Category: Crime & Punishment!

A Fitting End For Both

Posted by – April 30, 2017

December 6, 1886
A Gambler Shoots the Woman Who Cast Him Off and Then Himself.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6.—A double tragedy occurred to-night in the “Division,” a disreputable part of the city, which, by reason of the prominence in their respective lines of the parties concerned, created quite a little excitement among certain of Washington’s inhabitants. About eighteen months ago John Rowe, a gambler of New York City, came to Washington with a full pocket book. He was accompanied by Minnie Raymond, his mistress, whom he soon established as proprietress of a bagnio south of the avenue. About six months ago he encountered a streak of bad luck and lost all his money. He was discarded by his paramour in favor of another man, said to be the son of a prominent dry goods merchant.

Rowe went on to the house and asked her for money. On being refused, he upbraided her for her ingratitude, and was ejected from the house by the police. He threatened the woman’s life at the time. Luck still ran against him, and to-night, mad with jealousy and his reduced circumstances, he went to the dive and shot the woman through the head immediately on seeing her. He then shot himself through the head causing almost instant death. The woman is still alive, but will probably die. 

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1886 Morbid Scrapbook

A Reconciliation in Death Only.

Posted by – November 19, 2015

December 1887

A Reconciliation in Death Only.

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CLEVELAND, O., Dec. 14.—This morning at eleven o’clock August Debdke, a former Clevelander and harnessmaker by trade, arrived here from the east. His wife, Henrietta, lives on Holton street, and thither Debdke repaired. He is an old man, and his wife is gray and fleshy. Nine months ago he deserted her, and his return to-day was to bring about reconciliation. The wife refused to listen to him, and leaving the house, she started toward the barn. Debdke followed, overtook the fleeing woman and grasping her by the throat, began to beat her over the head with a small hammer. She sank to the earth dead, as Debdke thought. He then drew a razor from his pocket and after cutting his throat from ear to ear, slashed the arteries in his wrists and died. The woman may recover. 

From the Collection of The Comtesse DeSpair

At Rest At Last

Posted by – December 14, 2014

December 23, 1886


The Closing Chapter of the Sad Story of Miss Pickel’s Life.

VINCENNES, Ind., Dec. 17 –A message was received from the Indiannapolis [sic] Insane Asylum at the home of Miss Lydia Pickel a day or two ago which reveals the last chapter of a sad story. The message was as follows: “Lydia Pickel is lying at the point of death. Come if you wish to see her alive.” The dying girl lived in Harrodsburg, Lawrence county. She was on [sic] of a numerous family. She accumulated a snug sum of money, which she was ambitious to invest to the best advantage. She learned that under the Homestead law she could secure a considerable tract of land with her little store of money, and with this thought in view she set out for the west. 

On the way to her destination she had to travel a long way by stage coach. One night the coach was entered by several drunken cowboys. Seeing a defenceless [sic] woman was the only occupant of the coach save themselves, they attacked her. It will never perhaps be known what really took place in the stage coach on the lonely prairie that night. It is only known that the poor girl escaped from her persecutors by jumping from the coach.

Three or four days later a woman with most of her clothes torn from her person was found wandering aimlessly about on the open prairie. When captured she was found to be hopelessly insane. Fortunately a man from Lawrence county, Indiana, was present and he at once identified her as Miss Lydia Pickel, whom he had known from childhood. A guard was provided and the poor girl was sent home, and from there to the State Asylum for the Insane. Her case was beyond the power of human skill, her mental ailment being long since pronounced incurable. Her physical health had given out.


Culled from the collection of The Comtesse DeSpair: the 1886 Morbid Scrapbook.

Turned Out To Die

Posted by – November 18, 2013

Steele Scrapbook – 1885


An Attempt to Send a Young Girl to Ruin and Death.


While Seeking Work She Is Beset on Every Side by Temptations.


Her Awful Peril Is Discovered and She Is Taken in Charge By a Well-Known West Philadelphia Lady—The Story of an Uncle Who Tried, It Is Asserted, to Send His Niece to Ruin in Order That He Might Secure the Money to Which She Will Fall Heir.

Turned out into the streets of a great city, without a friend, penniless, half clad, with no one to vouch for her character; turned out to wander where sin in all its hideousness awaits with a welcome; turned out to death, or to worse than death.

