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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Concerning Popular Sympathy.

In January 1892, Carlyle W. Harris was convicted of murdering his wife, nineteen-year-old, Helen Potts Harris. It was a particularly ugly story—Harris had bragged about his amorous conquests, saying he had gone so far as to marry a girl to get her into bed, then dump her later. This appeared to be the case with his marriage to Helen Potts; they eloped, kept the marriage a secret, and at his insistence they used assumed names at the ceremony. When Helen’s mother found out and demanded they make the marriage public, Harris decided to murder Helen instead. In spite of an elaborate plot to make the death appear to be accidental poisoning, Harris was convicted and sentenced to the electric chair. The whole story can be found here: The Six Capsules.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Briggs House Murder.

Little Murders

On December 7, 1883, Sadie Reigh went into the dining room of the Briggs House, one of Chicago’s finest hotels, and fired four shots from a revolver, in rapid succession, at Head Waiter Patrick Kinsley. Sadie fled the hotel but was apprehended quickly. Two of her shots had hit their mark; Kinsley died the following day and Sadie Reigh was charged with murder. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Recent Homicides—The Murder Mania.

(From New York Herald, January 28, 1872)



Recent Homicides—
The Murder Mania.
The community is at present in the midst of a series of shocking murders which seem at undefined intervals to sweep over the face of our civilization, darkening it with a tinge of blood. Homicide appears for a while to be epidemic, and men talk gallows philosophy with a tinge of ferocity in sentiment which indicates all the more how the blood-spilling mania seizes mankind in some form or other, whether under the form of murder or killing for murder. Two days ago a wretch named Botts expiated the shooting of “Pet” Halsted, in Newark—moving cause jealousy. In California, Mrs. Fair, is under sentence for killing a man who was about to return to a long-neglected, much-injured wife; jealousy the cause here, too. Stokes killed Fisk—cause, jealousy indirectly; not Stokes’ but Fisk’s jealousy. Two days ago within the very hour that the murderer Botts was hurried out of the world, a girl of eighteen—a Mrs. Hyde—shot her seducer dead. Yesterday in front of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, a German, named Henry Hepner, deliberately shot and killed his own son, and afterwards attempted suicide. And so the cases move out into ghastly prominence, with some hellish distortion of the divine passion, love, at their root. If gallows medicine is the only specific for this epidemic of murder, why is it so rarely administered? At the time that the crimes surge in upon society each murderer and murderess is hanged in imagination, and there only. When homicide fever passes away for a while the murder virus seems to leave the public mind too, and the criminal is forgotten with the crime. The jealous murders, or those founded on sentiment, no matter how morbid, flabby or maudlin, always find their apologists among decent people, who never saw the gashed, riddled or jellied corpse of the victim. These people illustrate the mania by applause of the murder.

The theory of a murder mania is true also of the more brutal classes of crime, such as the car-hook murder, or those that arise out of vulgar brawls in the dens of vice. Awakening unanimous condemnation at the time, they pass into oblivion, and the example idea of the law is frustrated. While in most of the murders which come to light the slayer is found at once or clearly traceable on account of the incidents of passion which were part of the murdered being’s lie, there is the class of murder which is the accompaniment of robbery. The failure to trace this class of criminal is a notorious and deplorable commentary on the efficiency of the police, whose sensibilities alone appear to be in no way quickened by the sudden increase of crime. The Rogers and Nathan murders are as much wrapped in mystery now as at the time of their committal, and the murder of the unfortunate Professor Panormo, a couple of nights ago, seems as if about to be sent to keep company with the other two mockeries of our system of detection of crime, as they all three shake our belief in the police as a protective or preventive force. There must be no effort spared to bring the assassins of Panormo to justice; but the ignorance; sloth and blundering of the Brooklyn police give us little hope of the result. As in the Rosenzweig case, some of the most important links in the chain of evidence have already been worked up by the press writers, and if so-called detectives will only follow the trail public vengeance may yet be satisfied.




"Recent Homicides-the Murder Mania." New York Herald 28 Jan 1872.



Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Silver Lake Mystery.


The discovery of a woman’s body in a barrel, buried in a ravine near Silver Lake, on Staten Island, New York in 1875 began a frantic investigation to determine who she was and how she had died. With three false identifications and at least a dozen other missing girls as candidates for the body in the barrel, it seemed as if the Silver Lake mystery would never be solved. She turned out to be Mrs. Mary Ann Reinhardt, married to a Staten Island candy store owner who decided to take a new wife and dispose of the old one.