Saturday, March 2, 2024

His House His Castle.

Sometime after 11:00, the night of January 15, 1888, Mrs. Emma Belden was awakened by someone ringing the front doorbell. She went to the door and heard the person trying to get inside.

“Who’s there,” she called.

“Let me in,” a gruff voice responded.

“You can’t get in.”

The man outside started kicking the door, trying to break in.

The Beldens lived in a three-story house at 182 Ainslie Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Emma and her husband George lived on the first floor; their son Robert and his wife Jeanette lived on the top two floors.

George Belden joined his wife at the door and said to the man, “What do you want?”

“None of your _____ business,” the man shouted as he continued kicking the door.

Robert came downstairs to help his parents. The man outside said he would burst in the door if someone did not open it soon. 

“I’ll save you the trouble of bursting the door,” said George, and he eased the door open to get a look at the stranger.

He was a rough-looking man, clearly drunk and angry. Cursing, he said he would enter or die. Then he forced his way in and lunged at George Belden’s throat. All three men were engaged in a violent struggle while the women screamed “murder.”

Robert brought a pistol with him when he came downstairs, and he fired a shot over the intruder’s head. The man continued to fight, so Robert fired again. He aimed for his feet but was knocked in the scuffle, and the bullet entered the man’s side. The fighting ceased as the man slumped to the floor.

Robert dressed and left for the police station to turn himself in. An ambulance took the wounded man to St. Catherine’s Hospital.

The police court judge charged Robert Belden with felonious assault and refused bail. He handed the case to District Attorney Ridgway, who sided with Robert.

“There is no question as to the law of the case,” said D.A. Ridgway to the Supreme Court judge, “If this man was an intruder and the son believed that his father’s life was in peril, he was justified in shooting.”

Fire Commissioner Ennis accompanied Belden to court and vouched for him. The Commissioner put up the bond when the judge granted Belden $2,000 bail.

At the hospital, the wounded man was in critical condition but able to talk. His name was Frank Coleman, and he lived at 156 Ainsley Street. He said he had not intended to rob the place. Because he was nearsighted, he mistook the Belden house for his own. He thought he was being kept out because he was drunk. This made him angry enough to fight when he got inside.

Frank Coleman died on January 18, leaving a widow and several children. The police rearrested Robert Belden, and the coroner held an inquest on the case. After hearing the testimony of the family and several neighbors who witnessed the events from outside, the coroner’s jury declared that Belden’s act was justified.

"The punishment of Robert Belden for the killing of Frank Coleman will probably be limited to the lifelong regret which a sensitive man must feel for such a mistake." Said the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

“Belden's Fatal Shot,” The Brooklyn Citizen, January 20, 1888.
“Belden's Shot Justifiable,” New York Herald, January 17, 1888.
“Belden's Victim Dead,” evening world., January 18, 1888.
“Briefs by Wire x,” Buffalo Evening News., January 16, 1888.
“Coleman May Recover,” Evening World., January 16, 1888.
“Correcting a Mistake with Bullets,” New York Tribune, January 17, 1888.
“A Man's House His Castle,” National Police Gazette, February 4, 1888.
“Shot for a Burglar,” Evening Post, January 16, 1888.
“Too Many Pistols,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 19, 1888.
“Very Latest News,” Buffalo Evening News., January 21, 1888.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Alice and Lillie.


Alice Hoyle last saw her sister, Lillie, the night of September 1, 1887, in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie left to use the outhouse, and Alice fell asleep. Lillie never returned. The next morning, Alice went out, thinking Lillie had already left for work. That is the story Alice told the police— as the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.

Read the full story here: The Webster Mystery.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Katie and Albert.

A postmortem examination revealed that Katie Dugan was four months pregnant when her body was found beaten and slashed in an empty field in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1892. A two-year investigation led police to believe that Albert Stout, Katie’s former employer, was her killer and the father of her unborn child. But Stout was a prominent, well-connected businessman, and despite evidence that he and Katie had been together the night of the murder, the grand jury failed to indict him. The case remains unsolved.

Read the full story here: The Katie Dugan Mystery.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

East Side Story.

This week, we have a guest post from Howard and Nina Brown, frequent contributors to Murder by Gaslight, on matters pertaining to the 1891 murder of Carrie Brown. This article chronicles events leading to the release of Ameer Ben Ali, who was convicted of the murder but was released in 1902. 

