Saturday, July 13, 2019

Murder at the Pool Table.

Thomas H. Jones, aged 21, was planning to leave Brooklyn on October 5, 1880, to start a new life in San Francisco. The night before his planned departure he went to say goodbye to his friend George Secor and the two young men went to a lager beer saloon run by N. Debrowski on Atlantic Street to play billiards.

Between games, they went to the bar for some soda water. As they were placing their order John J. Dwyer entered the saloon, extremely intoxicated. He stood next to Jones and Secor and said, “I’ll take whiskey for mine.”  Neither man knew Dwyer and they ignored him; Debrowski told him that he had no whiskey.

Jones and Secor finished their drinks and returned to the billiard table. Dwyer followed them and watched them play for a few minutes. Then, without provocation he said, “I’m the sucker, am I?”

Dwyer picked up an eighteen-ounce ash billiard cue and struck Jones behind the right ear with the butt end of the cue with enough force to break the cue into two pieces. He picked up the butt end and started chasing Secor who ran out of the saloon screaming for help.

Officer McCormack of the 1st Precinct rushed to the saloon, followed by Officer Reilly of the 3rd Precinct who saw Jones on the floor and sent for an ambulance. Jones died before it arrived.

John Dwyer was a 27-year-old plasterer, known as “Dr. Dwyer,” in South Brooklyn. He was a strong, powerful man, weighing over 200 pounds, known to become ugly when drunk. He had been looking for a fight all evening and had been thrown out of a cigar store before going into Debrowski’s saloon.

Dwyer had sunk into a drunken stupor when the policemen arrived and the officers decided to take everyone involved down to the station to sort things out. They arrested Dwyer, Secor, Dobrowski, and Dobrowski’s wife and began herding the group to the 1st Precinct Stationhouse. They had only gone a short distance when Dwyer snapped out of his stupor and began a desperate struggle for his liberty, “biting, sliding, and kicking the whole way.” Sergeant Eaton who jumped in to aid the officers received a kick in the stomach which nearly disabled him. Another officer was knocked down by a kick to the eye. The officers finally managed to subdue Dwyer and put him in cell.

John Dwyer was indicted for second-degree murder. At his trial the following January, Dwyer said that he could never remember what happened when he was drunk. While this was seldom an effective defense, in this case Dwyer was found guilty of manslaughter in the fourth degree and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary.

Sources:
“Axe Handle and Billiard Cue,” New York Herald, October 8, 1880.
“The Deadly Billiard Cue,” Truth, October 5, 1880.
“Home News,” New York Tribune, January 20, 1881.
“A Light Sentence for Murder,” Truth, January 25, 1881.
“Murder at the Pool Table,” New York Herald, October 5, 1880.
“Murder at the Pool Table,” National Police Gazette, October 16, 1880.
“Suburban Notes,” New York Herald, November 25, 1880.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Shot Down Remorselessly.

In January 1881, Adolph Sindram was a boarder at the home of Mrs. Catherine Crave on Charlton Street in New York City. Catherine was the second wife of a Frenchman named John B. Crave and gladly took over the responsibility of mothering his five children. She was a kind woman, loved by the children and esteemed by all who knew her. 

The house on Charlton Street was larger than the family needed, so they took in boarders and lodgers. Adolph Sindram, one of her boarders, approached Mrs. Crave to ask if his brother William could share his room. Adolph was an amiable and agreeable young man, well-liked by the other tenants of the house. He told her that William worked as a printer as he did. She thought Adolph’s brother would be a welcome addition to the house and agreed to let him share the room with an appropriate increase in the rent.

But William’s temperament was the opposite of his brother’s. He was irascible and sullen by nature with a tendency to become irrationally violent. He had once assaulted his father with a knife, and later, after his father’s death, he broke into his mother’s house and stole some money. He was completely self-centered, spending most of his time concocting schemes to make money without working. At Charlton Street, he was surly and disagreeable to all who lived there. 

