There're only a couple things better'n Books...


Story Time (previous tales)


Newest Book Comes Closer & Closer:

Not long ago I handed my murder book for Lorain County, Ohio, to the proof-reader. The pre-publish checklist grows shorter by the week. Plans are to make it a slightly larger format than my Crawford County book to keep the length to something reasonable—around 450 pages, give or take.

Why the extra space? First: There are 'way more people here than over in Crawford County, PA. More people equals more murders. Second: The county's criminal court records are not only complete, but easily accessible. I have a much better list of prosecuted crimes. Third: The "newspapers of record" from Elyria, Ohio (the seat of Lorain County), are all on-line. This gives me more information for each crime I describe. It also lets me find more of the unprosecuted murders.

The end result is 110 more killings over a time span that's shorter by 20 years. Almost every case includes detail that I could only dream about finding when researching Crawford County.

An example:

1899, September 7:
          Thick-set, with graying black hair and mustache, Clevelander Franklin E. Wheeler has been in Lorain for about two months, doing a good business as a sales agent for the New Jersey Mutual Life Insurance Company. His unassuming and intelligent manner makes him seem about a decade older than his 43 years. He is popular and has many friends.
          Granted, the divorced Wheeler is no saint. He does have a temper and is a frequent customer of Lorain native, 25-year-old Philip Meyers, of Livingston Avenue, who runs the bar adjacent to the Franklin Hotel, in Lorain's 2nd Ward, where Wheeler has a room.
          The evening of Thursday, September 7, Wheeler and Meyers bump into each other in the hotel's dining room. Meyers takes the moment to publicly remind the older man that he owes a bar tab of $4.00 ($105 modern). Franklin strenuously denies the bill. The young, yet veteran barkeeper persists. He knows unpaid bills are bad for business. The two men exchange a few harsh words, then go their separate ways.
          Bartender Meyers takes a seat and orders dinner. Wheeler leaves the hotel, walks across the street to Chapman and Hill's general store. He tells the clerk he wants to "kill a cat" and purchases an Ivers Johnson, double-acting, .38 caliber, 5-shot revolver. Wheeler asks the salesman to load the weapon and then buys five extra cartridges, paying a dollar ($26) in total and promising to return to take care of the balance.
          Pocketing the revolver, Wheeler returns to the hotel and takes a seat in the dining room where he displays "unusually loud and boisterous" behavior, including singing and otherwise disturbing his fellow customers. The waiter refuses to serve him and leaves the room to report the matter to the hotel owner, Mrs. McElroy. When she arrives to admonish Wheeler, he is gone, following Meyers, who left his seat at another table to return to his work.
          Meyers enters his saloon. He takes a seat at the far end of the otherwise empty bar, and reopens the book he's been reading, Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling. Wheeler strolls in a few moments later. Without a word, he walks about half-way across the room, takes quick aim with his brand new revolver and fires two shots at Meyers. The first goes wide. The second flattens itself against the brick wall near the seated barkeep who, recovering his senses, leaps to his feet and dashes to the closest door, the one that leads outside.
          Wheeler shoots three more times and Meyers is struck: In the left arm, halfway between the elbow and shoulder. In the back through the left shoulder blade where the bullet strikes a rib and stops near the breast bone. The third shot passes through the back, below the shoulder blade, near the spine, and pierces the heart.
          Those outside hear five gunshots in rapid succession. The saloon door bursts open. Out reels Philip Meyers, blood gushing from his nose and mouth. He falls upon the sidewalk and with a loud groan, dies.
