The Ragged Stranger in the Ravenswood Hospital Morgue

Photo of the Ragged Stranger likely taken on a slab in the morgue of Ravenswood Hospital.

Photo of the Ragged Stranger likely taken on a slab in the morgue of Ravenswood Hospital.

Part 1 can be found here if you missed it...

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting the police tried to identify the unknown man in the morgue at Ravenswood Hospital. He was a white male in his early 20’s with a pale complexion, freckles, and light reddish-brown hair that was longer than the style at the time. He had brown eyes above a broad nose centered on a long face with a high forehead. He stood a bit short of six feet tall and weighed 150 pounds.

Old Ravenswood Hospital on Wilson Avenue east of Damen, now home to Lycee Francais de Chicago.

Old Ravenswood Hospital on Wilson Avenue east of Damen, the hospital has been razed but the property is now home to Lycee Francais de Chicago.

He wore ragged clothing described as "well-worn and dirty" and of "cheap material" that included a dark coat, a tan army shirt, "bluish" cotton socks, and grey trousers tied up with a safety pin. A black cap was not upon his head but had been brought to the morgue along with his body. He needed a bath yet recently had had a haircut, shave, and manicure as his head was lice free, his face smooth and his hands immaculately clean.

In his coat pocket the Ragged Stranger had a commissary ticket in the name of E. Masters issued from the John Robinson Circus that would have been similar to this $2.00 ticket from Ringling Brothers.

In his coat pocket the Ragged Stranger had a commissary ticket in the name of E. Masters issued from the John Robinson Circus that would have been similar to this $2.00 ticket from Ringling Brothers.

The only money found on the man was 20 cents; one dime, one nickel, and five pennies. He carried commissary ticket #729 in the name of E. Masters issued from the John Robinson Circus dining car and a button for Chicago Chauffeurs Union Local 706 (Nearly every newspaper reported that it was for Chauffeur Union Local 906 though it appears there was no local 906 but rather a Local 706). A Colt M1911 revolver with serial number #C2282 was at his side.

A Chicago Chauffeur Union medallion similar to this one was found on the Ragged Stranger.

A Chicago Chauffeur medallion  similar to this one was found on the Ragged Stranger. 

His dead body had four bullet wounds from a .45 revolver shot at a range of one to three feet. Coroner's physician, W. H. Burmeister, performed the post-mortem on the "unidentified white man" on June 22 at Carroll Undertakers at 4542 N. Ravenswood.

He found that gunshot wound #1 entered just below the xiphoid process (the cartilage-like piece at the bottom of the sternum) and traveled through the stomach and the aorta before it exited his back left of his spinal column.

Gunshot wound #2 entered near his beltline on his left side where it severed the iliac artery and went through the top of his pelvic bone to a slit like exit wound in the middle of his left buttock.

The bullet from gunshot wound #3 entered the left wrist and traveled through the forearm shattering both the ulna and radius bones before lodging near the left elbow.

Gunshot wound #4 was to the left groin three inches below Poupart's ligament and just above the femoral artery (an area today known as the femoral triangle due to the concentration of vital arteries, veins, and nerves found in the region) and resulted in a large amount of internal bleeding.

Burmeister concluded death was due to "Hemorrhage from gunshot wounds of the body."

That was all that was known.

The police kept coming back to the problem- who was he? How could they not identify him in their rogue’s gallery of known holdup men? How could a man be bold enough to walk into such a small vestibule for a stickup unless he had done it before? And if he had done it before, how did he not have a record with the police? From his natty attire the police knew they were not dealing with a criminal mastermind who had been able to elude notice of police.

The police focused on the only four leads they had; the Colt .45 revolver, the John Robinson Circus, the chauffeur’s union, and the dead body on the slab in the morgue.

A Colt .45 M1911 revolver with serial #C2282 was found at the side of the Ragged Stranger. The gun photographed here was in the same shipment of 350 guns as gun C2282.

A Colt .45 M1911 revolver with serial #C2282 was found at the side of the Ragged Stranger. The gun photographed here (serial #C2362) was in the same shipment of 350 guns from the Colt's Manufacturing Company to the Springfield Armory in 1912 as gun #C2282.  www.coltautos.com/1911ci_2362.htm

Lieutenant Michael Loftus and Sergeant John Norton took charge of the investigation and assigned Detectives Grady, Knowles, and Parr to the case. Well after midnight in the very early morning hours, the police typed up a letter to the Colt Company requesting the sales history of the gun recovered at the vagrant’s side. The trace of serial number #C2282 was under way.

Next, the police sent telegrams to pinpoint E. Masters with the John Robinson Circus. They determined that the circus was in Minnesota and was soon due to cross the border into Canada.

The Chauffeur's Union medallion had led to speculation that the Ragged Stranger may have been a driver for one of the city's newspapers and may have been named Matson or Watson. The police largely left this lead to be investigated by the newspapers themselves as the police knew, should one of the papers come to learn that it was their employee that was the Ragged Stranger, the news would be announced citywide in an Extra Edition paper. The police were confident no newspaper in the city would leave a stone unturned if there was a chance at self promotion could come of it.

The next day, articles were printed in the newspapers asking chauffeurs and newspaper drivers to visit the Ravenswood Hospital Morgue to attempt to identify the Ragged Stranger. This would be the start of over eight months of attempted identifications to try to pin a name on the body in the morgue. Soon everyone would be asking, who was the Ragged Stranger?

 

Coming Friday, May 25- Part 3- Monsieur Bertillon, Captain Evans, & How to ID a Body in the Early 1900's

 

This blog aims to fill in the gaps where there is unknown, correct fallacies where they have branched away from the truth, and most importantly, to entertain and enlighten. It has been sourced from research for my upcoming book Kisses for Julia, Bullets for Ruth: The Mystery of Carl Wanderer & the Ragged Stranger.

 

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