He was also behind in the rent. The last week in January 1881, Catherine Crave told William he had a week to either pay up or move out. Instead of trying to raise the rent money, William spread stories about Catherine, impugning her morals before she married John Crave, and accusing her of swindling him. The stories came back to Catherine, bringing her to tears. She sent her son Emil to evict William immediately; William packed his bag and left.

William was back the following day, and as he stealthily climbed the stairs, he attracted the attention of Catherine’s daughter Henriette who thought there was an intruder in the house. When she saw who it was, she told William to leave. He told Henriette to shut up and pulled a revolver from his pocket. Catherine heard the commotion and started downstairs to ask William what he wanted.

“Come down and I will show you what I want,” William said.

“Run upstairs, mother, he has a pistol and he is going to shoot,” Henriette shouted.

Catherine ran upstairs, opened a window and shouted for help. William followed her upstairs and when he got close enough to touch Catherine, he raised the revolver and shot her in the temple. She fell to the floor and William ran downstairs and outside. Catherine’s calls for help had attracted a crowd and a bystander caught William as he ran out and held him for the police. Catherine, still alive, was taken to the hospital where the doctors said she had no chance of recovering.

The people of New York City were appalled by this unprovoked attack on a good woman. An editorial in Truth, summed up the crime this way:
“There have been murders in the hot blood of passion, assassinations prompted by wrong, by jealousy, by greed of gain but this is none of these. It is simply the crime of a vile-tempered bilious wretch, far too many of whose like are still at large, perpetuated not only on a victim who had more case to feel aggrieved at them than he at her, but perpetuated with every suggestion of premeditation.”
Though the physicians who treated Catherine Crave were correct that her condition was fatal, she remained alive for another five months. During that time William D. Sindram was held in the Tombs and that July, following Catherine Crave’s death he was indicted for first-degree murder. Sindram’s trial for murder was not held until December. While awaiting trial in jail, Sindram wrote at least ten letters to John Crave and to District Attorney Lyon.

The letters to John Crave were quite offensive and hurtful with statements such as, "Write to me how your dear wife felt when the Coroner told her she would have to die. She was a wicked old hag." To the district attorney, he wrote that he would absolutely not be pleading insanity because he did not want to be compared to Charles Guiteau who assassinated President Garfield in September 1881 and claimed he was insane at the time. Sindram also told the district attorney that he did not fear the gallows “…and would, therefore, disappoint the public, which had no interest in a hanging when the victim was not afraid to die.”

Taking insanity off the table left Sindram’s attorneys with very little to work with. They could not deny the murder but tried to reduce the charge to manslaughter claiming that Sindram had not planned the murder but acted in a fit of passion. The district attorney argued that Sindram had gone to the house, armed with a revolver, intending to kill Catherine Crave. The letters, which would probably be used by the defense if insanity were the plea, were read by the district attorney as evidence of Sindram’s character. The jury had little trouble returning a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder.

William Sindram was hanged in the yard of the Tombs prison on April 21, 1882. True to his word, he went to his death without fear and remained stoic to the end.


“Arraignments and Sentences,” New York Herald, July 14, 1881.
“The Charlton Street Tragedy,” New York Herald, December 7, 1881.
<i>Defenders and offenders</i> (New York: Buchner & Co, 1888.)<br />
“His Own Prosecutor,” New York Herald, December 8, 1881.
“How Sindram Was Hanged,” Truth, April 22, 1882.
“The Reign of the Revolver,” Truth, January 28, 1881.
“Shot by a Printer,” Daily Illinois State Journal, January 27, 1881.
“Shot down Remorselessly,” New York Herald, January 27, 1881.
“The Sindram Trial Ended,” Truth, December 11, 1881.
“To Be Hanged as He Wished,” New-York daily tribune, December 11, 1881.
“[William Sindram]” New York Tribune, December 8, 1881.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Money Matters.

Michael Heenan and his wife Delia had an argument over money matters in the kitchen of their home in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston on August 31, 1886. 60-year-old Michael Heenan owned the house where the couple lived and was said to be quite wealthy, but when Delia, aged 45, requested money he would plead poverty. 

When the argument grew heated, Michael went outside to the woodshed and returned with an axe. He gave Delia three savage blows to the head with the blunt end of the axe then grabbed her by the hair and dragged her as far as he could into the yard, leaving her in a pool of blood.

