The “Widow in Green” Blackmail Mystery

“Does anybody know the woman in green?” asked the Tribune in  November of 1908. “Can anybody tell the name of the mysterious woman motorist who for the last month has been an unfailing topic of conversation for those who have time to observe humanity as seen in Chicago’s streets? Who is she?”

For a month, Chicagoans had been observing a woman, roughly 30 years old, driving around the loop in a rented green touring car, dressed from head to foot in green, including a green hat and veil (except for a couple of days when she tried red or white outfits, each time with a matching car). Each day, she’d drive a circuit through the loop, occasionally stopping for some sort of meeting in the Marquette building. Once in a while she’d have a chauffeur, and once she nearly drove off the road, having been agitated by the sight of a certain man with a black mustache, but she was otherwise said to be perfectly capable of handing the car herself – the paper noted that she “handles her machine in a manner which shows her mastery over the art of chauffeuring”

In the Tribune’s 1908 feature, one gets the impression that they could have solved the mystery easily enough – she went to the same garages and drove the same route daily – but preferred to revel in the wild, romantic backstories people were inventing for her. It might seem odd today, more than a century on, to imagine that someone driving around could create such excitement, but we have to remember that this was 1908. Cars weren’t quite the novelty they’d been a few years before, but they were still in their infancy. Female drivers might have been a bit of a shock to some, as well. The veil, the tendency to match her outfit to her car, and her taking the same route daily were about all it took to attract attention.

It may be, though, that the real story was wilder than the Tribune dared to hope.

In January, the Inter-Ocean began telling stories of a “Widow in Green” who’d been blackmailing wealthy hotel guests. The Inter-Ocean certainly thought it was the same woman; stating that there was a small gang of blackmailers operating “under the leadership of the ‘woman in green,’ who created a furore among residents of the Michigan Avenue hotels by appearing each day dressed entirely in green. A large green touring car was constantly at her beck and call.”

The “Widow in Green,” it was said, was “a beautiful brunette, very attractive and a good conversationalist (who) speaks with a slight French accent.” She would scan the registers of Michigan Avenue hotels, find wealthy men who were in from out of town, and then seduce them in the dining rooms with her brilliant powers of conversation (though the “seduction” may have amounted only to go to their hotel rooms to discuss an investment plan for the money she claimed to have inherited, with her simply signing into the hotel as the man’s wife). Later, the wealthy men would receive letters demanding money, always signed with the single name “Gladys.”

Stories of Gladys the Green’s life of crime spread quickly – there were tales of her having a fist fight with the woman who owned one of the hotels, of her forging a check at another hotel. Though saying she was part of a “gang” might have been overstating it, she did employ a couple of “attorneys” who dealt with unruly victims, and who helped her draw up bogus mortgages to sell. To one victim, she sent a valentine showing a man being beaten with a rolling pin; the back read “I hope the new year will bring you as much happiness as you have brought me unhappiness – Gladys.”

The man who received the card told the press (through his attorney) that he’d remained silent and paid a fortune up until now “because his wife and children had been heretofore unaware of his escapapde with the dashing ‘widow in green,'” whom he’d met at the Lexington Hotel.  But his attempts to find her seem to have been in vain.

The flair for the dramatic may have been her undoing – though most papers in town barely mentioned the story (to my surprise – it seemed like the kind of story the American would have been all over), the Inter-Ocean covered it in several articles over a week or so in January, 1909, and several out of town papers picked up their coverage as well. With her newfound fame, the Widow in Green’s cover was blown, and operating in town likely became too risky. She presumably took off for parts unknown, and her story disappeared from the papers. So far as I know, she was forgotten by the end of the winter.

“I Keep the Tavern Like Hell and Play the Fiddle Like the Devil”

markbeaubien

Mark Beaubien, Chicago’s original musician, taken from an oil painting that may not still be extant.

In 1880, the Calumet Club held their annual reunion of early Chicago settlers. Now approaching a population of a million, half a century before Chicago had been little more than a mud-hole, where, one settler remembered, a typical sunday consisted of taking champagne to church to drink the preacher’s health, then hanging around the church door shooting pigeons and prairie hens.

Midway through the reception, a club member informed Mark Beaubien, a settler who was then nearly eighty years old, that someone had requested that he play his violin. Beaubien replied with something to the effect of “I never played the violin. I played the fiddle.”

