Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Galaxy Not So Far Away


There are freak accidents and then there are freak acts of temporal stupidity which change lives forever and alter their course towards an irrevocable dead end. That was the case in the early morning hours of December 4, 1982 when Thomas Hart and his wife were returning to their Westland home from an evening spent with friends. While driving along a poorly lit road a projectile slammed into the hood of their car and through the windshield striking Mr. Hart in the head before exiting through the back window. He was taken to Wayne County General Hospital with traumatic injuries to his brain and was kept alive via life support systems. Within 24 hours he showed no brain activity and his organs were harvested and donated at the request of his family.

Police recovered a mud-laden 14 pound Galaxy model bowling ball from the side of the road near the accident scene. They tracked its make and manufacturer to a Kmart limited distributor and the Michigan based chain store aided police in their investigation towards tracking down the owner. Since there were no bridges or overpasses in the area, officials believed that somebody had thrown it from a nearby wooded area or another vehicle. It took several newspaper accounts of the story before 5 young men came forward with details concerning the case.

They were returning from a bowling outing when 18 year old Charles Joseph Borg, Jr. of Wayne decided that he didn't want the "crummy ball" any more and decided to chuck it out the window. It is assumed that the men were intoxicated at the time and they claimed to have no knowledge of the fate of the ball until hearing about it through media reports. Shaken by the incident they turned themselves in for questioning where the details of the story were revealed.

Borg was later charged with manslaughter and plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter. On June 30, 1983, Wayne County Circuit Judge Richard Kaufman sentenced Borg to 2 six month terms 4 years apart (go figure that one out!) at the Detroit House of Corrections that would be sandwiched around 2 years of extensive probation and community service. Kaufman explained that even though the sentenced seemed harsh that many  would deem it too lenient in light of the loss of life. Borg was also ordered not to drink during this 5 year period or face violation of his sentence.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Yule's Gold

Cash back rewards have been around in various forms dating back to at least the 1800s. In the 1890s stores began issuing trading stamps to customers who paid with cash instead of purchasing on credit tabs. The practice further caught on in the 1910s and 20s with the emergence of chain gas stations and grocery stores and expanded to all customers who shopped at the establishments.

The peak of the frenzy was between the 1930s where it was almost a prerequisite to have a stamp program to draw in customers. By the mid-1960s the craze has slowed and many corporations dropped the promotion in favor of research and marketing to heighten their store's appeal. Which actually might have been more a boon for the customer than the company line as it was estimated that the cost of the programs generally raised the participating store's prices by 4%.

The value of each stamp in the 1970s was approximately 10 cents or $120 total to fill up a booklet of 1200. Depending on the company and their redemption center, the filled booklets could be traded for anything from common small household appliances to life insurance policies and in some instances of finagling, just about anything. One such instance  involved an Erie, Pennsylvania school which collected over 5 million Green Stamps and purchased a pair of gorillas for a local zoo with the stamps.

In 1961 in the Detroit suburb of Northville, the Hawthorne-Northville Chapter of the Michigan Association for Emotionally Disturbed Children placed a bus on the patients' Christmas list as an humorous afterthought. As Charles E. Dell Jr., the chairman of the chapter's bus committee, recalled it, "They put a bus on the list almost as a joke." The joke became a reality when through volunteering efforts, word-of-mouth campaigns and eventually newspaper articles the chapter accumulated some 2,301,600 Gold Bell stamps from as far away as California.

Volunteers licked and stamped some 1,918 booklets and though they were still 247 books short of the prerequisite amount, with stamp donations still flooding their chapter headquarters, a deal was struck with the distribution company to deliver a bus by Christmas morning. The bus was to be utilized for field trips around the Detroit area.


FURTHER READING


1955

TRADING STAMPS: A Hidden Charge in the Grocery Bill, Time Magazine, November 28, 1955


1961

Children At Hospital Get New Bus; The Owosso Argus-Press, December 21, 1961

Trading Stamps Used To Buy Bus For Hospital; The St. Joseph News-Press, December 27, 1961


2004

The Trading Stamp Story by Jeff R. Lonto

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thomas Bradford's Spirit Test

The Ogden Standard-Examiner, February 21, 1921
Hauntings have been a part of the human landscape as far back as the written word carries its history. Most instances are cold and informal happenings as if two passing figures were situated on separate planes and unexpectedly intersected without cause or warning, momentarily touching one another.

Houdini attempted to make intelligent contact between the dead and the living by sending a message to his beloved when he crossed over into the shadow world. For ten years his wife Bess held séances on Halloween hoping to hear him whisper the agreed upon phrase "Rosabelle believe" to prove that there was life after death. Despite being unsuccessful he inspired others to claim the quest as their own, with failing returns.

Perhaps Houdini himself was inspired by another gentleman, Professor Thomas Lynn Bradford, a Detroit psychic and lecturer, who not only attempted to make contact from the other side but committed suicide to hasten the act and prove that life after death was possible. And according to his assistant he did just that.

Mr. Bradford, said to have been an electrical engineer and a one time athlete and actor as well, devoted much of his last years studying and writing about the occult, particularly the after-life. He theorized in his last written words that "all phenomena are outside the domain of the supernatural." and sought to prove this theory through "scientific facts." Having conjured up the postulate he intended to prove it through experimentation with his own life as the guinea pig. First though he'd need an assistant to receive his message from beyond.

In early 1921 the professor posted an ad in a local newspaper, under the pseudonym Professor Flynn, searching for "someone interested in spiritualistic science" to which a woman named Ruth Starkweather Doran replied. Mrs. Doran, about 40 years old, was from a prominent Detroit family with deep roots in the area. She had only recently returned to the area from Duluth and was doing historical research in the city. A writer and lecturer herself, Doran's curiosity was piqued by the odd advertisement and answered it on a whim. A member of the Protestant Episcopal Church, she was neither a believer in psychic phenomenon or a spiritualist but agreed to meet with Bradford to further investigate a subject she had never breached beforehand. After several meetings--Doran herself claimed that there was no pact and that there was in fact only one brief meeting--in which Bradford presumably explained his theory and plan of action, they chose a date for the final meeting, February 5, 1921.

Shortly before Doran arrived that evening for their last conference, Bradford finished typing his final thoughts for the manuscript to an unfinished book which lay beside the machine, leaving the sheath interred in the carriage, and readied himself for the death experiment. First though, he calmly assured Doran that he would contact her and gave her instructions on how to carry out the reunion. When Doran departed he sealed off the rented room, blew out the pilot to the heater, turned on the gas jets, situated himself in bed for one last repose and eventually succumbed to the fumes.

In the days after Bradford's death, Doran and a congregation of Spiritualist leaders gathered around the parlor in her home awaiting the message. While skepticism abounded even among the sect, Doran also distanced herself from any self-aggrandizement saying that her part was more so as a human being than a Spiritualist or a psychic. While a fortnight of vigils would take place the first few evenings were rather quiet and no contact had come. Though Doran reported that she felt a strange sensation during this time, as if Bradford's spirit was hovering just waiting to call from the beyond.

If Bradford was indeed destined to call there would be competition for his attention. While Ruth Doran and her team hunkered down waiting for a missive, another spiritualist in the same city named Lulu Mack, of 300 Brady Street, claimed to have already had contact with the dead professor.

The Pittsburgh Press, February 10, 1921
On February 9th, a mere 3 days after the passing of Bradford, Mack felt that she was being urged by a passed spirit to make contact. That evening she gathered her medium for a seance. During the event she claimed to hear the faint voice of Bradford. Not calling out to her but to himself, "Thomas Bradford. Thomas Bradford."

