Saturday, May 18, 2019

Professional Malpractioner.

In July 1890, a man came into the 126th Street Police Station in Harlem, New York City, to report a conversation he had overheard in an elevated train. A young man and woman sitting near him were talking about the mysterious disappearance of Miss Goodwin from the Storm King flats on East 126th Street. They believed that she had been foully dealt with by “professional malpractioners.” The woman said that a friend told her that Miss Goodwin had died and within twenty-four hours she was buried, and another young woman was wearing her clothes and jewelry.

“Malpractice” was the euphemism the New York papers used for abortion, and at the time, a death by malpractice was considered manslaughter. The police decided to investigate. At the Storm King flats, they learned that Annie Goodwin had been living with the family of John Traphagen for the last two years, but she had been missing since July 2. 18-year-old Sadie Traphagen, a close friend of Annie Goodwin, was reluctant to talk to the police but through her, they learned that Annie had previously lived with her sister Mamie and her husband George Halliday who also lived on 126th Street. After questioning Mamie Halliday and Sadie Traphagen, the police were able to piece together the story of Annie Goodwin’s short life.

Annie had been somewhat wild and restless growing up, and when she was 18, she left the restraints of her father’s house and went to live with Mamie and her husband. Annie had a good job as wrapper cutter in a Manhattan cigarette factory and was living comfortably, but Mamie was concerned about her sister’s lifestyle. She would often stay out until three in the morning, and some nights, she did not come home at all.

Annie Goodwin was considered a rare beauty, “…a bright faced, laughing girl of medium height, with a well rounded figure, very dark eyes that sparkled with fun, a mouth that echoed the spirit of her eyes musically, a nose with just a roguish hint of an upward turn, and dark hair worn in a wavy bang.” She caught the eye of Augustus “Gus” Harrison, a young, independently wealthy man-about-town. Though he was not much to look at, small and thin with a wispy blonde mustache, Annie was flattered by his attention and became infatuated with Gus Harrison.

Mamie did not like Harrison and did not believe his attentions toward Annie were honorable. The late nights out increased and when he came to call, he would sneak in a bottle of wine, trying to hide it from the Hallidays. Finally, Mamie confronted Annie, telling her to cease associating with Harrison—he must stop coming, or she must go live somewhere else. To which Annie responded, “Very well, I will go somewhere else.”

She went to live with the family of her friend Sadie Traphagen, just one block west of the Hallidays, and stayed there until her disappearance on July 2, 1890. At first, Sadie said that she did not know where her friend had gone, but under intense questioning, she revealed that Annie had gone to a boardinghouse on 127th Street, kept by Mrs. John Collins. 

There, the police learned that Annie had hired an attic bedroom for a week on July 2 but only remained there until July 4. That night at about ten o’clock, Mrs. Collins told them, Dr. Henry G. McGonigal drove to the house in his carriage, a two-wheeled gig, and took Annie away. The police were familiar with Dr. McGonigal; he had been arrested several times in connection with mysterious deaths but had managed to evade punishment. They were sure that Dr. McGonigal was the cause of Annie Goodwin’s disappearance. 

They went at Sadie Traphagen again, and she admitted she had been aware that Annie was in trouble. She learned that on July 4, Annie was taken from Mrs. Collins’ place to the apartment of Mrs. Fannie Shaw on East 103rd Street. On July 9 or 10, Sadie received a letter from Annie asking her to call at Mrs. Shaw’s. She went and found Annie sick in bed. On July 14 she went again, and Mrs. Shaw told her that Annie had died and Dr. McGonigal had removed the body.

Dr. McGonigal called at Sadie’s house several times in the days that followed. He asked if she had any papers with the dead girl’s handwriting and requested that Sadie write a note to Mamie, imitating Annie’s handwriting, over her forged signature, saying she had gone to New Jersey and would return in a month or two. Sadie refused. 

