Was Jack the Ripper…a Woman?

Jack the Ripper is the most famous serial killer of all time. For over a century, scholars have searched for his true identity. But were they searching for the wrong type of person? Was Jack the Ripper really…Jill the Ripper?

Who was Jack the Ripper?

The true extent of Jack the Ripper’s murder spree remains unknown. However, historians generally agree he (or she) killed at least five prostitutes starting in 1888.

“From April 3, 1888 to February 13, 1891, eleven women were murdered in Whitechapel and subsequently connected in the police docket as the Whitechapel murders. Most, if not all of these women, are believed to have been prostitutes. A majority of experts attribute five of those murders, the so-called “canonical five,” to a single killer. They shared several common features including ‘deep throat slashes, abdominal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations.‘” ~ David Meyer, Who was Jack the Ripper?

Was Jack the Ripper really Jill the Ripper?

There are more than 100 theories on Jack the Ripper’s identity. Now, an author named John Morris has added his own theory to the mix. In his book, Jack the Ripper: Hand of a Woman, Morris argues that Jack the Ripper was a woman named Lizzie Williams. She was the wife of royal physician (and suspect) John Williams.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that the Ripper was a woman. But because everyone believes that the murderer was a man, all the evidence that points to a woman has always been ignored.” ~ John Morris

As for evidence, it seems three of the victims had their wombs removed so Morris believes Lizzie Williams was motivated to kill because she couldn’t have children. Also, none of the women were sexually assaulted. In addition, pieces of an unidentified woman’s clothing were found near some of the victims. Finally, one of the victims, a woman named Mary Kelly, may have been having an affair with Lizzie’s husband.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

It should be noted that many writers claim Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame believed Jack the Ripper was actually Jill the Ripper. As far as I can tell, the earliest reference for this claim comes from Tom Cullen’s 1965 book, When London Walked in Terror. However, Cullen’s source was not Sir Arthur himself, but rather his son Adrian Conan Doyle. And as for Sir Arthur’s support of the Jill the Ripper theory, well, I’ll let you read his son’s words for yourself…

“More than thirty years having passed, it is difficult to recall his views in detail on the Ripper case. However, I do remember that he considered it likely that the man had a rough knowledge of surgery and probably clothed himself as a woman to avoid undue attention by the police and to approach his victims without arousing suspicion on their part.” ~ Adrian Conan Doyle

So, the idea that Sir Arthur believed in Jill the Ripper appears to be just an urban legend. Truth be told, I think the evidence for a Jill the Ripper is exceedingly weak. And Morris’s research doesn’t change my opinion. At the end of the day, I continue to think there’s one reason no one ever found Jack the Ripper…he didn’t actually exist.

“There are plenty of other feasible suspects out there. In addition, a reexamination of the evidence suggests that the “canonical five” murders may have actually been committed by multiple people. In other words, it’s entirely possible that Jack the Ripper was not a real person at all…he may have been nothing more than an invention of the media.” ~ David Meyer, Who was Jack the Ripper?

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

On February, 14, 1929, seven gangsters were lined up inside a garage on Chicago’s North Side. Seconds later, they were brutally slaughtered in a display of violence that shocked the city to its core. Who was behind the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

83 years ago, Chicago was aflame. Prohibition had been a dreadful failure, leading to an enormous and highly profitable black market in illegal alcohol. In turn, this caused violent crime to skyrocket.

On February 14, five members and two associates of Bugs Moran’s North Side Gang showed up at Chicago’s SMC Cartage warehouse, possibly to buy stolen booze. Moran was running a little late that day and as he approached the garage, he noticed a police car pulling into the area. Moran and several others fled the area, saving their lives in the process.

Two “police officers” and two other men entered the garage, carrying Tommy Guns and shotguns. They swiftly lined Moran’s gang up against the rear wall and filled them with bullets. Then the officers led the other men out of the garage at gunpoint, presumably as a ruse to keep neighbors from notifying the real police. It didn’t work and the locals quickly called in the police. One of the victims, Frank Gusenberg, took fourteen bullets yet managed to hold on for three hours. However, he refused to identify the shooters before dying.

Who was behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?

On December 14, 1929, Michigan police raided Burke’s bungalow on an unrelated murder charge. Although they didn’t find him, they did locate a wealth of evidence, including two Tommy Guns. Using the brand-new science of ballistics, the guns were connected to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Burke was later captured in Missouri but was never formally tried for his role in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Eight days later, police discovered a partially burned 1927 Cadillac Sedan which they were able to trace to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The ensuing investigation initially pointed to Fred “Killer” Burke and James Ray. Both men, who belonged to a gang called Egan’s Rats, were known for disguising themselves as police officers during robberies. Police also found circumstantial ties to members of Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit, which was Moran’s biggest competition in Chicago’s bootlegging business.