Michael went back to the house and into the parlor, locking the door behind him. He took out a roll of bills containing $4,000 and counted them leaving bloody fingerprints on the bills. Then, while facing a mirror, he took his razor and cut his throat from ear to ear, severing his windpipe. 

Michael and Delia were still alive when they were found, but they both died later that day at City Hospital.


Sources:
“Brained by her Miser Husband,” National Police Gazette, September 19, 1896.
“Fatal End of a Family Quarrel,” Kansas City daily journal, September 1, 1896.
“Murder and Suicide,” Worcester Daily Spy, September 1, 1896.
“Probable Murder and Suicide,” New Haven Register, August 31, 1896.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Butler County Tragedy.


Christina Hassler, 50-years-old, grew quite wealthy from several oil wells operating on her farm in Butler County, Pennsylvania, but she was not so fortunate in her personal life. She married a man named Nordheim and had four children by him. They lived together until, for some unspecified reason, Nordheim made a murderous assault against her father. He was sent to the penitentiary and Christina secured a divorce and resumed her maiden name. 

In 1878, one of Christina's three daughters married a man named Harper Whitmire. They borrowed money from Christina, giving her a mortgage on the property. Whitmire later induced her to cancel the mortgage and put the farm in his wife’s name and consider it her full share in her mother's estate. But Whitmire had already borrowed money on the farm, representing himself as the owner. When the loan came due, he had to continue borrowing money to stay out of trouble. 

Mrs. Whitmire died under suspicious circumstances in 1891. Though he was never arrested, many believed that Harper Whitmire had beaten her to death. Whitmire put the children in the care of charitable school and left Butler County. 

Whitmire returned in early December 1893 and went to see Christina Hassler, presumably to ask for money. She let him stay in the farmhouse. Also staying at the house were Christina’s daughter Flora, who had recently married James Martin, and her son Louis Nordheim who worked on the oil wells. 

Louis had been working the night of December 4, and when he returned home at 9:00 the following morning, he found the house in disarray. Trunks had been opened; boxes and drawers had been ransacked. In an adjoining room, he found his mother lying in agony, barely breathing. She had been struck in the forehead by the broad blade of a hatchet. Nearby, Flora lay dead, her throat cut from ear to ear. Christina remained alive just long enough to tell her son that Harper Whitmire had committed the murders.

Sheriff Campbell began the search for the killer, and at the house of his brother Samuel Whitmire, he learned that Harper had been there and asked to borrow his revolver. When Samuel asked why he wanted it, Harper said, “I have killed two women, and I want to make an end of myself.” Samuel refused to give him the revolver, and Harper went away.

Samuel contacted his other brothers, Louis, Daniel and Peter. Peter went to town to get a warrant, and the other three went looking for Harper. They found him sitting by a fire outside the home of John Calvin. As the brothers tried to convince Harper to return to Samuel’s for dinner, they saw two rigs coming toward the house. Harper said he would not be taken alive. He ran to the barn, found his son Sid, and gave him some money.  Then he went out around a hill to a small grass plot, and before anyone reached him, he sat down and cut his throat, hacking it six times with the same razor he used on Flora Martin. He was dead by the time his brother got him back to Samuel’s house. 

Public sentiment against Harper Whitmire had been strong, but as reported in The History of Butler County Pennsylvania, Whitmire “relieved the county of the onus and cost of the prosecution.”

Sources:
“Bloody Crime,” Columbus Daily Herald, December 6, 1893.
“A Frightful Double Tragedy,” National Police Gazette, December 23, 1893.
History of Butler County Pennsylvania (Chicago: R. C. Brown Co. Publishers, 1895.)
“Mother and Daughter Murdered,” Boston Daily Globe, December 5, 1893.
“Murder and Suicide,” Butler citizen, December 8, 1893.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Maggie Hourigan Mystery.

