Fibletts are mini-episodes of Fact or Fiction that allow you to test your own skills at finding the fiction within the facts! I’ll read four paragraphs, three of which are from an article or related articles and one that is my own invention. It’s up to you to decide which one is the fiction and which ones are the facts! I’ll come clean in two weeks in the next Fiblett edition. If you can’t wait that long, you can find the truth at www.factorfictionpodcast.com or at the Fact or Fiction Facebook page.
Listen carefully, because it’s more difficult than you think to distinguish between fact or fiction.
Thanks for checking here to find the fiction! If you guessed #2: Cold-Blooded Patricide, you were right! That story was my own attempt at creative fiction. The rest of the stories were from the 1892 St. Louis Globe Democrat article, “Fiends in Human Form: Murderers’ Row and Its Nineteen Gory Occupants.” Thanks for listening!
Did you like this week’s Fiblett? Do you have suggestions for Fact or Fiction? Let me know by posting in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more commonly referred to as the St. Louis World’s Fair, opened its gates on May 1, 1904 and throughout its seven months of life, entertained approximately 20 million visitors. It was a remarkable event, and its impact on St. Louis and the world is felt to this day. Cotton candy, private automobiles, x-ray machines, and other technologies debuted at the fair. Forest Park and Washington University in St. Louis still retain remnants of the exposition, although most of the impressively elaborate buildings were disposable and are no longer standing.
Today’s episode starts by considering at a tragedy at the fair, the infant incubator exhibit, and then to lighten the tone we will delve into some of the crazier aspects of the 1904 Summer Olympic Games held in conjunction with the fair.
Join me and my friend Sheri as she tries to distinguish between Fact or Fiction!
1904 World’s Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward, mohistory.org/exhibitsLegacy/Fair/WF/HTML/Overview/page3.html.
“Character of the World’s Fair Is Outlined.” The St. Louis Republic, 10 July 1901, p. 2.
“Cost 50 Million Dollars.” The Kansas City Star, 30 Apr. 1904, p. 2.
Death at the Fair, atthefair.homestead.com/Misc/DeathATtheFair.html.
Fischel, S. “What Becomes of the Incubator Babies.” St. Louis Star-Times, 4 Sept. 1910, p. 29.
Godson, Helen. “Where Babies Are Made Strong by Artificial Means.” The Washington Times, 2 Oct. 1904, p. 9.
“History of the Fair.” At the Fair, atthefair.homestead.com/HOF.html.
“Louisiana Purchase Exposition Ground Plan.” The Democratic Advocate, 22 Mar. 1902, p. 4.
“Olympic Games This Week.” The Kansas City Star, 24 Aug. 1904, p. 11.
“Olympic Marathon Race.” The Times, 31 Aug. 1904, p. 4.
Otoole, Sean. “Story of South Africa’s First Black Olympians Keeps Us Guessing.” The Mail & Guardian, 7 July 2016, mg.co.za/article/2016-07-07-00-story-of-south-africas-first-black-olympians-keeps-us-guessing/.
Palaces- Main Page, atthefair.homestead.com/Palaces.html.
“St. Louis Fair Opened in Presence of a Quarter Million People.” San Francisco Chronicle, 1 May 1904, p. 33.
“ST. LOUIS, U.S.A. 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition.” St. Louis World’s Fair 1904, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, americasbesthistory.com/wfstlouis1904.html.
Sultan, Aisha. “Secrets, Scandals and Little-Known Stories about the 1904 World’s Fair.” STLtoday.com, 13 Oct. 2019, www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/secrets-scandals-and-little-known-stories-about-the-1904-worlds-fair/collection_8dd7c5e9-7bb0-51c9-8da8-40822ab2c64e.html.
“The World’s Fair Formally Opened.” The Semi-Weekly New Era, 4 May 1904, p. 3.
Wadsworth, Kimberly. “Relics of the World’s Fair: St. Louis.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 19 Feb. 2014, www.atlasobscura.com/articles/relics-of-the-worlds-fair-st-louis-missouri.
