He’s Alive! Alive!

alive headline

March 1, 1922

Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.           W. Somerset Maugham

karloff

No, the title of this tale doesn’t refer to the 1931 film version of Frankenstein; but rather to the experiences of Harold E. Roy, DDS of New York.

Dr. Roy had been canoeing in the Hudson River during March of 1921, when he mysteriously disappeared.canoes  Broken bits of his canoe had been recovered, but there was no sign of the dentist, and it was assumed that he had drowned. Mrs. Roy struggled to adjust to the loss of her husband, but the grieving widow found it impossible to continue living in New York – reminders of her husband were simply too painful, so she moved out to Los Angeles to stay with relatives.

Nearly a full year passed when suddenly Dr. Harold Roy, the man whom everyone thought was dead, was miraculously reborn in Kansas City. It was as if a cloud had lifted – he remembered who he was, but had no idea where he was, what he’d been doing, or how much time had elapsed. He looked down at his clothes and found himself in rough workingman’s attire.  He emptied his pockets and discovered some Canadian money.  When he finally looked at a calendar, he saw that he’d lost an entire year of his life!

mark twainThen came the biggest shock of all – he found that he’d been reported dead!  The same thing had happened to Mark Twain in 1897 when it was erroneously reported that he had succumbed to an illness in London. Twain wrote to a friend and told him that: “…the report of my death was an exaggeration.”  

Dr. Roy wrote to the Swathmore Alumni Association President, David Dwight Rowlands of Sheboygan, Wisconsin and said:  “Dear Dave: Sit down here before I knock you down with the news I am writing you. This is neither a ghost, nor story writing, but my own hand; just me – Harold E. Roy, Swarthmore, ’09."

The dentist had a fairly recent scar on his head, and pain in his right temple, but otherwise seemed to be none the worse for whatever he’d gone through in the year that he’d spent as a dead man. Roy went on to tell his friend Dave that since he had regained his senses and returned to life, he had telegraphed relatives and located his wife at her new home at 317 South Olive Street in Los Angeles. Dr. and Mrs. Roy had been reunited, and the couple was happy to be together again.

However, while Dr. Roy was speedily recovering from his ordeal, poor Mrs. Roy found it difficult to adjust tovillagers her spouse’s unprecedented resurrection. Perhaps it was the strain of being constantly on the lookout for torch-wielding villagers. 

 

The Game is Afoot

game afoot headline

On the afternoon of August 21, 1924, residents of 328 Clay Street were terror stricken by weird noises emanating from a room on the second floor of the building. There were scuffling sounds and urgent whisperings – all of which sounded ominous enough to draw the attention of several residents in adjacent rooms. A few of the braver souls crept along the corridor until they were near enough to the room to hear voices.

328 Clay Street

A woman cried out “O, Henry! You wouldn’t do that! Oh, no! No! No! Henry, For God’s sake!” The woman then emitted a blood-curdling shriek which ended in a choking moan. The eavesdroppers shuddered.

 

The deep guttural voice of a man snarled “You lied, you she-devil. You lied and lied, but if I swing into hell for it, you’ll never leave here to lie again.”

 

As if mortally wounded, the woman wailed one last time. The hallway Sherlocks heard the sharp ring of metal a heartbeat later, as though a long steel knife had been flung to the floor.

 

The spooked tenants waited for a few seconds, then rushed to their telephones. Moments later in the captain’s office at Central Police Station, three phones rang in unison. After deciphering the frantic messages, police concluded that each caller was reporting a murder at 328 Clay Street.

 

Officer Voy K. Apt was dispatched immediately. With sirens blaring, the cop raced to the scene.  A group of frightened people waited on the building’s second floor landing, hoping that police would unravel the mystery of the crime committed through a closed door.

 

Revolver in hand, Apt was directed to a room at the rear of the building. He drew a deep breath and then burst through the door. The spectators waited for an all clear signal, but what they heard instead was “Well, I’ll be…!”   Awaiting the armed officer in the death chamber were members of a dramatic club rehearsing a murder scene – using a bread knife.

