Cowboys and Indians

January 10, 1927
Unincorporated Los Angeles

Sheriff’s officers responded to a desperate cry of murder after a corpse was found by oil field workers digging ditches in Brea, but when they investigated they determined it was merely the aged skeleton of an Indian, disinterred from his ancient grave. The corpse was reburied without ceremony, and the diggers advised to avoid the spot in the future.

And in another Sheriff’s case with a fresher body, the peculiar suicide by gun of Charles Norton, shopkeeper at 1760 East Slauson, was explained away rather ingeniously. Why was the man found dead in his bed in the store’s back room, when his brother said he had no reason to do away with himself? Deputy Sheriff Hackett believes the cause was a nightmare, triggered by the story "Shooting Mad" in the Wild West-themed magazine lying beside the dead man. Hackett suggests Norton dozed off while reading, dreamed a gunman was in the room, reached under the pillow for his own weapon and inadvertently shot himself. Stranger things have happened in Los Angeles.

Hickmaniana

January 23, 1927
Los Angeles

hangingaround

Following up yesterday’s story about whether one Ray McCoy was lynched for looking too much like Edward Hickman…

The verdict of the Coroner’s jury?  Jail officials and other prisoners, all vindicated.  Nevertheless, it seems that Ralph “Ray McCoy” Fuller raised the ire of Angelenos in the grip of Hickman fever, whose Hickmanmania (Hickmania?  Hickmentia?) led an angry mob to chase down and beat Fuller something fierce, believing the twenty year-old to be Hickman, after Fuller robbed a store at 242 South Main and was chased two blocks on foot.

Fellow prisoner Fred Meadows told the Times that once in the hoosegow, the sullen and reserved Fuller was regarded as just another popped burglar.  Meadows related how he and the boys started playing “Sundown” in an outer tank and when he returned, Fuller had hanged himself with Meadows’ scarf.  (Must be nice to have scarves.  And pianos.)

In other lynching news, any and all information regarding Hickman’s departure and route from Pendleton (where he was exhibited in a cage like a circus animal) to Los Angeles County Jail is being kept under strict secrecy.  

damnyoufriedrich 

News of the Day

December 22, 1927
Los Angeles

Let’s put up our feet and see what’s gone on in the world this day.  Not much.  The odd curiosity or two.   
hemp
According to our concerned friends at the paper, it seems the Mexicans are making a menace of themselves, using flowers of the “hemp” plant as some sort of habit-forming drug (they’re such a resourceful people!).  Apparently the Imperial Linen Products Company has blanketed the Imperial Valley with the stuff.  Well, I’m sure the State will sort this one out to everybody’s satisfaction.

 

 

onelastcigOh dear, here’s another fellow who just couldn’t resist a final cigarette.  Seems J. B. Smith left the wife at his Glendale home and checked into the LaViolette Hotel on North Maclay in San Fernando.  He brought with him a stack of goodbye letters indicating his fears about going mad, and a loaf of bread—not for snacking, but for soaking in water and wadding into the wafty windows and drafty doors (my hat off again to the resourcefulness of our Southlanders).  Of course, no-one banks on the dang’d jets taking so long.  Thankfully J. B. also brought along a pack of smokes to pass the time…the hole blown in the wall was six feet in diameter.  J. B.’s smoldering remains lived long enough to say goodbye to his wife at the hospital, but not much longer than that.

ostrichmanAnd oh my, it seems one of my favorite attractions of the stage, Sidney Barnes the Human Ostrich, has expired in New Orleans.  After complaining of stomach pains, the Homo Struthio underwent an operation to remove a cigar box full of bolts, carpet tacks, razor blades, washers and nails from therein—Barnes did not emerge alive.  Guess growing up to be a carnival side can be rough, kids!

 mistakenidentity

And what do have we here…a Coroner’s inquest will be held at 1:30 today to determine whether Ralph McCoy, in City Jail on suspicion of robbery, actually hung himself in his cell or was killed by fellow prisoners—it seems McCoy bears (well, bore) a resemblance to one William Edward Hickman.

Oh yeah.  Hickman.  Some mention in the paper about him, too.

vaunted thanksfoild

sadfasdfasylummotherfurorfasherimgadfadqueerquirksleepsmosherconfessionescapedattackflaw2flightouttaindictmentsdfasdf hicktaked

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God Granted Him the Serenity

 killsself

francisDecember 8, 1927
Pasadena 

The next time you need to go to a 12-step meeting, or better yet a full detox, or just be hospitalized for that durn’d dementia praecox, do yourself a favor and head on over to Las Encinas. Take in the rolling lawns, the mature trees, and gorgeous hundred year-old shingle cottages.  Watch as Dr. Drew administers kindly words to one or more Osbournes, and perhaps they’ll put you in the bungalow where W. C. Fields drank and breathed his last.  Then tell us if you happened upon the ghosts of Francis Stevens and his sons Georgie and Francis Jr.  

