"...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, September 9, 2015

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This medieval-sounding tale of a fatal curse put on a Kentucky doctor appeared in the "St. Louis Republic," October 11,1901:


"Within nine days that fine mare will die, the colt you value will die, your last hunting dog will disappear, and then you will die."

This was the prophecy made by an unknown mysterious woman to Doctor Alfred Lemberger, and it came true to the letter, for Doctor Lemberger fell over dead from heart failure on the evening of the ninth day.

The other conditions of the prophecy had already been fulfilled.

Now every detective on the Louisville force and every newspaper reporter is looking for the strange woman who made that prediction. Physicians say that she probably caused the man's death by the psychic effect upon him. But the question remains, Who is the woman? for only Doctor Lemberger knew and he never told her name. That section of the city was never so excited before.  Miss Kate Schuster, who was to have married the doctor the latter part of this month does not know nor does her sister Mrs. Schweitzer, who kept house for the bachelor. His brother and intimate friends can tell simply what Doctor Lemberger told them that a woman had predicted his death.

It started several weeks ago when Doctor Lemberger was called to attend a child suffering from diphtheria. The physician and family differed as to the diagnosis. He reported it as diphtheria, placarded the house, and enforced the sanitary measures that the law provides. The family objected bitterly. The baby died. One of the family visited the physician's office on Goss avenue to "wish him ill."

 According to the story of the dead man's intimate friends, Doctor Lemberger was a member of a little club that met each week at the home of some member for a social card game. Almost all of the well-known men in that section of town belonged. It was at a club meeting that the doctor first told the story of the strange prophecy. The man who heard him tell the story first repeated it.

"Boys," he began, "you can play cards on my coffin in a couple of weeks if the prophecy of a woman made today comes true."  Then he went on to tell his friends about the table what he called a good joke on himself. He told them the story, but held back the name of the woman, professing not to know it. In the intervals of the game, amid the jokes and laughter of his comrades the doctor told how the woman had entered his office and said first that she wanted to let him know that he need not hunt for that dog; that he was gone; because he would never come back. It had gotten into the street and a boy had carried it to the country. Then the woman said:

 "Be careful, for in nine days that fine mare will die, your colt, that you value, will die, and finally you will die on the ninth day--if you are not careful."

"But that mare is not mine. She belongs to my brother," said the doctor.

"That makes no difference," replied the woman. "Anything that is in your stable during the next nine days must die. You have enemies and they may kill you. The greatest danger to your life will be in the nine days after the mare dies. Don't go out alone at night. You can believe this because I predicted the death of President McKinley, but said nothing about it because I feared I might get into trouble."

The members of the club heard the doctor's story, and straightaway it became the standing jest. But one day the physician did not answer the questioner so readily. The fine mare was dead. Colic seized the mare one morning, and before Doctor Miller, the veterinary surgeon who was quickly summoned, could arrive she had died.

In a couple of days, however, the physician had apparently forgotten all about the incident. He was only reminded of it by the disappearance of his good hunting dog and the death of two of her pups the same day.

But one of the strange woman's prophesies remained now to be fulfilled. Lemberger had ceased to scoff about the fortunetellers, soothsayers, and the like.

One day he went fishing, but told the people at the house exactly what must be done in case he did not come back.  When the doctor went out at night he took a man with him. The time for the club meeting rolled around. The doctor went. He seemed in finer spirits than he had been for a week. He was even joking and laughing about the prophecy of the strange woman. They were playing "auction pitch."

"I bid one," said the man on Doctor Lemberger's left. The physician skinned his cards. The others were doing the same thing and paid little attention to him.

"I bid two," said Doctor Lemberger at last--then he fell forward on the table dead. The last prophecy of the strange woman had been fulfilled. It was the evening of the ninth day.

Other obituary notices confirm that Dr. Lemberger did die suddenly on October 9 of a massive heart attack. He was only 34 years old.



A similar story about the eerie circumstances surrounding Lemberger's death appeared in the "Louisville Courier-Journal" on the following day:

"Within nine days that fine mare will die, the colt that you value will die, your last hunting dog will disappear, and then you will die."

