Saturday, December 26, 2020

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.”

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Rough on Rats.

 

Rough on Rats was a cheap but effective over-the-counter rat poison. It was a very popular product, and in the 1880s, the company published an almanac and had its own theme song.

Chorus

R-r-rats! Rats! Rats! Rough on     Rats,

Hang your dogs and drown 

    your cats;

We give a plan for every man

To clear his house 

    with Rough on Rats.







Reportedly, Rough on Rats also caused an increase in human deaths by poisoning. While that might be difficult to prove statistically, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. Here are three cases, from the 1880s, of murder by Rough on Rats:

Monster or Maniac?
Though Sarah Jane Whiteling poisoned her husband at the devil’s request and murdered her daughter to save her from a life of sin, her jury did not believe her insane.
A Troubling Spirit.
Haunted by his victim’s face, John Delaney confessed to poisoning Mary Jane Cox.
The "Rough on Rats" Murder.
After deliberating for 18 hours, the jury found Mrs. Korun Larson guilty of poisoning John Guild with Rough on Rats.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

A Fatal Jealousy.

Deidrich Steffens, a bottler of lager beer, was making a delivery on Park Avenue in Brooklyn, the afternoon of April 17, 1883, when he was called to by John Cordes, a wholesale grocery dealer. Cordes was standing in front of the grocery store of Steffens’s friend, Diedrich Mahnken, and as Steffens crossed the street, Mahnken emerged from his store brandishing a “British bull dog” revolver. Without a word Mahnken fired five shots into Deidrich Steffens—four to the head, one to the chest.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Fiend, or Innocent Victim?

 

The prosecution claimed that Adolph Luetgert, "Sausage King of Chicago," dissolved his wife Louisa in a vat of lye, but without a body, how could they prove she was dead?

Read the full story here: The Sausage Vat Murder.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

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, November 21, 2020

Who Murdered Dr. Cronin?

 

Old Cap. Collier, the fictional dime novel detective, tries his hand at solving the murder of Dr. Cronin.

The real murder of Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin was stranger than fiction, with the good doctor found naked and dead in a Chicago sewer after confronting the corrupt leaders of an Irish secret society. As Edmund Pearson said, “It was one of those murders over which men nod their heads and look portentous and intimate that ‘everything hasn’t come out yet.’”

Read the whole story here: Clan-na-Gael and the Murder of Dr. Cronin.


Saturday, November 14, 2020

A Theatrical Execution.

David J. Wood owned a thriving leather and shoe business in Dansville, New York, in the 1850s. He and his wife Rhoda were busy raising two children but found time to be active in church and civic events, always willing to donate their time and money to better the community. They were wealthy, prominent, and well-liked citizens of Dansville, living a perfect life—until the arrival of David’s brother Isaac.

Isaac L. Wood was 34 years old in 1854, when he left his home in New Jersey, hoping to start a new life with David’s help. Isaac was only eight years old when David left the family home in New Providence, New Jersey. The two brothers had not been close, but David was happy to give Isaac a helping hand, loaning him money to buy a small piece of land. Isaac began farming, making payments to his brother when he could. 

But Farming did not suit Isaac, and within a year, he gave it up and went to live in his brother’s house. He embarked on a career speculating in fruits, butter, eggs, and other produce. It was widely known in Dansville that David was still helping him out with loans and endorsements. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Dark Kentucky Tragedy.

Col. A.M. Swope and Col. William Cassius Goodloe happened to enter the Lexington, Kentucky post office at the same time on the afternoon of November 8, 1889. They greeted each other with icy glares then went about their business. Both men were leaders in the Republican Party in Kentucky, and both had national reputations. Swope was the former Internal Revenue Collector for the district, Goodloe had been Minister to Belgium, a state senator, and was the current Internal Revenue Collector; both men fought for the Union in the Civil war, and both rose to the rank of Colonel.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Two Shots, a Shriek.


