Monday, February 27, 2012

The Rebel Plot to Sieze Chicago

On election day, 1864, Chicagoans were greeted to a surprise headline in the paper:

THE CITY TO BE LAID IN RUINS

Confederate agents and "Copperheads" (southern sympathizers), they claimed, had been captured in the act of planning to release the 9000 prisoners at Camp Douglas, the confederate prison at about 31st and Cottage Grove. The prisoners and conspirators would overwhelm the guards, cut the telegraph lines, and make sure no one in town voted for Lincoln at the ballot box in the process of burning down the city, just as General Sherman had burned Atlanta. Had the plot not been foiled by the gallant actions of Colonel B.J. Sweet, who had acted on information supplied by double agents, Chicago would had been laid to waste.




Some still say that if it had been successful, it would have been the first step in establishing a Northwestern confederacy, or forced England and France to recognize the CSA as a legitimate, independent county and supply them will military aid (it's sort of odd to think of now, but in those days the South was desperate for approval from France).

As with anything to do with the Civil War, historians are sharply divided on where "The Northwest Conspiracy" was a genuine threat.  Some say the whole thing was a hoax dreamed up by Col. Sweet to make himself look like a hero, and by the Tribune to galvanize Union loyalists to vote for Lincoln on election day. Others say that it was a real conspiracy, and could have changed the tide of the war. These arguments aren't new. Even as early as the day after the conspiracy was announced, many papers (especially Democratic-leaning ones) said it was all nonsense. Wilbur F. Storey of the copperhead Chicago Times said that if there was a conspiracy at all, it was probably just six people, four of whom were undercover detectives. The Times was an anti-Lincoln paper; he famously referred to the Gettysburgh address as "Silly, flat, dishwatery utterances" that must "make the cheek of every American tingle with shame."

I spent most of today (prior to a ghost hunt at Camp Douglas) reading contemporary articles and wound up thinking that the truth lay somewhere in between (as it nearly always does). Memoirs written by people involved years later make it clear that there WAS a conspiracy, but it was probably just a handful of nuts, not hundreds of people. Several confederate soldiers and sympathizers HAD come to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention that summer, planning to cause trouble, but they scrapped plans in the summer and postponed them. Several did come back in November, but if they thought they had a huge support network in place, they were dreaming. But they were making plans, and at least one or two of them were leaking information to Col. Sweet. One problem with getting to the truth of the matter is that none of the people who later spoke of it seemed to be able to tell the story without turning themselves into either the hero who saved the Union at the last minute of the visionary who almost destroyed the Union.

Thomas Hines, a confederate spy who is sometimes thought of as a James Bond-like character (he was into planning covert confederate raids and escaped capture many times), had partnered up with a Chicago group called The Sons of Liberty who assured him that they'd get him hundreds, perhaps thousands, of copperheads to stage the raid. The head of the group, one Charles Walsh, was something of a b-rate conspirator, not the kind of guy who could have secretly drummed up an entire army.  Thomas Hines was great at escaping (he escaped Col. Sweet's men by hiding in a mattress), but not really good at accomplishing the goals of his missions. 


It tends to pain me to admit that Wilbur F. Storey was right about anything, but the conspiracy really WAS mostly just a couple of idiots and some double-agents who led them on.  One analogy we might make is that this was a situation like having the recess monitor catch a bunch of second graders plotting to rub sticks together until they burned down the school.
above: Hines, who had once tunneled out of prison, and who would later make another escape after being mistaken for John Wilkes Booth.


Still, it's always tempting to play "what if" with the Civil War. A mass break-out at Camp Douglas WAS an ever-present possibility. The prison was not particularly well guarded (prisoners outnumbered guards 10:1), and it seems possible that if Hines had picked better co-conspirators and had had a stroke or two of luck, the liberation of the prisoners could have become a reality, and the Battle of Chicago would have entered the Civil War history books. Just imagine - Chicago burned, a Confederate flag on the courthouse, an ironclad battleship cruising into Lake Michigan. By this time it probably wouldn't have turned the tide of the war, but it could have dragged things out for a few extra months.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Another Shadow at the Body Dump?

Odd shadows at the north side spot where H.H. Holmes once operated a "glass bending factory" (read: probably body dump, as covered in our recent podcast and many posts) have been in no short supply lately. Here's one shot by Lexie Manke. Here's the unedited version:



And a lit-up close-up on the odd shadowy figure on the left:

My first thought is that it was just ME back there - the figure appears to be in a long coat and either a newsie hat or a bowler, and I often wear outfits like that. But on this tour, I was bare-headed and wearing a different coat (my usual one was being mended). I never "certify" any ghost shots), but who knows?

