Friday, December 2, 2016

A Christmas Ogre : He Deserts His Family and Takes a Young Bride

What a guy!  This story is about a rather Scrooge-like scumbag.  He was the father of twelve children.  He left his family, yes, at Christmastime.  Why?  No, he was not depressed.  No, he was not penniless, unable to deliver a wonderful, light-hearted holiday to his family.  He just left them all, without a note.  You see, he found a young 16-year old to take as his bride.

free images Scrooge
 Michael Boland lived in St. Louis, Missouri.  Married, father of a large brood, and according to some, a nice neighbor, was missing from his family in late December of 1889.  He was found in Arkansas on December 27th, celebrating a honeymoon with his new, under-aged bride.

Boland, a laborer by trade, left St. Louis in October of 1889 to work on the levee in Bright Star, Arkansas.  Mrs. Boland reported that she ceased to receive any letters from him after he had been gone about 10 days.  She had received a letter from someone claiming to be a "Sheriff Brown".  The letter told of an incident where Mr. Boland had gotten himself into a skirmish with others while on the Arkansas River, and he died from his wounds.  Mr. Boland did have a life insurance policy, with a value of $150.00.  His wife placed a claim for death benefits, as she had a house full of children to feed and care for.

Here is where the story gets good.  The Prudential Insurance Company proceeded to investigate the death of Mr. Boland when they had received the claim from the Mrs.  Another letter was found, once again written by someone claiming to be "Sheriff Brown".  It stated that Mr. Boland was on a skiff on the river, when he was knocked into the river, floating downstream until he was picked up by a steamboat crew, who then transported him to New Orleans.  According to the letter, he was last seen laying in a hospital there.

Following the trail, the insurance investigators contacted the New Orleans officials, who reviewed their maritime records, and found that no such person was transported on a steamboat, and no injured passenger was taken to a hospital there.

Mrs. Boland, needing some closure and some money for support, asked the St. Louis Police Department for some help in locating her husband and finding out what happened to him.
Upon arriving in Bright Star, Arkansas, the police detectives found Mr. Boland, alive and well.  He had never left Bright Star, and had never been involved in a skirmish, nor was he ever tossed off a skiff on the river.

Mr. Boland was found snuggling with his new, much younger bride.  Well, HO HO HO.  Mrs. Boland was notified of what the police had uncovered....her husband was a rat fink.  She proceeded to sue for divorce, and the courts prepared charges against Mr. Boland for bigamy.

I guess we can assume he got coal in his stocking that year!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mystery Murderer : The Torso Killer of Cleveland

For this Halloween Weekend, I  bring forward a story of unsolved murders, just so that you will have trouble sleeping this weekend...Bha  hah  ha  hah  ha!

You have heard of Elliot Ness...the FBI agent who, with the help of his posse, finally brought down Alphonse Capone.  It took a charge of tax evasion, but whatever worked, he took it.

In later days, Mr. Ness was working in Cleveland, Ohio.  There was a serial killer, leaving torsos around. At least 12 dismembered bodies were recovered. It all started with the lower half of a woman's torso that washed up on the shore of Lake Erie in 1934. This body, plus all the following dismembered bodies were completely drained of blood.

Doctor Francis Sweeney was thought to be the murderer, but it could not be proven.
He hung around a local funeral home...what a creep.  He also spent quite some time behind the walls of mental institutions.  It is said that he wrote postcards and letters to Elliott Ness and J. Edgar Hoover....taunting them about the murders that had not been solved. Dr. Sweeney was a veteran of World War I, where he was busy preforming amputations and general medical duties.  When questioned by polygraph, he failed....but that could not be used against him.  I think it just raised more suspicion. He committed himself to institutional care, and later died in a veterans home.

Death masks of some victims,

There were reportedly 12 to 20 bodies believed to be involved with this unknown murderer from 1935-1938. Only three of the victims could be positively identified.  They were considered drifters, part of the working poor of the area.  Decapitation was to cause of death for almost half of the persons.

Where were the bodies, or rather, torsos found?  A number of places were mentioned in an article found in Wikipedia ...lake shore, railroad boxcar, swamps, ...

Elliott Ness was the Public Safety Director of Cleveland, according to many articles.  He was really stumped with these cases.

There have been some books written about this horrible circumstance in Cleveland, here are some that I found :

In the Wake of the Butcher, by James Jessen Badal, 2001 Kent State University Press

Butcher's Dozen, by Max Allen Collins, 1988 Bantam Books

Nemisis: The Final Case of Elliot Ness, by William Burnhardt

A map showing the locations of each victim's remains can be found on  Google, searching "Cleveland Torso Murders Map".