But one of his old fiddles was produced, and Mark tuned it up, spit on the strings, and played a tune, tapping a table with his foot, while 80 year old men danced reels, just as they had in his tavern nearly half a century before.

At the previous year’s reception, Mark had played them a tune called “The Devil’s Dream,” which seems particularly appropriate, given that his most famous quote is “I keep the tavern like Hell, and I play the fiddle like the Devil.”

This fiddle-playing took place well before there were any theaters or music halls in town – just the tavern attached to Beaubien’s Sauganash Hotel at what is now the corner of Wacker and Lake, just beside the Chicago River. It was, by some accounts, Chicago’s first frame house, but it wasn’t exactly the height of luxury. Anyone who asked for a mattress to sleep on would have been laughed at – Mark rented blankets for fifty cents per night. According to one account, Mark would rent someone a blanket, wait until that person fell asleep on the floor, then take the blanket and rent it to someone else, repeating the trick several times per night.

Sauganash2b

Beaubien’s Sauganash Hotel, Wacker and Lake (then Market and Lake).

But it was the fiddle that people remembered. Long into the night, as some danced and some gambled (and some tried to sleep on the floor beneath their rented blankets), Mark would play songs like “Money Musk,” “Indian Solo,” and “Believe Me If All those Endearing Young Charms.”  Notably for the time, the dancers often included people of multiple races. He was particularly friendly with the local Potawatomie Indians.

Long John Wentworth, an early mayor, remembered that Mark was always available for parties, and if his strings all broke (as they sometimes did), he could just hum the dance music.” Wentworth also noted that Beaubien particularly enjoyed singing satirical songs making fun of General Hull, who had ordered the evacuation of Fort Dearborn in 1812. He had been present when Hull surrendered Detroit to the British.

Beaubien died in 1881, survived by just a few of his twenty-three children. The Chicago Historical Society still has a fiddle said to have belonged to him, and a 1930s Tribune article notes than when their museum at North and Clark first opened, there was a recreation of the Sauganash Hotel set up inside of it, featuring a recording of period music made using the Beaubien fiddle and a flute from Fort Dearborn.

The exact provenance of this fiddle is hard to determine – a few early sources state that Beaubien only ever owned one of them, which he bequeathed on his deathbed to Long John Wentworth, who then gave it to the Calumet Club. But that fiddle was burned up in a fire in 1893. The one currently in the museum was one reportedly given to one of Beaubien’s nephews around 1860.

A rare photo of Beaubien from late in his life. Source uknown.

A rare photo of Beaubien from late in his life. Source uknown.

Podcast: George W. Green, The Man Who Stole the Gallows

 

Title page of Chicago's first true crime book, 1885.

Title page of Chicago’s first true crime book, 1885.

New podcast! Get all our episodes here on the page or subscribe on iTunes!

According to legend, after Chicago’s first public hanging in 1840, the gallows were stolen by a man named George W. Green, who used the lumber for furniture that was then sold in his shop. Ironically, fifteen years later, the next public hanging was very nearly Green’s own. But after being convicted of murdering his wife with strychnine, he cheated the public out of getting to see hanging (still a popular spectacle in those days) by hanging himself in his prison cell with a makeshift rope. Not to be denied their morbid curiosity, the public was able to buy daguerrotypes of Green’s body, still hanging in his cell, at a “portable daguerrotype studio” at Randolph and Clark the next days.

Besides the crass “selling postcards of the hanging” incident, the Green case is notable for two things: the first is that Green became the subject of a book entitled Life of the Chicago Banker Geo. W. Green, alias Oliver Gavitt, Who Was Found Guilty of Poisoning His Wife, and Who Committed Suicide By Hanging in the Jail of Cook County. The fifty-page volume was probably Chicago’s first true crime book.

The book – which is in the “special collections” at the Chicago History Museum and the University of Chicago Library – is quite a read. Basing their stories on interviews with neighbors and children of Green, the authors present him as a Dickensian villain who does everything but twirl his mustache as he tortures animals, beats his wife, poisons his neighbors, cheats his sons, kills his daughters, and steals the city’s first gallows (a story they admit is incredible, but insist is true and verifiable by several witnesses).

