Historic Crimes - USA

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Historic Crimes
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Classic Hate Crimes
Organized Crime

The Holocaust
Jack the Ripper
Lizzie Borden
Elizabeth Shor


The Reformation: A History

The Reformation and Counter-Reformation represented the greatest upheaval in Western society since the collapse of the Roman Empire. The consequences of those shattering events are still felt today-from the stark divisions between (and within) Catholic and Protestant countries to the Protestant ideology that governs America, the world's only remaining superpower. Diarmaid MacCulloch conveys the drama, complexity, and continuing relevance of these events with vivid portraits of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Loyola, Henry VIII, and a number of popes, conveying why their ideas were so powerful and affected everyday lives.

Secrets of the Dead: Crime Scene Investigations Meet History

Famous Trials -- Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Mandela.

Maryland Jury and Infanticide Discussion -- A colonial jury in 1656 made up entirely of women acquitted an accused Maryland woman of infanticide. See Also Infanticide

What caused the Salem witch trials of 1692? -- A few young gilrs began to act strangely and doctors determined their behavior due to an evil force. A hysteria spread through the town. By time the frenzy died down 24 people died. 19 were hanged, one was pressed to death, and the others died in prison.

The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege by Marilynne K Roach Based on over 20 years of research, including previously unknown documents, this history unfolds a narrative of the Salem witch trials as the citizens of Salem experienced the outbreak of hysteria.

VHS Ancient Mysteries: Witchcraft In America --The video traces the dark art back to Salem, MA, 300 years ago. It introduces a 19th century New Orleans voodoo queen who presided over bloody rituals and bestial orgies, and the 1928 murder of an alleged witch doctor.

A Century of Lawmaking For A New Nation -- 700 volumes selected by the Law Library of Congress, including the Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-89, the American State Papers, 1789-1838, the Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence, Joint Resolutions of the Senate 1824-73, and the first 3 volumes of the Congressional Record 1873-75.

Benedict Arnold -- his name has since become synonymous with traitor.

New Orleans from its earliest days, populated by convicts released from French prisons, has an exotic and dangerous image.

The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld by Herbert Asbury -- Home to the notorious "Blue Book," which listed the names and addresses of every prostitute living in New Orleans's red-light district, New Orleans underworld consisted of more than bordellos. Known as the early gambling capital of the US, it had one of the most violent records of street crime in the country.

Famous Constitutional Cases -- 1803 - 1991

1807 The Aaron Burr Trial -- Aaron Burr, founding father, Vice President, and slayer of Alexander Hamilton in a duel. The trial judge, was John Marshall, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, (the most important justice in history); the force behind the prosecution--Thomas Jefferson.

The Aaron Burr Treason Trial: A Headline Court Case (Headline Court Cases) by Eileen Lucas

Andrew Jackson's Duel with Charles Dickinson

The Passions of Andrew Jackson by Andrew Burstein--What transformed a frontier bully into the 7th president of the US? A Southerner obsessed with personal honor who threatened his enemies with duels to death, a man who fled to Spanish Mississippi with the love of his life before she was divorced.

The Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death by an armed mob in Carthage, Illinois. Mobs attacked Latter-day Saint settlements in the region, burning crops, destroying homes, and threatening to exterminate the people.

The prosperous doctor and Madam Lalaurie lived in a home built for entertainment where balls, masks and parties were common. In 1834 a fire broke out the fire department found parts from slaves who had been subjected to torture, and crude medical experiments.

1879 Mysterious Disappearances -- "Unless the police lines are drawn closer around the inhabitants of our large cities, the number of those who mysteriously disappear from one cause or another will become still more alarming than it is at present."

Wyatt Earp -- Born March 19, 1848, Wyatt was a shy young man, he seldom spoke. Wyatt Earp(Widescreen Expanded Edition)(1994) Starring: Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid

In 1854 Charity Lamb killed her husband, becoming Oregon's first murderess.

Utah's killing fields -- A remote valley's famed 1857 massacre of roughly 120 Arkansas immigrants. Some blamed Indians for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Others say Mormons led the attack. A clue found in southern Utah could link Mormon leader Brigham Young to the massacre.

American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadows, September 11, 1857 by Sally Denton -- In September 1857, a wagon train passing through Utah laden with gold was attacked. Approximately 140 people were slaughtered; only 17 children under the age of 8 were spared. This incident in an open field called Mountain Meadows has ever since been the focus of passionate debate: Is it possible that official Mormon dignitaries were responsible for the massacre?