Others would be accused and investigated over the next few years. A low-ranking criminal named Byron Bolton claimed to have been involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre along with Burke, Fred Goetz, and several others. Supposedly, they were members of the American Boys, a special gang-within-the-gang employed by Al Capone and paid handsomely to perform high-risk jobs. However, the FBI wasn’t interested in pursuing the case and the actual role of the American Boys – or whether they even existed in the the first place – remains uncertain.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

On December 5, 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment. Thus, Prohibition finally came to an end. The cost of this social experiment in terms of blood and treasure had been steep. Ordinary folks who wished to engage in mutually beneficial exchanges suddenly found themselves criminals. Black market alcohol proved far more dangerous to drink. Crime and corruption increased dramatically. Government spending increased as well in order to combat these rising problems.

The end of Prohibition was also the end of an era. And as time rolled on, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was all but forgotten. It seems fairly likely Al Capone was involved, especially since he and Moran were at each other’s throats for control of Chicago’s bootlegging industry. However, physical evidence is practically nonexistent. Perhaps researchers will uncover more pieces of evidence or shed new light on old ones in the not-so-distant future. But until then, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre remains an unsolved crime.

The Science behind Serial Killers?

Between 1978 and 1990, Andrei Chikatilo murdered more than fifty women and children in Rostov, Russia. He seemed to act without pattern, sometimes waiting as few as three days to strike again while other times waiting as long as three years. Now, scientists believe they have unwrapped the method behind his madness.

Serial Killers & Power Law?

Power law is a strange mathematical distribution. It appears to govern seemingly sporadic events like stock market crashes and earthquakes. Now, some scientists think power law may explain why serial killers kill. If true, serial killers might be motivated by the same natural affliction that causes seizures in epileptics. It’s an interesting idea, although it remains uncertain as to whether this pattern fits just Rostov or other serial killers like Jack the Ripper as well. Here’s more on power law and serial killers from MSNBC

Researchers have discovered that the seemingly erratic behavior of the “Rostov Ripper,” a prolific serial killer active in the 1980s, conformed to the same mathematical pattern obeyed by earthquakes, avalanches, stock market crashes and many other sporadic events. The finding suggests an explanation for why serial killers kill.

Mikhail Simkin and Vwani Roychowdhury, electrical engineers at the University of California, Los Angeles, modeled the behavior of Andrei Chikatilo, a gruesome murderer who took the lives of 53 people in Rostov, Russia between 1978 and 1990. Though Chikatilo sometimes went nearly three years without committing murder, on other occasions, he went just three days. The researchers found that the seemingly random spacing of his murders followed a mathematical distribution known as a power law…

(See more on the connection between power law and serial killers at MSNBC)

Was Jane Austen Poisoned?

On July 18, 1817, Jane Austen, the famed author of Pride and Prejudice, died. Over the years, researchers have attributed her death to a number of ailments, including Addison’s disease, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bovine tuberculosis, and typhus. But recently uncovered evidence suggests a startling new possibility…arsenic poisoning.

Was Jane Austen Poisoned?

A couple of years ago, a crime novelist named Lindsay Ashford began researching Jane Austen’s old letters. Soon after, Ashford discovered an intriguing sentence written by the author shortly before her death:

“I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white and every wrong colour.” ~ Jane Austen

One of the symptoms of arsenic poisoning is called raindrop pigmentation, in which “patches of skin go brown or black, and other areas go white.” Intrigued, Ashford dug deeper. She learned that chronic arsenic poisoning, unlike the other proposed maladies, explained all of the symptoms exhibited by Jane Austen. Then she uncovered the fact that Austen’s hair had been tested for arsenic back in 1948.

The test was positive.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

It seems reasonable to assume that Jane Austen suffered from arsenic poisoning. But was this a deliberate attempt to murder her?

Not necessarily. Arsenic was a well-known medicine during the early 1800s, distributed via Fowler’s Solution. It was used for ailments like rheumatism, a problem which Austen complained about in her letters.

“After all my research I think it’s highly likely she was given a medicine containing arsenic. When you look at her list of symptoms and compare them to the list of arsenic symptoms, there is an amazing correlation.” ~ Lindsay Ashford

But Ashford isn’t ready to rule out murder. In fact, her new novel, The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen, considers just that possibility.

“I don’t think murder is out of the question. Having delved into her family background, there was a lot going on that has never been revealed and there could have been a motive for murder. In the early 19th century a lot of people were getting away with murder with arsenic as a weapon, because it wasn’t until the Marsh test was developed in 1836 that human remains could be analysed for the presence of arsenic.” ~ Lindsay Ashford

Unfortunately, the only way to be certain is to dig up Jane Austen’s body and put it through a battery of rigorous tests. And that seems highly unlikely to occur. Of course, there’s another option…we could aways wait for her to rise from the grave as part of the coming zombie apocalypse!