The police paid a call on Fannie Shaw. She was a 38-years-old, “hideous looking creature,” being treated for blood poisoning by Dr. McGonigal. Reluctantly, she told a story that mirrored what Sadie had said. The doctor was treating Annie Goodwin in her apartment until the afternoon of July 12 when the girl died. Dr. McGonigal said he would take care of it and around 2:00 Sunday morning he carried the body, wrapped in a quilt, over his shoulder, downstairs and drove it away in his gig.

Checking with the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the police found a recent death certificate bearing the name of Dr. H. G. McGonigal. The document said that Jane Wilber had died from rheumatism of the heart on July 11, the day before Annie Goodwin’s death, but at the address given on the certificate no one knew Jane Wilber and the police concluded that it was a false name. At the undertaker shop of Cornelius Merritt, the books showed that instead of Jane Wilber, they had buried a man named John Wilber at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Astoria. The police believed that he had buried Annie Goodwin under a false name.  Merritt pled ignorance saying he had taken McGonigal at his word and given the body to his workmen without examining it. 

This was evidence enough, and the police rounded up everyone involved. They arrested Dr. McConegal and Fannie Shaw for murder, and Augustus Harrison as an accessory. Sadie Traphagen, Cornelius Merritt, and several others were held as witnesses. In Dr. McGonigal’s office, the police found about 30 glass jars containing “evidences of malpractice” preserved in alcohol.

The police believed that they had a nice, tight narrative now where Gus Harrison, the author of Annie’s misfortune, hired Dr. McGonigal to perform the operation, and when Annie died, McGonigal had her buried under a false name. The newspapers took it even further; citing the pre-dated death certificate, the New York Herald called it “…evidence of a conspiracy to kill as complicated and as boldly carried out as the most fantastic scheme of murder in a French tale.”

The story took another turn when the police learned that Gus Harrison was not Annie’s only romantic interest. Mrs. Collins told them that a young man named Drew visited Annie in the brief time she stayed at Mrs. Collins’s boarding house. The newspapers, trying to get in front of the police, speculated that the man was T. Oscar Drew, who had checked into the Harlem Hotel at least a dozen times, accompanied by a lady. This was the wrong Drew. Sadie Traphagen told police that “Drew” was the nickname of Andrew L. Fanning who had frequently called on Annie. She said that Annie was in love with Gus Harrison, and when she learned she was in trouble, she begged him to marry her. He absolutely refused. Once Annie accepted this, she was ready to marry Drew Fanning after she had “gotten out of trouble.” 

Andrew Fanning turned himself in when he learned that the police were looking for him. He said that he had met Annie Goodwin on the street about six months earlier and had fallen desperately in love with her. He had proposed marriage, and she accepted. But the Annie Goodwin that Fanning knew was quite different from the one everyone else knew. He believed her to be innocent and pure, almost prudish. She would chastise him if he let slip an unrefined word, and at the theater, he saw her blush at an off-color remark. Fanning would frequently visit her at the Traphagens’ and became disconsolate when she suddenly disappeared. 

On July 4 he received a note from Annie:

Dear Drew—Come to me at once. I am very sick at No. 152 East 127th Street.   ANNIE.

He found her in her room, suffering dreadfully, and wanted to go at once for the nearest doctor. She said she would have no other physician but Dr. McGonigal and gave him the doctor’s address. Fanning brought the doctor to her and left. He never saw her again. 

Andrew Fanning was arrested as an accessory and held on $2,500 bail. 

The Wilber body in St. Michael’s Cemetery was disinterred (it is unclear whether the grave was marked, John or Joan). Half naked, she lay face down in the coffin as if she had been thrown in. Sadie Traphagen and Mamie Halliday both identified the body as that of as Annie Goodwin.

A coroner’s jury heard testimony from everyone involved and charged Dr. H. G. McGonigal and Fannie Shaw with manslaughter. Augustus Harrison was charged as an accessory.  The focus was on Dr. McGonigal and at his trial the following September he was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison but received a stay pending appeal. He remained in the Tombs until the following April then was released on $5,000 bail. This was the extent of his punishment for Annie Goodwin’s death. It would not be his last arrest for death by malpractice.

