Stories that Haunted the Papers

The frosty fall season has once again settled over the northern hemisphere. For some that means warming up against the cold, while for others it’s prime time to get those goosebumps going. We’ve got the latter covered with today’s post, which features three ghost stories that have haunted past papers. Are the tales real, or just stories meant to thrill and chill? You can be the judge.

The Haunted Mine

There’s something about an enclosed space that lends itself to creepiness, isn’t there? And if you take that enclosed space underground, it only gets worse. This 1887 story recounts the harrowing experience of Mr. Bennett, whose qualifications as a reliable source speak for themselves.

Mr. Bennett is very truthful, and has feared Mr. Bennett is very truthful, and has feared “…No goblin or swart faery of the mine.” Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

Bennett worked in Nevada’s Yellow Jacket mine, which made the news nearly two decades earlier following a deadly fire. Stories had since been told of unexplained sounds and sights in the mine, but Bennet didn’t believe them. That is, not until the day he had to retrieve a pair of shovels from the empty 1000 level.

The Shovels

Bennett found the shovels and was descending the ladder back to the 1100 level when he heard footsteps. At first Bennet thought it was the foreman, Pete Langan. But Langan would have used a light, and the footsteps were approaching from complete darkness.

Mr. Bennett heard footsteps in the darkMr. Bennett heard footsteps in the dark Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com Mr. Bennett on the ladderMr. Bennett on the ladder Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

He called out to ask who it was, and heard no answer but the footsteps coming closer. Suddenly, the two shovels held under his arm were “violently thrust forward and sent flying.” They tumbled down the ladderway until they came to rest 30 feet away.

Mr. Bennett describes being so badly frightened he felt a Mr. Bennett describes being so badly frightened he felt a “chilling, sickening shock.” Sun, Nov 27, 1887 – 9 · The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) · Newspapers.com

Made it to Safety

Bennett scrambled back to the other workers, who confirmed Pete Langan had been above ground throughout his experience. Bennett, who once “went by himself through all parts of the mine with no thought of fear,” refused to return to the haunted 1000 level ever again.

The full article can be read in these clippings: Part 1, and Part 2

The Haunted Lighthouse

This next story is also from the late 1800s and reads a bit like a Gothic horror story. The author, Tom, was hired to replace a lighthouse-keeper who had “deserted his employ” months before and hadn’t been heard from since. He was told the man had a pretty wife, and the two were suspected of having disappeared so effectively because they’d stolen some items of value from the lighthouse.

The First Night

Tom asked the temporary keeper, Morgan, to stay with him the first night and teach him the ropes. Morgan was reluctant, and Tom noted his face looked haggard and anxious, but he agreed. He skipped the tour of the cellars while showing Tom around the lighthouse, claiming they were never used anyway, and the night passed unremarkably. Morgan was all too eager to leave the next morning, and gave only one strange bit of advice.

Temporary lighthouse-keeper Morgan anxious to leave, advises Tom to load his revolverTemporary lighthouse-keeper Morgan anxious to leave, advises Tom to load his revolver Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

A Ghostly Experience

It wasn’t until his second night spent alone in the lighthouse, a moonless Saturday evening, that Tom had his first taste of the supernatural.

Tom heard noises--heavy blows, curses, shrill screams and a dull thud--with no visible sourceTom heard noises–heavy blows, curses, shrill screams and a dull thud–with no visible source Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

After some time spent frozen in terror, Tom worked up the courage to explore the cold, clammy cellar with his lantern (and revolver) in hand. Despite all that he had experienced, there was nothing unusual to be seen. He secured the cellar door and spent a sleepless night at the top of the lighthouse.

The next day he went back to shore to share what had happened with Mr. Thompson, the man who’d hired him. Thompson was skeptical, but sent a man named Wilson to stay a few days with him. Wilson helped him nail the cellar door shut, but of course the days passed with no further unexplained events. Wilson left, and Tom felt foolish…until that Saturday evening, when the events occurred again exactly as they had the week before.

Tom's second experience with the ghosts of the haunted lighthouseTom’s second experience with the ghosts of the haunted lighthouse Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

The Final Vision

An exasperated Mr. Thompson once again sent Wilson to act as witness to any further oddities, and made plans to come himself the next Saturday evening. Aside from the unnerving discovery that the nails in the cellar door had been forcibly ripped out, Wilson and Tom passed that week quietly. On Saturday Thompson arrived, and all three men took up position directly outside cellar door.

