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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fanaticism and Murder.

Little Murders
(From The Wooster Republican, January 2, 1871)
 


Fanaticism and Murder.
 
The Cause of the Murder of the Family Near Dayton, O.

Cincinnati, March 11. – Further particulars in regard to the murder of a woman and three children, near Dayton, Saturday night, indicate the murder was committed by the father, Leonard Marquardt, who is evidently insane from a spiritual cause. The story the man himself tells is that a few days ago he read a chapter to his family from the Bible, and then rising up, accused his wife of being a witch and using witchcraft. He says his eldest daughter confirmed him in his suspicions. He says also that on Saturday night he told his wife he wanted their children to leave; then he and his wife stripped naked, and knelt down and prayed for fifteen minutes. They then stripped two of the children and took them out and drowned them and laid them side by side on the bank of the stream. They then dashed out the brains of the infant and left it in the woods, after which they returned home and went to bed. After lying there for fifteen minutes he told his wife that he wanted to send her to heaven also, and immediately fell upon and strangled her to death. After that he arose and prayed until three o’clock in the morning, when he went to the nearest neighbor and told him the whole story. Marquardt is a Germen farmer, and has been in this country about eighteen years. The murdered woman was his second wife.



"Fanaticism and Murder." Wooster Republican, 14 Mar 1872: 2.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Land of Undiscovered Murders.

In the 1880s, the state of Connecticut experienced a rash of unrelated, unsolved murders which baffled local constabularies, amazed the nation, and amused neighboring New York City.

In an era when sensational murders were followed in the daily papers as if they were serialized mystery stories, avid readers could not help but notice how many of these juicy murders took place in Connecticut and it was just as obvious how many of these murders remained unsolved. A murder story should end with an execution or at least a conviction and this was not happening in Connecticut. Eventually newspapers in other states would run headlines such as “Another Connecticut Murder” as if to warn readers not to become too invested in a story without a decent ending.

Puck, a national magazine of politics and humor who published the picture above in 1883, blamed the officials in Connecticut’s incompetent legal system who managed to twist the most obvious clues into baffling mysteries. “It is our firm belief,” said Puck, “that if a man were to walk into the most frequented street of a Connecticut town, in broad daylight, among a gaping crowd of villagers, and chop a well-known resident into fine-cut with a meat-axe, it would be considered and treated as a mysterious murder.”

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Webster Mystery.


Alice Hoyle had last seen her sister, Lillie the night of September 1, 1887 in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie had left to use the outhouse and Alice fell asleep before she returned. The next morning, Alice was late for work and left in a rush, thinking that her sister had already left for her job. That evening Lillie did not come home and Alice noticed that her watch and jewelry were still on the nightstand where she had left them the night before. Lillie had gone out and never come back. This is the story Alice told the police the following day. As the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

19th Century Serial Killers.

There seems to be an ongoing debate on the question of who was America’s first serial killer. Often the names H. H. Holmes and the Bender Family are mentioned as the first, but both of these suggestions are wrong by decades. At Murder by Gaslight, we are not concerned with who was first since we are only interested in the 19th Century and serial killers have always been with us.

The other debate around serial murder is how to define it. For simplicity we will use the definition agreed upon at a serial murder symposium sponsored by the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime: “The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events.” This differs slightly from a federal law which defines serial murder as “three or more killings,” but, as we shall see, two murders are usually enough to identify the problem. In both definitions motivation was intentionally omitted to avoid complexity.

So here, in reverse chronological order of the year each started killing, is Murder by Gaslight’s list of nineteenth century murderers who fit the FBI’s definition of serial killer:

1895 Theo Durrant Known as “The Demon of the Belfry” Theo Durrant raped, murdered and mutilated Blanche Lamont in the Emanuel Baptist Church on April 3, 1895. Nine days later he did the same to Minnie Williams. Durrant was captured and executed before he could kill more.
1888

H. H. Holmes Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as H. H. Holmes, may have murdered many as 230 people between 1888 and 1894. While only convicted of one murder, Holmes confessed to killing 27 and police believed he burned, asphyxiated and tortured many times that.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Corn Field Murder.


Sarah Alexander, a seventeen-year-old Jewish immigrant from Poland, left her home on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on December 12, 1875, to look for a job. She never returned. When she was still missing the following day her family placed an announcement in the New York Sun asking or information on their missing girl. Her uncle, Israel Rubenstein, noticed in the same edition of the Sun, a description of a murdered girl found in Brooklyn exactly matching that of Sarah Alexander. He later identified the body as his niece Sarah, but he never dreamed that her killer was his own son Pesach.