 

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

no good deed headline

Mrs. Clark, landlady of the rooming house at 421 S. Hill Street, thought she had seen it all. But she hadn’t – not by a long shot.

 

It was May 27, 1905, and Mrs. Clark was tidying up around the place. She may have been reflecting on the odd assortment of lodgers currently in residence, particularly Professor J. Maclane. The so-called professor advertised himself as a spiritualist, and Mrs. Clark and her renters were treated to the nightly spectacle of his devotees floating about the premises, seeking to commune with deceased spirits.

Prof Maclane 

While she mused about the spiritualist fakir, it’s unlikely that she gave any thought at all to Mr. and Mrs. Harry Holley, a pleasant married couple who had moved into the house a few days earlier.  They had been occupying a room on an upper floor, but when the larger room adjacent to them became available, they’d jumped at the chance to rent it. 

 

Because the Holleys were out for the day, the landlady decided to do the couple a favor, and began to move some of their belongings into their new room.  It was probably the last time in her life that Mrs. Clark would act on a generous impulse. When she swung the door open and entered the room, she nearly stepped on an enormous slithering reptile!  Quickly looking around to assess any further danger, she spied another, even larger snake coiled up in a chair across the room. The serpent met her gaze and began to hiss, and that was enough for the landlady. She slammed the door and careened down the stairs, screaming for help.

 

The only lodger who didn’t immediately come out to see what all the ruckus was about was the bogus professor.  When he finally poked his head out of his room, his only comment was “It isn’t a snake, it’s the spirit of a dear departed sister”.  Mrs. Clark didn’t want to hear it. Departed sister or not – all she wanted was to get the snakes out of the house.

 

The panic stricken woman phoned the local precinct house, saying “Send some policemen and a patrol wagon quick, my house is full of snakes!”  To which the jaded desk sergeant replied “Snakes, eh, you say you got’em?”  If she could have done so, the exasperated woman would have reached through the telephone lines and throttled the cop into unconsciousness.  Finally, after what must have seemed like an eternity to the anxious Mrs. Clark, the desk sergeant said that he’d connect her with the police surgeon, Dr. Quint, whom the bluecoat declared was an “…authority on snakes”.

 

Across the crackling telephone wire, Dr. Quint heard someone say “Is that the snake doctor?” Dr. Quint told the shaken woman that he’d been called many things in his time, but never a snake doctor. Mrs. Clark then recounted her tale of serpents, fakirs, and terror – oh my. The good doctor suggested that she simply wait for her snake handling lodgers to return, and then demand that they remove the creatures at once.

 

The Holleys arrived home to find all of the inhabitants of 421 S. Hill Street milling about in the yard, except for Professor Maclane, who was no doubt busy communicating with spirits of the dearly departed.  Mrs. Clark strode up to the couple and demanded that they remove the reptiles from the premises at once. Mr. Holley admitted that there were dozens of serpents sharing his room, but firmly stated that he would do no such thing. He’d paid for the room for one week in advance, and he flatly refused to budge.

 

For the next few days an uneasy silence fell over the Hill Street boarding house.  The residents remained behind locked doors in mortal terror, fearful of every little sound. Mrs. Clark stayed in her room to keep a close watch on her three kittens. She was convinced that the Holleys were plotting to feed the adorable little mousers to the nefarious vipers.

 

We can only presume that the uncomfortable situation resolved itself peaceably, and that neither kittens nor humans were harmed, for there were no further reports of snake activity at the house on Hill Street.

 

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Hotel Melrose 
July 16, 1895

Bertha headline
Miss Bertha Fisher, aged 14, had looked forward to dressing in the latest fashions and attending parties with her friends. Unfortunately for Bertha, her parents had other plans for her future. As strict Salvationists, they thought that she was old enough to don a Salvation Army uniform (which was definitely not Bertha’s notion of a fashion forward frock) and begin trolling the streets of Los Angeles for souls in peril. Bertha preferred saving dance cards, party invitations, and lovely corsages to saving souls, so she ran away with a young man named Mr. White.