Francis E. Stevens was a Prominent Pasadenan—Vice-President of the First Trust and Savings Bank of Pasadena and the First National Bank of Pasadena, member of Pasadena’s War Finance Committee, a man with a newly built home and a…lovely family.  

Lovely enough, but not entirely.  His wife Elizabeth was prominent socially, certainly, and of his 16 year-old daughter Carol’s charms there can be no doubt.  But his sons…little George, 14, has been almost an invalid since birth, and “backward”.  And as such the entirety of Francis’ hopes and expectations for the future rode on his namesake, Francis E. Jr., 20.  Unfortunately, the star pupil at Univeristy of Michigan, where Francis Sr. had attended school, Francis Jr. crashed his car into a telephone pole near Ann Arbor and suffered a basal fracture that affected his mind, landing him what looked to be a permanent place back in Pasadena…at Las Encinas Sanitarium.

And so Francis Sr. did what any concerned, dutiful father would do.  He went to work at eight a.m., made light and cheery conversation the cashiers, and made certain all was in order; then went home to fetch George to take him off to James A. Garfield Grammar School (once at the NE corner of S. Pasadena and California Street).  This he did, and the two sat outside the school, talking in the car, until about 9:15, according to witnesses.  Then they drove off, to where, we’ll never know.  All we know is that Francis Sr. shot George in the head.  And then arrived at Las Encinas at 10:15.

weeksofplanning

Francis left George’s corpse in the back seat covered in a laprobe, and walked to administration to inquire after his other son.  He chatted with the attendants, then made his way to the bungalows.  He went to the bungalow where Francis Jr. lived with his male nurse, Frank B. Schaefer, and handed Schaefer a well-wrapped package, instructing him “Don’t let anybody have these and don’t open them until you hear from me.”  And with that he and his son took a lovely walk around the grounds.

thetenniscourtThey walked and talked along the shady paths and across sun-dappled lawns until they came to the tennis court in the rear.  It was 12:15 when father pulled out and brought a pistol to his son’s temple and fired.  He was then seen sliding the barrel into his mouth and pulling the trigger, his body crumpling directly next to his son’s.

Some time after the excitement of having the wife and daughter brought to the sanitarium, and the bodies had been removed, that someone thought of having the Stevens sedan hauled away.  It was only then an attendant noticed the slow moving stream of blood oozing over the fender.

The package Stevens gave to Schaefer contained securities, bonds, his will, multitudinous letters to banking concerns indicating that their finances were in order (which checked out just fine), and the ashes of Sylvia Stevens, a daughter he’d lost and cremated some time ago.

The funeral for the Stevens men was held shortly thereafter, though in spirit, the trio were still, of course, at Las Encinas.  

Good Find is Hard to Help

 wereallwoundedbysomeone

December 2, 1927
Hollywood

theclimaxMrs. Margaret Pumphrey, 27, of the Milner Road Pumphreys, was standing in her bedroom of her hillside home, preparing to go downtown, when she was approached by her white-jacketed butler.  He asked if there were any further orders.  Mrs. Pumphrey said there were none.

With that, her servant—Richard R. Ewell, 30—developed an “insane gleam” in his eye and approached further…whereupon Mrs. Pumphrey noticed the .45 automatic in his hand.  

The chase—and fusillade of shots—began!  Mrs. Pumphey fled through a bathroom and into an adjoining bedroom, through a hallway and down the stairs, but there’s no running from the staff.  They know the house better than you do.

The mad pursuit and firearm blasts continued from room to room to room until Margaret managed to lock herself into a downstairs bedroom.  Ewell fired several shots into the door to break the lock, but once he heard the window open, he ran around the house to catch her escaping.  And catch her he did—as he climbed into the window, he shot her in the side as she ran screaming out the door.  

The screams alarmed neighbor Mrs. Johnstone, who came running (with her two maids in tow [also suitably armed?]) and Ewell fired upon them from the home’s entryway—but Ewell, realizing that the alarm had been raised and his game discovered, put the barrel to his head and sent his brains all over the foyer he’d kept so spotless the three months he’d been under the Pumphrey’s employ.

Mrs. Margaret Pumphrey (could Kaufman & Ryskind have scripted a name of greater puffery?) suffered more from shock and fright (as visions of FLW’s former servant surely flashed through her head) than from her injury; she was rushed to Hollywood Receiving and was treated for the superficial wound and released.  

According to LeRoy Bird, with whom Ewell lived at 4307 Hooper Avenue, Philadelphia native Ewell was an industrious man of good character and habits and never had any previous trouble.  Detective Lieutenant Mahoney contends that Ewell had probably been crazed by dope, especially as he’d been out the night before and had acted strangely in the morning.

