Saturday, September 18, 2021

Edward H. Rulloff.

Edward H. Rulloff was considered by many to be a genius, a man of great intellect, ahead of his time, ready to revolutionize the study of philology. And just as many thought him a fraud and a conman. He was well versed in medicine, law, and language and an educator well-respected by his students. He was also a thief and a swindler who had trouble leaving a city without a run-in with the law. When an 1870 burglary in Binghamton, New York left three men dead, the public would face the paradox of the “Man of Two Lives.”

Read the full story here: The Man of Two Lives.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

A Boy Murderer.

On Saturday, May 13, 1882, 16-year-old Thomas McCabe shot his stepmother, Catherine McCabe, in their New York City apartment. The wound to her neck was so serious that Coroner Knox was summoned to take her anti-mortem statement. She dictated her story:

“Shortly after 5 o’clock, I came from the kitchen and was putting oil in my lamp when my stepson, Thomas McCabe, fired a shot at me. I fell on my hands and knees and he said, ‘I done it! I done it!’ I said, ‘Why, Tom; why did you do it?’ He said nothing In reply, but stooped over me and took the contents of my pocket. I said, ‘it’s the money of the Land League,’ of which my husband is an officer. He also took my watch and an opera chain. I than said, ‘Oh, Tom; oh, Tom, don’t take my watch and chain!' He said, ‘I will take It; I want money to leave the city.’ I said, ‘Oh, Tom, don’t leave me, I never will mention your name. I will say I fell if you will only lift me up.’ He said, ‘I am not able,’ Then he left me. I called for help. I was paralyzed and could not get up, but after a long while Mrs. Whaley came In, and my stepson threw the pistol into his uncle’s bed. I saw him do it. When he went out be locked the door. I knew of no reason except that be wanted to rob me, I never had an angry word with him of late.”

Thomas McCabe bought a new suit of clothes with the money he stole from his stepmother, then went to a shooting gallery in the Bowery. He was practicing pistol shooting when the police arrested him.

McCabe had come with his father and stepmother from Ireland about four years earlier. He enjoyed life in New York, “but his tastes did not run in orderly grooves.” He did not like the discipline of school, was often truant, and caused trouble for his teachers and parents. His father would have whipped him many times, but for his stepmother’s intervention—she was thought to be too forbearing with him.

He finally got a job as a messenger for the District Telegraph Company but was often absent from this as well. McCabe was fired from the job but was afraid to tell his parents. Instead, he decided to rob them and leave town. When arrested for shooting his mother, McCabe showed no remorse.

At his trial the following September, Thomas McCabe was represented by William Howe of the firm Howe and Hummel, the most successful criminal lawyers in New York. McCabe’s plea was insanity. Under Howe’s cross-examination, McCabe’s father said Thomas had been weak-minded since birth, and at the James Street School, a Christian Brother had sent him home because he could make no progress with his studies and because he had “head trouble.” He was a boy of very weak intellect and was afflicted with epileptic fits.

Howe was not able to win an acquittal but was able to reduce the charge to second-degree manslaughter. Recorder Smyth, who presided over the case, was unhappy with the verdict and said this to McCabe as he handed down the maximum sentence:

“McCabe, the jury in your case took a more lenient and merciful view of your crime than your cowardly action deserved. They might well have rendered a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree on the evidence, and you would have been at the bar of this Court answering with your life for the life you have taken. You were most ably defended, and you have already had all the protection and mercy that ought be bestowed on you. The sentence of the Court is that you be confined in State Prison for seven years.”


“A Boy Matricide,” New York Herald, September 20, 1882.
“The Boy Murderer Sentenced,” Evening Star, September 29, 1882.
“City News Items,” New York Herald, July 12, 1882.
“Duties Neglected For A Convention,” New York Tribune, September 21, 1882.
“A Fatal Shot,” Evening Bulletin, May 16, 1882.
“Gotham Gossip,” Times-Picayune, May 19, 1882.
“The M'Cabe Trial,” Truth, September 26, 1882.
“Morning Summary,” Daily Gazette, May 15, 1882.
“Seven Years for a Life,” New York Herald, September 30, 1882.
“Shot by Her Stepson,” Cambria Freeman, May 19, 1882.
“Thomas McCabe,” National Police Gazette, June 10, 1882.
“The Trial of Thomas M' Cabe,” New York Herald, September 26, 1882.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Slain at the Alter.

At the wedding of James Baptiste and Marie Dujoe, on the Jamisen Plantation, near Thibodeaux, Lousiana, on February 2, 1886, the lights were suddenly extinguished, leaving the room totally dark. Wedding guests sat stunned as screams rang out through the darkness. The lamps were relit revealing that the groom had been stabbed seven times and lay dying on the floor. An investigation soon revealed that Baptiste had been murdered by Keziah Collins, a former paramour—but not soon enough to prevent Keziah from escaping aboard the steamboat Alice LeBlanc.

 “Murdered at a Wedding,” The Weekly Wisconsin, February 4, 1886.
“Slain at the Altar by his Former Mistress,” Illustrated Police News, February 27, 1886.
“State News,” Donaldsonville Chief, February 13, 1886.
“State News,” Donaldsonville Chief, March 6, 1886.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Fate of a Seducer.

There was no question that Fanny Windley Hyde killed George W. Watson; it would be up to the jury to decide whether this act was first-degree murder, or if Fanny was “under a weight of grief that could not be resisted.”

Read the full story here: A Weight of Grief

Picture from Illustrated Police News, February 8, 1872.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Caused by Jealousy.

 L.P. Christiansen was the proprietor of the Vienna House in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1888. William E. Bell was the head cook at the hotel until August of that year when Christiansen fired him for paying too much attention to his niece, Annie Christiansen. 

Christiansen was not exactly acting to protect his niece’s virtue; he had eyes for Annie himself. L.P.   scandalized the Vienna house when he left his wife and persuaded Annie to run away with him to Omaha. With her husband gone, Mrs. Christiansen brought back William Bell to help run the hotel. The two soon became intimate, causing further scandal at the Vienna House.

