Dec 14 2015

Deadly Fumes On Coyle

West Coyle Avenue is a lovely residential street just a couple of blocks south of Indian Boundary Park in the West Ridge neighborhood of Chicago. On November 25, 1957, it was also the site of a tragedy.  It happened right behind this house.


Chicago Daily Tribune, Nov 26, 1957


Found After a Date; Fumes Blamed

EXECUTIVE AND A GIRL FRIEND DIE IN GARAGE Found After a Date Fumes BlamedThe bodies of a young couple who apparently died of carbon monoxide poisoning were found yesterday in a garage at the rear of 2440 Coyle av.

The victims were Robert Cornell, 26, of 2445 Lunt av., son of a manufacturer, and Miss Alice Graham, 22, of 2426 Lunt av., a Niles Township High school Spanish teacher. Police said the deaths were apparently accidental.

Ignition Turned On

Cornell's keys were found in the car with the ignition turned on and the gasoline tank empty. His body was on the front seat of the car and Miss Graham's was on the garage floor.

Detective Thomas Tobin said the young woman was evidently trying to reach one of the closed garage doors when she collapsed.

Cornell was a vice president, a director, and sales manager of the American Mill Supply company and American Leather Belting company. His father, Earl, is president of both firms.

Sister Finds Bodies

Police said young Cornell rented the garage for the storage of a company car. Police said the couple went out on a date Sunday afternoon. They had dated four or five times previously. The bodies were found by Cornell's sister, Mrs. Patricia Alpert, 2350 Fitch av., who went to the garage after their mother, Mary, noticed her son had not returned home.

An inquest will be held at 9:30 a.m. today in the chapel at 5501 N. Ashland av.

Miss Graham was graduated from Indiana university. Her parents live in Indianapolis. Cornell attended St. John's Military academy, Lake Forest academy, and Northwestern university.

In response to suspicions of suicide, Miss Graham's roommate, Miss Louise Moran, testified at the inquest that she had introduced the couple and both were "happy and had everything to live for." (Chicago Daily Tribune, November 27, 1957)

I can't imagine what they were doing in that garage that could have caused them to forget that the car was still running?  I guess it must have been cold that day...  Oh yeah, it was pretty nippy:

Chicago IL 60646 Weather History for November 25th 1957

In any event, here are some photos of the garage where the tragedy occurred:


The garage behind the house.


The side of the garage: it was obviously not ventilated.


The small garage where the lovebirds asphyxiated.

Dec 10 2015

The Treacherous Wanderer

Here's the story of a pregnant woman, a poor boob, and a man in love with the Army.  It all begins with a dramatic article published in the Chicago Daily Tribune on June 22, 1920:



Woman Shot Down at Mother's Door.

The house where it happened... (Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair)

The house where it happened...
(Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair)

Mrs. Ruth Wanderer, 21 years old, was shot and killed last night by a supposed robber as, at her husband's side, she was about to open the door leading to her mother's flat at 4732 North Campbell avenue.

The next moment her husband, Carl, a former lieutenant in the 17th machine gun battalion, had drawn his army revolver and begun a duel with the stranger, shooting him four times and killing him.

The men stood a foot apart and blazed at each other in the darkness. When the duel ended Wanderer fell upon his foe and beat him over the head and shoulders with the butt of his revolver, beat him until the police arrived.

So ended a romance of five years, that began when Ruth was 16 years old and Carl 19.

Man Follows Pair.

The Wanderers have been living with Mrs. Eugenia Johnson, Ruth's mother, since their wedding on Oct. 1, 1919. Last night they went to the Pershing theater. They walked home. Wanderer noticed the stranger in front of Zindt's drug store at Lincoln and Lawrence avenue, but paid no attention to him. The man followed them.

"Ruth went up ahead of me when we reached the house," said Wanderer, telling the story to the police.

"She opened the outer door and I heard her fumbling with the keys to the inner door of the hall. We had some trouble with the lock. I asked her, 'Can't you open it, honey?'

"She laughed.

"'Sure I can,' she said. 'Wait till I turn on the light.'

"And she reached up to pull the little ribbon that switches on the light.

"Just then we heard a man's voice in the outer doorway saying, 'Don't turn on that light.'

"Then he fired twice."

Young Wife Shot Dead.

"I heard my wife say, in a whisper, 'The baby.' I saw her fall. I jerked out my gun, a .45 army revolver, and shot it out with the fellow."

Neighbors told of carrying the lifeless body of the woman up the stairs to the arms of her mother, and of laying her down on the lounge, near which there was a tiny basket, ribboned and laced, which contained tiny garments in pink and blue for the baby that was expected in August.

"How did you happen to be carrying the gun?" Wanderer was asked by Sergt. John Norton of the homicide squad.

"I was held up last December, shot, and robbed of $900. It was my father's money.

"He's a butcher at 2711 North Western avenue. I work for him. I have carried the gun ever since I have been able to get out and around again. I was robbed on my birthday. I was determined that the next time—well, I carried that gun with me all the time."

Card Is Clew to Slayer.

They looked in the pockets of the dead man, trying to find something that would identify him. There was a card ostensibly issued by the John Robinson circus. From this it appeared the holder's name was E. Masters and that he was assigned to "729 dining car, commissary department." There was also a chauffeur's button of union local 906.

He had an army revolver of the same kind and caliber as Wanderer's.

Lieut. Loftus said later the man had been partially identified as a chauffeur for an afternoon newspaper and that his name was either Matson or Watson.

A number of persons summoned by the police viewed the body at Ravenswood hospital, but were unable to identify it.

Husband a War Hero.

Wanderer served three years in the army, most of that time in France, was cited for bravery several times, received the Croix de Guerre and the D.S.C. and was the best pistol shot in his outfit.

Ruth and Carl were to be married four years ago, but he saw that the war was coming and entered the army. He went across as second lieutenant and was promoted to a first lieutenancy. He was demobilized last June—and married Ruth as soon as she could get her trousseau ready.

"No," he said when the police asked him the question, "the man was no old sweetheart. I know there was never any one for Ruth but me."


And this story ends with a song on October 1, 1921:

Chicago Daily Tribune, October 1, 1921


Triple Slayer Goes to His Death Singing.

Carl Wanderer paid on the gallows yesterday morning for the murder of his wife, Ruth, her unborn child, and the "ragged stranger." He went to his death singing. There was no confession of the crime that had shocked the entire community by its brutality unless it was between the lines of the song that in his strident baritone filled the execution chamber:

"Old Gal, old pal; You left me all alone—"

Witnesses had expected that on the scaffold, facing death, he would admit slaying "the only girl he ever had" and the derelict from West Madison street whom he had hired to stage a fake holdup in the vestibule of his home.

But with his arms and legs strapped, the death cap in place and the noose fixed, when the sheriff asked if he had aught to say before sentence of the court was carried out, his only response was:

"Old pal, why don't you Answer me—"

The trap was sprung at 7:19 o'clock. Fifteen minutes later attending physicians pronounced him dead.

So what happened in between these two articles?  How did a hero end up meeting his end at the gallows?
The narrow entrance to the small vestibule. (Oh, I wanted a photo of the vestibule, but I'm not THAT nosy.) Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

The narrow entrance to the small vestibule. (Oh, I wanted a photo of the vestibule, but I'm not THAT nosy.)
Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

Well, from the beginning the police thought that Carl’s story didn’t quite add up.  How is it possible that he could end up in a shootout in a tiny vestibule that barely could fit three people?  And how could two bullets end up in Ruth, three bullets in the bum, and another five shots in the floor or wall, and yet there was not a mark on Wanderer?  Wanderer’s calm, emotionless demeanor when talking about his wife’s death didn’t do anything to quench the suspicions either. It all sounded fishy but Ruth’s family declared their support for Carl – insisting he could not have had anything to do with Ruth’s death.  And they might have dropped the investigation and accepted Carl’s story if not for one little detail that turned a dim light of suspicion to a blinding spotlight. The police were still trying to identify the alleged attacker so they took a close look at the gun that was found beside him.  It had serial numbers on the side and police were able to trace its sale back to an interesting source: Carl Wanderer’s brother-in-law, John Hoffman.  Hoffman had sold it to, another coincidence, Wanderer’s cousin Fred.  Verrrrrrry interesting… At this point, Wanderer was arrested for further questioning. His lawyer threatened habeas corpus if the police did not charge him with a crime so the cops knew that time was running out.  They didn’t have enough physical evidence to convict Wanderer of the murders so they set about giving him the “third degree” in that special Chicago style that is still being used today.  Depriving him of sleep, screaming at him, roughing him up, and subjecting him to hundreds of questions finally broke Wanderer and he confessed that it was he who had killed both his wife and the unknown sucker he lured into the vestibule to pin the crime on. Wanderer met the young man in downtown Chicago – where the bums hung out, at Madison and Halsted.  He was standing in front of a cigar shop - possibly the one shown in the old postcard of the same intersection shown below.  Wanderer offered the man a job driving a truck for a wage he could not refuse.  He then told the “poor boob” (yes, that’s what they called him in the Tribune) to follow him home that night, and when they got to the vestibule, ask him for money.
The intersection of Madison and Halsted circa 1920: where Wanderer found his sucker.

