The Gentleman Thief Feathers His Nest

vonfalkenstein1Let us now turn our attention to the male weaverbird, who craft intricate nests to attract a female by stitching and knotting grasses together.  Less industrious and ethical is our friend, the starling, who will sometimes steal the nest of another bird for mating.
And then, there’s one Fred W. Von Falkenstein, an insurance broker formerly of Butte, Montana, who put the starlings to shame by stealing over $60,000 worth of home furnishings for his Alhambra love nest.  Von Falkenstein was betrothed to a Miss Anne Marshall, also of Butte, who was soon to come to Alhambra so they could be wed.  However, it was not to be.

Von Falkenstein was apprehended after he came to have a peek at 223 S. McCadden Place, a home that had recently gone on the market.  There, he met real estate salesman H.H. Morgan, who did not get Fred’s name, but found him suspicious enough to jot down his license plate number as he drove away.  When the house was later burgled, Morgan vonfalkenstein2handed the number over to police who confiscated between 6 and 8 carloads of stolen goods from Von Falkenstein’s home at 619 Meridian Avenue.  Found among the items were Oriental rugs, solid silver home accessories, a radio cabinet, and a French salon painting valued at approximately $5000 that he’d lifted from the art gallery at the Ambassador Hotel.

Though Von Falkenstein worked with an accomplice, Robert Donaldson of 1928 Crenshaw, he acted alone in the art theft and said it was easy.  He simply walked into the empty gallery, cut the canvas out of its frame, rolled it up, and walked out of the Ambassador without drawing any attention.

In addition to the art theft, Von Falkenstein also pled guilty to two more home burglaries, and was sentenced to 2 terms of 1 to 15 years at San Quentin.  And so it was that our love bird turned jailbird.

Death Before Dishonor, Your Honor


August 12, 1927
Los Angeles

leapAlice Miller, 24, was hanging out with her buddies Helen Myers, Norman Myers and Robert Wilkenson—the four of them all out on bail on various charges of grand larceny, pickpocketing, and vagrancy—in her little room at the Hillman Apartments, 1010 Ingraham Street.  

There’s a knock on the door.  Seems that Robert Seaner, the bondsman who’d bailed Alice out when she got pinched for pickpocketing in downtown department stores, has just received some disturbing news from Chief of Police Laubenhemer out in Milwaukee.  Was it true, Alice, that back in Milwaukee, where you were known as Mrs. Mary Becker, you escaped from the Industrial Home for Women at Taycheedah?  Would you be so kind as to come with me down to the station so we can sort this thing out?  Sure thing, says Alice, let me go in the other room for a moment and change into my street clothes.

aliceBut the moments come and go and the collected find the room empty.  She’s chosen death over jail:  through the open window, they see her broken body lying four stories below.

Despite the basal skull fracture, broken nose and arm, and assorted internal injuries, Alice survives to stand trial.  On November 26, Alice is freed on the charge of shoplifting, due to insufficient evidence; she is promptly rearrested by Milwaukee officers, who set off with their prisoner.

The Continuing Saga of Aimee Semple McPherson

Aimee Semple McPherson

July 24, 1927
Echo Park

Relations between evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and her mother, Mrs. Minnie "Ma" Kennedy, are reported to be on the mend today after a recent dust-up concerning the management of McPherson’s Angelus Temple. Kennedy had been acting as business manager while Sister Aimee was off on a preaching tour, but a series of burglaries (whispers said embezzlements) caused some church members—her daughter apparently among them—to lose confidence in Kennedy’s abilities. Sister Aimee cut her trip short earlier this week and returned to Los Angeles, where yesterday she announced that her mother was going to take a "long needed" vacation to the Holy Land.

Today, however, Sister Aimee presented her mother with three options by way of a peace pact. Mrs. Kennedy could either (1) remain at the church but not in a managerial position; (2) take control of the entire organization while Sister Aimee founded a new and separate church; or (3) retire from all active participation in the church and receive "a substantial income from Angelus Temple" for the rest of her life.

