Saturday, May 18, 2019

Simple times weren't so simple

Six bodies in two adjacent homes in Colorado Springs, and one of the most brutal crimes ever to take place in this town

 By Rob Carrigan, robcarrigan1@gmail.com

Albert Einstein probably had it right. “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal,” he said.
Every generation tends to think society today is worse than it ever was. We are all headed to hell in a hand-basket, and “if only I were born 100 years earlier.” Life was simpler then, peaceful, calm, tranquil. Men and women went about their business, worked with their hands and simple tools, kept to themselves and didn’t have to worry much.
Well, maybe not.
One of those simple tools was found near the door of a house on Dale Street Monday afternoon, Sept. 20, 1911. Six bodies in two adjacent homes in Colorado Springs, and one of the most brutal crimes ever to take place in this town were discovered behind the doors of those two homes.
“The axe with which the deed was done was found yesterday by Mrs. J.R. Evans who lives next door to the Waynes, at 742 Hanson Place, and from whom it was borrowed last week. It was standing outside the Wayne door, covered in blood,” according to a New York Times story the next day. “Mrs. Evans thought the family had been killing chickens, and thought nothing of the incident until the discovery of the bodies today.”
Killed were Mrs. Alice May Burnham, 25, her six-year-old daughter (also Alice), her three-year-old son John. In another house nearby, Henry F. Wayne, 30, his wife Blanche, 25, and their year-old baby daughter (also Blanche).
“Mrs. June Ruth of 931 South Sierra Madre Street, sister of the murdered Mrs. Burnham, went to the latter’s house at 321 West Dale Street, in the rear of the Wayne home, to do some sewing, accompanied by Mrs. Anna Merritt of 730 Pine Street. The front door was locked, and the two women gained entrance by the rear door. On entering the front room they found the body of Mrs. Burnham lying covered in bed. Beside her, one on each side, were the bodies of here two children with their heads similarly cut open with an axe. The covers had evidently been carefully replaced by the one who did the deed. Not an article in the little home had been disturbed,” according to the story in New York Times.
“Rushing to the street, the women gave the alarm, and neighbors flocked to the scene of the tragedy. Instinctively a dozen persons ran to the Wayne home, where no sign of life had been seen since Sunday afternoon. The rear door was found unfastened, and in the bed in the front room the scene witnessed in the Burnham home was almost exactly duplicated.”
According to a 1962 paper by Carl F. Mathews, and the Times article, Arthur J. Burnham, husband and father of the Burnham victims and a yardman at the Modern Woodman sanitarium, was detained and questioned extensively by police but was quickly cleared and released with an air-tight alibi.
Another man, Italian laborer, Tony Donatel, was also arrested but eventually cleared as well. Even Mrs. Evans, the woman who discovered the murder weapon (and her son-in-law and daughter) came under heavy scrutiny, particularly because they were owners of the axe.
“Similar ax murders were taking place over the country this year, whether by the same hand or by some weak-brained individual who read of them is a question never answered,” wrote Mathews, who served for 32 years as superintendent of the Bureau of Identification in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
In April of 2007, Erin Emery of the Denver Post reported that Colorado Springs Police Investigator Dwight Haverkorn was once again trying to connect the dots on this case by trying to prove that the person who killed the Burnham and Wayne families in the city was a serial killer, responsible during a two-month period for 25 murders in five towns: Portland, Ore.; Rainier, Wash.; Monmouth, Ill.; Ellsworth, Kan.; and Colorado Springs. Haverkorn was sifting through Pinkerton Detective Agency records. The agency was called in to work on the case in the absence of a regular police chief and considering the high profile of the case.
"I'm hoping that somewhere in some of those Pinkerton records there might be actual copies of fingerprints that were taken by some of these detectives," Haverkorn told the Post. "And if we had them for two or three scenes, we could come up with a common fingerprint between any two or three and boost my theory that it was a serial killer that traveled the country."
In the end, perhaps it will come back to one of those simple tools.
“The killer almost always entered homes through an unlocked window. He usually lit a candle in the home but obscured it so it would not be too bright and wake his soon-to-be victims. In Colorado Springs, while climbing through a window, he knocked over a bottle of ink, leaving a handprint on the handle of the ax he found and used. There are no records of those fingerprints on file with the Colorado Springs Police Department,” according to Emery’s story in the Denver Post.
But someday it may be possible to link a serial killer, who perhaps rode the rails around the country and killed with a simple tool, in times that were far more complex than they appear at first blush.
"I have always believed the axe murders were done by a serial killer.  The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was involved in the investigation of most of the axe murders from 1911 to about 1914 and obtained fingerprints at some of the scenes.  BUT, no one seems to know where those pieces of evidence are.  It probably would not solve the crimes, but there is a possibility that it would prove the theory of a serial killer if any of the prints matched,"wrote area police historian and  Colorado Springs Investigator Dwight Haverkorn, in an email recently.