The intersection of Madison and Halsted circa 1920: where Wanderer found his sucker.

Later that night, Ruth and Carl went to a "moving picture" at the Pershing Theater (it's known as the Davis Theater now).
The Pershing Theater as it looked when Ruth and Carl went to it. (Photo by Patty Wetl)

The Pershing Theater as it looked when Ruth and Carl went to it. (Photo by Patty Wetl)

The Pershing Theater, uglified with a black awning in its current incarnation as the Davis Theater.

The Pershing Theater, uglified with a black awning in its current incarnation as the Davis Theater. Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

On the walk home, Wanderer and the “poor boob” exchanged nods at Lawrence and Lincoln and he followed them home and asked Wanderer for the money as they reached the vestibule.  Instead of cash, Wanderer gave him three bullets, and another two in Ruth.  After shooting the “poor boob,” Wanderer smashed his head into the floor relentlessly just to make sure he couldn’t snitch before carrying Ruth into the parlor and beginning The Great Charade.
Where Ruth breathed her last... Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

Where Ruth breathed her last...
Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair

The story of Ruth's death, as told in a recap of the event in the October 6, 1935 issue of the Chicago Tribune is fittingly melodramatic:

Back in the hallway Carl Wanderer knelt down beside his mortally wounded wife. As he did so another woman, Mrs. Eugenia Johnson, mother of Mrs. Wanderer, ran breathlessly into the hallway.

"Ma," said Carl, "there's been a holdup. Ruth is shot."

As Wanderer lifted his wife from the floor several policemen came into the entrance. They helped Wanderer carry the wounded woman upstairs. On the way she spoke to her mother.

"Ma," she said, "is it real?" Then she added dolorously: "O, my knee—and my side—and my baby is dead!"

Gently she was laid on a bed. "My hand is getting cold," she moaned as her mother made frantic efforts to ease her agony. A little later she cried out the single word, "Mamma!" and died.

(Incidentally, here's Ruth's death certificate.) So why exactly did Wanderer kill his wife anyway?  The answer he gave to police is chillingly heartless: “I just thought of killing her – and decided I had to do it quick while I was wanting to or pretty soon I’d lose the idea of doing it… A man’s place is with his wife and I was always at home. I was always kind to her – but I got this Army idea in my head and decided to follow-up on it… See, I was just tired of her. I didn’t want her any more. I killed her so no one else would have her. I never thought of going in the Army until two days before I killed her…” “The thought of killing anybody doesn’t bother me as much as it would the average person. I’ve put a lot of time in my father’s butcher shop; the idea of shedding blood doesn’t offend me much. Besides that, there’s my Army experience. That taught me not to mind killing….” “Now, I want to be hanged. I want to join my wife in death… Her lying in that vestibule after I shot her… haunts me. I wonder if she will forgive me. I loved her too much to let another man have her. I didn’t want her, myself.  It was the Army I wanted.”  (By the way, psychiatrists at the time diagnosed this desire to be in the Army as "latent homosexuality".) Eventually, after lying in cold storage at the morgue for weeks, the “poor boob” was identified as Eddie Ryan by his mother, who hadn’t seen him for 18 years. Wanderer ended up recanting his confession, claiming it was coerced, and was tried for the murder of his wife.  The defense went for the “insanity” approach, but the jury found him sane and sentenced him to 25-years.  This light sentence did not satisfy the prosecution so they immediately began a second trial, for the death of Eddie Ryan.  Again, the defense argued insanity, and again the jury found Wanderer sane.  This time around they sentenced him to the gallows. Somehow, I don’t think Ruth forgave him. Incidentally, I visited Ruth's grave in Graceland Cemetery today to pay my respects.  She's buried beside her parents in the Johnson family plot.


Ruth and her unborn baby lie beside her parents in the Johnson family plot.

Ruth lies beside her parents in the Johnson family plot.  (Photos by The Comtesse DeSpair)

According to his death certificate, Carl Wanderer was buried in "Mt. Rose" (aka Montrose) Cemetery.  However, when I went to stomp on his grave, the man in the office told me they had no record of a Carl Wanderer. "Maybe he was cremated here, but he wasn't buried."  I suppose that's just as well.

Nov 6 2014

The Great Naperville Train Disaster

The Naperville train disaster, as it will forever be known, occurred on April 25, 1946, on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad at Loomis Street in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois.  The Advance Flyer had made an unscheduled stop on the tracks, and was struck by the Exposition Flyer which rounded a curve at 85 mph and was surprised by the train on the tracks.  45 people died, 125 were injured, and the scenes of chaos left a mark on everyone who saw them. We pick up the story with the April 26, 1946 issue of the Chicago Tribune:



100 Passengers Are Injured; Arrest Is Ordered

At least 47 persons were killed and 100 injured yesterday when the crack Burlington railroad train, the Exposition Flyer, crashed at a speed of nearly 75 miles an hour into the rear of the stalled Advance Flyer in Naperville, Du Page county, 28 miles southwest of Chicago.

The Advance Flyer had made an unscheduled stop.  The Exposition Flyer ripped into it exactly 90 seconds later.

Up to midnight 41 bodies - 13 women, two children, and 26 men - had been recovered and rescue workers said that at least six more remained in the wreckage.  Of the injured, however, only 30 were required to stay in hospitals.  Many of these were said to be in critical condition.

Rescuers at work in the wreckage. (Photo from the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection)

Rescuers at work in the wreckage. (Photo from the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection)

Too High Speed Admitted

The wreck was the worst in the Chicago area's history.  Its cause was not immediately ascertained, but several factors were involved.  One was admittedly too high speed, with the flyers so close together.  Another was what might be called the caprice of fate.

The scene of the disaster was one of twisted and gnarled confusion, with huge luxury passenger coaches strewn across torn tracks like abandoned toy trains.  But it was a grim scene, with sudden death its background.

"We were going too fast," admitted W. W. Blaine, 68, of Galesburg, Knox county, veteran engineer of the Exposition Flyer.  He said that he was going 85 miles an hour when he noticed the first of two warning signals, but that altho [sic] he applied his brakes at once he had too little distance to stop in time.

Engineer's Arrest Ordered

A warrant charging Blaine with manslaughter was issued last night by Justice of the Peace Joseph Bopst of Naperville on request of State's Atty. Lee Daniels of Du Page county.  The warrant accused the engineer of "careless and negligent operation of a train" and by so doing causing the death of Albert J. Lane, a passenger.

Both trains were fast diesel powered expresses.  The Advance Flyer, bound for Omaha and Lincoln, Neb., carried nine coaches and 150 to 200 passengers and crew members. The Exposition Flyer, bound for Oakland, Cal., carried 11 coaches and 175 to 200 persons.

The two Burlington trains left the Union station at 12:35 p.m. on separate tracks, but after a few miles rolled into a single center track, with the Advance Flyer in the lead.  They were being operated theoretically as one train, but the Advance Flyer ran on a faster schedule.

The Advance Flyer raced thru Downers Grove at 12:57 p.m., 60 seconds late.  The Exposition Flyer followed about three minutes later. Along this stretch the flyers often speed 80 miles an hour.

About five miles west an unexplained incident - the caprice of fate - occurred.  Something, it might have been a flash of flame or a small rock, shot out from under the speeding Advance Flyer.

First Flyer Halted

Whatever it was, it was enough to disturb the train crew and Engineer A. W. Anderson of Galesburg brought his train to a stop at a point near Loomis st. in Naperville.  Anderson and his crew alighted for an inspection, some suspecting a hotbox.