As the clock chimed 11, they heard the shouting and blows begin. The door flew open, and the voice screamed as it had before. This time a violent vision played out before their eyes:

The ghostly vision in the lighthouseThe ghostly vision in the lighthouse Thu, Jan 26, 1871 – 6 · The Bradford Observer (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England) · Newspapers.com

Mr. Thompson arranged an investigation of the cellar and found the bodies of a man and woman, identified as a local farmer and the wife of the former lighthouse keeper. They tracked down the keeper and got his confession. He’d suspected an intimate relationship between his wife and the farmer, and had killed them both in a jealous rage despite his wife’s protestations of innocence.

And thus the ghosts of the wronged who had haunted that lonely lighthouse could rest, their mystery now solved. The full article can be read here.

The Haunted Tower

This story may be more familiar, especially to those who have visited the Tower of London before. The famous castle-prison has its fair share of grim history, perhaps most notably as the site of multiple royal executions during the reign of Henry VIII. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, is one of those. And according to several newspaper articles across the years, her ghost makes regular appearances at the Tower to this day.

Anne Boleyn's Ghost haunted Tower of LondonAnne Boleyn’s Ghost haunts Tower of London Sat, Sep 3, 1898 – 3 · The Brooklyn Citizen (Brooklyn, New York) · Newspapers.com

An Unconscious Sentry

One story says a sentry heard a scream during his rounds. He ran to the sound and found a fellow guard unconscious beside his rifle. When the affected guard came to, he was in such a state of distress that he was unable resume his post.

Under questioning, he finally revealed what had happened.

A sentry at the Tower of London recounts his experience with the ghost of Anne BoleynA sentry at the Tower of London recounts his experience with the ghost of Anne Boleyn Fri, May 5, 1933 – 5 · Deerfield Valley Times (Wilmington, Vermont) · Newspapers.com

The Haunted Chapel

Another favorite Anne Boleyn story centers the captain of the guard, who once saw a light coming from the Tower chapel. He climbed a ladder to investigate and saw a Locals and Tower sentries provide endless stories of Anne Boleyn's restless spiritLocals and Tower sentries provide endless stories of Anne Boleyn’s restless spirit Fri, May 5, 1933 – 5 · Deerfield Valley Times (Wilmington, Vermont) · Newspapers.com Anne Boleyn PortraitAnne Boleyn Portrait Mon, Dec 22, 1902 – 6 · The Chickasha Daily Express (Chickasha, Oklahoma) · Newspapers.com

Try a search on Newspapers.com for more on these and other ghost stories!

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How (and Why) to Use Our Clipping & Embed Tools

The Clipping and Embed tools on Newspapers.com make it easy to save and share what you find on our site. Here’s what you need to know:

Clippings

What Is a Clipping?

Have you ever cut out an article from a physical copy of a newspaper? Clippings on Newspapers.com are the same concept—but on our site you use virtual scissors to save the newspaper content that interests you.

Why Use Clippings?

Clippings are a convenient way to keep track of the things you discover on Newspapers.com, as well as a great way to share what you find with others.

Newspapers.com “Share” options

One reason to using clippings is that when you share a clipping, others can see the article (and the newspaper page it came from) for free, even if they don’t subscribe to Newspapers.com. You can share clippings by selecting the “Share” button, which makes it easy to share by email or on Facebook and Twitter. You can also share a clipping by copying and pasting its URL, or by embedding it in a blog, website, online article, etc. (See below for more about our Embed feature.)

Another advantage to using clippings is that each clipping is saved with the newspaper’s title and date permanently attached. If you choose to print a clipping, that important information is printed as well.

How to Make a Clipping

  1. Select the “Clip” button (the scissor icon) at the top of the viewer
  2. Move and resize the clipping box around what you want to clip
  3. Add a title or description for the clipping
  4.  Select the blue “Clip” button
Clippings sort and filter options

Once you’ve clipped something, it is saved to your Clippings list on our site, where you can easily find it again. To access your clippings, just select the “Clippings” link at the top of any page on our site. You can also get to your clippings by selecting your member name in the upper right of the site and then selecting “My Clippings.

From your Clippings list, you can choose to view clips by “Me” or “Everyone.” Clippings can be sorted by the date they were clipped or by the date of the paper they were clipped from. Additional filters can be applied as you choose.

Privacy Settings

By default, clippings you make are “public” (other people will see what you’ve clipped on the Clippings list, in search, or on your profile). You can hide your clippings from the public with the privacy settings found on the Clipping Settings page under Account Details. These settings change the default setting for new clippings. You can also change the privacy settings for an individual clipping when you create or edit it.


Embed

What Does It Mean to Embed a Clipping?