Unaware of Bradford's story, Mack questioned her reverend medium. Who responded that Bradford had yet to pass entirely and was still aware of Earthly things, though unlikely knew of his own demise. The low murmur of his voice could be attributed to the fact that he was not yet strong enough to communicate properly from his astral body as much of his energy had been expended on death itself. She believed that as his spirit grew stronger and was purified the probability of contact would increase. Perhaps in a few years or so.

The New York Times, February 18, 1921
On February 12th, a week after his suicide and the scheduled date for Bradford's return, Doran, upon notifying certain media and spiritualist sects, gathered a small group of friends in her home at 9 o'clock that evening for the event. Other spiritualist groups across the city also joined in, forming "concentration parties" to help strengthen the expected signal.

That evening she felt a presence in her dimly lit parlor. She stood staring into a dark corner for several minutes, placed her hands upon her temples and ordered the lights to be turned out. After a few moments of silence she professed to hearing his voice. It started out quite faint and grew even more distant but discernible nonetheless. "Write this!" she directed and one of the witnesses present transcribed the message that she dictated in a low voice. After a half hour she exclaimed that "The voice grows weaker." The clock then struck 10 o'clock and the lights were turned back on.

Appearing flush she looked over the notes, signed them to authenticate that she had dictated them accurately and began to recite the jotted passages:
"I am the professor who speaks to you from the Beyond. I have broken through the veil. The help of the living has greatly assisted me. 
"I simply went to sleep. I woke up and at first did not realize that I had passed on. I find no great change apparent. I expected things to be much different. They are not. Human forms are retained in outline but not in the physical. 
"I have not traveled far. I am still much in the darkness. I see many people. They appear natural. 
"There is a lightness of responsibility here unlike in life. One feels full of rapture and happiness. Persons of like natures associate. I am associated with other investigators. I do not repent my act. 
"My present plane is but the first series. I am still investigating the future planes regarding which we in this plane are as ignorant as are earthly beings of the life just beyond human life."
Once done reciting the message she fainted but soon came to and was asked, "Are you certain beyond doubt that you heard from Bradford?

To which she responded, "I am convinced. I never heard a spirit voice before. That was the professor, without doubt."

Whether or not it was is a matter of conjecture. A betting man might be inclined to disagree with that sentiment. In a town that produced the likes of Shirley Tapp and Rose Veres he might do so against his better judgement.

Later that year Mrs. Doran wrote in an exclusive article that she had regular contact with Bradford thereafter, even in apparition form. Among the wisdom imparted by Bradford was the sentiment that life would one day be eternal on both the spiritual and physical plain:
"Through spiritualism the world will be reclaimed: sin will be vanquished, suffering will end. The physical in man will cease to be, and physical death--and that is the only death--will be no more. Men will live on earth forever, even as they live forever in the spirit world."

FURTHER READING

Detroit Student Of Spirit Communication Ends Life, Perhaps In Effort To Test Theory; The New York Times, February 7, 1921

Missed Ghost Pact, Is Sorry; The Detroit Free Press, February 8, 1921

Widow Of Spiritualist Suicide To Claim Body; The Detroit Free Press, February 11, 1921

Kills Self To Send Spirit Message; "I've Got it!" Declares the Woman; The Southeast Missourian, February 22, 1921

Waiting For A Message From The Dead; The Turners Falls Reporter, March 16, 1921

Detroit Woman's Amazing Story Graphically Told In Special Article For Journal; Syracuse Daily Journal, April 4, 1921

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sick Cadas

Detroit Free Press, July 15, 1947
If there was a science pertaining to words then "weird" and "Detroit" would be nearly synonymous with any mention of those hulking edifices which were collectively known as Eloise. Though miles separate our not so fair and violent city from the relatively safe confines of what used to be a mental asylum and hospital, short of a geo-political dissertation about how the suburbs and Detroit are completely different subsections of the same animal, the two go hand in hand. Another commingling phenomenon shared between the two is sudden episodic violence. On July 13, 1947 a brother and sister team provided the scenario for just that: the violent end of a life. Late that evening Henry Leo Cada plunged a jackknife into his sister's throat, severing her jugular vein causing her to bleed to death.

The Cada family of River Rouge had a history of mental illness. Both Gilbert Cada, the family matriarch, and his wife had died insane and the sickness was passed on to both son Henry, 28 and daughter Ida, 21. Ida had been in and out of mental institutions the previous months and Henry had a few stints himself after suffering shell shock during World War II, with his latest release coming just 3 months earlier from Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek.

Dr. Thomas K. Gruber, superintendent at Eloise, had recommended against Henry's release from Percy Jones due to his interactions with Ida during his visits to her at the Wayne County location. Both had a history of violence and Henry's surly demeanor during the visitations was enough to frighten the staff and warrant his banishment from the facility. Gruber was so troubled by Cada's behavior that he had contacted police to watch out for Henry and went so far as to intervene in getting Cada's taxi license repealed for fear that he would hurt somebody while on duty.

On July 11th Ida was given a weekend pass and released to the care of her aunt Emma DeBons from Roseville. Later in the day after finishing his shift at Murray Body Corporation in Ecorse, Henry went to the Aunt's residence to fetch his sister. The two were close companions but also had their share of difficulty in each others company. Besides the tense hospital visits they had rows concerning money, food and maltreatment with the police being called to the home that Ida shared with two brothers Gilbert and Harvey, and her sister Marie at 83 East Cicotte in River Rouge (Henry reportedly lived down the street at 28 East Cicotte.). The house was a frequent destination for the city's police to break up drunken arguments and fights and they considered the family "funny" in a not-so-flattering way.


Around 5PM that evening Henry and Ida made their way towards the Detroit River where Henry rented a 12 foot boat from a livery named Cash Colasinski. Colasinski told police after the murder that Cada was alone and surmised that he had picked up the girl somewhere along the shore. He said that Cada, still in his work clothes with a swim trunk tucked into one pocket, appeared "normal" to him and the only worry Colasinski had was Cada staying out after dark without lights on the boat. Henry left a paycheck stub and drifted downstream.

Canadian authorities suspect that after picking up Ida somewhere along the shore the two traversed the river to Ontario where they hitchhiked to Wheatley, nearly 50 miles southeast of Detroit where they next surfaced at 6:30PM on Sunday evening. A clerk witnessed them buying chocolate and soda pops from a gas station in town. Others suggested that Ida was staying at the family's summer cottage some 17 miles from Wheatley and that Henry had joined her there and the two then fled. Whichever way the saga transpired, the brother and sister duo wound up in a barn loft near Chatham on property being rented by Joseph Vankerkhoven off of No. 3 Highway. Four hours later Ida Cada was dead at the hands of her brother.

Soon after Henry confessed to a nearby farmer, John Dawson, that he had killed his sister and asked him to phone a doctor. The doctor refused to come because he either didn't believe the fantastical story or as he stated, that the details were too scant to afford a late night visit. Cada apparently returned to the barn so that he'd be present when the doctor arrived and when he didn't show, Henry returned to the Dawson farm. Now quite suspicious of Cada's motive they phoned the police. When the Ontario Provincial Police arrived Cada led them to loft where Ida's body lay mortally wounded.

It was then that Cada told police that he had killed Ida because she had "asked him to" so that she wouldn't have to go back to the Wayne County General Hospital at Eloise. He stated that she would rather die than go back for more electric shock treatments and that he had promised to facilitate this morbid option. He would maintain the "mercy killing" stance during his subsequent "petit jury" hearing even going so far as to say that his father was murdered at Eloise and that he didn't want to see his sister, after eight sessions of shock therapy, to end up the same way. Whether he meant it literally or it was just his mental instability rearing it's ferocious face is up for eternal conjecture seeing as he was an insane man fighting for his life at that point. He was taken to a mental facility at Penetanguishene and held until the next session of the court commenced the following autumn.