“Annie's Slayers,” Evening World, July 24, 1890.
“McGonegal Gets Out of Tombs at Last,” Evening world, February 11, 1891.
“Dr McGonigal's Trial,” Sun, September 24, 1890.
“Dr. M'Gonigal,” Sun and New York Press, July 27, 1892.
“Dr. M'Gonegal's Bail Placed at $20,000,” New York Herald, August 2, 1890.
“Found Him Guilty,” Evening World, October 4, 1890.
“Jury No 2 Holds the Murder Plotters,” New York Herald, July 29, 1890.
“Murder First, Then False Burial.,” New York Herald, July 23, 1890.
“Murder Out,” Evening World, July 22, 1890.
“No Direct Proof of Pretty Annie's Murder,” New York Herald, July 25, 1890.
“Principal Actors in a Murder Plot,” New York Herald, July 26, 1890.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Murder Illustrated.

Graphic images depicting brutal crimes often accompanied murder stories in 19th Century publications. In the early years, the already old tradition of murder pamphlets, sold at public executions, often including the condemned killers’ confessions, began to feature shocking illustrations of the murders. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Kentucky Tragedy
Illustration from The Beauchamp Tragedy in Kentucky. New York: Dinsmore & Co., 1858

Michael Garvey
Illustration from Brooke, H.K. Tragedies on the Land, Philadelphia, 1845

"A Most Extraordinary Case."
Illustration from Trials of Capt. Joseph J. Knapp, Jr. and George Crowninshield for the Murder of Capt. Joseph White of Salem, (Boston: Charles Ellms, 1830)

The Bitter Fruit of Jest
Illustration from Tingley, H. F., Incidents in the life of Milton W. Streeter (Pawtucket: H. F. Tingley, 1850).

By the middle of the century, mainstream magazines like Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly increased circulation by publishing illustrated murder stores. The boost Frank Leslie’s received from their well-illustrated coverage of the Burdell murder in 1857 saved the magazine from bankruptcy

More Scenes from the Burdell Murder.
Illustration from "The Supposed Manner of the Murder of Dr. Burdell", Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, February, 28, 1857.

The Thirtieth Street Murder.
Illustration from “Terrible Tragedy in New York,” Harper's Weekly, November 6, 1858.

Throughout the century the National Police Gazette included several murder stories every week, accompanied by sensational and often gruesome engravings. Sometimes a single picture was used to illustrate multiple aspects of the same crime.

A Grave-Robber's Fate.
Illustration from “Shot in a Graveyard,” National Police Gazette, June 10, 1882.

Avenging Her Honor.
Illustration from "Killed by a Woman." National Police Gazette, Dec 7, 1889.

The Long Island Murders.
Illustration from "Murder Most Foul." National Police Gazette, Dec 8, 1883.

The New Hampshire Horror.
Illustration from "New Hampshire Horror." National Police Gazette, Dec 15, 1883.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Bangor Mystery.

A severely wounded man was found wrapped in a blanket by the side of the road, about two miles outside of Bangor, Maine, at 8:00 p.m. on February 5, 1879. Surgeons at the police station in Bangor examined the man and declared that he was mangled beyond their ability to heal him. His skull had been fractured by four or five blows from an axe; he died at around 11:30 that night. 

The man was identified as William B. Elliot, a constable and tax collector for the town of Glenburn, Maine. Elliot was last seen in his sleigh going past Merrill’s store with another man standing in the back of the sleigh holding on to a stake. He was returning home after having a meal at Merrill’s and was attacked before he had gone a quarter mile.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Michael M’Garvey.

