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Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Culture of Murder.

(From Grand Forks Daily Herald, December 10, 1888.)


The Culture of Murder.

How Impulsive Organisms Are Prepared to Do Dark Deeds.

No fact is more patent to science than the direct effect of influences exerted through the medium of the senses upon the brain—that particular part we of the organism whose function we call “mind.” Darwin, Ruskin and all the great students of development have labored to bring this fact within the cognizance of the general thinking public. That they have failed is only too painfully evidenced by the persistence and surprising ingenuity of the practice of cultivating homicidal propensities, and collatorally murder, by a refined use of the art of mural decoration.

While we empower the police to put down with a strong hand the exhibition in shop windows, and the censor of stage plays and spectacles to interdict the parade in theatres of pictures and scenes of an “immoral” character, because it is recognized that these have a tendency to corrupt the mind of youth—and age too—nothing whatever is done to restrain the daily increasing evil of pictorial placards displayed on every boarding, and of highly wrought scenes produced at nearly all the theatres, which not only direct the thoughts, but actively stir the passions of the people in such way as to familiarize the average mind with murder in all its forms, and to break down that protective sense of “horror” which nature has given us, with the express purpose, doubtless, of opposing an obstacle to the evil influence of the exemplification of homicide It cannot be disguised that even the most sensitive nature is to some extent brutalized by the display of these pictures.

We are none of us as shocked at the spectacle of a knife driven into the chest of a young woman, and do not recoil as violently from the idea of this form of murder, as before the display on all sides of an elaborate, nearly life size picture of the deed. Nor do two men grappling, together and stabbing each other, or one man shooting another with a revolver, strike us as presenting spectacled of such hideous enormity as they would have done had we not been familiarized with these scenes by impressive placards staring us in the face at every turn. It does seem strange—passing strange—that this murder culture by the educationary use of the pictorial art has not been checked by public authority.

We have no wish to make wild affirmations, but knowing what we do, as observers of development, we can have no hesitation in saying that the increasing frequency of horribly brutal outrages is by no means unaccountable. The viciously inclined are, in a sense, always weak minded—that is to say, they are especially susceptible of influences moving them in the direction their passions incline them to take; and when the mind (or brain) impressed through the senses, and particularly the area of sight, in such manner as to produce menial pictures, either in waking thought or dreams, of homicide, the impulsive organism is, as it were, prepared for the performance of the deeds which form the subjects of the consciousness. We are, of course, writing technically, but the facts are indisputable, and we trust they will be sufficiently plain. It is high time that this ingenious and persistent murder culture should cease.— Lancet

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Confession of Jacob Harden.


Reverend Jacob S. Harden felt he had been roped into an unhappy marriage by Louisa Dorland and her conniving parents. His new wife threatened his promising career and put a damper on his active social life as well. When the young bride passed away mysteriously, Harden acted like a guilty man but professed innocence almost to the end.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Avenged Her Father’s Murder.

Around 1:00 a.m., the morning of September 7, 1892, Richard Wright was awakened by a man calling his name, outside his farmhouse in Payne, Indiana. He recognized the voice as that of his son-in-law, Dell Judah, and went outside to see what he wanted. Judah told him angrily that his wife had walked out; he thought she had gone back to her father and he had come to take her home. Wright assured him that his daughter was not there, but he had not assuaged Judah’s anger. As Wright turned to walk away, Judah drew a revolver and shot him in the neck. Wright turned and grabbed him and as they clinched two more shots were fired.

Wright’s eldest daughter, Minna, ran from the house then, wielding an axe. Seeing her brother-in-law struggling with her father, she hit Judah in the head with the axe, knocking him off. She continued to hit him until he was dead. When she turned to her father, she found that he was dead as well. Minna walked a mile through the woods to their nearest neighbor to alert them to what had happened.

The Wrights were highly regarded in Payne, but Dell Judah had a bad reputation and was known as a rough character. Many believed that he had gone to Richard Wright’s house specifically to murder his wife and her father. Minna Wright was not arrested.


Sources:
“She Killed Him,” Kalamazoo Gazette, September 18, 1892.
“A Terrible Tragedy,” The Topeka Daily Capital, September 9, 1892.
“Too Bloody to Believe,” The Indianapolis Journal, September 8, 1892.
“Two Lives Wiped Out,” The True Northerner, September 14, 1892.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

An Indignant Husband’s Crime.