Frantic over Bertha’s escapade, the distraught Fishers spent hours haunting the local police station hoping for news of their wayward daughter. Police were on the lookout for the reluctant missionary, but Mrs. Fisher became antsy and enlisted the aid of another Salvationist to help her comb the city for the missing girl.

After Bertha had been gone for nearly two days, Mrs. Fisher and her fellow soldier in God’s army got a tip.  The two dashed to the cop shop where they breathlessly announced to the assembled officers that they “knew where she was at”.  The women had found out that Bertha and Mr. White were occupying room 28 at the Melrose Hotel, and asked Officer Richardson to accompany them to the suspected love nest.
 

The landlady at the Melrose Hotel told Officer Richardson that the young man had engaged a room for his sister, and because she’d had no reason to doubt his veracity, she’d rented it to him.  Mrs. Fisher was doubtless relieved when the landlady went on to say that even though White had rented a room for Bertha, he had never shared it with her. Hotel Melrose

To avoid arrest Bertha reluctantly went home with her mother, but it’s unlikely that their difference of opinion was settled that day. Bertha was heard to remark, “I’d rather go to the Reform School than stay at home if I have to become a Salvation Army lassie”.

Salvation Army lassies 

Bertha may have won the battle with her parents, because this item appeared in the Los Angeles Times on March 7, 1897:   

 society header Bertha party

Party on, Bertha.    

What Goes Up…

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Lincoln Hotel

January 1903

Based upon his Theory of Universal Gravitation, Sir Issac Newton conducted a “thought experiment” that he dubbed Newton’s Cannonball.  In his experiment, Newton demonstrated that in most cases what goes up, must come down – unless the missile is traveling fast enough to either leave Earth entirely and head for deep space, or to pick up enough speed to begin its own orbit around the planet. There is another possibility that was not covered in Newton’s experiment; a projectile hurtling toward the heavens can be prevented from continuing its flight by a sufficiently dense object or, as in this tale, by the forehead of Mr. J.F. Jones.

The second hour of January 1, 1903 had just begun, and New Year’s Eve revelers were still celebrating in the streets of the city.  Three friends;  J.F. Jones, S.M. Schoonover, and Elsie Stahl were standing on an upper floor balcony of the Lincoln Hotel, enjoying each other’s company as well as the sights and sounds of nearby parties. They were unaware that beneath them on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, there were three young men; Lauren Hanna, John G. Todd, and W.W. Burton, who had decided to ring in the New Year by sending a fusillade of bullets into space. Todd and Burton were firing blanks, but Hanna’s pistol was loaded with live rounds.

The young men may have been drinking, or perhaps they were just too dumb to comprehend the consequences of blindly firing weapons above their heads into the pitch black sky. The initial burst of gunfire apparently did no harm, but the second round from Lauren Hanna’s gun found its trajectory impeded, and any dreams J.F. Jones may have had for the future died with him when a stray bullet lodged in his brain.

Moments after the shooting, Schoonover came running out of the hotel to inform the young men that their carelessness had resulted in a death. Todd stayed put, but cohorts Hanna and Burton slunk down Second Street toward Broadway, emptying their guns of ammunition as they went. Hanna may as well have left a trail of breadcrumbs to the door of his workplace, the Sunset Telephone Company, because that’s where the last of the discarded bullets was found. Detectives Flammer, Quinn, and Churchill quickly located Hanna, who soon confessed to the shooting. He was accused of involuntary manslaughter, and his bail was set at $2000 [$47,981.55 USD 2008].

The cops did some digging into Hanna’s life and uncovered a few unsavory details about him, which were then reported by the Los Angeles Times; “Hanna’s case is not strengthened any, nor public sympathy increased to any great extent, by the discovery of the police that Hanna had recently deserted his wife and baby at Santa Ana, and was living at a hotel in this city with another woman”.