Embedded clippings are a simple way to include newspaper content from our site in your website, blog, online article, etc.

Below are examples of a clipping we’ve embedded in this article using two different styles: “embed” and “advanced embed.” Notice that if you click on one, it takes you to the original clipping on Newspapers.com.

Embed:

“Must Quit Kissing” (1918 flu pandemic) Tue, Oct 8, 1918 – 10 · Knoxville Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee) · Newspapers.com


Advanced embed:


Why Embed a Clipping?

Although you can download newspaper articles from our site as an image file (.jpg), the Embed tool is often more useful when publishing online.

If you use a .jpg file in your blog, website, online article, etc., only the image is shown. But embedding a clipping creates a clickable image that will allow your readers to also view the clipping (and the newspaper page it came from) on our site for free, whether they subscribe to Newspapers.com or not.

Embedded clippings also automatically include the newspaper citation information below the image, so that’s one less step for you!

How to Embed a Clipping

(Note: Only public clippings can be embedded.)

Embed options on Newspapers.com
  1. Use our Clipping tool to clip the newspaper content you want to embed
  2. From the “Share” options, select “Embed”
  3. Choose the size you prefer for the embedded image: large, medium, or small
  4. If you desire, you can select “Advanced embed,” which uses an iframe tag and includes more information
  5. Copy and paste the embed code into your blog, website, online article, etc.

If you need the clipping’s URL (e.g., for an in-text link), that is available from the Embed options as well.

We hope this “how to” has been helpful. For more help using Newspapers.com, visit our Help Center.

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New Papers from the Cornhusker State!

If you have ancestors from Nebraska or an interest in the history of Nebraska, we are excited to share our big news. We’ve recently added more than four million new pages to our Nebraska archives, for a total of almost nine million pages of content from 1,616 papers – and there’s more to come! We have partnered with History Nebraska, a state agency tasked with preserving the history of Nebraska, to make this important archive easily accessible for all. Many of these papers are short-run titles from small towns, and they contain a goldmine of information!  

Our papers in this archive date back to 1854, more than a decade before Nebraska achieved statehood. As the American frontier expanded westward, settlers moved to, and through, Nebraska. Emigrant trails, including the Mormon Trail and the Oregon Trail, opened up the Western United States to settlement. Chimney Rock became a prominent landmark mentioned in many journals as travelers crossed the plains.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, bringing a wave of settlers to Nebraska. The first homestead claim was filed in Nebraska in 1863. That claimant, Daniel Freeman, became the sheriff of Gage County, and his original homestead became Nebraska’s first National Park, and later Homestead National Monument.

The farmland of Nebraska proved rich, and farmers successfully grew healthy crops including fields of corn. That corn was the inspiration for the University of Nebraska’s mascot, the Cornhuskers. A sportswriter from the Nebraska State Journal coined the term in 1899, and the school officially adopted it the following year.

The pages of these papers contain fun Nebraska trivia. For example, did you know that SPAM was invented in Nebraska in 1937? Hormel created a spiced canned ham product and then sponsored a contest to come up with a catchy name. The winning entry was SPAM – short for spiced ham. The meat became a favorite of soldiers during WWII because of its indefinite shelf life. Another nostalgic American favorite, Kool-Aid, was invented in Hastings in 1927 and is the official state soft drink.

You’ll also learn about famous Nebraskans like legendary dancer Fred Astaire. He was born Frederick Austerlitz in Omaha in 1899. As a child, Astaire performed in a vaudeville act along with his sister Adele. Their popularity grew, and by 1908, the Austerlitz siblings were performing on tour. Other famous Nebraskans include Johnny Carson and President Gerald Ford.

Though it’s fun to search for famous Nebraskans, we know that it pales in comparison to finding the names of your ancestors. When searching for your family, check the social news, obituaries, wedding announcements, and birth announcements.

Start searching our expanded Nebraska archives today. We are adding new Nebraska content each day, so check back often to see the latest additions on New spapers.com!

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Newspaper Marriage Announcements: Using the Language of Love to Break Down Genealogical Walls

Have you found a marriage announcement on Newspapers.com that led to a genealogy breakthrough? For some of us (like me), uncovering long sought after information is like opening a gift on Christmas morning! Marriage announcements can be short and succinct or long and rich in detail. As a genealogist, I’ve spent hours poring through marriage records on Newspapers.com. I have some tips that might help you read between the lines of your marriage announcements and might help you make new personal discoveries within your family tree.