“A dark, mean little bedroom, a woman, half-undressed, dirty and pale, and blear-eyed from long excesses, a male companion, leaning over her with a revolver at her head, two shots, a shriek, an ugly hole under the ear, and the vice and crime of Boston had added another murder to its long score.” The Boston Herald’s vivid description of the murder of Josephine Brown on Christmas Eve, 1891, served to underscore her sad and dismal life. Married and divorced by age twenty, Josephine’s family blamed her for the failed marriage and turned her away. Left to fend for herself, Josephine Brown spent the next twenty years as a prostitute.

Joe, as she was known on the street, had been working in a brothel run by Mrs. Mary Ann Fisher on Pitt Street, in Boston’s West End. The house had recently closed down with the arrest of Mrs. Fisher, and Joe was working as a street walker. The demise of Mrs. Fisher’s house meant more than the loss of shelter, it left Joe without protection from the potential violence of her profession, and without anyone to keep her away from whiskey, which, when she was left on her own, became Joe’s consuming passion.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Meyer Poisoning Sensation.

 


Dr. Henry Meyer, his wife Maria, and their associate Ludwig Brant devised an elaborate plan to defraud insurance companies. Maria and Brant held a mock wedding then took out several insurance policies on his life with Maria as beneficiary. The plan was to then obtain a cadaver, declare it was the body of Ludwig Brant, and collect the insurance. Unbeknownst to Brant, Dr. Meyer and Maria decided they didn’t need a cadaver; it was much easier just to poison Brant.

The plot was revealed after Brant’s death and authorities discovered that the doctor and his wife had been runnng similar scams throughout the country. Read the full story here: Professional Poisoners.



Picture from: “Sun Pictures of the Day,” Lowell Sun, July 21, 1893.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Ameer Ben Ali & an Actor's Tale.

This week we are pleased to present a guest post from Howard and Nina Brown, experts on the Whitechapel Murders of Jack the Ripper. They are the owners of JTRForums.Com and have been Ripperologists for 20 years. Along with the website, JTRForums.Com, they also have pages on Twitter, Facebook, and a You Tube page. They're always looking for people interested in the Whitechapel Murders and can be contacted at Howard@jtrforums.com.

The article is on Ameer Ben Ali, convicted and later exonerated of the murder of Carrie Brown in New York City in 1891, and includes a rare photograph of Ali.


Ameer Ben Ali & an Actor's Tale.

Carry Brown
Carrie Brown

On April 24th, Nina and I decided to look into newspapers for articles in commemoration of the 129th anniversary of the murder of Carrie Brown at the East River Hotel in bowels of the Lower East Side of New York City.   There's a considerable amount of newspaper coverage of her murder during 1891 and the following years already on JTR Forums & on Casebook and the thought of finding something new was not something we were sure we'd do.  

As fate would have it, we did just that.

I came across the following article in the Buffalo Courier, containing the bold headline exclaimed that Glaswegian-born thespian, William H. Thompson, expressed his understanding that that the court interpreter for Ameer Ben Ali actually revealed to him, personally, that Ali confessed to the Brown murder. 

I haven't been able to find another article in which a confession by Ali in any form is made to the murder in Room 31 and obviously none that refute the charges made within it.  That doesn't mean one doesn't exist or that if it does it won't be found.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

A Night of Debauchery.



In 1880, Mrs. Anna Hayes was the landlady of a house at 396 State Street in Chicago. The newspapers referred to it as a “house of ill-fame,” but it was not a brothel, it was a house of assignation, renting rooms to prostitutes. On Sunday, November 7, 1880, Eva Lloyd rented room 6 on the top floor; one week for $3.00. Eva did not have the money but she had a revolver worth $4.00, and Mrs. Hayes took that as security.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

The End of Mina.

 

In 1831, Cuban Exile Carolino Amalia Espos y Mina conspired with Lucretia Chapman to murder her husband. When the plot was exposed, only one conspirator was executed.

Read the full story here: The Cuban Con Artist.