Ewell leaves a widow, Inez Ewell, in Kansas City.  Because his death was self-inflicted, there was no inquest over the body.  A small notebook was later found in Ewell’s possessions, and it was greatly hoped by Captain of Detectives Slaughter to contain names of prominent Hollywood people and information about dope trafficking; but sadly for Slaughter, “the only names in the book, the officer declares, are those of negresses and it is devoid of anything referring to narcotics or trade in the drugs.”

So why did Richard Ewell snap?  If only we had some sign.

A Mysterious Suicide in Elysian Park

October 16, 1927
Los Angeles

His body was propped against a tree with a shotgun’s muzzle placed against what remained of his head. He had pulled the trigger with his toe. The note was terse: “Suicide. No dependents. No estate. No heirs. Please notice in New York World on Oct. 30th to print. $2 inclosed [sic]. Body to science, in reserve, or cremate.” It was signed “Anton K. Windsor.”

But who was the man found by police in Elysian Park shortly after daybreak this morning? Despite the carefully printed signature on the note, police doubted his name was Anton Windsor. If it was, why had he cut all the laundry marks and labels out of his clothing? A shears and razor blade used to do the job were still in his pocket. Identification had also been removed from a Masonic apron neatly folded in an inside pocket.

He was rich, according to detectives who cited his expensive gray business suit and outing cap, his soft hands with their careful manicure, and his face—”that of a man accustomed to easy living.” They speculated that his request to have his death noticed in the New York World two weeks from now was a message to someone “arriving from Europe shortly before that date” or perhaps he wanted to announce his death “in connection with some public event, possibly the settling of an estate.”

Another clue to his identity (the Times referred to it as the “only clew”; they apparently didn’t count his Masonic affiliation) was the “ancient” J. Manton & Co. shotgun he used.

Who were you, Anton K. Windsor?

Razors Pain You, Rivers Are Damp

vannuysDorothy Parker’s well-known verse, published in her 1926 collection Enough Rope, assured readers that they "might as well live."  However, this admonition proved impossible for many today in the Southland, as three men turned blades upon themselves in a veritable rash of unrelated suicides.

Despondent over poor health and unemployment, Martin Phillips, 42, of 421 W. Second St. slashed his wrists and throat.  He was discovered in his house by a fellow boarder, and taken to the hospital; however, Phillips was not expected to live.

A former employee of the Los Angeles Water Department drove to an apricot orchard in Van Nuys and cut his own throat with a straight razor.  Frank A. Howard of 2125 Allesandro Street had been missing since Sept. 3, and was reported to have been upset over his sick child who was confined to a sanatorium.

More difficult to understand was the suicide attempt of a young bank clerk, one Donald W. Fraser of Brea.  Fraser was employed at the First National Bank there, and on the same night that he slashed his wrists, his boss, M.J. Wolfe, was charged with misappropriation of funds in the amount of $1000.  It is unknown whether the incidents were related; however, a bank manager reported that Fraser’s accounts were in good order and that he was on vacation at the time he attempted suicide.

Suicide by Car

Suicide Headline

September 16, 1927 Laguna Beach

Jerome Shaffer, 35, may have been the first case of suicide by car ever reported in California. A resident of Laguna Beach and professional entertainer, Shaffer had been ill and in financial difficulties when he drove his car to Laguna Beach Grammar School to end his life.

Jerome parked his car on the playground of the school and crawled underneath leaving the engine running. He then wrapped himself in a blanket and held one end of a rubber hose in the self-made shroud with him, and thrust the other end into the car’s exhaust pipe so that the deadly gas would propel him into oblivion. His body was found by the school principal, George K. Bingham.

According to his roommate, Jack West, Jerome had slipped quietly from their shared dwelling sometime during the pre-dawn hours of the morning. Shaffer and West had performed at the Masonic Hall in South Pasadena and returned home at 1 am. Jack told police that he hadn’t heard Jerome leave and only learned of his roommate’s fate when he found the letter which had been left for him.

Shaffer also left a letter addressed to Judge Raymond Thompson of Pasadena. In that letter he gave instructions for the disposition of his automobile and said that he regretted that he had no money to bequeath West. He asked that his body be cremated by the Charles Lamb Company of Pasadena, and requested that his ashes be given a public funeral in the Laguna Beach open air theater. His final wish was that his remains be scattered over the Pacific by his longtime friend and pilot, Joe Skidmore.

Let’s Hope He Remembered to Cut Her Out of the Will

suicideAugust 18, 1927
Lancaster

Archie Howell had a flair for the dramatic.  

He and his wife divorced after two years of marriage, she awarded her $115 a-month alimony.  Howell had gone to see his erstwhile love at their home, but she refused to see him.

Later Howell was in his auto and saw his wife on the street.  “Come on over to the car, honey, I want to give you some money” he chirped.   The former Mrs. Howell strode over and leaned in, at which point Mr. Howell shot himself in the head.

Death Before Dishonor, Your Honor

 ghost

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.
 taycheedah