Some other recent shadows from the same spot.

All posts on the site.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tillie Klimek's Many Victims (with pictures)

Until a couple of recent TV profiles, Tillie Klimek was nearly forgotten as a serial killer. While she was only convicted of one murder, police suspected her of many more. She was on her fifth husband (and had tried to kill him) when she was convicted of killing her fourth one, and it was believed that she had also killed some "friends" and neighbors - the number of people she had killed (or tried to kill) climbed up to 20.  A couple of women even testified that they became deathly ill after eating candy that Tillie gave them - she may have single-handedly started the old "strangers with candy" story (though candy stores seem to turn up in a  LOT old-time murder stories). The fact that she wasn't hanged, but some people who barely qualified as accomplices in a single murder were, is pretty solid evidence that the "system" was broken already by 1923. It as often pointed out in Tillie's day that she probably would have been acquitted if she were more attractive (attractive women accused of murder generally were).

I don't know of any truth behind the oft-repeated story that she claimed to have precognitive dreams predicting people's deaths, but she did cheerfully inform one of her husbands that he was going to die in three days after poisoning him, and even bought a bargain coffin to keep in the basement of her house. That house is still standing on the 900 block of N. Winchester - residents have described is as "creepy" and suggest that the bottom floor, where the coffin was stashed, is cursed - neighbors heard residents of that apartment threatening to kill each other occasionally). Even now, if you're nearby and using foursquare, you can check into "Old Lady Tillie Klimek's Haunted House." We covered Tillie here before back in 2010.  We'll be looking into some of her other residences soon!

Also held and tried was her cousin, Nellie Koulik. Nellie was eventually acquitted, but I've no idea HOW. Her own children testified against her.

This is a list Tillie (and/or Nellie's) possible victims. I've no idea how many of these stories about people getting sick are actually true.


TILLIE AND NELLIE'S ALLEGED VICTIMS:
1. Jospeh Mitkiewicz, Tillie's first husband (arsenic found in body, had $1000 insurance policy, died 1914). Lived on Lubeck St (now Dickens Ave).

2. Joseph Ruskowski, Tillie's second husband. (arsenic found; left about 2k in cash/insurance, died 1914)

3. Frank Kupszyk, Tillie's third husband (arsenic found - this is the murder for which she was convicted). Died 1921, had 1k in insurance.

4. Joseph Grantkowski, Tillie's ex boyfriend, died in 1914 after "jilting" her.

5. Mrs. Rose Chudzinski, Tillie's cousin. Died 1919 after attending Tillie and Frank's wedding party.

6. Helen Zakrzewski, cousin. Died 1915, age 15.

7. Stanley Zakzewski, cousin. Died 1912, age 16

8. Stelle Zakrzewski, cousin, died 1913 at 23.
(Tillie tended to the above three when they were ill)

9. "Meyers," a husband or sweetheart (missing as of March, 1923)

10. Wojek Strummer, first husband of Nellie Koulik, died 1918, arsenic found (Nellie was a cousin of Tillie who was tried along with her).

11. Dorothy Spera, granddaughter of Mrs. Koulik. Died age 2.

12. Sophie Sturmer - daughter of Mrs. Koulik, died 1917.

13. Ben Sturmer - twin brother of Sophie, died a month after his sister.

14. Joseph Klimek - last husband of Tillie, poisoned but recovered.

15. John Sturmer - son of Mrs. Koulic. Recovered when sick after father died in 1918, thought his mother poisoned him.

16. Mrs. Rose Splitt - says Tillie gave her poison candy after Joseph Klimek talked to her.

17. Miss Stelle Grantowski, sister of former boyfriend of Tillie. Got sick after eating candy given to her by Tillie after a fight.

18. Nick Micko, cousin, got sick of arsenic but recovered.

19. Mrs. Bessie Kupcyzk, sister in law of Frank K. Ill after eating at Tillie's; recovered.

20. Miss Lillian Sturmer, 15, daughter of Mrs. Koulik. Lived at Mrs. Klimek's home for a year at age 13; deathly sick from the food and still suffered heart trouble.

(source: Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1923).

Here are some photos from the case:





above: Nellie, Tillie's cousin, who was also in jail for year or so before being found innocent.








