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7/4/15

The Mystery of "Kid" Bannister, Early Land Run Gambler

When he was killed in a confrontation with the owner of the notorious, "Turf Club" in Oklahoma City on July 4, 1903, an interesting and colorful of the Land Run of 1889 passed into history.
 
At noon on Monday, April 22, 1889, the Land Run commenced with an estimated 10,000 rushing into the area of the "Oklahoma Station", meager the collection of shacks, railroad station and post office, that would be the foundation for Oklahoma City.   Mid-afternoon, however, already saw the gaming tent of one "Kid" Bannister, a well-dressed gentlemen gambler, up and running and a handmade sign outside announced the opening of the first bank in Oklahoma City.  Of course it was a Faro Bank and was soon eclipsed by a real bank but for a brief time the honor stood. Bannister had set up his tent directly across from the Santa Fe RR station on the west side of what would become Front Street between California and Sheridan, or Grand as it was known then.
 
A Kansas tavern keeper named John Burgess was at the corner just to Kid's north. An empty space was between the two establishments until the afternoon arrival of the train and Madame Annie Wynn arrived to claim the spot.
 
Over the next fourteen years, Kid Bannister would make a nuisance of himself up and down the streets, in the saloons and gaming rooms of "Hell's Half Acre" (approximately where today's Cox Center and part of the Myriad Gardens is now).
 
Until that July 4, 1903 when he seemed to be looking to start a fight and found a ready opponent in Mr. Cook of the Turf Club.  So with a flash and bark of a  gun, the life and legend of Joseph "Kid" Bannister came to an abrupt halt.  His first name seems to only appear as he looses his life and their seems little details in local papers about the man, his origins, or even where he might have been buried. Who was Kid Bannister and how did he come to make the Land Run and start the first ....Faro bank...in Oklahoma City?

7/3/15

WHO WAS EFFIE FISHER

 
On the 1900 Oklahoma Territory Census for Oklahoma City, she was listed in the house overseen by Annie Wynn at 444 West 2nd (now Kerr between Hudson and Walker).  The area was known as "Harlot's Row" due to both sides of the street being primarily filled with houses of ill-repute of both the major and the minor levels.  Effie Fisher, like all the other women in the house, proudly identified as a "prostitute' on the survey.
 
At some point after 1900 and before 1903, she was given the task of managing "Big Anne's Place 444" at 444 West 2nd for the owner Annie Wynn. Wynn had several properties, covering a variety of businesses, across the city.
 
In 1903, Effie Fisher was assassinated by persons unknown as she sat in her bedroom conversing with one of the employees of the house, a woman named Sadie.  The weapon used was a double barreled shotgun and she was killed instantly and the woman with her injured but not seriously. Just days before she had made a will and rather publically said if anything happened to her look to her ex-lover, Ed Filson.  Filson was dually arrested and charged but the inquest jury acquitted him.  He may be one of the 'Filson toughs' mentioned in a 1899 Guthrie newspaper.  He had been shot the previous year in brawl by John Wilkins and in the same fight his brother was killed from a doorway by an unknown person who disappeared.  According to local papers of the region, Effie's remains were shipped to Centraila, Illinois for burial.
 
In a previous post I offered the theory that the famous ghost of the Skirvin Hotel might really be Effie. The risqué actions of the alleged ghost seem to be the playfully frank actions of a woman of the world rather than the housemaid done wrong of the local legend. What with all that nasty urban renewal that destroyed all her old stomping grounds, what else was a girl to do but find somewhere elegant and sophisticated to stay?  http://mystorical.blogspot.com/2014/05/skirvin-hotel-effie-ghost-and-theory.html

--c Marilyn A. Hudson, 2015

7/2/15

Who Was Annie Wynn? Part 1

Anne Wynn was born in 1863 or 1865 (depending on the census response) in Illinois. According to early records and accounts she was one of 18 children and left with a friend on a stage coach headed west in 1880 when she was 17.  Either as an eloping bride or a runaway daughter, she ended up in the mining camps of Colorado. Some claim she married a man named Wynn there in Colorado and others suggest she might be the mysterious Anne Ferguson who bought out a madam in Denver.  Whichever was the case, she worked about seven years managing a “house” or brothel in Leadville before the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run called. 
 
It is known that in the late 1880’s life in the Colorado regions began to get a little less welcoming for establishments of the type Annie knew.  Businesses such as houses of prostitution, gambling dens, and saloons were being pushed out of sight through laws, fines, and social pressures. The mines were making people money and that brought in civilization and society standards began to elevate to the point that people could begin to pretend they did not use the businesses along the lanes and roads labeled the “red light” districts. Every community had several women such as Jennie Rogers who was 6 ft. tall, Rubensque and said to have blackmailed her way to fame against her major competitor, Mattie Silks.  She built a brothel in 1889 in Denver that had, it is said, tunnels leading directly to the state Capitol!  So there was plenty of inspiration for Annie as she headed to Oklahoma Territory.

Laws, environment, and business, however, all began to change.  In addition, some of the long standing leaders of the houses began to die off or move away.  Like so many others in the era, loading up savings, grabbing a few friends to staff a new establishment, she set off to find her fortune somewhere else.
Since claiming land in the run required a male of legal age, it is assumed that she had some male with her and there is a suggestion she might have come with a husband. There was a caveat for a widow and some discrepancies for town lots as opposed to section lands that might have allowed her, and othr women, to acquire city lots.  What is known is that she came in on the afternoon train from the south, arriving about 3 p.m. and she saw right across from the crude Santa Fe depot the perfect spot for her to start her empire.  North and south looking west from the wooden platform of the rail depot was a wide wexpanse of dirt soon to become known as “Front Street”.   Already in place, its faro wheel buzzing in the tent covered space to the south was “Kid” Bannister’s Faro Bank. He proudly displayed a sign informing one and all that his establishment was the first “bank” in the new town.  There was a space and then another crude tent was flapping in the warm dust filled April air.  “John Burgess’s Joint” was readying to offer something to wet the whistle after a busy day of racing, fighting, claiming and more fighting. 
The area would win the label “Hell’s Half Acre” for the number of saloons, brothels, and gambleing dens crammed into a small area. Hell’s Half Acre was bounded, primarily, by Front Street (East), Grand (subsectioned into an area called ‘Bunco Alley’ for obvious reasons and now called Sheridan (North), California, with its ‘Alabaster Row’ (South) and Broadway (West).  It spilled over into just beyond the tracks to the East to the domain of the African American Madame, Old Zull aka Martha Fleming.  Town limits were the tracks so she operated just over the tracks and out of some police jurisdictions most of the time. In present Brick town was the Military Reserve Camp where , at the time of the run, members of the 2nd Co. Infantry and Calvary elements from the 5th and 10th groups under Captain Stiles stood ready to assist in keeping the peace in the huge and bustling mass of people.
Big it was!  Estimates were that anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 people were jostling, jockinging and   jibbing as they tried to claim a lot of land.   Annie eyed that space between two such fine and upstanding businesses as perfect for her establishment.  She would have potential customers passing from both directions every hour of the day and night. Add to that its proximity to the train and nothing could be better.  There is no good clues as to how soon she went into business, but from a photograph of the area within a week or ten days and there is a distinct third tent in place between those two other establishments.
Big too were some of the women filling these roles as courtesans, soiled doves, prostitutes, whores, and other terms used to describe women who worked in the sex trade of the 1800’s and early 1900’s.   She was called “Big Annie” because physical descriptions of her indicate she weighed about 200 pounds and may have been tall as well.  This was not unusual in her profession; indeed, in Leadville and Colorado, many of the most prominent soiled doves were larger women of a decidedly tall or Rubenesque physique.  Photos from one house shows the range of women working there and most are 6 feet and larger in form.  Annie was not alone in this label in Oklahoma City.  “Big Liz”, aka Mary Belle Everhardt, was said to tip the scale at nearly 400 pounds.
At some point she developed a partnership with her opposite in the African-American community, “Big Zulu.”  Together they apparently promoted some specific political activities, offices, and individuals who no doubt helped protect their own assets and operations.  She may have kept notes and names in order to protect herself and her girls in the event local police, politicians, community people, business leaders, or even the U.S. Marshalls became too moralistic.  This might explain how that in nearly 20 years of operation she never appeared to suffer any great restrictions or punishment for illegal activities until just before she left town as the community began to change in major ways.

