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