Identifying Psychopaths…by their Words?

Psychopaths are people who lack empathy and remorse while displaying traits like egocentrism and deceptiveness. They’re extremely difficult to identify since they tend to be skilled at faking emotions. However, recent research may help solve that problem. Have scholars found a way to successfully identify psychopaths?


As a quick reminder, I released my first novel, Chaos, on Monday. It’s an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:

Kindle * Nook * Kobo * iBooks * Smashwords * Paperback

Identifying Psychopaths?

Now, the trick to identifying psychopaths may not lie in trying to read emotions or looking for visual cues. Indeed, the secret to psychopathy may lie in something seemingly innocuous…word choices.

“Previous work has looked at how psychopaths use language. Our paper is the first to show that you can use automated tools to detect the distinct speech patterns of psychopaths.” ~ Professor Jeff Hancock, Computing & Information Science

Working with Michael Woodworth and Stephen Porter from the University of British Columbia, Professor Hancock analyzed the words of 52 male murderers in Canadian prisons. Each murderer, 14 of which were diagnosed as psychopaths, was asked to describe his crime in detail. These words were then “subjected to computer analysis.”

The word choices of the psychopaths showed some interesting similarities. They were more likely to present a murder as something that “had to be done.” This was related via conjunctions like “because,” “since,” or “so that.” Also, they tended to emphasize physical needs such as sex or money as opposed to social needs. They made greater use of the past tense, which might “[suggest] a detachment from their crimes.” And finally, their speech included a greater number of “ums” and “uhs,” which could indicate that they were forced to work harder to “frame the story” in a way that makes them look good.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

All in all, psychopaths appear to choose words that reflect “selfishness, detachment from their crimes, and emotional flatness.” In other words, while they can fake emotions, they are far less successful at controlling their word choices. These implications could “lead to new tools for diagnosis and treatment.”

Of course, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves here. After all, this study only covered 52 murderers in the first place. Also, it’s based on the fairly questionable assumption that all 52 people were correctly identified as either psychopaths or non-psychopaths in the first place. And finally, it only covers word choices used to describe one’s crime.

It’s important to remember that there are tons of factors influencing one’s choice of speech, including upbringing, peers, and the stress of a particular situation. And although this study is interesting, it’s far from absolute. Overall, I’d caution researchers on drawing too many conclusions from these findings. The last we need to do is to start wrongfully accusing ordinary people of being psychopaths when in fact, they just speak a little differently than the rest of us.

The Amanda Knox Trial?

On November 1, 2007, an unknown person or persons murdered Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. Italian prosecutors charged Amanda Knox, Raffaele Sollecito, and Patrick Lumumba with her murder. The tabloids quickly erupted with stories of witchcraft and Satanism. Yesterday, after four long years of prison, Amanda was released from jail in a stunning turn of events. Did she kill Meredith? And if not, who did?

Did Giuliano Mignini railroad Amanda Knox?

After Meredith’s murder, Amanda Knox attempted to help the police with their investigation. Little did she know that Giuliano Mignini had already decided she was guilty of the crime. Mignini tapped her phone (one of 39,000 conversations he tapped during the course of the investigation) and learned that her mother was coming to Italy and intended to get her a lawyer. Working quickly, he subjected her to a brutal interrogation which, according to Amanda, consisted of her being hit, shouted at, and denied water and the use of a bathroom.

It should be noted that Mignini, who recorded every other interview connected to the case, claimed that this particular conversation hadn’t been recorded and thus, Amanda Knox’s allegations proved impossible to prove. During the course of this interrogation, she eventually submitted answers to hypothetical questions where she essentially imagined what might’ve happened if her employer and bar owner Patrick Lumumba had been present at the murder. Despite this incredibly weak evidence, Mignini declared the case closed.

The Media Convicts Amanda Knox?

The arrest of Amanda Knox, Sollecito, and Lumumba caused a media sensation, especially in Great Britain, the U.S., and Italy. Italy has no laws against pre-trial publicity and jurors are allowed, even encouraged to follow the news while deliberating a case. Thus, Chief Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini immediately took his case to the press, spinning wild tales of witchcraft, Satanism, and a “sex game gone wrong.” Although these theories lacked any sort of factual basis, they were quickly eaten up and distributed without checking by reporters such as John Follain, Nick Pisa, and Libby Purves.

The Arrest of Rudy Guede and Mignini’s Bizarre Vendetta against Amanda Knox?

