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

He Liked Little Boys.

How a Georgia alligator attempted to make a meal of Captain Johnson’s son.
March 20, 2017
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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 Needed Addition to the Park Police of Every City. | Courtship from a Tree.

He Liked Little Boys.

He liked little boys

How a Georgia alligator attempted to make a meal of Captain Johnson’s son. [more]

While Capt. R. B. Johnson, of Clinch county, Georgia. was helping a party of 23 or 30 men haul for trout in a millpond, the other day. his little son, Joseph. had a most thrilling experience, Master Joseph carried a bag, or corn sack, in which to deposit the fish when caught. When loaded with as many as he could carry he would take them out and make a deposit and return for more. In making one of these trips, while wading through water about three feet deep some distance from the fishermen, a monster alligator, said to be of unusual size, rose suddenly right at the boy and seized him by the thigh. A desperate struggle ensued—the boy battled for his life and the alligator for his prey. It so happened that the bag, which hung by the boy's aide, was caught In the alligator's mouth with the thigh, and It proved a sort of shield—lessening greatly the incisions made by the brute's teeth, and thus, perhaps, preventing a shock to his nervous system which might have made him succumb without the struggle which saved him his life. By an effort the boy tore his bleeding flesh from the alligator's Jaws. The monster grimly held to the sack a moment with the delusion, perhaps, that he still had his prey, affording the boy an opportunity to escape.

He had hardly extricated himself from the jaws of death before the fishermen, alarmed by the struggle, were at hand, and another battle ensued. Thirty men, armed with gigs, poles, pocket knives and such other instruments of war as were at hand, charged upon the monster. Being In three feet of water, the 'gator bad considerable advantage, but those men had their blood up and were not to be outdone. They poled and punched and harpooned him until the brute was almost outdone, when one of the party made bold to seize him by the tail. This was a signal for a general assault. In less time than it would take to tell it, a number of the more daring had him by the tail and legs. There were too many of them for the 'gator to slap around with his tall, a peculiar mode of n 'gator warfare, and he had to give up the fight. A harpoon was plunged into his mouth and then it was safe to approach him with pocket knives. Soon his head was severed from his body, and the victorious party marched out of the pond with the monster's head on a pole.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, December 15, 1883.