Such has been the experience of an eighteen-year-old German girl, who has been plucked almost as a brand from the burning by Mrs. Martha Kimball, of 4703 Kingsessing avenue, and is now making her home with that benevolent lady at her residence, and is receiving every attention.

The story told by the girl is replete with facts that sound like the romance of a novel. She is the daughter of a rich government Cabinet officer of Germany residing at Berlin, and until her arrival in this country never knew a shadow of trouble. Reared amid all the luxuries that money and love could furnish, she is as inexperienced as a child.

She had heard so much of America that when an uncle residing in this city, visiting her home, made the suggestion that she go home with him, she gladly agreed if her father’s permission could be secured. The old gentleman at first protested against his only child leaving his home, even for a brief period, but at last he reluctantly gave his consent.

The uncle seemed so very anxious to have the girl come to Philadelphia that her father was puzzled as to the reason. Two months ago the German girl was met by her uncle on her arrival in New York, and together they journeyed to this city. She had a well-filled pocketbook, and soon he became the possessor of its contents. Then his manner changed. He demanded hoard. The girl replied that her father had told her none would be asked of her, as the uncle owed him $500, and this debt would be declared off if she was permitted to stay with him a year to finish her education in America. The uncle then, it is alleged, showed his true colors. The girl was told that she must go to work in a mill. At the thought she revolted. She did not know what it was to work. She threatened to write her father.

From that time her worst troubles began. A young man, her cousin, it is asserted, treated her disrespectfully. Her trunk of clothes was taken from her. One night she was left alone with a strange man in the house. The girl was afraid to carry out her threat to write to her father. He is an old man and very delicate, and she was fearful that the news would prove fatal to him. She did not know what to do or where to go, and she suffered in silence. A cold, blustering night two weeks ago she was sitting in her bed-chamber. The room was cold and she had around her shoulders a shawl. A hacking cough was troubling her.

That night she says she was told to leave the house, and the uncle, in a rage, tore the shawl from her shoulders as he shoved her out of doors.

She had a few dimes in her pocket and succeeded in finding a night’s lodging. The next day she started out to secure employment. Nobody seemed to want help, and she was finally referred to a German employment agency on Callowhill street. The proprietress, noticing that she was pretty and friendless and without experience, said she would care for her until she could get work. The girl was introduced, she says, to a sinister-looking man, and told to go with him. When she asked what was to be the character of her work, she was told that the man would show her. She was going to be his wife.

At this the man approached familarly and attempted to put his arm around her. The girl, greatly frightened, rushed out of the place.

For several days after this she sought work. Time after time improper proposals were made to her and money in abundance was offered to her, but she fled from the presence of her would-be destroyers.

She was starving.

For two days she had nothing to eat. A well-dressed woman, noticing her attractive figure and pretty face, one evening said she would give her employment, and when she asked what kind of employment, the woman laughed and told her how she could make lots of money and have fine clothes and not work. The girl, sick at heart, turned away. At an employment agency she met Mrs. Kimball, who at once recognized in her a refined and cultivated girl and took her to her home.

“Oh, if you had not met me,” she said afterwards, “I was going to kill myself.”

Mrs. Kimball heard the story of the girl and the authorities were notified, and Detective Donaghy is now working on the case. To-day he will demand the girl’s trunk and her jewels from the uncle.

A reporter of The North American called on Mrs. Kimball last night at her residence at Forty-ninth-street stations, West Philadelphia. The German young woman and Mrs. Kimball’s daughter have become close friends. The girl showed the effects of her harsh treatment. During the two weeks she has been at Mrs. Kimball’s home she has suffered greatly from the exposure to which she was subjected. She is a very attractive girl and would be pronounced pretty by the most severe critics. She speaks English and French as fluently as her native tongue, and the way she rattled last night on the piano keys showed her to be no mean musician. She is the guest of Mrs. Kimball, and is being treated as such by the family.

It is asserted by the young woman that the object of the uncle in bringing her to this country was to secure money she will inherit from a wealthy aunt. The uncle would be next heir at her death, and it is alleged that the uncle’s object in turning her out of doors in the condition he did was that her attractiveness and her penniless condition would finally result in her going to ruin and joining the great army of the fallen going down to death. Mrs. Kimball expects to send her back to her home in Berlin by voluntary contributions, as the girl protests against her father being told of her condition. She feels that he would worry to death before she could reach him.




The Young German Girl Is Being Well Taken Care Of.


Friends Came Forward Ready With Financial Assistance.