The OPP however believed that this was anything but a mercy killing , preferring to label it a murder-suicide gone awry by Henry's cowardice. In official reports they stated that an unnatural love occurred between the two with suggestions that they hadn't run away together in a traditional sense of escape but had actually eloped to carry out their incestuous relations. Perhaps realizing that they couldn't legally sustain the affair they opted for suicide. The fact that Ida didn't resist or struggle with her brother during the stabbing seems to confirm such a scenario.

At his trial in September before the High Court of Ontario he spoke forcefully about his experiences with electric shock treatment, he had completed 26 sessions, and said that he'd rather be hanged or put to death by electric chair since "there you only die once." He went so far as to say that if he was given further shock therapy that he would kill again to force the courts into giving him the electric chair.

Dressed in a light gray, double-breasted suit he comported himself respectfully and answered that he knew exactly what he was doing when he killed Ida and that "it was the only way out." His testimony coupled with the testimony of several psychologists that he suffered a persecution complex stemming from his earlier stints in mental hospitals convinced the court that he was unfit to stand trial. Cada was convinced that he had been railroaded from his military service due to a beating he received by fellow soldiers because he refused to join the C.I.O. A theory which doctors rebuffed claiming that he had actually suffered the injuries from leaping out of a moving train while being transferred between mental hospitals. He was also certain that the Catholic Church was out to get him because a charity affiliated with the church had recommended shock therapy, though their influence likely had no bearing on his treatment.

Cada was remanded back to Penetanguishene. What his treatments were are not known but his criminal behavior continued. Within six months he would escape the mental institution along with notorious murderer Melville Wilkie, a repeated escape artist, who had burned his wife and infant daughter to death in an intentionally set house fire in Owen Sound for the insurance money. The two were taken into custody without incident nearly a week later when they were found huddling near a brush fire in Cedar Point, Ontario, 40 miles north of Penetanguishene. Wilkie would escape several more times while Cada, just three weeks after his recapture, managed to stab guard Robert Maurice just below the eye when he brought Henry a glass of water.



FURTHER READING


1947

Charge Man Slew Sister; The Ottawa Citizen, July 14, 1947

Murder Reveals Fantastic Story; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Sister Dies When Knife Slits Throat; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Trail Of Insanity; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Jury Rules Cada Unfit To Be Tried; The Windsor Daily Star, September 16, 1947

Motive Still Sought In Girl's Death; The Windsor Daily Star, July 16, 1947

Confesses Killing Sister; The Warsaw Daily Union, July 17, 1947

Untitled; The Grosse Pointe News, July 17, 1947

Cada Must Stand Trial; The Windsor Daily Star, July 28, 1947

Henry Cada Ordered To Stand Trial For Murder; The Windsor Daily Star, July 29, 1947


1948


Officers Hunting Escaped Maniacs; The Owosso Argus-Press, March 22, 1948

Two Insane Murderers Recaptured; The Calgary Herald, March 23, 1948

2 Confessed Slayers Retaken In Ontario; The Ludington Daily News, March 24, 1948

Cada Stabs Hospital Guard; The Windsor Daily Star, April 12, 1948


1952

Captured; The Sunday Sun, March 29, 1952

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Somnambulism in the Suburbs

If trial and error are the main catalysts towards scientific purity then doctoral candidate, Gerald G. Griffin, a part-time psychology instructor at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn and former psychologist for Oakland County schools, was well on his way to conducting the perfect experiment. During an evening session of his entry level sociology class on Friday November 12, 1965 he discussed both the merits and benefits of hypnotism to a non-believing audience. Having previously experimented with the practice in his classes, Griffin, an "amateur hypnotist", was obviously an eager practitioner despite his lack of credentials. But word had gotten out by a student to her clergyman who in turn notified the school's Dean, Ray Howe, and Griffin was reprimanded with Howe demanding that such experimentation had no relevance in a basic course. Having been warned not to repeat the incident in-class he agreed to meet some students for an off-campus session. First though, he made a pact with the class that the sessions must remain secret. While their agreement held firm the experiment soon went awry.

One of the eager to learn was 18 year old coed Cynthia Wellman of Inkster. She agreed to meet Griffin at a parking lot near the school campus for an impromptu session. While sitting inside a car Griffin put Wellman into the requested trance. It's not clear whether other students participated in the exercise or what exactly transpired during the session but when it came time to awaken Cynthia she remained spellbound. Griffin then spent several hours trying to revive her using the techniques which enabled the trance, all to no avail. Griffin then panicked, which may have led to his difficulty in returning her to consciousness, but certainly didn't help with his cause. After repeated attempts failed to rouse the girl, the married father of two children drove Wellman to his residence and attempted to let her sleep it off on the couch. When that method also failed to return results she was taken to the Wayne County General Hospital in Eloise.

Under the care of Dr. Bruce Danto she was given sodium amytal, or truth serum, a barbiturate used to relax patients or to induce drowsiness in those with insomnia. It was first used clinically to treat psychiatric patients in the late 1920s and later by law enforcement to coax suspects into confessing to a crime. The drug came under scrutiny when tests showed that patients under the influence of the drug were highly susceptible to fabrication and coercive suggestion by outside influences. When the drug began to arouse Wellman from her somnambulistic state, Griffin transferred his control over the girl to Danto, who after several hours (and 16 total hours from the start of the original hypnosis) managed to fully relieve her of the hypnotic state.

Griffin, who was later thoroughly questioned by Inkster police, was suspended from his post at the community college and later resigned the position. No charges were filed by authorities mainly due to the fact that there were no laws on the book at the time and because investigators were convinced that no improprieties took place outside of the actual act itself. Griffin was rattled by the episode but maintained a professional demeanor in asserting that he was "a scientist" and had only used the procedure in good faith and as a teaching tool despite the unfortunate results.



FURTHER READING


Instructor Suspended For Hypnotizing Coed; The Owosso Argus-Press, November 12, 1965

Hypnotism Experiment Backfires; The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 15, 1965

Hypnotist Is Suspended By A School; The Lawrence Journal-World, November 15, 1965

Teacher-Hypnotist Suspended; The Windsor Star, November 15, 1965

Classroom Hypnotist Still Under Suspension; The Victoria Advocate, November 16, 1965

In 16-Hour Trance; The Free Lance-Star, November 16, 1965

In Long Trance; The St. Joseph News-Press, November 16, 1965

Instructor Faces Suspension For Hypnotizing Coed; The Lewiston Morning Tribune, November 16, 1965

Experimenter In Hypnotics Suspended; The Titusville Herald, November 16, 1965

Hypnotist Instructor Resigned; The Owosso Argus-Press, November 17, 1965

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Witch of Delray


To say that Rose Veres was not revered in the small Hungarian enclave of Delray on Detroit's south side in the 1930s would be an understatement. The fact that she was considered a witch by her neighbors on Medina Street was less a testament to her affability than her disregard for human souls. Not that she wasn't eager to help her fellow man--taking many of the area downtrodden into her house as boarders--but that her motives were spun from animus and self-serving greed cancelled out any exhibited perception of goodwill. So when she was arrested for the murder of Steve Mak, a tenant in her "house of funerals", who was reported to have accidentally fallen while doing home repairs, witnesses came forward in droves to accuse her of much worse than simple manslaughter.