In the 1890's her name appears in several early newspapers and most of it was, surprisingly, related to real estate deals.  In April of 1896 she and another woman, Kitty Nelson, were found guilty of keeping bawdy houses. It was noted the sentences were 30 days in jail or a fine of not more than $500.  It was not clear if the two women were being charged for the same bawdy house or represented two different establishments. In August of 1896 she and C.G. Frost faced off at a Sheriff's Sale concerning city lots #20,21,22,29, 30 in Block 64, Oklahoma City.  In late February of 1901 S.R. Cook sold Lots # 29, 30, Block 64 for $200 to Annie. It appears some of her notoriety may have stemmed from , not so much from the bawdy houses and beer pavilions she ran but on her daring to step into the business of buying real estate like the other wheeler-dealers in the new community.
(c) Marilyn A. Hudson, "Who was Annie Wynn?", Mystorical, 2015.
 
To be continued.
[Author Hudson, who is also a storyteller, is working on a solo performance highlighting this woman's fascinating life]

6/27/15

INTO OBLIVION: Research Locations

Chances are excellent that a killer or killers came down this road May 31, 1958 and offered a ride or coerced a young bride into their car and sent her on a long journey INTO OBLIVION.
Author of INTO OBLIVION, Marilyn A. Hudson, ready to confront who ever was responsible for the disappearance of Carol Batterman in 1958. In the general location of a popular local bar featuring blues music today, the eager young bride shown below left the now demolished  Crown Motel (along HWY 77 in Moore, OK and in the general area of this photograph) to go house hunting. She has never been seen since. Some tantalizing clues emerged in the search but mostly pages of unanswered questions. 
Carol Batterman, Disappeared May 31, 1958, Moore, Ok. Anyone with information should contact the Cleveland Co (OK) Sheriff's Depart. Photo courtesy of The Charley Project.
 
Stiles Circle, one of the areas involved in several gruesome unsolved murders occurred in Oklahoma City in the 1970's and 1980's.  Unsolved to this day the murders of several Native American women working, it is believed, as prostitute's were savagely killed.  Some wonder if such a ferocious killer could have simply stopped?  Did he move on somewhere else? Are there, in some forgotten place other of his victims waiting to be found?

This, and many more stories and the stories of the victims, are found in the new book INTO OBLIVION available on Amazon. 


Note: Author Hudson is shown in front of one of the businesses lining this stretch of road today. The Boubon Street Bar is a well know night spot featuring great Blues and other music.

6/24/15

New Work Focuses on Murder, Missing Persons and Mystery

Norman, Oklahoma, June 23, 2015 — Norman author Marilyn A. Hudson announces release of a new work exploring murders, missing persons and mysteries titled, Into Oblivion: Murder, Missing Persons, and Mysteries.  

In the book Hudson explores the world of the mid-century and how some people took a wrong turn on a road of lingering questions.   Hudson gives a sweeping overview of some of the dastardly things people were doing to each other in the 1930's- 1960's in average and normal America. The unsolved Cleveland Torso murders, the Black Dahlia, and others are presented as the backdrop to a mid-century killing spree. Those cases include the almost unknown torso murders in Oklahoma, along with very similar, and still unsolved, cases from Texas and New Mexico from the 1950’s and early 1960's. 

Then she provides some deeper looks deeper into the lives of several victims whose cases are still unsolved. She profiles a bride who left the Crown Motel in Moore, Oklahoma never to be seen alive again in the story of Carol Batterman.  Through interviews she expands the story of a woman murdered in Louisiana, Ruth Tilotta and raises questions about a similar case in the disappearances of Audrey Moate. Missing wives, murdered women, and unsolved mysteries are presented as links in a chain of possible connections to solving these decades old crimes.
Finally, she offers a tantalizing summary theory that connects  several of these previously forgotten crimes with other unsolved murders. She hopes authorities will decide to look a little deeper and cast their net a little wider. For, as she notes, "there is no statute of limitations on finding the truth." 
Hudson has published sixteen other titles in the areas of nonfiction (history), inspirational, juvenile, and fiction. Titles include, The Mound, When Death Rode the Rails, Stories Center Stage, Murderous Marriages, and Elephant Hips are Expensive.
Armchair true crime enthusiasts will want to add this one to their reading list. It is a perfect fit for collections on true crime and with its emphasis on several Oklahoma crimes, those interested in the Sooner state. For more information, contact Marilyn A. Hudson (marilynahudson@yahoo.com). The book will be available on Amazon.com

4/20/15

For the Period of the War

Digging around in old newspapers, dusty records, and listening to random comments I learn a lot.  I find all types of wonderful treasures that others have forgotten about or simply did not think were important. 
 
In August of 1918 in Hughes County, Oklahoma a commissioned deputy sheriff enlisted in the army.  The local Sheriff Sam Turner offered the position to the man's wife.  She was duly commissioned as a deputy sheriff and securing the rare place of being the only active woman deputy at the time.  She had accepted the position with a simple: "for the period of the war."
 
Hughes County was a rough and tumble town and just ten years before a Deputy Sheriff, John Tabor, had been shot and killed in the line of duty.
 
She is listed only as "Mrs. Beaty Templeton" but she raises many questions.  Who was she? What happened to her? What were her experiences in that role?  A local paper had the teasing headline "Wife Wears Pistol."  I suspect she had some interesting stories. I wonder if anyone ever asked what they were?