Howard and Nina have written a book on the Carrie Brown murder, East Side Story: 1891 Murder Case of Carrie Brown, available here:

They also run Carrie Brown: Murder In The East River Hotel, a discussion site on the Carrie Brown case.

East Side Story.

It isn't often that the perpetrator in one case of murder becomes the catalyst for the revision of the narrative in another murder case.

This revision to a crucial aspect within the 123-year narrative in the 'Old Shakespeare' murder case ( the nickname of Carrie Brown, murdered in the East River Hotel on April 23, 1891) came unintentionally from James M. Dougherty when he wrote a letter to NY Governor Benjamin Odell on June 22nd, 1901. Dougherty was a convicted lunatic in Dannemora Prison in 1901.

James M. Dougherty would be sent to Flatbush Asylum in Brooklyn after being diagnosed with mental illness stemming from his non-stop harassment of American thespian, Mary Anderson. Originally sent to Ward's Island, he was transferred to the Flatbush facility on November 27th, 1888.  Murder by Gaslight featured an article on Dougherty ('Lunatic Dougherty', August 24, 2019) and is recommended for particulars leading to his incarceration.

In 1891, the murder of Carrie Brown created a sensation in Manhattan. The immediate knee-jerk assumption was that Jack The Ripper had arrived in New York City.  The murder of prostitutes in London beginning in 1888 was still fresh in the minds of millions. There had been a murder of a woman, Frances Coles, on February 13, 1891, which many, originally, had attributed to the Ripper. A handful of letters were received by New York newspapers, one by Inspector Thomas Byrnes, himself, which stated that the letter-writer, presumably Jack The Ripper, was heading for New York. Like the Ripper letters in London, they were treated as hoax letters and missives fabricated by people with mental issues.

Brown's murder took place 10 weeks after the recent London murder. Newspapers immediately brought up the specter of the Ripper. The murder victim was over forty years of age, a condition shared with several Ripper victims. All were prostitutes like Brown and all were mutilated with a knife. Unlike the Ripper victims of 1888, Carrie brown's throat had not been slashed.

The subsequent arrest of Ameer Ben Ali, an Algerian immigrant and frequenter of the East River Hotel, was followed by a trial beginning in late June. On July 3rd, the jury handed in their verdict. Guilty of second-degree murder, the same sentence Dougherty received back in mid-January and like Dougherty, Ali was sent to Sing Sing Prison.

Beginning in 1897, a series of organized pardon campaigns for Ali's release or hopeful pardon began. The first three (1897-1898,1899, and 1900) all failed because they all lacked something tangible to change the minds of Governors Black and Roosevelt, the latter rejecting the 1899 and 1900 pardon efforts).

In 1901, a Cranford, New Jersey resident with a printing firm on Beekman Street in south Manhattan came forward with some alleged evidence that would eventually lead to the release, but not pardon, of Ali on April 16th, 1902. On April 24th, exactly 11 years to the day of Carrie Brown's murder, Ali set sail for France and from there to Algeria.

George Damon
George Damon, the New Jersey resident, had come forward in the Spring of 1901 with a story in which a former hired hand had returned to his home on the morning of April 24th after the body of Brown was discovered, eventually departing anywhere from two to ten days later, but not after leaving a bloody shirt and a key which it was claimed emanated from the East River Hotel. The brass key had a tag with the number '31' on it, which happened to be the number of the room at the East River Hotel in which Brown was found murdered.

Damon's story, which is thoroughly covered in our new book, East Side Story. was accepted by authorities. Without elaborating too much, the key was examined by the former proprietor of the hotel, James Jennings, shortly afterward. He provided an affidavit in which he stated that that key was not the type used on that particular floor of the hotel. Keys for the fifth floor were made of iron. The key Damon turned in was brass. This was just one curious aspect of Damon's story. Yet, since the hotel had had a fire after Jennings was no longer affiliated with the hotel, the New York D.A.'s investigator could not match Damon's key to the new keys being used. It was a matter of accepting Damon's word or Jennings' word, despite Jennings being the person responsible for managing the East River Hotel for several years before the murder of Carrie Brown. Damon never turned in the bloody shirt allegedly left by his farmhand, now known as 'The Danish Farmhand.' However, Governor Benjamin Odell decided to release Ali as no one came forward to counter Damon's story. The affidavits from several prominent newsmen, a letter of support from New Jersey Governor Foster Voorhees, and the efforts of the French Consulate were also instrumental in Ali's release. 