Mrs. Christiansen and William Bell were soon at each other’s throats.  She fired him again and left for Omaha to find her husband. Before she left, Bell told her, “If you bring Christiansen back with you, I’ll kill him.” Despite the warning, Mrs. Christiansen returned to Kansas City with her unfaithful husband.

As soon as Bell learned that Christiansen had returned, he started for the hotel. He was heard muttering, “If he makes a move, I mean to blow him to hell. I’ve stood this razzle long enough and will end it tonight.”

Bell entered the hotel by the rear stairway leading to the second floor and made straight to Christiansen’s room. He drew a 32-caliber bulldog revolver and fired twice— the first shot hit the wall above Christensen’s head, the second struck him in the forehead above the right eye. Mrs. Christiansen opened the door when she heard the first shot, and as her husband fell, bleeding, at her feet, she shrieked, “Oh, God! Will, you are a murderer—you’ve killed my husband!”

Bell ran outside to the pavement and raised the still-smoking revolver to his head. He fired and instantly died. L.P. Christiansen died later that day without regaining consciousness. Mrs. Christensen denied that she had been intimate with Bell and blamed it all on the love of the two men for Annie Christiansen. 

“Caused by Jealousy,” Illustrated Police News, March 23, 1889.
“Double Tragedy,” Cheyenne daily leader, March 10, 1889.
“A Sensational Tragedy,” Daily Inter Ocean, March 10, 1889.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Piper and his Crimes.

Thomas Piper murdered three, including 5-year-old Mabel Young.  

Read the full story here: The Boston Belfrey Tragedy

Saturday, August 7, 2021

A Baltimore Borgia.

Mrs. Elizabeth G. Wharton, widow of Major Henry W. Watson, was a pillar of Baltimore society in 1871. She owned a large house on Hamilton Place, where she lived with her daughter Nellie and two domestic servants. She was active in the Episcopal Church and other charitable organizations and moved in the most highly respectable, wealthy, and influential circles.

She was planning a trip to Europe in July 1871, and that June, Mrs. Wharton entertained several houseguests. On June 23, General William Scott Ketchum, an associate of her late husband and a longtime family friend, arrived at her house intending to stay a few days. The following day, the general was taken sick and was attended by Dr. P.C. Williams. 

As General Ketchum lay ill, Mr. Eugene Van Ness, Mrs. Wharton’s friend and financial advisor, called to spend the evening. She served him a glass of beer, which she said contained a few drops of gentian, a strong tonic to aid digestion. Soon after, Mr. Van Ness became violently ill and had to remain in her house. His physician, Dr. Chew, was summoned to his bedside. 

General Ketchum died on June 28, and his sudden death along with the unexpected illness of Mr. Van Ness raised suspicions of foul play. Ketchum’s friends had his remains removed to Washington, where Professor William Aiken of Maryland University analyzed the contents of his stomach. Dr. Aiken reported that General Ketchum’s stomach contained twenty grains of tartar emetic, a toxic compound—fifteen grains are sufficient to cause death. The police determined that Mrs. Wharton had purchased sixty grains of tartar emetic on June 26.

Gen. William Scott Ketchum
Unaware that General Ketchum has died, Eugene Van Ness was still bedridden at Mrs. Wharton’s home. His doctor prescribed a milk punch which Mrs. Wharton prepared. His wife became suspicious, and before Van Ness could drink the punch, she poured it out and found white sediment in the glass. She had it analyzed and found it was tartar emetic as well.

A warrant was issued against Mrs. Wharton for the murder of General Ketchum and the attempted murder of Mr. Van Ness. Deputy Marshal Jacob Frey managed to catch Mrs. Wharton before she left for Europe, and he put Elizabeth and Nellie Wharton along with their two servants under house arrest. At first, it was believed that the servants were responsible, but on July 15, the Grand Jury indicted Elizabeth Wharton, and she was held in jail without bail.

Mrs. Wharton owed General Ketchum $2,600, and between his death and the time of her arrest, she visited his son and tried to convince him that the debt had been paid and that Ketchum was holding government bonds of hers worth $4,000. Her financial situation was considered to be the motive of the murder.

Others, however, believed that Mrs. Wharton was affected with “poisoning mania” because four people had previously died mysteriously in her household. Her husband and son, both heavily insured, had died several years earlier; her son was exhumed, but no poison was found in his body. Her sister-in-law, Mrs. J. G. Wharton, alleged that her husband and son had been poisoned by Mrs. Wharton. She believed that Elizabeth Wharton had murdered her husband—Elizabeth’s brother—because of a $2,500 debt. 

Mrs. Wharton’s attorneys asserted that she could not get a fair trial in Baltimore and were granted a change of venue. On December 4, 1871, the trial of Elizabeth Wharton for the murder of General William Scott Ketchum opened to a packed courtroom in Annapolis, Maryland. Eighty-nine witnesses were subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution or defense; the majority of these were physicians and chemists who would give expert testimony.

The defense challenged the assertion that the substance in General Ketchum’s stomach was correctly identified and proposed that he may have died from a natural cause, such as cholera morbus or spinal meningitis. The technical testimony on both sides continued for weeks, and more than one newspaper commented on how tedious the trial became. At the trial’s end, the Baltimore Sun said, “Her trial has occupied forty-two days, in which time theories of chemistry and medicine have been exhausted, as well as the law and the practitioners of all three of these learned professions.”

The case was given to the jury on January 24, 1872, and they deliberated throughout the night. At one, they appeared deadlocked at four for conviction and eight for acquittal, but by 10:00 the next morning, they were in agreement and returned a verdict of not guilty.

Mrs. Wharton was acquitted of the murder of General Ketcham, but she was not yet free. The prosecution intended to try her for the attempted murder of Eugene Van Ness and released her on $5,000 bail until the trial the following April. 