Get a good night's sleep...if you can.  This guy may still be out there somewhere, in the dark, outside your door, waiting to catch you off guard.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Chester Gets The Chair : The Murder of Grace Brown

Oh, How lovely is Love......until someone gets an itch to leave....and it starts to get ugly...VERY ugly.

This is the case of Miss Grace Brown who was beat on the head with a tennis racket, then dumped into the lake.  Yes, her lover did it.  He ran off into the woods so that he could meet up with "the other woman".  What a guy!

Miss Brown was expecting a child, belonging to Mr. Chester Gillette.  He never denied that he was the father. But, you see, he had another woman on the side, or rather, Grace was the woman on the side....Chester was supposed to marry another woman.  He just used Grace for his days of lust.

Chester invited young Grace to accompany him on a romantic boat ride on Big Moose Lake, located in the Adirondacks on a lovely day in July of 1906. They said that he had a tennis racket with him, although that was never proven.  He drifted out to a lonely, secluded area of the lake.  Then, he beat her about the head and dumped her into the water where she lost her life, and that of the child she was carrying.  A tennis racket was found floating in the water near the area where her body was found.

Young Chester arrived in the New York area from Seattle Washington around 1904.  He was to join his uncle in the shirt manufacturing business. Supposedly he was very good looking, had plenty of money to spend and was quite a hit with all of the young single ladies of the area. Why he even taught Sunday school classes!  What a perfect catch for any young lass.

Young, 20 year old, Grace Brown, worked in the shirt factory belonging to the Gillette family.  Chester spied her right away, and she was quite smitten with him.  He gave her what seemed to be constant attention, and she gave him her full trust.

In the summer of 1906, Grace abruptly left her position at the factory.  With no explanation to her friends, she left everyone wondering what she was up to. Her parents noticed that something was different about her.  When they noticed that she had frequent correspondence with the young Gillette, they started to ask questions.  She broke the news....she was engaged to be married to Chester, or so she thought.  She began to sew herself a new wardrobe.

One day, Grace went back to the shirt factory, but not to work there.  She met with Chester.  He announced to everyone that he was going on a very short vacation in the mountain region.  Grace went ahead of him to meet up with him at the hotel, reported to be named the Glenmore Hotel.
Two days later, her body was found on the shore of Big Moose Lake, by fishermen.   The boat was found upturned, floating in the hidden cove area.

Big Moose Lake, New York,

After questioning many of the people of the lake area, it was determined that Grace had been accompanied by a young man, whose description fit Chester Gillette. He was found sitting in front of a nearby summer resort hotel.  When approached by the police, he did not seem surprised at all about the finding of Grace's body.  He explained that his hat fell into the water, and when he went to reach for it, the boat had overturned and Grace went into the water.  He said he lost site of her  and swam to the shore. He was asked why he had not tried to save her or report the accident.  It was time to change his explanation. He said Grace was distraught and jumped into the water voluntarily. They handed him his tennis racket splotched with blood.  He had no explanation for that.

After his days in court, Chester was found guilty on December 6, 1906.  He was to be sentenced to death, by the electric chair, in January of 1906.  However, a stay was granted on an appeal filed in October of 1907. The Court of Appeals proved to be an unreliable deal for him, as they decided to uphold the original case findings of his responsibility for the death of young Grace.

The Glenmore Hotel,

The Prosecution set about to bury Gillette with the many damning letters that Grace had written to him. She wrote that she was concerned about him neglecting her of late. He was asked when he first learned of her pregnancy.  Chester replied that he could not remember. It was revealed that he had not paid his hotel bill while staying at the nearby hotel where he had registered under the name of Charles Gordon, and that his bank account seemed to be depleted. Apparently, he had not paid for the boat that he rented either.  When questioned about these unpaid costs, he shrugged his shoulders, stating that he didn't seem worried about that.

Other evidence that seemed to "screw" Chester :
 -he had carried a photo of Miss Harriet Benedict, a young, lovely woman who worked at the shirt factory.
-Chester said he wanted to protect young Grace from gossip, so he registered under the assumed name of Mr. Gordon and wife.
-Although it was a hot day in July, Chester brought along an overcoat, umbrella and a tennis racket with him on the boat ride with Grace.  These were very odd things to take on that day when there was not a cloud in the sky. He claimed to have left them on the shore before boarding the boat.
- A guest at the hotel swore that he had introduced himself as Carl Graham and his companion, Grace.
-He also claimed to have bathed and changed his complete set of clothing after having walked through the woods, and sat on the porch of the hotel to read a book, never thinking to stop to report the accident on the lake.
-He changed his story, and said that he and Grace were reaching for water lilies when she jumped into the water.
-He sent a message to Cortland, where the shirt factory was, to ask for $5 to be sent back to him to pay for his room and board
-Two young women testified that they had an engagement to meet with Chester at Seventh Lake on the evening that Grace had died.
-Letters from Grace to Chester were read before the courtroom, with statements from Grace that she was afraid that Chester would not come to her in her  condition, and she was in a depressed mood.
-Frances Brown, sister of Grace, testified that Grace confided that she had high hopes that she would be married to Chester during their "Vacation" together.

