Fact or Fiction: Author Series Presents Cecil Kuhne

Litigator and author Cecil Kuhne shares a mostly-true story about Rudolph Ivanovich Abel, the subject of his book KGB Man: The Cold War’s Most Notorious Soviet Agent and the First to be Exchanged at the Bridge of Spies. Abel was captured by the FBI in 1957 after an inept colleague betrayed him to the US.  Abel’s trial, his conviction, and his eventual exchange across the Glienicker Brücke (the “Bridge of Spies”) for US pilot Frances Gary Powers is a riveting story that will leave listeners questioning what is fact and what is fiction.

Click on the book cover for a link to purchase KGB Man.

The London Evening Standard, 1962, Feb 10, p. 1.
Frankel, Max. (1962, February 11). Analysts Seek Meaning In Exchange of Spies. The Decator Daily Review, p. 1.
Photo of Rudolph Abel. Axelbank, Jay. (1965, May 5). Russ Admit Abel Spying But Do Not Mention US. The Sacramento Bee, p. 14.








A map of the location of the Bridge of Spies. The London Evening Standard, 1962, Feb 10, p. 1.

Music for this episode is provided by Nick Wylie.

Fact or Fiction is a MaxMinLabs production.

Fact or Fiction: Author Series Presents Connie Yen

Today’s guest, Connie Yen, is the author of Sinner and Savior: Emma Molloy and the Graham Murder, the true story of an 1886 murder in Greene County known as “The Graham Tragedy.” In 1886, the nude body of Sarah Graham was found in a well on the Molloy property. Subsequent investigations uncovered a bigamous marriage and other allegedly scandalous happenings in the home of temperance advocate Emma Molloy.  Connie shares the (mostly-true)

details of this fascinating story.  Listen carefully because it’s not easy to know what’s fact and what’s fiction!

Evangelist and temperance advocate Emma Molloy
The Molloy farm in Greene County, Missouri
Letter written by Emma Molloy to George Graham after she discovered proof he was a bigamist

Author and Historian Connie Yen


Emma’s Escapes. (1886, March 25). The Leavenworth Weekly Times, p. 5.

H. H. Holmes: A Fact or Fiction Nightmare!

H. H. Holmes is one of the most infamous killers in the history of Chicago and the United States.  In late 1894, when authorities arrested Holmes on a warrant for horse theft in Texas, they learned Holmes, the architect and former owner of the “murder castle” in Chicago, not only looked like the villain from a melodrama but acted the part, too.  Although he confessed to killing 27 people in April 1896, historians still find it nearly impossible to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Join me and my guest Nancy as we discuss the facts and fictions about Holmes.  Listen carefully because this is most definitely a case where it’s tough to know if something is fact or fiction.  You be the judge!






Bones of the Slain. (1895, July 28). The Chicago Chronicle, 1 – 3.

Castle is a Tomb. (1895, July 28). Chicago Tribune, 1 – 2.

Early Life.  (n. d.) America’s First Serial Killer: The Devious Deeds of H. H. Holmes. Retrieved from https://hhholmesmurderer.weebly.com/early-life.html

Eric. (2020, October 6). Excavating the Former Site of H. H. Holmes late 19th Century “Glass Bending Factory” Revisited. Urban Remains. Retrieved from https://www.urbanremainschicago.com/news-and-events/2020/10/06/excavating-the-former-site-of-h-h-holmes-glass-bending-factory/

Full Confessions of H. H. Holmes. (1896, April 12) The Journal. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/sn84031792/1896-04-12/ed-1/.

  1. H. Holmes. (n. d.) Alcatraz East Crime Museum. Retrieved from https://www.alcatrazeast.com/crime-library/serial-killers/hh-holmes/
  2. H. Holmes//Replay. (2021, July). The Generation Why Podcast. Retreived from https://open.spotify.com/episode/5AJWR7acjTrIyo4U1vG9et

Holmes Confesses 27 Murders. (1896, April 12). Philadelphia Inquirer.

Holmes Murder Castle Razed for Post Office (1938, May 15). Chicago Tribune, 7.

Holzwarth, Larry. (2018, October 19). 18 Facts Most People Didn’t Know about H. H. Holmes. History Collection. Retrieved from https://historycollection.com/18-facts-most-people-didnt-know-about-h-h-holmes/14/

House of Horrors. (1996, May 6). Herald and Review, 11.

Kreps, Daniel. “H.H. Holmes: Tests Confirm Serial Killer’s Body in Grave,” RollingStone.com, 2 September 2017

Light on a Suspect’s Life. (1895, July 24). San Francisco Chronicle, 2.

Links in the Chain. (1895, July 27). The Chicago Chronicle, 1 – 3.

Miller, Cassie. (2019, October 31). Scary, But True: Serial Killer H.H. Holmes Foiled By Insurer. Insurance Newsnet. Retrieved from https://insurancenewsnet.com/innarticle/scary-but-true-serial-killer-h-h-holmes-foiled-by-insurer

Murder Castle! (1937, March 21). Chicago Tribune, 77 – 78.

