Strange Times Special 7: A Runaway Horse

Strange Times is going on hiatus for the month of August, as I work to finish revisions for the sequel to Westside. To tide you over for the next few weeks, I’ve included some favorites from issues 9 and 16, concerning a fasting zealot and a horse on the loose in Union Square.

First published in “Strange Times 9,” this has always felt like a fit subject for a play. Someday I’ll get to it, I’m sure…

DANVILLE, Ill., Jan. 8.—For the first time since his wife forty days ago began fasting in an attempt to induce him to abandon his produce business and join her as an evangelist of her religious faith, Ernest S. Harrington today admitted he was worried over her condition.

"I thought she was only bluffing when she started," he said, "and would soon give up her foolish notion, but I now see she is determined to go the limit. But I am just as determined as she is. Lawyers have informed me that I cannot be prosecuted in the event her fast results in death. I have done everything to induce her to eat except to join her church, and I won't do that."

Harrington says the only religion he knows is the Golden Rule, and he does not believe it necessary to have any other.

He is receiving many letters, some praising his wife's attitude and others from persons congratulating him for not yielding. One woman informs him her husband threatens to emulate Mrs. Harrington unless the writer joins his church. 

Relatives deny that Mrs. Harrington has a high fever, as has been rumored, but admit she has grown much weaker and is more restless.

From “Strange Times 16” comes the thrilling conclusion!

DANVILLE, Ill., Jan. 15.—Mrs. Ernest S. Harrington, who says she has been fasting for forty-eight days to influence her husband to become a church member, ended her hunger strike today, on being advised by the Rev. G.S. Payne of Eldorado to take food. She consented and drank a glass of milk in the presence of a minister.

Her husband, for whom she declared and undertook the strike, says his wife has "seen the error of her own way and is willing to resume her daily routine of life." He says he has not joined the church and will not do so "until he gets ready."

Mrs. Harrington is not expected to suffer any ill effects from breaking her fast, as it is the general belief of physicians here that she has not been abstaining from food for more than a week at most. Immediately after drinking the milk she admitted that she felt better and said she would not resume her fast.

A movement on foot here to investigate Mrs. Harrington's sanity and to have the Grand Jury sitting next week investigate the activities of religious enthusiasts who are said to have encouraged the woman in her fast is reported to have been responsible for the ending of the hunger strike. 

According to the woman's assertions, she had taken no food for forty-eight days. Dr. W.C. Dixon, City Health Commissioner, who examined her, declared, however, that he was convinced she had abstained from nourishment not more than a week and said that her condition was virtually normal.

Expressions of doubt that she had really fasted for the full period were characterized earlier in the day by Mrs. Harrington as "attempts to cheat God of the glory of preserving my body and keeping me alive until the great victory is win."

When asked if she did not fear she would die if she persisted in fasting Mrs. Harrington said: "Death? Why, no, I've never given that a thought. I know, however, that I am not going to die. Why, God wouldn't let me die. If I do, then nothing will be accomplished by my fasting."

The other story from “Strange Times 16,” included here because it’s too damn good not to.

Policeman Henry Koch captured a runaway horse yesterday after a chase in Broadway which ended like a fox hunt. He brought down the animal just as it was about to "take ground" by diving into the Union Square subway station of the B.R.T. at Sixteenth Street and Broadway.

The horse started to run with a delivery wagon after it had been left standing by Laurence Kerwin, a driver for the Oakley Stables, at Seventh Avenue and Eighteenth Street, while he stopped to get cigarettes.

Policeman Koch saw the horse making for Broadway at high speed, and tried to grab the bridle, but was thrown aside and knocked down. He scrambled to his feet and hailed a passing taxicab. 

The chauffeur put on full speed after the runaway horse and was almost alongside as the horse entered Broadway. The animal started uptown, then made a quick turn downtown. The chauffeur spun his machine around like a polo pony and was on the trail, while the crowd at the corner scattered in all directions, equally afraid of the hunters and the quarry.

Shouts so frightened the horse that it made another half turn and dashed for Union Square, scattering a number of people about to enter the subway kiosk.

The chauffeur made another quick change of direction and got alongside just as the horse saw the subway entrance and seemed to make for it like a scared fox darting into cover. Two or three people on the stairs reached the bottom in one leap. 

Policeman Koch, who is a skilled horseman and served in the field artillery of the A.E.F. [American Expeditionary Force], sprang from the running board of the taxicab and landed astride the animal's back. He made a desperate effort to rein the horse in, but was unsuccessful, and scores of spectators held their breath, expecting to see horse, rider and wagon plunge into the subway.

With only a second to spare, Koch swung his club and landed hard on the head of the animal. The horse and policeman fell in a heap. Koch jumped to his feet unhurt, while the spectators cheered.