Carolino Estradas de Mina, The life and confession of Carolino Estradas de Mina (Philadelphia: Robert Desilver, 1832.)

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Getting Away With Murder.

American justice is largely fair and impartial, but it is not perfect; sometimes mistakes are made. It is always disturbing when an innocent person is unjustly punished, but it is far more common for a guilty party to be set free. When the crime in question is murder, this result can be equally disturbing.

In the nineteenth century (as now) accused murderers were tried in the court of public opinion before ever entering a court of law, and sometimes the verdicts did not agree. Whether through prejudice, money and influence, legal maneuvering, or simply lack of evidence a defendant is set free when the community “knows” he is guilty. Here are a few notable defendants who, very likely, got away with murder:


Richard Robinson

Helen Jewett, a high-end New York City prostitute was murdered in her bed by an axe wielding killer. Though it was fairly clear that Helen was murdered her ex-lover Richard Robinson, the jury found him not guilty. The judged was prejudiced against the testimony of prostitutes, and it was rumored that Robinson bribed at least one juror.

Minnie Wallace Walkup

James Reeves Walkup died of arsenic poisoning less than a year after his marriage to sixteen-year-old Minnie Wallace. Minnie was tried for his murder but her charm and beauty drove witnesses to perjury and jurymen to acquittal. Her second husband died under similar circumstances.

Jimmie Malley, Walter Malley, Blanche Douglas

Jenny Cramer was almost certainly raped by Jimmie Malley then murdered by him with the help of his cousin Walter and Walter’s girlfriend Blanch Douglas. Walter’s father, Edward Malley, the richest man in New Haven, Connecticut, paid for the defense that won their acquittal.

Ned Stokes

Ned Stokes, with premeditation, shot Jim Fisk in the Grand Central Hotel. Any question of his guilt disappeared when Fisk, on his deathbed, identified Stokes as the shooter. But stokes had political connections and after three trials was found guilty of manslaughter and served only six years.

Daniel Edgar Sickles

Dan Sickles shot his wife’s lover, Phillip Barton Key, in front of eye witnesses. Sickles did not deny the murder, but his attorney argued that his wife’s infidelity had driven Sickles temporarily insane. Sickles was set free in the first successful use of the temporary insanity plea in America.

Albert J. Tirrell

Albert Tiirell was acquitted for the charge of murdering Maria Bickford on the grounds that he was sleepwalking at the time and not responsible for his actions. While the “sleepwalking defense” never caught on as a legal ploy, in 1849 it was enough to free Albert Tirrell.

Lizzie Borden

Most people today believe that Lizzie Borden killed her father and stepmother in a vicious daylight axe murder. But in 1893 there was not enough evidence to convict her, and given the same evidence, she would probably be acquitted today as well. Either way, someone got away with murdering Andrew and Abby Borden.

 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Hauling the Supposed Remains of Goss from the Fire.

 

William Udderzook and Winfield Goss conspired to defraud four insurance companies in 1873, by putting a cadaver in Goss’s workshop, setting the building on fire, and claiming the burned corpse was Goss. The plan went awry when Udderzook, fearing Goss would spill the beans, stabbed his partner to death.

Read the full story here: He Knew Too Much.



The Udderzook mystery! (Philadelphia: Barclay & Co, 1873.)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Horrible Murder in Twelfth Street.


Mrs. Sarah Shancks owned a high-end millenary concern—“a fancy thread and needle store”—at 22 East 12th Street.  At around 10:00 AM, the morning of December 7, 1860, Susan Ferguson, who worked as a seamstress for Mrs. Shanks, entered the store but could not find her employer. She went to the back room where Mrs. Shanks resided and found her lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Her throat had been slashed, and she was surrounded by broken glass and crockery. Susan ran out of the store to alert the police.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Bitter Fruit of a Jest.

Elvira Houghton, a dressmaker in Southbridge, Massachusetts, hired a carriage and driver to take her to her mother’s funeral in the summer of 1847. The driver, 27-year-old Milton Streeter, was instantly infatuated with Elvira. They had a pleasant conversation and when they returned to Southbridge Milton asked if he could see her again and Elvira said yes.

