Brooklyn Bad Fortune

A Brooklyn resident named Rosa Rivera had her fortune told on Thursday, January 16, 1947. During the session Rosa mentioned that she had $800 socked away in her bank account. The fortuneteller’s ears perked up when she heard about the nest egg. She told Rosa to go to the bank, remove the cash, bring it … Continue reading Brooklyn Bad Fortune

Arresting Hope Dare

After the Philadelphia police took Hope Dare’s mugshot in 1938, a reporter managed to get access to it and photograph it for a news publication. Was a payoff involved? Very likely, since the ex-Broadway showgirl was a celebrity, albeit a fading one. On the back of her mugshot-turned-news-photo is the comment “not a publicity photo.” … Continue reading Arresting Hope Dare

The Strange Case of Marie Chin Wore

A young girl was found wandering in the vicinity of New York City’s Bowery neighborhood on a cold day in February 1920. She was taken to a Christian missionary society, where she told authorities a disturbing story about having been forced to become the “child wife” of a much older man. Mary Banta, the missionary … Continue reading The Strange Case of Marie Chin Wore

Christmas in the Tombs

Mrs. Catherine O. Neill will have to spend her Christmas in the Tombs Prison, much as she desires to be taken to Connecticut to be tried on the charge of murdering her husband, Joseph Neill, on the night of Dec. 14. Sheriff Rich of Greenwich says that this is due to Gov. Higgins being away … Continue reading Christmas in the Tombs

Firebug

A fire broke out in a multi-family apartment building at 114 Wyckoff Street in Brooklyn on the night of December 10, 1907. The building was located in the heart of what was then one of the borough’s most populous tenement districts. Heat from blaze damaged the water pipes, causing water to drip through the floor … Continue reading Firebug

The Lady Swindler

Gazing up, in her little veiled hat topped with its ridiculous feather, Marion L. Dow looks tiny, cute and entirely harmless. But a con artist should look harmless—isn’t that the point? She was born Marion Gratz in New Brunswick, Canada in 1846. The 19th century was an era when crime was the domain of men. … Continue reading The Lady Swindler

Scotch Mag

Imagine: It’s a chilly Thursday evening in early November 1859. You’re a middle-aged man, a joiner by trade. You live in Brooklyn and don’t come to the city often because it means a nail-biting ferry ride, but tonight, with cash in your pocket ($8 to be exact), you feel optimistic. As you stroll up Broadway … Continue reading Scotch Mag

Sherlock Holmes in a Skirt

After watching The Alienist: Angel of Darkness I wondered about Sara Howard, the protagonist in season two of the show. Did a woman like Howard, who works as a detective, actually exist in New York of the 1890s? Author Caleb Carr said he based the character of Howard on a flesh and blood woman named … Continue reading Sherlock Holmes in a Skirt

The Real Inspector Byrnes

No one who follows this blog will be surprised to find that I’m a fan of The Alienist, currently in its second season on TNT. The show, based on the novels by Caleb Carr, vividly brings to life crime in gritty lower Manhattan in the late nineteenth century, complete with dimly lit saloons, dogfights in … Continue reading The Real Inspector Byrnes

Silent Phil

With a crisp straw boater sitting squarely on his head, the young man doesn’t look like a hardened criminal. His clothes are clean and neat. The American flag pin on his label showed off his support for the American troops fighting in the Spanish-American War when his mug shot photos were taken. His unflinching gaze … Continue reading Silent Phil

The Crazed Mother

Leo Harp, passing the home of Mrs. Johanna Healey Bacher in 138 Railroad Avenue, Greenwich, Conn., late Sunday night on his way home, found an insurance policy and a sheet of paper on the sidewalk in front of the house. The policy was covered with blood stains and on the back of it had been … Continue reading The Crazed Mother

The Badger Game

Old-fashioned terms for crime can be confusing. When Lillie Bates was arrested in New York City on June 17, 1909, the officers listed her crime as simply “Badger.” Did that mean she was caught mistreating a short-legged, furry, mammal that hunts at night? Probably not. More than likely it meant she was involved in a … Continue reading The Badger Game