Hanna acquittedFortunately for the accused, he was “…something of a cousin to the renowned Senator Marcus”. The esteemed senator from Ohio provided money for Lauren’s defense fund. Hanna was represented at trial by Charles S. McKelvey, Esq., and the firm of Davis & Rush.  Experts hired by the defense testified that a bullet fragment removed from Jones’ brain at autopsy could have come from a .22 caliber pistol. Hanna’s gun was a .32 caliber.

Were the Senator’s money and power merely coincidental in winning an acquittal for Lauren? We’ll never know. In any case, Judge Smith felt that there was enough reasonable doubt to instruct the jury to acquit Lauren Hanna.

J.F. Jones would be buried in his hometown of Greenville, Texas.

 

Livin’ it up at the Hotel Lincoln

Location: 209 South Hill

Date: July 1905

Hotel Lincoln

W.D. Montgomery and his stepdaughter, Mary Meister, arrived in Los Angeles during October 1904. W.D. had purchased the Hotel Lincoln, at 209 South Hill, with funds provided by his wife, Laura. She soon followed the pair to Bunker Hill, and the three took charge of the day to day running of the hotel. At first everything appeared to be going well for the new owners, and they seemed to be an average hard working family. Yet beneath the surface the household was filled with discord and secrets, and it would take only a few months before everything began to unravel in a very public way.

 

W.D. had never been a teetotaler, but once in Los Angeles he’d started drinking heavily. Maybe it was the stress of W.D.’s drinking, but Laura’s rheumatism began to flare up to the point where she became bedridden. Mary was in charge of Laura’s care, but after downing several whiskeys, neat, W.D. decided that he would take over. His bedside manner left everything to be desired. When Laura felt too unwell to eat her lunch, he told her that she would eat every morsel if he had to “cram it down her throat”. Not surprisingly, Laura’s appetite didn’t respond well to this threat, and in a fit of pique W.D. grabbed the lunch dishes and hurled them out of the window!

Laura tried to persuade W.D. to attend one of Francis Murphy’s temperance meetings and take a sobriety pledge. W.D. wanted nothing to do with Francis Murphy or sobriety, and in a fit of rage at his wife’s suggestion, he smacked her.

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Everyone who came into contact with the couple thought that W.D. was nothing better than drunken brute, particularly when in full view of several hotel guests he chased Laura through the hotel, then grabbed her by the throat and throttled her. Although W.D.’s drinking and behavior had certainly spiraled out of control, he may have had good reason for behaving so badly. He’d become convinced that Laura was being unfaithful and had started following her. He trailed her several times to an obvious assignation in Ocean Park. Later, at home, W.D. confronted Laura and she confessed her infidelity. After 13 years of marriage, the couple divorced.

 

By July 1905, Laura had run off with the railroad man with whom she had been having an affair. The hotel had been sold to Mrs. Belle McWilliams, and W.D. and Mary were running it while the deal was being finalized.

 

Mary Meister

Suddenly, Mary came forward with shocking allegations against W.D. She said that he had ruined her (early 1900s doublespeak for seduced), and that he had been going around town telling anyone who would listen that he was in love with her. One day at the corner of First and Broadway, W.D. began to shout at his stepdaughter, saying that if she turned her back on him he would kill her and then himself.

 

It was his downtown outburst that compelled Mary to have her stepfather arrested on a charge of insanity. The two appeared in court to try to settle the unholy domestic mess. Mary broke down on the witness stand and began to sob. All eyes were on her as she turned to W.D. and said “You have ruined my reputation, and now I don’t know what to do”. W.D. Montgomery looked astonished. “I didn’t do anything of the sort” he replied, “I would marry you tomorrow”. Then W.D. went on to shock the courtroom further by saying “I thank God that the railroad man ran away with my wife”, adding, “I didn’t love her and she knew it”.