The Bride’s Maiden Name: A marriage announcement is often a great way to uncover the holy grail of genealogy for women – her birth name! A birth name can open the door to further research for the bride and her family. Here’s a marriage announcement from London revealing the bride’s birth name that dates back to 1701!

Parents’ Names: Marriage announcements often include the name of the parents for both the bride and groom. Now you can go back one more generation in your research!  

Photographs: The first photos started appearing in newspapers in the late 1800s, and by the 1900s, many papers included a picture of the bride. What a treasure to find a photo of your ancestor!

Address: It’s hard to imagine now, but it used to be common to give an address for the bride and/or groom, like in this announcement from 1875. An address allows you to search land records, census records, and nearby relatives – remember families often stuck together back then. (Pro tip: enter the address in Google Earth to see if the house still stands. If it does, you can explore the neighborhood virtually)!

Wedding Announcement 1933

The Wedding Party: I love a wedding announcement full of lots of juicy details like this one. I mean, who doesn’t want to know how many yards of silk it took to make the wedding gown? A detailed wedding announcement often mentions everyone in the bridal party, and sometimes even guests. Chances are, many of those named are relatives. I’ve gone so far as to build a tree for everyone mentioned, and each time, I have discovered new cousins and siblings. It takes effort, but if you’re up against a brick wall, it just might lead to a breakthrough. Pay special attention to those who have traveled from out-of-town to attend the wedding. They are probably family!

Who Performed the Wedding? Marriage announcements usually give the name of who officiated at the wedding. You aren’t likely to find church records in the newspapers, but if you have the name of the person who performed the wedding, you can research the congregation, and that can lead to church records. Church records often list the name of the bride and groom’s parents and sometimes the mother’s birth name. This can unlock new research possibilities.

The Seattle Star: January 18, 1917

Then and Now, Weddings Can be Full of Drama: While searching for family wedding announcements one day, I came across this dramatic clipping! It shares the story of a young immigrant who left Greece for an arranged marriage in America. The groom ended up rejecting her, and she sued him for $5,000 for breach of contract. The article is full of genealogical information for the family – both in Greece and in the United States. This article is more of an announcement for the wedding that didn’t happen!

One Final Tip: While searching for wedding announcements, we sometimes tend to search in a limited range of dates. You might be missing out on so much more. For example, I’ve come across dozens of clippings like this that describe women’s groups getting together to model old wedding dresses. These women modeled their mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s dresses. In many cases, they give the names of the original bride and the year she was married. Who would have thought to search for a wedding more than a hundred years after it happened? What a treasure trove of information!

Ready to dive in and find your ancestors’ marriage announcements? Start searching Newspapers.com today!

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How YOU Can Make a Difference in Holocaust Research!

History Unfolded

Looking for an easy way to make a big difference? Newspapers.com invites you to participate in the History Unfolded project run by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum!

What is History Unfolded?

History Unfolded is a project that seeks to expand our knowledge of how American newspapers reported on Nazi persecution during the 1930s and ’40s so we can better understand what Americans knew about the Holocaust as it was happening.

To help achieve this, the History Unfolded project asks people like you to search local newspapers from the 1930s and ’40s for Holocaust-related news and opinions and then submit them online to the museum.

How Are the Articles Used?

The newspaper articles you submit will be used to help support the museum’s current initiative on Americans and the Holocaust. Material from History Unfolded has been included in the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibition at the museum, a companion online exhibition, a traveling version of the exhibition, and lesson materials.

The articles will also be made available to scholars, historians, and the public.

Who Can Contribute?

Everyone! History buffs, students, teachers . . . All you need is an interest in the Holocaust and access to a newspaper from the 1930s or ’40s, either online (using Newspapers.com, for example) or through a physical archive, such as a library. Simply create an account with History Unfolded, and away you go!

How Do I Contribute?

History Unfolded has created a list of more than 40 Holocaust-related events to focus on. Choose one of these events to research, then search for content related to that topic in an American newspaper of your choice from the 1930s or ’40s.

After you find an article related to one of the events, submit it online to the museum through the project’s website.

Can I See an Example?

Curious to see an example before you get started?

Of the many topics on History Unfolded that you can help research, some explore different aspects of the massive 1938-1941 European refugee crisis (topics such as “Evian Conference Offers Neither Help, Nor Haven” and “Jewish Refugees Desperately Seek Safe Harbor,” for instance).

As Jews and others sought safety from Nazi persecution and violence, some of these refugees fled (or tried to flee) to the United States. But restrictive immigration laws—combined with isolationism, xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism exacerbated by the Great Depression—meant refugees faced a complicated response in America.