SPECIAL CORRECTION: In this episode, I mistakenly said that the Louisiana Purchase was the U.S.’s purchase of all the land EAST of the Mississippi River. This is 100% wrong! I admit I am directionally challenged–don’t even ask my kids how hard it was for me to navigate London–but even I know that the Louisiana Purchase was the U.S.’s purchase of all the land WEST of the Mississippi River! Sorry if this caused any confusion.
In May 1903, a shabbily dressed old man checked himself into a St. Louis hospital claiming that “the only poor thing about me is my health.” Doctors weren’t sure what to make of this unusual patient who soon died with no mourners at his bedside. Francis J. Tumblety was indeed a wealthy man, a well-known “herb doctor” who had traveled extensively, been arrested for potential involvement in Lincoln’s assassination, and was widely known to be a potential suspect in the Jack the Ripper slayings of 1888. Join us as we examine the fascinating and eccentric character of Dr. Francis J. Tumblety, whose life is truly stranger than fiction.
“Always a Mystery.” The San Francisco Examiner, 19 Nov. 1888, p. 1.
“Arrested on Suspicion.” Evening Star, 19 Nov. 1888, p. 5.
“A Big Haul by Thieves.” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, 19 Apr. 1891, p. 5.
“Doctor Tumblety Arrested.” The Republic, 20 Nov. 1890, p. 1.
Dresbold, Michelle. “New Handwriting Evidence May Identify ‘Ripper’.” Pacific Daily News, 22 Nov. 2009, p. 15.
Holleman, Joe. “Did Jack the Ripper Have Ties to St. Louis?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 Nov. 2001, p. 151.
“The Indian Herb Doctor Again.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 19 June 1865, p. 2.
“The Indian Herb Doctor. More About Him. Full Particulars of His Arrest at St. Louis.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10 May 1865, p. 11.
“Jack the Ripper’s Eternal Resting Place in U.S.” The News Leader, 8 Nov. 2002, p. 9.
“Left Estate of $100,000.” Dakota Farmers’ Leader, 5 June 1903.
“Missing Tumblety.” Democrat and Chronicle, 3 Dec. 1888, p. 8.
“News to the Afflicted.” The Gazette, 12 Dec. 1857, p. 2.
“Personal Ad.” The Pittsburgh Daily Commercial, 17 Apr. 1872, p. 1.
Pitcher, John. “A Ripping Yarn.” Democrat and Chronicle, 31 Oct. 2002, p. 15.
Riordan, Timothy B. Prince of Quacks: the Notorious Life of Dr. Francis Tumblety, Charlatan and Jack the Ripper Suspect. McFarland & Co., Publishers, 2009.
“Root of Bitter Fight.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 28 June 1903, p. 14.
“Testimonials.” The Gazette, 28 Sept. 1857, p. 6.
Tremeear, Janice. Wicked St. Louis. History Press, 2011.
“Tumblety Turns Up.” The News, 4 Dec. 1888, p. 3.
“‘Dr.” Tumblety. A Mountebank Not Unknown in Buffalo Comes to Grief.” The Buffalo Commercial, 6 Apr. 1881, p. 2. “‘Jack the Ripper’ an American?” Chicago Tribune, 18 July 1995, p. 15.
In the early 1920’s a group of inmates from the Jefferson City State Penitentiary, the prison’s Peaceful Village Band, used their musical talents to rise to national fame. Some of the members leveraged this notoriety to shorten their sentences. Today’s episode of Fact or Fiction looks at these men who’d been incarcerated in Missouri’s only maximum security prison for crimes varying from check fraud to murder. Test your wits with my guest, Paul Holzen a music teacher and musician, to see if you can find the fiction within the facts. Listen carefully, because it’s more difficult than you think to distinguish between Fact or Fiction.
“Advertisement.” Sioux City Journal, 1 Dec. 1927, p. 2.
“Beneath the Star of Tragedy.” The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, 19 Jan. 1917, p. 22.
“Chance Knocked at Prisoner’s Cell Door.” The Lancaster Sunday News, 1 Mar. 1925, p. 25.