Thursday, February 23, 2012

Investigation This Weekend

Often, people ask if they can come along on investigations. We'll be holding a public one on Sunday for an upcoming podcast. It'll be an outdoor investigation, so it probably won't be a LONG one - just an informal checking-out of an area that's been under-investigated over the years until we get too cold. Email me for details if you'd like to come along. Bring any equipment you like, and we'll see if we can find anything! I'm not the type who expects to find much on a ghost hunt, but with any luck, we'll find some spots that warrant further study when it gets warmer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Ode to a Bowl of Soup" and other ballads of Bathhouse John

We never had a stranger alderman than Bathhouse John Coughlin, who, with his partner Hinky Dink Kenna, controlled the notorious levee district for two generations beginning in the 1890s. Often seen tromping around in a suit made of green billiard table cloth, Bathouse John was often seen as a sort of affable buffoon.

Though he and Hinky Dink were running protection rackets that allowed people to get away with some awful things, it was hard not to like ol' Bathhouse, who generally did as he was told as a politician, but was allowed to amuse himself introducing goofy legislation like promoting the annual "Straw Hat Day." Newspapers showed shots of him practicing putting his hat on like a big boy.


But he may be best remembered as the poet laureate of the first ward. After his first song, "Dear Midnight of Love" (which Herbert Asbury said had all the literary merit of a first grade essay), several "ballads" appeared under his name, with such titles as "She Sleeps at the Side of the Drainage Canal," "Ode to a Bath Tub," and "Why Did They Build Lake Michigan So Wide." Most were actually written by John Kelley, a newspaper reporter, who knew fully well how dumb they were. But if Bathhouse knew, he didn't say. Rather, he suggested that they might be "too deep" for most people.

A few of his greatest hits:

SHE SLEEPS AT THE SIDE OF THE DRAINAGE CANAL

In her lonely grave she sleeps tonight
at the side of the drainage canal;
Where the whipporwhill calls at the twilight hour
they planted my sweetheart, Sal
Just a mile this side of Willow Springs
not far from the Alton track
there lieth Sal, my dear old pal
But these tears won’t bring her back.

ODE TO A BOWL OF SOUP

O, bowl of soup, to thee I lift my voice in gladsome song
nothing can touch ze spot like what ze French call "booyong."
I like you as mulligatawny, noodles, or consommé.
It cheers me when I see the sign proclaiming "hot soup all day."

I care note what they call you, you're just plain soup to me
I break my bread into the bowl to cool it, don't you see.
Let those who want to die of gout of richer food partake
But give me a bowl of soup like mother used to make

That little sign "Hot Soup All Day" in front of Hink's saloon
Brings customers for blocks around, especially at noon.
It's got fried liver skinned to death, and red hots, too, I trow,
Put up a "feed" of good hot soup, and then you'll catch the "bo."

I pride myself on being wise upon this free lunch question
"Potato pancakes 4 to 8" are bad for one's digestion
Saurkraut with spare ribs, fricandeiles, ox joints and all that group
are not to be considered with a bowl of steaming soup.

"How stew on individual plates" does not appeal to me,
and neither does the "business lunch" (which same costs 15c)
I'd rather have one bowl of soup than all the stew in town,
or goulash cooked Hungarian style, with gravy thick and brown

Clam chowder has its devotees, and I'll admit it's fine.
Others are fond of "K and K," but no corned beef in mine.
Just give to me a bowl of soup, and have it seasoned well,
It's got them all backed off the boards - I tell you what it's swell."


THE HOD CARRIER
Tis not a ladder of fame he climbs
this rugged man of bricks and mortar
The mason gets six for laying the bricks,
While the carrier gets but two and a quarter.


AN ODE TO A BATHTUB:
CANTO I:
Some find enjoyment in travel, others in kodaking views;
some take to automobiling in order themselves to amuse.
But for me there is only one pleasure, although you can call me a "dub" -
There's nothing to my mind can equal a plunge in a porcelain tub.


CANTO II:
Some go to ball games for pleasure, others go bobbing for eels.
Some find delight making money, especially in real estate deals.
I care not for ball games or fishing, or money unless to buy grub
But I'd walk forty miles before breakfast to roll in the porcelain tub.


CANTO III:
Some take a trolley to Hammond, others the boat to St. Joe
Some can find sport on the golf links with mashies that foosle, I trow.
The trolley and boat and the golf links are not one, two, nine with a  rub;
O, what in the world is finer than a dip in the porcelain tub?


