No! I don't mean the crucifixions that some of our less law abiding politicians claim federal prosecutors are performing. I am talking about a real, honest to goodness crucifixion. I was recently researching some executions that took place in the Chicago Courthouse and so I had executions on my mind when I had visited the Nativity display in front of the Daley Center and it made me think of the horrible way in which the baby in the manger would meet his death roughly 33 years after he was born. The Romans of the 1st Century A.D. were masters at torture and devising gruesome methods of disposing of enemies or convicted criminals and crucifixion was one of their crowning achievements. But since I write a blog about Chicago history and not religion I wondered if Chicago had ever been the site of a crucifixion and of course strange Chicago history did not disappoint.
On Friday (not Good Friday) March 9, 1945, a couple of men were walking near the elevated railway behind 1627 N. Clybourn when they heard screaming. When they arrived they couldn't believe what they saw. There they gazed at a man, later identified by police as 46 year old Fred Walcher, hung on a wooden cross by spikes driven through his hands, wearing a thorn of crowns and bleeding from the side. The police were called and Mr. Walcher was taken to the hospital. Fred Walcher was an Austrian who lived in the basement of a bar located at 1638 N. Halsted in Chicago. He was a lens grinder by trade. In his statements to police he said that he had been awakened by three men in his apartment who told him that they were going to crucify him but that it wouldn't hurt so he didn't put up a fight. He accompanied them to the spot on Clybourn roughly one block where he lived and he wasn't nervous until they produced five metal spikes.
It was pretty much at this point that police thought that something just didn't smell right. Associates were interviewed and Walcher was given a lie detector test. An associate of Walcher's, Dr. Emil Bronner of 5652 S. Christiana Ave was a chemist who escaped from Nazi Germany. Dr. Bronner told police that he believed in Walcher's peace plan called the Universal Brotherhood Plan but that Walcher had started acting strangely at meetings and becoming more and more agitated with what he thought was lethargy on the part of the others in the movement and said something to the effect that the people were so lazy and stupid that they needed something violent to awaken them and that a crucifixion would do it. The truth (or the closest thing to it) eventually came out and it was determined that Walcher had orchestrated the whole crucifixion affair as a publicity hoax to help spread the word about his idea for a world wide peace based off of a new world order that was run by the middle class and that peace could be gained by a series of "mental attacks". Of course immediately following this discovery a psychological exam was ordered by the courts and aside from all of the above, the municipal court psychiatrist, Dr. David Rotam, stated that Walcher behaved like any normal person would in his preliminary testing.
In the end, Walcher was arrested, charged with and fined $100 for disorderly conduct by Judge Victor A. Kula, received a nasty infection and a shot of penicillin in his left hand and an embarrassing mention in a ChicagoNow blog 67 years later!