The Mysterious Madame XYZ

September 4, 1927
Los Angeles

The public stenographer was used to all sorts of crazy jobs, but the one that arrived in the mail last week was a new one for sure. She was to type up, and send to a number of prominent citizens, an appeal for $1500 from a purportedly destitute woman who promised to kill herself if the money was not received by the following Wednesday. The letter was signed “Madame XYZ.” It was all too weird for the stenographer, who turned the request over to police.

Today, an anonymous note showed up at the Central Police Station identifying Madame XYZ as Eunice McMullin of 2674 South Vermont Avenue. Clues given in the note led detectives to the conclusion that McMullin is really Mrs. Frank A. Martin. The 40-year-old Mrs. Martin has been missing since last week, according to her husband, who also said she tried to kill herself three years ago in Oakland.

XYZ/McMullin/Martin was clearly no criminal mastermind; the note, which used her real address, also included details of a railroad accident Martin suffered in 1913. And asking a public stenographer to send her extortion letters? Pure bush league.

Postscript: Police closed the case the following day, after the still-missing Madame XYZ contacted her husband and promised not to take her own life. Detectives noted that Mr. Martin was “not at all concerned” over his wife’s threats of suicide (an attitude apparently shared by the LAPD where Madame XYZ’s attempt at blackmail was concerned).

His wife wanted the money, Mr. Martin revealed to the Times, to “establish a new religious movement.” Neighbors, on the other hand, reported that they hadn’t noticed an upsurge in religious activities by either of the Martins, who were “in a strained financial condition”—or so said the neighborhood busybodies.

The story ended two days later, when Madame XYZ dropped a letter in her husband’s mailbox stating she would return to him only if he joined her in founding her sect. Alas, no details were given concerning the new religion, and, as police reiterated, given Mr. Martin’s “confidence that no harm will befall his wife,” the case was at a standstill.

The Bible Explained — For $1,000


Jan. 22, 1907
Los Angeles

Since his teens, James Lauer has been studying the Bible. Where others have struggled to parse its meanings, he has found clarity. He wants to write a book that will explain it all. The only thing he needs is $1,000 ($20,523.57 USD 2005).

During his studies of the Bible, Lauer has apparently never encountered anything prohibiting extortion, so to get the money, he has been writing notes to Mrs. Joseph Maier Sr. One was not enough, so Lauer wrote a series of letters demanding money and threatening her life if she didn’t pay.

At the moment, Lauer is in the City Jail under examination by Dr. Quint. Neither Lauer’s conduct nor his appearance is reassuring. “His long red hair and beard are unkempt, his flat-topped skull is peculiarly formed and his painfully strained gaze does not indicate a well-balanced mind,â€Â The Times says.

“During his imprisonment in the City Jail, Lauer talked wildly of his plans for writing a book about the Bible which would clear up all the misunderstanding. He repeatedly declared that while all attempts to explain the Bible have failed, it is quite clear to him, and that he could explain it perfectly to others if he were given opportunity to write his book.

“Lauer, according to his own statement, has pored over the Bible constantly since he was 15 years of age, inventing explanations, and this, it is believed, has turned his brain.â€Â

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