4/9/15

IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

In Pursuit of Excellence:  A Brief History of the Zeta-Theta Chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta and The History Club at the University of Oklahoma,  1957-1995
By Marilyn A. Terry Hudson, Zeta-Theta Historian (1994-1995)
The story of the history organizations of the University of Oklahoma, Phi Alpha Theta and the OU History Club, begins in 1957. On March 12 of that year, Dr. Homer Knight, Chair of the History Department from Oklahoma State University (then the Oklahoma A & M), traveled to Norman to assist in the formal organization of a history group on campus. The Zeta-Theta Chapter of the National Honor Society for History, Phi Alpha Theta emerged due, in part, to the behind the scenes efforts of several students who had worked to bring the group to the Norman location.  According to a letter from Jack D. Haley, 13 January 1992, Robert Eugene Smith, Rau Stephens, Thomas Shang and Haley were responsible for the chapter formation. Robert Eugene Smith served as the first president of the chapter according to the history contained in the letter.
The membership rolls for that year list seventeen names. That first organization meeting is nor recorded in any Sooner annual from 1957-1958.  In the 1959 edition, however, there is a photo of the Chapter with accompanying text (page 406).
“Phi Alpha Theta recognizes academic achievement, interest in the field of history…Founded in 1921, Phi Alpha Theta strives to provide recognition for those achieving superior academic records, especially in history, and to encourage an active, scholarly interest in history…Serving as officers of the group this year were Sherman P. Carter, president; Joe C. Ray, Vice-president; Carol Whittels, secretary-treasurer; Dr. Herbert Ellison, sponsor.”
Pictured in that volume were twenty-six people (fifteen men and eleven women). In a time when gender segregation was common and apparent in many campus groups, the presence of these women shows that Phi Alpha Theta and the OU History Club exhibited equality in membership and leadership.
The first mention of the components that came to be traditional parts of the groups appear in the 1960 Sooner annual. The article there notes the annual spring banquet (March 30) with a guest speaker of S.E. Morrison of Harvard University. The Chapter was described as having bi-monthly noon meetings led by facultu (this was no doubt a predecessor to the “Brown Bag Lunches of the mid-nineties). Captured in a photo, in a “meeting with faculty sponsor”, were Marvin Burge, president; Nancy Russell, historian; Barbara Cookey, secretary; Herbert Ellison, Advisor.” The accompanying text defined the groups purpose on campus :…”to encourage high standards of scholarship among students of history, to promote an interest in historical matters, and to foster a spirit of fellowship among its members.”(page 412)
This definition, by 1966, continue to follow the academic tradition of promoting the free exchange of ideas and sponsored “speakers, forums, debates, and seminars.” (page 506).  Oficcers were listed as (Mrs.) Maxine Taylor, president; Fred Roach, vice president; Lloyd Roberts, publicity chairman; Dr. Kenneth I. Daily, faculty sponsor.  The photo with the entry revealed a twenty-nine people, nine of which were women, in a formal portrait. It is possible some of the people photographed may have been faculty.
Subsequent editions of the annual reveal a sporadic pattern in the chapters’ campus visibility. For many years (1958; 1961-1965; 1967-1994) there is no record of them among the organization pages of the yearbook.  Chapter records indicate, however, that new members were taken in during those same years clearly indicating that Phi Alpha Theta was in existence on the Oklahoma campus.
In those formative years, the local Zeta-Theta Chapter began many traditions: the Spring Banquet, the Guest Speaker program, and the noon discussion groups.  The noon discussion group were events where faculty members were invited to share with interested students and faculty their on-going areas of interest, current research, or writing projects.  Originally, the presentations were limited to faculty but over time it was expanded to include qualified graduate students. This reflected the general shift in the Phi Alpha Theta national structure to highlight encouraging students of history.
Another tradition was a popular event and often included a guest speaker of some note. The Banquet was the forum for the awarding of Departmental Scholarships, Chapter recognitions and socializing.  In the early 1990’s the time just prior to the banquet was given over to the initiation ritual of Phi Alpha Theta.  When guest speakers were brought in they included notable names: John Franklin of the University of Chicago, Avery Craven and Alan Trachtenberg of Yale University.
Over the course of a school year students would also have opportunities related to the Regional Conference of Phi Alpha Theta, often in conjunction with the Oklahoma Association of Professional Historians.  These regional meetings included a time for the presentation of papers (undergraduate, graduate and faculty). Over the years several of Phi Alpha Theta members and University of Oklahoma’s students have received letters complimenting the Department of History, the student and the Chapter on the quality of work presented by papers in these venues.
During the mid-nineties, the Chapter instituted a newsletter to better foster communication and fellowship among all history students; sponsored, with the OU History Club, a shirt logo contest preliminary to fundraising on behalf of the first Chapter scholarship. These all served to increase the amount of publicity about the Chapter and the Club on campus.

[As I concluded my office as Historian, I put together a collection of flyers, letters, newsletters, and other artifacts and left them with the OU Archives (in the Western History Collections) in 1996.  There had been no files or records on the organization in the archives to that date. Somewhere I have a photo of the leadership of the chapter for 1995.]

Old and Fascinating

Cigarette boxes were once a have to have item for every home. Now, in films, they warn of incidences of "historical smoking."  Watching an old, old murder mystery from the 1930's I saw one of those boxes in use in a scene.  I ran across a box at a second hand store and think it might be one of those boxes or one called a "trinket box".  It appears to be from a heavy glass that may be a pale blue.  The top has a badly flaking off celluloid or plastic decal of flowers. Where this has chipped away the box looks more blue; where the decal rests it  has a darker mint green tone.  I suspect that the entire box may have had a coating or decal applied to provide the color of the box.  The metal is gold tone. There is absolutely no markings on it at all. It is, indeed, a mystery of history.


4/1/15

A Fallen Veteran

In the early spring of April 1953, a Korean War Veteran, 24 year old Corporal Robert Wayne Smith, left Alexandria, La for a 30 day leave. He had just returned from Korea in March and was no doubt eager to reconnect with family, friends, and normal stateside life. He was ordered to report to Camp Carson in Colorado by May 14 for discharge. 

He visited his family back in Cimarron, Kansas and a girlfriend in the area of Alexandria, Louisiana he had meet before going overseas.

He attended church on Easter Sunday, April 5 with the girlfriend, Cora Lee Johnson. He stayed too long, spent to much money and with just a dollar left decided to hitchhike to Camp Carson. According to Army information, he was last seen by a Alexandria youth named Walter Gatlin, getting in a vehicle with four men outside a tourist court near Alexandria, LA on April 6, 1953.
 
A 15 year old farm hand was walking across a pasture when he stumbled on a badly decomposed, and decapitated, body weeks later on May 25, 1953.  The body was found in the six inches of shallow creek in a pasture near Perry, Oklahoma. A day later his head was located nearby. His wallet was found hear him.  His body was taken to Fort Sill where formal identification took place through dental records.  He had been shot with a .45 caliber weapon in the chest.
 
A few weeks later, around June 13, his luggage was found 2 miles west of Wellston, Ok. The bag, camera, shaving kit and miscellaneous personal items were searched.  The bag's contents provided few clues to explain why this soldier had died, who had killed him, or where they were going to be found. It had been found in an area where an old road had been turned into a dead end due to construction of the new Turner Turnpike.
 
Smith was the son of Pete Smith and Helen Moots, long time residents of the south central counties of Gray and Hays Kansas. 
 
As the anniversary of the last time, potentially, the man was ever seen alive nears, it is fitting to remember him.  He served his nation in a time of conflict and deserved to live a long and happy life back home.  A soldier who had bypassed death on the battlefield only to be waylaid by a twisted fate far too soon once he was home. 


No Clues Found in Death of GI, Oklahoman, June 14, 1953, pg. 22
Luggage is Found in Mystery Death, Oklahoman, June 13, 1953, pg. 24
Cimarron Man's Body Identified, Salina (KS) Journal, Mary 27, 1953, pg. 11

3/9/15

Unknown Dead

It was April, pre-summer, and two small boys were out playing in the industrial wasteland of their world of SE 7th  through 9th streets in 1947 Oklahoma City. Clyde Franco was 9 years old when he and his friend George Alvarado were exploring and a made a ghastly discovery.
 