Selzer, Adam. (2017). H. H. Holmes: The True History of the White City Devil. Skyhorse. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1510713433/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=chicagunbeli-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1510713433&linkId=d0177ca2f16639140c7e889a730c0dc3

Selzer, Adam. The Three Confessions of HH Holmes. Kindle Edition

Vasudevan, Varsha. (2020, January 28). New Documenatry Claims that Meghan Markle is Related to Prime Jack the Ripper Suspect, H. H. Holmes. Retrieved from https://meaww.com/channel-4-documentary-claims-that-meghan-markle-is-related-to-americas-first-serial-killer-h-h-holmes

Ward, Alvin. (2018, May 18). Meghan Markle is Related to H. H. Holmes, America’s First Serial Killer, According to New Documentary. Mental Floss.  Retrieved from https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/545142/meghan-markle-related-hh-holmes-serial-killer-jack-the-ripper

Whalen, Lauren. (2015, November 2). A History of Chicago’s Murder Castle. Chicagoist. Retrieved from https://chicagoist.com/2015/11/02/i_was_born_with_the_devil_in_me_a_h.php

H.H.Holmes Movie

Fact or Fiction: Author Series presents Bryan Johnston

In this episode of Fact or Fiction: Author Series, Bryan Johnston, author of Deep in the Woods shares the story of the 1935 kidnapping of George Weyerhaeuser, but he adds one fictional detail.  Will I guess it?  Will you?

Play along with me and then order a copy of Deep in the Woods to learn all the stranger-than-fiction details about the kidnapping, the kidnappers, and the rest of the players.

George Weyerhaeuser, age 9
Mr. and Mrs. Weyerhaeuser and their home in Tacoma, WA

Bryan Johnston, author

Fact or Fiction: Author Series presents Owen Pataki

This is the first episode in what I’m calling the Fact or Fiction: Author Series.  Owen Pataki, co-author of Where the Light Falls and author of Searchers in Winter is my guest.  Searchers in Winter brings events of the Napoleonic Wars to life with its compelling plot, engaging characters, and exciting action sequences.  In this show I have a brief chat with Owen about his book, and then he tells me a mostly-true story related to one of the novel’s subplots.  It’s my job to guess the fiction.  Play along with me.  Listen carefully because it’s not easy to know if something is Fact or Fiction!

Host:  Laura Shimel
Guest: Owen Pataki

How Fingerprints Convicted Thomas Jennings

This episode focuses on the tragic murder of railroad clerk Clarence D. Hiller; the man accused of committing the crime, Thomas Jennings; and the advanced forensic technique of fingerprint identification used successfully for the first time in a murder trial in the United States.

Hansen, John Mark. “How Fingerprinting Made Chicago Famous.” Chicago Tribune, 5 April, 2020. P. 15.
“First American Conviction on Fingerprints.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 February 1912, p. 54
“First American Conviction on Fingerprints.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 February 1912, p. 54

Works Cited






“Convicted by His Finger Prints.” Norwich Bulletin, 11 November 1910, p. 1.

“Dance to Save a Life.” Palestine Daily Herald, 21 December 1910, p. 3.

“Death Sentence on Finger Prints.” The Daily Free Press, 11 November 1910, p. 1.

“Finger Impressions May Convict…” The Los Angeles Times, 21 September 1910, p. 1.

“Fingerprints Only Clue.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 21 September 1910, p. 1.

“Fingerprints Save Man from Prison.” The Lansing News, 29 April 1910, p. 1.

“First American Conviction on Fingerprints.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 February 1912, p. 54.

“First Fingerprint Conviction in American Courts.” The Fresno Morning Republican, 11 November 1910, p. 1.

Hansen, John Mark.  “How Fingerprinting Made Chicago Famous.” Chicago Tribune, 5 April, 2020. P. 15.

Kennedy, Robert J. “Fingerprinting by Wholesale.” The Tampa Tribune, 15 May 1915, p. 16.

“Match Hands to Hang a Man.” Chicago Tribune, 6 November 1910, p. 7.

“Prints of Fingers Dooms Murderer.” Chicago Tribune, 11 November 1910, p. 1.

“Thomas Jennings is Given Extreme Penalty by Jury.” Springfield Leader and Press, 8 Jun 1929, p. 2.

Wilcox, Uthai Vincent. “Has World’s Largest Fingerprint Collection.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 6 May 1928, p. 92.


Eddie Foy and the Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903

In late December of 1903, the beautiful new Iroquois Theater in Chicago performed a matinee of the family-friendly musical Mr. Bluebeard to a sold-out audience.  Midway through the performance, an overloaded stage light caughtfire, and what happened is stranger than fiction.  Listen carefully because it’s tricky to know what’s Fact or Fiction!


Today’s guest is Suzie Cue!  Suzie Cue is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter from south St. Louis, MO. Folk, indie, blues, country…but more vulgar. Not a family band.  You can listen to her music here and follow her on Facebook here.








“Chicago’s New Playhouse.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 23 November 1903, p. 16.

