Odds and Ends VI

Note: Sometimes I run across stories (or even just snatches of stories) that are too short to warrant their own Spooky Marion entry. Here are a few of these “odd and ends” concerning our fair town.

Face Disfigured by Acid Attack

In the evening of June 5th, 1905, a 17-year-old Marion girl named Bessie Ramey claimed that as she was walking from her brother’s house on Superior Street to her father’s house on Grant, she passed an acquaintance named Harry Leland on Delaware Avenue. According to Bessie, as Mr. Leland tipped his hat in greeting, he suddenly threw acid in her face and fled.

Police spent the following week trying to track down the elusive Mr. Leland and even issued a warrant for his arrest. However, they eventually came to a shocking conclusion: there was no Harry Leland and Bessie had splashed the acid on herself.

For starters, her attending physician, Dr. Young, told police that he was skeptical of her story. He told police that the girl had, in fact, been a “novel fiend” since the age of ten.

Police also talked to Nellie Hoberman who ran a boarding house on North Main Street where Bessie Ramey lived and worked. When Mrs. Hoberman let the police into Bessie’s room, they found a bottle of carbolic acid that Mrs. Hoberman kept for household purposes.

Carbolic acid was a common household disinfectant at the turn of the century and can still be found in products like soap and throat spray. I talked to a friend of mine who has a PhD in medicinal chemistry, and she had this to say about it: “It’s slightly acidic and therefore it would be corrosive. It would need to be washed off immediately. Serious burns are unlikely to occur with short exposure times, however. Still, I wouldn’t put my hands in it!”

According to Dr. Young, the burns were not particularly severe. “The burns were like blotches,” he said during a police inquiry. “They extended from the upper lip down around the mouth to the chin and neck and to the breast, where the most serious burn was inflicted. The burns on the breast may leave a permanent scar, but those on the face and neck will not.”

The Star reported that, despite the evidence undermining her claims, Bessie continued to insist that the mysterious Mr. Leland had attacked her.

Source: The Marion Daily Star, June 12, 1905

A Haunted Masquerade

Although we think of fall as being the traditional time of year for spooky parties, an article appeared in The Marion Daily Star on March 18th, 1896, describing such a party in March:

Miss Edith Smith and a coterie of her young lady friends gave a very novel and unique entertainment to a number of their gentlemen friends at her home on West Church Street Tuesday evening. It was a masquerade party and those who happened by the house were certain it was haunted, for within could be seen a number of ghostly-looking objects dressed in pure white.

The ladies wore sheets around them and pillow cases enveloped their heads. The gentlemen learned of this mode of masquerading and concluded to give the ladies a few samples of their own medicine, and so came to the Smith home attired in the same manner. There was a jolly confusion when all got into the house and it only ended when the masks were removed. Then came a session of games, music and many other entertaining features to say nothing of a delicious repast that was served.

Nineteenth Century Crimes in Marion County

The History of Marion County, Ohio, published in 1883, mentions a number of notable crimes (minus some pertinent details) from the latter half of the nineteenth century.

In 1869 or 1870, a man named McIntosh was found lying across the railroad tracks (the exact location is not given) with the lower part of his abdomen cut in half. The coroner concluded that the man had been murdered and that the perpetrators of the crime had thrown the dead body on the railroad track to make the public believe that he had been killed by a train and thus elude suspicion.

A similar case also occurred near Caledonia. (The exact date is not given.) The victim, Eli Fink, was found on the railroad tracks with his head cut off. He had been in a saloon earlier in the night where he’d been involved in an argument with another patron. A train engineer later claimed that he saw two women near the point on the track where the dead body was found.

Newton Milliser was poisoned to death with arsenic on July 22nd, 1879. Although a suspect was tried for the murder (the name is not given), the person was eventually found innocent. No further clues were ever discovered regarding the identity of Milliser’s killer.

James Taylor killed Clayton Randall in Waldo with a billiard cue on August 26th, 1879. Taylor was tried and convicted of murder that November, and on the 28th of that month sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment.

Psychics in Marion

The subject of mediums and psychics has been discussed before, both in an article that appeared on the Spooky Marion website and in the book .

On January 9th, 1909, The Marion Daily Star published an article about a Mr. and Mrs. Sprague from Jamestown, New York who entertained at a “well-attended” show at the Junior Order of United American Mechanics hall. While the first half of the evening was devoted to Mr. Sprague, who the Star called “a very clever and well-informed speaker,” the Marion audience was probably more interested in his wife, a medium who could recite the life stories of several members of the audience as well as communicate “with a local grocery clerk who was killed by the cars here several years ago.” According to the Star, the attendees were “well entertained and gave Mr. and Mrs. Sprague a liberal contribution.”

During the summer of 1982, adds for a woman calling herself Mrs. Abby began appearing in the Marion Star and a now-defunct local newspaper called Newslife.

I became aware of the 1982 ad through the Facebook group “Growing up in Marion, Ohio”, which is an excellent source for all things Marion-related. This particular clipping is courtesy of Marion native Pat Murphy.

Her advertisement raises a lot of questions: Who exactly was Mrs. Abby? Was she a local resident or just passing through town that summer? Did anyone actually call her? What happened to her?

The Mysterious Death of Jacob Rittershofer

On Sunday, March 13th, 1892, the “horribly mangled” remains of a German immigrant named Jacob Rittershofer were found on the train tracks of the Columbus, Hocking Valley and Toledo Railroad near Evans’ Quarry.

Authorities were unsure if Mr. Rittershofer’s death was an accident a suicide or even a murder.

Among his remains were two letters written in German, one to an acquaintance and one to his mother, but no suicide note.

The thirty-six-year-old stonecutter had no family residing in the United States.

Source: The Evening Bulletin, March 14, 1892

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