Also 27-years-old, Elvira feared she was approaching “that delicate and dreaded period, when, having out-maidened all her early associates, she would remain alone a withered remnant of the past.” Her fear may have clouded her judgment; After a whirlwind courtship of one month, she and Milton Streeter were married.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Scene of the Murder of Mansfield Tracy Walworth.



On June 3, 1873, Frank Walworth shot and killed his father, Mansfield Walworth, in his father's room at the Sturtevant House in New York City.

Read the full story here: The Walworth Patricide.

Source:
“The Walworth Parricide,” Daily Graphic, June 27, 1873.

The Assassination of Corlis.

Charles G. Corlis kept a bowling saloon on Broadway between Leonard and Franklin Streets in New York City. On the evening of March 20, 1843, several bowlers saw a woman wearing a veil and a straw hat, enter the saloon. They saw her leave the place with Henry Colton, owner of the Colton House hotel, a few doors away on Leonard Street. Sometime later, witnesses saw Charles Corlis talking with the unidentified woman in the doorway of the Colton House.

Around 7:00 a pistol shot rang out on Leonard Street. Witnesses saw someone running from the scene—maybe a man, maybe a woman, maybe a man dressed as a woman. Lying on the ground in front of the Colton House was Charles Corlis, with a bullet wound in the back of his head. Next to him lay a five-barrel pistol with one shot fired. Corlis was carried into the hotel where he died about three hours later.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Baldwinsville Homicide.

The discovery of a body in the Seneca River, decomposed beyond recognition, left the town of Baldwinsville with a nearly unsolvable mystery. But the clues unraveled to revealed a dastardly plot against an honest man by a craven murderer and his hapless cohort.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Utterly Unprovoked Shooting.


John Dilleber was a wealthy 28-year-old wholesale liquor dealer who lived and worked in New York City. In June 1975, he divorced his wife, left his home, and took up residence at the Westminster Hotel on 16th Street. 

It was Dilleber’s habit, after dinner, to wander the halls of the hotel while smoking a cigar. Romaine Dillon, another of the Westminster Hotel’s outcast residents, was much annoyed by Dilleber’s evening rambles and angrily told him so on several occasions. Dilleber ignored his complaints.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Death-Sentence Pronounced on Edward S. Stokes.

On January 6, 1873, Edward Stokes was sentenced to hang for the murder of financier and railroad magnate James Fisk. Stokes was well-connected politically and he awaited his appeal in a comfortably furnished cell in the Tombs with meals catered by Delmonicos.

Stokes was granted a new trial, was convicted of manslaughter and senteneced to six years in Sing Sing prison.

Read the full story here: Jubilee Jim.

Source:
“The Stokes Trial and Sentence,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 25, 1873.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Reverend Green, Wife-Poisoner.

Reverend George W. Long arrived in Western New York in the Fall of 1864, presenting himself a Methodist minister from the south. He appeared to be in good standing, with credentials from several Southern and Western conferences so the presiding elder of the district stationed him at the Methodist church in Centerville. 

Long had a very agreeable personality and had soon gained the confidence of his congregation. Before long he met and married a young woman named Frances Doolittle in a nearby town and brought her to Centerville.

All seemed well except that the meager salary of a minister was not enough to meet Long’s needs. He began to borrow money from the brethren at the church. They were happy to lend him money until it became apparent that he had borrowed more than he could pay back. He told his creditors not to worry, he had money invested in Dunkirk, Ohio and would go there and withdraw some. He borrowed some more to cover his expenses then left for Dunkirk.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Scenes from the Twichell/Hill Murder.


George Twitchell beat his mother-in-Law, Mary Hill, to death with a poker then threw her body out an upstairs window of her Philadelphia home in November 1868.

Read the full story here: Thrown Out the Window.                                           

Source:
“The Philadelphia Murder,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 12, 1868.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Tragedy at Vineland.

