Saturday, June 24, 2017

Boston Detectives—So Called.

(From the New York Herald, November 5, 1875.)

Boston Detectives—So Called.

A Startling Record of their Inefficiency—
When Did They Ever Work Up a Murder Case to a Successful Issue?

Boston, Nov. 4, 1875
The recent failure of the so-called Boston detectives—the pets of the daily press of the “Hub”—in the handling of the Langmaid murder case in New Hampshire, recalls their inefficiency in and around Boston. In the matter of the score of horrible murders which have been committed in the city and vicinity it is difficult, if not absolutely impossible to single out a solitary instance where they have worked a case to a successful issue. Even the case of Jesse Pomeroy, who committed two murders, the smartest of them were baffled by the shrewd youth and final detection was owing the accidental discovery of Katie Curran’s body in the cellar of a house once occupied by his mother by some workmen who were digging for a new foundation. In the case of Pemberton, who was hung a few weeks since the murder of the Bingham woman, in East Boston, their stupidity was equally prominent. Some rings taken from her finger were described to the so-called detectives, and the information was treasured by them as sacred. The Boston Herald accidentally got hold of and published a description of the rings. A man in Salem who bought them of the murderer saw the account, followed up the assassin, had him arrested, and trial, conviction and hanging followed in quick succession. Thus the press served the ends of justice in this as in the Langmaid case, and in spite of the so-called detectives. In the case of Piper, who is charged with the murder of Mabel Young in a church belfry, he was first apprehended by citizens, then turned over to the Boston officers, since which time his case has slumbered. Over in the Bunker Hill district a man named Kimball killed his wife and daughter, and as promptly apprehended; but such a circumstance would probably never have occurred if the murderer had fled instead of committing suicide. A man named Jones who killed Mrs. Barry, his paramour in the immediate vicinity of the Kimball horror, also aided the so-called detectives materially by killing himself in the same room. Then there is the murder of the Joyce children in Buzzy’s woods, the case where a prominent man was found beheaded in a floating barrel in the Charles River, The Bridget Landergan horror, the Dennahy tragedy and the mysterious shooting of a Boston merchant in the door of his own residence in the Dorchester district. All of these  cases and others of less renown are as much shrouded in mystery to-day as they were at the moment of their discovery. In view of such a record it is no more than justice to accord the so-called detectives of Boston the championship of inefficiency.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Kitty Mulcahey.

Little Murders

Kitty Mulcahey
A pistol shot from the churchyard of the Second Presbyterian Church, in St. Louis, at around 11:45 the night of December 18, 1881, caught the attention of several people who had been outside nearby. Alfred Tonkin, a horse-clipper, was found on the church terrace with a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was rushed to City Hospital. Witnesses said that they had seen a man and a woman run from the scene; the woman had left behind a sealskin cap.

The churchyard and adjoining cemetery were popular spots, even in December, for prostitutes and others engaging in illicit relationships. Before he died, Tonkin told police that he had seen a man and woman acting suspiciously and followed them into the churchyard where he caught them in an “improper act.” As the couple fled, Tonkin tried to stop the woman. He thought it was the man who shot him, but his statements were confused and contradictory, another witness said that it was the woman who fired.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Spiritualism as a Witness in a Murder Case.

It would scarcely be safe as a general thing to trust the intervention of spiritual powers for the detection of crime and for the evidence sufficient to convict its perpetrators. But in a murder case in Connecticut a grand juror, an able counsel, a learned judge and we know not how many others seem bound to convict a person of the capital offense of murder on the strength of revelations made to a pretended spiritual medium. The story is told by the Herald’s special correspondent in another column. We are assured on the authority of one of the prosecuting lawyers that all the circumstances attending the cruel murder of poor Mary Stannard were minutely described to a member of the Grand Jury by the medium, even to the description of the weapons used and the words spoken during the enactment of the tragedy. An interview between our correspondent and the clairvoyant confirms the wonderful tale. Exactly how the evidence is to be used on the trial of the Rev. Mr. Hayden, who has been rearrested, is not explained. Perhaps the medium is to be induced to pass into the clairvoyant state and describe the murder after the fashion of Hamlet’s players. But then how is the oath to be administered that is necessary to make the testimony legal? What is to become of the right of the defense to a cross-examination? Who is to vouch for the credibility of the witness when the mediums themselves do not seem to know whether they are used by good spirits or bad spirits—by truthful spirits or lying spirits? Many such legal difficulties suggest themselves in such a case. Even should they be overcome, who can vouch that the jury will not be composed of men of common sense, who will remember that the medium’s wonderful disclosures were made after he had enjoyed the opportunity to examine the spot, measure the distances and arrange blood-stained stones at his pleasure, and so make up their minds that he is an arrant humbug?

It would be fortunate for the accused if more material circumstances had not occasioned his second arrest. Should it be proved that he purchased arsenic on the morning of the murder, and that the poison was found in the stomach of the victim, it will not need a spiritual medium to convict him of the cruel crime,  nor will any efforts of Spiritualism save him from the full penalty of the law.

Reprinted from “Spiritualism as a Witness in a Murder Case,” New York Herald, October 10, 1878.