"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

Here we have a very strange death from 1909.  Mrs. Jessie Culbertson of Vincennes, Indiana, had been a bride for only three months when she was found in the woodshed of her home.  She had been absent from sight no longer than about ten minutes.  She was bruised and unconscious, with burns around her face and throat.  A cloth was tied around her head, closing her jaws shut.  (Some reports state her hands and feet were also tied.)  Before she died, the stricken woman regained her senses long enough to say that a man and a woman had dragged her out to the woodshed, bound her and forced poison down her throat.  Several letters were found in her home, allegedly from an old girlfriend of her new husband Russell, warning her to give him up or suffer the consequences.

These circumstances initially clearly pointed to murder, but that was soon disputed.  It was revealed that Jessie Culbertson had tried to kill herself a year before, and investigators believed the threatening letters resembled her handwriting.  The stationary used for the letters was similar to paper Mrs. Culbertson had used before. The theory was that she staged her death to look like a murder that would implicate a woman she saw as a rival.

Despite the ambiguous nature of the case--her bruises were never explained, and it's questionable that she could have tied herself up in any way after having taken a poison that would have been immediately debilitating--this soon became the official verdict of her death, and the “other woman” was cleared of suspicion.  Jessie Culbertson, the authorities ruled, was not a tragic victim, but a suicide who was also one of the most diabolical of attempted murderers.


  1. Where do you find this stuff? Wow. You've outdone yourself. Fascinating.

    1. You're my first commenter! I should have had a door prize ready...

      I've been addicted to old newspapers for years now, because you find some of the damndest things hidden in them. When I look around today's world, it's oddly comforting to me to realize this planet has always been an extremely weird place.

    2. You know, that actually came to mind as I read the article. We're not getting weirder, necessarily-it's just more effectively circulated now.

      And hooray for being the first commenter. I am, after all, a devoted fan. ...And you know there is a book premise somewhere in your posts. Probably dozens.

    3. I'm pretty certain the publishing industry--not to mention the world--isn't ready for the sort of book I'd write.


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