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Unsolved Dark Mysteries

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Unsolved Dark Mysteries

Post by Karen on Wed 11 Jun 2014 - 20:11

Travel and Adventure.


"There are no undetected crimes," say the police, but there are some crimes - a large number of them, indeed - that are mysteries, and will remain mysteries to the end of the chapter. No real solution has been offered as yet of the notorious Whitechapel
murders; no reasonable surmise made of the identity of that mysterious monster "Jack the Ripper." Various theories, based upon these alleged conditions, were put forward by the police in the Whitechapel affair. One was that the murderer only visited London
at certain intervals, and that at all other times, he was safe beyond all pursuit. Either he was at sea - a sailor or stoker, of foreign extraction, a Malay or Lascar - or he was a man with a double personality; one so absolutely distinct from, and superior to the other, that
no possible suspicion could attach to him when he resumed the more respectable garb. It was, in fact, a real case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Granted also, that this individual was afflicted with periodic fits of homicidal mania, accompanied by all the astuteness of this form of lunacy,
it was easy to conceive of his committing the murders under such uncontrollable impulse, and of his prompt disappearance by returning to his other altogether irreproachable identity. No doubt, this was a plausible theory, but theory it was and nothing more. It was never, even inferentially,
supported by fact.
To admit so much then, is to concede beyond all question the existence of unsolved, and presumably unsolvable mysteries of crime. Many such are to be met with in the judicial records of all times and climes; many more are occurring continually. However disquieting the statement, there is much
to justify a belief that murder most foul, and still most mysteriously unrevealed, stalks constantly in our midst, says a writer in a London magazine. I have myself heard an eminent and very famous police functionary declare that many people come by their deaths in all large cities by foul means without
being missed, or if missed, without any explanation of their disappearance. We come from time to time upon the fringe of such terrible mysteries; the hem of the dark veil is lifted and light let in on the doings of modern Borgias and Brinvilliers unscrupulously weilding the terrible weapons that advanced science
places at their disposal. We still have an uncomfortable but distinct impression that the bravo still lurks down side streets, and that the twentieth century can show its Thugs, its associations of branded miscreants determined to plunder and kill.
It is generally thought murder would be more easy if greater facilities offered for the disposal of the corpus delicti. But murderers are often at no pains to conceal the guilty record of their crime. It is difficult to connect the discovery of the remains with any particular individual. It was so in the Waterloo Bridge mystery,
nearly 48 years ago. One morning in October, 1857, soon after dawn, two boys in a boat came upon a carpet bag, locked and corded hanging below Waterloo Bridge, London. The bag, when forced open was found to contain the mutilated fragments of a human body - a male - and also a quantity of torn and blood-stained clothing.
A theory was soon set up, and generally believed, that this was a hideous joke from a dissecting room - the prank of some reckless medical students. But closer investigation forbade any such conclusion. Medical evidence denied unhesitatingly that these fragments had been professionally dissected. It was as certain that they had
been cut or sawn asunder before the rigidity of death had supervened - a condition that always precedes all anatomical operations. It was shown that they had been boiled and partially salted, all processes that are commonly practiced by murderers. Again, the evidences of a violent death were unmistakable. The remains presented no signs
of disease; but there was one single stab - a dagger stab, apparently - which pierced the cloth, and striking between the third and fourth ribs of his left side, had penetrated the heart. As for the clothes, they showed by their tattered condition that there had been a violent struggle, but they had not been removed from the corpse until it was stark and stiff.
Here was a plain story, but still no clue was left, and the mystery remains unsolved to this day.
A still more recent mystery of the same kind, equally inexplicable, was the gruesome discovery of a woman's body in a cellar, under the pavement of a fine mansion in Harley Street, London. The butler of the family, in cleaning out the cellar came upon a cask, and within that cask he found the body preserved in quicklime, which had been used, no doubt, with
the idea of destroying it, but the opposite result followed. Decomposition had, however, gone too far to make recognition possible, and there was never the slightest clue to the identity of the criminal, or of that of the murdered person. The woman had been stabbed to the heart. Nothing whatever was elicited in the house itself. It had been occupied by the same
gentleman, its proprietor, an unimpeachably respected person, for at least twenty years, and he threw no light whatever upon the mystery.
Even where a body had been clearly identified, and within a short space of time, the solution has not been reached. Let us take some of these less familiar cases, as recorded in the criminal history of other countries. There was the murder of "the pretty cigar girl," as she was called, Mary Rogers, of New York - the foundation, indeed of Edgar Allan Poe's famous story,
"The Mystery of Marie Roget," although he placed the scene of the crime in Paris.
Mary Rogers left her home one evening for a walk in Hoboken, on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, and was never afterwards seen alive. Some days later her body was found floating in the North River; she had been strangled by her own lace fichu.
By and by the traces of a fierce and mortal struggle were found in a neighboring wood, and in due course several arrests were made, all of men supposed to have been desperately in love with Mary Rogers. Every one was able, however, to establish his innocence, although one, by name Payn, subsequently committed suicide near where the crime was perpetrated. This
mysterious murder agitated the whole of the United States to an extent - unparalleled, except by the murders of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and no satisfactory clue was ever obtained.
Other cases of a similar kind have occurred in the United States. There was the murder of Sarah Cornell, who was at first thought to have hanged herself, then said to have been killed by a Methodist minister; but he was acquitted, and the deed, now proved to be one of violence, was always a mystery. So was that of the girl fished up from the bottom of a Manhattan well, in the days
when New York was a small place; but the murderer, who had first strangled, then thrown Gulielma Sands down the well, was never discovered.