As the train made its unscheduled stop, the Burlington Line's automatic control system went into operation. A yellow light calling for caution was lighted up 7,784 feet east, and a red light calling for a mandatory stop was turned on 1,100 feet east.

At the same time, James Tangney of Aurora, flagman on the stalled train, ran thru the rear car, jumped off its platform, and called back to curious passengers, "I'm going to try to stop that train behind us."

Fireman Jumps - and Dies

Tangney made no more than a dozen steps before the Exposition Flyer rounded a curve to the east, and hit the straight stretch directly toward the Advance Flyer, its brakes screeching, but its speed showing no appreciable lessening. Tangney signaled futiley, then leaped aside.

"It came fast," said Raymond J. Jaeger, 26, of Burlington, Ia, a wounded marine, who was standing at the rear platform of the standing train. "I watched it horrified. The train came on, bigger and bigger. I saw a man climbing from the engine cab, and start down the ladder. That's all I saw. The next second it hit."

The man he saw climbing down was Curtis H. Crayton of Galesburg, the Exposition Flyer's fireman. He jumped an instant before the crash - and was killed.

The jagged wreckage. (Photo from the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection)

The jagged wreckage. (Photo from the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection)

Engineer Sticks to Post

Engineer Blaine stayed at his brakes and throttle as his train raced on. Then it struck. Its flat, silver nose plowed into the rear steel coach of the Advance Flyer as if the car were a cigar box. For a second the engine appeared to poise in the air, tear thru the roof, then plunge down with terrific force upon the very floor and trucks of the car.

The terrific crash shook the two trains, but almost all damage was confined to the Advance Flyer. The diner just ahead of the telescoped rear coach buckled under the impact and was torn into a heap of shredded steel and debris. The third car from the end was half overturned and the fourth car completely overturned.

Coaches Upset in Crash

In all six coaches were overturned or derailed on the Advance Flyer and five on the Exposition Flyer.

Almost all the dead were killed in the rear coach and diner of the Advance Flyer and most of the injured were passengers in two or three cars ahead.  Half a dozen were injured, however, on the Exposition Express.

The first seven coaches and diner of the Advance Flyer were of streamline, light metal model. The rear coach which caught the main force of the 75 mile an hour crash, was an old type steel Pullman car, considerably heavier than the others.

The sound of the crash roared thru the countryside and was followed by tragic silence. Then came screams and cries for help as surviving passengers, recovering from the first shock, realized what had occurred.

Heroes and heroines turned up in every car, as women and young people, including children, groped in bewilderment for escape.

In the overturned coach, R. H. Barrett and J. N. Nemeth, railroad men from Lincoln, Neb., helped calm frightened women and youngsters and pulled them from under heaps of baggage. "Everybody was quite calm, altho stunned," said Barrett.

In another car, George Whitney of Council Bluffs, Ia., a navy veteran of many battles, helped a score of passengers thru windows to safety.  "He did the work of 10 men," said one witness. "Whitney also helped carry out 17 dead."

Help Swift to Come

Help was swiftly forthcoming to the disaster stricken passengers. Across the tracks, 800 employees [sic] of the Kroehler Furniture Manufacturing company stopped work, and ran out by the hundreds to help. Fifty students at North Central college abandoned classes to serve as little bearers.

Martin Prignitz, a Naperville policeman, ran from his near-by home, saw the tragedy, and promptly turned in calls to near-by towns for aid.  In minutes, doctors, nurses, and ambulances were racing to the scene from Aurora, Hinsdale, Downers Grove, Naperville, and other communities.

Rescue lines were formed. Labor crews with acetylene torches started burning thru twisted metal train plates to reach the injured and dead.

The warehouse of the Kroehler company was converted into a temporary hospital. All injured were taken there for first aid. The more serious cases were speeded to hospitals in Aurora. Three priests, the Reverends Frederick Stenger, Paul Benson, and Charles Koretke, passed among the stricken and administered last sacraments of the Catholic church.

Before long, more doctors and nurses reached the scene on a special Burlington relief train, and 50 more followed under the wing of the Chicago chapter of the Red Cross.

In the midst of the excitement, Engineer Blaine of the Exposition Flyer, crawled without help thru the window of his cab, picked his way thru the shattered remnants of the rear coach of the Advance Flyer, and found his way into the emergency hospital.

Forlorn Passengers Cared For

Passengers, some with relatives missing or injured, and most of their personal belonging inside the wrecked coaches, wandered forlornly around the tracks until, finally, they were marshalled together, and put on special trains back to Chicago.

One by one the bodies of the dead, some mangled beyond recognition, were removed from the last two coaches of the Advance Flyer and taken to funeral chapels in Naperville.  Later three of the injured taken to Aurora hospitals died.

It's always those little personal details that come out after a disaster such as this that leave the most impact.  Like this sad little snippet from same paper:


One of the injured men taken out of the rear car of the Advance Flyer after yesterday's tragic wreck at Naperville was Delbert Boon, a sailor of Luray, Mo.

His first act after reaching St. Charles hospital in Aurora, was to send a telegram to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Boon.  It read, "Come and see me. Was in train accident."

He died 30 minutes later.

And then came further tales from survivors.  (April 26, 1946 Chicago Tribune)

Survivors Tell of Terror Within the Smashed Car

Victims of the Burlington railroad disaster told late yesterday in St. Charles hospital, Aurora, of the terror that gripped passengers trapped in the rear car of the Advance Flyer when it was rammed by the Exposition Flyer at Naperville.

Their initial shock and fright was increased by the fear of fire when acetylene torches dropped sparks into the car as workmen tried to rescue them. Many were caught under twisted seats and wreckage - beneath bodies and luggage.

An aerial view of the crash scene.

An aerial view of the crash scene.

Women Thrown Into Air

Mrs. Irene Cook, 20, was on her way with her mother, Mrs. Florence Whitehouse, from Schenectady, N.Y., to a new home in Kahoka, Mo.

"I was in the rear car of the first train," Mrs. Cook said. "The train [Advance Flyer] was standing. I was seated facing the approaching train, but it all happened so fast, I didn't see it clearly."

"Suddenly I must have been thrown into the air," she said, "because I remember hitting the seat twice with my head and waking up under a pile of people and seats. My mother was buried beneath another seat, a man and a woman.

"There was much screaming and I was as frightened when rescued as when the crash occurred.  The men came with their torches thru the top of the car and sparks fell. We were afraid they would ignite oil in the car.  One of my legs was caught under something, but I pulled it free and went around putting out the sparks as they fell."

Mother Suffers Loss of Leg

"Even before the rescuers started working, we were frightened by the smell of ashes. I was taken out a window, but I haven't yet heard what happened to my mother."

Her mother, whose address was given as 161 Manor av, Cohoes, N.Y., meanwhile had been taken to the Copley hospital in Aurora. She suffered a leg amputation.

Seated near Mrs. Cook and her mother before the crash was Mrs. Anne Hovey, 72, of Kookuk, In., whose legs were fractured by the train's impact.

"Things happened so fast," Mrs. Hovey said, "that I don't remember what happened to me. I was doubled up suddenly and my knees were pushed against my chest."

Couple Saved Thru Window

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Faber of Kookuk, In., also in the rear car, said "everything fell on us" when the trains collided.  They were rescued thru a window. Faber was released from the marine corps two days ago after serving without injury.  He suffered internal injuries in the train crash.

Woman Sees Trains Crash

Miss Rose Hodel, 21, was hanging up clothes for her mother in the yard of their Naperville home when the Advance Flyer drew to a stop on the near-by track.

"It's unusual for the train to stop there unless it has a hotbox or something," Miss Hodel said, "so I stood there and watched the men go around and look at the wheels.

"About that time, there was another train coming and I happened to look up that way.  Suddenly there was a terrific crash and debris flew up in the air."

Women Give Help

For some moments, she said, the scene was clouded by dust, smoke, and flying paper, then she and some of her neighbors hurried to the tracks.

"After the Naperville fire department got there," Miss Hodel said, "we helped to homes in the neighborhood people who could walk. After the ambulances and the doctors got there, we didn't do much because they had nurses, but we did carry water and give what help we could.

"The whole thing looked to me like one mass of piled up tin. Injured persons were lying all around. They had an awful time getting them out of the wreckage.