Two weeks later, Mignini’s case fell apart. Lumumba was able to furnish an air-tight alibi, making Amanda Knox’s so-called “confession” useless. More importantly, the police arrested the real killer, a drug-dealer named Rudy Guede. Guede’s fingerprints and DNA were discovered in Meredith’s room and on her body. When interrogated, he claimed he had sex with Meredith, left the room, and later returned to find someone standing over her with a knife. Months later, he changed his story, claiming that the mysterious man was Amanda’s boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito and that Sollecito and Amanda Knox had killed Meredith after a sex game gone wrong.

Despite mounting evidence that he was wrong, Mignini stubbornly prepared his case. Italy’s Supreme Court threw out Amanda’s confession, but Mignini used a tricky legal maneuver to get it admitted into evidence. He also claimed that a knife found at Sollecito’s house was the murder weapon and that it had Meredith’s DNA on the blade and Amanda’s DNA on the handle. Furthermore, he stated that Meredith’s bra clasp contained Sollecito’s DNA. The DNA evidence proved powerful enough for a jury, which had already been swayed by months of Mignini’s leaked stories to the press, to convict Amanda and Sollecito in 2009. After the trial, psychoanalyst Coline Covington decided to add her two cents by comparing Amanda Knox, who she’d never met, to Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann.

“Knox’s narcissistic pleasure at catching the eye of the media and her apparent nonchalant attitude during most of the proceedings show the signs of a psychopathic personality. Her behaviour is hauntingly reminiscent of Eichmann’s arrogance during his trial for war crimes in Jerusalem in 1961 and most recently of Karadzic’s preening before the International Criminal Court at The Hague.” ~ Coline Covington, Signs that Suggest Amanda Knox is a Psychopath

The Vindication of Amanda Knox

Soon after, the evidence came under heavy fire. A witness who claimed to have seen Amanda Knox and Sollecito near the crime scene changed his story. The knife was found too large to fit the wounds and its blade contained no blood or DNA, in stark contrast to the prosecution’s claims. The bra clasp contained too little DNA to measure and video taken at the crime scene showed that it had been picked up by bare-handed police, tainting the evidence. Further analysis showed that the DNA evidence that convicted Amanda and Sollecito had been caused by lab contamination. Other witnesses came forth to reveal that Guede claimed responsibility for the murder. And on top of it all, Mignini was given a suspended 16-month sentence for “abuse of office” in regards to a separate case. Amanda Knox and Sollecito appealed their convictions and were finally freed on October 3, 2011.

But who Murdered Meredeith Kercher?

So who murdered Meredith Kercher? The most likely suspect is Rudy Guede. He changed his story at least once, his bloody handprint was found at the scene of the crime, and he supposedly told others that he had killed Meredith. But if Guede did it, then how did Meredith’s murder turn into such a sensationalized trial?

According to well-known author, Douglas Preston, the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of Chief Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini. While investigating the as-of-yet unsolved “Monster of Florence” murders, Preston ran afoul of Mignini. Mignini had reopened the case and thought that the “killer or killers were Satanists from an ancient cult that harvested body parts.” During the course of is own research, Preston was arrested by Mignini and informed that he had to confess to “perjury or obstruction of justice.” Preston was ultimately given the choice of facing charges or leaving the country. Preston left and proceeded to co-write The Monster of Florence, with Mario Spezi, which detailed the case as well as Mignini’s highly questionable methods and vast wiretapping. In regards to the Meredith Kercher case, Preston has been quoted as saying:

“There was no evidence. I realized it was all bogus. Mignini believes that Satan walks the land and anyone who is against him must be working for the other side.” ~ Douglas Preston

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

It seems clear that there was an incredible amount of prosecutorial misconduct in this case. Mignini had it out for Amanda Knox and Sollecito from the beginning and when his case fell apart, chose to sacrifice their freedom rather than his own reputation. In addition, there are disturbing stories of Mignini and the police deliberately punishing and attacking anyone who tried to question the verdict. The media, outside of a few examples such as the heroic Frank Sfarzo who blogs about the case at Perugia Shock, have been complicit in the whole sad affair. John Follain, Nick Pisa, Libby Purves, Coline Covington and many others bear some moral responsibility for being more interested in creating sensational headlines than in uncovering the truth.

On October 3, 2011, Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were finally released from jail. It is believed that Amanda has already left Italy and I’d advise Sollecito to do the same. Meredith’s murder was a sad, horrendous event. Unfortunately, the four-year imprisonment of two people who were in all likelihood completely innocent only made things worse. We may never know the full story of Meredith Kercher’s murder. And the blame for that fact lies solely with Chief Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini as well as the people who aided his vendetta against Amanda Knox and Sollecito.

Who Kidnapped Lindbergh’s Baby?

