Strange Times 69: Sordid Midnight Drama

Today brings a bride-turned-widow, a hypnotist-turned-detective, and a call for action from Lady Astor. Focus your eyes on the pocket watch for…

March 10, 1921

  • Reports come from Russia that the Kronstadt rebels have seized Petrograd and issued a call for the world to join them in the fight against Communism.

  • At the halfway point of the six day bicycle race at the Garden, Oscar Egg and Peter Van Kempen remain in the lead after another "spectacular session of riding."

  • For the first time since the onset of his illness, Caruso is propped up against some pillows and permitted to sit for thirty minutes—a change the tenor quite enjoys.

  • The Weather: Fair and colder today; Friday, fair; fresh west winds.


This tragic epilogue to the story told in last week's issue feels like something straight out of a silent melodrama.

The body of the robber who on Tuesday afternoon shot and killed himself in a store at 7 Battery Place after he had fatally wounded Morris Bailkin during a hold-up in the latter's store at 26 Greenwich Street was identified at the Morgue yesterday as that of Arthur M. Dawson, 25, who had been honorably discharged from the army last Saturday after a six-year enlistment.

The body was identified by Sergeant Frank B. Hastings and another soldier from Fort Wood, Bedloes Island, who told detectives that Dawson had served with a telegraph battalion in France. Sergeant Hastings said that when Dawson left Bedloes Island he informed several of the soldiers that he was to be married the next day in Brooklyn, and that he and his bride would live at 1,072 Bergen Street, Brooklyn. Detectives yesterday called at the Brooklyn address and found that a young couple had hired a furnished room there on Sunday and told the landlady that they had just been married.

The woman said that the man did not return on Tuesday night, and that shortly before noon yesterday the woman, described as being about twenty-two years old and of frail physique, returned to the house crying, hurriedly packed several handbags and left.

"They appeared to be a very quiet couple," said the landlady, "and there was nothing about the young man's appearance that would indicate he was a hold-up man."

Soldiers at Fort Wood said that Dawson had been a model soldier and expressed surprise at his action. They said that he admitted last Saturday that he had not made arrangements for employment and seemed to be worried on that point, but insisted that he would be married the next day and "trust to luck" to get work. It was the opinion of the soldiers that Dawson became desperate, and, having but 4 cents in his pockets, decided to hold up the store-keeper. 

Later in the day a man who said that he was Edward L. Dawson, 26 years old, of 133 Amity Street, Brooklyn, called at the morgue and identified the body as that of his brother. Attendants reported that Dawson told them the dead man had been gassed and suffered shell shock in France, and never fully recovered. He ordered the body removed to a Brooklyn undertaker's establishment. 


This may be the Strange Times-iest headline of all time, and the story that goes with it does not disappoint.

BERLIN, March 9.—From Bernburg, a large town in the Province of Anhalt, comes an amazing story of combined hypnotism and clairvoyance as a means of bringing a murderer to justice. Some days ago the wife of a shoemaker was found dead in her bedroom with marks on the neck and breast indicating that she had been strangled. Her husband was arrested on suspicion, but denied that he was at home when his wife died and disclaimed all knowledge of how his wife met her end. 

A post mortem examination failed to produce complete proof of the actual cause of death and the authorities were at a loss until the mystery was solved in the following remarkable manner:

The Police Commissioner called in an amateur hypnotist who already had achieved local fame by successful experiments. The hypnotist employed as a medium a young man, and both in company with the Commissioner went into the room where the body was found. Holding in his hands one or two small articles used by the husband the medium was duly hypnotized, and while in a trance told the story of a sordid, midnight drama. The husband and wife, he said, quarrelled and the man seized the woman by the throat, threw her half conscious on the bed from which her head fell forward so that she choked to death.

Immediately the story ended the Police Commissioner in order to satisfy himself made an interesting and convincing test. Known only to himself the position of the furniture and several other objects in the room had been changed, and he told the hypnotist to instruct the medium to arrange the room exactly as it was on the fateful night. Silently and without hesitation the medium restored all the moved objects to the exact positions in which they were when the Commissioner first saw the room after the discovery of the body.

The sequel was even more terribly dramatic than the experiment. Accused of having committed the crime in the manner stated by the medium, the husband made a full confession. Some of the details as previously related by the medium were omitted by the Commissioner when he challenged the husband, but later he gave them in his own account of the deed. They corresponded exactly with ever incident told by the medium, just as if he had witnessed the quarrel and tragic finale.


This story ran on the society page, alongside several other interesting pieces about women that all make fascinating reading, despite being exiled to the middle of the paper. Bonus points to Lady Astor for providing what may be the earliest declaration of Time's Up.

LONDON, March 9.—Lady Astor was chief guest today at a luncheon given by the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, one of the objects of which is to induce women to stand for Parliament.

In a speech she expressed the view that a reaction had set in against women. She said there was a type of man, a rampant type, that wanted to reserve the fair for the brave, who agitated against temperance reform, sex equality, everything.

She urged all women's societies to form a flying column, so that when the members of Parliament opposed the reforms that women wanted they might receive a Black Hand notice reading: "All right, my man, your time's up."

After watching all the parties carefully, she said, she found that all were alike, Coalitionists, Liberals and Unionists. They all expected women to behave like perfect ladies. So they would, she added, when they had taught men to share their views.

Men had yet to learn, she went on, that women stood for things that were just, clean, pure and of good report. It was still necessary to ginger up lethargic men and women to recognize the fineness of the things that women were fighting for. The time would come, she concluded, when people would cry, "Thank God for the old suffragettes."

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