"There was just a little moaning, because most of those who were hurt were so badly injured they didn't know it, or were unconscious.  It took about an hour and a half to get all the injured out."

Wesley Overman, Caldwell, Idaho, passenger in a middle coach of the Advance Flyer said:

"I saw a baby thrown from its mother's arms when the coach lurched, but an army lieutenant grabbed it and I think it wasn't hurt."

Sol Greenbaum, 27, of St. Louis, Mo., who was injured said he watched the Exposition Flyer pull out of the Union station yards along side the Advance Flying [sic], which he was riding.

"I settled down for a nap, rousing a little when we stopped from some unknown reason," Greenbaum said. "The next thing I knew, I was somersaulting thru the air. I landed on a pile of debris at the end of the car. I pushed my hand thru a window and some one pulled me out."

Wounded Marine a Survivor

The Rev. Leo McNamars, priest at St. Adrian's church, 7000 S. Washtenaw av., appeared at St. Charles hospital searching for Msgr. Bernard J. Sinne of St Mary Magdalene's church, Omaha, Neb., who was scheduled to leave on the noon train. Father McNamara learned later that Msgr. Sinne left on another line.

Marine Pvt. Raymond Jaeger of Burlington, Ia. , who has one arm and one leg in casts as a result of war wounds, and was a passenger in the rear car of the rammed train, survived the wreck with nothing worse than shock and bruises.

"I don't know how I got out alive," he said at the St. Charles hospital.

In the end, the Grand Jury did not find any individual responsible for the crash.  Nine negligent acts were mentioned as contributing factors - from the October 5, 1946 Chicago Tribune:
  1. Stopping of the advance Flyer ... without proper thought of the speeding train only two minutes behind.
  2. Stopping of the Advance Flyer on a curve where visibility for the second train was impaired.
  3. Lack of a proper device or method for signaling the oncoming second train.
  4. Scheduling of the two fast trains only two minutes apart on the same track.
  5. Alleged prevalence of a habit among engineers of disregarding a yellow caution light in an effort to make schedules and lack of criticism by the railroad of this practice.
  6. Too short spacing of block signals so that the second train had only two miles to stop when going 85 miles per hour.
  7. Lack of intercommunication between conductors and engineers on the trains and lack of intercommunication between the trains and control points.
  8. Failure to test the emergency brakes as well as the service brakes before the trip was started.
  9. Operation of both lightweight cars and standard weight cars in the same train which provided unequal braking power when brakes were applied.
It's interesting to note that this crash is one of the main reasons why we don't have high-speed trains in America.  One of the precautions that was put in place was to limit most trains to 79 mph. When I was in Naperville, I had to visit the site of the famous crash - and a train even obliged me by coming towards me down the track.  You can still see the old Kroehler Furniture factory (which closed in 1978) in the background.
Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair. Camera: Holga 120N, Film: Ilford HP5+

Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair. Camera: Holga 120N, Film: Ilford HP5+


Nov 2 2014

Embedded Children

Some of the saddest tragedies are those that involve missing children, where their mourning parents are desperately searching for them.  And missing children before Christmas?  Even sadder. This is what happened to three parents (the married parents of one child and the widowed mother of another) in Naperville, Illinois on December 7, 1952; two young children, playing in a backyard at mid-day on a Sunday, disappeared without a trace.   The search for them would last two months and involve a bloodhound named Bessie, a drained quarry, and numerous false leads, before it finally ended - near where it started.  (Special thanks to Erik Pedersen for telling me about this tragic tale.) Here's the first article from the Chicago Tribune - from the still-hopeful day after the two children disappeared (December 8, 1952):
Image courtesy the Chicago Tribune.

Image courtesy the Chicago Tribune.

200 Searching for Lost Girl, Boy in Suburb

More than 200 persons searched the Naperville area in Du Page county last night for a 3 year old boy and a 6 year old girl who disappeared shortly before noon while they were playing in the boy's backyard.

The search was concentrated around the ice-patched Du Page river, which meanders thru the suburb within a quarter block of the homes of the children and in the Naperville stone quarry, used as a municipal swimming pool, about a half block from their homes.

Cat with Them Returns

A cat that disappeared with the children returned to the Rosenstiel home shortly before midnight.  Police said the cat's return indicated that the lost children were still in the vicinity of their homes, altho [sic] no trace of them was found either near the river or the quarry.

The children are Edward Rosenstiel, 3, son of Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Rosenstiel, 230 S. Water av., and Jean Peterson, 6, daughter of Mrs. Mary Peterson, 234 S. Water av., both of Naperville.

Rosenstiel said he observed his son dressed in a blue snowsuit, and the girl, dressed in a red coat, playing in the Rosenstiel yard at 11:45.  When the parents went out a few minutes later to call the children to Sunday dinner, they were gone.

Girl's Mother Is Widow

Mrs. Peterson, a widow who also has a son, Robert, 8, and Rosenstiel, a shoe store owner, searched the neighborhood diligently for nearly two hours before they notified Chief of Police Edward Otterpohl.

Chief Otterpohl immediately expanded the search.  A call for volunteers was answered by the entire police force, firemen, Boy Scouts, war veterans, and neighbors who came out with flashlights and lanterns to continue the search thru the night.

Police sent to Sauk City, Wis., for a pair of bloodhounds to aid in the search.

The bloodhound traced the children to the quarry on December 9 (from the Chicago Tribune):

Bloodhound Traces Scent of Lost Children to Quarry Edge

Use 5 Boats to Drag Pool for 2 Victims

A bloodhound led 300 searchers for two missing Naperville youngsters to the edge of a stone quarry a half a block from their homes yesterday.  State police and townspeople in five boats began systematically dragging the quarry, which is approximately 300 feet square and 80 to 90 feet deep in some places.

Bessie, 8 year old female bloodhound owned by Roy Case of Sauk City, Wis., was given a scent from a gym shoe of Jean Petersen, 6, daughter of Mrs. Mary Petersen, 234 Water av., Naperville, one of the missing children.  The dog led searchers to the edge of the quarry three times.

River Searched in Vain

Lt. Donald Barnes of the Elgin state police district, who is in charge of the search, said a search of the Du Page river, which flows near the quarry, failed earlier yesterday to reveal a clew [sic] to Jean or Edward Rostenstiel, 3, son of Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Rosenstiel, 230 Water av., Naperville, who were last seen shortly before noon Sunday playing in the boy's backyard.

A small dam was opened to allow river water to flow into a spillway until searchers were able to see bottom in most parts of the river.

Edward Otterpohl, chief of Naperville police, said a diver from a Chicago salvage company had been hired to search the quarry and would begin diving at dawn today.

Apples Found in Quarry

As national guardsmen, veterans, and Boy Scouts joined in the search, 100 children attended mass yesterday in SS Peter and Paul church to pray for the safe return of the missing children.

Barnes said the spot the bloodhound led searchers to is on the opposite side of the quarry from the homes of the two children and is the shallowest portion of the quarry which is used as a municipal swimming pool.

Barnes said two apples with teeth marks in them were found floating in the quarry and a piece of a Christmas tree ornament was found near the shore.  He said the objects were shown to the parents but they were unable to identify the ornament nor would they attempt to identify the teeth marks.

The police decided they needed to drain the quarry that Bessie had led them to.  This excerpt is from the December 13, 1952 Chicago Tribune.

Pumping of water from the Naperville quarry, which is being drained in a search for two children, was slowed yesterday as the water level was lowered 22 feet, forcing rescue workers to seek lower locations for gasoline pumps to make them effective.

Marshall N. Erb, who is in charge of drainage, said an attempt will be made to cut ledges in the side of the quarry to reinstall the gasoline pumps.  Also slowing the drainage, he said, is seepage from another quarry and the river which, he said, amounts to 25 per cent of the water pumped out.

Jean Petersen, 6, and Edward Rosenstiel, 3, are the youngsters who disappeared Sunday afternoon from the Rosenstiel back yard at 230 S. Water av., half a block from the quarry.

Police Chief Philip J. Hels of Maywood said 50 members of the Illinois police reserves have volunteered to assemble at the scene tomorrow to handle the crowds of curious expected to gather.  They also will relieve for a day the small force of Naperville, sherif's [sic] and state policemen who have been keeping the vigil since Monday.

However, despite all this effort, the children weren't found in the quarry.  At this point, the investigation starts to get strange.  This is from the December 19, 1952 issue of the Chicago Tribune.