In 1932, famed pilot Charles Lindbergh’s 18-month old son was abducted and subsequently killed. After an exhaustive investigation and trial, Bruno Hauptmann was found guilty and executed for the crime. But despite everything, he maintained his innocence until the end. Did the police and courts get it wrong? If so, who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby?

The Missing Lindbergh Baby?

On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow were preparing to spend the night at their newly-finished home near Hopewell, New Jersey. Around 8:00 pm, Anne and her nursemaid Betty Gow put Charles Jr. to bed. Two hours later, Gow went to check on the Lindbergh baby and discovered that he was missing.

Lindbergh proceeded to search the room and discovered an envelope. The oddly-misspelled note inside left little doubt as to what had happened:

Have 50.000$ redy 25.000$ in 20$ bills 15.000$ in 10$ bills and 10.000$ in 5$ bills After 2–4 days we will inform you were to deliver the mony. We warn you for making anyding public or for notify the Police The child is in gut care. Indication for all letters are singnature and three holes.

Two intersecting blue circles were at the bottom of the note. The overlapping area was colored red and a hole had been punched in its middle. Two additional holes were punched on the left and right sides of the design. It quickly became clear to all involved that the purpose of this “singnature” was to allow the Lindbergh’s to recognize communications from the kidnappers.

After the police arrived, they searched the area and found a muddy footprint as well as part of a makeshift ladder. A fingerprint expert was able to gather plenty of prints from the rungs. Unfortunately, many of them had been tainted by the growing crowd of observers.

Who Kidnapped the Lindbergh Baby?

Lindbergh thought the kidnapping had been conducted by mobsters and decided to take matters into his own hands. He got in contact with numerous crooked figures who promised to act as intermediaries between him and the kidnappers. Former FBI agent Gaston Means claimed he knew where to find the Lindbergh baby and managed to convince socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, who owned the Hope Diamond at the time, to provide him with $100,000 in ransom money. He promptly absconded with the money (he was later caught and convicted of Grand Larceny). Even jailed gangster Al Capone tossed his hat in the ring, offering his assistance in finding the Lindbergh baby in exchange for his freedom (an offer that was quickly denied).

Eventually, Lindbergh sought help from Mickey Rosner, who was reputed to have underworld contacts. However, unbeknownst to him, Rosner was secretly working with the New York Daily News. This backfired horribly when Rosner got his hands on a second ransom letter for the Lindbergh baby. He sent it to the Daily News where it was leaked to the public. From that point on, it became difficult to determine if communications were from the kidnappers or hoaxers.

A Tragic End to the Lindbergh Baby?

Soon after, Lindbergh came into contact with a retired school teacher named Dr. John Condon. Condon had seemingly been in contact with the kidnappers and offered to help. Condon met with a kidnapper named “John” who claimed that the Lindbergh baby was healthy and being held on a boat. As proof, “John” provided the baby’s sleeping suit, which Lindbergh identified.

On April 2, Condon met again with “John” and gave him $50,000 in a wooden box. The carefully-selected ransom money consisted of gold certificates, which were increasingly rare due to President Roosevelt’s new currency regulations. Also, the police had recorded the serial numbers of each bill. Condon made the drop while Lindbergh watched from a distance and in return, received a note telling him where to find the Lindbergh baby. Unfortunately, the note gave false instructions.

On May 12, 1932, Charles Jr.’s body was discovered in a tree grove just a few miles from the Lindbergh’s home. The child had been killed by a blow to the head.

Did Bruno Hauptmann Kidnap and Murder the Lindbergh Baby?

With no other alternative, the police focused their efforts on tracking the ransom money. A year later, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102 which, in effect, forced American citizens to turn in “all gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates” to the Federal Reserve.

On September 18, 1934 a gas station attendant received a $10 gold certificate as payment. Since Roosevelt’s Executive Order made such certificates illegal to possess, the attendant wrote down the customer’s license plate number. After the bank identified the certificate as one from the ransom drop, the police tracked down the license to a German immigrant named Bruno Hauptmann.

Upon Hauptmann’s arrest, police discovered a $20 certificate on his person. A subsequent search of his home led to the recovery of $13,760 of the ransom money. The police also found a notebook containing a sketch of a ladder similar to the one found outside the Lindbergh home, a closet wall upon which Hauptmann had written down Condon’s telephone number and address, and a piece of wood that matched the wood used in the construction of the ladder.

And the evidence didn’t end there. Eight separate handwriting experts declared that Hauptmann’s handwriting fit that of the initial ransom note. And the letter itself, with misspellings like “gut” instead of “good” indicated that it had been written by a native German speaker. In addition, Hauptmann had fled Germany in order to escape punishment for a crime that involved entering a second-floor bedroom window via ladder. Finally, Condon and Lindbergh claimed that Hauptmann’s voice matched the one they’d heard at the ransom drop.