The Van Ness trial was continued several times and was not held until January 1873. It lasted nearly a month but did not generate the same excitement as her first trial.  The jury deliberated from January 31 to February 3 before announcing they were hopelessly deadlocked. The trial ended in a hung jury.

In April, the prosecution announced that they would stet the cases, meaning that it was not closed, but they would not pursue it at that time. Mrs. Wharton was never retried.

“Acquitted,” New York Herald, January 25, 1872.
“Alleged Poisoning Case,” Daily dispatch, July 13, 1871.
“A Baltimore Borgia,” Troy Daily Times, July 13, 1871.
“The Baltimore Borgia,” Philadelphia Inquirer, July 14, 1871.
“The Baltimore Poisoning Case Mrs,” New York Herald, July 16, 1871.
“The Baltimore Poisoning Cases,” Mercury, July 27, 1871.
“Baltimore's Sensation,” World, July 20, 1871.
“A Defence of Mrs,” Daily Albany Argus, September 27, 1871.
“End of the Wharton Trial,” Annapolis Gazette, February 4, 1873.
“Events of the Day,” Daily Critic, July 12, 1871.
“The Great Poisoning Case,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 4, 1871.
“Poisons And Poisoners The Murderesses of To-day, Lydia Sherman, Mrs,” Sunday Mercury, July 23, 1871.
Wharton, Elizabeth G.. Trial of Mrs. Elizabeth G. Wharton: On the Charge of Poisoning General W. S. Ketchum. United States: Reported and published by the Baltimore Gazette, 1872.
“The Wharton Poisoning Case,” Illustrated Police News, December 21, 1871.
“The Wharton Poisoning Case,” Sun, January 24, 1872.
"William Scott Ketchum," Library of Congress.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Jealousy and Murder.

On June 15, 1877, Cora Young paid a call at The Club House, a saloon in Auburn, New York run by John H. Barrett. Cora was a prostitute, working out a brothel near the saloon, but she had a special relationship with John Barrett and viewed him as her man. Barrett was not as committed to the relationship as Cora but stayed with her out of fear; Cora was very jealous, and on several occasions, she had threatened his life. That afternoon Cora confronted Barrett at the saloon, accusing him of infidelity. They quarreled, and Cora left angry.

At closing time, Cora returned and was very drunk. Barrett took her home and spent the night in her room at the brothel. Cora was still angry, and around 6:00 that morning, three pistol shots were heard coming from Cora’s chamber. 

When the police arrived, they burst into the room and found Barrett lying on the bed with blood flowing from a bullet hole near his temple. Cora lay next to him, her arm around him, with two bullet wounds in her head. On the bed between them laid a seven-shot revolver. She had shot John Barrett in the head, then turned the gun on herself and fired twice. 

Cora Young
Barrett died about half an hour after he was found. Cora revived but remained in critical condition; it was believed that she would die as well. A coroner’s jury quickly ruled that Cora shot and killed John Barrett; if she survived her self-inflicted wounds, Cora would be tried for first-degree murder and face the gallows.

Cora did recover, and the following November, she was tried for murder. The case was given to the jury at 4:00 on November 17, 1877. As Cora's jury deliberated, the court heard the case of William Barr, a prisoner at Auburn State Prison who had killed a guard with a snow shovel. That case was interrupted at 6:00 when the jury returned with a verdict in Cora’s case. 

"Not guilty," said the foreman; the courtroom erupted with loud applause and Cora fainted. In the confusion that followed, Barr tried to escape, and after several minutes of struggle with the Sheriff’s officers, he was subdued. Barr was put in shackles, and his trial resumed.

“Acquitted - Attempt to Escape from a Court Room,” Daily Nonpareil, November 18, 1877.
“The Auburn Murder-Lunatics in Prison,” New York Tribune, February 7, 1877.
“Confusion in a Murder Trial,” New York Herald, November 18, 1877.
“Double Tragedy,” Cincinnati Daily Star, June 15, 1877.
“Jealousy, Murder, and Suicide,” Illustrated Police News, June 30, 1877.
“Murder and Suicide,” Plain Dealer, June 15, 1877.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

New! The Bloody Century Audiobook.

        pervaded nineteenth-century America marked by lurid newspaper accounts and remembered in ballad and verse.

The Bloody Century presents 50 of the most intriguing murder cases from the archives of American crime. It is a collection of fascinating stories—some famous, some long-buried—of Americans, driven by desperation, greed, jealousy, or an irrational bloodlust, to take another’s life.

The Bloody Century audiobook, narrated by Charles Huddleston, augments the true accounts of these murders with musical performances of period ballads and poems.

Listen to a sample chapter:
"Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dula"

The Bloody Century Audiobook 
 Available from Audible and Amazon

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Poison Fiend.

When Horatio Sherman took sick after returning home from a week-long drunken spree, he said it was just one of his “old spells.” His wife Lydia agreed, and dosed him with brandy as usual. But Horatio’s doctor, who had treated his alcohol induced “spells” before, was suspicious this time. Horatio died two days later, and the doctor ordered a post-mortem examination which revealed the cause of death to be arsenic poisoning. When it was further learned that Lydia Sherman’s first two husbands, and seven of her children had all died of arsenic poisoning as well, she was called “The Arch Murderess of Connecticut,” “The Modern Borgia,” and “The Poison Fiend.”

Saturday, July 17, 2021

A Cowardly Lover.

 Lottie Jackson of Greasy Bend, Kansas, was engaged to marry James “Jap” Rainey, but she broke it off in the Fall of 1893. It was probably due to his rowdy ways; Jap Rainey had a reputation as a gambler and “all-around sport.” He argued with Lottie, then left in a fit of jealous rage, vowing to kill her.

On October 28, 1893, Lottie paid a call at the home of Bosworth Morgan in Osawatomie. As she stood by an open window that night, she did not see Jap Rainey sneaking toward the house. He approached the window, then raised his pistol and made good on his promise. He fired into the house, killing Lottie Jackson, then escaped into the darkness.