Sex Offender Sought for Questioning

Two leads in the mysterious disappearance of Jean Petersen, 6, and Edward Rosenstiel, 3, of Naperville, on Dec. 7 collapsed under investigation last night.

One was the finding of a red jacket similar to a garment worn by the Petersen child when last seen.  The jacket was found in the yard of the home of John J. Racz in route 59, two miles south of West Chicago, in Du Page county.

It was believed that the jacket had been dragged into the yard by Racz's Irish setter after the dog supposedly found it in the Du Page river, about a block from the Racz home.  Racz threw the jacket into a refuse burner before realizing it might be important in the investigation.

Remnants Disprove Theory

However, the remnants were sufficient for the girl's mother to establish it was not the garment worn by her daughter.

The second lead which collapsed was furnished by Ernest Muehle, 61, of 3638 S. Wolcott av., a machinist, who said he believed the children were in the house of a relative of one of the missing tots, south of Naperville.

Muehle admitted under questioning that he knew nothing of the children's families or whereabouts and that he had used a "divining rod" formula to arrive at his theory as to where they could be found.

Seek Chicago Sex Offender

Naperville and Du Page county authorities were seeking a N. Clark st. sex offender for questioning in connection with the mystery, but no information was given on his possible connection with the case.  His name was not disclosed.

Searchers combed brush piles and other places of concealment yesterday in the vicinity of the children's homes and near two large quarries which were emptied of millions of gallons of water in an unsuccessful search for the children.  No new clews [sic] were found.

More than 1,500 volunteers and policemen will turn out tomorrow to search the countryside for the children.

Despite this huge community-wide search, the parents of Jean and Eddie spent a solemn Christmas staring at presents and wondering if they would ever be opened.  But the efforts of the police were considerable.  Just before Christmas, the Naperville police went far out of their way in their search.  From the December 22, 1952 issue of the Chicago Tribune:

Naperville police prepared last night to make a search around Tipton, Ia., for Jean Petersen, 6, and Edward Rosenstiel, 3, Naperville children, who have been missing since Dec. 7.

The search was based on information from Walter Revoir, 9310 Harlem av., Dearborn Heights, near Oak Lawn, a lumber truck driver.  Revoir reported that on Dec. 8 he saw two children who fitted descriptions of the missing youngsters.

He said they were riding with a man in a green, International semi-trailer cattle truck which stopped at a lunchroom at U.S. highways 30 and 51, 30 miles west of Naperville.  The truck bore Iowa license plates and "Tipton, Ia.," was painted on the front of the trailer. Revoir said the boy was about 3 to 5 and the girl, who was wearing "something red," a little older.

Revoir said the man was about 30, 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed about 165.  After buying a sackful of sandwiches, the man drove west in highway 30.

Sherif [sic]  C. R. Willey of Tipton said he would undertake a search among cattle truck drivers in the Tipton area in an effort to find the man described by Revoir.

The police gave the family members lie detector tests, which they passed, and the case went cold... until it turned to ice on February 3, 1952 when the mystery was finally revealed... only a few feet from where it started.  From the Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1952:

Probe River Deaths of Naperville Children


Faces Visible in Icy Shallows

Du Page county authorities last night were investigating the deaths of two Naperville children whose bodies were found earlier in the day in the ice coated Du Page river 59 days after the children disappeared.  The discoveries were made less than a block from their homes, ending a widespread search in which volunteer workers had even emptied an abandoned quarry.

The children were Jean Peterson, 6, and Edward Rosenstiel, 3, who vanished from the boy's back yard shortly before noon on Dec. 7, a Sunday.

Discovery of the bodies left many questions unanswered.  Primarily, the inquiry centered on the fact that the youngsters were found in relatively shallow water that had been searched thoroly. [sic]  Mayor Charles Wellner, firemen, policemen, and citizens who aided in the search said they were unable to see how the bodies could have been missed.

Promises Thoro Inquiry

An inquest was opened late in the afternoon in the undertaking establishment at 44 S. Mill st., Naperville.  Deputy Coroner Joseph Dieter swore in a jury of six business and professional men, Ted Miller, 25 N. Mill st., a painting contractor, was named foreman and promised a thoro investigation. The inquest was adjourned after identification of the bodies to await results of autopsies and chemical and other tests of vital organs.  The parents were not present.

The body of the girl was found first, at 10:04 a.m. It was discovered by Richard Forrestal, 23, of 803 2d av., Aurora, a lineman for the Public Service Company of Northern Illinois.  He was working on a transformer where Webster st. ends at the river.  As he walked across the river ice, he saw the girl's face under it.

Police removing the body of Edward Rosenstiel.

Police removing the body of Edward Rosenstiel.  (Naperville Sun)

Chop Ice to Get Body

Forrestal called Naperville police.  They responded with firemen.  Timbers were laid on the ice to prevent it from breaking under the men's weight.  The ice was chopped away, and the body taken out.  It was clad just as the girl was when she vanished - in a red coat and red boots.

While officials were gathering to view the girls' body, Reuben Weber, a farmer from the Lemont area who is building a home at 619 S. Webster st. in Naperville, joined crowds on the river bank. As he walked across the ice, at 11:21 a.m., he, too, saw a face under the frozen surface, 56 feet from the spot where the girls' body had been taken out.

Recover Second Victim

His shouts brought police, firemen, and others. Again the timbers were laid, the ice was chopped, and the tiny form of the Rosenstiel boy was taken out. The boy's body was clad in the blue snowsuit he wore when the two youngsters disappeared. On his feet were his white boots. Around his waist was his cowboy belt, still carrying the toy holster he wore.

There they were viewed by Coroner Samuel K. Lewis, Sherif [sic] Rollin Hall, and Edward Otterpohl, chief of police in Naperville.  They said there were no external marks of violence on the bodies, which were in an extremely good state of preservation. There also was no evidence of molestation of any kind, the officials declared.

Immersion Time Undetermined

It was pointed out that the cold water would have helped preserve the bodies, but Coroner Lewis said it was impossible to determine immediately how long the bodies had been in the river.

In an effort to determine definitely whether there were any suspicious circumstances in connection with their deaths, chemical and other tests of the internal organs were ordered by Coroner Lewis.

Among questions to be answered by the analyses, which will not be completed for 10 days to two weeks, are these: Were the youngsters fed anything after their last Sunday morning breakfast at home?  Was drowning the cause of death?  What accounts for the unusual, pink color of the youngsters' skins, a color that often results from carbon monoxide poisoning? How long had they been in the water?

Recalls River Search

Sherif Hall recalled that the river, both above and below a dam just to the west of the area where the bodies were found, had been searched carefully.  After water above the dam was released, ice was hauled away and the river searched by men in hip boots and in boats. The water below the dam, where the bodies were found, was 40 inches deep at the site of the girl's body and 51 inches where the boy's body was found.

Among reasons suggested for the failure to discover the bodies earlier were that they might have been in a deep hole and later risen to the surface; that they might have been caught under the surface by roots of a tree on an island, and that they might have been enmeshed in ragged, sub-surface ice.  Both bodies were found on their backs lying east and west, the direction in which the stream flows at that point.

Mothers Comfort Each Other

The Peterson girl was the daughter of Mrs. Mary Peterson, 234 Water st., Naperville.  She is a widow. The Rosenstiel boy was was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Rosenstiel, 230 Water st. Rosenstiel operates a shoe repair shop.

Both cried, but both seemed numb at the end of the long period of worry.

Rosenstiel sat drinking coffee in the kitchen of his home with a clergyman from Aurora.

"At least we have got an answer," he said. "We prayed hard that the Lord would give us an answer to the disappearance. At last it is over. I know the two children have gone to heaven. They were so good. They will always be with us. They are in the hands of the good Lord.

"We prayed continuously that they would be found alive. Now that they have been found, it still is a relief to know where they are."

Services for the Rosenstiel boy will be held 2 p.m. tomorrow in St. Olaf's Lutheran church, Aurora. Those for the girl had not been arranged pending arrival of relatives from Arizona.

