John Ringo Grave

John Ringo Historic Site Monument

The Historic Site Monument at the Ringo Gravesite.

If you’ve read about the untamed American frontier and have never heard of Tombstone, Arizona, for shame! This little town is a great place to learn about frontier life in a mining boom town. Tombstone is rife with legends and stories that would keep anyone interested for weeks on end. It was a silver mining town known for its rough-around-the-edges citizens. Names like Wyatt Earp, Curly Bill Brocius, Big Nose Kate, Doc Holliday– are a dime a dozen in the annals of Tombstone history. Tombstone is noted for the longest poker game in history (8 years, 5 months, and 3 days) and the infamous gunfight at the O.K. corral which was primarily between the Earps and the Clantons and McLowerys.

Part of the culture of the “Wild West” was to bury a body along the trail where the person passed away. There was no transporting the body anywhere unless the deceased was close to the rail lines at their time of death. Decomposition was rapid because food didn’t have preservatives and embalming was still in its infancy. Bodies still relatively intact that were found on the trail were buried deep enough to keep the coyotes, vultures or other desert scavengers at bay. Most makeshift graves were covered with rocks and marked with a simple wooden cross near the place the body was found and buried. The practice of leaving a cross or headstone is still observed in parts of the American southwest– though, the bodies are typically transported and interred in an actual cemetery instead of beside the road.

One such body that was found and buried on the trail is the source of much historical intrigue as there is some disagreement over the death of this man whose personal legend is linked to the infamous “Town Too Tough to Die”– Tombstone, Arizona. The body of John Peters Ringo is interred near the oak tree where he was found. A coroner’s inquest was held to determine his cause of death, but not everyone agrees with the verdict. Continue reading

Burbon Street Blood Bath

Preface
When I first learned of this case, it had been transmogrified. I already knew that legends change from telling to telling, but this story is an excellent example of how the stories we hear aren’t always as they seem. What I had heard about a “vampire murder” was, in fact, a much greater tragedy. I briefly talk about my quest for truth in a previous blog article called “New Orleans Vampire Murder: A Lesson in Truth“. This article approaches the story from a different angle– it contains further details of the crime and investigation as described in the television broadcast of the Investigation Discovery network’s show “Dead of Night”. Tuesday, March 26, 2013 was when they first broadcast the episode titled “Bourbon Street Bloodbath” which regards this phantasmagorical murder. Because of the interest in this story, I’ve decided to summarize the details presented in the episode of Dead of Night.

Once again, please note that comments to this article have been CLOSED. This blog is NOT a memorial. It’s NOT meant to berate or glorify those involved in the murder. This is NOT a place to grieve for those who have lost their lives in conjunction with this event. This article was written for the purpose of conveying information about the event and also to correct misinformation being spread throughout the paranormal community. Continue reading

Screams Unheard

There is no comparison between a ghost story that is meant to thrill and a true monster.  Those monsters don’t live under the bed or in the closet; they aren’t waiting to make you scream in a darkened movie theater.  The real monsters may include the mild mannered, unassuming man driving in the car next to yours.  They may include the quiet neighbor that smiles and waves to you as you simultaneously pick up the morning paper.  You may never suspect who they are–a fact they are very aware of and play to their advantage.  This was certainly the case with Gary Ridgway, who outwardly appeared as harmless as they come.  It was a deceptive facade for a depraved, cold blooded killer.  Although originally convicted of 48 murders in 2003, with an additional charge of murder added in 2011, his death rate was likely much higher.  He has confessed to more murders since his conviction and eluded to others, putting the number closer to 71.  Who really knows the number of women that lost their lives to this pathetic yet ruthless excuse for a human being, for even Ridgway has claimed to have ‘lost count’.
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Murderous May: Dating Game Killer

In 1968, a 25 year old Rodney Alcala was convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 8 year old girl in California. He had taken her off the street, brought her back to his apartment and sexually assaulted her.  Then he hit her over the head with a metal pipe, intending to kill her.  Luckily, before he could make sure the gruesome job was finished, the police came knocking at his door.  A concerned citizen had seen the young girl getting into a car with unmarked tags and had followed them to the apartment building and called the authorities.  Police found the child in a pool of blood. Continue reading

The Infant Murder that Rocked America

The year was 1927, in a decade that history would later dub the Roaring Twenties, but would come crashing down a mere two years later. It seems fitting that America’s greatest pilot – after the Wright Brothers of course – would step into the spotlight in such a period of history. His name is one familiar to any American today: Charles A. Lindbergh. He is most famous for his prize-winning trans-Atlantic flight in May of 1927 from New York City to Paris, France. However, there is another infamous story to which he is linked that fewer people are aware of: the kidnapping and murder of his 20 month old son.