How did American newspapers cover the country’s multi-faceted reaction to European refugees? Here are just a few examples that citizen historians like you have discovered and submitted to History Unfolded:  

These newspaper discoveries have helped shed light on this significant era of our history. What might you uncover on these or other topics with a little digging?

Newspapers.com & History Unfolded

You can contribute to this important project whether or not you use Newspapers.com to do so. But using Newspapers.com makes it even easier to submit the articles you find.

Simply use Newspapers.com to create a clipping of an article you’ve found, then submit that clipping through the submission form on the History Unfolded website. The submission form has a special tool created specifically for Newspapers.com users that makes submitting your clipping a snap.

Your assistance with this project will help shape our understanding of the Holocaust and the lessons it holds for us today.

For more information on how to get involved, visit the History Unfolded website. Or use this link to contact History Unfolded with any questions.

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G.I. Bill Gives Back to Soldiers Returning from WWII

In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the new Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, otherwise known as the G.I. Bill. The G.I. Bill created sweeping new benefits for millions of veterans returning from WWII. Those benefits included money for education, job training, low-interest home loans, and unemployment benefits. Within its first seven years, about 8 million veterans took advantage of these benefits. The G.I. Bill led to a jump in university and college enrollment, a housing boom, and helped usher in an era of prosperity.

President Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill: Press and Sun-Bulletin June 23, 1944

During the war, government officials realized that when the war eventually ended, 16 million men and women serving in the armed forces would return home unemployed. That level of unemployment had the potential to create financial instability within the country and could lead to an economic depression. In a bipartisan effort led by the American Legion, planning got underway for new legislation that could help returning veterans and benefit the economy. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act was passed by Congress in January 1944 and signed by President Roosevelt the following June.

The Tampa Times: October 11, 1945

One of the landmark provisions of the G.I. Bill was funding for education. Before the war, a college education was out of reach for the average American. The G.I. Bill, however, flung the doors to universities and vocational schools wide open with benefits that covered tuition, books, supplies, and offered a living stipend. A college education was now within reach and many veterans took advantage of the opportunity. Educational funding had the added benefit of preventing too many veterans from flooding the job market all at once. In 1947, nearly half of those admitted to college were veterans, and between 1940-1950, the number of college and university degrees earned doubled.

Another popular benefit offered through the G.I. Bill was low-interest home loans. The VA Home Loan benefit granted 4.3 million low-interest, zero down payment home loans between 1945-1955. Veterans starting families snapped up the home loans and moved to the suburbs. New neighborhoods sprang up in mass-produced subdivisions all around the country and veterans became the largest single group of homeowners.

Berwyn Life: December 17, 1944

The building boom helped usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity and growth for the middle class. Homeownership “cemented the stability of millions of veterans’ families,” fueled job growth, and added substantially to personal income and consumer demand. WWII rations and shortages gave way to abundance and prosperity that helped shaped the country for decades.

Other benefits offered through the G.I. Bill included unemployment benefits, money to start a business, additional veterans hospitals, and veteran job counseling and employment services.

The original G.I. Bill ended in 1956, though it was extended several times. More recently, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill and the Forever G.I. Bill have passed to help veterans.

Did someone in your family benefit from the G.I. Bill? Share your stories in the comments below and search Newspapers.com to learn more about the 1944 G.I. Bill.

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Unsolved: The Wallingford Shoebox Murder

A mutilated corpse in a shoebox. Nationwide press coverage. A possible connection to a major historical event. Not to mention, a ghost . . .  

A baffling 130-year-old unsolved murder from Connecticut has all this and more.

Is your interest piqued? Join us as we use the historical papers on Newspapers.com to uncover the details of the strange and tragic Wallingford Shoebox Murder mystery.

Mon, Aug 9, 1886 – 1 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com


A Strange & Gruesome Discovery

On Sunday, August 8, 1886, Edward Terrell took his dog out berry hunting on the outskirts of the Connecticut town of Wallingford. They were on a little-used wooded path when the dog discovered a large wooden shoebox partially hidden in the bushes and became agitated. As Terrell neared the box to investigate, however, he was overwhelmed by the stench coming from it.

Perhaps with the memory of a dead body he had discovered a few weeks prior on his mind, the man left the box unopened and returned with a few others. When the group of men pried opened the box, they at first thought it held a dead animal. What it actually contained would send shockwaves through Wallingford for weeks.

Inside, wrapped in tar paper, was the nude torso of a man, with the head, arms, and legs cut off. Bloody straw lined the box’s interior.