Within the shadows of People's Packing Company at 130 SE 7th was a sewer outlet.  That April evening about 6 p.m. the two boys made a discovery that brought local police, the acting coroner and the curious.  
 
A woman about 40 years old and wearing only a slip and a bobby sock on the left foot was found in the sewer outlet. Her skull had been crushed and she had been dead about a month.  Her head and hands were so decomposed it presented a problem with identification.
 
Local police called it a "baffling mystery" and mysterious it remains. No follow up story could be found as to any identification or arrest made.  Who was this woman? Who, more importantly, was her killer?
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson, 2015, from "Into Oblivion"... 

3/2/15

FREE LOVE, NAKED PREACHERS AND BLOODY AXE MURDERS: IS THERE A CONNECTION?

Just before the turn of the 20th century religious groups sprang up across the United States and elsewhere. It is common for people’s minds to turn to the spiritual when there is a large changing of the guard or millennial passage.  Fears and anxieties stir up in people a desire for assurance and peace.  The later 1880’s saw a tide of religious activities such as the Holiness Movement that sought to draw people to a faith and offer hope. Some, however, were largely cults in that they often sought to control and manipulate people in order to gain financial, social or sexual favors. The health movement that birthed the morning breakfast cereals had just as many quacks and huckster as any “Elmer Gantry” preacher working the backwater revival circuits.
One group appears to have traveled a diverse and perhaps bloody track as it meandered from its North Carolina roots to the deepest south and into the heartland and west.  In 1896 newspapers carried a story of a religious sect deemed horrible and despicable.  They were largely younger people who lived in ‘arks’ or boats. No used no locomotion but depended on the drifting tides, being carried or pulled by other craft to move from place to place.  There was no privacy with all ages and sexes sharing common sleeping areas with no grouping by family. They believed that civil marriages did not exist and so freely divorced in order to follow their fellow believers. They practiced, basically, the tenets of “free love” then popular as alternate lifestyle.   They practiced a custom called “Fellow Watchman” where a married man was expected to take the wife of another man as his wife and participate in daily prayer with them. These secondary wives were called Fellow Watchman.  There were apparently many splits in the group over the free love aspect but the leaders adhered to it.
According to a newspaper article from 1896, the group was founded on Chincoteague Island in Virginia by a Joseph Barnard Lynch. He had claimed an angelic visitation that resulted in his own ‘sanctification’.
The group used a unique interpretation of the religious term of sanctification.  The term is generally understood in theology as a process of being set apart for special purpose. For the members of this group, no one could go to heaven who had not been sanctified in the spirit. It was an instant experience rather than a gradual one (a term preferred by many Holiness groups was that sanctification was a gradual process of being cleansed of sin or imperfection through constant and ongoing personal devotion and good works by those who had accepted Christ. Some groups, however, believed in an ‘instantaneous’ experience of spiritual cleansing).  So the vocabulary of the group was very common to the general theological terminology of the day.  What was unique was the belief that when the members of the Sanctified Church were thus sanctified they could no longer commit sin. Hey taught that nothing a sanctified person does or could do could be sinful.  In one sense, it was a doctrine that transformed and purified those acts from evil to good because of their state of sanctification.
A leader in the early North Carolina band was Sadie E. Collins, “head deaconess” and from newspaper articles in other regions in the next 20 years this was not an uncommon model.
In 1901 there was a newspaper report of a near religious war erupting on the border of Cherokee Co., North Carolina and Ducktown, Tennessee.  Apparently a branch of the group had moved into the area and erected a church in 1900.  Their message of being incapable of doing wrong was not well accepted.  Preacher P. Berrong was whipped and had to escape to save his life.  In July of 1901, a Anna Kirkman sued her husband for divorce. She claimed she had been commanded by the Lord to break off the marriage. She was identified as a leader of the Sanctified Church in Logansport, Iowa.
 
In 1904 Oklahoma City there was a strange sight that met residents and visitors looked down South Broadway one chilly spring day. Marching casually up from Reno Street, yet with a destination in mind, were two men, John Aiken and James Sharp, a woman, Melissa Sharp, and a 12 year old boy, Lee Sharp. 
Declaring himself "Adam God" Sharp would prove an interesting character. What was really unusual about this incident was they were all stark naked.
Arrested, charged with lunacy, and ordered out of the state, they were back in 1906 in a cult community, Eden, in south Oklahoma County. That same year, reports came from a group operating in Iowa and Idaho led by a Rev. John P. Martley that went under the name of “The Sanctified Church of Adam and Eve.”
A few years later, 1908, the group that had paraded in Oklahoma City (which now included a second in command, Louis Pratt) had gone to Kansas City.  There, they had caused a riot where five people died.   Sharp, and possibly his wife and others, were ordered to prison for his role in the riot.
The group have been a part of the Morman faith or confiscated some of the terms and teachings of the "Adam God" doctrine of Brigham Young, mixed in some extreme evangelical elements and bits and pieces of a lot of things. Not much has been found explaining the doctrinal aspects of this strange cult but it is clear that they were considered bizarre and out of the ordinary.  For most people in the Edwardian era, amusements were where they could be found and a group marching naked down a main city street had to have been worth a chuckle or two.  
Were the two groups – sharing some naming and beliefs – related to one another? In this time period small independent groups flowed into one another and then broke apart over some rock in the stream of doctrine or polity with regularity.
What makes this interesting is that in 1909, the Sanctified Church once more makes some serious news in the hinterlands of Louisiana.  There it seems to emerge within the African American community and had added to it elements of a hodgepodge of Voodoo and other beliefs.  Voodoo is a folk religion of Africa and the Caribbean developed by descendants of the African Diaspora and mixed with Native folkways.  Through the next several years the very words “Sanctified Church” could inspire fear and caution amid occupants of the Deep South.  The cause was claims that members of the church were on a holy mission to kill people.  People, whole families, were brutally killed by axe welding killers in Louisiana and Texas between 1909 and 1914.  For an excellent discussion of this series of crimes see Elliot’s Axes of Evil.
Was it now primarily an African American movement now? It is known that it was associated with African Americans in Louisiana.  In 1912, a congregation in Atlanta is clearly identified as specifically an African-American group.
Did The Sanctified Church continue in largely white areas of Iowa and Idaho and other points west?  This becomes very interesting given the horrific events of July 1912 in Villisca, Iowa when an entire family and two child guests were axed to death as they slept.  Were there still in the region remnants of The Sanctification Church and/or the Sanctification Church of Adam and Eve and/or the Adam God movement? Were they absorbed back into traditional churches due to the excesses of their ‘free love society’?  Did their groups move off in search of places to rest and find freedom for their unique religious society?
Is it possible a follower with a strange twist in his own soul, followed the hairpin curves of theological sense used to support these movements, and arrived at a place where killing or sacrificing human beings, was seen as appropriate, even expected by a divine being?  It is a journey often made in human society over fine points of political structure so it would not be unusual to see someone use religion in this same way.

Jack The Ripper: Where Did He Go?

