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"... 



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?

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