Everyone knew who did it, and they quickly formed a posse to track him down. Their intentions were clear; when they caught Rainey, they planned to lynch him on the spot. Realizing his position was hopeless, Jap Rainey went to the police station in Paola, Kansas, and gave himself up. This was not enough for the residents of Greasy Bend, who organized a mob of 75 men to travel to Paola, break Rainey out of jail, and lynch him.

Rainey remained safe in the Paola jail until his trial in February 1894. He tried a plea of temporary insanity, but the jury did not buy it. Rainey was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to hang. He moved for a new trial, but the judge overruled the motion. When Rainey asked for mercy, the judge replied that even if such were meted, there was but one sentence possible under the jury’s verdict. He sentenced Rainey to one year in the penitentiary, then, whenever the governor should so will it, to be hanged.

The governor was not in a hanging mood, and as of December 1898, 46 men, including Jap Rainey, were on death row in Kansas, awaiting execution. In October 1913, after serving 19 years at the penitentiary, Jap Rainey met with pardon clerk S.T. Seaton and fell on his knees, pleading for Seaton to bring about his release. Seaton promised to do so, and that is the last we hear of Jap Rainey.

“A Coweredly Lover,” National Police Gazette, November 18, 1893.
“Current Events,” Muskegon Chronicle, October 28, 1893.
“The Death Penalty,” Topeka Weekly Capital, December 30, 1898.
“Gave Himself Up,” Tyrone Daily Herald, October 31, 1893.
“Jealous Rage,” Indianapolis Sun, October 28, 1893.
“Killed his Sweetheart,” Albany Ledger, November 3, 1893.
“March of Avengers,” Pittsburg Daily Headlight, October 31, 1893.
“A Murder At Osowatomie,” Topeka Daily Capital, October 28, 1893.
“Murder in the First Degree,” Topeka Daily Capital, February 17, 1894.
“Murdered his Sweetheart,” St. Joseph Weekly Gazette, March 13, 1894.
“Murderer Rainey Still Safe,” Lawrence Daily Gazette, November 1, 1893.
“Water at Penitentiary,” Topeka state journal, October 25, 1913.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Free Book!

Get a free copy of Murder Illustrated as a thank you gift for subscribing to Murder by Gaslight.

Murder Illustrated, edited and compiled by Robert Wilhelm, presents over 100 graphic murder scenes from the 19th-century press. Artists renditions of:
  • Stabbings
  • Shootings
  • Drownings
  • Axe Murders
  • And more...
drawn from Victorian books, murder pamphlets, national magazines, and daily newspapers.

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Saturday, July 10, 2021

Transitory Frenzy.

Charles E. Henry came to Denver, Colorado, determined to live the fast life. The ambitious nineteen-year-old left his home in London, Ontario, in 1887 after winning $5,000 in the Louisiana lottery. He planned to use his winnings as seed money to begin a career as a professional gambler and to finance a life of luxury as he did so.

Henry had some initial success in the arcades of Denver, winning, on average, $30 a day for his first two weeks in town, but he spent more than that on the girls at the Palace Theater. The show at the Palace featured a variety company with a number of attractive young actresses and female vocalist. The theater required the women, when not on stage, to entertain individual customers, luring them to private boxes in the theater balcony and enticing them to buy drinks, for which the women received kickbacks. Charles Henry bought drinks for most of the cast before focusing his attentions on Miss Effie Moore, an actress with a round face and long curls of shiny black hair, who did a solo seriocomic performance in the show.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Body of Mena Muller.


A man gathering leaves in Guttenberg, New Jersey, on May 13, 1881, discovered the body of a young woman with a fractured skull. It took five days to identify her as Mena Muller of New York City. She left her husband then illegally married Martin Kinkowski. That marriage ended badly after Mena and Martin shared a bottle of wine.

Read the full story here: The Guttenberg Murder.

Illustration from Wedded and murdered within an hour!,  Philadelphia: Barclay & Co., 1881

Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Outraged Father.

In December 1882, 16-year-old Emma Nash was raped in Wahpeton, Dakota Territory, by E.A. Newton, an agent for the Northern Pacific, Fergus Falls, and Black Hills Railway. She swore out a warrant against Newton, and on December 23, he appeared before the Grand Jury in Washington, Dakota Territory.

Emma’s father, James G. Nash, watched from the gallery at the indictment hearing as the judge read the charges and asked Newton how he pled. “Not guilty,” said Newton. A moment later, James Nash rose from his seat, pulled a revolver, and shot Newton dead.

“The scene that ensued beggars description,” said the Illustrated Police News. Nash surrendered himself to the authorities as the audience loudly applauded his act.

Public sentiment remained firmly on the side of the outraged father when he was indicted the following March for the murder of E.A. Newton. Nash pled not guilty, but he was a poor man who could not afford adequate counsel. The community in Wahpeton took up a collection and raised enough money to hire attorney W.W. Erwin Esq. of St. Paul, Minnesota, for Nash’s defense. The newspapers speculated that it would be difficult to find a jury that would convict him.

Nash was released on $10,000 bail pending his trial for murder. It does not appear that the trial ever took place.

“Nash, of Wahpeton, Indicted,” Bismarck Tribune, March 16, 1883.
“Record of Tragedies,” Mower County Transcript, January 3, 1883.
“Shot his Daughter's Seducer,” Illustrated Police News, January 20, 1883.
“Territorial News,” Butte Semi-weekly Miner, January 6, 1883.
“Territorial News,” Griggs County Courier, April 13, 1883.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Betrayed and Murdered at the Reservoir.

Parental hostility drove Fanny Madison out of her home and into the arms of her cousin, Thomas Cluverius. It was not a wise decision.

Read the full story here: Kissing Cousins.                                            

Pictures from Illustrated Police News, May 2, 1885.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Weight of Grief.

