Saturday, August 18, 2018

Waldron Woods Mystery.

Two boys looking for chestnuts in Waldron Woods near Astoria, Long Island, found the body of a man lying dead with a wound on the right side of his head on October 10, 1866. Three men hunting in the woods also went to look at the body. No one recognized the dead man. 

The man was about 5 feet 7 inches tall, about 35 or 40-years-old, with black hair, a smooth face, and a slender build. The little finger of his right hand was missing to the second joint. He was well-dressed, wearing a ribbed cassimere coat and vest and a black silk neck handkerchief. In his pocket were a box of percussion caps, a comb, a knife, a dozen buckshot, a brass key, a rosewood pipe, as small oilstone, and a steel tobacco box labeled “James Maher.” He was also holding a pistol.

Another man, who no one recognized joined the party viewing the body and picked up the pistol.  The unknown man went into Astoria and while drinking at Cooke’s Sunnyside Hotel, showed the pistol and said that the man in Waldron Woods had shot himself.

But the dead man had not shot himself, the wounds to the side of his face had been made by a hatchet—the man had been murdered. Detectives went to work trying to identify the body, learn the identity of James Maher, and find the mysterious man who took the pistol. He had become the chief suspect, but he could not be found after leaving Cooke’s.

An inquest was held, but there was very little evidence. The coroner’s jury quickly returned a verdict that the deceased had been murdered “by some person or persons unknown.”

While the inquest was in session, the body of another unidentified man was found in Waldron Woods. This time the dead man had shot himself in the head. There was nothing to indicate that the two deaths were related. 

It does not appear that the two dead men or the man who took the pistol were ever identified.

“The Astoria Murder,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 13, 1866.
“The Astoria Murder,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 19, 1866.
“Crime at Astoria,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 27, 1866.
"Murder In Newtown, L I,” Commercial Advertiser, October 12, 1866.
“Murder in Queens County,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 12, 1866.
“Mysterious Murder at Waldron Woods, near Astoria,” National Police Gazette, October 20, 1866. “Waldron Woods Tragedy,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 27, 1866.


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