And the next month, the coroner returned a verdict, putting the sad case to a rest.  (Chicago Tribune, March 12, 1952)


Death by drowning was the verdict returned by a Du Page county coroner's jury yesterday at the inquest over two Naperville children who disappeared Dec. 7 and whose bodies were found in the Du Page river near their homes Feb. 23. The children were Edward Rosenstiel, 3, and Jean Peterson, 6. The jurors, headed by Theodore Miller, Naperville painting contractor, said they were convinced the drownings were accidental.  Floyd Rosenstiel, father of one of the children, said he was satisfied with the verdict, and thru Deputy Coroner Joseph Dieter thanked the authorities for their aid in solving the mystery of the childrens' disappearance.

After reading about this sad story, I visited Naperville and photographed the bridge over the river where the children's faces were seen through the ice.  The houses where the children lived are gone, replaced by the Naperville City Hall, but you can look at the Google Maps view of the area and still imagine where the scene unfurled.
The bridge that marks the location where the children's bodies were found on February 3, 1953.

The bridge that marks the location where the children's bodies were found on February 3, 1952. (Camera: Holga 120N, Ilford HP5+ film)

The houses where the children lived are gone, but the quarry remains.

The houses where the children lived are gone, but the quarry remains.

Mar 16 2014

Despondency On Ellis Avenue

It's worth remembering that America's current struggle with unemployment and the lack of socialized medicine was an even BIGGER problem in the pre-Social Security, pre-Medicare years of the Great Depression.  And as we know, desperation leads to some very tragic decisions.  Take the decision made by Herman Marcus on December 11, 1933.


Parent Despondent Over Cost of Medical Care.

Harris Marcus, an unemployed tailor, shot his ailing son, Herman, yesterday in their home at 6130 Ellis avenue, and then fatally wounded himself with the same weapon.


The apartment building at 6130 S. Ellis Avenue where the Marcus family resided.

Marcus had been brooding over his own unemployment and the fact that expenditures for the son's medical care made it difficult to provide for other members of the family, police were told.  Members of the family said, however, that the father's worries were largely imaginary, since another son and a son-in-law, both living in the household, are employed and contributing to the family budget.

Marcus, who was 57 years old, and the son, who is 21, were both taken to the Woodlawn hospital.  The father's death occurred several hours later from a bullet wound in the right temple.  Physicians believe Herman will live, although a bullet from his father's revolver is imbedded in the mastoid area near his right ear.

Staggers from Apartment.

Herman was able to give a statement to police shortly after he was given first aid.  He had staggered out of the apartment and was seated on a stair landing when a detective squad, summoned by neighbors, reached the building.  He suffers from an intestinal ailment which made it impossible for him to find work.  The son said his father upbraided him for not working and because the expense of his care was "taking bread from the mouths" of other members of the family.

"My father threatened several times to commit suicide," Herman told police.  "Just yesterday he made the threat that we both would jump in the lake."

"Are you working?" the youth was asked.

"No," he replied.  "I have been sick and haven't worked for three or four years.  In fact, I've never worked.  This was the cause of our many arguments."

Mother and Sister Out.

Herman was reading in the front room of the home when his father shot him.  His mother, Mrs. Anna Marcus, and his sister, Rosalind, had gone to a motion picture show.  A brother, Louis, who is a druggist and lives with the family, and a married sister, Mrs. Samuel Fenk, wife of an osteopath, and her child, who live in the same apartment, were also absent.

Marcus had arrived home about 45 minutes before the shooting, the son said.  He made no remark to his son before shooting him, Herman said, and the youth was unable to remember whether his father had said anything afterward.

Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 11, 1933

The next day another wee article appeared relating to the shooting, which corrected Harris' age as well:

Father Who Shot Son and Killed Self Held Insane

A coroner's jurty found yesterday that Harris Marcus, 87 years old, 6130 Ellis avenue, who shot his ailing son, Herman, 21 years old, on Sunday night and then ended his own life, acted while temporarily insane.  An older son, Louis, told the jury that his father had been unbalanced since an automobile accident three years ago.  Herman, who was shot in the head, probably will recover, it was said yesterday at the Woodlawn hospital

Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 12, 1933

I'm not sure if Herman survived since I couldn't find any additional information on him after this, but I trust that he did.

Aug 12 2013

Explosion On Juneway

The house at 1427 W. Juneway Terrace is a solid-looking, attractive brick house along a pleasant tree-lined street in one of the better stretches of the far northeast Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. It was built in 1920 and is now mostly obscured from view from the street by a large tree growing in the sidewalk easement. It's hard to believe, looking at the sturdy shape of the house today, that it was once the site of a devastating explosion that ripped the east wall off the house and left a woman burned to death.
1427 W. Juneway Terrace. (Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

1427 W. Juneway Terrace. (Photo by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

Rogers Park Oil Blast Kills Wife; 1 Hurt

Mrs. Lilian Herbert, 62 years old, was burned to death yesterday afternoon by an explosion of fuel oil which blew out one wall of her home at 1427 Juneway terrace, just west of Sheridan road, in Rogers Park. Her brother, John Coleman, 60 years old, who also lived there, was severely burned in his efforts to save her. Mrs. Herbert was the wife of William Albert Herbert, head of the wholesale lumber company bearing his name and vice president of the Marquette Box and Lumber company. He was at the Illinois Athletic club at the time of the tragedy.

Tells Story of Explosion.

Coleman was shaving in a basement lavatory, he told police from his bed in the St. Francis hospital, Evanston, where he was taken. Mrs. Herbert had gone to the basement to supervise delivery of fuel for an oil burner from a tank truck parked in front of the house. "There was a terrific explosion which hurled me against the washroom wall, stunning me momentarily," said Coleman. "Bricks and plaster were falling everywhere. I could smell smoke and oil fumes, and saw flames licking through the mass of debris near the oil tank. "I heard my sister cry, 'Jack! Jack! Help me.' I tried to climb over the wreckage to save her, but the flames drove me back."

Tries Again to Enter Fire.

Coleman then rushed up the basement stairs, intending to wrap his face in a towel and brave the fire again. He was on the point of racing again into the basement, by then a mass of flames, when a neighbor restrained him. The explosion was of such force that the west wall of the story and a half house collapsed. The east wall bulged out. The blast apparently occurred in a fifty gallon oil tank inside the basement. Two other fifty gallon tanks under the front lawn burst from the force of the explosion, raising the sod above them. The three tanks were connected as a "battery" to supply fuel to the home. "My sister always used a measuring stick to learn how much fuel was left in the feed tank," Coleman said. "She would light a match to read the measuring stick. Her husband and I had warned her not to do this because of the danger of igniting fumes rising from the open oil tank. Recently we strung up an electric light near the tank."

Firemen Unable To Enter.

Firemen under Chief Raymond J. Howe, who extinguished the fire, said they found Mrs. Herbert's charred body near the oil tank. Because they were not equipped with gas masks they were unable to enter the basement until the fire was out because of the smoke and oil fumes. The explosions sent a puff of smoke, like a shell burst, from the chimney. Two motorists saw the smoke cloud and heard the explosion, but when they reached the scene the basement was in flames. Damage to the house was estimated at $1,000. An inquest will be held this morning at the undertaking chapel at 929 Belmont avenue. (Chicago Daily Tribune, February 9, 1937) Scene of the ExplosionBrother & Husband
An article from February 10th gives a little follow-up, and also puts a mysterious twist on the story:


Lieut. Frank Gill of the Rogers Park police said yesterday he would question John Coleman, 50 years old, about the reported disappearance of a box containing valuable papers and "thousands of dollars" from the blast wrecked home of Coleman's brother-in-law, William Herbert. Herbert told of the missing box at an inquest yesterday morning into the death of his wife, Lillian, 62 years old, who was killed last Monday when a fuel oil explosion wrecked the Herbert home at 1427 Juneway terrace. Coleman, a brother of Mrs. Herbert, was severely burned in trying to enter the basement where his sister was trapped. Lieut. Gill awaited permission of authorities at St. Francis hospital to question Coleman. The money had been cached in the wrecked basement and Lieut. Gill said Coleman might know whether there had been any change in the hiding place. The coroner's jury returned a verdict of accidental death as the result of the explosion of an oil fuel tank. After the inquest Herbert, a wholesale lumber dealer,vainly searched the wreckage for the box.
So the question becomes... Is John Coleman a heroic attempted rescuer, or a thief??? On February 11, 1937, we have our answer:


Payoff on Burned Bits Hinges on Analysis.