A jury voted to convict Hauptmann. And a short while later, on April 3, 1936, he was electrocuted.

But did Bruno Hauptmann really do it?

The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby caused a national uproar. Journalists reported every new discovery. Citizens flocked the crime scene and surrounding area. Thousands of letters poured into the Lindbergh estate. With intense pressure to close the case, is is possible that the police got the wrong man?

The evidence against Hauptmann was damning. And yet, to the end he proclaimed his innocence. Even when New Jersey’s governor offered to commute his sentence in return for a confession, Hauptmann refused to change his story. He claimed that the money had been left to him by a friend named Isidor Fisch, who’d died back in 1934.

During the 1970s, historians began to question the official version of events. They pointed out that handwriting analysis is highly subjective. Also, Hauptmann’s fingerprints weren’t on the ladder, a fact that the police covered up. In addition, the crime scenes were heavily contaminated, Condon’s and Lindbergh’s voice identification was highly questionable, and Hauptmann’s defense attorneys did a rather poor job.

Still, modern technology indicates that the ladder did match the wood found in Hauptmann’s attic. And modern forensic experts have stated that the handwriting found on the ransom notes matches that of Hauptmann.

But if Hauptmann did commit the crime, how did he know the Lindbergh’s would be spending that Tuesday at their house rather than with Anne’s parents, as was their normal custom? And how did he know where to find the baby?

The possibility of an “inside job” was considered almost from the beginning. The police suspected a servant named Violet Sharp. Violet later committed suicide after several rounds of questioning. Since her alibi checked out, it’s generally assumed that police pressure tactics, rather than guilt, caused her to kill herself.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Today, most historians believe that Hauptmann kidnapped and murdered the Lindbergh baby, possibly with help from an unidentified insider. One intriguing theory is that this mysterious insider was none other than Charles Lindbergh himself. It is well-known that he deliberately impeded the investigation and in many respects, took it over completely. He was also apparently a practical joker of some cruelty as recorded by Gregory Ahlgren and Stephen Monier in their book, Crime of the Century: The Lindbergh Kidnapping Hoax.

“Just two months earlier [Lindbergh] had hidden the baby in a closet and then dramatically announced that the child had been kidnapped.The whole household had been thrown into an uproar while a panic stricken Anne feared the worst. Lindbergh had allowed the ruse to continue for some 20 minutes before roaring heartily and admitting it was all a hoax.”

Did Lindbergh accidentally kill his own child while attempting an elaborate “practical joke?” Did he then stage a kidnapping to cover it up while using his influence to guide the investigation? It seems possible, if pretty unlikely. Regardless, let’s hope scholars continue to revisit this case and dig up facts. Because while Hauptmann was most likely guilty in some respect, it seems a near certainty that he didn’t work alone. And that means one thing…

Someone else got away with murder.

Charles Ponzi’s Scheme?

In late 1919, Charles Ponzi was a poor but ambitious man. Less than a year later, he was worth millions. Then his ill-gotten wealth vanished in an epic collapse that brought down six banks and ruined thousands of investors. What was Charles Ponzi’s scheme?

Who was Charles Ponzi?

In August 1919, Charles Ponzi became fascinated with International Reply Coupons, or IRCs. An IRC was prepaid reply postage for international mail. They were usually bought in one country and then exchanged for stamps in another country.

Charles Ponzi thought he saw an arbitrage opportunity. He could buy large amounts of IRCs in countries with weaker currencies and redeem them in countries with stronger currencies. According to his autobiography, The Rise of Mr. Ponzi, he stood to gain an entirely legal net profit of 230% by exploiting the difference between the Italian and American exchange rates.

Ponzi established the Securities Exchange Company and set out looking for investors. He “claimed to have elaborate networks of agents throughout Europe who were making bulk purchases of postal reply coupons on his behalf.” Investors egaerly jumped aboard, intrigued by the generous terms of his promissory notes, which offered an eye-popping 50% interest rate payable in 90 days. For later notes, the term changed to 45 days.

Happy investors poured money back into the company and convinced their friends and relatives to do the same. By February 1920, Ponzi had recorded $5,000 in profits. By March, he was up to $30,000. By May, Charles Ponzi’s total profits reached a whopping $420,000. By June, Ponzi was a millionaire and the majority owner of The Hanover Trust Bank of Boston. He spent lavishly, acquiring a 12-room mansion among other things.

Ponzi was triumphant. Yet, dark clouds filled the horizon. Joseph Daniels, who’d never been paid for furniture he’d sold to Ponzi, sued for $1 million. The size of the lawsuit raised a troubling question among the public…how had Charles Ponzi gotten rich so quickly?

Charles Ponzi & his Ponzi Scheme?