Detroit of the 1930s was a cauldron of mass immigration (black migration included), industrial bloom in wilt and riches to rags stories. With the Depression in its early churning and unemployment skyrocketing the working man was sent into a spiral of hopeless searching for unattainable answers. As was the norm in many immigrant neighborhoods already, boarding tenants in extra rooms was one of the ways to sustain financial stability on the home front as jobless men and lower wage earners flocked to ramshackle rooms in unkempt boarding houses. Mrs. Veres's home was one such dosshouse in the grimy industrial part of the city.

Rose Veres had first come to the Detroit Police Department's attention in 1925 when two boarders died of acute alcohol poisoning. She was questioned, arrested for suspicion of murder and then released without charges being filed due to insufficient evidence. Two years later her husband, Gabor Veres, and a tenant named John Toth (another source states his name as Louis) died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also contributing to her malfeasance was the fact that the neighbors were terrified of the so-called witch and refused to testify against her, "We are afraid to catch her eye. She can make our children sick and our husbands lose their jobs. She knows all kinds of magic." So that when it came time to give depositions the Hungarians would cringe and proclaim in feigned ignorance, "I don't verstek" or "me no talk." However, with the changing demographics of the neighborhood--five black families had settled there--her luck was about to expire.

On August 25, 1931, Steve Mak 68, fell off a ladder while working near the 3rd floor attic window. A witness named George Halasz claimed that Mak was pushed by a "pair of arms" and then moments later Veres peered from the window. The incident had followed loud quarreling from the attic area Halasz added. Furthering the claim was the testimony of a "negro" named John Walker who claimed to have also seen the fall. He told police that Veres had admitted to killing Mak but under completely different circumstances than were first suspected. Walker said that Veres, her son William and another tenant had beaten and poisoned Mak and when he failed to succumb to death they tossed him from the attic window, where a ladder had been stationed outside to dress up the appearance of an accidental fall. Giving credence to Walker's claims were medical examiner's finds of skull fractures which pointed to multiple injuries not consistent with trauma from a simple fall as well as the discovery of a blood-stained gas pipe found in the cellar of the home. Walker added that Veres had promised him $500 if he kept quiet about the incident.

The other black families living in the neighborhood also gave depositions as did a little girl named Marie Chevalia. She lived directly across the street from the Veres home and on the morning of the incident she sat making mud pies in her front yard. She had heard stories about the witch prowling the alleys in the middle of the night in long flowing garments and a cape, in search of "victims." So when Veres appeared at the front door and descended down the steps she commanded the 11-year-old's full attention. Marie recalled that Veres had stopped to give instructions to John Walker, a tenant at her house of horrors as well as a handyman, who was watering the lawn to cease his operation. He did so, retiring to the basement to switch off the spigot.

Detroit Free Press, August 27, 1931 (enlarge)
It was then that Veres placed a ladder against the window where Mak would begin his sojourn towards death. Soon he ambled from the house carrying a small box of nails and a hammer. He shakily ascended the ladder and when reaching the window, opened it and sat on the sill for a moment. A minute or so later George Halasz appeared at the house calling on another boarder named Mike Ladd. With no reply seemingly forthcoming, he leaned against a tree and began rolling a smoke. John Walker was also returning to the scene nearly simultaneously. As he approached the area where Mak was sitting suddenly the box of nails, followed shortly thereafter by the hammer, thudded to the ground. Walker drew his hands upward to cover himself, stepped back and then glanced towards the window and witnessed Mak hurtling to the ground where he lay mortally wounded but still alive. Walker immediately scampered to the back of the house to gather Veres, Halasz stared dumbfounded at the spectacle before him and Marie Chevalia ran screaming into her home.
The piercing screams of the little girl aroused the neighbors and a crowd began to assemble. The clanging sound of the approaching ambulance's gong stirred in the din of voices. Mak was whisked off to Receiving Hospital and Veres gave her report to the unsuspecting officers who had no reason to suspect foul play at the time since the legends of Medina Street were largely a self-confined phenomenon. Eventually though, the talk turned to foul play as the witnesses came forward en masse and Veres was arrested.

Detroit Free Press, October 28, 1931
Tight-lipped, the shrunken woman was nearly mute during her long interrogation, claiming that she didn't speak English, although when confronted with a witness against her she was reported to have said, "You keep your mouth shut." As the evidence mounted against her the stoic widow maintained that the death of Mak was an accident. The investigators even believed that the witchy woman, known to cast the evil eye and dispersions at neighbors, was trying to affect a hypnotic influence over them as she stared steadily at her interrogators while pointing her finger in a strange manner. Two of her sons, William, 18, and Gabor were also interrogated along with two former boarders Steve Gecse and Sam Denyen, with William ultimately being charged alongside his mother.

Finally, on August 31, nearly a week after the accident and countless hours of grilling, Veres broke down and admitted to pushing Mak from the window, claiming that she was hard up for money. As police would uncover in their investigation of Steve Mak's death, she had a slew of husbands and just as many insurance policies with herself as the beneficiary. The early estimates were in excess of 50 policies (court testimony would state 75) approaching $70,000 total with most naming her as the beneficiary. The investigation turned up a total of 12 suspicious deaths including Mak. The Daily News of Huntingdon, PA listed the victims as:

John Toth, carbon monoxide poisoning
Steve Fiasch, alcoholism
John Kolachi, intestinal ailment
Gabor Veres, carbon monoxide poisoning
John Norvay, undetermined
Louis Kulacs, undetermined
Alex Porczios, undetermined
John Skrivan, supposed hanging
Steve Sevastian, supposed alcoholism
(this finely researched blog states different names and gives some brief biographical information on the men along with a detailed genealogy of Rose Veres, as well as further evidence that there might be more victims, including Veres's own children.)

Added to the list after the extradition and interrogation of former tenant Sam Denyen from West Virginia, was the name of John Coccardi, who was named in letters by Denyen to have died under mysterious circumstances shortly after he moved from the Veres home.

After a short trial the following October, Veres and her son William were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, Rose at the Detroit House of Corrections and William at Jackson State Prison. In December of 1945, after many denied requests for a re-trial, Rose Veres was retried and exonerated of the murder. She fainted upon hearing the verdict.

Detroit Free Press, October 15, 1931

FURTHER READING


1931

Hurled Man To His Death; The San Jose News, August 25, 1931

To Exhume Bodies Of Nine Believed Murder Victims; The Grape Belt, August 25, 1931

Woman Is Held As Blurbeard; The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 25, 1931

Woman Killed For Insurance, Is Allegation; The San Jose News, August 25, 1931

Detroit Woman Held In Mystery Deaths Of 10 Men; The North Tonawanda Evening News, August 26, 1931

Say Man's Fall Not Accidental; The Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 26, 1931

May Exhume Bodies To Reveal Murder Plot; The Indiana Evening Gazette, August 27, 1931

Police To Probe Deaths Of Nine; The Daily Times, August 27, 1931

Spectre Of 9 Strange Deaths Stalk Woman; The Daily News, August 27, 1931

May Exhume Nine Men's Bodies To Determine Deaths; The Daily News, August 28, 1931

Woman Says She Killed One Man; The Greensburg Daily Tribune, August 28, 1931

Witness May Help Clear Up Mystery Of Twelve Deaths; The Owosso Argus-Press, August 29, 1931

Alleged Witch Admits Killing Aged Roomer; The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 30, 1931

Deroit Free Press, October 1, 1931
Mystery Deaths Of 12 Men Under Probe; The Montana Standard, August 30, 1931

Detroit Woman Admits Killing One of 12 Men To Collect Insurance; The Southeast Missourian, August 31, 1931

Killed Mak, Says; The North Tonawanda Evening News, August 31, 1931

Mrs. Veres Confessed To Killing Roomer; The Constitution-Tribune, August 31, 1931