The story is one that has burrowed deeply into the global sub-conscious. The eruption into sedate, dignified, and moral Victorian society of a depraved maniac who savagely mutilated that society's lowest valued members.  The mystery of the unknown killer, the sexual undertones of victims who tried to survive by selling sex, and the stirring cauldron of urban unrest amid social and political tensions made the story one that gripped people on every continent with a newspaper or reached by travelers.
 
The familiar events are well known.  The murders attributed to this still unknown serial killer were committed between  3 April 1888 to  9 November 1888. These are the "canonical five" but others suggest they should also include a murder from 13 February 1891 and one or two before 1888.  Whatever the exact number the death of November 9 seemed to reach a high point of horror.  After that, jack the Ripper, for all intents and purposes seems to disappear. Some have suggested he was placed in a mental institution, some that he committed suicide, and some that he left the country.
 
 
For London dwellers, the abrupt ceasing of murders after the intense Mary Kelly slaughter, appeared to herald an end to the nightmare of terror.  There was a general sigh of relief.  To those in England the murders appeared to stop but in Europe, well, the story tends to get a little more interesting when one sees events in Europe over the next decade.
 
In Vienna in the 1890's a killer struck with what was termed "Jack the Ripper" style.  This was a vague and often over sensationalized  description for what was often a 'run of the mill' murder.  Women whose skulls were crushed by an axe blow and throats slashed by knives and razors are horrific but they did not compare with level of mutilation shown in the London murders in the White Chapel district.
 
Alois Szemeredy (1840-1892), "Doctor?"
There were two men arrested in Vienna in the 1890's and some sources tend to confuse the two accounts.  In 1892 an Alois Szemeredy (1840-1892) was arrested in relation to a February 11, 1892 murder in Vienna. He committed suicide 1 October 1892 in Prezburg, Austria.
 
There is some attempt to connect this man with the London murders. It was believed he was responsible for killing a woman in South America in 1876, Caroline Metz.  It is alleged he disappears and is unaccounted for in the years 1886-1890. This span of years covers the Jack the Ripper killings in London. (Port Phillip Herald (AU) 9 November 1892).  The book, Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Casebook by Richard Whittington-Egan suggests there was some suggestion this man had ben in England during the time of the Ripper deaths, that his papers into the country suggested he was an American surgeon and that later in a visit to Vienna his papers claimed him to be a "sausage maker."  It is unclear if this is a confusion of the two claimed Ripper murders in Vienna or not.
 
Simon Schostowitz (?-?), "Pork Butcher"
This Hungarian born man was arrested in relation to the murder of a Miss Anna Spilka, 32 year old woman who was strangled and had her throat cut.  This killing is called a "Ripper like" murder in the Aberdeen Weekly (AU) of January 3, 1899.  The killing is thought to have occurred within days of another killing about December 28, 1898 in Vienna.  An angry mob sought to lynch him but authorities enabled him to escape. (West Australian (AU) 3 Jan. 1899:5). 
 
An article from the Naugartuck Daily News of 29 December 1898 indicates the first victim in Vienna was named Frankska Hofer and that she had been dissected by an unknown "Jack the Ripper."  Of note, was that police indicated similar cases in Amsterdam and Brussels.   They also offered a fascinating, but unexplained, side note that the police maintained a theory that a maniac woman was killing as she moved around Europe.
 
It has been suggested that the Vienna killer was a shochet.   As such he may have been the victim of Anti-Semitism. This posed a very real threat in Vienna and the region in the time period before and after these killings.  A person filling this role in Jewish society was specially trained to provide a ritually pure slaughter to the kosher animals that Jewish Law allowed them to eat.  Pigs were never considered  'kosher.'  So, unless this was a slur applied to the man, it is unlikely he served as a Jewish shochet.

 
"Jack" sightings were irregular notes popping up across the globe with a variety of murders all labeled sensationally as "Ripper" style killings. Few, however, appear to match the  unique M.O. of the London killings.  A few do pop up in some interesting places: southern Texas, New York City, California, and other locations.  The news accounts are often hard to decipher; newspaper men knew that the words "gruesome", "slaughter" , "butchered", and "mutilated" were sure to sell papers and as a result many a 'run-of-the-mill' murders were labeled with those terms for that purpose. Often, to a small peaceful hamlet where the most violent act in a decade was when farmer Brown fell off his wagon and died of a broken neck, the facts of a murder in their community where truly awful and shocking.  For them, in that place and time, they were truly horrific.
 
Victim Mary Kelly, Nov. 1888, London
Jack was a Woman?
Over the decades this was a theory that some presented. The argument was that only another woman could have moved so stealthy and become so invisible in White Chapel. Women were often invisible and unremarkable.  It has been suggested she was a really bad abortionist who just wanted to learn more and was unconcerned about killing her 'patients' in the process.  Other theories are that a society woman or middleclass merchant's wife was gifted by a philandering husband with a sexually transmitted disease and went on a rampage. 
 
Although it is known that women died during abortions (sometimes due to mangled attempts, sometimes due to bleeding caused by the process and infections caused by the environment). Sometimes, even as late as the 1930's, attempts were made to disguise the death as the work of a murderer or accident.
 
Victorian society was conflicted when it came to women in general. On one hand they firmly believed that women were gentile, fragile, and in constant need of protection. Woman was a little like a mentally challenged child who had to be handled with care and offered no mental challenges because she was unsuited to the struggle that would entail.  At least, women of a certain rarified class were considered such delicate flowers. Lower class women were often seen as made of sturdier, and therefore more inferior, stuff.   To imagine a woman slicing into a human being with the force and seeming enjoyment of the "Jack" murders was beyond belief.  Yet, stories from several continents do show women from this era slaughtering entire families.  One story from the U.S. shows a woman killed her husband and six children with the household axe.  It is feasible that police may have been disinclined to think of a woman as the killer.
 
Is it likely, though, for Jack to be a woman?  The terrible focusing on the genitals and muscular structure of victims such as Mary Kelly seem to suggest a - curiosity.  Were these then all steps to a discovery of the female in the sick and twisted mind of the killer? A search to explain why people searched out frantic and blunt couplings in the alleys and side streets of fog shrouded White Chapel?  A mad desire to explore his own sick compulsions and the act that drew him and perhaps repulsed him at the same time?

2/27/15

The Axe Falls Again

Over several years of research into the historically bizarre, there have been many tantalizing mysteries and many unanswered questions. Many of these brought to my attention as I researched When Death Rode the Rails, Murderous Marriages, and the upcoming Into Oblivion. Some will forever remain unanswered and others, perhaps, are slowly being revealed.  Full answers to many questions may continue to be an elusive dream but there is some hope.
 
The mysterious and mostly unsolved axe murders that swept the nation in the first two decades of the 20th century are one such topic.  I have had the pleasure of being cited in two such works and am happy to say that the value of both works made me very happy to have been recognized in both.

The first is Murdered in their Beds by Troy Taylor (2012) and reviewed on my long time blog, The Paranormal Librarian from a few years back:

When the horrific and the unsolved are joined the result is sometimes too much to ignore.   Author Troy Taylor spent decades in gathering bits and pieces of information into one solid and satisfying presentation of the facts of this 1912 Villisca, Iowa ax murders.  Doggedly he hunted down other instances mirroring the details of that Iowa crime searching for answers.
 