On the morning of March 19, 1875, Charles K. Landis entered the office of the Vineland Independent and demanded to see the paper’s editor and publisher, Uri Carruth. When Carruth entered the room, Landis approached him, waving a newspaper clipping.

“Mr. Carruth, did you write that?” Landis shouted.

“I did, and I will do it again,” said Carruth.

“Will you promise not to attack my wife in future?”

“No.”

“Defend yourself then,” said Landis drawing a revolver. 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The School-girl Murder.

Mamie Kelly
Fourteen-year-old Mamie Kelly of San Francisco, had a crush on the boy next door, nineteen-year-old Aleck Goldenson. Though Aleck was the kind of boy who appeals to teenaged girls—an artist and a bit of a hoodlum—her family had no use for him at all. In spite of this, Mamie took every opportunity be near him. Aleck first enjoyed her attention, then tolerated it, then actively tried to put a stop to it. He ended their relationship for good one day in November 1886, when he met Mamie on the street and shot her in the face.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Scene of the Murder of Mabel H. Young.


On Sunday, May 23, 1875, Thomas W. Piper, sexton of the Warren Avenue Baptist Church in Boston, lured 5-year-old Mabel Young to the church belfry on the pretext of looking at pigeons. There he crushed her skull with a cricket bat. Piper was captured after he was seen leaping from the belfry. In custody he confessed to a series of murders and violent sexual assaults.

Read the full story here: The Boston Belfry Tragedy.



Source:
“The Belfrey Tragedy -- Scene of the Murder pf Mabel H. Young,” Daily Graphic, May 27, 1875.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Bessie Little Mystery.

A swimmer in the Miami River outside of Dayton, Ohio, discovered the body of a young woman floating in the water on September 3, 1896. The coroner found nothing to indicate violence; the cause of death was believed to be suicide and the unidentified body was hastily buried.

When he heard of the body in the river, Dayton Police Chief Thomas Farrell believed he knew who she was, and he had reason to believe that she had been murdered. Farrell had the woman’s body disinterred and soon after she was identified as 23-year-old Bessie Little by her adopted parents and by her dentist who kept detailed records of his patients’ teeth. The coroner still could not determine the cause of death and the body was reburied.

Her parents said they did not report Bessie missing because she had left home several weeks earlier to look for work; she was living in a Dayton boarding house run by Mrs. Freese. The full story was, the Little’s had kicked Bessie out of their house when they learned she had been intimate with her boyfriend 20-year-old Albert Frantz. They told her not to return unless he agreed to marry her. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Bridgeport Tragedy.

Ellen Lucas of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was to be married on October 3, 1874. The typically happy 18-year-old was somewhat anxious, the evening of October 2, repeatedly looking at the clock as she hastily ate supper. Ellen changed her clothes and left the house at 7:00, telling her mother that she would not be gone long. Mrs. Lucas watched her daughter walk to the corner where she met her fiancĂ©, James E. Lattin. 

Ellen never came home that night, and early the next morning, her family and friends began a search for her. The search ended when two workmen found her body, face down in a stream in a secluded spot called The Cedars, near Berkshire Pond in Northern Bridgeport.

At first, suicide was suspected, but the water in the stream was only a few inches deep, and Ellen had shown no signs of depression and had been enthusiastically preparing for her wedding. A hasty postmortem examination verified that she had not drowned, and the only mark of violence on the body was a small bruise on her forehead. The doctors also discovered that Ellen had been six months pregnant. Foul play was suspected, and James Lattin became the prime suspect.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Execution of Emil Lowenstein.


Emil Lowenstein was a barber in Brooklyn, NY who had persuaded his neighbor, John Weston, a one-armed Civil War veteran, to withdraw his life savings and travel upstate with him. The body of John Weston was found in a ravine in Watervliet, NY, soon after Lowenstein returned to Brooklyn, flush with cash.