“Combs Runs for Council.” Sioux City Journal, 18 Oct. 1959, p. 30.
“Convict Entertainer Receives Many Gifts.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 17 Dec. 1924, p. 12.
“Convict Who Won Radio Fame as Pianist Dies.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2 Sept. 1937, p. 13.
“Credit Men Elect Directors; Adjourn for Summer Season.” Sioux City Journal, 26 May 1944, p. 14.
“Digging Coal to Prison Tempo.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=7xkgAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA4-PA45&lpg=RA4-PA45&dq=missouri%2BWOS%2Bradio%2Bprison%2Bband&source=bl&ots=IjwnTl6yRA&sig=ACfU3U3G7Q7foFCrmyQrIHgmoLmAiExu0w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjLhqXU4JXoAhWLZM0KHTe9DvsQ6AEwB3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=missouri%20WOS%20radio%20prison%20band&f=false.
“Freedom.” The Missourinet Blog, 2 Feb. 2017, blog.missourinet.com/harry-snodgrass/freedom/.
“French Slips Past Guard at the Jail.” Jefferson City Daily Capital News, 8 Sept. 1926, p. 1.
“Governor Hyde Freed Leader of Prison Band Yesterday.” Jefferson City Daily Capital News, 31 July 1924, p. 1.
“Harry Snodgrass, Radio Star, Opens His Own Road Show.” Wausau Daily Herald, 6 July 1925, p. 9.
“Head of Prison Band Looks Ahead to His Freedom.” Jefferson City Daily Capital News, 27 June 1923, p. 1.
“Hung Jury Likely in Trial of Woman.” The Cape County Herald, 27 July 1917, p. 1.
“Hung Jury Likely in Trial of Woman.” The Weekly Tribune, 27 July 1917, p. 1.
“Life Termer in State Prison Be Given Freedom.” The Sedalia Democrat, 18 July 1923, p. 1.
“Local Penitentiary Bandmaster Now In Texas Prison2.” Jefferson City Daily Capital News, 2 Dec. 1926, p. 1.
“Missouri Convict Wins Radio Popularity Contest.” The Daily Post-Dispatch, 5 Oct. 1924, p. 5.
“Missouri Convict Wins Radio Popularity Contest.” The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, 25 Oct. 1924.
“Musical America.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=jGdJAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA98&lpg=PA98&dq=missouri%2Bprison%2Bstate%2Borchestra&source=bl&ots=xZz89kIOtD&sig=ACfU3U3EPO2BvoM5NtSHl8Lv-4L4K4DW-w&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiLuYjO-I3oAhVnhq0KHfIHBM0Q6AEwDXoECA0QAQ#v=onepage&q=missouri%20prison%20state%20orchestra&f=false.
“Musical Messenger.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=pwNDAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA2-PA31&lpg=RA2-PA31&dq=virgil%2Bw%2Bcombs%2Bmissouri&source=bl&ots=7GL92pGKaJ&sig=ACfU3U3Ck464u8sRr1yNxXvyMuvekPjVlg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiXjfKt253oAhVMHM0KHYIeDzkQ6AEwBXoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=virgil%20w%20combs%20missouri&f=false.
Pogue, Samantha. “Filmmaker Plans to Make Third Movie in Capital City.” Newstribune.com, 23 Aug. 2018, www.newstribune.com/news/features/story/2018/aug/23/filmmaker-plans-to-make-third-movie-in-capital-city/740083/.
“Prison Band to Give Concert at State Park Sunday.” Jefferson City Daily Capital News, 29 May 1925, p. 1.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 7 June 1926, p. 4.
“Teamster Shot as He and Musician Attempt Holdup.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 14 Apr. 1923, p. 3.
“Three O’clock in the Morning-Waltz-Harry Snodgrass : Terriss–Robledo : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming.” Internet Archive, Terriss–Robledo, archive.org/details/ThreeOclockInTheMorning-waltz-harrySnodgrass.
“Two Convicts Escape After Harding Concert.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11 Aug. 1923, p. 3.
