Part 9 can be found here if you missed it...
Ninety-eight years ago today a heinous crime was carried out by Carl Wanderer as he took the lives of his wife Ruth, her unborn child, and a vagrant who came be to known as the Ragged Stranger.
This blog has tried to shed a new light on an old crime while highlighting some of the information uncovered in my research that didn't necessarily fit into my upcoming book on the crime- Kisses for Julia, Bullets for Ruth: The Mystery of Carl Wanderer and the Ragged Stranger.
Today, I'm pleased to announce that The Ragged Stranger blog, is now going to be hosting The Mystery of the Ragged Stranger podcast. The podcast will shed a little different light on the story and will again feature some things that couldn't make it into the book.
The podcast will debut next week and going forward it will air every other Monday with a total of eight episodes. Not to be too macabre, but announcing the podcast on the anniversary of the murder is not the end of it, our last episode will air one day early, on Sunday, September 30th, the anniversary of Carl Wanderer's hanging.
For a sneak peak into what the podcast will cover, please read the intro below. For the best possible experience, I highly suggest you go here and hit play for a little background music, and then beginning reading below. That way, just in case some licensing issues necessitate the release of the podcast Monday with a different theme song, you got to experience it once this way first...
Hello and welcome to the opening episode of The Mystery of the Ragged Stranger.
My name is Michael Hendrychs and I will be your host. This podcast aims to take a deep look at what was one of Chicago’s most famous crimes. In 1920, on a quiet northside street, three people entered a tiny vestibule of a two-flat. Ten gunshots later, only one person emerged.
World War I, mental illness, love affairs, Chicago Police shenanigans, the first John Doe murder trial in Chicago history, Illinois politics, and the writings of one of the period’s most illustrious writers, are but a few of the topics we will touch on.
Quite a few years back, I was reading a book on the haunted houses of Chicago when I came across the last thing you want to find in such a book… your home address.
My upstairs neighbor Chuck had knocked on my door one Sunday morning at 11:59 on the eve of Halloween. He held a book in one hand; an enormous whisky and coke in the other; and made his way to the couch before kickoff of the noon Chicago Bears game. The book was tossed on the coffee table and I was told to check out the dog-eared page.
Bear football obviously took priority however, and the book sat ignored until halftime.
With the Bears leading the Lions, 13-3 at the half, I went out and sat on the front stoop, to take a look at the book. It was titled More Chicago Haunts from Chicago writer Ursula Bielski and the dog-eared page was for a chapter titled, Campbell Avenue Haunts. Interesting… I thought, seeing as how I lived on Campbell. The next page, even weirder, was a picture looking down the block I lived on. Seven paragraphs later, jumping from the page at me, was my address.
The chapter went on to tell the story of a double murder committed in our vestibule, the very vestibule I was sitting just a few feet away from. The book went on to tout tales of ghosts, being seen or heard, both inside and outside our house, and my own interaction with a spirit, will be discussed in a later episode. While I had typically never been a big fan of ghost stories myself, I was fascinated by the Ragged Stranger story and I wanted to know more about the normal, rather than parnormal, facts of the story.
Going back inside I tiptoed through the vestibule with a new-found reverence for the tiny foyer. The Bears game was paused on the DVR and whisky was refilled for neighbor Chuck, while I did a quick Google search about the Ragged Stranger and Carl Wanderer. News clippings and photos of Carl, his wife Ruth, and the Ragged Stranger were printed and stuck to the fridge; not a day has gone by since, where this tale hasn’t stared me in the face.
Over the years, I delved deeper into the story. I found multiple narratives that contained striking contradictions. Newspapers headlines the day after the murder, hailed Carl Wanderer a hero, for avenging his wife’s slaying. Three weeks later, he was in jail for murder. A quick look at Wanderer’s Wikipedia page, seemed to conclude that he killed his wife, and the Ragged Stranger, because he had a girlfriend named Julia… Or maybe it was a homosexual lover named James.
The Ragged Stranger, an unwitting dupe to Wanderer’s diabolical plan, laid in the morgue for over a year, repeatedly misidentified. At least 16 men, were at one time or another, thought to be the Ragged Stranger. Was he Al Watson... Or Eddie Ryan?
We know it wasn’t Earl Keesee or Joseph Ahrens. Both of those men were identified, by their own family members, as having been the Ragged Stranger, yet both of the men turned out to be alive and well.
Ahrens, went so far, as to visit the morgue himself, to view the body, where he said, “He resembles me remarkably and I can understand how the mistake occurred.”
We’ll take a look at all of these men, each with their own compelling stories surrounding their identifications. I will explain why each man can, or cannot, be the Ragged Stranger.
The Ragged Stranger was front page news in 1920 and 1921, from The Seattle Star to The Palm Beach Post. What you will hear is taken from hundreds of newspaper articles, and dozens of books. Court files thought to have been long lost to a fire were found. Weeks of sitting at the Newberry library, staring at microfilm, led to eyeglasses for your humble storyteller. Military records from the US Army, as well as from our neighbors in Canada, were studied. Contacts were made with UK historians and several interesting facts in the story come to you from across the pond.
I have tried to use only facts that could be backed up by multiple accounts; you will hear examples of how single accounts have been spread like ‘Chinese whispers’, and been erroneously reported elsewhere, and then repeated over and over in the ‘copy and paste’ world we live in. Contemporaneous reports will be compared to some narratives that shockingly didn’t emerge until over 50 years after the crime happened. These narratives will be discussed and how they went off the rails will be explained for you to make your own informed decision on what to believe.
By the way… the Bears would go on to beat the Lions in overtime that day, on a Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman, interception return for a touchdown. The win pushed the Bears past the Lions, into first place, and put them on their way to the playoffs. Happier days those were for us Bears fans.
But enough about sports, this is a Chicago true-crime story- The Mystery of the Ragged Stranger.
Part 11 coming Friday, June 29 - The Tampico Affair
This blog aims to fill in the gaps where there is unknown, correct false narratives that 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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