Even more notable, perhaps, is that the trial was way ahead of its time in its use of analytical chemistry. When Green

Dr. Blaney

Dr. Blaney

told neighbors his wife had died of cholera, he immediately had a grave dug in his garden for her. His brother-in-law suspected foul play, and Green was arrested. The body was exhumed, and various organs were placed in earthenware jars stopped with corks. Dr. James Blaney, an analytical chemist who would soon help found Rose Hill Cemtery, made detailed tests for traces of strcychnine, and detailed his methods and findings to the jury. His detailed testimony was reprinted entirely in the true crime book, as well as several medical and legal journals throughout the world. At various times, Chicago has, at various times, taken credit for being the first to use handwriting analysis (the Henry Jumperts “barrel” case in 1859), finger prints (Thomas Jennings, 1912), forensic use of bone fragments (Adolph Luetgert, 1897).  By some measures we could add Blaney’s use of analytical chemistry to the list.

A couple of mysteries still endure for me: one is whether his wife was reburied right at the house, which stood near Twelfth and Loomis (Roosevelt and Loomis today). A drawing of the house makes it look like a prairie farmhouse. Private family plots on one’s property weren’t as common by then, but weren’t unknown. It’s quite possibly that her body was never moved.

The other is whether any copies of the daguerrotypes of his body survive. As far as I know, none do, but a drawing of it was included in the book, and is reprinted below (if you’re the sort of person who reads history blogs you’ve probably seen far worse drawings, but consider yourself warned):

 

 

 

 

Drawing taken from a now-lost daguerrotype of the death of George W. Green.

Drawing taken from a now-apparentlylost daguerrotype of the death of George W. Green. Have you seen a copy?

 

We’ve written Green into a new edition of Fatal Drop: True Tales of the Chicago Gallows!

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Bertha Warshovsky: Queen of the Arsonists

On November 7th, I’ll be conducting a Mysterious Chicago walking tour of the “Darker side” of Taylor Street for Atlas Obscura. Here’s one of the stories I’ll be covering! 

Bertha in the Herald Examiner

As a grandmother in her sixties, Bertha Warshovsky assumed that no one would ever suspect her if a building burned down. We can imagine that she didn’t always look as threatening as she does here, in the best photo I’ve found of her so far. We’ll go ahead and say it was probably a badly scanned version of a badly-taken photo, shall we?

Having invented a sort of fuse that would enable her to light a match and get safely away before a fire really caught, she made a whole career out of helping people who wanted to burn buildings down for the insurance money. By the 1930s, police were calling her “The Arson Queen.”

One of her fires in 1928 had a particular hiccup – a handicapped 17 year old was still in the building when she set the fire, and lost his life. Bertha took the stand in the resulting case, and it was covered in a November, 1934 issue of the Tribune. In a pattern you see in a lot of cases like this, the papers often complained that attractive woman were treated so well by the courts that they were almost always acquitted (or at least given much lighter sentences than a man would get for the same crime; we never hanged a woman here), but were only too happy to pile unpleasant language on the female defendants they found less attractive. Consider that a trigger warning for what follows.

“Mrs. Warchovsky,” the paper wrote, “a short, dumpy woman told how she ‘touched off’ the fire on Aug 11, 1928. She seemed surprised when Prosecutors Kearney and Nash did not seem to understand some of her firebug phrases. She used gestures most of the time to demonstrate her testimony.”

Warchovsky said she’d charged the owner of the house her usual fee – $170 – to set the fire at Taylor and Racine (earlier articles indicate taht the owner collected about $11,200 in insurance money).   “Yes,” she said. “Harry Brown called me on the telephone and told me that I should come over, that there was going to be a fire there. I took a cab and went right over. We started right in to make balls.”

“What do you mean?” asked the lawyer.

“Balls, paper balls like this (she demonstrated with gesturing). We were supposed to make the fire that day, but when we got the layout fixed up we couldn’t make the fire because some people were sitting outside.”

A rather unflattering shot in the Tribune
archives. 

The next day, Bertha took another cab over and found that the place was ready to burn except for a lack of gasoline. While one man got the gas ready, Bertha touched up the wick, a process she described in court: “First, I lighted a cigar, and blew like this (blowing) to make the flame red. Then I tied it inside of a bunch of safety matches. The cigar sets off the matches and the matches start the wick to burning and then pretty soon the gasoline paper balls go up and then comes the real fire.”

Several days before, the Tribune had stated that the “dumpy little grandmother” had confessed to at least a dozen such fires. In describing her, the paper said “The ‘queen’ is of Henry VIII proportions on an abridged scaled. The chair into which she was wedged elevated her rotund shins so that her feet swung clear, while her 225 pounds of royalty clamped the throne immovably to its proper place on the floor. …Most of the ‘touch-offs’ were her own work, she admitted, because a woman would be less likely to arouse suspicion.