Winters, S. R. “The Strangest Band That Broadcasts.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=x_nNAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA178&lpg=PA178&dq=missouri%2BWOS%2Bradio%2Bprison%2Bband&source=bl&ots=ew3I0nvfvB&sig=ACfU3U1u2QcGd1tErSSbNJn5IRYX7BNciA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjLhqXU4JXoAhWLZM0KHTe9DvsQ6AEwBnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=missouri%20WOS%20radio%20prison%20band&f=false.
Witten, J M. “When the Prison Band Goes on at WOS.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=a1IPAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA205&lpg=PA205&dq=missouri%2Bstate%2Bprison%2Bconcert%2Bband&source=bl&ots=nobV7ca3EB&sig=ACfU3U1FrHdYrKLEKyVWy89c7WLX9WTAeQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiL9I7m_o3oAhUOT6wKHWuRCKUQ6AEwBnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=missouri%20state%20prison%20concert%20band&f=false.
On the evening of January 31, 1912, a St. Louis police officer noted the business of The Cowperthwait Loan Company uncharacteristically had its lights on at 7:00 p.m., well after its usual closing time. The officer entered to find a disturbing scene that would launch an investigation to find a criminal whose exploits are truly stranger than fiction. My niece, Kaitlyn, joins me to unravel the mystery of The Single Cuff Button.
Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly of the Twenty-Eighth Session of the Legislature of the State of California. State Office, J.D. Young, Supt. State Printing, 1889.
“Cheatham Diary Shows Him a Wooer at Age of 4.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 May 1912.
“Cheatham Jests as Confession Is Read.” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, 8 Mar. 1912.
“Cheatham Made Will Before Killing.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8 Mar. 1912.
“Cheatham Pleads Guilty to Wurzburger Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 14 Oct. 1912.
“Cheatham’s Confession of the Wurzburger Killing.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8 Mar. 1912.
“Cheatham Pleads Guilty to Wurzburger Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 14 Oct. 1912.
“Cheatham Weds Widow, Who Posed As His Sister.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 May 1922.
“J. Wurzburger, 75, Once a Power in City Politics, Dies.” St. Louis Star-Times, 16 Nov. 1933.
“Jewelers Condemn Release of Cheatham.” St. Loåuis Post-Dispatch, 26 May 1922.
“Killed Man to Rob Him; Freed After Ten Years.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 17 May 1922.
“Lawyer Hired for Cheatham; Plea May Be Insanity.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11 Mar. 1912.
Morrow, Jason L. O’Sullivan, Dalton. Vintage True Crime Stories Vol I: An Illustrated Anthology of Forgotten Cases of Murder & Mayhem . Historical Crime Detective Publishing. Kindle Edition.
“Pawnshop Slayer Pleads Not Guilty.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 Mar. 1912.
“Pawnshop Slayer Would End Life.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 14 Mar. 1912.
“Police In Fear Cheatham Will Not Be Caught.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 Mar. 1912.
“S. A. Cheatham Is Being Hunted in Pawnshop Killing.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2 Mar. 1912.
“Sailor’s Knot Clew to Pawn Shop Suspect.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3 Mar. 1912.
“Watches Worth $4000 Part of Pawnshop Loot.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3 Feb. 1912.
Bertha was a matronly lady who devoted herself to her sick neighbors out of the goodness or her heart, or did she have another motive? Listen carefully, because it’s more difficult than you think to distinguish between Fact or Fiction.
“12 Female Poisoners Who Killed With Arsenic.” Mental Floss, 12 Dec. 2015, www.mentalfloss.com/article/72351/12-female-poisoners-who-killed-arsenic.
Bloody Island was a sandbar located in the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois. During the 1800’s, it technically didn’t belong to either state, so men traveled there to settle disputes without the interference of the law. Believe it or not, many of these duels were between the movers and shakers and great politicians of the era. Today, Fact or Fiction takes a look at a few of the most famous of these duels. As always, the facts are stranger than the fiction, so listen carefully!
