No. 522
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 17, 2021

Melancholy Boat Accident.

April 24, 2012
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The following tale comes from that classic collection of mostly first-hand accounts of supernatural encounters, "Lord Halifax's Ghost Book."  It was related to Lord Halifax in 1920 by his nephew, Charles Dundas.  Dundas had recently heard the tale from a renowned Royal Air Force pilot named Edward Villiers.  (Later Sir Edward Villiers.)  It is one of the briefest stories in the "Ghost Book," but
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Strange Company - 5/17/2021

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LOOK OUT FOR "SOAPY" SMITHSt. Louis DispatchSeptember 23, 1897(Click image to enlarge) e reported himself in good health and money."   New information showing that Soapy Smith did go to St. Louis to check up on his ailing wife, Mary, after leaving Skagway.  Below is the transcription of the article from the St. Louis Dispatch, September 23, 1897. LOOK OUT FOR “SOAPY” SMITH ― The Smooth Man
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 5/11/2021

Born in 1870 and completed 13 years later (at a cost of $15 million and with more than 20 worker deaths), the Brooklyn Bridge is marking its 138th birthday this week. What better way to honor an icon than with a brilliant lithograph produced by a Pearl Street publisher depicting the fireworks, ship parade, and […]
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Ephemeral New York - 5/17/2021
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately engaged as a carrier of wine, because he and his brother, with the help of […]
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
The crack of gunfire startled the residents of 88 Merrimack Street, a boarding house in Lowell, Massachusetts, around 10:00, the night of  August 31, 1876. The boarders rushed to Lulu Martin’s room on the third floor, where the shot was fired. The door was locked; they heard a man inside shouting, “Go for the police! She has shot me! I will hold her! Break open the door!”A group of men broke in
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Murder By Gaslight - 5/15/2021

Along with Bertie Whitehead, Abby’s half-sister, May 13th was also the birthday of Helen Craig, famous stage actress best-remembered for Johnny Belinda. Helen Craig, who played Abby in The Legend of Lizzie Borden was born May 13, 1912, a month after Titanic sank. Helen Craig was not a great beauty by Hollywood standards, but a very fine actress. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0185871/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 Her portrayal of Abby Borden as a mean, greedy glutton, more than any other thing, has affected the way most people think of Abby Borden. Sadly it was not an accurate portrayal. Helen did some television in her later career, most notably The Waltons. She died in New York City in 1986. She was married to stage and film actor John Beal who played Dr. Bowen in Legend of Lizzie Borden. They are seen together in the publicity photo below.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 5/13/2021
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Comstockery. | Burlesque Comes to America.

Melancholy Boat Accident.

Boat Accident

August 31, 1868 - Sad End of Two of the Demi-monde, near Cairo, Ill. [more]

Prostitutes and their Paramours Go Bathing

Two of the Unfortunate Women Drowned

The following account of a very bad disaster, we copy from a recent Cairo (Ill.) paper:

At a late hour on Saturday night, Aug 31st, Frank Douglas, proprietress of the notorious house of ill-fame, known as the “Flat Top,” situated on Fifth street, between Washington and Commercial Avenue, and three of her “lady” boarders, named Fanny Williams, Mollie Jones and Alice Forche, accompanied by four men, started for the Kentucky shore in a small skiff, for the alleged purpose of bathing. The party made the trip in safety, reached the other shore, and remained there for perhaps two hours. At about 1 o’clock they started back to the city, and report has it, that either the bath or something else had an exhausting effect on the party, for they are reported as being rather noisy and careless in the management of the skiff. The boat was a small leaky concern, unfit for carrying over four or five persons, but the party of eight were crowded in, and because they were far from the Kentucky shore, commenced leaking badly, perhaps on account of the reckless manner in which they acted, rocking the boat from one side to the other. To add to the trouble, the bailing dish had either been lost or thrown overboard, and the boat was soon in a swamping condition. When they reached a point opposite the stone depot, the boat filled with water to the seats, went under, leaving the party scrambling in the water. Their screams attracted the attention of Mr. Robinson, mate of the steamer Alpha, who immediately went to the relief in a skiff. On reaching the party, he ordered the men away from the boat, and threatened to strike with the oar the first one who attempted to get in, until he reached the females. He succeeded in picking up Frank Douglas, Fannie Williams, and the four men. Mollie Jones and Alice Forche were drowned.

Mollie Jones had resided in Cairo since 1863. She was a married woman about thirty years old, and her husband, a contemptible wretch, forced her to enter on a life of prostitution, so that he might live a life of ease.

The unfortunate Alice Forche, has been in Cairo about six months. She is reported as being of a decidedly prepossessing appearance, intelligent and of a good family. She was sixteen years old and came from Paducah to this place. It is said that she was seduced by a well-known and “highly respectable" Paducahian who send her here to get rid of marrying her.

One of the men, when the boat went under and he found himself in the water, attempted to remove his pantaloons, in the pocket of which was his pocketbook containing a considerable amount of money, and a fine gold watch. He had partly succeeded in doing so when one of the drowning females caught him and in the endeavor to save himself, lost his pantaloons, watch and money.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, September 14, 1867