          Lorain's Dr. Kiplinger and Chester O'Neil are almost struck by the dying man as he collapses to the ground. They carry him to a back room of the bar, summon doctors Mean and Van Tilberg, and alert the police.
          Franklin Wheeler is no place to be found. He has wandered a few blocks to the home of Lorain's Dr. Garver. When told the doctor is not in, Wheeler says to the person answering the door, "I have just shot a man and I want to sit down here and wait for the police." When the doctor does arrive, Wheeler is sitting, twirling the revolver in his hand. He appears neither excited, nor intoxicated. He is arrested and placed in the Lorain City Jail.
          Lorain Police Chief Meister examines the revolver and finds all five chambers discharged. Wheeler exhibits "absolutely no emotion when questioned." When asked why he did it he says, "I intended to get even with him, but I guess I got a little too even."
          A noisy crowd forms at the Franklin Hotel and begins making threats against Wheeler. Two or three hundred angry men gather at the Lorain City Jail where they are told that the shooter has been taken by buggy to Elyria. This is a lie meant to mislead as Wheeler is, shortly after, taken down the alley behind the city jail to Bank Street and then on the electric street car to the county seat. Wheeler tells his escort, Chief Meister and five uniformed police, that if the mob finds them, to let them have him. Wheeler says that nothing or nobody should be put at risk on his account because, "perhaps a man might be killed whose life is worth ten such as mine."
          "Unprovoked and cold-blooded murder" is what the papers call it, "for cold blooded deliberation, [this crime has] never had an equal in the criminal history of the country."
          During his first few days in jail, Wheeler stays in his cot with a blanket hung in front of the door to keep out the light. He refuses all visitors and finally asks the sheriff not to admit them.
          When arraigned, Wheeler is the coolest man in the room as he waives a hearing and pleads not guilty to murder in the first degree. He make no arrangement for counsel, saying his friends will take care of him. It's as if he either doesn't know, or doesn't care about the consequences of his actions.
          Wheeler is indicted on charges of murder in the second by the Lorain County Grand Jury. As his criminal trial grows near, Wheeler keeps his lack of fear over the consequences of his actions. "I am not afraid. I have but one life to live and when that is gone all will be over with me. I am not sure but the sooner it ends, the better."
          His sentence is life in the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.
          1901, May 23: The Elyria Republican reports that Wheeler has been appointed superintendent of Ohio Penitentiary schools and, though he's "still a prisoner," feels his treatment in the pen has been good. "To those who know of Wheeler's educational advantages as brought out in the evidence at his trial, his success in teaching is no surprise."
          1902, January 8: Wheeler is given a watch as a Christmas present by his companions and teachers in the penitentiary school.
          1905, February: A petition is circulated, endorsing a pardon for Wheeler. He is a model of behavior and said to be "one of the most intelligent and trusted prisoners there." With ex-wife and kids in Michigan, his father and mother are still living and all are anxious to see him free.
          Two years later, outgoing Ohio Governor Herrick commutes Wheeler's sentence from life to fifteen years. Wheeler's lawyer, L.B. Fauver, then applies for a full pardon and in May of 1907, less than eight years after committing murder, Franklin Wheeler is free of the Ohio Penitentiary with the condition that he makes a monthly report there for the next two years.
          Wheeler's victim, young Philip Meyers, remains dead.

