No. 653
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 27, 2024

A Terrible Scare.

July 8, 2014
...
...

The archives of the Humble Oil & Refining Company are about the last place where you’d expect to run across a first-rate poltergeist account, but it just goes to show that we live in a funny old world.  In 1948, a folklorist and historian was browsing through the company’s papers when he came across a letter that had absolutely nothing to do with oil.  It read:Jan [illegible] '
More...
Strange Company - 5/27/2024
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.
More...
Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
When these photos from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York were taken at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery at the end of May in 1899, Memorial Day didn’t exist. “Decoration Day,” however, was an established holiday celebrated every May 30. The idea was to visit the final resting places of thousands of […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 5/27/2024
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: […]
More...
Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
John Wesley Elkins.11-year-old John Wesley Elkins was slight of stature—four feet eight inches tall, weighing 73 pounds. He was intelligent and well-spoken, and he had never caused trouble until the day he murdered his parents. At 2:00 am, on July 24, 1889, while his parents were sleeping in their Iowa farmhouse, he shot his father in the head and then beat his mother to death with a club.
More...
Murder By Gaslight - 5/25/2024
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
More...
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
More...
Executed Today - 11/13/2020
Tennis. | Independence Day in the Country.

A Terrible Scare.

Lunatic

A lunatic makes his escape from confinement and employs his energies in divesting ladies of their hair; Louisville, Ky.[more]

Three Young Ladies Frightened by a Lunatic.


At Louisville the other evening about seven o’clock a well-dressed young man, about eighteen years old, made his appearance on Preston street, between Jefferson and Green, and suddenly started after a lady walking along the pavement with a baby in her arms. The lady ran, and he pursued her across the street, where she entered her gate. The villain or madman, as it was unable to decide at the time, then ran across to the west side of the street and started in pursuit of three young ladies, who were coming down the street. The ladies ran screaming until they reached a three-foot alley between Mr. Peter Stark’s house and an adjoining saloon. They ran to the back end of the ally, and into the saloon. The man rushed in right on their heels, and grabbed one of the young ladies by the hair, threw her violently on the floor. In almost an instant, however, Mr. Stark and the gentleman in charge of the saloon, attracted by the screams of the terrified girls, ran in and caught the lunatic by the arms and released the prostrate lady. She was almost frightened to death, and could hardly walk or speak. The two gentlemen started to the First street station house with the young man, but met Officers Ryan and Darling on the way, who took charge of the captive and conveyed him to the station where he gave his name as Youse, a false name. A short while afterward his brother, who had heard of the occurrence, came to the station house and informed the officers that the young man was non compos mentis and irresponsible for his actions.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, October23, 1880.