Fanny Windley Hyde
Fanny Windley began working in the factories of Brooklyn at age ten. When she was fifteen, Fanny was “seduced” by her forty-five-year-old employer, George W. Watson. Watson’s unwanted attention continued for the next two years, even after Fanny's marriage. Then one day, on the stairway of the factory, she countered Watson’s lewd advances with a gunshot to the head. There was no question that Fanny Windley Hyde killed George W. Watson; it would be up to the jury to decide whether this act was first degree murder, or if Fanny was “under a weight of grief that could not be resisted.”

Saturday, June 5, 2021

She Killed the Beast.


Bob Ramsey, a waiter at a resort hotel in Murphy, North Carolina, was standing in a lower hallway he heard a scream coming from the stairway. He recognized the woman running down the stairs as Lillian Gould, a pretty blonde Englishwoman about 30 years old. She was screaming because her husband, Charles, ten years older, tall and strong, was chasing her with a riding crop. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

"Had No Use For Men."


Alice Mitchell and Freda Ward, aged 19 and 17, had become close friends at the Higbee School for Girls in Memphis. So close, in fact, that they declared their love for each other and planned to elope to St. Louis to live together as husband and wife. When Freda’s family stopped the relationship, forbidding Freda from seeing Alice, events took a dreadful turn. On the afternoon of January 25, 1892, Alice Mitchel met Freda Ward on Front Street and cut her throat with a straight razor. Was Alice driven by insanity, by jealousy, or by “an unnatural love?”

Read the full story here: "Girl Slays Girl."

Pictures from Illustrated Police News, July 30, 1892.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

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, May 15, 2021

A Lovely Murderess.

The crack of gunfire startled the residents of 88 Merrimack Street, a boarding house in Lowell, Massachusetts, around 10:00, the night of  August 31, 1876. The boarders rushed to Lulu Martin’s room on the third floor, where the shot was fired. The door was locked; they heard a man inside shouting, “Go for the police! She has shot me! I will hold her! Break open the door!”

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Poor Little Alice.

8-year-old Alice Sterling disappeared from the steps in front of her father’s Boston barbershop the afternoon of April 10, 1895. The three-day search for Alice ended at a shallow grave in the floor of a nearby barn. Angus Gilbert, a friend of the Sterling family especially fond of little Alice, lived in a room above the barn. Gilbert was charged with her rape and murder but professed innocence to the end.

Read the full story here: Where is Alice Sterling?
“Poor Little Alice,” Illustrated Police News, April 27, 1895.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

James E. Eldredge.

James E. Eldredge
James E. Eldredge left his home in Canton, New York in the spring of 1856. He returned six months later with a new name and a duplicitous personality to match. All those around him soon learned to distrust anything the young man said—all except his fiancĂ©, Sarah Jane Gould. She remained trusting to the end, when Eldredge poisoned Sarah Jane to pursue her younger sister.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Fisk Assassination.

Popular financier Jim Fisk and his business associate, Ned Stokes, were good friends until Stokes stole Fisk’s mistress, Josie Mansfield. The scandal that followed included blackmail, courtroom dramas, and finally murder. Stokes met Fisk on the staircase of the Grand Central Hotel and shot him in cold blood. 

While we can only imagine what transpired when Josie arrived in hell, “The Strong Hand of Justice” was somewhat weaker than depicted above. It took three trials to convict Ned Stokes, and his sentence was six years in prison. 

Read the full story here: Jubilee Jim.

Picture from Illustrated Police News, January 25, 1872.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Dilliard Tragedy.

Around 2:00 AM, the morning of September 6, 1889 Mrs. Margaret Dilliard roused her husband, Arron, saying she heard a noise near the chicken coop of their Beersville, Pennsylvania farm. Aaron was reluctant to go outside, but Margaret insisted, handing him a lantern and a single-barreled shotgun. As Aaron went to investigate, Margaret waited on the porch with their 13-year-old son, Jacob. The chicken coop appeared to be undisturbed, and Aaron started back to the house, but his wife told him to check the cherry tree near the road where the chickens sometimes roosted. Aaron went back to the tree.

Neither Margaret nor Jacob heard a gunshot, but Aaron came stumbling out of the darkness a few minutes later and fell dead at their feet. He had been shot twice, with a bullet through the heart and buckshot in his neck. The killer had apparently used a double-barreled shotgun.

It was first believed that chicken thieves had shot Aaron Dilliard, but Detectives Johnson and Simons, who arrived from Easton, Pennsylvania later that day, quickly dismissed that theory. There were several indications that Dilliard’s death had been the result of a well-laid plan.  Though Margaret and Jacob heard no gunshots, neighbors half a mile away did hear them. Examining Aaron’s gun, the detectives found that the firing pin had been removed, rendering it useless. The detectives found no trace of intruders near the chicken coop, but by the cherry tree, they found footprints, a set of keys, and a paper wad from the killer’s gun.

Margaret Dilliard
Detectives Johnson and Simon believed that Margaret Dilliard was involved in a plot to murder her husband, but the prime suspect for the man who pulled the trigger was William Bartholomew, who, for several years, had an intimate relationship with Mrs. Dilliard. Bartholomew’s daughter recognized the keys as belonging to her father. She also said he had left the house after midnight while he said he was in all night. The paper wad found at the scene was torn from a copy of the Northampton Democrat found in Bartholomew’s house.  Bartholomew’s boots perfectly matched the footprints hear the scene.

William Bartholomew was a particularly unpleasant man. “A slouchy, unkempt, repulsive looking man of about 50 years,” said the Pittsburg Dispatch. “He has a forbidding appearance,” said the Philadelphia Inquirer, “He has the low forehead, snaky eyes, and general makeup of a felon.” Several years earlier, the Dilliards lived near Bartholomew and his wife, and William began an intimate relationship with Margaret Dilliard, who was twelve years younger. They made little effort to hide their romance, causing frequent quarrels in both households. Aaron moved his family to a farm three miles away, and for a time, the romance ceased.