Lowenstein denied being in Watervliet with Weston and professed innocence to the end. Nevertheless, he was found guilty of first-degree murder and on April 10, 1874, the sheriff cut the rope to drop the counterweight and launch Emil Lowenstein into eternity.

Read the full story here: The Brooklyn Barber.


Source:
“Scenes at the Execution of Emil Lowenstein,” Daily Graphic, April 11, 1874.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Miss Elizabeth Petty.

In 1893, Miss Elizabeth Petty lived alone in a three-story frame house in Newark, New Jersey. She was a reclusive sixty-five year old spinster, known for her eccentricities and believed to be worth a considerable fortune. Her father had been a prosperous sea captain who died when she was a young child. When her mother died in 1878, Miss Petty inherited the house along with railroad and bank bonds worth an estimated $30,000 - $40,000. Miss Petty had been a school teacher but she gradually went insane and had to retire when her students began making fun of her behavior.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Judge Lynch in Pennsylvania.


Joseph Snyder murdering Jacob Geogle and wife - Judge Lynch meets out death to the scoundrel in a summary manner
Portraits: 1. Joseph Snyder - 2. Alice Geogle, whom Snyder attempted to rape.

In 1880, Jacob and Annie Geogle lived with their three children in the town of Santee’s Mills near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Jacob worked as a miner in an iron ore mine and to supplement his meager income, the Geogles took in a boarder—27-year-old Joseph Snyder, also a miner. Snyder became infatuated with the Geogle’s oldest daughter Alice and expressed his desire to marry her but Alice was only 14-years-old and she did not return Joseph Snyder’s love. Her parents were appalled at the idea and would have thrown Snyder out but he owed them two months’ rent and they needed the money.

Snyder began sneaking into Alice’s room late at night and making improper advances that she had, so far, been able to fend off. When she told her parents of Snyder's behavior they were livid and on December 26 they confronted him. After a bitter argument they told Snyder that when he got his next paycheck he must pay his board and leave.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Notorious Mrs. Clem.


The sensational murders of successful businessman, Jacob Young and his wife in Indianapolis, in 1868, exposed a web of financial fraud involving some of the most influential men in the city. Circumstantial evidence soon pointed to Mrs. Nancy E. Clem, mastermind of the fraudulent scheme, as the perpetrator of the murders. The notorious Mrs. Clem, however, proved remarkably hard to convict.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Wakemanite Murder.

In 1855 a religious sect known as the Wakemanites met regularly at the home of Samuel Sly in New Haven, Connecticut. The Wakemanites were follower of Mrs. Rhoda Wakeman who had been chosen by the Lord to prepare the faithful for the return of Christ and the new Millennium.

69-year-old Rhoda Wakeman had previously lived in Greenfield, Connecticut with an abusive husband. Some 30 years earlier, Mr. Wakeman had beaten her so badly that, according to Mrs. Wakeman, he killed her. Two angels stood beside her and when they touched her with their bright swords she rose from the cloud of death and went to heaven.  She saw Christ, in his crown of thorns and with nails in his hands and he spoke peace to her soul. She saw God sitting upon his throne in all his glory surrounded by angels in white robes. Then a spirit took her to earth where she saw her dead body lying on the floor and she knew she had come back to this wicked world to live again. She had been dead for seven hours but rose again. From that point on she would communicate directly with God as she pursued her task of preparing the world for the second coming. 

When her husband died, she moved to New Haven where she was known as Widow Wakeman. She lived with her half-brother, Samuel Sly (aka Elder Sly), and gathered followers who met at his house to hear her message. They called themselves Wakemanites and called their leader The Prophetess. While the Wakemanites never numbered more than a dozen or so, they were true believers and devoted servants of The Prophetess.

In December 1855, Mrs. Wakeman began suffering from severe bodily pains. She knew exactly what caused the pains; one of her followers had stopped coming to meetings because he had become possed by an evil spirit. This evil spirt was not only a source of pain for The Prophetess but was also a great obstacle to the immediate commencement of the millennium. Moreover, if she should die as a result, her death would be followed by the general judgement and destruction of the world without any millennium.

