Saturday, February 29, 2020

Crazy John Daley.

John Daley rushed from his house on Chouteau Avenue, St. Louis, bleeding profusely from the neck, at around 11:00 the night of May 11, 1883. He surrendered himself to Officer Jones, saying that he had just murdered his wife. Officer Jones summoned a patrol wagon to take Daley to the Four Courts, then went to Daley’s house to see about his wife.

Daley, a 55-year-old machinist, lived in a two-room house on Chouteau Avenue, with his 35-year-old wife, Eliza, and eight children, ranging in age from 5 months to 12 years. Inside the house Officer Jones found Eliza lying on the bed, her skull crushed and her throat cut. He found a rusty axe with blood on both ends of the blade. It appeared that Daley had first struck her head with the butt of the axe, then cut her throat, finishing the job with a knife.

There were no signs of a struggle. Eliza Daley was in her nightclothes, her shoes, and stockings by the side of the bed. The incident woke none of the children; the youngest lay by her mother’s side with blood on her head.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Nellie C. Bailey.

Nellie C. Bailey.
William Dodson led a drive of 2300 head of sheep from Kansas through Indian Territory to their new home in Texas in October 1883. A mile behind them the owner of the new ranch, a widower named Clement Bothemly, and his sister Bertha traveled in a wagon outfitted with bedrooms. Pulled by two yoke of oxen, the wagon was so large that observers compared it to a railroad car. The night of October 7, Dodson heard Miss Bothemly calling from a distance and ran to see what was wrong. She took him to the wagon and led him inside where Clement lay dead from a gunshot wound to the head. 

He killed himself, she told Dodson. Clement had been suffering from rheumatism, and the pain had become unbearable. He had been taking large doses of morphine, but even that had not alleviated the pain. Bertha had been awakened by the gunshot and found her brother lying dead. 

They realized that they would have to dig a grave and bury him on the trail. A wagon heading for Kansas had passed them several hours earlier, and Dodson rode to them to ask for assistance. The men came back with him, and they buried Clement Bothemly near Skeleton Ranch. After a brief ceremony, Bertha and Dodson continued on the drive.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Six Men Hanged.

Every day since Halloween 2007, the blog has posted a story of an execution that took place on that date in history somewhere in the world. While this certainly says something about the human condition over time, it also says something about the determination and thoroughness of the blogger of, who goes by the epithet Headsman. As someone who has scrambled to do one post a week, I find the Headsman’s work heroic. 

There is a natural overlap between murder and execution, and over the years, Murder by Gaslight and ExecutedToday have guest posted on each other’s sites several times. Today’s ExecutedToday guest post is from June 7, 1895, a day when six American men were hanged, including one who inspired a novel. 

On this date in 1895, the hangman noosed for the cycle with single, double, and triple executions in three different U.S. states.


In Morrilltown, William Downs or Downes for criminally assaulting a woman called Pauline Bridlebaugh.
“On the scaffold Downs declared that he was guilty of part but not all he was charged with,” according to multiple newspaper reports. The eight-foot fall failed to snap his neck, and Downs strangled to death over 15 agonizing minutes.


“Lee Harris and Abe Mitchell, colored murderers, highwaymen and thieves, were hanged here [Birmingham] today before 2000 people for the murder of Grocerymen Merriweather and Thornton. Both bodies were turned over to the undertakers, who purchased them several weeks ago for $18 from the men themselves.”

From the Oakland Tribune, June 7, 1895.


Three Californians hanged, sequentially, at San Quentin prison on the morning of June 7 in an affair timed to ensue the arrival of the 7:40 train from San Francisco, carrying about 100 official witnesses.

Emilio Garcia stabbed and slashed to death a San Bernardino old timer whom he believed to possess a hoard of gold.

Anthony Azoff fatally shot a Southern Pacific detective in the course of a botched robbery of that railroad firm’s offices; he was balked of a suicide attempt in the hours before his execution.

And Patrick Collins acquired more lasting infamy than any of his scaffold brethren by sensationally stabbing to death his estranged wife at the kindergarten where she worked when she refused his demand to hand over her wages.

Collins’s guilt was very apparent, so his trial gave the horrified public ample rein to sketch the brute in terms of the era’s crackpot racist typologies. In one Examiner article tellingly titled “He Was Born for the Rope,” it was postulated that “if a good many of Patrick Collins’ ancestors did not die on the scaffold then either they escaped their desert or there is nothing in heredity … Seeing him you can understand that murder is as natural to such a man when his temper is up as hot speech is to the anger of the civilized.”