Murder at the Sultan's Palace -- From 1839-1873, the house was owned by a wealthy plantation owner Jean Baptiste Le Prete, who used the house for entertaining. Le Prete was approached by a young man from Turkey looking for a house to rent for a wealthy Turkish sultan. The house became the scene of gruesome, unsolved massacre.

Biography of Jesse James tears down the myth to reveal not a latter-day Robin Hood, but a greedy, press-savvy bandit.

Outlaws -- When the James Younger gang staged the first daylight bank robbery in American history in 1866, the law was feeble. Over the 16 years that the gang operated, private citizens and the famed Pinkertons opposed them more often than Marshals or lawmen. While the James Younger gang enjoyed a long, successful career, the Daltons proved that stupidity is a good crime-stopper. Their ridiculous yet fascinating story is related by the curator of the Dalton museum. By Butch Cassidy, the Old West and its culture of lawlessness was dying. Butch realized of mug shots and telegraph had caught up to the outlaw culture, so he headed south. Take a nostalgic look back at the legendary outlaws.

November 1879, Mysterious Disappearances "Unless the police lines are drawn closer around the inhabitants of our large cities, the number of those who mysteriously disappear from one cause or another will become still more alarming than it is at present."

Book: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson --The incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the stories of Daniel Hudson Burnham, (1846-1912),an architect and city planner, responsible for the fair's construction and H.H. Holmes, really Herman Webster Mudgett.
CD Audio The Devil in the White City: Murder

The murder occurred in Watertown, Wisconsin on November 30, 1874. The victim was a man named John Borchardt, 66.

Belle Starr: The Bandit Queen by Burton Rascoe Legendary comrade and consort to train robbers, bootleggers, stagecoach robbers, bushwhackers, bank robbers, horse thieves, cattle thieves, and outlaws, Belle Star (1848–89) was born in Missouri and emigrated with her family to Texas in 1863. Myth made her a dancehall entertainer, faro dealer, expert horsewoman, crack shot, and adopted member of the Cherokee nation. Rascoe separates the facts from folklore and traces the sources of the fictional accounts published after her unsolved murder.

Killers of the 20th Century -- Corruption of the political, corporate, capital or social systems create conditions in which killers can thrive.

South Florida's history of murder and mayhem

Evelyn Nesbit, 17, one of the girls of the red velvet swing was a from Pennsylvania. Her husband, Henry "Harry" Kendall Thaw, the heir to a railroad and ore fortunes, beat her until she revealed her affair with Stanford White, a NY City architect who gave his name to a San Francisco college. At the roof supper club theater of Madison Square Garden, June 25, 1906, Thaw followed White to the opening of Mam´zelle Champagne, and fired 3 shots into his head. Evelyn, who went on to be a sensation in vaudeville as "The Girl on the Swing."

VHS Murder of the Century-Sensation (1995)

Clarence S. Darrow -- A social reformer, and defense attorney for labor unions, he served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1903-1905. He was nearly 70 in 1924, when he defended Nathan F. Leopold, Jr., and Richard A. Loeb and in 1925, the Scopes. Darrow was the most famous American lawyer of the early 1900's. law.umkc.edu

Book: Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America by J Anthony Lukas -- 1905 assassination of Frank Steunenberg, an ex- governor of Idaho, rumored to be the work of vengeful labor bosses. Pinkerton detective James McParland tracked Wobbly organizer Big Bill Haywood all the way to Colorado to bring him to trial, where he and two other men were defended by a team of lawyers that included Clarence Darrow.

Murder in the Adirondacks -- 1906 Big Moose Lake murder case - They rented a boat together and spent the afternoon on the water. Around 6 p.m. Grace ended up in the bottom of the lake. She had told Gillette she could not swim. This case was the basis for Theodore Dreiser's "An American Tragedy" and the movie "A Place in the Sun." albany.edu