How does James M. Dougherty, the convicted lunatic, fit into this story?

Ali would be sent from Matteawan Asylum to Dannemora Prison in 1901.  It just so happened that James M. Dougherty was in Dannemora at the same time. Both had been incarcerated since 1891: both originally went to Sing Sing Prison, and both received a second-degree sentence.

News of George Damon's story which began to appear in newspapers during May 1901 somehow reached the ears or eyes of Dougherty.

The following is the letter that Dougherty wrote to Governor Odell while in prison which set off an amazing series of events:

Dougherty, born in 1856, was 44 or 45 at the time of this letter to the Governor.

Dougherty 'Ripper series No.3' 

Robert B. Lamb, M.D.

Sup't. Dannemora State Hospital

Dannemora, N.Y


His Excellency

Benjamin B. Odell

Executive Mansion

Albany, New York

Dannemora, N.Y. June 22nd, 1901

Your Excellency:

Herein, you will please find certain valuable information about him ( Jack The Ripper ). I have long and seriously thought over the pros and the cons of this remarkable man's case, and having been a decade in close intimacy with him, have learned more about him than you and all the advisers of his various petitions put together and what's more, I want you to understand that him and myself are and always have been in the best of terms. In sending this communication, I do so only for his own and the commonweal-Remember this, and then give me due consideration- That man Damon's hired man's name was Frank. He was 5 ft. 10 in. or so in height, 35 years of age, wiry, thin face, foreigner, speaking broken English, the foreigner's ( ? )description tallies exactly with this man here ten years ago. Now this man Damon is the kind of man who would not acknowledge that this man here is the one that worked for him if he was asked about it fair and square, but I think he could be made to positively identify him if he was shown a picture of Jack as he was when he first came to prison and told that it was the picture of the man who committed the recent 'Ripping' on Sunday, who by the way I'm satisfied was Mrs.___No. 2 working to help him out- or better yet present it as of the man who died in prison supposed to have been the genuine Ripper- It could be told  to Damon that he had been arrested as the guilty (?) and was being held for identification so that you would then be able to conscientiously pardon the fellow out- Inspector Byrnes instead of censure deserved great credit for lodging this fellow on the __ evidence that he then had. His sleuth instinct told him no doubt that this fellow was the guilty one and that Damon, if were possible should be severely dealt with for suppressing this evidence which would have made plain sailing for Byrnes as he himself says he withheld it while he supposed that an innocent man was being sent to prison for want of it.- This fellow here has told me all about how he worked all the insane doctors to get here, and all to that and has proved to me in innumerable ways that he has all the qualities necessary for 'Ripper' work, wonderful, cunning and terrible achievements, deep instinct and a large power of dissembling.

 That he was ever in the French army -Franco-Prussian war I doubt. He is only 45 now, which would only leave him 15 years of age in '71. Of course, it's an easy matter for him, or anybody, to cut the picture of a soldier out of a newspaper and say this is like I used to be. That's no evidence, even if a sensational yellow journal displays it as a picture of himself. That doesn't make it so.

 In conclusion, I very much wish you would send me that order enabling me to employ an attorney which I am patiently waiting for in all sincerity.

 James M. Dougherty

The Chain of Events.......

Going back to the beginning......

Dougherty had been an inmate at the Flatbush institution who eventually escaped from the prison farm.

Instead of sounding an alarm, the asylum simply marked 'discharged' next to his name.

Dougherty would return to the asylum shortly afterward carrying two guns and threatening Dr. Fleming, who calmly told Dougherty he no longer was a patient and had been discharged.

Dougherty went back to the asylum and murdered Assistant Superintendent George Lloyd in October 1890.

He was sentenced on February 1891 to life in prison at Sing Sing.

By 1901, he was reassigned to Dannemora Prison.

It just so happened Ameer Ben Ali was also sent to Dannemora from Matteawan in 1901.