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Can we buy real poo next time?

 

So... This morning I get into the shower.

 

I’m carrying a brand-new bottle of shampoo. My favorite brand. I use it all the time. Really. It enables what little hair I have to be soft and glowing. Sure does. Yep. I saw it in a commercial. So it must be true.

 

I’m in the shower. I’m soaking wet (no surprise there). I snap open the lid of the shampoo bottle and hold it over my upturned hand... Nothing comes out. I squeeze the bottle. Nope. Nothing. At all. I unscrew the cap. Beneath, I find a plastic seal.

 

What the heck? On my shampoo? A plastic seal? Against what? Shampoo thieves? Shampoo diluters? Shampoo adulteraters?  Shampoo switchers with hair removalers?

 

What's this world coming to? I bought the same brand and size bottle a couple of months ago. There was no plastic seal. Probably some Homeland Security rule or something. The Shampoo Czar declared an orange state of emergency for all bottles. I shouldn't joke, I know, I'll end up on the watch list - if I’m not there already.

 

I try to remove the plastic seal. Should be easy, there's a little tab to pull. I pull on the tab. The tab pulls off. The seal stays on. I curse (out loud) at the wonderful engineering behind such a design. Now what? I’m nekked. Soaking wet. In the shower. What might I have that has a chance of piercing a plastic seal? My teeth? For a shampoo bottle? Even *I’m* not that dim.

 

I have a valve at the shower head that lets me turn off *most* of the flow, to save water while I'm soaping up. I don't use it, of course, being a Wasteful American, but it's there nonetheless. I manage to rip open the shampoo bottle's plastic seal using the edge of that shower head valve-handle. A couple pieces of plastic manage to escape. They hurry down the floor drain. To wait several months before causing a clog. At the worst possible time. Plastic's bad that way. Ornery plastic. Mind of its own, plastic has.

 

I screw the cap back on, trying not to get any water into the shampoo. That'll change the composition of the shampoo. And, somewhere, give a shampoo chemist bad dreams. I hold the shampoo bottle up and, with vim and vigor, snap open the top.

 

Hold on... What's that coming towards me? It's a big blob of un-watered-down shampoo. Heading straight for my right eye.

 

!! BLINK, FOOL !! My brain screams.

 

"Who, me?" Asks my eye. My eyes are sort of slow, sometimes. They've been headed downhill ever since I started wearing bifocals.

 

Blam! The shampoo lands right on the lashes of my right eye.

 

!! DON'T BLINK !! My brain screams.

 

"Who, me?" Asks my eye. And it blinks. I told you they were sort of slow, didn't I? My right eye is now filled with searing shampoo-lava. It burns. With a big B. And a big URNS, too. I hear a shampoo chemist giggling, somewhere (later, when I’m thinking more clearly, I'll put some water into the bottle to get even). I stick my face into the shower stream to flush the chemicals from my eye.

 

Now...

 

I don't know what mornings are like at your house. But here, it's a whole lot of people vying for limited resources. That's why I’ve always crawled outta bed first. No matter where I’ve live or whom I’ve lived with. I want to be at the top of the schedule. The first in line. I always want to kick off the schedule. It comes from being a second child. Really - ask any second child you know. If they say it isn't true, they're fibbing like a sack of (sham)poo.

 

Top of the schedule I am. Still, during mornings, everything has to run like clock-work. Everything. It's like the tides at Normandy on D-Day. The orbits of the planets on a moon launch. Everything has to be lined up just so. Bing. Bang. Boom. Including the amount of time *I* spend in the shower.

 

It's not that somebody's waiting to use the shower. Nope. But. There are only so many butts and only so many commodes, y'know? And, in a house this old, butts, commodes, showers, and faces are all connected by pipes. All in one nice, neat, sweet, perfectly connected string of events. Like the co-incidences that brought you to this point in time.

 

I'm running behind my regular schedule because of the sealed shampoo. And my face is in the shower because I’m rinsing shampoo-magma outta my eye. My right eye. My left eye wonders what's going on.

 

Somebody else, somewhere else in the house. Lifts their butt from a commode. Relieved at finishing one of their first tasks of the day, they push the flush handle... I feel a drop in the water pressure - the cold water pressure.

 

!! FACE...BACK !! My brain screams.

 

My face (which isn't nearly as slow as my eyes) pulls back from the soon-to-arrive flash of heat. I even manage a step back and away. Some reflexes, huh? Of course, it takes an instant before the water rises to scalding temperatures and another instant before I realizes that the course of the shower spray is now aimed directly at what some would politely term my “naughty bits.”

 

My brain screamed something at that point. I don't recall what it was. Except it started with bad words and went on with bad words and ended with bad words. I think I used every bad word I know. That's a LOT of bad words. Trust me. Lots. Luckily I was ‘way too busy dancing around the too-hot water to listen very much to what it was I was saying.

 

I was kind of tender toweling off. My shampooed right eye looked as if I smoked a bale of weed (perhaps I should say what I have read a bale of weed eye would look like. Homeland Security and all that). My left eye looked more angry than anything else. And slow.

 

Stupid shampoo.