Various newspaper images of Patrick Collins, from The Construction of Irish Identity in American Literature.

Be they ever so headline-conquering in their time, such crimes are like to fade speedily from the public memory. Collins, the man who slaughtered his tightfisted wife, and Collins, the savage ethnic archetype, have improbably survived his moment of notoriety, by imparting to literature the inspiration for San Francisco novelist Frank Norris‘s 1899 offering McTeague.

In McTeague, a vicious husband murders the wife he has abandoned when she refuses him money. The murderer here presents as an overpowering ancestral beast within — attributable, says Christopher Dowd, to Norris’s “study of criminal anthropology, particularly the school of thinking developed by Cesare Lombroso regarding atavism, hereditary criminality, degeneration, and criminal physiognomy. According to Donald Pizer, by the time Norris wrote McTeague, he had developed a ‘preoccupation’ with the themes of atavism and reversion, and ‘particularly with the role of heredity in causing either an obvious physical or mental devolution or a return to an earlier family condition’. Suddenly, Norris had a way to explain the behavior of his murderous protagonist — he was born a criminal, having inherited the degenerate traits and predilections of his Irish ancestors. Combined with the newspaper reports of the Collins murder, criminal anthropology gave Norris all the tools he needed to write, what Pizer calls, ‘that mythical creature of literature, a naturalistic tragedy'”. For example, Norris zooms through the disordered mind of McTeague as he struggles to control himself on one occasion.
He was disturbed, still trembling, still vibrating with the throes of the crisis, but he was the master; the animal was downed, was cowed for this time, at least.

But for all that, the brute was there. Long dormant, it was now at last alive, awake. From now on he would feel its presence continually; would feel it tugging at its chain, watching its opportunity. Ah, the pity of it! Why could he not always love her purely, cleanly? What was this perverse, vicious thing that lived within him, knitted to his flesh?

Below the fine fabric of all that was good in him ran the foul stream of hereditary evil, like a sewer. The vices and sins of his father and of his father’s father, to the third and fourth and five hundredth generation, tainted him. The evil of an entire race flowed in his veins. Why should it be? He did not desire it. Was he to blame?
McTeague does not exit upon the gallows as did his real-life inspiration; instead, having murdered and robbed his wife, the fugitive flees to the scorching desert of Death Valley where he faces a fight to the finish with a friend/rival who has pursued him. McTeague overpowers this foe, but the man’s dying act is to handcuff himself to McTeague — condemning the latter to sure death.

McTeague has long been in the public domain; it can be perused here; a Librivox audio reading of the book is available here. It’s also been adapted to at least two films in the silent era — including one of the genre’s greats — plus a more recent PBS radio drama, an opera, and miscellaneous other media.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Katie Dugan Mystery.

A young man walking through an empty field behind a residence on the western side of Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday, October 20, 1892, was shocked to find the body of a young woman lying in a pool of blood. Her eyes were black and blue from beating and her throat had been cut from ear to ear, nearly severing her head. On the ground next to her, lay an open razor.

She was soon identified as Katie Dugan, an attractive 16-year-old girl with long flowing hair and dark eyes who lived with her parents. Local residents were quick to place the blame on the black men who lived in the vicinity of the Dugans’ home, but this belief was dispelled after police interviewed her parents.

James Dugan, Katie’s father, had seen a white man of medium stature emerge from the shadow of the house and disappear down the avenue at about 8:00 the night before. Soon after, Katie put on her coat and went out, saying she would be back in a few minutes. She never returned. Her mother, Catherine Dugan, said that earlier in the day, Katie had received a letter; she threw the envelope into the fire and shoved the letter into her pocket. The letter was still in her pocket when her body was found. It was just a note that read: “Meet me on Wednesday night, at the same place and same time.”

Wading through Victorian euphemisms in the newspapers, it appears that Katie was not raped but had been sexually active. The Delaware Republican reported that, though she had been knocked unconscious, beaten, and slashed, there was no indication that she had been “feloniously assaulted.” The post-mortem examination revealed that Katie was “in a delicate condition” and “would have become a mother in about five months.”

Richard Riley, who kept company with Katie, was arrested on suspicion. Riley acknowledged that he had been with Katie on Tuesday night but had not seen her since. On Wednesday night, he had attended a fair at the Church of the Sacred Heart until 11:00. Police detectives were able to corroborate Riley’s alibi and he was released.