Dougherty had a penchant for writing letters (to Queen Victoria and President Grover Cleveland, to name but two). He sent the new Governor, Benjamin Odell, a letter in which he states that in his opinion, George Damon can't be trusted and that Ameer Ben Ali and Damon's 'Danish Farmhand' was one and the same.

Gov. Odell follows up on the claim. He has to since it wouldn't look good if he went on to release or pardon a man who may have been guilty all along.

He makes a formal request to NYC DA Eugene Philbin to have Damon determine whether his farmhand and Ali were not the same.

Up to now, no one has asked Damon to provide the facial features of his farmhand.  Damon had filed two affidavits before this request. 

The authorities had known about Damon's story since late March 1901. It would be 100 days since Damon first came on the scene before he described the facial features of his hired hand within his third of four affidavits.

 It is doubtful that he would have been asked had it not been for Dougherty's letter to Odell.

Damon describes his farmhand on July 2nd, 1901 in his third affidavit. Up until July 12, 2023, this information from Damon's affidavits had never been explored and probably was unknown to all who studied the case.

Back in April 1891, on the evening of the 23rd, Carrie Brown entered the East River Hotel with a man who would pay fifty cents for a room on the fifth floor. The young woman and hotel habitue, Mary Miniter, who took the money from Brown and her male companion described him on April 24th following the discovery of the murder as having a long sharp nose and a heavy blonde (some papers list it as brown) mustache.

She would go on to describe him twice more in the same way at the Coroner's Inquest on May 14, 1891, and at the trial of Ameer Ben Ali on June 30th. The man's name was never learned, although he is known as 'C. Kniclo', the fictitious name written in the hotel register after the discovery of the body by hotel manager Tommy Thompson on April 24th. 

George Damon described his hired hand as having no facial hair or mustache, a flat nose, and a distinguishable hitch in his step.  Mary Miniter did not mention a limp in the man's gait, which would have been mentioned if the man with Carrie Brown had one.

The description Damon gives does not resemble C. Kniclo.  C. Kniclo had a heavy mustache whereas Damon's farmhand was described as 'clean-shaven'. Their noses didn't match and again, Miniter did not mention a hitch in the man's stride, something which one wouldn't forget.

Bottom line: C. Kniclo, whoever he was, was not Damon's hired hand unless someone can explain how a man can leave New Jersey clean-shaven and wind up in the Lower East Side and then be described at close range as having a heavy mustache and then return to New Jersey clean-shaven again, then Damon's 'Danish Farmhand' was most assuredly not the man who entered the hotel with Carrie Brown.

Had George Damon come forward when he should have in 1891, the differences with his description of his hired hand would have been immediately noticed by the NYPD and District Attorney's office.  Damon stayed on the sidelines with his 'information' for 10 years. Even though newspapers carried sketches of 'C.Kniclo' in 1891 and were available at that time a decade later, no one ever thought of comparing the sketch to Damon's description of his hired hand at the time.

Had Damon's intervention in the case in 1901 led to the release of a man who was guilty all along?

This and much, much more are discussed in our new book, East Side Story: 1891 Murder Case of Carrie Brown 330 pages, Paperback.

We'd like to express our gratitude to Robert Wilhelm for posting the November 18th edition of Murder By Gaslight featuring actress Mary Anderson and a reprise of the 2019 article on

James M. Dougherty.

Howard & Nina Brown

Saturday, February 3, 2024

A Fool and His Folly.

Orange Terrell, of Terrell, Texas, had, for a number of years, been “paying his respects” to Sophia Wickson. In the spring of 1886, Sophia had another admirer, Miles Henderson, who was proving to be a successful rival to Tarrell. Around 9:30, the night of June 7, Tarrell went to the house of Austin Thomas, where he knew Sophia was stopping. Expecting trouble, he took his revolver with him.

When he got to the house, Tarrell found Henderson already there. Without a word, he opened fire on the couple. He hit Henderson in the chest then turned his attention to Sophia. He emptied his pistol, hitting her once on the leg. Then he fled.

While Tarrell was gone, Dr. J. A. Stovall was summoned to attend to the wounded. After reloading his revolver, Terrell returned to the house. He gave his pocketbook to Dr. Stovall and told him the money in it was to pay his room and board, as he did not expect to leave that house alive. He took off his shoes and lay down on a bed in the front room.