Pushed Victim Out The Window; The Nevada Daily Mail, August 31, 1931

'Witch' Held; The Oelwein Daily Register, August 31, 1931

Confesses; The Washington Reporter, September 2, 1931

Widow Quizzed In 10 Deaths; The Newburgh News, September 2, 1931

Detroit 'Witch' Held In Deaths; The Daily News, September 3, 1931

Says 'Pair Of Arms' Shoved Steve Mak In Fall To Death; The Ludington Daily News, September 3, 1931

'Witch,' Son Facing Life For Murder; The Pittsburgh Press, October 6, 1931

Woman And Her Son Are Convicted Of Murder Of Roomer; The Niagara Falls Gazette, October 6, 1931

Life Sentences For Detroit Mother, Son; The Lewiston Daily Sun, October 15, 1931

Mrs. Veres And Son Sentenced To Life; The Ludington Daily News, October 15, 1931


1945

Detroit Free Press, September 16, 1944

Acquittal Follows 13 Years In Prison; The Pittsburgh Press, December 11, 1945

'Witch' Acquitted; The Middlesboro Daily News, December 17, 1945

Deroit Free Press, December 5, 1945 (enlarge)
There's also an excellent newspaper article from 1932 and a write up posted on this blog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hugh Cannon: Lightened Millions Of Hearts; His Own Is Buried In Poorhouse


In the early 1900s Hughie Cannon's name in the music world was gold. He had written several hits including "Bill Bailey" and "Goo Goo Eyes" and was collecting royalties aplenty. His drinking and drug habits though decimated much of what he had worked for and he was reduced to banging out drunken tunes on barroom pianos for his drinking fare. He eventually sold the rights to most of his songs and was left penniless, divorced and in failing health when he arrived at Eloise in 1910.

He told a Detroit newspaper at the time of his admittance into the poorhouse, "I quit the coke easy. Fifteen days of jail cured me of that. I hit the pipe in New York for a year and stopped that. I went up against the morphine hard and quit, but booze, red, oily booze -- that's got me for keeps. I started when I was 16; I'm 36 now, and except for seven months on the wagon I've been pickled most of the time. It was twenty years -- twenty black, nasty sick years -- with only a little brightness now and then when I made good with some song."

His ex-wife, Emma Dorsam, confirmed Cannon's own musings in her divorce filing, "For a period commencing about a month after our marriage and continuing to the time of our separation, defendant was drunk nearly every night; he seldom if ever remained at home to spend the evening but would consort with people of evil repute and would generally come home about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning in a drunken condition." Only a few years later in 1912 he died at an Ohio infirmary  from cirrhosis of the liver.

There was a story published after Cannon's death concerning the hasty writing of the hit song "Bill Bailey" and two friends of the musician who literally forced the issue. According to the legend, Cannon, needing money for a date came to the office of his publisher Howley, Haviland and Dresser and asked for a loan. Howley and Dresser told him that they would give him a loan but he would have to work for it and enticed him into the piano room. Once in they locked the door and despite his protest wouldn't open the door until he completed a song. Once the words and lyrics for "Bill Bailey were completed Howley cut him a check for $50 and Cannon bolted out the door. The yarn has been disputed as pure fiction by other writers but is a good folktale nonetheless.

There is an excellent article about the real Bill Bailey, his connection to Cannon and Bailey's ex-wife whom the song was written about. She was none too amused by the song or her former husband's wild antics. Here's Patsy Cline's version of the original ragtime classic which is most likely as far from the original as is possible but since I don't care for honky tonk it'll have to do.



FURTHER READING



1910

Ragtime Author In Poorhouse; The Indiana Evening Gazette, January 17, 1910

Booze Got Him For Keeps; The Nevada Daily Mail, January 26, 1910

Composer A Pauper; The Titusville Herald, January 26, 1910

He Lightened Millions Of Hearts; His Own Is Buried In Poorhouse; The Tacoma Times, February 4, 1910

Former Song Writer Now A Wreck; The Music Trade Review, November 1910


1912

Cannon death notice; The New York Dramatic Mirror, July 3, 1912


1919

Cannon Worked Fast; The New York Dramatic Mirror, January 18, 1919

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One Flew Under The Cuckoo's Nest

It was commonplace for patients and inmates at the Eloise Asylum to be criminally orientated and subject to random violent or illegal acts but when a regaled psychiatrist from the same institution became embroiled in a murder-for-hire plot in 1957 it was highly scandalous. The fact that the intended victim was the man himself attempting to commit suicide by proxy made it that much more troubling and eerie.

To his colleagues and associates Dr. C. L. R. (Charles) Pearman was an outstanding psychiatrist with an impeccable character. Even the judge who would release him on bail after his failed experiment with death attested to his upstanding character. But something was bubbling under the surface of the doctor's professional veneer and on Tuesday April 23, 1957 it overflowed.

While at a Detroit night club Pearman discussed hiring a hitman with a porter named Walter Jones. The porter listened intently as the doctor told him that the man must be "an ex-convict, a Negro, and must know his business." Jones agreed but instead of finding a thug to do the job he contacted the Detroit police. Henry Jason, a black officer, was assigned to arrange a meeting with Pearman. Two days later the men convened in a staged environment with concealed cameras which filmed the entire exchange of money and the murder plot.

Jason was to come to Pearman's office the following evening and shoot the doctor clean through the heart. To Pearman it was the perfect scenario because you "could fire a cannon in my office and not be heard." In preparation for the supposed assault Pearman would ransack his own office to make it appear that he had walked in on a burglar. He then gave the plainclothes officer $50 as a down payment and would relinquish another $450 after the job was completed.

When police arrived the next evening they found a sign on his office door blankly stating, "Back Monday." Pearman had reconsidered his bizarre plan and instead went to a party at the nearby Grosse Ile naval air station where police later arrested him. Under interrogation Pearman admitted to being "despondent" and feeling that he had "nothing to live for". The reason he had chosen to hire his own assassin was so that a "lady friend" could collect on his life insurance policy which the doctor had altered the week before the plot to benefit the unnamed woman. Police interviewed the married woman, who was accompanied to the station by her spouse, and determined that she was an innocent cog in the ploy.

Pearman was detained and brought before Recorder's Court Judge John P. Scallen, who, after listening to defense remarks stating that the doctor's mind "had slipped a little" from overworking, released him into the care of the court psychiatrist Dr. Albert E.Waller, stating that having known and worked with Pearman for years that he was "a man of exceptionally fine reputation."

Wayne County Prosecutor Ralph Garber recommended charges against Pearman for conspiring to commit murder, a potential five year prison term, but Judge W. McKay Skillman refused to sign the warrant issued by Assistant Prosecutor Sam Brezner. After a "technical legal argument" between Skillman, Brezner and defense attorneys Albert Summers and Ernest Ostro, the judge denied the warrant citing a 1943 state attorney general ruling that committing suicide wasn't a crime.

In a bizarre postscript, which in hindsight might have foreshadowed the events of April 1957, the following year Dr. Pearman sued two black Detroit policemen for $25,000. In the suit he claimed that during a 1955 drunk driving incident he was falsely arrested, imprisoned and beaten, causing permanent injuries to his right hand and upper left arm that hampered his golf game. While he was later found innocent of the impaired driving charges his golf game suffered a nearly 20 stroke decline which demanded that he should be justly compensated for the loss of skills. He was awarded $2,250 in a settlement suit. Apparently, the doctor was quite a golfer!