This was the prophecy made by an unknown, mysterious woman to Dr. Alfred C. Lemberger, and it came true to the letter, for Dr. Lemberger fell over dead from heart failure on the evening of the ninth day. The other conditions of the prophecy had already been fulfilled. Now all Germantown is asking the question: "Who is the woman that made the prophecy?" And none seems able to answer, for the prophecy was made to Dr. Lemberger in private, and only he knew the woman's name.  Miss Kate Schuster, who was to have married the doctor the latter part of this month, does not know, neither does her sister, Mrs. Schweitzer, who kept house for the bachelor. His brother and intimate friends can tell simply what Dr. Lemberger told them--that a woman had predicted his death.

It all started several weeks ago, when Dr. Lemberger was called to attend a child suffering from diphtheria. The physician and the family differed as to the diagnosis. He reported it as diphtheria, placarded the house and enforced the sanitary measure that the law provides. The family objected bitterly. The baby died. One of the family visited the physician's office on Goss avenue to "wish him ill," as the saying goes in that part of town.

Mrs. Schweitzer yesterday told the story of the visit. "She came and wished the doctor ill every way, and he was awful mad, and said he reckoned he'd get even with her some time."

"But is the mother whose child died the woman who predicted Dr. Lemberger's death?" asked the reporter.

"No, that is another one," said Mrs. Schweitzer. "I think she came first to tell the doctor where his hunting dog had gone. He had a fine dog, and it disappeared. One day a medium-sized woman came to his office. I didn't notice her. I wouldn't have thought of it but for the stories that the doctor told. He said that the woman predicted that he would never get the dog back, because it had been carried far away in the country by a boy, who picked it up on the street. He said, then, that she went on to tell him not to worry about that dog, because if he wasn't careful his mare would die and his colt and his other dog, and, finally, himself. My! the doctor was mad. He said he would like to break that woman's neck for telling him such foolishness. I don't believe in such things, but it all came true."

The reporter hunted up another friend who had been very close to Dr. Lemberger. And then, the only story of the occurrence that the doctor told his friend came to light.

Dr. Lemberger was a member of a little club that met each week at the home of some members for a social card game. Almost all of the well-known men in that section of town belong. It was at a club meeting that the doctor first told the story of the strange prophecy covering his end. One of the men who heard him tell the story first repeated it:

"Boys," he began, "you can play cards on my coffin in a couple of weeks if the prophecy of a woman made today comes true."

Then he went on to tell his friends about the table what he called the good joke on himself. He told them the story, but he held back the name of the woman, professing not to know it. In the intervals of the game, amid the jokes and laughter of his comrades, the doctor told how the woman had entered his office and said first that he need not hunt for that dog that was gone, because it would never come back. It had gotten into the street and a boy had carried it to the country. Then the woman said: "Be careful, for within nine days that fine mare will die, your colt that you value will die, and finally you will die on the ninth day--if you are not careful."

"But that mare is not mine. She belongs to my brother," said the doctor.

"That makes no difference," replied the woman. "Anything that is in your stable during the next nine days must die. You have enemies, and they may kill you.  The greatest danger to your life will be nine days after the mare dies. Don't go out alone at night. You can believe this, because I predicted the death of President McKinley, but said nothing about it because I feared I might get into trouble."

The members of the club heard the doctor's story and straightaway it became the standing jest.  For the next few days, whenever any member of the little club saw Dr. Lemberger, the greeting would be exchanged: "Well, Doc, ain't dead yet, are you?"  And the doctor would reply with some joke at the expense of fortune tellers, witches, soothsayers, and the like.

But one day the physician's joke did not answer the questioner so readily. The reason was plain. The time for the counting of the nine days had arrived. The fine mare was dead.  Colic seized the mare one morning, and before Dr. Miller, the veterinary surgeon, who was quickly summoned, could arrive, she had died.

In a couple of days, however, the physician had apparently forgotten all about the incident. Only he conducted a very careful examination of the stable, and ordered the negro boy, John, who attended to the horses, and who slept in a room over the stable, to move into the main house.

The club meeting night was the day after the mare died, and the members cast all sorts of jokes at their friend, asking him if he was not sorry that he had only one week to live, and similar pleasantries, which he apparently enjoyed as much as the jokers.

About three days after the death of the mare the six-months-old colt drooped and would not eat. No one told the doctor because of the prophecy, but the next morning the colt had developed an acute case of pleurisy. Dr. G.W. Knorr, from the office of Dr. Miller, was on hand quickly. He saw at once that the colt was in a very serious condition. Four men worked with the little animal for six hours and then, like the mare, it died.