The result of that work is a remarkable book  linking  murders spreading over at least three states and several years. Along the way a picture of the murderer is constructed with as keen an understanding of criminality as an  FBI profile.  
 
Placing all within the historical reality of the early decades of the 20th century a new understanding of the Iowa crime finally emerges.   Filled with historic images and graphic descriptions of the crimes it will be greatly sought by all true crime sleuths.
 
In presenting this high level of investigation and research, Taylor has contributed greatly to bringing these crimes to light. The reasoning is logical, the thinking as he answers some lingering issues solidly holds together.  It is entirely possible that learning the details found here may eventually lead to the discovery of a vital clue which might, just might, solve a century old series of crimes.
 
If that happens - tip the hat to author Troy Taylor and MURDERED IN THEIR BEDS (2012).
 
The second is a recent work by author Todd C. Elliot, Axes of Evil: The True Story of the Ax-Man Murders ( TrineDay, 2015).   Previously on this blog there have been numerous posts and many informative comments that provided hints, information and leads on a variety of the axe murders hidden away in the pages of small local papers or in local legend.  They have been some of the most popular posts read on this blog.  Louisiana author Elliot, living in the epicenter of one of these murders, took up the challenge to get to the core of the tales.  The result is the most detailed exploration of the murders of Louisiana and Texas circa 1910-1912 that has been produced to date.
 
So often, in exploring these oldest crimes, the researcher is confronted by lack of access to necessary newspaper, court records, and the supportive network to help drive the search. These challenges are compounded in cases where the victims are poor, minorities, or the location a 'backwater' where little remains to answer the many questions raised.
 
Elliot has accomplished in Axes of Evil a bringing together of  vital strands of information by ferreting out newspapers in his region and bringing clarity to the blood muddied waters of lore and legend.  He provides names of victims (often glossed over by mention of their race rather than name), good connections and timelines of events and potential links to similar crimes.  Don't worry, although he does provide some solid theories as to who and why, there is are enough questions raised by his information as answers. The mystery will continue and this is good.  That is the way the truth is always accessed; trial and error, questions and counter-points.  Elliot's work, however, peels back the layer of mystery created by racial bias, economic limitations, and the limitations of early 20th century criminal investigations. What is revealed is fascinating, horrifying, and gripping.
 
I recommend these works to anyone fascinated by true-crime, by enduring mysteries, and the morbidly macabre.  Read them and enjoy.

2/7/15

The Unsolved: A Town Where Fear Ran Wild

In the spring of 1946, the sleepy community of Texarkana would be rudely shocked awake by a series of murders.  The killer struck, usually couples who had hidden away in isolated "Lover's Lanes".  The press popularly called them the "Moonlight Murders" to have the evocative alliteration element; there was no moon when this monster walked.

Several theories have evolved about who the killer was who terrorized the community. They have ranged from a college student who committed suicide to it being the Zodiac Killer. 
 
 
A new movie revisits the 1970's cult classic, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, for its usual "let's find a popular film, remake it and use all the classic stereotypes, add some spicy elements, and have a winner!"  Many facts in the film do not reflect the facts of the cases involved, many elements of the case are still unclear, and as a result there is probably a better need for a documentary that truly explores the case, the theories, and the facts.

2000 Missing People a Day?

According to the FBI website, "during 2012, 661,593 missing person records were entered into NCIC",  and despite the fact this was a "decrease of 2.5 % from the 678,860 records entered in 2011" that is still a lot of people.
 
Explanations for the disappearance of so many fall into several categories. Some are logical and some fantastical in the extreme. Strange things do happen but it is known that very ordinary people have simply walked away one day to never be seen again.  Eliminating the non custodial parent kidnappings in most lists still leaves an impressive number of missing persons.
 
Missing persons might be missing due to -

  • Intentional disappearance to begin a new life or escape an old one
  • Death by gang or criminal activities in retaliation, turf war, or other rationale for violence
  • Impression into the sex slavery traffic and trade
  • Murder for reason of being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Accidental death in a situation where their body might not be found for decades (hikers, travelers, etc.)
  • Murder by serial killer, mass murderers, and loved ones
  • Flawed data: it is apparent from records that missing reports are often issued but are not so carefully tracked to remove them if found. This could lead to double-counting or other flaws in the data or the interpretation of the data.
  • Being sucked into alternate or parallel dimensions
  • Death to supply food for alien reptilian overloads secretly gaining control of the planet (yes, there are some who believe this is a viable reason)
 There are always groups of people who do not report people missing.  Parents of children with a wild streak in frequent trouble with the law have been known to just assume they had bolted once more and shook their heads and just hoped they might come back.  In one case from several decades ago, the girl had been in and out of trouble with local law and authorities before she left her teens. She was sent to a state "reformatory" and soon left there to disappear.  Several years later, not yet 20 years old her body was found in a trash dump where someone had left her in sad commentary to the killers value of human life.  She was unidentified for several years until finally, her parents, filed a missing person report and the unknown female victim was discovered as a possible match.
 
In the 1960, 1970's and 1980's there was a focus on the problem of "runaway" and it was often tied to the blooming drug culture in America and some seem to believe they were the only generation to have such home wanderers.  Indeed, from the earliest years there have always been those children who either left home and found the big world so much more to their liking they never returned or once they left circumstances common to criminal served to make to forever lost to their families and friends.   It is true that in the 1960's and 1970's there were many serial killers - often called chain killers in previous generations - that seemed to have all broken loose of the constraints of normalcy to operate openly.  They often operated simultaneously as well: several of them plagued California in these decades preying on the hitchhiking 'run aways' traveling the highways.
 
Why do so many go missing? How can we solve this lasting mystery? How can we find answers to the long and sad question of unidentified bodies, "Who am I?"

1/9/15

Into Oblivion: Where Only A Silent Wind Blows, part 9

Anyone who believes, deep in their heart of hearts, that humans are getting better every day should explore sites such as "NameUs" or "DoeNetwork."   There, are stark and haunting reminders of just how twisted the human creature can be, and continues to be, through the wonderful social advances of this last century.  Page after page of people missing to never be seen again.  Page after page of bodies found and never identified dating back decades. Visit a state crime bureau or local police page on cold cases lingering around hoping for a solution.  So many cold cases go to the back of the mind of investigators for the simple brutal reality that they often have too many current cases to solve as the endless killing, raping, disappearances, and abducting continue unabated.
 
Those kill seem to find a style or method that works for them.  Like soulless machines, the worst of them seek both evil satisfaction and mindless efficiency.

The Woman on the  Ranch
One such case was in October 1953 in Washington County, Oklahoma.  On a ranch about  a mile from the small town of Vera a man riding pastureland looking for strays found a woman's body.  The young woman was about 5 ft. 2 in, weighed about 110 lbs. and was between the ages of 20-30.  She had light to medium brown hair.  She was thought to have been placed there toward the end of September. When she was found she was laying face down, nude, with no visible signs of violence.  Significantly, her body was left on this isolated ranch in an isolated corner of the county,  but then also about a half mile from the nearest road.