CANTO IV
Some runs  dairy for pleasure, others a violet farm
Some turn their heads to bookbinding, and say it is life dearest charm.
But for dairies or sweet scented posies, or old books I care not a nub;
pass them all up, thank you kindly, for the little old porcelain tub.


UNDER THE TWINKLING STARS
Under the twinkling stars, 'mid a bower of roses fair
I lost my heart to Gwendolyn that night in June so rare.
We plighted our troth that summer's eve while gazing up at Mars;
O', the happiest night of my life was that - under the twinkling stars


She told me that she loved me as I held her hand in mine;
her lips were like to cherries of the Maraschino kind.
I drew her to my bosom, breaking two good cigars
and plucked the cherries from her lips - under the twinkling stars.


Perhaps the least sensible of them all, and Bathhouse's favorite, was a ballad of a girl (who may have been a lobster, and certainly marries one), who is terribly upset about the width of Lake Michigan for reasons unexplained:


WHY DID THEY BUILD LAKE MICHIGAN SO WIDE?
Twas a balmy day in June, and all nature was attune
that two loving hearts across the lake did go.
Said the youth unto the maid, "Stick to me, don't be afraid,
and married we will be at old St Joe."
When the boat approached the dock, it was after 3 o'clock
Then a scramble from the decks to get ashore;
Soon the youthful pair were wed, after which the bride let said:
"Won't you answer me this question I implore:


"Why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?
Look into mine eyes, dear, am I not your bride?
Answer sweetheart, answer, cast me not aside.
Oh why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?"


To Chicago they returned with money she had earned
a flat was furnished fit for any queen.
Persian rugs upon the floor, sofa pillows by the score
still the bride let weeping tears was often seen
She in silence bore her grief, till one day she sought relief
and confided to his nibs her tale of woe.
"Won't you answer me, I pray, (O, sweetheart, don't turn away)
The question that I asked at old St. Joe?


"Why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?
This little boon I ask of you, do not turn aside.
To you I gave my love, my all, and yet you've never tried
to find out why Lake Michigan was built so wide, so wide."


l'envoi:
Stung by the words his bride let spoke, the lobster hung his head
and while the tears rolled down his cheeks to her he slowly said
"You ask me why Lake Michigan was built so wide, so wide
I must decline to answer you because of family pride."

Bathhouse John is said to have put out a whole collection, Dear Midnight of Love and Other Ballads, but I can't find  a copy. Perhaps it's time to bring it into print as an ebook!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Robbin' Graves and Takin' Names

You can't rob graves like you used to. The days when you could just dig down to the head of the coffin, cut a hole in it, and drag the body out on a rope are over. You basically need a jackhammer to get into a casket nowadays.

But do you know that that is? It's quitter talk!

The Smart Aleck's Guide to Grave Robbing is now available (in a newly-formatted edition) on the ibook store via iTunes for use on your iPad! Here's everything you need to know to launch YOUR career as a 19th Century Resurrection Man - the smart aleck way!  

And don't forget to check out our FREE podcast on Grave Robbing in Lincoln Park and our posts from Grave Robbing Week!

The Smart Aleck's Guide to Grave Robbing - Adam Selzer & Smart Aleck Staff

Also available on Kindle or Nook.  Click the banner below for more info!
BANNER GRAVE ROBBING

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Iroqouis Theatre "Ghouls"

No one ever got in legal trouble for the fire at the Iroquois theatre that killed around 600 people. One judge ruled that while Will Davis, the manager, may have been "morally responsible," he could not be held "legally responsible" due to some technicalities. The only people who got in trouble were a tiny fraction of the many who robbed the dead bodies of money and jewelry as they lay in the morgues - or even as they lay in the theatre, still smoldering. The press dubbed them "ghouls" or "vampires," and most of them got away with it.

Rumors circulate that one man, sometimes said to be the owner of the restaurant next door, was sent to jail for stealing gold fillings from the teeth of the dead bodies. This doesn't seem to be true (in fact, Mr. Thompsons of Thompson's restaurant went out of his way to help the sick and the dead, shutting down his restaurant for some time in the process), but a lot of similar stuff was going on. The day after the fire, papers were full of stories of "ghouls" being chased off by the police, and the coroner's office estimated that $100,000 worth of valuables were lost in the fire - much of it stolen.