When City Marshal, Jim Keller, learned of the shooting and that Terrell was still in the house, he went with several other men to surround the place. Keller went in the back door, through the kitchen, into the front room. Seeing Tarrell lying on the bed, he ordered him to throw up his hands and surrender. Tarrell’s hands went up, but he was still holding the pistol. He fired at Keller, barely missing him. Keller then fired five or six times, riddling Terrell with bullets, killing him instantly.

Two days later, the coroner impaneled a jury. After hearing the evidence, they ruled that Marshal Keller was justified in his action. 

“Baffled Lover Multiplies Murder,” Akron Beacon Journal, June 9, 1886.
“A Desperate Lover,” Saint Paul Globe, June 10, 1886.
“A Jealous Lover's Act,” National Police Gazette, June 26, 1886.
“Love Leads to Murder,” Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 10, 1886.
“A Texas Love Tragedy,” Lancaster New Era, June 10, 1886.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Robert and Kate.

In 1876, Robert Southern was the most eligible bachelor in Pickens County, Georgia. Kate Hambrick and Narcissa Cowan were rivals for his affection. Kate was the winner; she and Robert married that autumn. But Kate’s victory was short-lived; Robert was still secretly seeing Narcissa. At a Christmas party that year, he danced with Narissa and paid her more attention than Kate thought proper. Kate Southern solved the problem by stabbing her rival in the chest with a penknife. 

Read the full story here: Mrs. Southern's Sad Case.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Wicked Words Interview.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

A Suspicious Burglary.

On the night of January 2, 1890, a burglary occurred in the home of Dr. Arthur Kniffin in Trenton, New Jersey. While Dr. Kniffin was out of town, someone entered the house and chloroformed his wife Myra and her cousin Emma Purcell. Myra Kniffin died as a result, but Miss Purcell recovered and told of burglars charging through the door and subduing them both. Friends and family accepted this story, but Miss Purcell had a history of crying wolf, and rumors afloat in Trenton said that Dr. Kniffin’s relations with his wife’s cousin “were not what they should have been.” Had they conspired to murder Myra for the sake of their romance?

Read the full story here: Chloroformed to Death.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

The Willis-Hultz Tragedy.

W. C. Hultz left his law office in Sullivan, Indiana at around 8:30 on the morning of December 24, 1893. He did not notice a tramp, with long hair and whiskers, wearing a long, ragged overcoat, a slouch hat and rubber boots in the doorway across the street.  The tramp walked toward Hultz, and when he was about six feet away, he drew a double-barreled shotgun from his coat and fired a charge of buckshot into Hultz’s back. He ran into a livery stable, and the tramp fired the second barrel into his shoulder. Hultz  staggered and fell onto the floor. Luke Lucas, a stable employee, ran to his aid.


The tramp was in disguise. The hair and whiskers were false, but Hultz recognized him right away.


 “Luke, Lem Willis has shot me,” said Hultz. “Turn me over on my left side.”


Luke turned him as requested. Hultz tried to rise but fell back and died. 

Lemuel Willis and W.C. Hultz had, at one time, been good friends and political allies. Willis was a former Sheriff of Sullivan County and had helped elect Hultz to the office of Prosecuting Attorney. But in the previous summer, Willis suspected a “criminal intimacy” existed between his wife and Hultz, and he decided to set a trap for them.

On September 1, he told his wife he would be away that night on business. She took him to the station, and as the train left, he stood on the platform of the rear coach and threw her a kiss. When he got off the train, he took a buggy back to Sullivan, returning that evening. Willis hid outside his house and watched as Hultz went inside. He waited a few minutes, then burst in, finding the pair in bed together. Willis opened fire on Hultz, wounding him once in the side before Hultz jumped out the window, undressed. He broke his arm in the fall but managed to crawl to safety.


Willis began divorce proceedings against his wife, and the decree was granted without opposition. Hultz did not press charges against Willis for the shooting, but Willis sued Hultz for $25,000 damages. He did not expect to receive the money but wanted to publicly discredit Hultz and drive him out of town.


The strategy appeared to be working when Hultz went hunting in Arkansas but did not come back with the rest of the hunting party. Then, in December, Hultz returned to Sullivan and announced he had come back to stay. Soon after, he was shot dead.