William Bartholomew
In 1888, Mrs. Bartholomew became ill, and as she lay dying, she called for her husband, but he said that he did not have time to see her. When she died, he did not attend her funeral. It was rumored that William had poisoned his wife.

After his wife’s death, William resumed his relationship with Margaret Dilliard, and three or four times a week, he made the three-mile trip to see her. Sometimes he would stay overnight; it was impossible to hide their infidelity since everyone slept in one room. Jacob testified that Bartholomew often came to the house when his father was away and would give him candy and peanuts and send him to the store for tobacco. Aaron complained to his neighbors about Bartholomew’s behavior, and at the time of the murder, he was planning to move the family west.

Margaret Dilliard denied any involvement in the murder, but at her husband’s funeral, she had a change of heart and confessed all to the presiding minister. At the inquest, she testified against Bartholomew. She said he would not leave her alone, and she did not like it. But when Bartholomew proposed they kill her husband, she agreed. He removed the firing pin from her husband’s shotgun and told her to say she did not hear the gunshots. 

William Bartholomew and Margaret Dilliard were both arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The following October they were tried separately; both were found guilty and sentenced to hang. In exchange for her testimony against Bartholomew, the District Attorney promised to use all his influence with the governor to save her from the gallows. In January 1890, he made good on his promise, and her sentence was commuted to life in prison.

On April 9, 1890, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania executed four men in four separate cities. Eight hundred people watched as William Bartholomew stood on the gallows in Easton. His last words were declarations of innocence mixed with curses and blasphemy, demanding that Mrs. Dilliard and Detective Johnson be hanged as well. 

“Bartholomew Found Guilty,” Patriot, October 23, 1889.
“Details of the Crime,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 12, 1889.
“The Dilliard Murder William Bartholomew Arrested for Committing the Fould Deed,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 9, 1889.
“Four Hanged,” Evening World, April 9, 1890.
“Guilty Love Fired the Shot,” New York Herald, September 8, 1889.
“Hangman's Day,” Erie Times-News, April 9, 1890.
“He Caused the Murder,” Aberdeen Daily News, September 8, 1889.
“Her Death Sentencce,” Daily Yellowstone journal, January 14, 1890.
“Mrs,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 10, 1889.
“Mrs Dillard Sentenced,” Patriot, December 10, 1889.
“Mrs Dilliard Arrested,” Patriot, September 11, 1889.
“A Murder Confessed ,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 11, 1889.
“A Murder Near Beersville,” Patriot, September 7, 1889.
“Mysterious Murder Washington Dilliard Looks for Midnight Thieves and is Shot,” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 7, 1889.
“News and Other Notings,” Cambria freeman, December 20, 1889.
“Not So Mysterious,” Pittsburg Dispatch, September 8, 1889.
“Remorse of a Guilty Woman,” New York Herald, September 13, 1889.
“State News Notes,” Patriot, January 24, 1890.
“State News Notes,” Patriot, March 12, 1890.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Mysterious Murder of Pretty Rose Ambler.

Rose Ambler said goodnight to her fiancĂ© at the Raven Stream Bridge, the night of September 2, 1883, and started walking home alone as she usually did. She was never again seen alive. Her body was found the next day, beaten and stabbed, and the perpetrator was never captured. 

Read the full story here:

Saturday, April 3, 2021

"Yes, I Shot to Kill."

Commerce on the busy intersection  of Twenty-Fourth and J Streets, in Omaha, Nebraska, was interrupted, the evening of October 16, by the crack of three pistol shots. A young woman fired once in the air, trying to get the attention of the man who had just walked away from her. When he continued walking without turning around, she aimed at his back and fired again. Then she pointed the revolver at her own head and fired a third shot. Two bodies fell to the pavement.

Both were still alive and were quickly taken to Presbyterian Hospital. The man was Henry J. Reiser, a well-known, single, man-about-town, connected to the Armour meat packing company. The shot had severed his spinal cord, and he was not expected to live. The woman was Mrs. Eloise Rutiger, a prominent Omaha social leader, whose husband was also associated with Armour. The bullet had only grazed her head, and she was in no danger.

“Is he dead yet?” Mrs. Rudiger asked when she came to in the hospital, “Yes, I shot to kill. It was for my husband to do, but he would not, so I did it myself. The wretch has given me enough cause, and I hope I have accomplished what I undertook.”

Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Wilton Tragedy.

Moses Lovejoy was a respected, well-to-do farmer with a large spread in Wilton, New Hampshire. He had two lovely daughters, Ellen and Ida; both were intelligent and refined. Everything was rosy until 1868 when Moses hired Edwin Willis Major as a farmhand.

22-year-old Edwin Major came from Goffstown, New Hampshire; he was five foot ten, thickset and muscular with a heavy black mustache. When Lovejoy hired him, he already had a reputation as a bully, feared by people in town. Major was soon intimate with both of the Lovejoy girls; at the time, Ellen was 19, Ida was 13.

In July 1869, Ellen returned from picking blueberries, then suddenly collapsed and died. Her death could not be explained and was vaguely attributed to a spasm. Those who laid out her body for burial believed that she was pregnant when she died. The following November, Ida discovered that she was pregnant. Edwin Major was the father; he married Ida, and they lived together in her father’s house.

At first, it appeared that marriage would reform Major. He joined the Baptist Church in the Centre village and, for a time, was a zealous convert who became sexton of the church. But when money disappeared from the church’s charity fund, suspicion fell on Major, and he was expelled from the church. When relations became strained between Major and his father-in-law, he and Ida left the farmhouse and moved to French Village.

Major took a job at a furniture factory but was soon discharged for undisclosed reasons. A short time later, one of the workshops at the factory burned down. Suspicion rested on Major, but no movement was made toward his arrest. People lived in terror, fearing that if they brought charges against him, Major would retaliate and burn down their buildings.