The authorities were quickly sent for, and word of the discovery spread like wildfire among the town’s population of approximately 6,000.

Tue, Aug 10, 1886 – 2 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


What the Body Revealed

The medical examiner’s autopsy determined that the torso likely belonged to a man around age 25, weighing approximately 150 pounds. The time of death was placed 5-10 days prior.

From the amount of blood in the box, it was believed that the body had been placed inside immediately after the head and limbs were severed, and the cuts appeared to have been done by a knife or other non-serrated blade. Apart from the obvious dismemberment, there were no other visible wounds on the corpse. Speculation in the press that it had been the work of medical students was quickly discounted.

The body was buried the day after the discovery, but first the stomach was removed and sent to New Haven for examination. The analysis of the stomach would later reveal the presence of arsenic, leading to the conclusion that the man had been poisoned.

Sat, Aug 28, 1886 – 4 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


Possible Victims

With no head, the corpse proved impossible to identify. At first, the most common theory was that it was Albert J. Cooley, a veteran who had recently collected a large sum of pension money and hadn’t been seen since. (Cooley would soon be spotted alive, eliminating him as a possible victim.) Another potential victim was Charles Hall—an arsonist speculated to have been killed by his accomplices. Other missing men were investigated as well, but none were ever identified as the body.

Potential Clues

Over the following days and weeks, the investigation turned up a variety of potential clues.

The main piece of evidence was the box the torso was discovered in. It was a large wooden shoebox, about 30×18 inches (sometimes reported as 30×12 inches). Marked on the outside was the type of shoes it had originally contained. Also on the exterior were the remains of an address, but most of this had been removed, leaving only the manufacturer’s mark.

A week or so after the discovery, the constable on the case found pieces of scalp with dark hair near the box’s original location. Almost 2 months later, a farmer discovered arms and legs wrapped in tar paper that were assumed to belong to the corpse.

But these and other potential clues ultimately led nowhere. For instance, reports that a mysterious bag had been discovered in a local well came to nothing, because by the time the authorities had arrived to investigate, the bag had disappeared—if it had ever actually been there.

Thu, Aug 19, 1886 – 2 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


Prospective Witnesses

People claiming to have information relevant to the case came forward, but their stories didn’t provide any useful leads.

One was a boy who claimed to have seen the box more than a week before Terrell discovered it. Another was a young woman who reported that a stranger dressed in bloody clothes and carrying a large bundle had knocked on her door about a week prior, asking for the location of a certain pond. Never having heard of the pond in question, the woman directed him to a nearby river and reportedly saw him pass by a while later in clean clothes and without the bundle.

In October, a local woman was arrested and questioned but was released after it was determined she couldn’t shed light on the case.

A Startling Chicago Connection

The mysterious story made the local news every day in the first weeks, also getting coverage from major papers as far away as California. However, as is often the case in historical newspapers, the details of the murder differed from paper to paper.

After months of no solid leads, the murder dropped out of even local newspapers, except for occasional articles teasing new leads—which never seemed to actually materialize.

Sat, Aug 21, 1886 – 2 · The Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


Then 6 months after the murder, in February 1887, the Wallingford Shoebox Mystery made it back into national newspapers. Investigation into the provenance of the shoebox—and of a valise (small suitcase) thought to be connected to the case—had led detectives to Chicago.

Seizing on the Chicago connection, newspapers speculated that the dead man was a suspect in the infamous Haymarket bombing of May 1886. The theory, which was tenuous at best, claimed that the man had been killed in Chicago after the bombing and his body shipped to Wallingford for disposal—supposedly because Connecticut had a reputation for unsolved murders.

Mon, Apr 25, 1887 – 4 · The Meriden Daily Republican (Meriden, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


The Case Goes Cold

After the rush of articles trying to tie the dead man to the Haymarket Riot, the Shoebox Murder mostly faded from newspapers in the following decades—apart from an annual mention in local papers on its anniversary and its being used as a comparison for other baffling local cases. In all, the state spent $686 (roughly $20,000 today) on the case but never discovered the identities of the murderer or the victim.

Then 40 years after the murder, in 1926, the police chief who had worked the case claimed in a newspaper interview that he knew the truth behind the unsolved mystery. However, he refused to reveal what he knew, allegedly to protect the murderer’s family. Although his claim didn’t reveal the perpetrator, it did lead one woman to come forward to question whether the victim could have been her father.