In April 1891, Mrs. Sophia B. Dunham of Montgomery, Alabama received the following anonymous letter:

Montgomery,
April, 1891,
Mrs. B. Dunham.


Dear Madame,

I guess it is quite a surprise and something very unusual for you to receive a note of this character from a stranger, but, my dear woman, it is very much to your interest for me to write it, not that the matter in the least interests me, but that I feel it is my duty as a man not to conceal from you a thing which will cause you no little trouble if not corrected at once. Now, if you will meet me on Catoma Creek Road Sunday afternoon at 4 o'clock, I shall inform you of something, that by your not hearing and acting accordingly will cause you an abundance of trouble. Oh, woman, don't fail to meet me, for the result would be certainly disastrous; and you may be assured I shall not say anything that would be improper for any man to say to one of your sex. Now, do not fail to come, for by doing so you shall reap benefit. I am not one whom you have never seen, but one to whom, perhaps you have never paid the slightest attention.

I am, yours truly,
light tan leggings with brass buttons, on a black horse of good gait, around the park, Sunday.

Mrs. Dunham immediately took the letter to her husband, Colonel Bradford Dunham, General Manager of the Alabama Midland Railroad Company. Though the matter to which the letter alluded was never revealed, Col. Dunham viewed the anonymous letter as a grave insult to his wife’s honor. He planned to uncover the writer’s identity by replying with a decoy letter in which Mrs. Dunham agreed to the meeting in the park. He then arranged to have the meeting place watched.

Mrs. Dunham did not keep the appointment, but the letter writer did; it was 19-year-old, James Cunningham, an employee of Alabama Midland Railroad Company. Col. Dunham put an end to the problem by summarily discharging Cunningham.

Five months later, Col. Dunham learned the Cunningham had been showing the decoy letter around town, saying he had received it from Mrs. Dunham. The colonel was so enraged by this that he procured a shotgun and went looking for Cunningham. He was sitting in the doorway of a drugstore, and when James Cunningham passed by, he picked up the shotgun, loaded with buckshot, and without a word, fired both barrels into the young man’s chest. Cunningham died instantly. Col. Dunham then walked to the police station and surrendered.

Public sentiment in Montgomery was divided regarding Col. Dunham’s case. The coroner’s jury called it first-degree murder, but some felt the Colonel’s action was justified. At the grand jury hearing, a detective testified that Cunningham told him he had lost his position with Midland Railroad for undue intimacy with Mrs. Dunham and intended to kill Col. Dunham on sight. In a decision harshly criticized by the friends of James Cunningham, the grand jury failed to find an indictment against the Col. Bradford Dunham. The colonel was released from jail and resumed his position as General Manager of the railroad.

Sources:
“Col. Bradford Dunham's Case,” Evening Star, September 29, 1891.
“Col. Dunham's Examination,” Baltimore Sun, October 3, 1891.
“Defended Her Honor,” Fort Worth Gazette, September 28, 1891.
“The Grand Jury Criticized,” Bradford Era, October 24, 1891.
“An Indignant Husband's Crime,” National Police Gazette, October 17, 1891.
“Killed His Man,” Evansville Courier and Press, September 28, 1891.
“Sunny South,” Cincinnati Post, December 7, 1892.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Connell Homicide.


A little past midnight, January 4, 1868, William Connell, age 21, was standing at the corner of Bowery and Bayard Streets, New York City, conversing with Maggie Brown and Emma Gardner, two young women in their teens. Richard Casey came up to them and flourished some bank notes in the faces of the women in an insulting manner, implying that they were prostitutes—which in fact they were. Connell took offense to the action and asked Casey what he meant by it. Casey asked if he was going to defend the women and Connell replied that he was a stranger there but did not like such conduct.

“Well I’m no stranger here,” said Casey, and knocked Connell’s hat off his head.

As Connell stooped to pick up his hat, Casey drew a revolver from a breast pocket and fired at his head. Connell cried out in agony and fell into the gutter; Casey shot him again. Then he pointed the pistol at Maggie Brown and said with a foul epithet, “I’ll finish you too.”