In the five years since the wedding, Ida gave birth to four children, two of which had died suddenly, but no investigation was made. In 1874, Ida was pregnant again. Major started telling people that his wife was ill, suffering from spasms. He said that Ida was a “camphor subject,” meaning she habitually took camphor oil, a cough suppressant that could be addictive or even fatal when taken internally.

On Saturday, December 19, 1874, Major took a train to Nashua, New Hampshire, where he met with several physicians. He asked about procuring abortion, an illegal operation at the time; for his cousin, he said. When Major returned on Sunday, Ida appeared to be in good health. At 6:00, she prepared supper; at 7:00, she was dead. Ida had begun having spasms, and when neighbors were called to help, she was too sick to recognize them. They summoned a doctor, but she was dead before he arrived. This time the doctor was suspicious and sent for Coroner B.B. Whitmore. He did not arrive until after Ida’s funeral the following Tuesday.

Coroner Whitmore ordered Ida’s body disinterred and held Major in custody pending an inquest into her death. He sent Ida’s stomach to Boston for analysis by Dr. Edward S. Wood of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Wood analyzed the stomach contents using Drogendorff’s process, including three tests; 1. Taste, 2. Reaction with sulfuric acid and bichromate of potash, 3.the physiological test—the substance was fed to a frog. The frog died instantly, and Dr. Wood determined that Ida’s stomach contained strychnine. He presented his findings to the coroner’s jury, who concluded that Ida was poisoned by Edwin Major.

As Major awaited trial, Ellen Lovejoy’s body was exhumed. Though she had died five years earlier, her stomach was still intact; it was sent to Dr. Wood for analysis. He performed the same tests, this time administering the substance to a dog, producing death. Ellen had also been poisoned with strychnine. In addition, the exhumation proved conclusively that Ellen was pregnant at the time of her death. 

Edwin Major’s trial for murder began on September 13, 1875. Though public sentiment was strongly against Major, the evidence against him was circumstantial. The trial lasted about twelve days, and after deliberating for eighteen hours, the jury was hopelessly split and could not agree on a verdict. The second trial held the following December lasted four days, and after two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. He was sentenced to hang on January 5, 1877.

In the year between sentencing and Major’s scheduled execution, his supporters circulated a petition to commute his sentence to life in prison. Major was confident that he would not be executed and was devastated when the governor refused the petition.

Major was hanged in Concord, New Hampshire, on January 5, 1877. At the scaffold, he was pressed to make a confession, but he reiterated his innocence. Major appeared calm on the gallows, but before the trap was sprung, his nerve deserted him, and he fell upon his knees, utterly broken down. He died without a struggle. 

“Arrest for Wife Murder,” Sunday Times, December 27, 1874.
“Edwin Willis Major,” Illustrated Police News, January 13, 1877.
“The Gallows,” Chicago Daily News, January 5, 1877.
“Major Held for Trial,” Daily Patriot, January 11, 1875.
“The Major Poisoning Case,” Daily Patriot, September 14, 1875.
“The Major Poisoning Case,” New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, September 15, 1875.
“The Major Poisoning Case ,” Lake Village Times, September 11, 1875.
“Miscellaneous Items,” New England Farmer, December 9, 1876.
“New England Matters,” Boston Traveler, September 6, 1875.
“New Hampshire,” Lake Village Times, July 31, 1875.
“News Article,” Vermont farmer, September 24, 1875.
“Supposed Murder at Wilton,” Farmers' Cabinet., December 30, 1874.
“Twinkles,” Providence Morning Star, November 29, 1875.
“The Wilton Poisoning Case,” Boston Journal, September 18, 1875.
“The Wilton Tragedy,” Boston Traveler, January 3, 1876.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Life and Execution of John Hanlon.

John Hanlon, (alias Charles Harris, Charles Hanlon) was a barber in Philadelphia. On September 6, 1868 Hanlon disguised himself with false whiskers and dark clothing and approached 6-year-old Mary Mohrman who was playing next door to his shop. Her friends saw Mary accompany him into an alley; she was never again seen alive. 

A year later, after two more attempted assaults, Hanlon was captured and convicted of the rape and murder of Mary Hohrman.

Read the full story here: 

Little Mary Mohrman.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Murders in Church.

On April 13, 1895, the mutilated body of Minnie Williams (top portrait) was found in the library of Emanuel Baptist Church in San Francisco. While searching the church, the police found the body of Blanche Lamont, strangled, and posed naked in the church belfry.  Both women had been romantically involved with the Superintendent of Sunday School, Theo Durrant (bottom portrait) who was soon dubbed “The Demon of the Belfry.”

Read the full story here:

  Theo Durrant - The Demon of the Belfry.

Source: Illustrated Police News, May 4, 1895.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Murderous Maine.

 At first glance, the State of Maine seems an unlikely spot for a murder. With its primeval forests and rocky coastline, Maine is a nature lover’s dream. But conditions are harsh; the winters are long and cold, and in the nineteenth century, the isolation could be unbearable. Aa a result, Maine became the site of many brutal and mysterious murders. Here are just a few: 

The Hart-Meservey Murder.
The winter of 1877, Captain Luther Meservey of Tenant’s Harbor went to sea leaving his wife Sarah alone. When Sarah was found strangled in her own home, Nathan Hart, a neighbor of the Meservey’s was tried and convicted on evidence so circumstantial that many in town refused to accept the verdict.
The Smuttynose Murders.
With their men away fishing, The night of March 6, 1873, Maren Hontvet, Karen Christensen, and Anethe Christensen were prepared to be alone in their cold house, but nothing could have prepared them for the arrival, by rowboat, of a deranged axe murderer.
John True Gordon.
John True Gordon was convicted of the axe murder of his brother Almon, his brother’s wife Emma, and their infant daughter, Millie. He shared a gallows with Louis Wagner, convicted of the Smuttynose murders, in Maine's most gruesome execution.
The Bangor Mystery.
William B. Elliot, a constable and tax collector for the town of Glenburn, Maine was found on the road, brutally hacked to death. The identity of his killer remains a mystery.
The Kittery Crime.
On November 14, 1883, Thomas Barrows of Kittery, Maine, was found dead with six bullet wounds in his arms, legs, and head. His wife called it a suicide, but if so, why did he wound himself five times before firing the shot that killed him? And how had he shot himself six times with the five-barrel revolver found near the bed?
"Mary Bean" - The Factory Girl.
A body, identified as Mary Bean, a young factory girl who was treated for typhoid, was found floating in a culvert in the mill town of Saco, Maine, in April 1850. Her real name was not Mary Bean and her condition was not typhoid. When the truth was learned, the story of Mary Bean's death became a cautionary tale exhorting factory girls to guard their virtue.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Kaiser Conspiracy.

