June 9, 1907
Olga Miller was a comely young thing who worked at the Hotel Rosslyn and was considered quite attractive despite the scar on her temple from shooting herself in the head.
One day she fell ill and was taken to County Hospital, where she went into convulsions and died after a visit from Richard Hardy, who forced his way into her room and made her drink a glass of milk that police suspected was poisoned.
But her death was only the beginning of the complicated story, a morbidly Victorian tale that includes murder, insanity, false identities, suicides and fears of body snatching.
Shortly after Miller died, officials learned that she was actually Bertha Beilstein, the daughter of John Frederick Beilstein, a wealthy Allegheny, Pa., businessman and politician. Before his mysterious death in 1897 (some people suspected Bertha of poisoning him in a fit of insanity), he wrote a will putting all his money in a trust for his heirs as long as she was alive.
Stationery engineer Samuel E. Moss, of 704 East Fifth Street, is still strapped to a bed in Receiving Hospital today, having been arrested in Westlake Park the night of the 21st after attempting suicide with an overdose of bromide.
It seems Mr. Moss, who has no apparent motive for the act (“He is a magnificent specimen of manhood and that he should so fondly court death seemed peculiar to the police,” the Times informs), was thwarted by a crafty druggist. Druggists have come under State Board of Pharmacy scrutiny of late–usually because they’ll sell opium to any and everyone–and so when Moss asked for a “big dose of carbolic”, the pharmacist slipped him the bromide.
In Westlake Park, Moss gulped down the bromide, which made him sick and semiconscious; he was picked up by a Westlake Park Special Officer.
Every morning since his induction to Receiving, attendants ask Moss if he wants to live. And every morning he says no, which confounds Chief Surgeon Garrett. “He is one of the most remarkable prisoners I have ever known. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred who try to commit suicide do so in a fit of despondency. When they are saved, they are only too glad to be alive. This man seems as strong in his desire for death now as he did when he took the drug and restraint seems about the only remedy for him.”
Questioning his Fifth Street rooming house cohabitators revealed nothing. Moss acts and speaks rationally, merely stating “If I don’t want to live, that’s no one’s business but my own.” And so his morning questioning continues–and if he continues to answer in the negative, Garrett will have no other recourse but to file a complaint with the State Board of Insanity Commissioners.
May 13, 1907
15-year-old William McCormick visited the police to make a panicked plea for the salvation of his mother Janette, removed yesteday from 228 South Avenue 66 to the lunatics’ ward of the County Hospital. His mother is, William swears, quite sane, and her confinement the result of a family plot to steal her inheritance.
Mrs. McCormick is the primary beneficiary of a million dollar estate based in Denver, although much of the family lives on the west coast, including cousin Arthur Randall, in whose home the McCormicks had been staying.
Although no warrant for the woman’s arrest was ever produced, Superintendant Barber of the County Hospital accepted the word of the deputy sherrifs who brought the shrieking woman into his ward that such a warrant was in the hands of the Sheriff, and he refuses to release his captive until the case is investigated today.
Young McCormick explains, "After the death of my grandmother, mother and I came to the Coast. When our relatives learned that the greater portion of the property was left to mother and me, they began to plot. While we were in San Diego, Mrs. Belle M. Auston, who now lives in Black River Falls, Wis, and is my aunt, tried to kidnap me and was unsuccessful."
After this shock, the pair moved on to stay with a lady cousin in Ocean Park, then moved in with cousin Arthur. "He is the one who is making this trouble for mother. She is sane and has never been troubled with any symptoms of insanity. I believe that my uncles N.M. Phelps and A.D. Merrill of Denver have hired Randall to try to get mother in an asylum, so as to get her fortune! Phelps was left only $5000 by my grandmother’s will and Merrill was not mentioned. I am not very old, but I don’t want to see them harm mother."
The police sargeant told the youngster to contact the District Attorney.