Prosecutors were asking the death penalty for the owner of the building, though not for Bertha, who presumably didn’t know that the house was occupied. She still would have probably been on trial for murder, but got a severance in exchange for turning state’s evidence.  She seems to have had a regular career as a witness in arson trials after this, stating at one point that she’d started more fires than she could remember.

My research on her is still at an early state; I’ve browsed the Tribune archives but haven’t really checked the defunct papers or the legal archives for the kind of info that hides in there (including perhaps a better photo). I’m not even really sure how the trial described above came out yet. But I wanted to put up the article to plug my upcoming Taylor Street Tour, which will talk about her and several other stories that have been on this blog. See ya there, and GO CUBS!

“What’s He Building in There?” Parker R. Mason’s Boulder of Mystery

Local eccentric Parker R. Mason’s long-lost
mansion at Wavelandand Pine Grove

In 1899, Chicago millionaire Parker R. Mason began rehearsals for his own funeral. He selected the pallbearers, and brought in a vocal quartet to have them practice the hymns they would sing. He had a fishing buddy who was also a minister give him a preview of the eulogy and sermon he’d read. Then he picked out his burial suit, and made a note that the giant boulder outside of his mansion be moved to Rosehill Cemetery to serve as his grave marker.  The whole affair was one more story about Mason, the local eccentric, whose antics at his mansion, near Waveland Avenue and the lake, had amused his neighbors for years.

Mason, a whisky dealer, first came to the attention of the press in the press in the 1870s, when he was involved in the Whisky Ring scandals, one of those interminable 1870s scandals that you could probably understand if you wanted to put aside a couple of years to sort out all the details. His name appears in Ulysses S. Grant’s papers; during the scandal someone described him to Grant as “utterly disreputable and characterless.”

But all this was forgotten by the 1890s; by then, he was a well-loved north eccentric who was known for providing coffins and funerals for the poor.

After retiring from the whiskey business, Mason seems to have retreated to his mansion at Waveland and Pine Grove. The house itself was full of winding passageways and secret compartments. In 1895 some a deed was found in a hidden receptacle after having been thought to have been lost in the 1871 fire.  But the brick mansion was mainly a workshop and laboratory; the family mostly lived in a small wooden annex. Rumors swirled that he was secretly making the best whisky on the planet out in a cottage or barn out back.

 At one point the neighbors became convinced that he was building a flying machine;  strange whirring sounds were heard and someone even saw something that looked like wings being brought into the place. It turned out that Mason was making a windmill.

A surviving photo of the boulder

Chief among the legends, though, centered around a massive boulder on his property, which he’d had cemented into the ground. Children in the neighborhood believed that it was a meteor that had fallen in exactly the position it landed in, though older “settlers” told stories of Mason having it brought in by a team of ox and mounting it with great difficulty and a lot of help.

It was this boulder that was supposed to be moved to Rosehill Cemetery, and a few years after Mason’s death, news that plans were afoot to move it caused some sensation among the neighbors, who now considered the massive rock to be one of the landmarks of Lake View.

No paper I’ve found, though, actually covers what became of the thing. As near as I can tell, it’s not on its original spot anymore (though for all I can tell it may still be up in some courtyard or park in the area; Mason’s property was large). It was large enough that getting rid of it would have been no easy task. So what became of the thing?

The one certain thing is that it was never brought to Rosehill. Parker and his wife are buried there beneath a simple stone:

A photo of Mason himself has thus far eluded me, but here’s the gravestone.

The Skull of Del Close at the Goodman Theatre

It’s pretty well established now that the skull in the artistic director’s office at the Goodman wasn’t really the skull of comedian Del Close when he was alive, but it’s his now! He donated his skull to the theatre so that he could play Yorick, and the skull they have serves as his, at least symbolically.  A fundraiser once offered to show it to me if I donated enough cash, and I finally got to see it over the weekend.

 I have an article up today on The Order of the Good Death about it:

THE ORDER OF THE GOOD DEATH
presents
“Wanna See a Famous Skull?”
by Adam Selzer

“Ode to a Bowl of Soup” and other ballads of Bathhouse John

We never had a stranger alderman than Bathhouse John Coughlin, who, with his partner Hinky Dink Kenna, controlled the notorious levee district for two generations beginning in the 1890s. Often seen tromping around in a suit made of green billiard table cloth, Bathouse John was often seen as a sort of affable buffoon.