The Aunt of the Girl and Her Cousin do Not Arise to Offer as Clear an Explanation as Seems Desirable Under the Circumstances—The Society to Protect Children From Cruelty Acts Promptly.

The publication in The North American yesterday of the story of the alleged cruel treatment and sufferings of pretty eighteen-year-old Wanda Mueller, who, after being compelled to leave her uncle’s house, was exposed to the temptations of the street and was finally rescued from her perilous position by Mrs. Martha Kimball, a well-known benevolent lady of West Philadelphia, aroused public sympathy to such an extent that scores of friends sprang up on every side, ready to render any assistance, financially or otherwise.

It was a revelation, this story of the dangers a friendless girl in a strange city is exposed to. How time after time, while she was seeking honest employment, she was met by the tempter and pitfalls set for her feet; how an apparently legitimate employment agency brought her in contact with a man who said “she could be his wife;” how, while starving for food, she who walks the streets to lead the innocent to destruction sought her out and set before her a life of ease but of shame. The very fact of the girl’s inexperience and refinement and ignorance of the world made her an easy prey.

The city detective department received numerous communications yesterday, the writers of which offered assistance to send the young girl to her aged father in Berlin, Germany. Detective Donaghy received the representatives of a number of German societies and a score of benevolent citizens, who expressed themselves as willing to render assistance when called on by him or Superintendent Linden.

Detective Donaghy had called upon the uncle of the girl several times to secure her trunk, but each time was refused in no uncertain terms, but the exposure of the case in The North American so unnerved the man that he consented to give up everything in his possession that belongs to her.

A representative of The North American yesterday called at the uncle’s house. The uncle was not at home, but his wife and son were seen. They had evidently anticipated a visit. Every accusation brought against the uncle by the girl was denied.

“Have you seen her trunk?” was asked.

“Oh, yes; that is up-stairs,” was the reply in broken English, “Wanda can have it whenever she wants.”

“Of course all the clothes remain inside?”

“Yes, all except those her own cousins are wearing,” and the aunt glanced admiringly at a big red-haired girl out in the kitchen who had on a fashionable-looking dress that didn’t reach quite down to her shoe tops.

“Why didn’t you surrender the trunk to the authorities?”

The couple smiled and looked at each other and said nothing for a moment, and then explained that they wanted to give the trunk to Wanda personally.

“But she is afraid you want to get rid of her—to do her bodily injury,” it was explained. “You drive her out of doors, she says, and she is afraid to come back.”

The two denied this, but then the woman became excited, and losing possession of her tongue, splurted out: “Well, we were not going to have the lazy thing around here. She was no good; she couldn’t work.”

“But her father paid you $500 in advance.”

“I believe it was $600,” corrected the man; “but that don’t make any difference; we ain’t going to have any one playing lady here. I know she told me a lie one day. Just go and see Mrs. Heppe, the wife of the big piano man; she can tell you all about her.”

Mrs. Heppe was next visited. She stated that she had secured Miss Wanda as a companion to her children, as she could speak both French and German. She did not quite carry out the promise of the aunt that Wanda would be given a bad name by her. Mrs. Heppe stated that Wanda had been a mystery to her. The girl showed every sign of refinement and education, and could fairly make a piano talk, so fine a musician was she. She was more or less of a mystery, and did not seem to care to talk about herself or her family.

She appeared homesick at times, and when she received letters from her father she would go to her room and the children would sometimes find her there crying.

Not once while she was staying at Mrs. Heppe’s did her uncle or any of her relatives call on her. Mrs. Heppe stated that she learned to like Wanda, but she could not exactly understand why she should have left her so suddenly.

She finally told her she had received a letter from her father that he was sick and had sent her money to come over to Germany in the next steamer. She then left suddenly and that was the last she saw of the girl.

Detective Donaghy yesterday said the story published in The North American was substantially true. He stated that it would be dangerous to visit the house of the uncle, as that individual had some big dogs which he would not hesitate to turn loose on a visitor if anything was said to which he might take offence. The detective said that he had worked especially hard on the case, as it was one in which he believed a great wrong was being done an innocent girl. The trunk, he stated, he intends to secure at all hazards. Captain of Detectives Miller reiterated this last remark, and added that the girl would undoubtedly be seen safely home to her father.

Among the friends who called upon Mrs. Kimball yesterday in response to the article which appeared in yesterday’s issue of The North American was Secretary J. Lewis Crew, of the Society to Protect Children from Cruelty, who proffered all the assistance that his society could give.