In the skilled hands of the chemists of the United States secret service lies the chance of William Herbert, a wholesale lumber dealer, to recover a fortune - believed to be $60,000 - which was lost last Monday in an explosion and fire at his home, 1427 Juneway terrace. Charred fragments of the money were found yesterday in the wreckage of the home. The currency had been hidden in a small metal box under the basement rafters by the lumberman's wife, Mrs. Lilian Herbert, 62 years old, who was killed in the explosion.

Policeman Finds Bills.

Policeman Michael Kelly of the Rogers Park station, who with five other police had been sifting the ruins since the tragedy, found the charred bills. "It was all in a pile," he said, "about three feet south of directly below the place pointed out to me as the cache where the money had been hidden. The metal box was blown apart by the explosion, and we picked it up in several sections near by." Capt. Charles Essig of the Rogers Park station said he had been told the fortune included twenty $1,000 bills, with the rest of the money in hundreds, twenties, tens, and fives. When he examined the fragments at the police station, he said, he saw pieces of many $100 bills and bills of smaller denomination, but no parts of any $1,000 bills.

Advised to Seek Redemption.

All the fragments were turned over to Herbert, who was advised to take them to the federal courthouse to apply for redemption of the money. Capt. Thomas J. Callaghan of the United States secret service said Herbert did not call on him, and at the fiscal agency of the federal reserve bank it was said he had not appeared there. Herbert is staying temporarily at the Illinois Athletic club, where a friend reported last night that no efforts had been made to piece together any of the fragments. Under federal law if a portion of a burned bill less than three-fifths the size of the original, but more than two-fifths, is tendered to the treasury department, it will be redeemed at half its face value if it is proved the rest of the bill has been destroyed. In the Herbert case police said the serial numbers of the bills had been registered at a bank by Mrs. Herbert. Capt. Callaghan of the secret service said such registration might be accepted by the treasury department as evidence but not as proof of ownership of the money.

Candle Causes Explosion.

The explosion which caused the death of Mrs. Herbert occurred when she went to the basement carrying a lighted candle, to tend the oil furnace. Gas from an oil leak was ignited by the candle. The fire quickly exploded a can containing cleaning fluid. Herbert told the police his wife had been hiding money under the rafters for five or six years, using funds received from the liquidation of mortgages and other securities. She did not trust banks and would not rent a safe deposit box, he said.
Oh, but just before you feel too bad about poor Herbert possibly losing his money, check out the headline after his death in 1955:


Stocks with an estimated value of $1,316,000 were found yesterday in the safe deposit box of the late William A. Herbert, wholesale lumber dealer, by examiners for the state treasurer's office. Herbert died May 27 in Wesley Memorial hospital at the age of 88. His attorney, Charles J. Morgan, said the total estate probably will be in the neighborhood of $1,500,000. A will to be filed for probate next week creates a trust benefiting friends and relatives, Morgan said. Herbert's wife, Lillian, perished in a fire in their home at 1427 Juneway ter. in 1937. The blaze destroyed $60,000 in currency she kept in a metal box under basement rafters. At the time, Herbert told authorities his wife distrusted banks. (Chicago Daily Tribune, June 3, 1955)
To put these dollar amounts in 2013 perspective: Damage to the house = $1,000 (1937) = $16,215.56 (2013) Amount of money in the box in the basement = $60,000 (1937) = $972,933.33 (2013) Amount of stocks in Herbert's safe deposit box = $1,316,000 (1937) = $21,339,671.11 (2013) Herbert's net worth = $1,500,000 (1937) = $24,323,333.33 I can't help but wonder why he was living in such a humble neighborhood with that kind of wealth!

Aug 12 2013

Puppy Love Gone Bad

When I started working on this blog, I did a cursory search of my address to see if anything tragic had occurred here.  Sadly, nothing of note turned up.  I did, however, find that an extraordinary tragedy had occurred in the building next door: a murder-suicide committed by a lovelorn teenager, followed by an accidental re-enactment of the crime on the same day by another teenager a couple of miles away.  Here's the amazing story, as told by the Chicago Daily Tribune on December 1, 1931.


School Pupils Figure in Two Gun Tragedies

Thwarted in a "puppy love" affair, Henry Sio, 16 years old, 4186 Elston avenue, a student in the Roosevelt High school, early yesterday shot and killed his 12 year old sweetheart, Ruth Wicklund, as she was on her way to the Belding elementary school.  He then raced to his home and, with a single shot, committed suicide. Last night another 16 year old Roosevelt High school student, Joseph T. Wilson, 2537 Argyle street, reenacted the tragedy in which a school mate had figured.  Facing him were Constance Trohatos, 15 years old, and her sister, Cleo, 17, of 2425 Eastwood avenue, also students at the Roosevelt High. As young Wilson reenacted the shooting he snapped the trigger of a supposedly empty revolver.  Constance slumped into her chair dead, a bullet in her brain.

 First Tragedy Described.

The background of yesterday's first tragedy lay in the parental objection to the juvenile courtship by young Sio of the Wicklund girl.  Both resided in the same building, and frequently Sio accompanied her to school.  Recently their affair was ordered stopped.  Yesterday the Wicklund girl left her home as usual.  At Berteau and Springfield avenues Sio halted her.  He drew a revolver and fired, as she pleaded with him not to shoot. His own death followed shortly afterward.
A contemporary view of the apartment building at 4186 Elston avenue where both Ruth Wicklund and Henry Sio resided in 1931. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

A contemporary view of the apartment building at 4186 Elston avenue where both Ruth Wicklund and Henry Sio resided in 1931.  (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

A modern view of the intersection of Springfield and Berteau avenues - where Henry Sio fatally wounded Ruth Wicklund. I tried to get ahold of police records indicating precisely where Ruth fell, but was unsuccessful. Ruth would have been walking to this intersection in front of the building shown (which is not the building she and Henry resided in), in a rightward direction, in order to head towards Belding school. Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.

A modern view of the intersection of Springfield and Berteau avenues - where Henry Sio fatally wounded Ruth Wicklund. I tried to locate police records indicating precisely where Ruth fell, but was unsuccessful. Ruth would have been walking to this intersection in front of the building shown (which is not the building she and Henry resided in), in a  left to right direction, in order to head towards Belding school.  (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

News of the shooting became the main topic of hundreds of students at the Roosevelt High school, where Sio was well known.  It remained as fresh news last night.  Among the few, however, who knew nothing of the double death was Constance Trohatos.  She had played hookey.

Gather in Boy's Home.

Last night she and Cleo left home for a neighborhood library.  They recollected that young Wilson possessed a number of entertaining books and called at his home.  They sat in the living room, discussing literature, when Wilson mentioned the Sio-Wicklund tragedy.  Constance expressed surprise, saying she had not heard of it, and laughingly remarking she "was glad she had played hookey, or she might have been shot." Wilson excused himself and left the room.  He reappeared a few moments later carrying a revolver. "This is loaded with wooden bullets, so don't be afraid," he reassured, smiling.  He broke the weapon and extracted a wooden cartridge.  As he displayed the weapon, he described the suicide of Sio and the killing of his sweetheart.  He inspected the gun, and sprang suddenly to where Cleo was sitting.  He pressed the gun to her head.

Presses Gun to Head.

"See?" he exclaimed, as he pressed the trigger.  There was a harmless snap. "How would you like to be shot?" he asked, jokingly, as he walked over to Constance.  She accepted the threat in fun and laughed.  Wilson stepped up to her, placed the revolver against her temple, and pressed the trigger.  Again there was a harmless snap.  He pressed the trigger a second time.  There was a sharp explosion.  Constance fell over dead. Cleo screamed.  Wilson almost collapsed, but holstered himself sufficiently to summon police.  Lieut.  John O'Brien of the Summerdale station responded.  He took the boy and Cleo to the station, and after questioning them said the killing was doubtless an accident in which the supposedly "empty" gun was loaded.  The basement of the Wilson home was searched, and another revolver, a rifle and a knife were found.  Wilson said he had a flair for military things, and that he formerly attended the Morgan Park military academy.  At the time of the shooting, he wore a military uniform.  He was held last night for the inquest.
Contemporary view of the house at 2425 Eastwood avenue where 15-year-old Cleo Trohatos was accidentally slain in a re-enactment of the Sio-Wicklund shooting by her friend, 16-year-old Joseph T. Wilson. (Photograph by The Comtesse Despair.)

Contemporary view of the house at 2425 Eastwood avenue where 15-year-old Cleo Trohatos was accidentally slain in a re-enactment of the Sio-Wicklund shooting by her friend, 16-year-old Joseph T. Wilson. (Photograph by The Comtesse Despair.)