Detroit Free Press, October 15, 1958


FURTHER READING

1948

Doctor Pearman To Address PTA; The Grosse Pointe News, December 2, 1948


1957

Insurance Plot Fizzles; The Windsor Daily Star, April 27, 1957

Quiz Psychiatrist After Try To Hire Pseudo-Gunman To Kill; The Times-News, April 27, 1957

Wanted To Die, Hired A Killer; The Owosso Argus-Press, April 27, 1957

Psychiatrist Plotted Own Slaying; The Miami News, April 28, 1957

No Crime In Mich. To Attempt Suicide; The Lewiston Daily Sun, May 6, 1957

No Warrant Issued In Death Plot; The St. Joseph News-Press, May 7, 1957

Attempted Suicide Not A Crime In Michigan; The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 8, 1957

Doctor Is Freed; Plotted His Killing; The Milwaukee Journal, May 8, 1957


1958

His Golf Game Suffers Now; The Beaver Valley Times, October 6, 1958

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Henry Shorr's Utopia

Violence and the prelude to the act always has a jarring effect on the human psyche despite the frequency of its occurrences throughout history. When a child is at the forefront of episodic upheaval it's all the more pronounced. Such was the case with Henry Shorr and the hijacking of a Pan-American jetliner en route from Mexico City to Miami on October 21, 1969. Although the flight would end with no peril to the plane, passengers or crew, Shorr, the son of a Detroit radio legend and grandson of an infamous mobster of the same name, would meet his fate with tragic consequences.

In hindsight many who knew him would say that the act wasn't unexpected but for a rebellious teen to go from a vocal, if not sometimes rabid, high school protester to skyjacking a plane was a considerable leap in logic and acceleration of a growing radicalism. Having graduated from North Farmington High School just four months beforehand, his classmates portrayed Shorr as a politically radical loner who tried too hard to get his socialist message across. A view which earned him derision among fellow students who jokingly stumped to organize a campaign to send him to his beloved socialist paradise in Cuba.

He was described as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type by some due to a seemingly split persona. Not that he was a loud-mouth or rabble-rouser, he was remembered as both reserved and quiet, but because he would only become radically possessed when the subject turned to politics, as many times it did in the social revolution of the late 1960s. Others were not so blunt in their estimations of the young man and a local clergyman, Rev. Carl Kaltreider, pegged him as a "rebellious" type but by no means a "way out there kind of a kid". That rebelliousness had gotten him suspended twice from school but for nothing of great consequence. His transgressions included participation in a walkout along with nearly 200 other students over dress and grooming policies and was suspended for 5 days. The other incident involved a youth who had tired of Shorr's boorish insistence in trying to pass him a copy of the school's underground newspaper and struck him causing some injuries. Shorr's parents sued for medical payments and won, though Shorr was reprimanded by the prosecutor for his part in the skirmish. Despite the incidents Henry managed to graduate with a C average though he had considerably underachieved.

Now free to pursue his dream of social justice Shorr headed to Mexico City sometime later that summer to request a visa from the Cuban Embassy there. Unable to procure one he had phoned home once during the six weeks he was in Mexico and informed his father, former Detroit deejay and car audio businessman Mickey Shorr, that he was having difficulties obtaining his entrance into Havana. Having heard from Henry only once in a month and a half, the elder Shorr filed a missing persons report and even tried to pull some strings by contacting Bob Talbert at the Detroit Free Press in hopes of tracking down his son. Talbert commented that Shorr was sick with worry for Henry's well-being, which would contrast with statements the young man would make concerning his home life during the hijacking. Although the events leading up to the hijacking are uncertain, Shorr boarded Pan-Am flight 551 from Mexico City to Miami on October 21, 1969 and commandeered the jet near Mérida on the northwest coast of the Yucatán state in eastern Mexico, some 850 miles from Havana. The flight had 36 people aboard with 26 passengers and an infant included among the flight crew.

Shorr (he was listed as Henry Shorn on the manifest) approached flight attendant Maria Lobo from his seat in the tourist class compartment and told the Argentinian that he had "a gun pointing at you. Open the cockpit and tell the captain I want to go to Cuba." The pilot, Capt. Hudson Gillis, thought the stewardess was playing a prank and didn't emerge from the cockpit for a tense five minutes. The nervousness of the crew was matched by Shorr who was said to be shaking as he chatted with the pilot and a few passengers, among them Florida state Senator Tom Slade and his fiance Corlis Mullins, a former reporter for the Fort Pierce News Tribune. He discussed politics and philosophy with the couple stating that Cuba would be the catalyst for world revolution and "a better way" for all people. He also spoke of his own physical flaws, producing pictures of himself with a beard and long hair that he had groomed to "ugly himself up" a few days before the flight, as well as his oppressive upbringing. When asked if he was worried about his fate should he be returned to the United States he said it would be like "going from a Mussolini to a Hitler." A comment which those involved construed as the rhetoric of a mixed up kid.

Once disembarked from the flight in Havana, and facing a federal warrant and up to 20 years in a US prison, Shorr's whereabouts and status became unknown. As with many hijackers of the era -- there were 29 attempted skyjackings to Cuba prior to Shorr's in 1969 alone -- he most likely spent time in a Cuban prison attempting to prove that he wasn't a CIA operative, as was often the case with many erstwhile hijackers who forcefully entered the communist country. In the early 1970s two Washington reporters, Martin Schram and John Wallach, went to Cuba to interview former hijackers and learned of their deplorable mental and physical conditions while behind bars. Expecting to be received as heroes of the revolution they were treated like common criminals and subjected to abuse and torture, and once released were frequently subject to further arrests and harassment. Of the nearly hundred or so hijackers who made it to Havana only a few were able to pursue normal citizenship while the great majority remained jailed, escaped or were exiled. Shorr himself, mentioned in the report as "Jeff," committed suicide on September 28, 1970 at the age of 18 years old, apparently dispirited by his lost Utopia.


FURTHER READING



1969

Gunman Forces Airliner To Cuba; The Dispatch, October 20, 1969

Farmington Teen Hijacked Jetliner; The Owosso Argus-Press, October 21, 1969

Flight To Tampa Hijacked To Cuba; The Evening Independent, October 21, 1969

Return Trip Means Trouble; The Owosso Argus-Press, October 21, 1969

Hijacker 'Very Unusual'; The Beaver County Times, October 22, 1969

Latest Airplane Hijacker 17-Year-Old from Detroit; The Rome News-Tribune, October 22, 1969

'Shaking' 17-Year-Old Hijacks Plane To Havana; The Reading Eagle, October 22, 1969

Skyjacker Forces TWA Plane To Cuba; The Bulletin, October 22, 1969

Plane Hijacker; The Youngstown Vindicator, October 23, 1969

Before The Trip: A Portriat Of 'Extremism'; The Farmington Observer, October 26, 1969

Shorr Accused Of Skyjacking; The Farmington Observer, October 26, 1969


1970

Hijacker Died In Cuba; The Owosso Argus-Press, October 2, 1970


1973

Hijackers Go Throuh Hell In Cuban 'Paradise'; The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 30, 1973

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Prince Lazuli: A Footnote to Sensationalism

The murderous and seedy culture in Detroit of the 1920s demanded that every underhanded thug or charlatan have an alias or an alibi, sometimes two. Having a criminal record necessitated such an existence especially when one made his living billed as the "World's Master Mind" as did Prince Lazuli.

Lazuli, known to police and court transcribers as William F. Jones, was foremost a clairvoyant but added Vaudeville actor to his billing in the early 1920s while setting up shop on the eastern seaboard.