In February of 1908, it was decided that Chester Gillette was indeed guilty of the murder of Miss Grace Brown and her unborn child. The sentence was due to be carried out in the week of March 30, 1908.

On March 30, 1908, Chester was lead to the electric chair, Auburn prison, He was interred the next day at Soule Cemetery, with members of his family present.  A number of persons who were curious watched from a distance. The grave is unmarked.

Grace M. Brown was buried in Valley View Cemetery, Chenango County, New York. It is said by visitors that she haunts the lake area to this day.

The story of this horrible murder at Moose Lake inspired the novel "An American Tragedy" by Theodore Dreiser. and the Academy Award winning movie "A Place in the Sun".

The reports of this case can be found in newspaper archives across the nation and internationally.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Burial Canal of Dianne Masters

She thought she had met a man that loved her deeply.  She imagined a fairy tale life with her prince.  She longed for the days of riding into the sunset with her soul mate.


Dianne met and dated Alan for some time.  He was a very impressive man, known by many.  As a divorce attorney in Cook County, he had power, and along with that, wealth.  Most police officers knew Alan very well.  What they kept to themselves was the fact that Alan was very proficient at making "problems" go away.  He had so many judges and police officials in his back pocket.  His generous payments to these law officials let some illegal activities continue to flourish.  His many connections made him a very valuable friend to those in the mob.  

Dianne did not know that Alan was married, and had two children.  When she found out, she was furious.  Alan told her that his marriage was not good, and that he only loved her.  She hung onto their relationship until he divorced his wife...TEN YEARS LATER.  She must have really loved him.

Their Marriage Years :

Dianne and Alan often met up with his friends for dinner.  It has been said that his friends propositioned her for sex.  Of course, she declined.  What kind of woman was she, after all.  But Alan did not appreciate her loyalty to him.  He supposedly got upset with her denial of "services" to his friends, and proceeded to beat her when they arrived home.

This evidently happened quite frequently, and it always ended the same way...he would apologize and shower her in lavish gifts.  But when she found him stepping out on her with other women, she threatened divorce.

Once again his anger would get the better of him.  He would beat her, and threaten that she would never be able to leave him....alive, that is.   He even threatened the lives of her parents.  If Dianne had friends in their home, it did not stop him from beating her.  They witnessed the brute that he was.

While he did not appreciate the first pregnancy of hers, demanding her to abort...she became pregnant again, and hid it from him until it was too late to abort.  That condition did not stop him from his brutal beatings.  Dianne gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and the beatings continued.

Working in the community, Dianne met a wonderful man who treated her very well, with respect and dignity.  They soon became involved, and Alan's friends had seen the couple together.  They told Alan that his wife was seeing another man. When she returned home that day, it would be the last time anyone saw her....alive.  Alan beat her  badly and placed her body in the trunk of her car.

Masters knew the police chief of Willow Springs very well.  He told the chief that Dianne wanted to divorce him and she had been seeing another man.  He said she could not get away that easily, so he beat her and put her into the trunk of her car.  The chief opened the trunk and shot Dianne in the head.
He then drove off in Dianne's car, with her in the trunk.

Alan had reported Dianne as a missing person several days later.  No one had any idea what had happened to her. All of her colleagues were baffled.  No one had seen or heard from her. Some knew that Alan had dealings with the mob and there were whispers that perhaps that had something to do with her vanishing suddenly.

Nine months later, while the police were dredging the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, they found Dianne's car, with her in the trunk.  They were pulling 41 cars out of the canal that had been reported stolen, or had been used in various crimes. Dianne's body was examined, showing bullet wounds to the head and a crushed skull.

The detectives did their work very well, and both Alan Masters and the Willow Springs  police chief were charged and found guilty of the murder of Dianne Masters.  Alan was given 40 years, and the police chief was given 20 years.

The former police chief published a book with the nephew of Sam Giancana. He died of lung cancer at the age of 60.  Alan Masters died at the age of 65 while incarcerated at a federal prison.