Photo Info: A view of Colorado Springs (El Paso County), Colorado, and Cheyenne Mountain. Shows wood frame houses, commercial buildings, and railroad tracks. America's mountain, Pikes Peak, on the right, but summit not visible. William Henry Jackson. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Fear and loathing in Woody Creek Tavern


"Every community needs a joint" quipped George Stranahan of the prolific Woody Creek Tavern. __ Daniel Bayer photo

Woody Creek was the residence of noted author Hunter S. Thompson for much of his life and at the time of his death. It also has been the home of several other celebrities and musicians including the late broadcaster Ed Bradley, Don Henley of the Eagles, John Oates (Hall and Oates), Jimmy Ibbotson of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and actor Don Johnson. Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has a winter home in Woody Creek. 

A photo of a photo of Hunter S. Thompson in the famous Woody Creek Tavern in Woody Creek, CO - where Thompson used to whet his whistle regularly, photo by Judy Walgren. 


(March 11, 1990) In October, Hunter S. Thompson "autographed" a copy of his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail with a pistol shot a the wedding of politcal pollster Dick Tuck and writer Joyce Daly. 
The wedding was held at the Woody Creek Tavern Wedding Chapel. (Frank Marten, special to the News.) Woody Creek Tavern waitress Julia Penny tells a tale of how she brought some 45 "Flying Dog Brewery" T-shirts to Honduras and Nicaragua. Daniel Bayer.

Stranahan, is of course founder of Flying Dog and Stranahan Whiskey, as well as number of other things. 


An earlier Dean Krakel photo shows Hunter S. Thompson poring over newspapers in 1990 while seated at a table in the Woody Creek Tavern.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Local legends of the literary world

Troubled Colorado writers and a history of strangeness 

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
Ernest Hemingway 


In 1964, Hunter S. Thompson traveled to Ernest Hemingway's home in Ketchum, Idaho, to write an article for The National Observer about "this outback little Idaho village that struck such a responsive chord in America's most famous writer." While he was there, Thompson stole a pair of antlers from the front door of the "comfortable-looking chalet," where Hemingway had shot himself three years earlier, wrote Matt Miller in Esquire magazine a few years ago.
"For decades, the elk antlers hung inside Thompson's Owl Farm ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado. Thompson and his wife allegedly planned to take a road trip back to Ketchum and quietly return them. Like Hemingway, Thompson shot himself in his home. Now, after 52 years, the antlers have made it back to the Hemingway family, as Hunter's widow, Anita Thompson, drove them back to Idaho this month where she returned them to the home—now owned by charity the Nature Conservancy," Miller wrote, in August of 2016.
Colorado writers (and most writers, in general) have a history of strangeness. Years ago, during my first year of college at Fort Lewis in Durango, I was re-introduced to the odd behavior of local legends of the literary world in a Contemporary Lit class taught be an odd bird named Paul Pavich, that sported a wild a hairstyle of tight curls in a full evenly rounded shape, and wore bibbed overalls and white tee-shirt, almost everyday.
Pavich later started the Western Literature and Durango Literature conferences. These conferences ran through the 1980s and 1990s, bringing internationally recognized authors of all genres to Durango such as Kurt Vonnegut, Maya Angelou, Larry McMurtry and Allen Ginsberg.
At the time, organizer of the conferences, retired FLC English professor Paul Pavich, says the Southwest was rapidly growing as a hotbed of producing writers. The region gradually crept its way into a variety of writer's works, many of them paying homage to a vast landscape that is diverse in its scenery, culture and politics, Pavich said.
"People were interested in the Southwest take on all kinds of things."
In Pavich's Lit class in 1980, I think we were required to read "Dharma Bums," by Jack Kerouac, and "Sometimes a Great Notion," by Ken Kesey, who was born in Colorado.
We also became quite familiar with Neal Cassady, whose mother died when he was 10, and he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver. Cassady spent much of his youth either living on the streets of skid row with his father or in reform school.
As a youth, Cassady was repeatedly involved in petty crime. He was arrested for car theft when he was 14, for shoplifting and car theft when he was 15, and for car theft and fencing stolen property when he was 16.
In 1941, the 15-year-old Cassady met Justin W. Brierly, a prominent Denver educator. Brierly was well known as a mentor of promising young men and was impressed by Cassady's intelligence. Over the next few years, Brierly took an active role in Cassady's life. Brierly helped admit Cassady to East High School where he taught. Cassady continued his criminal activities, however, and was repeatedly arrested from 1942 to 1944; on at least one of these occasions, he was released by law enforcement into Brierly's safekeeping. In June 1944, Cassady was arrested for possession of stolen goods and served eleven months of a one-year prison sentence.
In 1946, he and his first wife, LuAnne Henderson traveled to New York City to visit their friend, Hal Chase, another protégé of Brierly's at Columbia University. While there,  Cassady met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. While in New York, Cassady persuaded Kerouac to teach him to write fiction. Cassady's second wife, Carolyn, has stated that, "Neal, having been raised in the slums of Denver amongst the world's lost men, determined to make more of himself, to become somebody, to be worthy and respected. His genius mind absorbed every book he could find, whether literature, philosophy or science. 
Neal Cassady was prominently featured as himself in the first draft version of Jack Kerouac's novel "On the Road," and served as the model for the character Dean Moriarty in the 1957 version of that book. In many of Kerouac's later books, Cassady is represented by the character Cody Pomeray. Cassady also appeared in Allen Ginsberg's poems, and in several other works of literature by other writers. 
"The Beats," as they became to be known,  moved around a lot after meeting in New York City and substantially launching the movement in San Francisco, but Cassady made his home in Denver, which was a mountainous desert compared with the booming post-war coastal cities, says Marlo Safi, in The National Review, April, 2019.