In 1922 during a stint with a small theatrical troupe on the East coast he crossed paths with the modern day Adam and Eve, a husband and wife team that not so ironically performed the hackneyed side show act of a cocksure funnyman shooting an apple off the head of an underwhelmed and surly bint. As with all playacting there is a modicum of truth which belies fictional humor and lends to it gravitas. In this instance Adam might as well have been firing off a tommy gun at his beloved Eve because the salvo of bullets she was shooting back with her eyes were meant to kill.

Mr. and Mrs. Carl A. Sutter, as they were known to the public at large, concocted their vision of Eden to coincide with the summer of 1922. In their estimation they would prove to the world that a man and wife could blissfully subsist on the naturally granted gifts of the Earth without the modern contrivances and luxury of a home or occupation. So they set off for the northern woods of Maine with merely the clothes they wore, which they would also shed at their entrance into the forest, and of course, a Boston Globe reporter to document the sojourn in daily increments which oozed with drama and sensationalism.


After a month of hardship, both public (they were arrested, jailed and fined for poaching partridge and deer out of season) and private, they left the woods to join the aforementioned theatrical troupe of which Prince Lazuli was a member. After a few months on the Vaudeville circuit Eve -- her real name being Margaret Sutter -- turned up missing as did the group's bankroll and one suspicious Prince Lazuli.

Not to be outdone Adam followed the pair back to Houlton, Maine and had Lazuli arrested for suspicion of larceny, misconduct and alienation of the feelings of Eve, among other things. He was brought before a magistrate and whether he served time or probation is not known but he disappeared from the eagle eye of the newspapers for several years until he turned up in Detroit attempting to aid police in solving the Benny Evangelista murder case.

Meanwhile, the Sutters had a very public spat in the newspapers with Carl crying abandonment by his wife in favor of the affections of the Prince. She shot back that there was no clandestine affair between her and Lazuli and furthermore she left the traveling show because he couldn't shoot an arrow straight, not to mention a rift stemming back to the days of their Eden affair. Apparently their marital bond had come unraveled while in the woods as "Eve" stated, "I'd dare storms and hunger, but not Adam's supercruelty [sic]." Which was a departure from their sunnier days as a married couple in the modern world but so it was the ending of their marriage as Margaret sued for divorce in early 1923 having sworn off all men, Prince Lazuli included.

Having failed to make a name for himself in Vaudeville, the Prince, along with his bride Princess Zulieka, craved to solve the Evangelista murder. With police stumped by the savage slaying of the cult leader and his family in July of 1929 -- they were hacked to death with an ax and Benny was beheaded -- they sought help from all avenues of thought. When Lazuli offered his services, as he and Zulieka did with previous murder cases in 1928, the befuddled and blundering police department eagerly obliged. His wife performed a "seance" of sorts as she assumed Evangelista's posture in the same chair that he was murdered, admonishing the dead Italian immigrant to explain the details of his demise in English because she couldn't understand Italian. By his own admission Lazuli called the seance a failure and nothing new was uncovered about the slaying which still remains unsolved to this day.

In August of the same year the police department wracked with several so-called unsolved "witch killings" and "voodoo murders" began a crackdown on crystal gazers, astrologers and practitioners of occult sciences, who they felt contributed to the culture of ritual murders. Aided by famed magician Harry Blackstone they raided some two dozens establishments seizing paraphernalia and questioned the suspected evil-doers. Whether Lazuli was one of the investigated is not known but he did appear in Detroit's Recorder Court before Judge Donald Van Zile on a count of "pretending to predict future events" which he was found guilty of by a jury on August 12, 1929.

The courtroom erupted in laughter several times during the three day trial as Lazuli explained that "the air is filled with thought waves and that a sensitive intellect may pick them up, just as music circulating through the air is picked up by radio instruments." This was a common belief held by many mystics and still is. The good witch Gundella, a columnist and local celebrity in the Detroit area from the 1970s until her death in 1993, believed just such a thing and was beloved for it. Unluckily for Lazuli he held the belief in an age of radical change where technology had advanced the human mind beyond it's previous constrictions though religious and political traditions were slow to lose their firm grasp on the public's psyche. In that age of gangsterism, prohibition and religiosity, all affronts to public morality were dealt with a harsh reality check via the judicial system with fines and incarceration. Astrologers and mystics were no exception despite the sideshow amusement aspect of the profession. At worst William F. Jones would be punished with 60 days in jail or a $100 fine and a minimum of 10 days and $10. For Prince Lazuli the penalty was seemingly steeper as he faded deeper into obscurity and never earned the national attention he seemingly strove for.

Though he did reappear in the headlines of several Indiana and Pennsylvania newspapers into 1930 his stages show presence was reduced to a sidekick for his wife:

 The Richmond Item,  December 1, 1929
Princess Zulieka, whose real name was Gloria Caruthers, was hailed as The Mental Marvel and her career seems to have flourished into the 1950s. Though in the 1940s there was an indictment against her and others of defrauding clients to the tune of hundred or so thousand dollars but she seems to have escaped those charges. 


FURTHER READING

1922

Couple To Live Cave-Man Life; The Schenectady Gazette, May 19, 1922

New Adam And Eve To Summer In Woods; The Buffalo Express, May 19, 1922

Like Adam And Eve; The Buffalo Express, May 23, 1922

Imitating Adam And Eve; The Easton Free Press, May 25, 1922

Playing At Adam And Eve; The Evening Telegram, May 25, 1922

The Once Over; The Binghamton Press, June 1, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Face Jail; The New York Times, June 8, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Arrested; The New York Times, June 9, 1922

"Adam And Eve" Arrested; The Reading Eagle, June 9, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Arrested In The Woods Of Northern Maine; The Providence News, June 9, 1922

'Adam' And 'Eve' Are Fined; The New York Times, June 10, 1922

'Adam And Eve' Strike A Snag; The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 9, 1922

The Fall Of Adam And Eve; The Evening Tribune, June 10, 1922

Eden A La 1922; The Evening Leader, June 20, 1922

Adam's Advantages; The Albany Evening Journal, June 22, 1922

Man And Wife Lead Adam And Eve Existence; The Woodville Republican, June 24, 1922


1923

1922 Eve, Of Maine Eden Fame, Takes French Leave From Her 'Adam'; The St. Petersburg Times, January 9, 1923

Adam And Eve Seek A Divorce - And It's Over An Apple, Of Course; The Evening Leader, January 18, 1923

The Adam And Eve Experiment That Ended In Court; The Sunday Morning Star, February 25, 1923


1924

Sutter Couple Again On Page One; The Batavia Times, November 15, 1924


1929

War On Crystal Gazers; The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, August 7, 1929

'Helpful' Seer Found Guilty; The Border Cities Star, August 13, 1929

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Cockney Bandit

Although the self-sustaining town within the sprawling medical complex at Eloise was often perceived as merely a mental asylum, it also functioned as both an infirmary and poorhouse, as well it served as a general hospital. Many of the cemetery plots on the grounds are testament to this fact and are occupied by destitute patients who died there naturally, without proper means for burial and not, as some are prone to believe, because of ghoulish botched psychiatric experiments and maltreatment.

Of the many patients housed in the facility, a few were of notorious merit, including the aforementioned music "maestros," along with the industrial inventor, Elijah McCoy, who devised a lubricator for the steam engine, among other patents, and was the source of the phrase "the real McCoy" in the English lexicon.

Of lesser note, but newsworthy just the same, was the infamous Morris Greeson. He was better known as the "Cockney Bandit" (or Thug) and served a stint of four years in Eloise recovering from a debilitating spinal injury he sustained during a robbery that left him paralyzed from the waist down. His story delves deeper than that of a bum luck petty criminal though and involves calculated murder, familial intrigue and finally, unwarranted redemption.