Charles Lindbergh Sr. beside his world famous plane Spirit of St Louis

Charles Lindbergh Sr. beside his world famous plane Spirit of St Louis

The “Crime of the Century,” as the press of the day referred to it, occurred on the evening of March 1, 1932 when 20 month old Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was discovered missing from the family home outside the tiny hamlet of Hopewell, New Jersey. The kidnapping was discovered by the child’s nurse, Betty Gow, around 10 PM that evening and immediately reported to his parents – Charles and Anne Lindbergh. A search of the room and land immediately surrounding the house yielded only a ransom note discovered on Charles Jr.’s bedroom window sill, demanding a $50,000 ransom. The local police were called and the New Jersey State Police soon took over the case.

Unfortunately no credible evidence was discovered at the house. Police – and for a short time reporters – were allowed to wander freely around the property and there was no real adherence to any procedure we might be familiar with today. The foot prints finally noticed just beneath the bedroom window were indistinguishable and therefore ignored. There were no fingerprints found in the room nor was any blood discovered anywhere – inside or out.

On March 6th, a second ransom note was received by the Lindberghs increasing the ransom amount to $70,000. Police and other officials met to discuss procedure and the Lindbergh’s lawyer, Colonel Henry Breckenridge, hired private investigators to help.

A third ransom note was delivered two days later indicating that whoever had been chosen as mediators between the kidnappers and the Lindberghs was not acceptable. Shortly thereafter, a retired school principal, Dr John F. Condon, took an ad out in the local paper offering to act as a go-between and would add an additional $1,000 to the ransom monies. This the kidnappers apparently found acceptable. Charles Sr. also approved the use of Dr Condon in the role as go between.

The fifth and sixth ransom notes were delivered to “Jafsie” (the code name created for Dr Condon) himself directing him first to a vacant stand near a subway entrance where a new note would give him further instructions. His final destination would be Woodlawn Cemetery where he would meet and ultimately speak to a man simply known as “John”.

A total of twelve ransom notes – some merely directing Jafsie to another location – were received before the child’s body was discovered on May 12, 1932.

…the body of the kidnapped baby was accidentally found, partly buried, and badly decomposed, about four and a half miles southeast of the Lindbergh home, 45 feet from the highway, near Mount Rose, New Jersey, in Mercer County. The discovery was made by William Allen, an assistant on a truck driven by Orville Wilson. The head was crushed, there was a hole in the skull and some of the body members were missing. The body was positively identified and cremated at Trenton, New Jersey, on May 13, 1932. The Coroner’s examination showed that the child had been dead for about two months and that death was caused by a blow on the head.

Charles Lindbergh Jr. 1930_1932, son of American pilot Charles Lindbergh, celebrating his birthday prior to his kidnapping.

Charles Lindbergh Jr. 1930_1932, son of American pilot Charles Lindbergh, celebrating his birthday prior to his kidnapping.

With the determination that the body found was indeed that of Charles Lindbergh Jr, the investigation quickly moved into high gear. Banks and retailers in New Jersey and New York were instructed to keep an eye out for any money encountered with the serial numbers from the ransom money. The New Jersey State Police would head the investigation with support from the Bureau of Investigation (now the FBI) and cooperation on the part of the New York Police. A reward of $25,000 was offered to anyone who could provide the investigation direction. This naturally brought out all sorts of people, interested in the money, but not the truth. A lot of police and BI manpower was wasted following every tidbit of information given, because nothing could be left to speculation. Other people linked to the Lindberghs were also victims of con artists wanting to make a few bucks. Not difficult to believe since the world was in the iron grip of the Great Depression.

On May 2, 1933, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York discovered 296 ten-dollar gold certificates, and one $20 gold certificate, all Lindbergh ransom notes. These bills were included among the currency received at the Federal Reserve Bank on May 1, 1933, and apparently had been made in one deposit. Immediately upon the discovery of these bills, deposit tickets at the Federal Reserve Bank for May 1, 1933, were examined. One was found bearing the name and address of “J.J. Faulkner, 537 West 149th Street,” and had marked thereon “gold certificates,” “$10 and $20” in the amount of $2,980. Despite extensive investigation, this depositor was never located.