Several witnesses had seen Katie with a man on the night of the murder. Edward McGoldrick and Thomas Connelly told police that they had seen Katie with Richard Riley. Riley was arrested again.
At the inquest, James Riley— a young boy, not related to Richard Riley— testified to seeing Katie and a man sitting on a rock near Front and Broome Streets. When he passed them on the street, he saw the man had his arm around Katie and he heard her cry “Oh! My!” several times. He testified that the man was not Richard Riley. McGoldrick and Connelly testified to seeing Katie with a man but now could not identify Riley as the man. Richard Riley testified that he did not see Katie after Tuesday night, and he had never noticed or heard anything about Katie’s pregnancy.

The coroner’s jury determined that Katie Dugan was murdered by a person or persons unknown. There was not enough evidence to hold Richard Riley, and he was released again.

The city Wilmington offered a reward of $200 for the arrest and conviction of the murderer, but no new evidence came forward. Though the newspapers appeared to have forgotten the case, it never strayed far from the minds of the people of Wilmington. In June 1893, eight months after the murder, a rumor spread through the city that the police had arrested a black man and his wife for Katie’s murder. The authorities were startled; though they had never stopped investigating the case, no arrests had been made. They publicly denied the rumor and traced its source to a young man who had said it as a joke.

In August 1894, nearly two years after the murder, Katie’s mother, presented the police with evidence she had gathered implicating Albert Stout, Katie’s former employer, as the murderer. Katie had been a domestic servant, living in Stout’s home until she left several months before the murder. She never told her mother her reason for leaving. It was not revealed what evidence Mrs. Dugan had brought the police, but they had been investigating Stout as well and had come to the same conclusion.

Albert Stout was a 40-year-old businessman with a wife and three children. He was a prominent and well-connected manager at Charles Warner Company. When the police arrested him for murder, he laughed at them, and even after several days in jail remained unconcerned.

The Dugan family believed that Stout had continued to see Katie in secret after she left his home. Her sister, Lizzie, had seen the note and said it was signed “Jack,” the name Katie had always used to refer to Stout. A handwriting expert, working for the police, examined the note and declared that it was written by Albert Stout. The police also had four eyewitnesses who saw Katie with Stout together on the night of the murder. They were quarreling and appeared to be heading in the direction of the murder scene.

The theory of the police was that Stout had been trying to persuade Katie to have an abortion. She refused, saying she intended to expose him as the father of her child. Driven to desperation, Stout murdered Katie to keep her quiet.

A grand jury convened on September 20 to hear evidence against Albert Stout. But after reviewing testimony from a dozen witnesses, the jury determined that there was not enough evidence to indict Stout for the murder of Katie Dugan. Albert Stout left the courtroom a free man.

There were no more arrests, and the circumstances of Katie Dugan’s murder remain a mystery.

“Arrested for Murder,” Bay City Times, August 31, 1894.
“Brutal Murder of a Girl,” New York Herald, October 21, 1892.
“Closing in upon Stout,” New York Herald, September 2, 1894.
“Did He Kill Katie Dugan,” Boston Herald, August 31, 1894.
“Innocent,” Delaware Republican, September 21, 1894.
“It Was Murder,” Delaware Republican, October 22, 1892.
“The Kate Dugan Murder Mystery,” Pittsburg Dispatch, October 23, 1892.
“Katie Dugan's Murder in Deleware,” Sun, November 21, 1892.
“Katie Dungan's Slayer,” Delaware gazette and state journal, June 29, 1893.
“Murder Most Foul,” Wheeling Register, October 21, 1892.
“Murder of Katie Dugan,” Delaware Republican, September 1, 1894.
“Murder Will Out,” Evening Journal, August 31, 1894.
“News Article,” Delaware Republican, November 23, 1892.
“News Article,” Chicago Daily News, August 31, 1894.
“Riley Liberated,” Evening Journal, October 28, 1892.
“Stout Held for Court,” Delaware Republican, September 4, 1894.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Thirtieth Street Murder.

Residents of West 30th Street, New York City, were startled on the night of October 26, 1858, by the cries of Elizabeth Carr, a servant of the Gouldy family as she ran from the house in her nightclothes, screaming, “Help! Help! Oh, my God! Frank is murdering the whole family. Rouse the neighbors!”

The neighbors, accompanied by several policemen responded by entering the Gouldy home where they found Mrs. Gouldy at the foot of the stairs, staggering and calling for help. She was bleeding from the head, as was her husband, Francis Gouldy, who lay on the floor not moving. Also suffering from head wounds were 11-year-old Nathaniel Gouldy, 7-year-old Charlie Gouldy, and Joanna Murphy, another of the Gouldy’s servant girls. All were alive but semi-conscious. The perpetrator of the crime, Frank Gouldy was found in his room, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.