Two of the strange woman's prophecies had come to pass.

"I never saw a man so much broken up over the death of an animal," said Dr. Knorr last night, "and certainly it was rather a strange case. I don't see how the colt got pleurisy in that stable."

The morning after the death of the colt, the last good hunting dog disappeared. Two of the pups died that same day.

But one of the strange woman's prophecies remained now to be fulfilled. Dr. Lemberger had ceased to scoff about fortunetellers, soothsayers and the like.  One day he went fishing, but told the people at his house exactly what must be done in case he did not come back. When the doctor went out at night now he took a man with him.

The time for the club meeting rolled around. The doctor went. He seemed in finer spirits than he had been for a week. He was even joking and laughing about the prophecy of the strange woman.  They were playing "auction pitch."

"I bid one," said the man on Dr. Lemberger's left.

The physician skinned his cards. The others were doing the same thing and paid little attention to him.  "I bid two," said Dr. Lemberger, at last. Then he fell forward on the table-dead.

The last prophecy of the strange woman had been fulfilled. It was the evening of the ninth day.

As a postscript, here is an even weirder tale from the "Atlanta Constitution," January 8, 1902:
Louisville, Ky., January 7.--Three Louisville young men have within the past six weeks come to violent deaths which were foretold them. The singular fatality which overhung them, the fact that their fates were predicted and that they died within so short a space of time has caused considerable comment.

The first of the three to die was Stuart Young. A few months ago there was not a gayer young man about town than he. Attractive, with a host of friends and holding the lucrative post of city treasurer, he seemed in an enviable position. But Young's pace had grown until finally he had to take the city's money to meet expenses. Then he began to gamble to catch even and ruin was complete.

It has recently been the fad in Louisville for young people to visit one of a member of those fortune telling here. During the summer Young was at a number of fortune tellers who held forth parties. The fortune teller gazed at Young's hand and then shook her head ominously.

"Your line of life is broken now," she said.

On November 27 he shot himself through the head in a freight yard within a block of his hotel just after an afternoon paper had announced his shortage.

The second to meet his doom was Austin Kent. He came of a leading wealthy family of Louisville. A few weeks ago he went to St. Louis. One evening he made one of a part at which palmistry served to pass away the time. The young lady who was reading Kent's hand said laughingly:

"Why, Austin, you should be dead now. Your life line stops at thirty and you're thirty-one."

"Well, I guess I've got a new one by now," laughed Kent.

Ten days later, while on an automobile party he sprang to escape what seemed a certain collision between the vehicle and a freight engine, and was ground to death beneath the wheels of the enging.

Will H. Goddard was the last to fill out the trio of destinies. He was a young man, well liked socially in Louisville for his attractive personality and gay spirits. Like Young he went on a fortune telling party. The seeress told him he would meet a violent death in less than twelve months. On Thursday last he was on a hunting expedition and pulled his gun toward him by the barrel, believing it empty. It was discharged and the contents passed through his heart.

But slightly removed from these cases by time, and of a similar nature, was that of Dr. Alfred Lemberger. Last August he incurred the enmity of a fortune teller of the east end who cursed him and his, and predicted that in nine days he would be dead. On the evening of the ninth day Dr. Lemberger died while sitting at a table playing cards with friends.

These may have been merely coincidences but they have given Louisville fortune tellers a grewsome reputation for fatal veracity. Fortune telling parties are no longer popular with the young folk of the city.

"Grewsome," yes, but you can't say Louisville palm-readers don't give you your money's worth.

4 comments:

  1. Kentucky seems to be providing its quota this week...

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    1. It's Strange Company's Kentucky Tribute Week!

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  2. Hey, I'm just a random who saw a RT of your question about the occupation of "vampire" in connection with women's shoe stores in the 1920s-30s. I don't have much of an answer, just a theory. A "vamp" is the upper mid-section of a shoe, the part that roughly covers the instep of the foot. A "vamp quilter" or vamp cutter was a job in the early 20C in shoe manufacturing. If the owner of a shoe store was also a cobbler by trade, it wouldn't be unlikely that a specialist would work at tailoring the shoes--a "Vampire"? Possible slang related to that task? Just a theory.

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    1. Something like that seems to be the likely answer. Thanks for your contribution!

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