coverCon Man: A Master Swindler's Own Story (Library of Larceny) -- In his long career as a confidence man, Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil swindled the public of more than eight million dollars and established the reputation for robbery and trickery. Always beating the police at their own game, "Yellow Kid" used phony oil deals, women, fixed races, and an endless list of other tricks to best an increasingly gullible public. One day he was Dr. Henri Reuel, a noted geologist who traveled around and told his hosts that he was a representative for a big oil company while draining them of the cash they gave him to "invest in fuel." The next day he was director of the Elysium Development Company, promising land to innocent believers while robbing them in recording and abstract fees. Or he was a chemist par excellence, who had discovered how to copy dollar bills; promising to increase your fortune, he would multiply your bill's then take the booty once the police arrived. Originally published in 1948, Con Man now appears in a new edition, part of Broadway's Library of Larceny series, and here is Weil's story as never before, with a smart and witty afterword by none other than Nobel Laureate Saul Bellow, who profiled "Yellow Kid" for The Reporter in 1956. It is undeniable proof that "Yellow Kid" was the con man who was all con men the virtuoso scam artist, bar none.Joseph"Yellow Kid" Weil was born in 1877 to German immigrant grocers in Chicago. He worked a number of odd jobs before executing a startling number of scams, primarily in the Chicago area but also all over the world. He lived to be 101 and was arguably America's greatest con man. About the Author: W. T. Brannon, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, prolific journalist, writer, and mystery novelist. He passed away in 1981.

Robert Stroud (AZ #594) the "Birdman of Alcatraz," was the most famous inmate on Alcatraz. In 1909, pimping in Alaska, he murdered a bartender who failed to pay a prostitute . In 1911 he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in Washington State where he assaulted a hospital orderly and stabbed an inmate.

"Humanizing the Prisons" August 1911 -- "The State of Vermont contains a prison where the inmates are treated upon a novel plan. They are trusted and treated like other human beings."

Public Enemy #1 The Legendary Outlaw, John Dillinger -- From his first brush with the law to his death.

The murder of Mary Phagan and Leo Frank - April 27th, 1913, Mary Phagan, 13, was found in the basement of an Atlanta, Georgia with a noose around her neck, she had been bound, beaten and sexually assaulted.

Wild Man of the Wynoochee -- A year and a half after killing 2 boys on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, and then disappearing into the deeply forested southern Grays Harbor County, WA. John Tornow, a former mental patient became a legend among loggers and a nightmare for children.

The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti -- April 15, 1920, Parmenter, a paymaster, and Berardelli, his guard, were killed carrying payroll boxes . The Never-Ending Wrong - Italian emigrants Nicola Sacco a shoemaker & Bartolomeo Vanzetti a fishmonger, were accused in the brutal holdup of the payroll truck. Sacco and Vanzetti were vindicated in 1977 by Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle a vaudeville monologist, musical comedy star, was the highest paid silent film comedian, writer, director, and producer. September 5, 1921 during a party at the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco, Virginia Rappe, a girl attending the party, ran from a bedroom and died 4 days later. Arbuckle was accused of rape and murder but exonerated after 3 trials. Before the ``bad boy of Hollywood'' was able to make a comeback, he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 46.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Bio-Bibliography by Robert Young
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle: A Biography of the Silent Film Comedian, 1887-1933 Stuart Oderman
Frame-Up!: The Untold Story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle by Andy Edmonds From interviews, Edmonds speculates that producer Adolph Zukor, ``out to get Arbuckle'' in retribution for having been forced to sign a hefty contract, organized the actor's blacklisting and helped keep the scandal alive.

Jackson, Michigan -- Miss Alice Mallett who was murdered in Jackson June 9, 1922 was director at the YWCA cafeteria in Bay City from 1915 -1918.

Hall-Mills 1922 -- Eleanor Mills, 34, was wearing a dress, with a blood soaked silk scarf around her neck laying at her lover´s side. Her tongue was cut out and her larynx removed. Reverend Edward W. Hall, 41, had his hat coveriing his face and his arm under Eleanor´s shoulder. His wife Frances Noel Stevens, was heiress of Johnson & Johnson. A witness known as the "Pig Woman" came forward.

Eddie Gein -- Gein lived a repressive and solitary life with a weak brother and domineering mother who taught him sex was sinful.

Prison Progress, March, 1922 -- The time has come to do away with the title of ´warden´ and the designations of ´prison,´ ´penitentiary,´ and the rest, and to start a new and enlightened era with a ´President of State Industries.´

May 1924 --They had a victim in mind; 14-year old boy Johnny Levinson, a neighborhood boy who fit the 'profile' created by Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr.-- . Illinois v. Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb 1924 law.umkc.edu

What is the trial of the century? -- "Monkey Trial" of 1925, considered if Tennessee could prosecute John Scopes for teaching evolution in a public school.

During the Alcatraz the penitentiary years inmates called "the Rock" home. From mid 1930's - mid 1960's, Alcatraz was America's premier maximum-security prison, the final stop for the most incorrigible inmates. See More on Prisons.