Two children playing near their house in Greenwich, New York, the morning of Saturday, October 20, 1889, found a woman’s hat and jacket lying on a log and reported them to a group of men who were working on a road nearby. Reuben Stewart, Superintendent of Streets who was also President of the Village, thought the circumstances were suspicious and went down to take a look for himself. It was a secluded spot about halfway between two villages with a small pool of water near the road. Stewart found the owner of the hat and jacket floating face down in the pool.

The woman was soon identified as Maggie Hourigan. A hasty autopsy conducted by Dr. S. Walter Scott and several other physicians determined that she had drowned, and a coroner’s jury concluded that it had been suicide. 

No one who knew Maggie Hourigan believed that she had taken her own life. She was a healthy, attractive 19-year-old woman who worked as a servant for the family of Herbert Reynolds. Her employers described her as “competent, industrious, tidy, cheerful and an agreeable person to have in the house.”  Her habits and manners were exemplary; she was naturally timid and not known to have a boyfriend. Maggie’s friends said she was happy and lively when they were last together. She was a devout Catholic and her pastor, Father Fields spoke of her in glowing terms and did not think it possible that she had committed suicide.

District Attorney Hull, fearing that the autopsy had not been thorough enough, ordered a second autopsy. This time a different team of doctors found a wound on the side of her head that was made before death and was sufficient to produce death or at least unconsciousness. Dr. Montgomery Jones testified that he believed she was alive but unconscious when she entered the water, and the final direct cause of death was drowning. Two other doctors agreed that the wound was inflicted before death and she was either dead or unconscious when she entered the water. This time the coroner’s jury said they were unable to determine the means or causes of Maggie Hourigan’s death.

Maggie left the Reynolds’s house around 7:00 the night of October 19. She was to meet three of her friends, Ella and Bertha Obenauer, and Julia Nolan, in front of the Post Office; they were planning to spend the evening with Mrs. Sprague, the wife of the Postmaster. Mrs. Sprague was an excellent musician; the girls had spent Wednesday evening listening to her and were anxious to do it again. When Maggie didn’t show up at the Post Office, Julia and the Obenauer sisters called at the Reynolds’s looking for her, but no one knew where Maggie went.

Maggie’s body was found about a mile away from where she lived but in the opposite direction from the Post Office. Rumors were circulating surrounding the death – two strange men were seen in on a bridge near the pool where the body was found; a farmer said he heard men’s voices and the sound of a struggle nearby, but it was too dark to see; a man’s gold watch and chain were found in a stream near the pool. But there were no solid clues. The county offered a reward of $1,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Maggie Hourigan’s killer, and District Attorney Hull hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to investigate.

After the second autopsy, an article in the New York Sun implied that Dr. Scott may have come to a false conclusion in the first autopsy because of a conflict of interest in the case. Dr. Scott’s name came up numerous times in the investigation that followed. In January 1890 it was reported that Dr. Scott made a statement admitting to knowing more about the death than he first revealed. He said that on the night of Maggie’s death, he was called by a man said to be Howard Bailey, to attend an injured girl. He found her in a field with three men who said she had fallen and struck her head. She appeared to be dead, and Dr. Scott told the men “they were in a bad scrape” and refused to advise them what to do.

Either the report of Dr. Scott’s admission was untrue, or it was not taken at face value because soon after, the police brought in a man named Edward Scully for questioning after he told a different story. While drunk, Scully told someone he had been sleeping in a barn near the bridge, and two men came in carrying Maggie’s body. They said they had been riding in a carriage when the driver thought he recognized Maggie walking down the road. He tried to snap his whip and give her a start, but the carriage lurched, and he hit her head with the butt of the whip. They sent for a doctor, but she was dead by the time he arrived. The men offered the doctor $500 to keep quiet. 

The police knew Scully by reputation and had reason to believe he knew about the murder. Though a young man, he had already served time for horse stealing and burglary. In custody, Scully denied any knowledge of the case. He said he may have spoken of the murder but never told the story that the police had heard. Scully was able to prove that he was not in Greenwich on the night of October 19.

About a month later, Scully and his father told the police that a man named Lawton Wilber had come to their house and talked about the murder. The police arrested Lawton Wilber on suspicion of murder, but he was not held. With little progress being made on the case, the Governor of New York offered another $1,000 reward for the capture of her killer.