 On a road outside of Norristown, Pennsylvania, on October 28, 1896, Frank Mancil and his daughter came upon an agitated man shouting, “Murder! Help!” The man was bleeding from his arm, and, in a buggy nearby, a woman lay prostrate.

The man, Charles O. Kaiser, Jr., told Mancil that he and his wife Emma had been attacked by highwaymen who shot them both then left with their watches and her purse containing $53. Mancil thought the woman was only unconscious, so they went in two carriages to the office of Dr. Mann in Bridgeport. Dr. Mann could see right away that Emma Kaiser had died from a bullet wound to the left temple.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Mrs. Halliday in Handcuffs.


In 1894, Lizzie Halliday was sentenced to death for murdering her husband and two others and. A state commission judged her insane and commuted her sentence to life in an asylum. Though she exhibited all the signs of a woman who was violently insane, many believed that Lizzie was merely a gifted actress.

At Mattawan State Asylum, she killed her favorite nurse with a pair of scissors. No one disagreed when the press dubbed Lizzie Halliday “Worst woman on earth.”

Read the full story here: The Worst Woman on Earth.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Rogers Murder.

The morning stillness on East 12th Street, New York City, was shattered on December 31, 1869, by cries of “Murder!” Charles M. Rogers lay bleeding on the sidewalk in front of his house as two men were seen running from the scene.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Rescue of Ameer Ben Ali.

This week’s guest post from Howard and Nina Brown of Jack The Ripper Forums - Ripperology For The 21st Century ( continues the story of Ameer Ben Ali (aka “Frenchie”) who was falsely convicted of the 1891 murder of Carrie Brown. "The Rescue of Ameer Ben Ali" focuses on the evidence that led to his release.


In the last Murder by Gaslight article of ours, along with the photograph of Ameer Ben Ali, an article was transcribed which featured a prominent stage actor proclaiming he had been told by Ali's court interpreter that Ali had confessed to being in the same room as murder victim Carrie Brown and inferring that he had committed the heinous crime. 

Whether Ali stated that he committed the crime is irrelevant since he didn't murder Carrie Brown.  He didn't have the key which was necessary to lock the door to Room 31.  Within days a handful of people associated with the real killer's employer knew that and it would not be until a decade passed that this miscarriage of justice would be resolved resulting in the pardoning & exoneration of the Algerian.  There were three efforts towards pardoning Ali; one following the sentencing, another in 1897, and finally in 1901.

The proof of his innocence all along was the key to Room 31 at the East River Hotel taken by the killer and left by the same at the residence of his then employer, 51-year-old George Damon of Cranford, New Jersey.

Damon was the proprietor of a printing firm at 44 Beekman Street, Manhattan, which was not far from the Brown murder site.  Damon was also a pillar of his community in Cranford, situated in Union County 18 miles from Manhattan.  Damon, in addition to his printing firm, dabbled in real estate, held patents, & was a member of the Chamber of Commerce.  This photo is of the Damon residence as it looked 100 years ago. 


Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Murder in Pantomime.

Lizzie Lochner returned home from a night on the town sometime after midnight the morning of June 2, 1894. Her husband Joseph, who stayed home with the children—4-year-old Rosa and her infant brother— berated Lizzie for her for coming in so late. They began to loudly argue the matter as they had done many times before.

Their lodger, Gus Englund, was used to being awakened by the Lochner’s arguing but this night was different. The voices grew to a crescendo followed by a few minutes of silence, then the sound of a gunshot. Joseph Lochner burst into his room and said, “Oh, Gus, Gus, I have done it. I have killed my wife.” He then ran out of the building by the back door.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Murdered Alice Brown.


Read the whole story of Alice Brown's mysterious, 1897 murder in Boston here: 15 Corning Street.

Illustrations from Boston Post, November 6, 1897.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Good News! Three Cheers!


The Hangman, a newspaper dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment, celebrated the commutation of Orrin DeWolf’s death sentence on September 9, 1845.

Did this young, drunken, diseased, conniving, duplicitous, murderous, libertine deserve mercy? You decide: Orrin DeWolf

Saturday, January 9, 2021

The Mabbitt Mystery.

Luella Mabbitt.
Luella Mabbitt and Amer Green made a handsome couple. 23-year-old Luella was an attractive,   well-formed young lady—“of the blonde type of beauty and very winning in her ways.” Amer Green, 34-years-old, was tall and good-looking with manly features. But Luella’s father, Peter Mabbitt, did not approve of his daughter’s suiter, so, reluctantly, Luella told Amer that they had to break up. She would return his letters and he was to return hers.

On August 6, 1886, Amer Green, with his friend William Walker took a buggy ride to the Mabbitt home in Wildcat, Indiana. Her parents saw Luella leave the house with the letters, but she never came back.

Peter Mabbitt believed that his daughter had been kidnapped by Amer Green. Green and Walker were questioned by authorities, but both denied any knowledge of Luella’s whereabouts. In the days that followed search, parties were organized in the area around Wildcat Creek. Peter Mabbitt hired a private detective and offered a reward of $500 for the apprehension of his daughter’s kidnappers.