A much more recent New York mystery was the murder of the rich Jew, Benjamin Nathan in 1870. He came home one night from the country to his house in West 23rd St., close to Fifth Avenue, and as the place was dismantled, he slept on the floor of his reception room. Two of his sons and the housekeeper also slept in the house. Next morning Nathan was found lying in a pool of blood,
gashed and slashed and stabbed to death. Near at hand was a ship carpenter's chisel, besmeared with blood. All his money and valuables, the three costly diamond studs in his shirt, his gold watch and chain, all had disappeared. More, the iron safe standing in the same reception room, and the key of which was in the murdered man's trousers pocket, had been rifled, and many securities and
important papers stolen. Those who had occupied the house with him were at first suspected, but their innocence was clearly established and other theories set up. It was thought to be the work of a burglar come to rob and forced to kill to escape capture; or, again, of a business man in Nathan's power.
Whatever the solution of the mystery it remains to this day unknown and undiscoverable.
Feuerbach, the famous Bavarian judge, who unravelled so many criminal mysteries, records a case not unlike that of Nathan's, in which the police were entirely at fault. It was the murder of a goldsmith, Christopher Rupprecht, a vulgar, illiterate man, who could neither read nor write, but who yet did a large business in usury. He trusted almost entirely to his memory, only occasionally calling in assistance
for the drawing and arranging of his bills and notes of hand. Rupprecht was an evil-tempered old miser, who had quarreled with all his near relations and lived quite alone. His favorite resort was a beer shop, called "The Hell." And he sat there one evening, in company with a party of staid and respectable citizens till half-past ten. Some one about that time came to the front door and asked the landlord for Rupprecht.
The userer when called went out into the street, and almost immediately loud groans were heard and a heavy fall. All rushed out and found Rupprecht lying just within the door, covered with blood, flowing from a great wound in his head. He was just able to murmur a few words, "Wicked rogue!" and "The axe - the axe!" Later when interrogated as to the murder, he gasped out, "My daughter!"
The wound, which was in the skull and evidently mortal, had been inflicted by some sharp heavy instrument, possibly a sabre, weilded by a practiced hand. Rupprecht had been struck beyond doubt in the narrow street, a cul de sac at one end, and he must have rushed back into the house-porch, to drop dying in the hall. Again, the position of the wound showed plainly that it had been given on the very door-step. Here were
many facts.
Here, too, was the chance of taking the criminal red-handed, at the very time of the crime. The victim, last of all, was never quite unconscious, and he gave his own explanation of the murder with plain indications of the murderer; yet nothing was ever brought home to a soul. Rupprecht when questioned, hanging between life and death - at a moment when, presumably, no man lies - declared that he had been struck down by Schmidt,
a woodcutter, with a hatchet, that he recognized him by his voice; that Schmidt owed him no money, but that they had quarreled. There were many Schmidts in the village, all woodcutters, and all were arrested; but to none could the crime be brought home. On one, Abraham Schmidt, suspicion long rested, but his hatchet did not fit the wound. Moreover, he proved a clear alibi, and it was shown that he was a hard working, peaceable man,
a good husband and father, and he was in due course released. Then the law fixed upon the victim's daughter, whom he had mentioned after he had been picked up; but neither she nor her husband, who was also implicated, and although both of them lived on bad terms with Rupprecht, could possibly have committed the murder. Many other persons were arrested, interrogated, charged, but in every case suspicion, however plausible, fell to the ground.
The mystery has remained a mystery, and that the only solution offered was that the userer had been slain by some disappointed suppliant for a loan, or some debtor, unable otherwise to purge his debt, and that in both cases concealment was rendered easy by Rupprecht's plan of keeping no written record of his transactions. No one - not even his nearest relatives - were cognizant of Rupprecht's dealings, and it was generally believed that the only person to
give a clue was the murdered man. So the secret was buried with him.
One or two more murder mysteries may be mentioned before leaving this branch of the subject. There was the Pook affair, as it was called - the case of the girl found nearly dead in an Eltham lane, and the suspicion in which fell upon her master, a printer in Greenwich. This person, Edmund Pook, was arrested on a speciously devised chain of reasoning, for which the police were afterward blamed by the judge; Pook was held to be innocent, and no further light
was thrown on the affair. The triple murder in Ireland of Lord Leitrim, his clerk, and the car-driver was an agrarian outrage on which the seal of secrecy was strictly enforced; still some sort of clue might have been looked for, and yet was never found. At an earlier date the supposed crime of Johan Franz, accused of murdering a housekeeper when he was committing a burglary, is an instance of the uncertainties of circumstantial evidence, strong suspicion of an individual's guilt
being met by coincidences as strongly affirming his innocence. Certain papers belonging to Franz were picked up in the room near the body; he had a shirt tied up with string similar to that with which the murdered woman had been bound. Yet it was proved by independent testimony that Franz had actually lost his papers, and that the string or twine was of a kind very commonly used. Franz was acquitted, and the crime must be attributed still to persons unknown.
The immunity sometimes enjoyed by the criminal need not, however, encourage candidates for the perpetration of crime. There is nowadays a much keener flair on the part of the detective police, and they have greater chances of success from the publicity given to crimes by the newspaper press, the improved international arrangements for the tracking of suspected persons, and their extradition when caught. Great crimes are undoubtedly cosmopolitan nowadays; they are often planned
in one European capital, committed in another, and the criminals take refuge in a third. This is especially true of London, Paris, Brussels, Vienna and Berlin; the detectives of all countries are in close touch, and when called upon render each other prompt and often most effective assistance. Finally, the general acceptance of the principle of extradition ensures proper retribution in the end. But you must "first catch your hare," and, as has been shown in the present article, the hunt is not always
entirely successful.

Source: The Advocate, March 25, 1905

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

Posts : 4907

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