Mrs. Kennedy declined comment (though reporters noted her tearful visage). It is anticipated she will choose the first option. Sister Aimee meanwhile emphatically denied any personal animosity between the women (seen here reunited, along with Aimee’s children, after last year’s "kidnapping") or even that anyone had tried to oust her mother from the church in the first place.

In another blow to the scandal-plagued evangelist, former Angelus Temple band leader Gladwyn Nichols today announced his reasons for leaving McPhersons’s church to found his own, chief among them being Sister Aimee’s "sensational" alleged abduction of last May. Nichols also pointed to alleged financial improprieties at Angelus Temple, and condemned Sister Aimee’s "flagrant … activities in obtaining publicity" including "posing before the news camera in stylish and expensive dresses" and "being photographed with bobbed hair."

The Mad Gasser of Fullerton Strikes Again!



June 30, 1927

Two members of the Ralph Ince Film Company returned to the California Hotel in Fullerton ’round midnight tonight to find their fearless leader, Ralph Ince, semiconscious and supine upon the floor.  Nipping the ol”™ Hollywood joy juice down in Valenciaville, eh, Ralphie?

califhotelpicWhy, no!  He”™s been the victim of the Mad Gasser of Fullerton!  Hotel resident Carl Breusch said he’d seen a man skulking about the corridor, carrying a can, and that said can-carrier leapt out of a window when approached.  Guests Charles Scott and Charles McMaster were awakened in their respective bedrooms by the odor of the anesthetic solvent and then espied through their windows a shadowy figure running down the street.

Though the papers reported Alois Sabinski’s recent battle with chloroform in his Nicholas Street home, California Hotel lessee Ellen Lincoln declared she’d heard nothing about any “chloroform burglar;” Fullerton Chief of Police T. K. Winter said, ahem, reports regarding any such character have been greatly exaggerated.

In any event, Ince has departed for his company”™s location in Santa Ana Canyon, and can not be reached for comment.


The Mad Gasser of… Fullerton?

June 28, 1927

Scholars of the unexplained in America will be familiar with the legend of the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, a possibly imaginary figure who gassed his way across two communities over a decade and thence into the spooky books.

But we’ve found a precedent in the Los Angeles area that beats the first Mad Gasser attacks by six years! This very evening, garage operator Alois Sabinski was asleep in his home at 111 North Nicholas Street when his wife was roused by the distinctive odor of chloroform, and discovered her husband in a swoon. The clever lady threw open all the windows to disperse the poison before she too was rendered insensible, and peeked outside to see a man running away carrying what looked like a bicycle pump. A bicycle pump of doom!

Officer Roy Mills, called to the scene, found footprints under the window and on the porch, and evidence that the gasser had launched his fumes through the open transom. So close those transoms, kids, and beware strange men bearing pumps.

More Alligator Rustlin’

May 13, 1927
Santa Ana

One Thomas Little was attempting to raid the fabled Utt avocado groves down in Lemon Heights when he ran afoul of ‘cado guard George Henning.  The two struggled for possession of a revolver while the two careened down a hillside in Litttle’s truck before Little was at last apprehended.

But, with Little having stolen nothing, how could it be proved that the value of what he intended to steal was more than $200?  It was therefore up to Justice Morrison to determine the value of the accused man’s intended grand larcency haul.  Dep. Dist.-Atty. Collins produced the fifteen empty sacks that Mr. Little had in tow; the court estimated these sacks would likely hold fifteen hundred pounds of the bewitching fruit, and further determined that these be worth more than the lowest grand larceny charge of $200.

All that notwithstanding, it was declared at the hearing that Little came quite close to being caught in a bear trap.

Forget About the Law

volubleMay 12, 1927
Los Angeles

Archie Quinzey appeared as his own defense today before Superior Judge Stephens, on the charge of unlawfully entering a local home, proceeding to the cupboard, and gorging himself on the comestibles therein.  

Normally, it is said, he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, but such was not the case with Mr. Quinzey.  Stephens heard and considered Quinzey’s plea, glanced out the window at a restaurant, considered and cogitated a spell, and stated that while he could impose a heavier sentence, he would not, and felt that a mere six months in County would teach Quinzey to ignore the savory odors emanating from other persons’ kitchens.

