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Showing posts from July, 2014

The Bath School Disaster

We live in a world where when we hear of an especially heinous crime people will say they wish we lived in the "Good 'Ol Days" or how our "world has gone to hell."  Among my reasons for my more recent blogs is to show that there was no such thing. Murder and extraordinary crimes have been occurring since the beginning of time, almost literally. Also, admittedly as a true crime "buff" it seems I hear the same stories over and over and this is an attempt to bring to others, like myself, new stories.  We all knew, justified or not, murder has always occurred.  We had forefathers having duels in fields; we have all heard of Jesse James and the gangsters of the 1930's.  What we have not heard about are many crimes that were lost to history but were very prominent in their time.  

After reading about the Bath School Disaster I was intrigued.  I think like most people we believe that school shootings and disasters are more of a modern thing.  Most of us p…

The Northwood Murderer

It has long been my belief that the first, at least documented, American serial killer was H.H. Holmes.  This is a belief held by many.  Throughout my recent research I have found many cases that I, and apparently many people, had not heard of.  It is interesting how certain cases stay in the memory and eye of people while others, that are often more gruesome, are lost to history. In the end it may simply come down to wording.  The word "serial killer."  This "phrase" did not come into true prominence until around the 1980's with cases such as Ted Bundy.  Holmes was not likely called a "serial killer" at the time but a "repeat killer." His crimes were so enormous and have been written about over the years that he probably inherited the title.  However, repeat killers were nothing new, not even by 1893.  The case of Franklin Evans, aka "The Northwood Murderer" is just such case.  No, he seemingly did not kill as many people as H.H. …

The Death of Pearl Bryan

In beginning my research in this story, for the most part it seemed an open and shut case.  Upon further reading I was left with questions, partly because of conflicting information, but also because that same information appears to go with other information.  Of course, like many of the cases I have recently written about the fact that this case took place in 1896 leaves it open for legends.  Neither of the men convicted and executed for the crime truly confessed at least according to the theory given by the prosecution.  I will first give you the long and short of the crime as told by the prosecution at the trials of the condemned men as well as the newspaper accounts.  I will then look into the other proposed theories as to if there is any credence to them. 

On February 1, 1896 the headless body of a woman was found on a farm belonging to John Locke in Newport, Kentucky.  Newport was located just over the bridge from Cincinnati Ohio.  It was thought that identification would prove t…

Dena Schlosser

It may seem that I have gotten off track compared to some of the cases I have recently been blogging about considering this one took place a mere ten years ago, in 2004.  That is true, however, the current book that I am reading (Psycho USA) that contains all of the old stories also from time to time mentions a reference to a newer or more modern story and this was one of them.  I have a few stories that I have researched and ready to write, that do stay with that current tradition but I fell across this one and it has struck me.

Dena Schlosser lived in Plano Texas in 2004 when on November 22nd she proceeded to cut off the arms of her infant daughter and attempted to cut her own arm off. Dena's case is very similar to the Andrea Yates case (the woman who drowned all her children to save them from Satan) and ironically she and Andrea were actually roommates for a while at a state institution. Both Dena and Andrea suffered from post-partum depression and psychosis.  They were also bo…

Anton Probst

In a previous blog I discussed the differences in the definitions of mass murderer, spree killer and serial killer.  The case of Anton Probst is difficult to categorize.  Some research I found referred to him as a mass murderer.  This can be true in a sense as he killed eight people, basically in the same location but unlike other mass murderers he did not simply spray the area with bullets (or even go after people one right after another with a knife) and the bullets fall where they may, hitting random targets.  No, Anton Probst had laid in wait as one by one his victims arrived.... think John List, only this was not his own family.  

Anton Probst was born in Germany around 1843.  He immigrated to the United States about 1863, just around the time of the Civil War.  It appears that his first scheme was to repeatedly join the Union Army in different regiments.  There was a $300 sign up bonus.  Probst would stay a few weeks, desert and then find another regiment and obtain another sign …

"Jolly Jane" Toppan

Criminals like Jane Toppan are often called "Angels of Mercy" or "Angels of Death."  This crime generally involves someone who is a nurse or takes on the role of a caregiver in the in the process kills their patients in one form or another.  In modern times we have seen these cases throughout the years, generally involving nurses in hospitals or doctors offices.  In Jane's case, when her crimes came to light in 1901 she had been an in-home nurse.
Jane Toppan was born about 1857 and was named Honora Kelley.  She was the youngest child of Bridget and Paul Kelley.  Her mother died when she was very young.  Her father obtained, or maintained, a reputation that likely was more legend than fact. He was apparently an alcoholic and was notorious for his antics and thought to be unbalanced.  Later rumors were that he eventually ended up in an asylum after he was found working for a tailor and was attempting to sew his eyelids shut.  Again, many of the things about Paul K…

Howard Unruh

The first thing that I found surprising about this case is that although it is technically more modern than the cases I have recently blogged about I found it harder to distinguish the truth from the fiction within the case.  
Howard Barton Unruh was 28 years old on the morning of September 6, 1949 when he stepped out of his Camden New Jersey home and began shooting.  His rampage lasted twelve minutes, left 12 people dead and 4 wounded (one of the wounded would later die), before he returned home after hearing police sirens. Three of his victims were children, one of them was only two years old.  Once home he barricaded himself and had a short standoff with police where gun fire was exchanged.  After throwing in two cans of tear gas Howard surrendered willingly and calmly.  
He was taken to the local police department and interrogated for a few hours before it was discovered that at some point he had been shot in the thigh.  He was taken to the hospital and to surgery.  Some reports sta…

The Trials of Mary Polly Bodine

Here again is a case out of the New York area in the mid 1800's. I gander to guess that these sorts of crimes, that I have been blogging about as of late, were not isolated to this area and were likely occurring all over the country. However, the large newspaper companies were located in this region.  California did not join the union until 1848 to which they too had large newspapers but it seems that many cases from the 'middle of the country' likely got lost.

This case is a curious one.  On the night of December 25, 1843 two boys saw smoke billowing from a house in Staten Island New York and alerted people.  It was the home of Captain George Housman.  He was out to sea at the time but he lived in the home with his wife Emeline (nee Van Pelt) and their 20 month old daughter, Ann Elizabeth.  The home was located across the street from George's parents' home.  It was assumed that the home was empty as it was believed that Emeline had gone to visit family elsewhere. M…

The Murder of Captain Joseph White

Today if you go to Salem Massachusetts you are likely to find that they relish in their history.  I am sure it is not something they are proud out, however, from a financial point of view for the town it is rather lucrative.  It seems that the more modern residents have decided to live by my theory of life... "it is what it is." Since they cannot change history and so many people are fascinated by the story of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 they may as well live with it.  

Such was not the case in 1830.  It had been almost 150 years since those famous trials, where it has all been proven innocent people were executed, but the residents of Salem still lived on edge.  On the morning of April 7, 1830 their fears were heightened.  The handyman of local, wealthy, widower, Captain Joseph White found the 82 year old man in his bed, murdered.  

Joseph White had been a shipmaster and trader in many things, including slave trading which by 1830 was illegal yet ignored. By all accounts h…