 

By the time Mary and W.D. were finished testifying, the spectators were left wondering what exactly had been going on at the Hotel Lincoln, especially before Laura arrived to join W.D. and Mary in 1904. Could they have been having a relationship then? Was that the reason Laura had become involved with the railroad man? Mary was tight lipped, but wouldn’t deny that she and W.D. had been engaged to wed! Meanwhile, W.D. continued ranting and raving in court, and finally had to be taken to the County Hospital for observation.

 

With Mary embarrassed to be seen in public and W.D. babbling away in the County Hospital, the story maytangled web have ended there – but one more bizarre chapter remained to be written.

 

Someone contacted police, telling them that the reason W.D. Montgomery’s behavior had been so erratic was because he had been drugged by a person (or persons) who wished to gain control of his property! The former hotel owner had been deeply in debt when he sold the Lincoln to Belle McWilliams, and it was later learned that he had borrowed against furnishings that he didn’t own. Not one single bill was paid by the Lincoln during June, even though receipts showed that $1000 had been received from patrons, and that W.D. had obtained a loan of several hundred dollars.

Then, one night in early July, W.D. crept down to the safe and made a hasty $1100 withdrawal. He was discovered later in the gutter – drunk, disheveled and penniless. Shortly thereafter, bankruptcy proceedings would be instituted against him.

 

A bankruptcy hearing would be held, and the judge would hear varying accounts of the deal to purchase the Hotel Lincoln. According to Mrs. McWilliams, she’d been given a bill of sale by W.D. in the amount of $8000, but she would actually pay only $6900 for the hotel. That shady little sleight of hand was intended to defraud W.D.’s creditors to the tune of $1100. Belle told the court that she wasn’t wild about the plan, but she’d gone along with it because W.D. owed her money.

 

Sadly, there would be no further reports of W.D.’s colorful exploits in the Los Angeles Times.

I Want to Live!

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121 North Flower Street

April 15, 1953

 

The most sensational trial of 1953 has to have been that of Barbara Graham. The defendant was accused, along with Jack Santo, Emmett Perkins, Baxter Shorter, and John True of the beating death of Mrs. Monahan during a home invasion robbery.  The crime itself was so banal that it may not have made it to the front page of the LA Times at all, and it definitely wouldn’t have stayed there for as long as it did had it not been for Barbara, an attractive 29 year old prostitute and drug addict. 

 

The story had all of the elements of a lurid tale from a sleazy detective magazine.  Barbara Graham, abandoned by her Santo Perkins Grahamteenaged mother in Oakland years before, had spent time in the same reformatory where her mom was an alumnus. Barbara had worked as a prostitute, and had become addicted to drugs. She’d been introduced to her co-defendants by none other than her husband, Henry, a small time career criminal. It was rumored that not only was Barbara having an affair with Perkins – but also that she, Perkins, and Santos were frequently engaged in threesomes. The press had a field day.

The crime itself was apparently the result of misinformation given to Perkins. He was told that Mrs. Monahan (former mother-in-law of Las Vegas gambler Tutor Scherer) had a sack full of money and jewelry that she kept in her home (the same kind of tragic misunderstanding would result in the brutal murder of the Clutter family in Kansas in 1959, and become the subject of Truman Capote’s brilliant novel, “In Cold Blood”).

On the night of March 9, 1953, the gang drove to Mrs. Monahan’s home in Burbank. Barbara knocked on the front door and told the woman that her car had broken down, and asked to use the telephone.  The men were waiting right behind Barbara and before Mrs. Monahan could respond, they all pushed their way into the house where they immediately started screaming at her. The gang of strung out miscreants kept demanding to be told where she kept her money and jewelry. Mrs. Monahan repeatedly told the crooks that she didn’t keep cash at home, but they were so hopped up on drugs and adrenaline that they didn’t believe her.  One version of the story was that Barbara started to beat the victim with a pistol while the men laughed and egged her on. The older woman was beaten to the floor by “Bloody Babs”, as she would later be dubbed by the press, who then smothered the victim to death by tightening a pillowcase over her head.  Not surprisingly, Babs’ version of the story shifted the blame onto her partners.  But as far as the law was concerned, since all the defendants were present during the commission of the murder, they all shared the guilt.

