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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Prophet Matthias


From the outside, Mount Zion, near Sing Sing, New York, looked like any other well-ordered farmhouse in the summer of 1834. Inside, however, the residents of Mount Zion had little in common with their neighbors. They were a diverse group—from former slaves to prosperous businessmen—devotedly following The Prophet Mathias, self-proclaimed Spirit of Truth. Mathias ran the farm as an Old Testament patriarchy, controlling all aspects of his followers’ lives, from diet to sex partners. But did he also control whether they lived or died?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lizzie Borden: Girl Detective

Lizzie Borden: Girl Detective


Finally someone qualified to solve the Whitechapel murders.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Great Sheedy Murder Case


The evening of January 11, 1891, John Sheedy stepped out of the front door of his Lincoln, Nebraska home and was attacked by a man charging from the shadows. Sheedy was struck three times in the side of the head with a leather-covered steel cane. A powerful but controversial man, John Sheedy owned an illegal gambling casino, and had enemies on both sides of the law. But when it was learned that the assailant may have been paid by Sheedy’s wife who delivered the death blow herself by poisoning his coffee, the unfolding tale of adultery, miscegenation, conspiracy, extortion, and murder threatened to undermine the social decorum and moral order of Lincoln.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rhode Island Inequity

When the body of Amasa Sprague was found shot and beaten on the road between his factory and his mansion on New Year’s Day, 1844, suspicion fell on three members of Sragueville’s Irish community. Nicholas Gordon was known to hold a grudge against Amasa Sprague; John and William Gordon would do whatever their older brother wanted. It was a conspiracy theory, based more on bigotry and class warfare than hard evidence. The arrest of three immigrants would strain the already tense relations between Rhode Island’s English and Irish communities.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Rash of Murders

There has been a rash of 19th Century American murder postings around the web recently.  Here is a samplng:

from Ephemeral New York
Grisly murders rock 19th century Staten Island

from History and Women
The Murder of Helen Jewett
(more on Helen Jewett)

from Nobody Move!
This Day in Crime History July 2 1881 - The Assassination of James A. Garfield
This Day in Crime History July 8 1898 - The murder of "Soapy" Smith

from The Bowery Boys
First officer Down: Highbinder riots at St Peter's Church

from JTR Forums
1885 Austin Texas Murders

from Clews
Before H.H. Holmes, there was...Harry Hayward
(more in Harry Hayward and H.H. Holmes)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Richardson-McFarland Tragedy

On the afternoon of November 25, 1869 Daniel McFarland walked into the office of the New York Tribune and there shot and killed Albert Richardson, a Tribune editor. Richardson had planned to marry Daniel McFarland’s ex-wife, Abby Sage McFarland. The facts of the murder were irrefutable, but the trial that followed focused instead on the behavior of Abby McFarland. Was her adultery an attack on the sanctity of marriage that drove Daniel McFarland to murderous insanity? Or had she been justified in leaving a drunken, abusive husband, running to the safety of another man’s arms?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Poor Ellen Smith


The morning of July 21, 1892 the body of Ellen Smith was found behind the Zinzendorf Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She had been shot through the heart. The story of Ellen Smith’s murder is a classic tale of seduction and betrayal. A beautiful but innocent young woman strays from the path of righteousness for a faithless lover who soon becomes her killer. It is the stuff of Victorian cautionary literature and mountain murder ballads.