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

Trying to Scare an Old Maid with a Wooden Dutchman.

A wooden Dutchman, rather than no man at all, was what a sensible spinster argued when some practica
July 11, 2016
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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] '
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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.
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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 […]
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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: […]
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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.
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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
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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
An Irishman and a Yankee Settle a Dispute. | She Stole Her Lover’s Clothes.

Trying to Scare an Old Maid with a Wooden Dutchman.

Wooden Dutchman

A wooden Dutchman, rather than no man at all,
Was what a sensible spinster argued when some practical jokers under took to scare her in Oakland, Cal. [more]


Probably the most pathetic incident since the war occurred in Oakland the other day, and it is still agitating the higher circles of that locality to their inner depths. It appears that on Jackson street resides an old maid—a very old maid—who puts in all the time she can spare from the supervision of other people’s affairs to searching for burglars. In fact, the latter occupation may be said to be her hobby.

For the last twenty-five years Miss Goobey has never retired without first  industriously “shooing” under each and every bed for the purpose of expelling any burglariosly inclined person who might be thus secreted.

The other day a bold, bad man, who happened to be temporarily staying at the Goobey residence, concocted a dreadful practical joke. By the assistance of some of his dissolute companions, he stole a life-sized wooden Dutchman form the front of a cigar store, and placed it under the chaste couch of the mature Diana in question.

The conspirators waited on the landing when Miss Goobey locked the door that night expecting a domestic earthquake to be started as soon as the bogus burglar was sighted.  They waited unsuccessfully for an hour. Was it possible Miss G. had neglected her invariable custom of looking under the bed? No, the idea was preposterous. They still lingered for the volcano to begin, throwing up screams, convulsions, melted lava and hair pins.

Silence.

Another hour passed by.

At last the well-known sound of Miss Goobey’s high soprano snore sounded faintly through the door, and impelled by ungovernable suspense and curiosity, the watchers climbed up and peeped though the transom.

There were two figures in the bed.The wooden man had been carefully lifted into the couch and covered up with its head on Miss G’s off pillow. While one thin arm over his manly red-wood chest, and with one saffron cheek pressed against the irresponsive shoulder, Miss Goobey slept in contented sleep of one who had reached bedrock at last.

She was making believe, poor thing!

 


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, December 17, 1881.