Despite her body being taken to the University of Oklahoma for autopsy, fingerprints being collected, and x-rays for dental records by 1959 the woman was still unidentified. After that she - and the crime - seem to disappear. Was she ever identified? Was a killer ever caught?  There were rumors of strange noises in the night. Whispers that she might have been the victim of a botched abortion. Nothing solid. Nothing certain.

An Affair to Remember
In November of 1956 a Baton Rouge woman apparently went to a remote Lover's Lane in St. John the Baptist Parish, LA. Her companion in the blue sedan was a married man.  What happened next is a subject for conjecture.  What is known is that hunter's came through later, saw the man sitting in the back seat at an odd angle and when they investigated saw he had been shot through the window at close range.  Scattered around on the ground were items such as might be found in a woman's purse.  Tracks led off and revealed the shoeless path of a woman running and being followed by a man in boots.  The tire tracks of a motorcycle were found and might be implicated. The woman, Audrey Alta Smith Moate (1925- 1956?)  was never seen alive again.  Several "witnesses" provide details that seem a bit contrived and a little too convenient.

New Mexico Gone
In December of 1956 a 32 year old Native American woman disappeared from Gallip, McKinley Co., New Mexico.  She was 5'6", black, should length and curly hair, 130 lbs. with brown eyes. She went by the name of Walcie Rae Downing, Rae, Walcie Rae Alston, Walcie Rae Pearce.  She left behind five children.  When last seen in Gallup she was wearing a white blouse and blue jeans with an engagement ring on her finger. She was driving a 1952 or 1954 Ford, cream and faded tan. Although listed as missing since 1956, she matches the same general range of victims. Hopefully, she was safe and well. For more information or to report information contact The Doe Network.

The Airman's Wife
Mrs. Billie Shaffer of Seminole, wife of an Air Force captain assigned to Greenland, went Christmas shopping in 1958 and never came home.  A last meal with friends and she left, gift purchases in her car, and headed back to Seminole from Oklahoma City.  Her car was found, minus woman, purse and gifts, abandoned along a road NE of Oklahoma City, far from where she would have been headed. Her body was finally found in early spring in the middle of an isolated farm, once again far into the field, and by a pond.  She was clad in only a slip.  There were no visible signs of violence or cause of death. 
 
Pima Canyon Woman
Just a mile north of the end of Campbell Road, in the desert countryside of  Pima canyon, Tucson, Arizona a woman's skeletal remains were found in October of 1965.  She was estimated to have been an adult probably between 20-30, white and about 63 inches in height.  There was not much to tell investigator's except a simple band.  How long she had been there is unknown but she may have been there from the early 1950's through the early 1960's.   DNA and Dental records are available and interested relatives and friends might contact the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

So many women, left where only a wind blows, and so soon forgotten in the overload of other and ever more pressing crimes.  Can we help find answers to some of these mysteries?  Can we help find the closure and answers so long sought? 

So many local newspapers are not available via databases, so many local newspapers did not adequately cover many crimes for political or societal reasons.  Even on the impressive databases of several missing networks there are huge vacant spaces and people missing or found who are not listed. The better the basic data is the more plausible a chance of new patterns or connections being found that link things across a wider canvas.  Get involved and help solve some real mysteries.

---Marilyn A. Hudson, c2015
(Check back on this one - I will be updating as new information is uncovered.)

1/4/15

Into Oblivion: Were They Ever Found?, part 8

The following were women listed as missing during the 1950's.  Are they still missing?  Newspapers were bad at not following up on missing persons stories making it hard to learn if they were found or the missing resolved.  Many police agencies do not maintain older records and some do not allow any but another law officer to review them.  If you have information on any of these people, please post a comment or contact the author here.

  • Miss Nancy Durkins, 19 yrs., August 1951, Oklahoma City
  • Shirley Ann  Cuica, 15 yrs., April 1951, Oklahoma City
  • Charlene or Sharlene Wright, 15-16 yrs., April 1951, Oklahoma City
  • Tillie Mae Pennington, 20 yrs., July 1952, Oklahoma City
  • Dorothy Mae Moss, 19 yrs., July 1952, Oklahoma City
  • 2 Unidentified teenage girls from Hobart,OK September 1952
  • Andreas Lopez Phares, 20 yrs. 1955, Texas
  • Marcia Horam, 21, Chicago, 1957 (May have moved to NYC )
  • Mrs. Nancy Faun, 19, Chicago, 1957
  • Mrs. Virginia Moore, 19, El Paso, TX, 1959
  • Anna Carol Jackman, Oklahoma City, 1959 (Mother was Nola Foster)

12/29/14

Lover's Lane Murders

Lover's Lanes, those back roads and out the way places where young lovers for generations have retreated to have some alone time.  "Billing and Cooing", "Parking", "Sparking", "Making Out" were terms that emerged from these isolated trysting places along railroad tracks, off country roads,  in or near cemeteries, old factories, under leafy trees, under bridges, and by bodies of water.  They were places were lovers could talk, kiss, share a forbidden drink and other activities un-named.  Lonely, isolated, and a place where others would tend to pay less attention to anyone else, these dark secretive places were a magnet that apparently called out to those with a date with death.
 
The term "Lover's Lane" was one not always used but generally understood to exist. The term was not always used in local news accounts of events occurring in these places of a less than loving nature.  In the later half of the 20th century it be used more often and more salaciously than in previous years; some of the innocence had rubbed off of society by that time.
 
In the 1920's and 1930's society was almost totally mobile and so they saw a lot of social barriers fall: short hair and skirts on women, drinking and partying by both sexes, and a flaunting of sexual mores in general.  In 1933, 16 year old John Henkel killed 27 year old Oliver Bailey in a "Lover's Lane" in Ohio after the older man made "advances".

In Pennsylvania in late spring of 1940, a young match factor worker, Fay Gates, was raped, savagely bludgeoned and her body left along a lonely road known locally as "Spook Hollow."   This stretch of road was called by some locals a place where young people went to park.
 
In 1942 in Woodbury, NJ a 39 year old widow Mrs. Emma Evans, was raped and slain in a Lover's Lane and a 22 year old soldier from L.A., Wilburn Rogers was charged.

In June of 1943 in Dallas, Oregon 17 year old Ruth Hildebrand was raped and slain and her body dumped in the Williamite River.   The Monmouth Police Chief, Richard Layton, was charged in her death and later executed.

Around Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1944 several young women were similarly attacked and there was hint of a lover's lane connection. Phyllis Irine Conine, 17, Wilhema Hayes, 37, and Ann Kuseff, 22 were all killed from February through May.

In 1945 in Pontiac, Michigan, Mrs. Lydia Thompson was slain Oct. 11. She was bludgeoned, stabbed and struck with an axe or hatchet in a crude attempt to remove her head. By 1947, her husband was being called in for more questions after a man claimed he had been hired to kill Mrs. Thompson.
 
The Phantom Killer, also known at the time as the "Moonlight Murderer", of Texarkana struck in 1946 wounding in February Jimmy Hollis and Mary Larey on a Lover's Lane and then in March killing another couple on another Lover's Lane. Dead were Richard Griffin and Polly Moore.
 
 
Also in 1948, along a local lover's lane in Oregon, Illinois were the deaths of 17 year old Mary Jane Reed and Stanley Skridla.  Suspicions emerged of police cover-ups and allegations of the involvement of a local deputy sheriff.
 