One report said that half a dozen people were arrested, but it looks as thought just a few ever went to trial. One Louise Witz, who ran The Illinois Saloon at Randolph and Dearborn, is probably the source of the "gold fillings" story; he was a saloon owner arrested for grave robbing, but he didn't take any gold fillings.  He carried the charred body of one woman into his saloon, where he robbed it for $210 and a watch; much of the cash was spent hushing witnesses. He and a few others were brought to trial the next month,  and Witz and two more men were convicted. These may be the only three people convicted of wrong-doing related the fire. I'm not sure what the sentence was.

A sort of "near miss" involves a man named John Mahnken, a b-rate con artist who claimed to be related to a victim in order to claim $500 found on her person. Mahnken confessed the deed, begged for a chance to live a clean life, and gave his address as 907 Amsterdam Avenue, New York (which was actually the address of a public school). He was arrested, and, when brought to court in May, acted hysterical and claimed to be seeing ghosts in the courtroom. This was probably a ruse he concocted so the jury would find him insane. It didn't work.

Ten years later, a man named Harry Spencer was arrested for murder. While in custody, he told the police that they could add grave robbing to his crimes. At the time of the fire, he said, he had assisted in carrying bodies into a morgue. One was charred beyond recognition, but he noticed she had a lot of jewelry on. With help from a female accomplice, he returned to the temporary morgue later and "identified" the body as "Nellie Skarupa," a name he just made up, and took $2600 worth of cash and jewelry. "I guess she's still buried under the name Skarupa," Spencer mused. Coroner's records did show a woman by that name, but said nothing of any valuables found on her, and didn't list Harry among the witnesses. Authorities at the time thought he was making the story up (he confessed to a LOT of crimes that were probably just opium dreams). In any case, though, Spencer was hanged for murder in 1914, and the name "Nellie Skarupa" does not currently appear in lists of victims. More on Harry Spencer in a future post.

Still another gruesome tail suggests that one man got away with ghoulish activity, but lost a hand in the process. When volunteer rescue workers found one man cutting off a dead woman's fingers to get her rings, they attacked him with a razor and cut off his hand. Two weeks later, regional papers said that a severed hand - the ghoul's - had been found in the rubble.

Reading over these reports, it's a bit jarring to see just how much cash people were carrying on them - $500 was roughly the equivalent of 10-15k in today's money. Who goes to the theatre with that kind of scratch?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Charles Dickens and Chicago

Charles Dickens, whose 200th birthday is today, never visited Chicago. Everyone in town assumed he would come on his 1867 reading tour of the United States - his no-good brother, Augustus, had been living died in Chicago the year before, and his widow was still living on Clark Street.  "Dickens is surely coming to Chicago," the Tribune wrote. "He would as soon think of dining without saying grace as to come to America and not visit Chicago....one of the principal reasons for Mr. Dickens' coming to the United States, we are assured, was to visit the (unmarked) grave of his brother."

above: Augustus Dickens of Chicago looked a lot like his brother

And, indeed, Dickens did INTEND to come to Chicago on tour, but his health during the trip was poor. Making a rail journey that far west probably would have killed him (indeed, the tour itself probably took a few years off his life; he died just two years later, already an old, old man even though he was not yet 60. He looked at least ten years older than he was).

When it was announced that he wasn't coming too town, Chicago was FURIOUS. The Tribune fell all over itself calling him a hypocrite.

Many believed he was deliberately avoiding having to see his brother's widow's and his nieces and nephews, so he could continue to shut his eyes to their plight.  Charles was obliged to defend himself, claiming that August's only legal wife was living in England. This was sort of true; Augustus had abandoned a wife back in England. Charles, though, was financially supporting both of them.

Reading through modern and contemporary sources to get to the truth of the matter only deepens the mystery. Most modern sources say that Dickens was supporting his brother's widow financially, most of the sources at the time say he was not. She was still living in the North Clark Street cottage where Augustus had died (roughly 1400 N, in between Division and North), and, only months after the furor, was found dead in her bed there on Christmas Day, 1868, of an overdose of morphine. Records as to whether or not she was truly being supported were destroyed in the fire a few years later.

 She was buried in the same unmarked-grave at Graceland as Augustus; it remained unmarked until 2004.

What kind of guy Augustus was is also in question. Some remembered him as a jovial man who hosted lots of artistic discussions and sing-a-longs at the house on 568 North Clark (which would be roughly 1413 today, going by the renumbering guide from 1909, though the fire might have messed with this a bit). More seem to have remembered him as a hapless drunk.