The following July, an inmate at Dannemora Prison named Merrit Schuler claimed to have information on the murder. District Attorney Hull went to Dannemora to interview Schuler who was serving five years for forgery. He had been living near Greenwich at the time of the murder and had seen Dr. Scott pick up Maggie Hourigan in his carriage and drive away with her. Schuler said he would provide the whole story if he were granted a full pardon from the Governor. Hull said he was favorably impressed with the story and would swear Schuler in at the next session of the grand jury. However, it does not appear that he took Schuler up on his offer.

Allegations of his connection to the death of Maggie Hourigan had hurt Dr. Scott’s practice to such an extent that in May 1892 he sued the New York Sun for $20,000 damages for a libelous article in October 1889 regarding his autopsy. In the court case, Dr. Scott presented evidence form the coroner and other doctors that Maggie had, in fact, died of drowning as his autopsy concluded. District Attorney Hull, arguing in favor of the Sun, said that if he had not ordered a second autopsy, it would not be known that Maggie Hourigan was foully murdered.

The jury awarded Dr. Scott $10,000 damages. The Sun appealed the verdict, and in December 1893 a settlement was reached awarding Dr. Scott $6,000.

The true circumstances of Maggie Hourigan’s death remain a mystery.


Sources:

“$1,000 Reward for a Murderer,” Waterbury evening Democrat, March 20, 1890.
“Another Scully Story,” The Post-Star, March 22, 1890.
Passaic Daily News, July 21, 1890.
“For Alleged Libel,” Democrat and Chronicle, May 14, 1892.
“For Maggie Hourigan's Murder,” New York Herald, February 5, 1890.
“Gets Ten Thousand Dollars,” Times, May 19, 1892.
“A Girl's Strange Death,” The Times, July 21, 1890.
“The Governor Offers a Reward,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 19, 1890.
“The Greenwich Mystery,” The Scranton Republican, February 7, 1890.
“The Hourigan Murder,” Democrat and Chronicle, March 21, 1890.
“The Hourigan Murder,” Buffalo Courier, February 7, 1890.
“The Hourigan Murder Mystery,” Erie Times-News, March 20, 1890.
“Hourigan's Assassin is Liberated,” New York Herald, July 20, 1890.
“Libel Suit Settled,” The Post-Star, December 5, 1893.
“Maggie Hourigan's Death,” Sun and New York Press, November 6, 1889.
“Maggie Hourigan's Murderer,” Waterbury evening Democrat, March 22, 1890.
“Poor Pretty Maggie!,” The National Police Gazette, November 30, 1889.
“A Mystery Cleared Up,” The Sun and the Erie County Independent, January 3, 1890.
“News Article,” Waterbury evening Democrat, October 21, 1889.
“Verdict Against the 'Sun',” Buffalo Morning Express, May 15, 1892.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Dunham Murder.


William H. Dunham owned a roadhouse on Washington Avenue, in Belleville, New Jersey, that catered to the roughest citizens of that town and was a noted stopping spot for sporting men and fast women from Newark and Passaic. He owned a second roadhouse—referred to as the “upper house”—near Nutley which had an even worse reputation. Dunham own reputation was not so good either; he was a short, stoutly built, ill-tempered man of 38, who was ready to fight at the slightest provocation, especially when drunk. 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

The Delaware Avenue Murder.

Peace was disturbed in a fashionable Buffalo, New York neighborhood on April 18, 1894, by three gunshots fired at 10:00 p.m., on Delaware Avenue near Bryant Street. Neighbors hurried outside and found a man lying in the carriage driveway between two houses, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the temple and another to the shoulder. He was rushed to General Hospital where he died three minutes after being admitted.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Forgery, Murder, and Suicide.

Anne C. Chapman went to the First National Bank of Warsaw, Indiana, in September 1880, to cash a check for $300. The cashier did not hesitate; the check was signed by her father, the director of the bank. During the course of business that day, her father came across the check and immediately pronounced the signature a forgery. He reported the crime and had his daughter arrested, refusing to bail her out of jail. 

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.

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).

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.