When the reporter of The North American called upon Mrs. Kimball last night she was in consultation with the girl’s aunt and her cousin, who were there to tell their side of the story. From their conversation Mrs. Kimball deducted the inference that Miss Wanda had been brought up under circumstances entirely different from those under which her almost unknown relatives lived in this country, and rather than stay with them she had adopted the course which has led to such sensational developments.

As soon as Miss Mueller came under the notice of Mrs. Kimball and told her story the latter immediately communicated with a well-known philanthropic gentleman, who at once introduced her to the head of the police and detective force of the city. Detective Donaghy was assigned to the case, and yesterday stated that the story he had to work on was practically the same as that told in The North American.

The relatives of the young girl informed Mrs. Kimball last night that they were perfectly willing to send her back to her father, together with all of her personal effects.


Unceremoniously Stolen From Alf


A Thief Nailed In A Box

Posted by – November 18, 2013

Steele Scrapbook – July 27, 1885



A Thief Nailed in a Box.

ELROY, Wis., July 27.-A box was shipped by express from Black River Falls to Chicago on Saturday night. The messenger became suspicious of the contents and telegraphed to the authorities here. On the arrival of the train at this place yesterday the box was opened, and inside was found a man armed with a 38 calibre revolver, a billy, a razor, bottle of chloroform, and a bunch of cord. He refuses to give his name. The box was shipped to Sidney L. Barnard, Chicago. Two more persons, supposed to be confederates, were arrested here and are all three in jail. It is supposed that they had planned to rob the mail and express car. Nothing is known here regarding the identity of the men.


Snatched Away Under Cover Of Darkness From Alf

Robbed A Dead Woman

Posted by – November 18, 2013

Steele Scrapbook – January 7, 1886



Mrs. Anna M. Dunigan’s Corpse Despoiled in the Street at New York.

NEW YORK, Jan. 7.—Anna M. Dunigan, seventy years of age, fell dead this evening on the street within a few doors of her home in this city. Before her body was removed to her apartments her fingers were stripped of three valuable diamond rings, and a bracelet of gold and enamel was torn from her wrist. Mrs. Dunigan occupied rooms at “The Judson” with her son, Charles W. Dunigan, an actor.

When the woman fell several men rushed toward her, apparently to aid her, but as the results showed, to rob her. Her gloves were torn from her hand on the pretence of chafing them and rings were deftly slipped from her fingers and the bracelet from her wrist. Mrs. Dunigan was born in Philadelphia. Her father was a Quaker named Isaac Williams.


Stripped From The Fingers Of Alf

Ghosts Did Not Frighten Thieves

Posted by – November 18, 2013

Steele Scrapbook – 1885?



Looted Odd Fellows’ Cemetery and Did Damage Amounting to Thousands of Dollars.


For months the officials of the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery, at Twenty-second and Diamond streets, and the police of the near-by districts have been endeavoring to apprehend a gang of thieves, who have been systematically looting the graveyard of metal ornamentation, and causing damages amounting to thousands of dollars. T. S. Cummings, superintendent of the cemetery, has watched all night many times in hope of catching the vandals at their horrid work, but failure always followed his lonely vigils. Special Lawrence, of the 31st police district, and Special Hancock, of the 28th, also gave a large part of their time to an endeavor to locate the miscreants. Their work was also fruitless, however.

But when the officials were almost in despair an end of the protracted hunt is near at hand. The first arrest was made last night, and is expected to be followed by a number of others before the week is out. Policeman Eastlack, on his beat at Twenty-sixth and Susquehanna avenue late last night, had his attention attracted by the suspicious effort of a young colored man to avoid notice, and the further fact that the belated pedestrian was carrying a heavy bag, which he tried to keep out of sight. When stopped and questioned the young fellow could not give satisfactory answers and became confused. The policeman arrested him.

At the station house the prisoner said he was John F. Barnes, and gave his home as No. 2317 Steward street. In the bag was found a quantity of lead fittings, such as are used in the construction of fences around cemetery lots, to form a connection between the iron rail and the posts at the corners. These lead fittings were the articles always missing when a new piece of vandalism occurred at the cemetery, and a little hard questioning brought from Barnes the admission that he had obtained them there.

