Strange Times 114: "Human Fly" Falls to Death

Strange Times is a newsletter that explores the weirdest news of 1921, one day at a time. If you like it, you will probably like Westside Saints, my latest Jazz Age mystery novel, as well.

Today brings five short tales of exploding whisky, Paris swindlers, unlucky daredevils, and damp rich men. Bring an umbrella, darn it, on…

April 24, 1921

  • American labor leader Big Bill Haywood confirms reports that he has joined the staff of the Communist International, and that he is “openly” looking forward to producing propaganda for Lenin.

  • Despite promising to reporters that she would inform them upon the birth of her new son, Fannie Brice fails to notify them “for several hours” after the child arrives.

  • Maude Augustus Haynes Andrews, wife of bigamist broker Herbert Andrews, rubbishes reports that her husband intends to return to her.

  • The Weather: Fair today; Monday cloudy and warmer; west winds shifting to south.

This story included not just because it’s excellent, but because the headline recycles a pun last seen back in “Strange Times 60.” I see you, Times copy editors. I see you.

LEAVENWORTH, Kan., April 23.—While defending Richard Coppersmith in court on a charge of manufacturing home brew, B.F. Enders picked up a bottle as he questioned a witness.

“Would you call this —?” began the attorney, when he was interrupted by a loud report. Flying glass from the bottle cut an artery in his wrist and broke a lens of his glasses.

The defense had entered the trial with the contention that the beverage did not contain enough “kick” to come within the state bone-dry law.

Whoa, talk about the perfect crime. It’s a shame the man didn’t ask them to bring diamonds or gold instead of a huge stack of history’s least stable currency.

PARIS, April 23.—While France is waiting to see the color of some German money there is one Frenchman who has plenty of it. He has 300,000 paper marks, and this is how he got them.

Some days ago he hired two rooms as an office. Then from a neighboring café one morning he telephoned a firm of money exchangers to ask if it could send to him at his office 300,000 marks. Two men arrived bringing the money. All three sat down around a table and worked out the purchase price. When it was settled the purchaser rose and, picking up the German money, remarked, “I’ll get the 65,000 francs out of my safe and lock this up.”

He walked into the other room of the office, leaving the two men. For some time they sat and waited. Then they became suspicious. At last they tried the door. It was locked, and by the time they had broken the windows and summoned help their man and their 300,000 German marks had disappeared in a green taxicab. That is the only clue any one has to identity.

This is extremely horrifying!

BALTIMORE, April 23.—After climbing to the sixth floor of the new Howard Hotel here late this afternoon, Andrew Corey, a “human fly,” lost his grip and fell to the ground. He died before he reached the hospital.

Corey was climbing for the benefit of the Pentecostal Orphanage and the orphanage band was preparing to take up a collection from the big crowd watching when he had reached the top of the hotel.

The first part of the ascent had been made easily in spite of apparent nervousness before Corey started. As he reached the level of the sixth floor he hesitated. He started again but just before he reached the cornice one of his hands slipped. He grasped for the wall with the other hand but failed to catch hold. He struck the curbing on his shoulders, breaking his back. Several women in the crowd fainted. Corey was about 30 years old.

Clearly President Harding never watched Caddyshack, or he’d have known that golfing in the rain is a bad idea.

WASHINGTON, April 23.—President Harding refused to permit his regular game of golf to be called off today because of rain and soggy links.

Immediately after returning from attendance at Baptist memorial exercises, he replaced his hat with the regulation golf cap and walked from the White House to the near-by municipal golf links to find relaxation.

For polite stories about Things Rich White Men Did In the Rain, you really can’t do better than the New York Times.

Chauncey M. Depew spent his eighty-seventh birthday yesterday just as successfully as he thought he would the day before, by taking heed of the morrow and wishing it well. He went to his office in the morning and afternoon despite the inclement weather, and in the evening had a number of friends as guests at a dinner given him every birthday by Mrs. Depew.

“Yes, it was a successful birthday, a very happy one, and we are sitting around here now talking about it,” he said.

Spending the evening with a few congenial friends is Mr. Depew’s idea of the best kind of a good time.

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