The evening of November 21, 1828, Michael M’Garvey violently chastised his wife, Margaret, in the room, they occupied on the top floor of a house at the corner of Pine and Ball Alleys, between Third and Fourth Streets, and between South and Shippen Streets in Philadelphia. He tied her by the hair to a bedpost and began beating her, unmercifully with a whip, continuing at intervals for the next hour and a half. When she passed out, he attempted to throw her out the window but pulled her back in when someone outside saw him and cried out.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Snell Murder.

Rosa Buckstahlen and Ida Bjornstad, servants in the Chicago mansion of Amos J. Snell, were awakened at 2:00 the morning of February 8, 1888, by the sound of a gunshot from the floor below. They heard someone shout “Get out! Get out of here!” followed by more gunshots, then silence. Thinking that all was well—or more likely, too frightened to do anything else—the girls went back to sleep.

Five hours later, Mr. Snell’s coachman, Henry Winklebook, entered the house to attend the furnace fires and found evidence of a break-in. Snell’s basement office was strewn with scattered papers, his safe was open, and a broken strongbox lay on the floor. Winklebook hurried upstairs to inform his employer and found his lifeless body lying in a pool of blood in the hallway. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Three Victims of Jealousy.

72-year-old Norman J. Lounsberry worked on the farm of his brother Horace in Nichols, New York and lived in a small house on his brother’s land. About twenty years after divorcing his first wife, Norman Lounsberry decided to marry again, and in December 1885 he married 17-year-old, Julia Presher. 

Norman and his bride took their meals with the family of his brother, which included Horace Payson, the 35-year-old nephew of his brother’s wife. Payson was a coal agent on the Lackawanna and Erie Railroad who also helped on his uncle’s farm. Norman kept his eye on Payson as he interacted with Julia. He was an extremely jealous man, and he believed that Payson was too attentive to his young wife. Several times he told Payson to leave Julia alone and had angrily threatened to kill them both if the attention did not stop. Julia became so frightened that she reported her husband’s threats to the district attorney.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Italian Vendetta.

The saloon owned by Joseph Catanazaro was a meeting place for Italian men in South Brooklyn. On May 28, 1896, William King, who was shooting dice at Catanazaro’s overheard two men arguing in the back room. Nino Prestijiacomo had come to Brooklyn from Boston to settle a score with Giacchino Cocchiara, and Salvatore Serrio was defending Cocchiara who had been his friend since they were boys in Palermo, Sicily.

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Mysteries of Mary Tobin.

Mary E. Tobin.

Thomas W. Armour, janitor of the Clifton Boat Club, Clifton, Staten Island, on May 12, 1889, found the body of a young woman washed up on the rocks near the club. She was about 30-years-old, five feet five inches tall, with a light complexion and a plump figure. She wore a gold ring with stones in a cat’s eye setting and several pieces of black jet jewelry. The only other object found on the body was an Episcopal prayer book. The body was fully clothed, and Coroner Hughes found nothing to indicate foul play. Decomposition had set in, and the coroner determined that the body had been in the water about eight days.

Though badly decomposed, friends and relations identified the body as that of Mary E. Tobin, who had been living for the previous two years in West New Brighton on Staten Island. She had been the office assistant of Dr. S.A. Robinson but had resigned on April 13 and was last seen in West New Brighten two days later.

Mary had planned to visit her family in Franklin, Pennsylvania, whom she hadn’t seen in two years, after first stopping to visit a friend, Mrs. McKenna in Brooklyn. She packed her belongings in two trunks and sent one to Franklin and the other to Brooklyn. Mary left on April 15 but never arrived at either destination.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

With a Knife in His Heart.

Patrick S. Donovan, better known as “Snip,” began drinking champagne after the first race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, on August 6, 1893. The wine continued to flow as he watched the day’s races and Donovan appeared to be in a jovial mood, but he may have been trying to drown his sorrows. “Snip” Donovan was a successful and well-known horse trainer, but he had recently been discharged from the stables of Pierre Lorillard in a dispute over training methods. Donovan was also having a run of bad luck in his betting. In spite of his problems, witnesses agreed that Donovan had been in a good mood throughout the day.