Baxter Shorter

It wasn’t until the suspects had been identified and arrests had been made that the tale would take a turn onto Bunker Hill.  Once the drugs and false bravado had worn off and the specter of possible death sentences began to loom large, it was a sure thing that a member of the gang would look to the law for a deal. It was Baxter Shorter who decided to save himself by spilling his guts to the DA. Shorter was an ex-con and a known associate of LA’s premier gangster, the diminutive but lethal Mickey Cohen. Shorter’s friends got wind of his visits with the DA, and they became very nervous. 

Baxter and his wife Olivia lived in an apartment at 121 N. Flower, and it was from that location that Shorter was kidnapped by two men. In a photo shown to her by police, Olivia identified one of121 N Flower the kidnappers as Emmett Perkins. The other man was almost certainly Santos. No shrinking violet, Olivia tried halting the kidnapping by brandishing a 30-30 carbine at the husband snatchers, but they told her that they’d shoot her where she stood if she didn’t back off. Olivia told the cops that she had seen a female in the men’s car. She wasn’t able to get close enough to provide a description of the woman, but she was able to describe the car as a 1951 Dodge or Plymouth five passenger coupe – coincidentally, the same kind of car owned by Barbara. Once the car sped away, Baxter Shorter vanished forever.  Nary a bone fragment nor a tooth would ever surface, and he would be declared legally dead in 1960.

Barbara maintained her innocence until the end. Being a mother of three, she may have avoided the death penalty if sheBarbara Graham hadn’t made the mistake of offering a fellow inmate $25k to provide her with an alibi for the night of the murder. Unfortunately for her, the cellmate was actually a cop, planted to befriend her and gather information. Barbara’s blunder had doomed her to death. Santo, Perkins, and Barbara would all die in San Quentin’s gas chamber on the same day.

Graham’s execution was the paradigm for cruel and unusual punishment and would be the topic of many impassioned editorials, even by supporters of the death penalty. On the morning of her execution she’d dressed in a beige wool suit and brown pumps, and had tried to prepare herself to face death. She was scheduled to die at 10:00 am on June 3, 1955, but was granted a stay until 10:45 am. Her execution would be delayed one more time, causing Barbara to ask “Why do they torture me?”  Finally at 11:28 am Barbara was blindfolded at her request, and was led from the holding cell to the gas chamber.

In a macabre moment the executioner, Joe Feretti, gave the condemned woman a bit of advice: “Now take a deep breath and it won’t be so bad” – to which she replied, “How the hell would you know?”

For a fictionalized account of Graham’s story, rent a copy of the 1958 film, “I Want to Live!” starring Susan Hayward.

A Man Named Stinko

Stinko headline

 

215 North Hill Street

May 10, 1931 

215 N Hill

It was bad enough to be saddled with the moniker Stinko Gursasovich – how could things possibly get worse?  On the morning of May 10, 1931, the 42 year old laborer would find out. He was out walking when he suddenly felt hungry. Heading to his room at 215 North Hill Street to fix himself a sandwich, he decided that he needed to stop for a snack first. Problem was, there wasn’t a single canned ham or loaf of bread to be had anywhere in the area.  It was then that he decided he’d break into the cellar of a house at 1037 Alpine Street – surely the homeowners would have left some tasty treats in the cellar.

 

A neighbor saw Stinko creep into the basement through a window and immediately phoned the cops. The radio carLAPD had recently installed radios in their cruisers, so officers Webb and Hamblin made it to the scene in a mere 90 seconds. The hapless perpetrator wasn’t familiar with the latest crime fighting advances, and was promptly arrested and booked on a charge of burglary.

 

Let’s hope Stinko made it to his cell in time for lunch.