“Bloody Island.” The Stack County News, 7 May 1875.
“Days of Dueling in Old St. Louis.” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, 23 Apr. 1911.
“The Ghosts of Bloody Island.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 July 1897.
Baldwin, Carl. “Bloody Island: St. Louis Dueling Ground.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 Mar. 1975, pp. 31.
Bassford, Homer. “Robert E. Lee, as Army Engineer, Kept the Mississippi From Shifting Its Channel Away From St. Louis.” The St. Louis Star and Times, 13 May 1933, pp. 9.
In late June of 1887, a young wife died under mysterious circumstances. Her husband left shortly after her burial with a cryptic note indicating he couldn’t live without her. What the authorities discovered when his employer contacted them to try to save the grieving husband’s life is almost unbelievable.
“The Abbott Case.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 July 1887.
“The Death of Susie Beck.” Indianapolis Journal, 1 Aug. 1887.
“A Dispatch from St. Louis.” Palmyra Spectator, 5 Aug. 1887.
“It Was Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1 Aug. 1887.
“Mrs. Abbott and Susie Beck.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 July 1887.
“A Question of Identification.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 25 June 1897.
Shook, Steven R. “Crimes of ’87.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2 Jan. 1888.
Shook, Steven R. “Methodist Minister Murder Mystery.” Methodist Minister Murder Mystery, 1 Apr. 2016, www.porterhistory.org/2016/04/methodist-minister-murder-mystery.html.
Shook, Steven R. “Still in Doubt.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 30 July 1887.
Shook, Steven R. “Susie Beck’s Murderer.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 21 June 1897.
“Susie Beck’s Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 3 Aug. 1887.
“Unatoned After Thirty-Two Years A Famous St. Louis Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6 Apr. 1919.
“West Case Bungled.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 June 1897.
“West, the Absconding Preacher.” Crown Point Register, 4 Aug. 1887.
“Will Send for Rev. W. A. West.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 June 1897.
“A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.” Goshen Weekly News, 5 Aug. 1887.
In my very first podcast episode ever (yeah, it’s going to be a little raw), please join me, Laura, on my journey to learn more about St. Louis’s seedy past and unbelievable true crime. While you are at it, use your own detective skills to see if you have what it takes to determine the difference between fact and fiction.
One of the most infamous stories from St. Louis’s past is the trunk mystery. A foul smelling trunk is found in a deserted hotel room in 1885. From the discovery of the trunk to the capture of the man responsible for its gruesome contents, this story is stranger than fiction. Listen and decide for yourself.
“A Letter from Maxwell.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 31 July 1888.
“Artist, 74, Among Eight Women Who Exhibit Paintings.” St. Louis Star-Times, 4 Apr. 1935.
Beiger, Chas. Letter to K. Bellairs. 22 June 1922. K. Bellairs Papers, Missouri History Museum Library, St. Louis, MO. Manuscript.
“Came to Kill.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 29 Nov. 1893.
“Father and Son.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 Oct. 1885.
“He Killed Preller.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 24 May 1886.
“His Dying Statement.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 Aug. 1888.
“How Preller Died.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26 May 1886.
“It Should Be Spurned.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 23 Sept. 1887.
Linzee, David, and Nick Openlander. Infamous St. Louis Crimes & Mysteries. Palmerston and Reed Pub., 2001.
“Maxwell’s Defense.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 May 1886.
“Maxwell Will Rejoice.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10 May 1886.
“Maxwell’s Story.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 Feb. 1888.
“Munchausen-Maxwell.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9 May 1885.
“Preller’s Death Struggle.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 June 1885.
“Preller’s Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 12 Aug. 1885.
“Still Calls It Murder.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 May 1889.
“Tell-Tale Groans.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 18 Apr. 1885.
“The Chalk Plate Process | Graphic Arts.” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University, graphicarts.princeton.edu/2019/12/31/the-chalk-plate-process/.
“The Criminal Court.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 16 June 1886.
“The Maxwell Trial.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11 May 1886.
“The Body Identified.” St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, 17 Apr. 1885.