There was little doubt as to who murdered Hultz. In addition to his dying declaration, the wig, whiskers, and gunstock were found in a pond between the crime scene and Willis’s house. A pair of rubber boots on Willis’s porch perfectly fit the assassin’s tracks. That morning, a young boy had seen Willis in a doorway, putting on the wig and whiskers. The police arrested Willis, but beyond declaring his innocence, he said nothing.

When Willis caught Hultz in bed with his wife, public sympathy was on his side. But Willis’s premeditated assassination of Hultz while wearing a disguise was viewed as cowardly. The friends of W.C. Hultz had little trouble forming a lynch mob, and they approached the jail with a noose already tied. But the current Sheriff of Sullivan County swore in 50 deputies, armed them, and stationed them around the jail to prevent a lynching.


Willis’s trial for first-degree murder was held the following September in Vincennes, Indiana. His attorneys did not believe he could get a fair trial in Sullivan County, and they were granted a change of venue to Knox County. Both sides spent large sums of money on legal counsel; between 15 and 20 lawyers were employed by the prosecution and defense. Over 300 witnesses were subpoenaed.


Willis's plea was not guilty, and while not admitting to the murder, he also claimed insanity at the time of the crime due to his wife’s infidelity. Many witnesses testified to Willis’s good character, and nine physicians testified that Willis had been temporarily insane.


After two weeks of testimony, the case was given to the jury and in one ballet, they unanimously voted for acquittal. They declared him not guilty by reason of insanity. Willis got up and personally thanked the members of the jury before leaving the courtroom a free man.

 “Daylight Assassin,” Indianapolis Journal., December 25, 1893.
“Disguised as a Tramp,” Evansville Courier., December 26, 1893.
“Have a Rope Ready,” Daily Inter Ocean, December 25, 1893.
“In Cold Blood,” Cincinnati Post., December 25, 1893.
“Killed His Wife's Betrayer,” National Police Gazette, January 13, 1894.
“Lem Willis Indicted,” Indianapolis Journal., January 6, 1894.
“Loophole for Willis,” Indianapolis journal., January 5, 1894.
“Pleads Insanity,” Indianapolis Journal., September 13, 1894.
“Sheriff Willis's Trial,” Indianapolis Journal., September 10, 1894.
“Very Strong,” Cincinnati Post., January 1, 1894.
“Willis Acquitted,” Evansville Courier., September 22, 1894.
“Willis Did It,” Evansville Courier., December 29, 1893.
“Willis is Acquitted,” South-Bend Daily Tribune, September 21, 1894.
“Willis To be Vigorously Prosecuted,” Elkhart Daily Review., January 2, 1894.
“Willis Wants to be tried in Sullivan,” Indianapolis journal., May 2, 1894.
“Willis's Condition of Mind,” Indianapolis journal., September 19, 1894.
“Willis-Hultz Tragedy,” Evansville Courier., January 10, 1894.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Poor Pretty Maggie.

The body of Maggie Hourigan was found floating face down in a small pool of water outside of Greenwich, New York on October 20, 1889. Dr. S. Walter Scott performed a hasty autopsy and concluded that Maggie had committed suicide by drowning. None of her friends or employers believed that Maggie, who was generally happy and cheerful, had taken her own life. The district attorney ordered a second autopsy with a different team of doctors who found a wound a serious wound on the side of her head. When she entered the water, Maggie was either dead or unconscious. Rumors spread through Greenwich that Dr. Scott had deliberately hidden the information to hide his involvement in Maggie’s death. When rumors became newspaper accusations, Dr. Scott’s practice suffered, prompting him to sue the New York Sun for libel. Meanwhile, the true circumstances of Maggie Hourigan’s death remain a mystery.

Read the full story here: The Maggie Hourigan Mystery.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Georgianna Lovering.

13-year-old Georgianna Lovering disappeared from her home in Northwood, New Hampshire, in October 1872. The prime suspect in her abduction was her 64-year-old great-uncle, Franklin Evans, who had previously made “improper advances” to Georgianna. In police custody, Evans led the Sheriff to Georgianna’s body. He also confessed to murdering a 5-year-old girl in Derry, New Hampshire, and was suspected of at least three more murders, leading the press to dub Georgianna's killer "The Northwood Murderer."