While the shooting of Constance was unmotivated, the killing of the Wicklund girl had a direct inspiration, police said, and that of thwarted love.  When police found young Sio in his den, in the basement of the building, he was unconscious.  The revolver lay beside him, and not far away was a postcard on which he had written: "I'm sorry."  In one hand he clutched a tan glove, once owned by his sweetheart.  On his wrist was her bracelet. Scattered in the den were books, magazines and odds and ends of a boy's workshop.  Sio, detectives were told, aspired to be a scientist or an inventor.  In a small chest investigators found letters written by the Wicklund girl, chiding against his jealousy and protesting her love for him.  A diary also was found, containing mute scrawling of his jealousy, and filled with entries the sense of which was: "The time has come for a showdown."
The entrance to Henry Sio's basement apartment is seen on the far left of this contemporary image. The windows seen on the bottom corner of this shot were Sio's apartment. He was found dead from a self-inflicted bullet to the brain in the den inside. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

The entrance to Henry Sio's basement apartment is seen on the far left of this contemporary image. The windows seen on the bottom corner of this shot were Sio's apartment. He was found dead from a self-inflicted bullet to the brain in the den inside. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

Mrs. Karin Wicklund, mother of Ruth, told police she had asked Sio's father, Matthew, a barber, to stop his son's wooing of her daughter.  The father said he had so notified Henry. A coroner's jury late yesterday returned a verdict that young Sio had murdered the Wicklund girl and then committed suicide.  The motive officially designated was "jealousy and puppy love."
Photographs featured in the December 1, 1931 Chicago Daily Tribune. (Reproduced without permission for personal use only.)

Photographs featured in the December 1, 1931 Chicago Daily Tribune.
(Reproduced without permission for personal use only.)

  Follow-up article, Chicago Daily Tribune, December 3, 1931:


Two grief stricken families yesterday made funeral preparations for Ruth Wicklund, 12 years old, and Constance Trohatos, 15 years old.  There was gloom at Belding grade school and the Roosevelt High school, where the girls had been pupils. Both the girls were shot to death on Monday.  Ruth, a Belding pupil, was slain early in the morning by Henry Sio, 16 years old, a student of the Roosevelt High school, who then shot and killed himself.  Constance was accidentally killed in the evening when Joseph Wilson, 16 years old, tried to show how Ruth was shot.  Constance and Joseph were Roosevelt High school students. Yesterday Young Wilson was exonerated by a coroner's inquest.  Deputy Coroner James A. Gleason, however, directed that he be placed in the custody of the Juvenile court for one year during which he will make weekly reports.  The official verdict to the jury was that Constance was killed accidentally. At the Belding school Principal Ida M. Tregellas and Miss Katherine Mahon, Ruth Wicklund's teacher, said they would send flowers for the girl's funeral.  The children in Ruth's room contributed nickels and dimes tot he flower fund. Friends of both Ruth and Constance planned to attend the funerals.  The services for Ruth will be held at 2 o'clock today from a chapel at 3918 Irving Park boulevard, with burial at the Irving Park Boulevard cemetery.  Funeral arrangements for Constance have not been completed.  Ruth lived at 4186 Elston avenue, and Constance at 2425 Eastwood avenue.
The Cooney Funeral Home, 3918 Irving Park boulevard, where the funeral services were held for Ruth Wicklund on December 3, 1931. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

The Cooney Funeral Home, 3918 Irving Park boulevard, where the funeral services were held for Ruth Wicklund on December 3, 1931. (Photograph by The Comtesse DeSpair.)

Funeral notice, Chicago Daily Tribune, December 3, 1931:


Funeral services for Ruth Wicklund, 12 years old, 4186 Elston avenue, a pupil of the Belding grade school, who was shot and killed by Henry Sio, 16 years old, of the same address, were held yesterday at the chapel at 3918 Irving Park boulevard.  Sio, the girl's suitor, also killed himself.  Hundreds of friends of the girl attended the services.  Burial was in Irving Park Boulevard cemetery. Services for Constance Trohatos, 15 years old, a pupil at the Roosevelt High school, who was killed by Joseph Wilson, 16 years old, when the latter attempted to show how Ruth was shot, will be held today at noon from St. James Orthodox church, 2727 Winona street.  Burial will be in the Elmwood cemetery.
  Comtesse Note:  One of these days, I hope to track down the graves of these three tragic youths and add images of the gravestones to the blog.  

Jun 22 2013

Drama at the Esquire Motel

The Esquire Motel is a rare survivor of a simpler era - a time when operators still worked switchboards to connect you to your call and simply having a television in a motel room was a symbol of grandeur!  This marvelous relic was built in 1959 near the intersection of Elston and Milwaukee Avenues in the far northwest corner of Chicago and has provided shelter for untold minions of wayward travelers entering and leaving the city limits over the years.  It proved a decidedly dramatic location for a distraught middle-aged optometrist and his mistress in 1969.

Esquire Motel Sign
Esquire Motel
Holga 120N, Fuji Velvia 50 film.

Optometrist Found Shot to Death in Room

A Chicago optometrist was found dead of a gunshot wound in the head and a woman near death from an overdose of barbiturates yesterday in a room at the Esquire motel, 6145 Elston St.
Police said Dr. K. Lester Greenberg, 49, of 2501 Touhy av., had apparently committed suicide and Mrs. Margarita S. Steinfeld, 38, of 6117 N. Kedzie av., had apparently attempted to take her own life.
Sister Finds Body
The body of Dr. Greenberg was found at 9:45 a.m. by his sister, Mrs. Helen Shoub, 7547 N. Maplewood av., who told police she got a phone call from an unidentified man who reported her brother could be found at the motel.
The motel told police that Dr. Greenberg registered there at 1 p.m. Wednesday under the name J. Harris, and that he was alone at the time.
Dr. Greenberg was taken to Resurrection hospital, where he was pronounced dead.  Mrs. Steinfeld, a north side beauty shop operator, was reported in critical condition at the same hospital.
Find Two Pistols
Police said that a .45 caliber automatic pistol was found on the bed beside Dr. Greenberg.  No notes were found in the motel room.  A .25 caliber automatic pistol, which police said was stolen, also was found in the room.
Dr. Greenberg had been employed for six years at the Shaw Brothers company, a jewelry and appliance store at 19 W. Van Buren st.  Store officials told police he was off work Wednesday and that when he did not show up for work yesterday they tried unsuccessfully to reach him by phone.
Police said Dr. Greenberg is survived by his wife, Hazel.  Mrs. Steinfeld, married and the mother of a 13-year-old son, is the owner of Marge's beauty salon at 4641 N. Kedzie av.
(Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1969)

Jun 21 2013

Luck Runs Out At The Bellham Apts.

The Bellham Apartments (4100-4106 N. Hamlin Ave.) is a 3-story 28-unit apartment building in Chicago's Northwest West Walker neighborhood built in 1927.
Pentax K1000, Fuji Neopan 1600
  Children have had both good and bad luck here over the years.  In 1956, little Lorraine Durham was a very lucky girl:

Child Falls 3 Floors and Lands Uninjured

A physician reported yesterday that Lorraine Durham, 23 months, or 2752 Lincoln av., apparently suffered no serious injury when she fell from a third floor window of the home of her grandmother, Mrs. Mabel Durham, at 4100 N. Hamlin av.  The child's fall was broken when she struck the head and shoulders of Judy Zorehkey, 14, also of 4100 N. Hamlin, who was not injured.
(Chicago Daily Tribune, May 13, 1956)
Bellham Apartments Front Doorway
Holga 120N, Tri-X
  However, two years later, luck ran out for little Donald Schroeder:


A 2 year old boy was found strangled yesterday by a guard rope which his father had installed to keep him from falling from his bunk bed in their home at 4100 N. Hamlin av. Donald Schroeder was found on his knees beside the bed with his head caught below the edge of the mattress.  The guard rope was caught below his chin.  The child's mother, Nancy, 27, summoned a physician, who pronounced the boy dead. The boy's father, John, 31, told police he installed the rope after the boy had fallen several times.  The boy's sister, Caryn, 3, was asleep in the upper bunk bed and a brother, Cary, 1, was in a crib in the same room.
(Chicago Daily Tribune, January 29, 1958)