After the last race, Donovan wanted to keep drinking so he and John Chew, a stable hand who worked for Lorillard, hitched up a buggy and went to Oceanport. Chew, the more sober of the two drove the horse. They drank for several hours in Oceanport then went to the Monmouth Hotel near the track and had some more. Those who saw them that night said the men appeared to be on friendly terms, but, sometime after midnight the mood changed. Donovan had been drinking heavily, while Chew drank only three bottles of beer. Chew was ready to leave the hotel, but Donovan wanted to stay for another drink.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Lewis Wolf Webster.

Perry Harrington and his wife, Maria, were spending a quiet evening at their farmhouse in Geneva, Ohio, on December 18, 1884, when the door burst open, and a masked man boldly entered the house. He pointed a cocked revolver at Mr. Harrington and demanded his money or his life. Seeing that he and his wife were at the mercy of the intruder, Harrington went into an adjoining bedroom to get his money. 

After hearing the man speak, Mrs. Harrington said, “I think I know you.”

“You do, do you?” he responded and fired the pistol hitting her in the left arm. As he did so, the handkerchief fell from his face and she saw to was Lewis Webster, the man she suspected. Mrs. Harrington ran to the kitchen, and he fired again hitting the same arm. She rushed out to the street and with blood streaming from her wounds ran to a schoolhouse some 40 yards away from where an entertainment was in progress. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Society Well Rid of Him.

Edward Hovey, aged 22, was an idle, dishonest, violent man with dissolute habits, living in New York City in 1882. His occupation was painter, but as of April of that year, he had been unemployed for four years and had been sentenced to Blackwell Island three times for petty theft. During Hovey’s second prison term, his wife, Lizzie, decided that she had had enough.  She took their little daughter, who was sick with scarlet fever and went to stay with her 19-year-old sister, Fanny Vermilyea and her husband Jerome in their apartment on 38th Street. The landlady, Mrs. Burns, had a small grocery and candy store on the first floor and gave Lizzie a job there.

When Hovey got out of prison, he tried to get Lizzie back, and when she refused to have anything to do with him he threatened to take her life. Whether or not he was serious, he did not have time to act; soon after he was arrested for stealing a coat and was back on Blackwell Island.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The East River Murder.

The morning of February 8, 1898, the nude, dismembered body of a man was found floating in the East River, near a ferryboat slip on Roosevelt Street, New York City. The entire front portion of the head was missing, leaving only the right ear and a portion of the back of the head. The left leg was missing from a point just above the knee and the right leg had been cut off at the hip. Both arms had been cut off at the shoulder.

The cuts were smooth and intentional, eliminating the possibility that they had been taken off by steamboat paddle-wheels. The police were convinced that the man was murdered and butchered. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

What Next?

This cartoon from the magazine Puck, March 31, 1880, comments on the growing trend of accused murderers on the lecture circuit.

On the bill are:

Mrs. Laura Fair
Laura Fair

Laura Fair was convicted of murdering California legislator Alexander Crittenden, but the verdict overturned on the grounds of insanity. Her trial became a cause celebre for women's rights activists.

Rev. Vosburgh
Rev. Vosburgh

New Jersey Baptist minister Rev. George Vosburgh was indicted in May 1878 for attempted murder of his wife by poison. He continued his ministry after acquital.

Birdie Bell
Washington Nathan

Birdie Bell was a New York actress and mistress of Washington Nathan, the prime suspect in the murder of his father Benjamin Nathan. In 1875, when she learned he was cheating with actress Alice Harrison she burst in on them at the Colman House hotel and shot Washington Nathan in the neck.

Rev. Glendenning
Rev. Glendenning

New Jersey Presbyterian minister Rev. John Gendenning seduced and abandoned his organist Mary Pomeroy. When she died in childbirth, in August 1874, her family tried unsucessfully to have Gendenning charged with murder.