In 1948, a young woman, Theresa Foster, was killed in Boulder, Colorado and her body dumped in a ravine near a river. A year later, a young man and his  blind date on a local Lover's Lane stretch of road were attacked by a man. The young man, Roy Spore was killed and his body left not far from where the Foster woman's body had been found. His date was injured but unharmed.

Mary Roberts, 17, was abducted and killed near Marion, Illinois by 33 Joseph Milani alias William Winningham.  He wounded her boyfriend and took her as the couple parked in a local lover's lane.
 
In 1970, west of Norman, Oklahoma, two college students were murdered by person or persons unknown.  Amarillo native David Sloan, a student at the University of Oklahoma and his date, Sheryl Benham were found stuffed into the trunk of Sloan's vehicle. Sheryl was nude from had a blanket wrapped around her waist. She and David had been shot repeatedly in the torso and face.  A local police officer was suspected, but quickly left the force and the community. In 1990, the case was reopened due to the discovery of a weapon allegedly owned by the officer and stored in an attic. The case went to trial with testimony of missing files, misplaced or lost evidence, and other accusations.  The officer, now living in Texas, was acquitted by a jury in 1992 after only four hours.  The case is unsolved but closed. 
 
Oddly, enough, this same area (Norman's Lover's Lane) was searched in 1959 when women's clothing were found in the area by a squirrel hunter from south Oklahoma City.  Although, a minimum of three women were missing from the South Oklahoma City area at the time, as searchers canvassed the region and looked for shallow graves or bodies, the local sheriff said he could not understand what all the fuss was about.
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014
 
Note: I will update this list as more such crimes are uncovered.

12/28/14

Into Oblivion: The Dark Spring Killer, Part 7

This is a slightly revised version of an earlier story...

Spring times are supposed to be about life and renewal and second chances. Once upon time in central Oklahoma City the spring was dark and filled with visions to cause nightmares.

The first body parts showed up in April 1, 1976, in an abandoned house at 325 NE 8th in Oklahoma City, utility workers exploring an abandoned house found the head and body parts of a 18 year old Cathy Lyn Shackelford. At the time, however, she was unidentified and was labeled a 'Jane Dow'.

Fast forward to April 19, 1979 when several grisly discoveries are made between mid-April and the first of May. All around the 300 block NE 10th and 200 block NE 7th in Oklahoma City. The second known victim was named Arley Bell Killian.

A strange gap of seven years followed before another find was made. On March 6, 1986, the body of 23 year old Tina Sanders was located at 507 N. Lindsay. A fourth, found during excavations in the mid 1990's, has been suggested but unverified.
 
There are interesting similarities which might provide links to similar crimes and bring closure to this cold case. All the women were Native American, they either lived on the streets and/or worked as prostitutes, and were all probably killed within the same one mile radius where their bodies were found. The killings were in the spring, they were not rushed, and due to the ease with which the body parts were created and discarded, the killer had to have been familiar with his surroundings (the Stiles Circle - Lincoln Terrace neighborhood; now generally covered by the Centennial Expressway and the OU Health Science buildings and related structures).  Each body had an incision in the lower lip, massive body mutilation and dismemberment, and certain parts of the bodies were never found.

The chronology of the murders -1976, 1979 and 1986 - indicate there may have been a pattern at work.  Another killing (5) might have occurred in 1982-1983.  Just as possible, however,  the killer could have been in jail, in the military, or out of state on some job during the seven year break.  It is likely other killings, as of yet to be found,  may be fit that pattern.(Oklahoma Cold Cases) It would be atypical for such a killer to have such a long 'cooling off' period but not impossible.

Some suggest that another body was found April 22, 1995 and pulled from missing head, hands and feet, from a shallow grave 50 miles west of the city.   Authorities were said to note 'similarities' in the manner of the dismemberment. (Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes, 2009,p. 291) The time period is shortly after the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City and that story was the major news for several days and no report was found to confirm that suggestion.

In 1993, the combined efforts of Andra Medina, Sgt. Norma Adams, Norman forensic sculpture Betty Pat Gatliff, and well known Oklahoma based anthropologist , Dr. Clyde Snow brought closure to the first Jane Doe.  DNA identified her as Shackleford ("DNA Tests Identify '76 Slaying Victim". Steve Lackmeyer, Oklahoman, Nov. 30, 1993, pg.1).

There were also some 'interesting' bodies in eastern Oklahoma, not for from the I-40 corridor in Shamrock 1975, Wellston 1985 and Broken Arrow 1989. Also possibly other locations in 1985 and the early 90's.    Body parts or dismembered bodies of young women who apparently went missing unnoticed and unidentified.  The 1960's through the 1990's were especially violent with serial killers springing out of their dank worlds to grab headlines through gory acts: Kemper, Bundy, Rader and so many others.

The killer may have been influenced by the famous "Black Dahlia" case related to the 1946 murder of Elizabeth Short, one of the thousands of young women who fled to the sunny warmth of California with dreams of modeling and maybe stardom.  When her dissected body was found displayed in an empty lot in a quiet Los Angles neighborhood, few had ever seen in such a sight beneath those sunny skies.  She had been cut in half, sections had been removed, and strange cuts marked both halves of her body.  Her lovely face had been disfigured by slitting the mouth so that it appeared to be ear-to-ear. She had been killed elsewhere, her body drained of blood and washed before she was staged in such a manner where she would be found.  Police at the time viewed her as perhaps the latest kill in a long string of murders plaguing the area from the late 1930's. They asked themselves if she was actually #8 in a line of victims.  Later, after her death there would be another murder police said had "Black Dahlia" aspects to it. All of this or some of it may have been known to the OKC killer because on the severed heads police found strange slits and cuts that served to widen the mouth, and remained explained.
 
Psychologists of the time providing profiles and suggestions to law enforcement produced the common description that inferred that the killer was probably also Native American or African American since it was believed that serial killers would only hunt among their peer racial and social group.  The presence of such serial killers as Jake Bird, an African American man, who confessed to killing numerous wife women in the 1920-1940's may indicate that theory may not be as iron clad as it was once thought. The fact that serial killers often hunted amid their own race in a time of racial segregation may have been less a matter of choice than necessity.  Once racial barriers fell, the victims of serial killers was extremely varied as to race.
 
What happened to the killer? Where did he go?  One notorious killer confessed to some of these deaths but the confessions are considered by most as suspect, the last minute greedy attempt by a sociopath to get attention.  
 
If that is true, then chilling questions remain. When the region was razed by bulldozers and new building rose over the bloody grounds, what secrets were lost?  Are there other victims  out there - somewhere? Victims of this monster who stalked the streets to prey- at leisure -  on women struggling just to survive?
---Marilyn A. Hudson, 2014 (Revised and updated from earlier post)

Into Oblivion: Do You Have a Story?

Do you have a suggestion for a story of disappearance, unsolved murder, or other crime without solution,  to be included in this new work?

Send your suggestions (and any information you may have) about missing persons, murders, and lingering mysteries from before 1960, to the author at this email address. 

This work will be different in many ways from similar true crime works.  It involves input from the families of some victims and seeks to identify some common trends that might lead to understanding more about who may have been responsible in these cases.  All done with dignity and respect for the victims.

I am especially interested in cases from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri.

Email me and let's talk about your story. 

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