Here's his gravestone at Graceland, with Augustus on one side and Bertha and three infant children on the other. In 1865, presumably shortly after Lincoln was assassinated, the pair had a child named Lincoln. Ophelia and Violet were the other two.








They pair left behind three living children, Bertram, Adrian and Amy, whose own children grew up believing that "if anyone knew they were related to Dickens, they'd have to sit on the porch with a bag on their head," according to one still-living descendent quoted in The Reader in 2004. That article is probably the best source on Augustus and his family that I've ever seen.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Lost Storey Mansion

It's always fun to read old newspaper articles with hindsight and see who really had a grasp on where the world was heading and how was out of his mind. Falling firmly into the latter category was Wilbur F. Storey, editor of the Copperhead (anti-Lincoln/Union) journal, The Chicago Times. His paper was practically a celebration of racism at various times. Among his more notable accomplishments:

- He once described the president's latest speech as "flat, silly, dishwatery utterances" that should make "the cheek of every American tingle with shame." That speech was the Gettysburg address.

- He may have invented the story that Mrs. O'Leady was responsible for the Chicago fire. In fact, in his earliest stories, he claimed that she did it on purpose. He was extremely anti-Irish.

- After his paper was shut down by the Union Army (and re-opened at Lincoln's own order), he posted a ghastly parody of "The Battle Cry of Freedom" that championed fighting for "white rights."

In one of his more famous articles, he claimed that Lincoln was getting advice on how to run the war from dead people through the aid of spirit mediums. But as he grew older and lost what grip on sanity he'd had in the first place, he began talking to spirits himself.

In particular, he claimed to be speaking with an Indian maiden who was called "Little Squaw" and called him "White Chief." At Little Squaw's direction, he began to build a sparkling marble palace for himself on 43rd and Vincennes (ironically, in what would later become Bronzeville). To his face, people called it The Storey Castle. Behind his back, it was known as Storey's FollyThe cost of the materials alone for this "wigwam" was estimated in the $200,000 range, and the cost of rebuilding it as the spirits directed him doubled the price. Far gone from his senses (but still running the paper), he would go inside the unfinished building, and freak out over the "snakes" coming up through the floors (pipes, most likely) and order everything redone. The drawing at the right is the only image I've found so far, but mid-20th century articles show that lived on in the imaginations of people who saw it. It was sort of legendary around Chicago for quite a while.


At his death, the massive structure was still unfinished, and it sat empty until around 1892, when his heirs finally gave up on trying to sell it. It was torn down, and 400 tons of iron beams and girders were sold off. There remained about a million and a half bricks, and a whole heck of a lot of marble. Much to if was used to build new houses around 43rd, Vincennes and Vernon - builders estimated that at least 50 good-sized houses could be built from the rubble.

Some of these houses may still be standing. Anybody know?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hangman's Death Certificates

My, the things one finds on genealogy sites! More and more records come online all the time. Death certificates have never been THAT hard to get, but you normally have to pay to get them from the state archives, and I'm pretty cheap. In cases of hangings, I already know the cause of death, after all. But it's still interesting to see the records on some of these:

Here's one for Nicholas "The Choir Singer" Viana, who was on his way to choir practice when he first wandered into Sam Cardinella's pool hall and committed his first murder a week later. He was hanged on his 19th birthday, and, according to legend, was briefly revived after being taken down. Cardinella was a guy who seems to have read Oliver Twist and thought it was a how-to manual. He'd lure kids into his pool hall, then teach them to commit crimes and send them out to rob and kill.



Cardinella himself was hanged sometime later. he had lost a ton of weight, and collapsed on the scaffold - they had to hang him tied to a chair. All this was a part of his own grand plan to escape! Low weight and a shorter drop meant it was less likely that he'd break his neck, meaning that, in theory, they COULD bring him back to life. His friends took possession of the body and loaded it into an ambulance, where authorities found a team of doctors trying to resuscitate him. A similar ambulance carrying Viana had been allowed to drive away, though how successful they were in attempts to wake him are strictly the stuff of rumor. The certificate above indicates that they couldn't have gotten THAT far, but the story was always that they'd simply gotten him to start groaning a bit before stepping back and letting him die.




Fun fact: no two records I've seen spell Cardinella's name the same way! Some go with Cardenelli, or Cardanella. This one goes with Cardinale.


Read more about it here:


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