On July 24, the Boston Post published a favorable article on Ponzi and reported his newly-acquired fortune at $8.5 million. But the newspaper’s acting publisher and city editor remained suspicious. They hired Clarence Barron (the man behind Barron’s), to investigate Ponzi.

Two days later, the Boston Post began a series of articles questioning Ponzi and his company. Barron played a key role, uncovering several unsettling pieces of information. For instance, Ponzi was not investing his own money in his company. Also, a whopping 160 million IRCs were needed to cover Ponzi’s purported investments, yet only 27,000 were in circulation. Last but not least, the U.S. Post Office reported that IRCs were not being bought in quantity anywhere in the world.

On August 2, Ponzi’s former publicity agent, William McMasters, wrote his own story for the Post. He claimed that Ponzi was over $4.5 million in debt, including the interest on outstanding loans. Investors clamored for their money back. Ponzi obliged, temporarily quelling fears.

On August 11, approximately one year after he started his business, Ponzi’s scheme ran out of steam. The Boston Post published an article detailing Ponzi’s criminal past. Meanwhile, Hanover Trust was seized by the Bank Commissioner, thwarting Ponzi’s plans to use its deposits to cover his debts.

How did the Ponzi Scheme Work?

It turned out that Ponzi never made investments of any sort. In its final audit, his company was found to own just $61 of IRCs. Instead, he paid off earlier investors with money obtained from later investors. While he didn’t invent the “Ponzi Scheme,” he made it famous.

Ponzi was arrested by federal authorities on August 12. He was charged with 86 counts of mail fraud and served three and a half years in prison. In 1925, he was charged with 22 counts of larceny by the state of Massachusetts and given an additional nine-year sentence.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

I wish I could say Ponzi learned his lesson. But after making bail, he traveled to Florida and concocted a similar confidence game, this time involving land. He returned to jail and stayed there until 1934. Ponzi’s original scheme ruined six banks and cast thousands of individuals into financial ruin. Yet, he never regretted his actions. In his last interview, given shortly before his death, Ponzi said:

“Even if they never got anything for it, it was cheap at that price. Without malice aforethought I had given them the best show that was ever staged in their territory since the landing of the Pilgrims! It was easily worth fifteen million bucks to watch me put the thing over.” ~ Charles Ponzi

While Charles Ponzi is nearly forgotten, his legacy lives on in the scheme that bears his name. So, beware the siren’s song of easy money and guaranteed profits. In the end, it never turns out well.

Who was Jack the Ripper?

Jack the Ripper is the most famous serial killer of all time. He (or she) is believed to have killed as many as five prostitutes starting in 1888. His identity remains unsolved. Now, an old suspect has returned to the limelight and thanks to advances in imaging technology, we can finally see what he might have looked like. Does this image show the face of Jack the Ripper?

Jack the Ripper?

During the 1880s, London’s East End was a horrible place to live. Poverty, alcoholism, and crime were widespread. Prostitution ran rampant, with more than 1,200 prostitutes working in Whitechapel alone. Attacks on prostitutes were commonplace.

From April 3, 1888 to February 13, 1891, eleven women were murdered in Whitechapel and subsequently connected in the police docket as the Whitechapel murders. Most, if not all of these women, are believed to have been prostitutes. A majority of experts attribute five of those murders, the so-called “canonical five,” to a single killer. They shared several common features including “deep throat slashes, abdominal and genital-area mutilation, removal of internal organs, and progressive facial mutilations.”

Was Jack the Ripper actually Carl Feigenbaum?

Over the years, researchers have proposed more than 100 theories on Jack the Ripper’s identity. Now, a recent article in the BBC points a cautionary finger at one suspect in particular…Carl Feigenbaum.

Feigenbaum was a German merchant. He was arrested in 1894 in New York City for the murder of his landlady. He was found guilty and executed on April 27, 1896. Afterward, his lawyer claimed that Feigenbaum was Jack the Ripper. It received some attention at the time but was not taken seriously until former murder squad detective Trevor Marriott wrote his book, Jack the Ripper: The 21st Century Investigation: A Top Murder Squad Detective Reveals the Ripper’s Identity at Last!

Researchers have long assumed that Jack the Ripper was an expert in anatomy due to “the skill with which his victims’ organs were removed.” However, Marriott argues that these cuts might have been made in the mortuary instead. And indeed, there is at least one case where it is difficult to imagine that Jack the Ripper had time to remove his victim’s uterus after killing her. Marriott also believes that the gaps between murders fit the profile of a traveller. And at the time of the murders, the Nord Deutsche Linewas docked in the vicinity. Carl Feigenbaum was a seaman aboard this ship.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, was Carl Feigenbaum Jack the Ripper? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are plenty of other feasible suspects out there. In addition, a reexamination of the evidence suggests that the “canonical five” murders may have actually been committed by multiple people. In other words, it’s entirely possible that Jack the Ripper was not a real person at all…he may have been nothing more than an invention of the media.