Robert Stroud (AZ #594) the "Birdman of Alcatraz," perhaps the most famous inmate on Alcatraz. In 1909, Stroud brutally murdered a bartender who allegedly failed to pay off a prostitute Stroud was pimping in Alaska. After he shot the bartender to death, he took his wallet. In 1911, he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to serve-out his sentence at McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in Washington State where he was violent and difficult to manage. He assaulted an orderly, attempted to procure narcotics through intimidation, and stabbed an inmate. He was tranferred to Leavenworth in Kansas and lived there for three decades where he came to love birds. When he was transferred to Alcatraz he studied birds for the next 17 years.

The Mysterious Death of Thelma Todd -- Thelma, aka the "Ice-Cream Blonde' and "Hot Toddy" to her friends, was a popular actress, appearing in over 40 movies between 1926 and 1935. She is most remembered for her comedic roles in Marx Brothers movies. She dated Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a prominent mobster. December 16, 1935 she was found dead in her parked car, slumped over in the front seat of her chocolate-colored 1934 Lincoln Phaeton convertible, in a two-car garage near her married lover's Pacific Palisades cliff-side mansion. Thelma Alice Todd was born on July 29th 1905 in Lawrence, MA.

The unsolved 1936 hit-and-run death of Della Call, 33, wife and mother. Her elderly companion, Mary Edgerly, was injured. The vehicle struck the women from behind, and drove off. Styles Bridges, the most powerful political figure ever to represent New Hampshire, was rumored to have been involved.

Little Marjorie West disappeared on Mother's Day 1938.

Feb. 12, 1944, restaurant owner Joseph W. Mullins' headless body was found in in Panama City. A search failed to find the missing head, murder weapon or killer.

Who killed the legendary Nell Rand and E. R. Bailey? 1947 in Beckley, WV a beautiful married woman in her 20's is found dead with her lover in lover's lane.

June 1, 1948, the blues world lost an influential harmonica player when John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson was beaten to death as he left a Chicago's nightclub. He often sung in life, "Now I want to bury my body, 'way down in Jackson, Tennessee."

Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller)

American Justice: Great Brinks Heists

Dr. Sam Sheppard was convicted of his wife's murder in 1954. -- 45 years later his son is still fighting to clear his father's name.

April 4, 1958, Los Angeles, CA -- Cheryl Crane, 14, daughter of actress Lana Turner, fatally stabbed her mother's mobster boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato, 32. Stompanato was the ex-bodyguard of gangster Mickey Cohen. Cheryl grabbed a butcher from the kitchen and ran upstairs in Turner's Beverly Hills rented home. Johnny's family sued Lana for almost a million dollars, for wrongful death. Lana settled for $20,000. Appeals Court Allows Lana Turner´s Daughter to Challenge Trust Provisions.

November 15, 1959, in Holcomb, KS, a wealthy wheat farmer, Herbert Clutter, wife Bonnie , and their teen aged children, Nancy and Kenyon were shot to death in their home.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
VHS In Cold Blood (1967) Starring: Robert Blake, Scott Wilson
In Cold Blood(1996) better than the 1967 version

Caryl Chessman, The Red-Light Bandit -- Chessman 27, was a parolee from Folsom Prison who spent most his adult life in prison. January 1948 he was arrested as the Red-Light Bandit. Caryl Chessman has been expunged from American history. Many people know that an innocent man was murdered in California's gas chamber

One person can prove it. Where are you? Rebel and a Cause: Caryl Chessman and the Politics of the Death Penalty in Postwar California, 1948-1974 by Theodore Hamm -- 1960 execution of Caryl Chessman examining how politics and debates about criminal justice became a volatile mix that ignited postwar California. The Red Light Bandit allegedly stalked lovers' lanes in Los Angeles. He was sentenced to death in 1948. In prison he gained notoriety as a writer, beginning with his autobiographical Cell 2455 Death Row (1954).Chessman presented himself as an innocent man but also as rehabilitated from his prior life of crime. Hamm analyzes how Chessman convinced thousands of Californians to Support him, and why Governor (Pat) Brown, who opposed the death penalty, allowed the execution to go forward.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The Original Trial of Caryl Chessman by Caryl Chessman
Caryl Chessman, the Red Light Bandit by Frank J. Parker

Emmett Louis Till -- How two grown men got by with torturing a 14 year old boy to death and then sold the details of their story for pay.