The Wakemanites understood the urgency and set about to rid Mathews of his evil spirt. One of the followers, Polly Sanford, was Justus Mathews’ brother; she went with her husband, Almeron Sanford to discuss the matter with Mathews and convince him to come to a meeting on Sunday, December 23. The group had been praying and singing since 2:00 that afternoon and Mathews arrived some time after 9:00 pm. He expressed a desire to be relieved of the evil spirit which afflicted him, and through him, afflicted others, especially The Prophetess. 

Polly Sanford tied a handkerchief over his eyes to diminish the power of the spirit and to prevent Mathews from enchanting anyone with his eyes. She tied his hands behind his back, “as they would the devil.” Then she left him alone and went upstairs to pray with the others. The meeting went on until 2:00 am and Mathews was visited at intervals by one or more of the company to beseech him to give up the evil one. They told him it would be better that he should die than that Mrs. Wakeman should be afflicted unto death and the world destroyed. He reportedly expressed a willingness to die. Eventually they all went home without checking any further on Mathews.

Justus Mathews never came home that night and the next morning his son went looking for him. He went to Sly’s house and when no one answered the door he broke it open. He found his father lying on the floor with pools of blood surrounding his head. His throat had been cut from ear to ear and his head nearly severed from his body. A small rope was found on the floor and marks on his wrists showed that he had been bound and his abdomen was covered with puncture wounds as if he had been stabbed with a table fork. The boy immediately raised the alarm.

Later that day a coroner’s jury was convened and many of those at the meeting gave evidence. They testified to the belief that if Mrs. Wakeman should die the world would be destroyed. They believed that Justus Mathews had killed himself to be rid of the evil spirit. Several Walemanites were arrested and charged with committing or in some way being accessory to the crime—Israel Wooding, Almeron and Polly Sanford, Abigail Sables, Thankful S. Hersey, Widow Wakeman, Samuel Sly, and Josiah Jackson.

On Wednesday, Samuel Sly confessed to the murder. He said his sister had been so distressed by the bad spirit in Mathews that he knew something must be done to remove it. As people were preparing to leave, Sly went into the front room where Mathews was sitting and locked the door. He struck the blindfolded man in the temple with a two-foot club of hazel wood knocking him to the floor, then struck him several more times with the club. He took out his pocketknife with its two-inch blade, commenced to cutting Mathews’ throat. Then he mutilated the corpse with a fork. 

He went to Thankful Hersey, who had a room in the house, and she brought him a basin of water to wash off the blood. They tore up his bloody shirt and burned it in Miss Hersey’s stove. He broke the club into three pieces and threw it along with his knife, into the privy vault.

That April, Samuel Sly, Widow Wakeman, and Thankful Hersey were tried for the murder of Justus W. Mathews. None of the Wakemanites who testified had wavered in their belief that Mathews had been possessed by an evil spirit and had to die to save the world. The verdict was not guilty on the ground of insanity and the defendants were sent to the Insane Retreat in Hartford, Connecticut.

This was not the last murder connected to the Wakemanites, here is the story of Justus Mathew's maniac nephew: Murdered by a Maniac


Sources:
“Effects of Fanaticism,” Examiner and Chronicle, January 3, 1856.
“Horrible Ignorance and Superstition,” Portland Weekly Advertiser, January 1, 1856.
“A Most Horrible Murder! One of the isms.,” National Aegis, January 2, 1856.
“The New Haven Tragedy,” Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, January 12, 1856.
“The Wakemanites,” Manchester Daily Mirror, April 24, 1856.
“The Wakemanites,” New York Evangelist, April 24, 1856.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Late Miss Jennie E. Cramer.


This card, with a portrait and poem of murder victim Jennie Cramer was given away free to advertise Reed's Gilt Edge Tonic.

Source:  Brown University Library.


Read about the murder of Jennie Cramer here:

Found Drifting with the Tide