Saturday, February 25, 2012

Decapitation and Dismemberment

Cutting the head and limbs off a corpse is hard and messy work. It is almost always an afterthought, an act of desperation by the murderer to avoid capture by hiding the identity of the body or to facilitate its disposal.
Of course, there were cases where decapitation was part of a deranged killer’s psychotic obsession.  Joseph Lapage raped and murdered 17-year-old Josie Langmaid, who was on her way to school in Pembroke, New Hampshire in 1875. Then, for no apparent reason, Lapage cut off her head and carried it half a mile before dropping it in the woods.

More often, the head was removed to obscure the identity of the corpse. The killers of Pearl Bryan in Newport, Kentucky, in 1896, were accused of severing her head while she was still alive. Whether she was alive at the time or not, Pearl Bryan’s head was removed to hide her identity. The killers might have succeeded in this if they had thought to remove her shoes as well.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Beautiful Carrie Andrews

“The Beautiful Carrie Andrews” is a tragic love story about an up-and-coming young singer from the town of Essex, Massachusetts, and her obsessed suitor.  It is one of 14 tales of murderous acts and other bad behavior from my new book Murder and Mayhem in Essex County.

The Beautiful Carrie Andrews
Essex, 1894 

Thomas Oliver Hazard Perry Burnham was a successful bookseller and publisher in Boston, who was born and raised in the Town of Essex, a small, but prosperous, town on the coast of Cape Ann. The Burnhams were an old and prominent family going back to the days when Essex was the Chebacco Parish in Ipswich. Incorporated in 1819, Essex became famous in the nineteenth century for shipbuilding. By the end of the century, over five thousand sailing ships, known for their speed and craftsmanship, were built in the shipyards of Essex. T. O. H. P. Burnham never forgot his roots and on his death in 1893, he bequeathed $20,000—the worth of a new Essex schooner—to the town of Essex to build a new town hall and library.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Hunter-Armstrong Tragedy

John M. Armstrong
The night of January 23, 1878, a man was found on the ground with a serious head wound not far from the home of Ford W. Davis in Camden, New Jersey. Near the wounded man, a hammer and a hatchet were found, each marked with the initials F. W. D. The man was identified as  Philadelphia music publisher John M. Armstrong, and when it was learned that he owed Ford W. Davis a sizeable amount of money, Davis was arrested. But Armstrong also owed $12,000 to Benjamin F. Hunter, who had insured Armstrong’s life for more than double that amount.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hattie Woolsteen.

Little Murders:
From Defenders and Offenders:
Hattie Woolsteen.

"One of the most extraordinary crimes which ever excited California, occurred in a small village, eleven miles East of South Los Angeles. Doc Harlan, a well known sporting dentist was a victim. His body was found in the ruins of an out-house, where he lived with two sisters, Hattie and Minnie Woolsteen for some time. Hattie was arrested and accused of murder. Jealousy was supposed to be the cause."

Defenders and offenders. New York: D. Buchner & Co., 1888.