the A.L. Luetgert Sausage & Packing Company and when business was booming, he was a successful, highly regarded family man. But when the business turned bad and money was scarce, he and his wife Louise were constantly fighting. On May 1, 1897 Louise was reported missing. Adolph claimed she had walked out on him but the police had other ideas. They accused him of killing his wife and dissolving her body in a vat of boiling potash.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The New York City newspapers referred to her as “the girl in green” - green was her color and it caught reporters' eyes. 23 year old Helen Jewett was a beautiful, intelligent, sophisticated prostitute at Rosina Townsend’s upscale brothel not far from New York’s city hall. Her clients included politicians, lawyers, journalists, and wealthy merchants. One cold April night in 1836 one of them smashed her skull with an axe and set her bed on fire. It was the story that shocked New York and gave birth to sensational journalism.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Joseph Knapp, expected a sizable inheritance on the death of his great uncle, 82 year old Captain Joseph White. But he hadn’t the patience to wait for the old man’s natural death, and in 1830 he and his brother John hired a hit man to murder him. They probably would have gotten away with their scheme, but they were prosecuted by the great Daniel Webster whose courtroom skill and persuasive oration set legal precedent and won their convictions.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
The goal of Murder by Gaslight is to bring them all together, the great and the small, to retell their tales, to point the way for those seeking more detail, and most importantly, to provide a forum to share facts and opinions. So here they are, America’s Victorian murders – sometimes gruesome, often shocking, always fascinating. Welcome to Murder by Gaslight.
Once again, welcome to Murder by Gaslight.
Visitors enjoying the color and light of the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago had no idea that not far away Dr. Henry Howard Holmes had set up his own dark, private exhibition of death and torture on a scale comparable to that of the fair itself. Though sometimes mistakenly called America's first serial killer, he could very well be its most prodigious. Though convicted of only one murder, Holmes confessed to 27 and the actual total could have been as high as 230.
The haunting folk ballad "Omie Wise" has kept the story of Naomi Wise's murder alive for more than two hundred years. According to legend, Naomi Wise, a poor but beautiful orphan girl, was courted by Jonathan Lewis, son of a wealthy farmer. His mother persuaded him to stop the courtship but not before Naomi became pregnant with Jonathan's child. To avoid marriage and scandal, Jonathan Lewis drowned Naomi Wise in Deep River. That is the traditional tale of Naomi Wise, but how much of it is true?
When Mary Rogers, the young clerk at John Anderson’s tobacco store, disappeared in July 1841, Manhattan’s literary elite took notice. James Fennimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Edgar Alan Poe all frequented Anderson’s shop and were enchanted by the beautiful cigar girl. When her battered corpse was found on the shore of the Hudson River, they helped make her death a national story. Though many have speculated on the identity of Mary Rogers's killer, her death remains one of America’s great unsolved mysteries.
The story of Stagolee has been sung by troubadours for more than a hundred years. Each singer seems to know a different version and tell a different story of its origin. Under a variety of names - Stagolee, Staggerlee, Stack O' Lee, Stack O' Dollars - this outlaw has become an American legend and an archetype of African-American folklore. But his story is true. When Stack Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons, in a fight over a Stetson hat, in Bill Curtis's Saloon, on Christmas night 1895, the legend was born.