The Strange Tale of Ladda’s Captivity

ladda headline

215 North Hill Street
April 18, 1911

LaddaLadda Trcka didn’t realize when he played in the vacant lot adjacent to his home in Columbus, Ohio, that he was being watched. The angel faced ten year old boy was too young and innocent to find anything sinister in the behavior of his forty-four year old widowed neighbor, Nellie Hersey. He thought nothing of being invited into her parlor, where she would caress him and offer him more candy than he could consume in a single sitting.

One day Nellie suggested to Ladda that they go off together and see the world. How could any ten year old boy pass up an adventure like that? Ladda crept stealthily out of his family home one night and biked to Toledo, where he was joined by Nellie. It was then that Ladda’s slavery began.Nellie

At first Nellie and Ladda moved from town to town, and he did see some of the world as he’d been promised. Then in 1898 he and Nellie arrived in Redondo Beach, where he was immediately forced to go to work. He worked every day, and each week he dutifully turned his paycheck over to his captor. Keeping Ladda as her slave proved simple for Nellie – she provided the boy with few clothes and no pocket money, and didn’t even take him to a barber to have his hair cut.

For several years the boy followed the routine dictated to him by Nellie. To prevent him from becoming restless and attempting to leave her, the woman told Ladda that she had heard that his entire family had passed away. Making him believe that he was an orphan was another way in which Nellie made the boy dependent upon her.

The boy was unaware that his family was alive and that, even as the years rolled by, they continued to search for him. Ladda’s brother Otto even became a detective so he could solve the case of his missing brother.

215 N Hill

Finally, in April 1911, Nellie was at her home at 215 North Hill Street when she received word that she was being sued by Ladda for damages in the amount of $13,090 – payment for his years of captivity.

The news that Ladda was alive and well in Southern California reached Ohio. Otto came out to offer his support as a brother, and his services as a detective.

Evidently, Ladda’s circumstances first began to change when he fell in love with a girl, Belle Strathorn, whom he’d met on the beach. Belle helped him to acquire new clothes, and a haircut!

The Los Angeles Times’ coverage of the twisted tale made veiled references to some of the darker aspects of Ladda’s years as Nellie’s slave. The newspaper described details of the law suit as “lurid” — the story hinted that Nellie’s interest in Ladda had been anything but maternal, yet never went further.

That Nellie was infatuated, even obsessed with the boy seems obvious. Less obvious is the date when he and Nellie cease to cohabitate. When did she move to Bunker Hill? And why did Ladda decide to sue for eleven years, and not the full sixteen years that he appears to have been a captive? Also, according to Ladda, Nellie had been married several times, and she’d taken many lovers as well. Was Nellie married or involved in affairs while simultaneously keeping Ladda as a prisoner?

There were so many tantalizing questions without answers, as the newspaper never followed up on the story beyond the initial report.

Bad, Bad Edna Brown

  edna brown headline

124 Bunker Hill Avenue

December 6, 1922 

 

Edna Brown, aka Edna Chaplin, aka Mabel Austin, seemed like such a nice girl. Sure, she’d been busted by Detective Sergeants Bartley and Allen for stealing $100 ($1,271.00 current USD) from O. Johnson’s apartment at 124 South Bunker Hill Avenue, but Edna did the right thing and confessed to the crime, resulting in her being charged with grand theft and larceny.

 

When she appeared in Judge Hinshaw’s court for her arraignment, she burst into tears and appeared to be so genuinely remorseful that Guy Eddy, an attorney who was present on another matter, came to her defense and made a motion to dismiss the case. Judge Hinshaw was also moved by the girl’s tears, and since Deputy District Attorney Orme made no objections, Edna walked.

 

Apparently none of the well meaning men in the courtroom ever thought to question why such a seemingly nice girl would have at least two known aliases.

 

A few days following Edna’s day in court, Detective Sergeants Bartley and Allen were on the trail of a girl who had been accused by J.S. Purdy of using his name to pass bad checks. Purdy told the cops he suspected a girl named Edna. When he was shown a photo of Edna Brown, he immediately identified her as the forger. 

 

Note to Guy Eddy, Esq., Deputy District Attorney Orme, and Judge Hinshaw – no good deed goes unpunished.