Though he and Hinky Dink were running protection rackets that allowed people to get away with some awful things, it was hard not to like ol’ Bathhouse, who generally did as he was told as a politician, but was allowed to amuse himself introducing goofy legislation like promoting the annual “Straw Hat Day.” Newspapers showed shots of him practicing putting his hat on like a big boy.

But he may be best remembered as the poet laureate of the first ward. After his first song, “Dear Midnight of Love” (which Herbert Asbury said had all the literary merit of a first grade essay), several “ballads” appeared under his name, with such titles as “She Sleeps at the Side of the Drainage Canal,” “Ode to a Bath Tub,” and “Why Did They Build Lake Michigan So Wide.” Most were actually written by John Kelley, a newspaper reporter, who knew fully well how dumb they were. But if Bathhouse knew, he didn’t say. Rather, he suggested that they might be “too deep” for most people.

A few of his greatest hits:

SHE SLEEPS AT THE SIDE OF THE DRAINAGE CANAL

In her lonely grave she sleeps tonight
at the side of the drainage canal;
Where the whipporwhill calls at the twilight hour
they planted my sweetheart, Sal
Just a mile this side of Willow Springs
not far from the Alton track
there lieth Sal, my dear old pal
But these tears won’t bring her back.

ODE TO A BOWL OF SOUP
O, bowl of soup, to thee I lift my voice in gladsome song
nothing can touch ze spot like what ze French call “booyong.”
I like you as mulligatawny, noodles, or consommé.
It cheers me when I see the sign proclaiming “hot soup all day.”

I care note what they call you, you’re just plain soup to me
I break my bread into the bowl to cool it, don’t you see.
Let those who want to die of gout of richer food partake
But give me a bowl of soup like mother used to make

That little sign “Hot Soup All Day” in front of Hink’s saloon
Brings customers for blocks around, especially at noon.
It’s got fried liver skinned to death, and red hots, too, I trow,
Put up a “feed” of good hot soup, and then you’ll catch the “bo.”

I pride myself on being wise upon this free lunch question
“Potato pancakes 4 to 8” are bad for one’s digestion
Saurkraut with spare ribs, fricandeiles, ox joints and all that group
are not to be considered with a bowl of steaming soup.

“How stew on individual plates” does not appeal to me,
and neither does the “business lunch” (which same costs 15c)
I’d rather have one bowl of soup than all the stew in town,
or goulash cooked Hungarian style, with gravy thick and brown

Clam chowder has its devotees, and I’ll admit it’s fine.
Others are fond of “K and K,” but no corned beef in mine.
Just give to me a bowl of soup, and have it seasoned well,
It’s got them all backed off the boards – I tell you what it’s swell.”


THE HOD CARRIER
Tis not a ladder of fame he climbs
this rugged man of bricks and mortar
The mason gets six for laying the bricks,
While the carrier gets but two and a quarter.


AN ODE TO A BATHTUB:
CANTO I:
Some find enjoyment in travel, others in kodaking views;
some take to automobiling in order themselves to amuse.
But for me there is only one pleasure, although you can call me a “dub” –
There’s nothing to my mind can equal a plunge in a porcelain tub.


CANTO II:
Some go to ball games for pleasure, others go bobbing for eels.
Some find delight making money, especially in real estate deals.
I care not for ball games or fishing, or money unless to buy grub
But I’d walk forty miles before breakfast to roll in the porcelain tub.


CANTO III:
Some take a trolley to Hammond, others the boat to St. Joe
Some can find sport on the golf links with mashies that foosle, I trow.
The trolley and boat and the golf links are not one, two, nine with a  rub;
O, what in the world is finer than a dip in the porcelain tub?


CANTO IV
Some runs  dairy for pleasure, others a violet farm
Some turn their heads to bookbinding, and say it is life dearest charm.
But for dairies or sweet scented posies, or old books I care not a nub;
pass them all up, thank you kindly, for the little old porcelain tub.


UNDER THE TWINKLING STARS
Under the twinkling stars, ‘mid a bower of roses fair
I lost my heart to Gwendolyn that night in June so rare.
We plighted our troth that summer’s eve while gazing up at Mars;
O’, the happiest night of my life was that – under the twinkling stars


She told me that she loved me as I held her hand in mine;
her lips were like to cherries of the Maraschino kind.
I drew her to my bosom, breaking two good cigars
and plucked the cherries from her lips – under the twinkling stars.