Rev. Mr. Hayden
Rev. Hayden

In 1878, Connecticut Methodist minister, Rev. Herbert Hayden was accused of stabbing and poisoning Mary Stannard, a young housekeeper employed by his wife. Many  believed that he had seduced and impregnated her. He denied it all and was released after a hung jury.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

In Flagrante Delicto.

A little before 3 o’clock, the afternoon of September 9, 1886, a man rushed into the police station in Memphis, Tennessee and said, “I have just killed a man, and I want to give myself up.”

Captain Hackett took down the information and had the man locked up, then hurried to the address he had given to see for himself what had happened. In an upstairs room, he found a man lying on the floor, very nearly dead, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the chest. “I am to blame,” the man moaned. He died soon after.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Cannibal of Austerlitz.

Simon Vandercook was a 55-year-old “eccentric wanderer” from Lansingburgh, New York, a fortune seeker who relatives said was always filled with “utopian schemes.” In 1882, he claimed he had discovered gold outside of Alford, in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Berkshire County had several small iron mines, with Marble and other minerals found there as well so a gold discovery was not considered impossible. Vandercook purchased the land for his gold strike from Oscar Beckwith in exchange for shares in the company he formed to mine the gold.

If Vandercook had actually discovered gold, the mine was not producing enough to sustain fulltime operation, and he earned money by cutting trees on the property and selling lumber. Beckwith believed he had been swindled and threatened to sue Vandercook.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Ruttinger Mystery.

Samuel Mortin, who was employed to keep watch over six coasting schooners laid up for the winter just below Tottenville, Staten Island, New York, found the body of a man lying in the mud, half floating, next to one of the vessels on March 11, 1891. The man's arms were crossed behind his back tied together at the wrists and above the elbows with heavy packing twine. Mortin secured the body and went to tell the police.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Jack the Slasher.

On January 17, 1892, Officer Masterson of the New York City Police arrested a man the police and press had dubbed “Jack the Slasher.” Since December 29, Jack the Slasher had been on a rampage, cutting the throats of seven men with a straight razor, leaving one of them dead. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Murdered Coachman.

As the family of Joseph Blair of Montclair, New Jersey, dined on June 26, 1879, their houseguest, Miss Rebeca Draper, remarked that she had seen two men in the Blairs’ wagon the previous day. The men went into a saloon and when they came out, they drove away furiously, the driver whipping the horses at least a dozen times.  Joseph was not happy to hear this and after dinner decided to go out to the stable and have a talk with his coachman, John Armstrong.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Who Shot Meierhoffer?

The Execution.
John and Margaret Meierhoffer had a small farm in West Orange, New Jersey, about seven miles from Newark. They had been married many years, had two sons—28-year-old Joseph and 14-year-old Theodore, who still lived at home—but by 1879, John and Margaret were not on friendly terms. They no longer slept together or had meals together; John slept in a small room in the barn and picked up his meals in the house when no one else was around.

Margaret said the fault was John’s; she called him “a fretful, hard-to-please man” who badly mistreated her. Others, though, said that 40-year-old Margaret, who was nearly six feet tall, had long ago subdued John who was ten years her senior, slightly built and in poor health. He found it easier just to avoid her. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Rockville Tragedy.

21-year-old Alfred Egbert, better known as Pete, lived with his parents, a brother and a sister in Rockville, Indiana. He was a quiet man who led an exemplary life; when not working as a carpenter he was a voracious reader, often reading well into the night. April 1896, his sister Florence was dying of typhoid and Pete was under considerable stress from worry and lack of sleep.

The morning of April 25, Pete Egbert was outside chopping wood when he saw the next door neighbor, Mrs. Haske walk through the alley to get her cow for milking. Something suddenly enraged him and he attacked Mrs. Haske with the axe. He knocked her to the ground then gave her another blow to the head, killing her. He walked back to the house got his shotgun and left the house again.