Morris Greeson (He was oft referred to as Maurice -- which may be his birth name -- and perhaps due to a misspelling he was called Maurice Gresser as well. He also went by the alias Harry Lewis.) came to Detroit from London, England after being bought out of his British military service by his parents at the age of 16. Having run off to join the army he was none too pleased by their intrusion into his manhood and set off for America, landing in Detroit in 1916. When the United States became involved in World War I he enlisted once more and served honorably, having seen combat in France. His promising enterprise as an upstanding citizen and expatriate would end there and serve as the apex for the rest of his life.

His downfall began with the arrival of a brother named Michael and his new bride 19 year old Lillian Greeson. Childhood sweethearts, the couple had married in London in the spring of 1920 against the protestations of her family and later boarded a ship to Detroit, arriving sometime in June of that year. Just a few weeks later on July 19th the expectant mother was murdered in her room at the house the newlyweds were boarding. With Michael missing from the residence and supposedly tending to his brother Morris's recent "illness" across town he became the main suspect in the crime. When several witnesses placed the two brothers nearby the crime scene at the time of the murder and it became known that Michael had bought a $5,000 insurance policy on his deceased wife they were arrested on suspicion and held pending charges. Both were eventually charged with murder though a confession by Morris, which he later retracted, all but sealed Michael's fate and though his first trial ended in a hung jury, a retrial sent him to prison for life at the Marquette Prison Branch. The murder charge against Morris was dropped but his contrary testimony during the trial gave the Detroit Police cause to charge him with perjury though he was exonerated on that charge as well.


Whether because of his notoriety -- the trials were the sensation of the town -- or a downturn in his prospects he ventured into a series of robberies which would gain him the sobriquet of the "Cockney bandit" because of his distinct English accent born in the East End of London. In the next few years he robbed several drug stores in the North Woodword district and though he was fingered and tagged as the culprit, he beat the state's charges in two successive trials, which only added to his legend.

All legends great and small have their foibles and missteps and Morris Greeson's came in the form of a bullet lodged at the base of his spine from a robbery gone awry. On April 11, 1923 while climbing through a window at a drug store he intended to burglarize, a shop clerk shot him in the back rendering him paralyzed. When he was brought before the court his notoriety as much as his frail, pathetic condition allowed him a reprieve to Eloise Hospital where he was expected to die within a year from his injuries. After four years of defiant rehabilitation he regained use of his hand and arms (from the looks of his stride in the pictures above, his legs as well! though it seems that wasn't the case at all.) and this brought his old irascible tendencies to surface and he made the headlines again. This time in 1927 by "muscling" into the business of fellow inmate Gordon Stanley, who worked in the tailor shop on the hospital grounds, and in the process shooting him in the stomach, though the wound proved to be non-fatal, whereby Stanley identified Greeson as the perpetrator.

Somehow the semi-invalid managed to get bonded and during this time managed to pull off another armed robbery along with two accomplices, brothers Peter and William Arsenault. Having let Greeson out of the car before the stickup the brothers robbed Fred Gnekow at gunpoint inside the drug store at Mack and Gray avenues. When fleeing they failed to pick up the hobbled bandit and left there to flee on crutches he was easily identified by both Gnekow and a schoolgirl, 17, named Margaret Neuman.

During the trial that followed he wasn't shown the same compassion or leniency by the jury or the judge and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years at Jackson Prison. While he was settling into his long sentence his brother Michael received a reprieve in 1930 when his lawyer finagled a deal that would get his client released, pending deportation back to England, having served 10 years of hard labor.

The same deal would come for Morris some 6 years later aided by the international urging of politicians, celebrities and his beloved sister Dora, who had moved to Detroit during the murder trial in 1920 and had testified to their character and given support to her brothers during their legal ordeals. When it was time for Morris to be transported back to England along with fellow deportees George Owen (England) and Frank Filip (Italy), it was billed by the state as both a cost saving measure and a means of dignity granted to a dying man, though there is no evidence that Greeson was at death's door despite his decrepit state. In fact, in an op-ed piece in the May 29, 1936 edition of The Herald-Journal concerning differences in the American-British psyche concerning crime and capital punishment, his case was mentioned and he was quoted as saying (as Maurice Gresser!) that "he would live." In the meantime he elated just to be going home, exclaiming, "Blimey, but it's great to be 'omeward bound and it 'ardly seems possible I'll be in London in a fortnight." But so it was on March 27, 1936 as he waited in the deportation office for his next connection en route to his freedom.

Though it's uncertain just how long he did live afterwards, Greeson was surprisingly given an almost heroes welcome back in his homeland, being granted a personal reporter by Lord Rothermere that greeted his ship some 300 miles away at its docking in Ireland. A throng of reporters also monitored the occasion and were shocked and dismayed with the treatment the former bandit was given. From special ship privileges to a private gangplank at departure so that he could leave the ship incognito, it was an alarming spectacle usually reserved for only royalty and high celebrity. Of which he seemingly now belonged despite the ignominious hair-shirt he shouldered along with that elevated title.


FURTHER READING


1920

To Face Charge Of Slaying Bride; The Border Cities Star, July 23, 1920

Bride Slain By Husband; Charge; The Pittsburgh Press, July 24, 1920

'Not Guilty' On Charge Of Murdering His Wife; The Ludington Daily News, July 26, 1920

Greeson Tells Of Early Courtship; Abused In Cells; The Border Cities Star, November 19, 1920

Greeson Charges Ill-Treatment By Police Officials; The Border Cities Star, November 20, 1920

Surgeons Disagree At Greeson Trial; The Border Cities Star, November 25, 1920

Jury Fail To Reach Verdict In Greeson Trial In Detroit; The Boder Cities Star, November 29, 1920


1921

Greeson Trial Draws Crowd; The Border Cities Star, February 8, 1921

Claims Hearing Death Threat By Greeson; The Border Cities Star, February 11, 1921

Raps Police; Break In Greeson Trial; The Border Cities Star, February 25, 1921

Morris Greeson Pleads Not Guilty; The Border Cities Star, March 16, 1921

Judge Reserves Decision; The Border Cities Star, May 4, 1921


1923

Alibi Supported; The Border Cities Star, January 5, 1923

Jurors Fail To Agree On Greeson Case; The Border Cities Star, January 8, 1923

Panel Exhausted; The Border Cities Star, January 22, 1923


1928

'Cockney Bandit' Is In Toils Again; The Border Cities Star, March 20, 1928

Greeson Denies He Made Confession; The Border Cities Star, March 20, 1928

One Brother Freed; The Border Cities Star, March 28, 1928

Untitled; The Owosso Argus-Press, March 28, 1928

Pal Of Greeson Is To Give State Aid; The Border Cities Star, May 3, 1928

Witnesses Assail  Alibi Of Greeson; The Border Cities Star, May 10, 1928


1930

Pleas For Inmates Come Before Green; The Owosso Argus-Press, December 26, 1930


1935

Gandhi Aide In Mercy Plea; The Border Cities Star, August 7, 1935


1936

Greeson To Be Deported; The Border Cities Star, March 3, 1936

Oust Bandit; The Border Cities Star, March 25, 1936

'Cockney Bandit' Waits Trip Home; The Rochester Journal, March 27, 1936

Has Paid For His Crimes; The Border Cities Star, March 27, 1936

The 'Cockney Bandit,' His Crime Career Over, Goes Back To Homeland To Die; The Milwaukee Journal, April 6, 1936

Execution Of Hauptmann Brought Scathing Blasts From Critics In England; The Herald-Journal, May 29, 1936


1952

Case Of The Honeymoon Slaying; The Binghamton Press, June 15, 1952