Dianne Masters, late wife of Alan Masters. Last seen driving her 1978 yellow and white Cadillac in the southwest suburbs of Chicago after meeting with members of  community college board on March 19, 1982. Her remains were found in December of 1983.
Former police chief, Michael Corbitt, sentenced to 20 years after being found guilty of being involved in the disappearance and murder of Dianne Masters, wife of Corbitt's friend, Alan Masters. Corbitt wrote Double Deal with Sam Giancana, nephew of the reputed mob boss of the same name.

stories about this murder can be found in various newspapers across the internet.  most are found in 1982 and 1983 about Dianne's disappearance and body recovery.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

World War II Veterans : Stories Just Waiting to be Told

Stories From the World War II Battlefield series, by Jennifer Holik
as featured on

Do you know a veteran that just might have some stories to share?  I bet you do. But some might think that no one is interested in their war stories.  It could be a good project for you to sit and talk with that veteran.  Ensure that person that you are indeed interested in their experiences.  It could be very hard to put into words just what they may have experienced.  It might bring back memories that they had tried so hard to put away.   Need some advice or guidance on just how to help this veteran to tell their story?

Jennifer Holik, researcher, educator, speaker and publisher, has put together a series of books to help with telling the story of your veteran, whether they are still living, or have past away.  She walks you through the necessary steps to take in retrieval of information to finally put that veteran's story on paper.

The Stories of the World War II Battlefield series focuses on each of the U.S. Armed Forces.  Records can be found in various places.  If your veteran has a DD214, otherwise know as paper of separation, that is a good place to start.  It gives a nice synopsis of the veteran's time in service, serial service number, places of draft or enlistment, metals and honors awarded, training, ranks, and, of course, date and place of their release from the military.  If the veteran died while in service, they will have a whole file listing most of what the DD214 has, but includes date, time and place of death, including the causes and circumstances of the death.  

There are so many other places to find more information about your veteran or deceased service member.  The U.S. Army had morning reports....the U.S. Navy had ship logs....and there are so many more records to comb through to get the most complete story.

If you are interested in getting further involved with this type of project, I highly recommend Jennifer's books.  She will be a featured speaker at the FGS 2016 Conference in Springfield, Illinois from August 31- September 3.

Additionally, Jennifer will be the featured writer at the exhibit table number 516 at the FGS Conference in Springfield, IL. She will be available to market her books and answer any research questions. See more conference information here

Can't be at the conference?  You can purchase Jennifer's books from the website at a discount, and enjoy her expertise on this most important subject.

Interested in a family project?  How about leaning to research the military service of a family member  that has passed away.  Make copies of it for family members.  Those who might never have met their grandparent, great grandparent, or other relative might enjoy having such a memorial book about their relative.  Learning about family that have passed on gives  some a window to the past, and a sense of pride in who they are descended from.  What a nice gift for someone.  

To learn more about Jennifer Holik and her experiences, educational programs, speaking logs and other information, visit her website

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Remembering Bastille Day 2016

This is a very solemn week for the world.  We are now experiencing yet another devastating incident where people going about their way, trying to enjoy a holiday in excellent fashion, are horribly murdered.  We cannot find any good reason for such a thing to happen.  It's dreadful for all of us.

I ask that everyone take some time to think about those who lost their lives, their families and friends, and all those injured in this terrible tragedy.  We must remember that God has our back.  In the end, He will prevail.  There is a judgement day.....for everyone.

Let's all be safe and aware.

France is Our Friend, and Always Has Been, Standing with France, Fannie, the dog.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Dad, I Just Have to Imagine that He is Here

Friday's Fallen Acorns is a little late this weekend.  Sorry.  I have been delayed by the fact that it is Father's Day weekend.  My Dad is not here on earth to celebrate the day.  I bought my husband a rocker/recliner for Father's Day.  That was OK....because I bought myself one, too.

You see, we are going to be grandparents soon....for the FIRST TIME.  Anticipation is killing me.

But, my Dad will not be here to witness my new role in life.  That's what has me down.  I was used to being a kid in his presence, no matter what age I was.  Taking on a new role in life was something that I always shared with him.

First day of school.....shared it with him

First bike ride...shared it with him

First tree I climbed....shared it with him

First prize ribbon in a science project fair....shared it with him

First time behind the wheel of a car (at the age of 11)....shared it with him

First time getting an official driver's license...shared it with him

First time graduating from high school and college....shared it with him

First time getting married....shared it with him

First time becoming a parent....shared it with him

But now, my new role....First time becoming a grandmother.....he's not here to share it with me.  That's what hurts.  If he were here, I know what would happen.  Just like all the Firsts that I mentioned above, he would give me a big hug, tell me that he was proud of me, and smile from ear to ear.

So, this First time becoming a grandmother, I will just have to imagine his smile, imagine I feel him hug me tight, and imagine I hear him say, "Shari, I am proud of you".

I think I'll need a tissue now.  You might need one, too, if your Dad is not here with you on this Father's Day.  God Bless all the Dads who have gone onto Heaven.  May they all have the blessings and peace that they so deserve.

Frank J. Bognar, Jr.  1925-2002