Magistrate Fletcher this morning held Barnes in $500 for a further hearing. A number of policemen testified that the prisoner had been seen about the cemetery frequently and chased out of the enclosure a number of times. Other boys and young men had been seen there in his company, but it was never suspected that they could have been the authors of the systematic depredations, as they were so extensive and long continued that it was thought some older and shrewder thieves must have been at the task. When the further hearing takes place the police expect to have one and probably several prisoners, with ample evidence for their detention and conviction.

The looting has been done thoughout the entire summer, and scores of fence were broken down. The quantity of fittings, brass work, and ornaments taken away is estimated to amount to $2,000, and the damage resulting is calculated at several times that sum. For months lot owners have complained of the vandalism which seems to have been done at no regular time, the thieves working at night or day as opportunity afforded.

It is now thought that boys and young men did all the damage. It is considered remarkable that boys, and especially colored youths, should have found courage to visit so uncanny a place as a graveyard at night and use heavy hammers to break up strong iron fences for a small amount of plunder. Where they disposed of their loot has not yet been ascertained. It is expected that these particulars and much beside will be produced at the next hearing.



This one qualifies for the racism category as well, for propagating the belief that all “colored people” are afraid of ghosts.

Ransacked From The Cemetery Of Alf

Dr. Gruel Is Missing

Posted by – November 18, 2013

1892 Morbid Scrapbook


He Failed to Respond When His Case Came Up in Court.

When the case of Dr. Louis Gruel, of 905 North Fifth street, was called up before Judge Allison yesterday he failed to appear , and a bench warrant was immediately issued for his arrest and placed in the hands of officers to be served. They went at once to his house, and were informed by his wife that he was out of town, and she could not tell when he would return. It is believed that the Doctor has skipped the town, and will not voluntarily come back.

Gruel is charged with conspiracy to ruin the reputation of Mrs. Annita Hilgert, the young Spanish wife of Adolph Hilgert. It is charged that he visited the home of Mrs. Hilgert’s mother-in-law, and entered into a conspiracy with her to effect the young woman’s ruin. She was induced to drink some wine, and the mother-in-law left them alone. The Doctor then, it is alleged, attempted to assault her. She escaped, and ran to a neighbor’s house.


Now we know why Mother-In-Laws get such a bad rep!
From the collection of The Comtesse DeSpair
The 1892 Morbid Scrapbook

Death of Butte Convict

Posted by – November 18, 2013

Chico Weekly Record, Chico, California – Saturday, December 25, 1897

Death of Butte Convict.

Henry Mullings, a life termer at San Quentin prison, died at that institution on Tuesday, and was buried in the prison graveyard yesterday. An unusual large number of mourners among the prisoners made applications for permission to attend the funeral. A life termer who dies in prison is always given a large funeral by the convicts.

Mullings was twice tried and convicted in the Superior Court of this county for the murder of John Moore, an old miner of Mooretown. The murder occurred in 1887, and was a most brutal one, Moore being chopped to death with an ax. The evidence upon which Mullings was convicted was mostly circumstantial, but left no doubt of his guilt. In fact had it not been for admissions made by Mullings himself, he would not have been arrested.

Mullings was a young man of twenty-four years when he was received at the penitentiary on June 19, 1890. The prisoner declared when he entered the penitentiary that he would lead a model life and at the end of ten years he would plead for liberty. Mullings was a robust young fellow when he entered prison. He was raised in the mountains. Seven years’ confinement behind brick walls sapped the life of the young mountaineer. He knew that he was going to die and prepared for the end.

“Liberty will come with death,” remarked Mullings. “I would rather meet the end now than live on in this place indefinitely. There is no hope for a life-termer to gain freedom, unless he has strong friends. I am glad that death will give me liberty, for then I can cast aside these stripes.”

Mullings’ body will find a resting place in the prison graveyard. In death as well as in life he will be known as Prisoner No. 14.184.

From the collection of The Comtesse DeSpair


A Woman Beheaded In Germany

Posted by – November 18, 2013

Steele Scrapbook – January 24, 1886



BERLIN, Jan. 24.—A woman named Badmewski was beheaded on Friday by the Berlin executioner for having poisoned her husband. She will, however, in all probability be the last criminal dispatched in this manner, as the Emperor is turning his attention to methods of capital punishment. His Majesty has decided against the present barbarous system. As executions are now conducted in Germany the condemned criminal is placed upon a stool, an assistant of the executioner holds the head, while the executioner himself, using a sword ground to a razor-like sharpness, severs the head from the body.


Ruthlessly Snatched From The Arms Of Alf