FBI's secret history at UC Berkeley begins with the Cold War, when the bureau's intelligence gathering authority was expanded in response to threats at home and abroad -- civil liberties collided with security.

The contract Ronald Reagan arranged with the studios was known as "The Great Giveaway." It only provided residuals to actors for films after 1960, only. The studios kept everything before 1960, worth billions of dollars. MCA had purchased Paramount Picture's huge film library in 1959. Mafia mouthpiece Sidney Korshak was directly involved in negotiations with Reagan.) In 1962, Reagan was the subject of criminal and civil investigations by the FBI and a federal grand jury. Reagan subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, failed to recall d his role in the 1952 SAG-MCA decision. Federal prosecutors were convinced Reagan perjured himself.

The Real Amityville Horror -- The Tragic Murder of the Ronald De Feo Family -- Ronald DeFeo, Sr., attained the American dream when he purchased the house.

Warren Commission Suppressed Jackie's Testimony -- On JFK's Head Wound Court Reporter's Tape Shows Additional Description Withheld. Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?

The Mad Strangler of Boston -- 11 women have been murdered by strangulation in Boston since the summer of 1962. The Atlantic Monthly | May 1964
Albert DeSalvo - The Boston Strangler?

Abbie Hoffman -- "He was a rebel without a cause," his Aunt Dorothy remembered. He bullied younger kids, and was a juvenile delinquent. Eventually he crossed the line to illegal enterprises.

Ice Box Murders -- Houston Texas - Father's Day 1965 - Fred Rogers 81, and his wife, Edwina H. Rogers 72, were murdered, their mutilated, bodies were found in their kitchen refrigerator. (Excerpts from "The Ice Box Murders" ©2000 Hugh E. Gardenier, III and Martha Leonard Hughes

The Death of Mary Pinchot Meyer -- October 12, 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer, 43, a DC area artist was gunned down in Georgetown. Events before and after her murder have kept Mary's death a concern.

Jim Marrs's book, Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy, lists Mary Pinchot Meyer's death as one of the mysterious deaths associated with the John F. Kennedy Assassination. A Very Private Woman: The Life and Unsolved Murder of Presidential Mistress Mary Meyer

Chicago's unsolved murder mysteries -- September 18, 1966, Valerie Percy working on her father's campaign for the US Senate was murdered in the Percy mansion. December 1996, Nan Toder, visiting Chicago was cut, strangled and beaten to death in her hotel room. Karyn "Cookie" Kupcinet, beginning a Hollywood career when someone strangled her to death.

The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy -- June 4, 1968, primary election day in California Senator Kennedy was campaigning. April 23, 1969 -- Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was condemned to death for the murder of Senator Kennedy.

Riot-Chicago Conspiracy 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Eight radical leaders including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Tom Hayden were accused of "crossing state lines with intent to incite a riot, and conspiracy to violate that law." When it ended, one defendant was severed from the case and the "Chicago 7" trial made its mark as the most chaotic and divisive political trial in American history. Trace the events of this landmark case through incredible footage, contemporary news accounts, and interviews with the men who were there including defendant Tom Hayden and attorney William Kunstler. From Judge Hoffman's order to bind and gag defendant Bobby Seale to the ultimate acquittal of all the defendants on all the charges.

DB Cooper - the lone hijacker got away with $200,000 in cash by hijacking and parachuting from a commercial airplane - never to be seen again. New evidence in the case leads to new theories, 40 years later.

The Symbionese Liberation Army -- Born in 1973 in Berkeley, CA from black convicts and middle class white radicals, thr founding members of the SLA sought to ignite a "people´s rebellion" against the US government and corporate America. The core of the SLA died in a clash with police on May 1974 and September 1975, after FBI captured 3 surviving members, including heiress Patricia Hearst. -- The kidnapped heiress served 21 months in prison. She was commuted by Jimmy Carter and pardoned by President Clinton.Jan. 16, 2002, 4 members of the Symbionese Liberation Army were arrested and charged with murder. A 5th member James Kilgore has been a fugitive for more than 20 years. The case got a boost after the 1999 arrest of Sara Jane Olson, aka Kathleen Soliah, on charges of planting pipe bombs in the 1970's.

Hi-Fi Shop Murders in Ogden Utah -- On April 22, 1974, before the day´s end, 5 people would experience the most inexplicable terror they could have imagined.

Interview with a true crime reporter/writer -- Katherine Beebe Harris

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