Sat, Aug 7, 1926 – 8 · The Journal (Meriden, Connecticut) · Newspapers.com


After the murder passed out of living memory, it only sporadically appeared in the papers until its 100th anniversary in the mid-1980s. However, reminders of the case lingered in local newspaper mentions of Wallingford’s “Shoe Box Road,” which had been named for the grisly discovery.

A Haunting in Wallingford

Most recently, in 2016, the murder was featured in an episode of the ghost-hunting reality show Kindred Spirits, which investigated a haunting in Wallingford. But unfortunately, the shoebox ghost didn’t use his television debut to reveal who he was or who had murdered him, leaving the case unsolved to this day.

Read news coverage of the Wallingford Shoebox Mystery on Newspapers.com. Or explore our archive of true crime stories.

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New Papers From South Carolina!

Do you have ancestors from Sumter, South Carolina, or an interest in the history of South Carolina? We’re happy to announce that we’ve added The Sumter Item and The Watchman and Southron to our archives, with issues dating back to 1881. The Watchman and Southron was a weekly (later a semiweekly) paper that was published through 1930 when it was absorbed by the Sumter Daily Item, which in turn became The Sumter Item.

The city and county of Sumter are named after Gen. Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War hero. South Carolina history is also closely tied to Civil War history. It was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 and the state where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861. It’s also the place where some of the last shots of the Civil War took place. The Battle of Dingle’s Mill was a Civil War skirmish that took place when Potter’s raiders confronted Confederate forces on April 9, 1865, in Sumter County. This fighting is especially noteworthy because the Civil War officially ended the same day, but the word of the Confederate surrender had not yet reached Sumter where fighting continued until April 25th.

The Sumter Item is the oldest continuously family-owned paper in South Carolina, and one of the oldest in the country. It has been run by the Osteen family for five generations and was started by patriarch Hubert Graham Osteen. The Osteen family has chronicled the changing news in Sumter over the decades.

When the first automobiles arrived in Sumter in the early 1900s, The Sumter Item reported on several attempts by residents to climb the courthouse steps in their new automobiles. After several accidents, city leaders realized that they needed to enact safety measures and speed limits.

Prohibition took effect in Sumter in 1916 (four years before Congress mandated Prohibition nationally). Despite impassioned arguments against the use of alcohol, some Sumter residents operated underground, producing liquor despite the constant threat of police raids.

In April 1924, a tornado with a path 135 miles long struck Sumter causing multiple casualties. The tornado destroyed buildings, burying people in rubble and carving a path that resembled “a forest after an artillery barrage.” 

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, The Sumter Item published a special edition announcing the attack. In the following days, Sumter was on a high state of alert. Soldiers stood guard over public buildings and a Sumter bridge. The Item kept residents informed about local soldiers serving in the war.

If you have ancestors from Sumter, search the pages of this archive for things like death notices or wedding announcements. The society columns are another place to search for colorful details about your family. Start searching the pages of The Watchman and Southron and The Sumter Item today on Newspapers.com!

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Boomers and Sooners: The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889

In 1889, as many as 50 thousand settlers poured into Oklahoma hoping to stake claim to a portion of nearly two million acres opened for settlement by the U.S. Government. Many had campaigned the federal government to open the land for settlement and were known as Boomers. The land, formerly occupied by Native Americans, was considered Unassigned Lands after the federal government forcibly relocated many Native American tribes. On April 22, 1889, at noon sharp, a bugle sounded, and hopeful settlers surged across the territory line. The number of settlers surpassed available land and they soon realized that some snuck into Oklahoma ahead of the April 22nd open date. This gave them a leg up on the law-abiding settlers and first in line for the most desirable land. Those early homestead seekers were known as Sooners.

In 1887, the Dawes Act was one of many federal laws that slowly stripped Native Americans of their tribal lands and paved the way for the Oklahoma Land Rush. It authorized the government to break up the tribal lands and allot them to individual Native Americans in parcels of 40, 80, and 160 acres. Only Native Americans who accepted the land could become U.S. citizens and any remaining land would be made available for public sale.

The Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, also known as the “sooner clause,” opened these Unassigned Lands to settlers, but specified that anyone who entered Indian Territory ahead of time would be denied land. There were, however, a group of “legal Sooners” who had permission to enter the territory ahead of time. This group included government employees, railroad workers, and others with special permission. In some instances, legal Sooners took advantage of their position to drive off early settlers, sending them back to the line, only to turn back and stake claim to the same property.

In the weeks leading up to the land grab, wagon trains snaked through neighboring states, many making their way to border towns. One newspaper reported a line of wagons 60 miles long! It wasn’t just men hoping to stake a claim, women were among those hoping to establish a homestead on some of the best unoccupied public lands in the country.