The Real Life Mrs. Sherlock Holmes?

In 1917, an 18-year old Harlem resident named Ruth Cruger vanished. The case seemed destined for permanent “Unsolved” status until Grace Humiston appeared on the scene. Dubbed “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” by the press, she solved the case and in the process, exposed rampant corruption within the NYPD. How did she do it? And why was she subsequently erased from history?

A Mysterious Disappearance?

On February 13, 1917, Ruth Cruger visited a motorcycle repair shop in Harlem in order to have her skates polished. She was never seen again. The next day, her sister Helen went looking for her. Helen visited the shop only to find it closed. A few hours later, the owner, a man named Alfredo Cocchi, reopened the shop. He told Helen that Ruth had dropped off the skates and picked them up later in the day without incident.

Suspicious, Helen returned home and told the story to her father, Henry Cruger. Henry contacted the police. The police were reluctant to get involved on account of the fact that Cocchi was a “respectable businessman.” Eventually, an officer performed a cursory search of the shop’s cellar, which revealed nothing.

Grace Humiston, the real-life Mrs. Sherlock Holmes?

Ruth’s disappearance quickly became national news. At the time, many people lived in fear of “white slavery,” or the forced prostitution of respectable white girls. The NYPD poured fuel on this fire by claiming that Ruth wanted “to be lost” in order to pursue a career as a prostitute. Understandably irked, Henry Cruger hired a lawyer named Grace Humiston to solve the case. Grace had founded the People’s Law Firm, which specialized in serving low-income individuals. She was known for battling the notorious turpentine slave labor camps as well as securing the acquittal for a wrongfully-convicted man on death row.

“Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” worked pro bono on the case, putting in 15-hour days interviewing Harlem residents. After gathering eyewitness testimony of suspicious activity, she attempted to enter Cocchi’s motorcycle shop. Although Cocchi had fled to Italy, his wife prevented the intrusion, threatening Grace in the process.

Undeterred, Grace used the threat to secure a search permit from Police Commissioner Arthur Woods. On June 16, she and Patrick Solam searched the shop’s cellar. After some digging, they found Ruth’s bloodied body. Her skull had been crushed. Then, while still alive, her abdomen had been ripped open with her own skate.

Although Italy refused to extradite Cocchi, they convicted him of the murder all the same. He was given 27 years in prison. His creepy confession is below.

“I had never seen Ruth Cruger before she came to my shop to have her skates sharpened. From the very beginning Ruth did all in her power to attract my attention. I felt something strange when her dark, penetrating eyes fixed on mine. I was still more disconcerted when she came again to get her skates. An overpowering attraction for the young woman seized me. What happened afterward seems like a dream.” ~ Alfredo Cocchi

“Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” Grace Humiston became a national celebrity and even found herself compared to Sherlock Holmes. It was a comparison that she didn’t exactly appreciate.

“No, I never read Sherlock Holmes. In fact, I am not a believer in deduction. Common sense and persistence will always solve a mystery. You never need theatricals nor Dr. Watsons if you stick to a case.” ~ Grace Humiston

The Downfall of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes?

So, if Grace Humiston was so famous, why has she been largely forgotten today? One reason may be the Camp Upton incident. Despite Cocchi’s confession, she was convinced that his true intention was to force Ruth into prostitution. She subsequently formed the Morality League of America to rescue missing girls from “white slavery.” A few months later, in November 1917, she accused the U.S. Army of hiding 600 pregnant white slaves at Camp Upton. Unable to back up her claim, she subsequently lost her police powers.

A more compelling reason is that she leveled accusations at the NYPD in the aftermath of the case. A subsequent investigation revealed that the police had a motive for not investigating Cocchi…some of its officers had a profitable kickback relationship with him. After arresting someone, these officers would tell the person to visit Cocchi. Cocchi would “settle” the case for a fee, part of which he would kick back to the officers.

Two years after solving the murder, she was arrested by Patrick Gargan for operating a dance hall without a license. Gargan had served as Captain of the precinct where the Cocchi investigation took place. Since evidence to back up the charge was nonexistent, the arrest appeared to be motivated by revenge. The case was thrown out of court.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Although she escaped imprisonment, Gargan achieved a more important victory. Within a few short decades, Grace Humiston had been almost completely whitewashed from history. Even her name and gender were removed from stories written about the Ruth Cruger case. It’s time to correct that wrong. Grace was a remarkable lawyer and private-eye who risked much of herself to see justice done. She was truly, for lack of a better moniker, “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes.”