In Battered Dreams, Aislinn mentions the Capitol Hill Thug. The Thug was a real criminal around the turn of the century in Denver, Colorado. He did kill three of his victims, but those seemed to be accidents. He hit a lot of people in the head that didn’t die. Yes, that’s what he really did, he wandered the areas around Capitol Hill in Denver and bashed people over the head. He didn’t rob them. He didn’t rape them. He didn’t molest them. And most of the wounds, while being head wounds were superficial. Denver police were never able to capture the Capitol Hill Thug and he just disappeared, no more people being bashed on the head. Here’s some more weird crimes not all of them are about murder:
- The Mad Gasser of Mattoon (and maybe Virginia): During the mid-1940s there appeared to be a madman on the loose in Mattoon, Illinois. It started on August 31, 1944. A couple woke up to a strange smell that left one victim temporarily paralyzed and the other vomiting and weak. That same night, another house reported similar circumstances. The next evening, Mrs. Kearney reported smelling a sickly sweet odor that made her go weak at the knees. Her husband, Mr. Kearney, was a cabbie and when he arrived home, he reported seeing someone near the window of his house. He gave chase, but the man got away. The description was vague, a tall, slim man with a cap on. The Mad Gasser of Mattoon would continue to gas people until September 13, 1944. That was his last reported attack in Mattoon. The attacks were weird. Some were repeat victims, some got sick, no one died, and they all happened at night. It was mostly chalked up to hysteria. However, a decade earlier, in Botetourt County, Virginia saw a similar set of attacks. On the night of December 22, the Huffman family smelled a sickly sweet odor on three separate occasions that night. Each time, family members became ill. Between December and February he would attack at least 11 families with his sickly sweet gas that caused illness.
- Detached Feet of the Northwest: If you live on the west coast of Canada or in Washington state, you’ve probably heard the story because detached feet in shoes is weird. If you live anywhere else, here’s the nitty gritty. In 2007, feet, most of them in sneakers and not attached to a body, began washing up on the shores of British Columbia and Washington state. Only 2 of the 11 feet have been lefties, all the others are right feet It’s a mix of men and women and at least once or twice, someone(s) have perpetrated detached feet hoaxes. The last known foot washed up in 2014. There are lots of theories about the detached feet (including was an actual crime committed), but few answers. The sneakers just make it weirder.
- The Lead Mask Deaths: In 1966, two men in Brazil were found dead on a hill by a teenager. They were dressed in their Sunday Best and had a bottle of water with them. Oddly, they were both wearing lead masks, which at that time was used to protect one from radiation. They also had a to-do list that included eating some sort of capsules. However, cause of death was unknown and the list indicates that they did not expect to die. I wish I could tell you more, but there just isn’t more to tell. (Foul play is suspected, but finding a suspect is a different story)
- The Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce*: Even the most dedicated readers might not know who Ambrose Bierce is, but his theoretical death mimicked one of his short stories. Bierce was a writer in the mid-1800s best known for his otherworldly science fiction stories. In one tale, a farmer walks into a field and in plain view of his wife, disappears. For years afterwards, the wife says she can occasionally hear the farmer calling for her. In real life, Bierce went west and rode with the notorious Poncho Villa when he was in his 70s. However, what happened to Bierce is unknown. Some say his final comunique came in December 1913 and contained a cryptic message about what might befall him in the future. Some say this letter is nothing but hogwash. Either way, one can only guess what happened to Bierce during his last known days on Earth.
- The Murder of Mary Rogers: Keeping in the vein of writing related weirdness, there is the murder of Mary Rogers and Edgar Allen Poe. The murder of Mary Rogers was definitely the inspiration for the short story The Mystery of Mary Roget, even Poe admitted to that. However, what most people don’t know is that Poe was a suspect and for a long time, he was the only suspect, and not just because he wrote a story based on the murder. Somehow, Poe managed to write details into the The Mystery of Mary Roget that had actually happened to Mary Rogers and were being kept quiet by the police. Eventually, Poe was dropped as a suspect, but her murder remains unsolved.
*The disappearance of Bierce has been attributed to old age, riding with Villa, alien abduction, portals, time travel, and murder. Possibly what is the strangest about Bierce is that he was an icon of American literature and one of the founding fathers of American science fiction writing, yet he is rarely mentioned or remembered in American lit classes. During his life, he was one of the most popular writers of the time. While most historians like to the paint the Wild West as crazed and infested with gun-toting ne’er-do-wells (and it was), there were a lot of normal people and the average cowboy could in fact read. And read they did! Frontier supply stores were known to sell and trade books because cowboys needed something to do in their downtime. Bierce was a favorite among this group of readers.