Quinzey’s plea, a mixture of erudition and ignoratio elenchi, is printed in the Times with all the characteristic argot endemic to the Good Olde Days:


Green Gold

May 10, 1927
Santa Ana

Then as now, avocados are expensive and desirable treats, and a produce man will find his business flourishing when his expenses are limited to gasoline for midnight raids on Orange County orchards and bullets for his gun.

But the men of the Avocado Grower’s Association breathe easier tonight after the arrest of Louis Chiuma at his produce stand at 2301 West First Street. Chiuma and his associates are believed to be among the gangs of alligator pear snatchers who have absconded with $50,000 worth of the fruit so far this year. Recently, two men raided the Lindauer Ranch in La Habra and dropped their sacks to engage the night watchman in a gunfight. No one was hit, and the guard reported their truck license to County Sheriffs, which led them to Chiuma.

Back in the suspect’s rooms, sheriffs found a stash of dynamite. But what they couldn’t find was a snitch: the neighborhood clammed up quick, with some souls heard muttering about the Black Hand. That’s right: the Avocado Mafia, and don’t let me hear you tattling, or there’ll be no guacamole on your enchilada tonight or ever!

Home, home on deranged

May 7, 1927
Mint Canyon

Mrs. Vera Sharp, aka Mrs. De Font, is a 35 year old widow and a resident of Mint Canyon. She is also a woman of many talents: artist, sculptress, ranch owner and cattle rustler. Mrs. Sharp stands accused of rustling a heifer, butchering it, then barbecuing and serving it to the patrons of her roadside restaurant, the La Jolla Lodge.

The primary evidence in the case against Mrs. Sharp consists of the hide of the doomed animal, which was discovered in a well, and a few satisfied diners at her roadside eatery.

Mrs. Sharp and a friend, Mr. Archie Cooper, a former deputy sheriff, allegedly pilfered the unfortunate beast from Mr. Guy B. Carson”˜s ranch in Palmdale.

Why did Vera and her accomplice herd the illegally obtained bovine through the nighttime streets of Palmdale to meet its fate? Was she so determined to grill a taste treat for the patrons of her restaurant that she risked arrest? Was she attempting to lure a restaurant critic to the lodge? Or was she planning a romantic dinner?

Apparently, the Mint Canyon gourmand is also accused of breaking into the home of M.S. Cairns to steal clothing and silverware ”“ must haves for an intimate dinner of barbecued heifer a deux with that special man.

Mrs. Sharp, accompanied by her attorney municipal judge-elect Dudley S. Valentine, appeared in court to deny the charges against her. She has been released on $3000 bail. Is she as innocent as she claims, or is that a smear of BBQ sauce on her chin?

Bon appetit, Vera.

Nearer My God to Thee






April 30, 1927
Los Angeles

Nice funeral today for Harry “Mile-Away” Thomas at the Gulik Funeral Parlor.   A few days ago Mile-Away—the gangster known for always having been a “mile away” from whatever crime for which he was arrested—was boosting bootleg hooch and a car from the garage of Ora Lawson, 1408 West Thirty-Fifth Street

mileawayOfficers responded to her call about a prowler, and when they arrived, acclaimed hijacker Thomas went for his piece.  The cops opened up with a machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun and two large-caliber revolvers, and yet the twice-arrested-for-murder, “King of the Hi-Jackers” Mile-Away Thomas, filled with pounds of buckshot and slugs, ran from the garage straight at the cops.  

Mile-Away had been in the news just this last February, implicated in the murder of stockbroker/bootlegger Luther Green at Green’s home.  Cops chased Mile-Away around Los Angeles for two weeks before arresting him and, while detectives said on the stand they were certain it was our boy, he was let go for lack of evidence.

At the funeral today, upperworld and underworld hobnobbed, gawked at by the public throng, and Mile-Away’s lady friend, fellow carreer criminal Betty Carroll, swooned and collapsed for the collected.  The cortege moved on to Forest Lawn, and the crowd dispersed.  

Think of Mile-Away, won’t you, the next time you’re down near 35th and Normandie, where his ghost, bloodied but unbowed and his clanking not with chains but from a belly full of bullets, is charging at you with final terrifying resolution, coming to hi-jack your soul.