Perhaps the least sensible of them all, and Bathhouse’s favorite, was a ballad of a girl (who may have been a lobster, and certainly marries one), who is terribly upset about the width of Lake Michigan for reasons unexplained:


WHY DID THEY BUILD LAKE MICHIGAN SO WIDE?
Twas a balmy day in June, and all nature was attune
that two loving hearts across the lake did go.
Said the youth unto the maid, “Stick to me, don’t be afraid,
and married we will be at old St Joe.”
When the boat approached the dock, it was after 3 o’clock
Then a scramble from the decks to get ashore;
Soon the youthful pair were wed, after which the bride let said:
“Won’t you answer me this question I implore:


“Why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?
Look into mine eyes, dear, am I not your bride?
Answer sweetheart, answer, cast me not aside.
Oh why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?”


To Chicago they returned with money she had earned
a flat was furnished fit for any queen.
Persian rugs upon the floor, sofa pillows by the score
still the bride let weeping tears was often seen
She in silence bore her grief, till one day she sought relief
and confided to his nibs her tale of woe.
“Won’t you answer me, I pray, (O, sweetheart, don’t turn away)
The question that I asked at old St. Joe?


“Why did they build Lake Michigan so wide, so awful wide?
This little boon I ask of you, do not turn aside.
To you I gave my love, my all, and yet you’ve never tried
to find out why Lake Michigan was built so wide, so wide.”


l’envoi:
Stung by the words his bride let spoke, the lobster hung his head
and while the tears rolled down his cheeks to her he slowly said
“You ask me why Lake Michigan was built so wide, so wide
I must decline to answer you because of family pride.”

Bathhouse John is said to have put out a whole collection, Dear Midnight of Love and Other Ballads, but I can’t find  a copy. Perhaps it’s time to bring it into print as an ebook!

Mummies on Erie Street?

Our story last month about the possibility that Hooters – and some house nearby – are/were haunted by ghostly grave-robbers, is far from complete. While the Hooters IS said to be haunted, and the Tribune DID once tell of an old house on Erie being haunted by ghostly grave robbers, the story of grave robbers operating in that vicinity in 1884 doesn’t necessarily solve the puzzle. There are still missing pieces here and there – most notably, we still can’t be sure that’s the block of Erie the Tribune was talking about. I’d go ahead and guess that it was, and there’s certainly no better explanation going around.  But, in the process of looking, I DID find one other possible lead about a surgeon who lived on Erie (where the garage next to The Kerryman is now).

This doctor, Carl H. Von Klein, was a surgeon with a special expertise in the history of medicine – he wrote articles on the history of the office of the coroner and was especially interested in ancient Egyptian medicine, which, he believed, was an era in which surgeons knew secrets that had since been lost to history. With an idea of uncovering those secrets, he learned the ancient Egyptian language. He was the first to produce an English translation of the “Ebers Papyrus,” a papyrus sheet about medicine that had been discovered between the legs of a mummy in 1872, and which was then said to be the oldest medical text in the world.

The paper, it turned out, described several diseases known to modern medicine, along with their treatments. In addition, many prescriptions were found in the papers for hair dyes, cosmetics, and toiletries. It didn’t show a complete understanding of the body, though – it seemed to imply that most bodily fluids were pumped primarily through the heart (including those that really go through the kidneys). Still, it showed that ancient Egyptian surgeons were pretty well organized.

I don’t wish to go around accusing Dr. Klein of anything, but when reading about mummification and ancient coronary practices, did he decide “man, I’ve got to try this!” and arrange for the services of some “resurrection men” to bring him some subjects on which to experiment?

Well, probably not. But, still, it goes to show that there’s hardly a block of Chicago about which we can’t find a gruesome story. The 1875 grave robbing story about Erie west of Wells is probably the closest we’ll get to the 1950s Tribune story about the house on Erie haunted by grave robbers, but that house still really could have been anywhere on Erie.

Von Klein certainly knew a lot about ancient pathology – he even published books on the figures of human bones. He seems to have been a very interesting guy – an expert in a wide range of fields, publishing papers on not just ancient medical history, but a huge variety of modern (for the turn of the 20th century) medical topics. His son caused some scandal when he was accused of marrying multiple women and stealing their jewelry.