“Eddie Foy as ‘The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe’ in ‘Mr. Bluebeard.’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3 November 1903, p. 7.

“Eddie Foy at Hyde and  Behman’s.” The Brooklyn Citizen, 1 March 1904, p. 7.

“Eddie Foy’s ‘Kidderinos,’” The Kansas City Star, 23 December 1905, p. 5.

“Foy Wisdom.” The Inter Ocean, 20 December 1903, p. 42.

Hamill, Sean D. “’Tinder Box’ author notes tragic parallels to club deaths.”  Chicago Tribune, 4 March 2003, p. 2-1.

“Many Chicago Theaters Liable to be Rebuilt.” Star Tribune, 6 January 1904, p. 3.

“’Mr. Bluebeard’ the Metropolitan Sensation of the Week.” Detroit Free Press, 3 January 1903, p. 4.

“Pity for the Dead; Aid for the Living.” The Inter Ocean, 1 January 1904, p. 3.

“Review of ‘Mr. Bluebeard’ in St. Louis.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2 November 1903, p. 6.

“Show in Iroquois Theater.”  The Saint Paul Globe, 12 July 1903, p. 20.

“The Iroquois Theater Fire.” Democrat and Chronicle, 31 December 1903, p. 6.


The Real Roxie Hart

In April of 1924, Beulah Annan shot her lover in the bedroom she shared with her husband Al.  She rested next to the dead man and played one song over and over on her phonograph until Al arrived home.  What followed is such a sensational story, that reporter Maureen Watkins used it as the basis for her successful play, Chicago.  That play was the basis for the hit musical and later Oscar-winning movie of the same name.  Listen carefully because not everything you hear is true, and it’s not easy to decide if it’s Fact or Fiction!

This is the only picture I could find of Harry Kolstadt, the victim.


All of shots above are pictures of Beulah I found in contemporary articles.



After the trail, Beulah profusely thanked the “beauty-proof” jury members.

Beulah with her lawyers.

Beulah and husband, Al Annan [left]; Buelah with speech bubble [right]

This calendar plate advertising Tenant Laundry, the place where Beulah met her lover, was for sale on Ebay.

Reporter and playwright, Maureen Watkins.

Picture of Buelah Annan’s Mother Embracing Her After Trial to prove that my fiction was truly a fiction.  LOL!

Fiblett 2.8


In this week’s Fiblett episode, Laura shares a story of Western criminals in the big city, a train robbery, a bank robbery, and butter heist.  Three are published stories, but one is fictional.  Listen carefully because it’s tough to know if what you hear is Fact or Fiction!

Johann Hoch: America’s Bluebeard

Bluebeard is a French folk-tale about a villainous man who married and then killed multiple wives.  The American version of this story isn’t a folk tale–it’s real.  Today’s episode of Fact or Fiction examines the story of Johann Hoch, a man accused of marrying scores of women, absconding with their fortunes, and even murdering a few.  Listen carefully because it’s never easy to tell which parts of the story are Fact or Fiction.  Ready to play?




“Bluebeard Hoch Again Gets Another Chance.”  Quad-City Times. 24 August 1905, p. 1.

“Bluebeard Is Hanged.” The Marion Star, 23 February 1906, p. 1.


“Claims Only Married Twice.” The Atchison Daily Globe, 1 February 1905, p. 2.


“His Last Hope Gone.” Leader-Telegram, 22 February 1906, p. 1.

Hoch, Johann. “How I Married 50 Wives and What Became of Them.” The San Francisco Examiner, 30 July 1905, p. 46 – 47.

“Hoch and His Rivals.” The Wichita Daily Eagle, 24 February 1905, p. 9.

“Hoch and His Wives.” Messenger-Inquirer, 7 March 1905, p. 6.

“Hoch Gets a Reprieve.” The Topeka Daily Herald, 28 July 1905, p. 1.

“Hoch Is a Prisoner.” The Washington Post, 31 January 1905, p. 1.

“Hoch Is Guilty of Wife Murder.” The Allen County Republican-Gazette, 19 May 1905, p. 2.

“Johann Hoch Must Die.” The Windsor Star, 20 May 1905, p. 1.

“More Wives for Hoch.”  The Atchison Daily Globe, 1 February 1905, p. 1.

Johnson, Ray. “Johann Hoch hung 110 years ago today- His last moments on Earth.” Chicago Now, 23 February 2016.

Morrow, Jason Lucky. “Johann Hoch: The Lady Killer, 50 Possible Victims, 1890 – 1905.” Historical Crime Detective, 30 April 2014, https://www.historicalcrimedetective.com/johann-hoch-the-lady-killer/. Accessed 30 January 2021.

“Number of Wives Placed at Twenty.” The Des Moines Register, 29 January 1905, p. 1

Remarkable Career of Bluebeard Hoch.” The Star Ledger, 10 March 1905, p. 7.

Schutzer, A. I. “The Lady-killer.” American Heritage, vol. 15, issue 6, October 1964, https://www.americanheritage.com/lady-killer#1. Accessed 6 April 2021.