Read the full story here: The Northwood Murderer.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Shot on Christmas Eve.

“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.

Read the full story here: Two Shots, A Shriek.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

The Home of the Benders.

In the early 1870s the counties of Labette and Montgomery in Kansas experienced an alarming number of missing persons. The Bender family, who ran a grocery store and restaurant from their cabin, were investigated and cleared. But a closer look at the Benders' home revealed systematic mechanisms for murder and theft. The Bloody Benders fled Kansas, leaving behind ten corpses buried on their property.

Read the full story here: The Bloody Benders.

Pictures from: Triplett, Frank. History, romance and philosophy of great American crimes and criminals; with personal portraits, biographical sketches, legal notes of celebrated ... causes, prevalence and prevention of crime. Hartford, Conn.: Park Pub. Co., 1885.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Mad with Jealousy.

On September 8, 1892, Frank Garvin, an artist working for the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, married Cora Redpath, a trapeze artist who worked for Barnum and other circuses. They met and fell in love four years earlier, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, when he was 19, and she was 16. Neither family approved of the relationship.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Tom and Catherine.

The morning of February 5, 1895, Dr. John E Rader was found murdered in the house of Mrs. Catherine McQuinn in Jackson, Kentucky. Catherine told police they were drinking whiskey with her paramour Tom Smith and when Tom passed out, Dr. Rader assaulted her. She shot him in self-defense. 

Catherine could have committed the murder; she was a rough, course woman with a bad reputation. But the police were inclined to suspect her lover, “Bad Tom” Smith. He had been indicted for murder seven times before but escaped justice when crucial witnesses disappeared. This time, however, his luck ran out. Both Tom and Catherine were convicted of first-degree murder.

Read the full story here: "Bad Tom" Smith.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

A Fatal Frolic.

James L. Daniels returned to Hillman, Alabama, from a trip to Birmingham, the night of December 26, 1890. While he was there, he purchased a hideous mask and thought it would be a good joke to put on the mask and frighten the family of his brother-in-law, Joe Tarpley. He knocked on their door and Tarpley answered. Not knowing it was Daniels, Tarpley told the masked man to go away. Instead, Daniels barged into the house. Thinking his home was invaded by a masked burglar, Tarpley grabbed his Winchester rifle and shot his brother-in-law dead. Daniels left behind a wife, who was Tarpley’s sister, and five children.

“A Fatal Frolic,” National Police Gazette, January 17, 1891.
“Fate of a Practical Joker,” Aberdeen Weekly News, February 20, 1891.
“State News,” Blount County News-Dispatch, January 1, 1891.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

A Fan's Obsession.

James M. Dougherty was a telegraph lineman in Brooklyn who studied meteorology, electricity, astronomy, and other sciences in his spare time. He dabbled in a little of everything until 1887 when he saw actress Mary Anderson and she became his sole obsession. He followed her wherever she performed and became convinced that a group of evil conspirators was keeping him from his true love. In 1889, the police arrested Dougherty for stalking Mary Anderson. Doctors pronounced him insane and sent him to the King’s County Insane Asylum in Brooklyn. Dougherty escaped from the asylum, only to return two weeks later with two loaded revolvers to murder one of his doctors.

Read the full story here: Lunatic Dougherty.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Love and Lunacy.

In 1874, Charley McGill had a steady job as a cabinet maker, living in Columbus, Ohio, with a wife and a child. He was standing on the street with his friend, Elliot Hymrod when two young ladies passed by. Hymrod proposed that they follow the ladies, and McGill agreed. One of the ladies, Mary Kelly, caught McGill’s eye, and he struck up an acquaintance with her that grew into “desperate, infatuated love.”

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Special Guests.

As Murder by Gaslight celebrates its fourteenth anniversary, I would like to take a moment to celebrate the contributions of our guest bloggers. Over the years, thirteen authors and bloggers have provided posts relating to nineteenth century American murder. Some document crimes in their locality, or even their own family, others draw on expertise on high-profile cases. They each exhibit the level of research that has always been a hallmark of Murder by Gaslight. Thanks again to all of you! 

Here, in chronological order are Murder by Gaslight’s guest posts:
Scandalous Women Elizabeth Kerri Mahon - May 7, 2011

Author and blogger, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, shared the story of Mary Ellen Plesant, one of several dozen brazen ladies— famous and infamous—profiled in her fascinating book Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History's Most Notorious Women.

