No. 661
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
July 25, 2024

The Scandal Which Agitates St. Louis.

Astounding Revelations of a Low Cunning and Vile Curiosity in One of the Proprietors of the Grand Opera House.
July 23, 2024
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Via Newspapers.com There are a number of stories of churches haunted by spectral organists.  This example appeared in the "Ottawa Citizen," October 24, 1956:TORQUAY, England--The vicar says that when Henry plays the organ in vine-covered St. John's Church the music is something, but you can't help noticing you can see right through him. The vicar, Rev. Anthony Rouse, reported the
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Strange Company - 7/24/2024
Included in yesterday’s trip to Fall River was a stop at Miss Lizzie’s Coffee shop and a visit to the cellar to see the scene of the tragic demise of the second Mrs. Lawdwick Borden and two of the three little children in 1848. I have been writing about this sad tale since 2010 and had made a previous trip to the cellar some years ago but was unable to get to the spot where the incident occured to get a clear photograph.  The tale of Eliza Borden is a very sad, but not uncommon story of post partum depression with a heartrending end. You feel this as you stand in the dark space behind the chimney where Eliza ended her life with a straight razor after dropping 6 month old Holder and his 3 year old sister Eliza Ann into the cellar cistern. Over the years I have found other similar cases, often involving wells and cisterns, and drownings of children followed by suicides of the mothers. These photos show the chimney, cistern pipe, back wall, dirt and brick floor, original floorboards forming the cellar ceiling and what appears to be an original door. To be in the place where this happened is a sobering experience. My thanks to Joe Pereira for allowing us to see and record the place where this sad occurrence unfolded in 1848. R.I.P. Holder, Eliza and Eliza Ann Borden. Visit our Articles section above for more on this story. The coffee shop has won its suit to retain its name and has plans to expand into the shop next door and extend its menu in the near future.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
The low-rise, mostly commercial stretch of Brooklyn’s 18th Avenue running through Bensonhurst has a historic feel. That’s due in part to the circa-1829 New Utrecht Reformed Church and replica Liberty Pole facing the avenue. But a pocket park a few blocks away at 18th Avenue and 82nd Street contains an even more curious artifact from […]
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Ephemeral New York - 7/22/2024
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 On Saturday, January 25, 1879, George Rowell returned home to Montville, Maine, from a trip to Bath, eighteen miles away. He lived in the house owned by John and Salina McFarland, a married couple in their seventies. Rowell, 40, married their son’s widowed wife, Abby, who had a 14-year-daughter, Cora McFarland. She also had an infant son with Rowell. All six lived together in the Montville
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Murder By Gaslight - 7/20/2024
CHIEF OF CONSThe Morning Times(Cripple Creek, Colorado)February 15, 1896Courtesy of Mitch Morrissey ig Ed Burns robs a dying man?      Mitch Morrissey, a Facebook friend and historian for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, found and published an interesting newspaper piece on "Big Ed" Burns, one of the most notorious characters in the West. Burns was a confidence man and
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 4/2/2024
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
| A Pullman Parlor Car.

The Scandal Which Agitates St. Louis.

StLouis-ScandalThe sensation of sensations at St. Louis is the arrest of A.B. Wakefield, one of the proprietors of the Grand Opera House. It came about on a warrant sworn to by William Hyde, the editor of the Republican. The accusation is that Wakefield has been circulating statements that Hyde, Chief of Police McDonough and others have been running a gigantic gambling ring and making large sums of money, and that they dictated what houses should run, and shared the profits.

Among the documents that have been collected against Wakefield it may be here mentioned is one that relates to a spicy scandal, in which the Opera House is mixed up. Charles Duffey makes an affidavit that he was employed as an errand boy, etc., at the Opera House by Wakefield, and that when the Strakosch opera was in St. Louis Wakefield one day asked Duffey if there was not some way of seeing into "the dressing-rooms of the stars" was answered in the affirmative; that he could go upon the roof and look down through the skylights.

Duffey then goes on to say that Wakefield had a canvas laid down on the roof of the theatre, so that he could lie down on the canvas, and that he went up of nights and remained there for hours looking at the sights below, and that he continued this practice as long as he (Duffey) stayed there, and that Wakefield sometimes took a friend with him. Duffey makes prominent mention of Kellogg and Cary in his affidavit. There is any amount of information now to be had against Wakefield. Everybody is ready to tell of something in his remarkable history. They say he came to St. Louis as a three-card-monte man, and that he had been operating on steamboats running to New Orleans.


The Illustrated Police News, February 15, 1879.