"What drew the Beats to Denver was Beatnik prototype Neal Cassady. Cassady, aka The Holy Goof; aka Western Kinsman of the Sun, spent his childhood on the notorious Larimer Street Skid Row and was as out of step with the mass conformity of postwar America as one could possibly hope to be. His influence on literary giants such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg was undeniably profound.
While Cassady cast a long shadow, he wasn't Denver's only connection to the Beat Generation. Local architect Ed White is actually the person who connected the Beats with Cassady while attending New York University. While White wasn't technically part of the Beat Generation, he bears plenty of responsibility for their development. (White also contributed mightily to Denver by way of the many buildings he designed, including the dome at the Denver Botanic Gardens.)
Although the Denver that the Beats experienced is long gone, their footprints are still out there for researchers and casual fans to explore. To help facilitate that research, the Denver Public Library's Western History and Genealogy Department has plenty of material on the Beat Generation, Neal Cassady, their time in Denver, and the legacy they left behind.
The legacy of western writers running roughshod in Colorado was  established long before that, of course, by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Dalton Trumbo.
 For example, during his 1883 tour of the United States the world-renowned author Oscar Wilde, reportedly noted a sign hanging in Leadville saloon.
“Don’t shoot the piano player; he is doing the best he can,” it read.
The phrase became a colorful western variation meaning roughly the same as “Don’t kill the messenger.”
Mark Twain (Sam Clemons) liked the reference so much he adopted it in some of his lectures, but neither Wilde nor Twain claimed it was their’s originally.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and his brother Orion stopped for an hour in Julesburg, or Overland City, a Colorado town on the South Platte River. They were 470 miles into their stagecoach ride west from St. Joseph, Missouri. In Roughing It, Twain called Julesburg “the strangest, quaintest, funniest frontier town that our untraveled eyes had ever stared at and been astonished with.” Originally established in 1859 as a trading post named for Jules Beni, a French trader, Julesburg was known by the time of Twain’s visit for Jack Slade, desperado (reportedly killer of twenty-six people) and division agent at Julesburg for the overland stage company; one of Slade’s victims was Beni.
And there was James Dalton Trumbo, born in Montrose, Colorado, and educated in Grand Junction,  who became an American screenwriter and novelist who scripted many award-winning films including Roman Holiday, Exodus, Spartacus, and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. One of the Hollywood Ten, he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947 during the committee's investigation of Communist influences in the motion picture industry. He, with the other members of the Hollywood Ten and hundreds of other industry professionals, was subsequently blacklisted by that industry. His talents as one of the top screenwriters allowed him to continue working clandestinely, producing work under other authors' names or pseudonyms. His uncredited work won two Academy Awards: for Roman Holiday (1953), which was given to a front writer, and for The Brave One (1956) which was awarded to a pseudonym of Trumbo's. When he was given public screen credit for both Exodus and Spartacus in 1960, this marked the beginning of the end of the Hollywood Blacklist for Trumbo and other screenwriters. He finally was given full credit by the Writers' Guild for all his achievements, the work of which encompassed six decades of screenwriting.

Photo 1: Neal Cassady, left, with Jack Kerouac in 1952. Photograph by his wife Carolyn.

Photo 2: Hunter S. Thompson on his wedding day with his new bride Anita - April 24, 2003. They were married at the Pitkin County Courthouse. Thompson, 67, died a self inflicted gunshot wound at his rural home, Owl Farm, (also known as the "Kitchen") in Woody Creek, near Aspen, Colorado. (Louisa Davidson/Special to the Rocky Mountain News.)
Photo 3: During a break in the filming of the 1959 historic beat film, "Pull My Daisy," featuring an original music score by David Amram, who also appeared in the film, the composer (top right, hand to mouth) shares ideas with some of his collaborators, including (left to right), poet Gregory Corso (back to camera), artist Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram and Allen Ginsberg. "Pull My Daisy" features Jack Kerouac's narration and a title song by David Amram, with lyrics by Kerouac, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. Photo by John Cohen.
Photo 4: Kenneth Elton Kesey considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s. Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado, and grew up in Springfield, Oregon.

Photo 5: Dalton Trumbo at House Un-American Activities Committee hearings, 1947.
 
Photo 6: Oscar Wilde, photographed in 1882 by Napoleon Sarony.
Photo 7: In addition to being a famous author and humorist, American writer Mark Twain was also responsible for inventions like the adjustable bra strap.