Mary Ellen Pleasant and the ‘House of Mystery’
Scandalous Women Cheri Farnsworth - July 16, 2011

Cheri Farnsworth   writes about murder and hauntings in Northern New York State. She shared this story from her book Murder and Mayhem in Jefferson County.

The “Watertown Trunk Murder” – Hounsfield, 1908’
"Headsman" - Executed Today

Since 2011, Headsman, the enigmatic blogger at has shared execution tales of five 19th Century American murders:

1858: Marion Ira Stout, for loving his sister - 9/10/2011
1887: William Jackson Marion, who’d be pardoned 100 years later - 5/11/2013
1897: Ernest and Alexis Blanc, brothers in blood - 4/12/2014
1846: Elizabeth Van Valkenburgh, in her rocking chair - 11/1/2014
Six Men Hanged - 2/25/2020
Bound by an Iron Chain Anthony Vaver - October 8, 2011

Anthony Vaver is an author and blogger (Early American Crime) who writes about crime, criminals, and punishments from America's past. This story is from his book Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America.

Charles O’Donnel: His Life and Confession
Galveston and the Civil War James Schmidt - March 9, 2013

James Schmidt has written several books about the American Civil War, including Galveston and the Civil War: An Island City in the Maelstrom This story is a break from the battlefield, but not from violence - a fascinating tale of murder in Connecticut from the 1850s.

"Murdered by a Maniac" Guest Post by James Schmidt
The Mad Sculptor Harold Schechter - February 19, 2014

Harold Schecter, the master of historical true crime, included Murder by Gaslight in his blog tour promoting the book The Mad Sculptor. He gave a synopsis of the book and described his writing process.

The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, The Model, and the Murder that Shook The Nation
Thomas Watkins Kyle Dalton - November 11, 2019

Historian Kyle Dalton works at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and maintains the website British Tars: 1740-1790. He shared the story of the assassination of Captain Watkins

Assassination of Captain Watkins
Olive Peany Undine - December 16, 2019

Undine, "Blogger of the Grotesque and Arabesque. Remarkably lifelike," plies her trade at Strange Company. She related the murder of Olive Peany, an ambitious but hard to please Ohio girl.

Olive Peany
Abraham Bowen Borden Shelley Dziedzic - January 18, 2020

Shelley Dziedzic blogs at Lizzie Borden Warps & Wefts, the prime source for accurate information on the Borden murders. Her post tells the story of a gruesome murder/suicide from another branch of the Borden family tree.

Murder in the Well
Goffle Road Murders Don Everett Smith Jr. - March 14, 2020

Don Everett Smith revisited the 1850 Van Winkle killings, expanding on his book, The Goffle Road Murders of Passaic County.

Revisiting the Goffle Road Murders
Howard and Nina Brown 

Howard and Nina Brown run, a discussion group for all things related to Jack the Ripper. They provided two posts on Ameer Ben Ali, arrested for the murder of Carrie Brown, considered by some to be an American victim of Jack the Ripper.
Ameer Ben Ali & an Actor's Tale.- October 17, 2020
The Rescue of Ameer Ben Ali.- February 6, 2021
Jesse Pomeroy Donna Wells - April 16, 2022

Donna Wells, a former archivist with the Boston Police Department, shared an old photograph she found, believed to be a portrait of Jesse Pomeroy, who, at age 14, who murdered two children in Boston.

 Rare Photo of America's Youngest Serial Killer.
Jesse Pomeroy Bob Moody - May 6, 2022

Bob Moody, a retired radio personality, chronicled the murder of his great-great-granduncle, Tom Moody, in his book, The Terror of Indiana; Bent Jones & The Moody-Tolliver Feud. His post relates the events leading to the feud and the murder.

The Moody-Tolliver Feud.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Jacob S. Harden.

Reverend Jacob S. Harden felt he had been roped into an unhappy marriage by Louisa Dorland and her conniving parents. His new wife threatened his promising career and put a damper on his active social life as well. When the young bride passed away mysteriously, Harden acted like a guilty man but professed innocence almost to the end.

Read the full story here: The Confession of Jacob Harden.