Two years after the kidnap and discovery of the infant’s body, investigators were able to zero in on one man: Bruno Richard Hauptmann. The use of various gold certificates known to be part of the ransom monies were reportedly used by Mr Hauptmann and he was summarily arrested. Samples of his handwriting were taken to compare with the writings of the numerous ransom notes. Mr Hauptmann was identified by two individuals as using gold certificates which were part of the ransom money. The first “witness” was a gas station attendant who identified Mr Hauptmann as the individual who paid for gas using a $10 gold certificate. The attendant was suspicious of the use of the gold certificate so he noted the license plate number of the car the man drove. The second “witness” was a young woman working at a Greenwich Village movie house who claimed Hauptmann handed her a folded bill from the ransom money to pay for a movie ticket on his birthday.**

On the morning of September 19, 1934, after a night of surveillance, police arrested Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the crime of kidnapping and murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. Mr Hauptmann was a German immigrant who had been living in the United States for 11 years. He was married with one child, a son. His primary means of employ was as a carpenter, though he had partnered with other immigrants in an illegal fur trade. Despite his claims of innocence, a $20 gold certificate was found on his person at the time of arrest. A search of his home yielded a further $13,000 which had been hidden in various compartments in his garage. Hauptmann claimed that the money was being held for an old business partner who had returned to Germany, ill, and subsequently died there. Money was owed to Hauptmann by this man and when Hauptmann discovered the stash of money, he felt entitled to it.

Hauptmann was indicted in the Supreme Court in Bronx County, New York for the crime of extortion, as that’s where the money was exchanged between Jafsie and “John” and where it was later discovered to be in Hauptmann’s possession. Days later he was indicted for murder in Herndon County, New Jersey. The murder trial for Bruno Richard Hauptmann began on January 3, 1935 and lasted five weeks. The case against him was based solely on circumstantial evidence, yet he was found guilty of murder in the first degree on February 13, 1935. While his defense team appealed, it was to no avail.

Bruno Richard Hauptmann was electrocuted on April 3, 1936 at 8:47 PM.

Sources:

Charles Lindbergh ~ Wikipedia
The Lindbergh Kidnapping ~ FBI Files
Charles Lindbergh: An American Aviator

** This information is not provided by any of the internet sources relied on for this story, but was learned while reading Noel Behn’s Lindbergh: The Crime

The Trunk Murderess

In the summer of 2011, I was watching an episode of Investigation Discovery’s show Deadly Women (Season 3, Episode 6: “Hearts of Darkness”) on the television. I was surprised (and I admit a little excited) to discover that a horrible and macabre incident had occurred practically under my nose. Shortly after watching this episode, I started to poke around gathering information– it was a task all too easy for a murder over 80 years old. After years of getting side-tracked, I’m finally putting this story to paper for The Witching Hour’s 2013 “Murderous May”.

Be forewarned, this story is of a gruesome nature and contains one photograph which may be disturbing to some readers.

The Trunks

The trunks in which the bodies of the two murder victims were stuffed. (Photo from Arizona Memory Library Archive)

DISCOVERY AT THE TRAIN DEPOT

Two heavy black and silver trunks lay in baggage claim at Los Angeles Union Station. The first trunk, a large packer trunk (40″x24″x38″), and its contents had weighed an exceptional 235 pounds. The second trunk, a steam trunk (15″x18″x36″) weighed under 200 pounds. The unusual heaviness of the trunks was what first aroused suspicions of baggage agent George Brooker as he checked baggage from the Golden State Limited from Phoenix, Arizona. It was October 19, 1931 and, at the height of prohibition, the railroads had been instructed to keep an eye out for contraband such as Thompson submachine guns and bootleg liquor. But baggage agent Brooker knew something was different about these particular suitcases because they had the nauseating smell of putrefaction and were leaking a dark liquid that a baggage handler in Phoenix had mistaken as medicine.

Brooker told his boss, baggage agent Jim Anderson, about the suspicious baggage. When the owner of the luggage arrived just before noon that day and made latent claim to the seeping trunks, the claim agents refused to release the trunks unless the owner opened them. When Winnie Ruth Judd declined to open the suitcases and quickly left the scene and her baggage behind, Anderson rang up the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Lieutenant Frank Ryan responded to the call and, upon arrival, he picked the lock on the larger of the two trunks.

The smell of rot washed over Ryan as he opened the lid of the trunk. Probing deeper, lifting a layer of rags and clothing, he was soon staring into the vacant eyes of a dead woman.
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