The mood was jubilant in border towns as crowds awaited the noon hour on the 22nd. Some abandoned their horses in favor of trains, hoping to get there faster. One newspaper reported that men packed the roofs of rail cars after the coaches filled up. Settlers had two ways to initiate a claim. The first was to file a claim at the land office, the second was to personally settle on a piece of land. If a conflict arose between two parties trying to claim the same land, priority went to those physically on the land.

When the clock struck 12:00 on the 22nd, the mad rush began. Those who snuck into the territory early concealed themselves in ravines and bushes, and when the bugle sounded “seemed to rise right up out of the ground” to claim the property. Thousands poured into Guthrie, Oklahoma, which saw it’s population go from 10 in the morning to 15,000 by nightfall.  Oklahoma City experienced similar growth and there were more than 11,000 filings for homestead land by the end of the day. Bitter resentment arose towards Sooners who entered the territory early. This led to many court cases for years to come where litigants protested hundreds of claims. The loss of tribal lands further marginalized Native Americans who saw additional land rushes take more tribal lands in subsequent years.

In 1890, the Unassigned Lands became the Oklahoma Territory and in 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state. To learn more about the Oklahoma Land Rush, search newspapers.com today!

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The Deadliest Natural Disaster in U.S. History: The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

On September 8, 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history occurred when the low-elevation island of Galveston, Texas, was struck by a category four hurricane that resulted in 135 mph winds and a deadly tidal surge. The hurricane, also known as the Great Galveston Storm, leveled 3,600 buildings and killed an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 people. Primitive forecasting techniques and ignored warnings contributed to the high number of fatalities.

Salt Lake Herald 9.10.1900

Galveston was the largest city in Texas at the turn of the century. It had a bustling shipping port and was among the richest urban areas in the United States. It had a population of 37,000 that swelled each summer when vacationers flocked to the island to enjoy the beaches.

Hurricane forecasting science at the turn of the century was not very sophisticated. The U.S. Weather Bureau relied on warnings from arriving ships or telegraphed warnings from islands in the Caribbean. In early September 1900, Cuban meteorologists sent warnings of an impending storm headed for the U.S. which were largely ignored. The U.S. Weather Bureau eventually issued a hurricane warning but predicted the storm would pass over Florida and continue north along the Eastern Seaboard. The storm headed into the Gulf of Mexico, however, and the first storm warnings in Galveston were not issued until September 7th. Few people heeded the warnings.

The morning of September 8th dawned cloudy and with a powerful surf. Soon the skies turned dark and the winds picked up. The Furniss family of St. Louis, Missouri was vacationing at the Beach Hotel in Galveston with their three daughters, unaware that a deadly hurricane was taking aim at the city. Galveston sat just nine feet above sea level and as the hurricane came ashore, a 15-foot storm surge rolled in.

The Atlanta Constitution 9.9.1900

When the storm hit, the hotel was completely demolished, and the Furniss family presumed dead. Their only other child, an 18-year-old son, was home in Missouri when he received news of the disaster. He quickly traveled to Galveston to search for his family. Upon arrival, a local militia involuntarily enlisted him into service to search for survivors and bury the dead. Thousands of bodies were strewn about the island and mountains of debris piled everywhere. The heat and humidity created a terrible stench and workers initially tried to bury vast numbers of the dead at sea. However, the tide just washed the bodies back to shore. Eventually, they burned the dead instead. The bodies of the Furniss family were among those finally found and buried at sea.  

St. Louis Glove-Democrat 9.15.1900

Another tragedy occurred at the St. Mary’s Orphans Asylum, which sat directly on the shore. It was built to take advantage of the fresh sea breezes which nuns hoped would protect the children from Yellow Fever and other illnesses that had killed their parents. As the storm intensified, the nuns gathered all 93 children and moved to the second floor to escape the rising water. As an added protection, the nuns tied themselves to small groups of children. Eventually, the storm ripped the orphanage from its foundation, trapping the children. Tragically, all were lost except three boys who clung to a tree.

As the stories of the devastation emerged, a nationwide relief effort sprang up to help the people of Galveston. To prevent a similar tragedy from happening again, Galveston built a 17-foot seawall and brought in tons of sand to raise the city’s elevation as much as 18 feet near the seawall, with a downward slope toward the bay. Buildings that managed to survive the hurricane were lifted to the new ground level.

If you would like to learn more about the Great Galveston Storm of 1900, search Newspapers.com today or see additional clippings on the Galveston Hurricane in our Topic Pages.

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