Ex-Murder Hoax Figure Back in the Papers

August 3, 1947
Woodland Hills

Remember Eugene H. White, the 31-year-old engineer who apparently vanished out of his blood-splattered car over the Valentine’s Day weekend, only to show up two weeks later in Seattle-town with an eight page manifesto blaming his troubles on a civilian version of combat fatigue? Well, Geno’s in the news again today.

Seems city inspectors complained that the addition he was putting on the White manse at 22304 Providencia St. sported a ceiling that was five inches too low—fine if he was building for snakes, not so good for a growing family. So Eugene, unemployed since the Seattle incident and harried from housebuilding while wife Elizabeth and the kids summered with family in Ann Arbor, did what any frustrated home builder would do: he set the house on fire.

As it burned he became remorseful and tried to stop the licking flames with his handy hose, but by then it was too late, and neither Eugene nor the combined hoses of four Reseda and Canoga Park fire companies could save the six-room structure. Arson officers arrested Eugene as he watched it burn.

Down at the Van Nuys Jail, he told reporters that the house had been a jinx all along. We’ll see if his wife agrees when she returns from Michigan.

Published by

Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

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    Fiction Leaders:
    “Kingsblood Royalâ€Â by Sinclair Lewis.
    “The Prince of Foxesâ€Â by Samuel Shellabarger.
    “Gentleman’s Agreementâ€Â by Laura Hobson.
    “The Moneymanâ€Â by Thomas B. Costain.

    Nonfiction Leaders:
    “Inside U.S.A.â€Â by John Gunther.
    “Human Destinyâ€Â by Lecomte du Nouy.
    “A Study of Historyâ€Â by Arnold Toynbee.
    “Peace of Mindâ€Â by Joshua Liebman.

    + + +

    “Kingsblood Royal,â€Â like “Gentleman’s Agreement,â€Â deals with prejudice, in this case, discrimination against blacks. Lewis’ novel was criticized in some reviews for superficial characters and a didactic, melodramatic plot and praised in others for focusing on racism. It received an award from Ebony magazine because it “did the most to promote racial understanding in 1947.â€Â

    Lewis’ novel tells the story of a World War II veteran named Neil Kingsblood of Grand Republic, Minn., his wife, Vestal, and daughter Biddy. Encouraged by his father to explore his ancestry, Neil discovers that he is 1/32 African American. Rather than keep the family secret, Neil reveals his heritage, and quickly loses his friends, his job and is pressured to sell his home because of deed restrictions. The writing is not subtle, but it is powerful.

    This is one of the book’s key passages:

    It was the first time that he had put what he was into a word, and
    he was too sick to soften it to “Negroes,” and anyway, the word
    seemed so trivial beside the fact. He was protesting that he
    should be called a black man or a green man or any kind of a man
    except the plain human and multicolored kind of man that, as Neil
    Kingsblood, he always had been and always would be.

    But THEY would say that he was a black man, a Negro.

    To Neil, to be a Negro was to be a Belfreda Gray or a Borus
    Bugdoll; to be Mac the porter, obsequious to white pawnbrokers; to
    be a leering black stevedore on the docks at Naples, wearing an
    American uniform but not allowed to have a gun, allowed only to
    stagger and ache with shouldering enormous boxes; to be a field-
    hand under the Delta sun, under the torchlight in salvation orgies,
    an animal with none of the animal freedom from shame; to be an
    assassin on Beale Street or a clown dancing in a saloon for pennies
    and humiliation.

    To be a Negro was to live in a decaying shanty or in a frame
    tenement like a foul egg-crate, and to wear either slapping old
    shoes or the shiny toothpicks of a procurer; to sleep on unchanged
    bedclothes that were like funguses, and to have for spiritual
    leader only a howling and lecherous swindler.

    There were practically no other kinds of Negroes. Had he not heard
    so from his Georgia army doctor?

    To be a Negro, once they found you out, no matter how pale you
    were, was to work in kitchens–always in other people’s thankless
    kitchens–or in choking laundries or fever-hot foundries or at
    shoeshine stands where the disdainful white gentry thought about
    spitting down on you.

    To be a Negro was to be unable–biologically, fundamentally,
    unchangeably unable–to grasp any science beyond addition and plain
    cooking and the driving of a car, any philosophy beyond comic
    dream-books. It was to be mysteriously unable ever to take a bath,
    so that you were more offensive than the animals who clean

    It was to have such unpleasant manners, invariably, that you were
    never admitted to the dining-table of any decent house nor to the
    assemblies of most labor unions which, objectionable though they
    were to a conscientious banker like himself, still did have enough
    sense to see that all Negroes are scabs and spies and loafers.

    It was to be an animal physically. It was to be an animal
    culturally, deaf to Beethoven and St. Augustine. It was to be an
    animal ethically, unable to keep from stealing and violence, from
    lying and treachery. It was literally and altogether to be an
    animal, somewhere between human beings and the ape.

    It was to know that your children, no matter how much you loved
    them or strove for them, no matter if they were fair as Biddy, were
    doomed to be just as ugly and treacherous and brainless and bestial
    as yourself, and their children’s children beyond them forever,
    under the curse of Ezekiel.

    The e-text of the entire book is available here:

    Additional information:


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