Part 8 can be found here if you missed it...
The first few weeks after the murder saw a flurry of identifications of the Ragged Stranger. While the identifications of John Maloney and Al Watson garnered the majority of the headlines from this time (we'll look into Al Watson more in a future post) there were several others that came and went and merited no more than a couple sentences in the papers.
Leaving no stone unturned, the police went from tracking down concrete leads to dealing with questionable identifications to finally listening to prayers and pleadings from distant locales.
While some of the identifications below were certainly not the Ragged Stranger, one or two of them may have been. And, they may not be mutually exclusive of one another or from a later identification that will be discussed in a later post.
A police sergeant in another district believed he could identify the Ragged Stranger as a former army man who went by the name “Snuffy” and who used to frequent joints down Western and Oakley avenues. Alas, the police investigation into “Snuffy” found he was not the man killed in the small vestibule.
William Noeth or North
The frustration of devoting time and resources ran high listening to tales like the following of William Noeth or North.
There were dozens of touring circus troupes at this time offering work to transient men. The newspapers reporting of the fact that the Ragged Stranger had a commissary ticket from the John Robinson Circus led to many circus folk coming forward saying, “He looks familiar, but I can’t remember his name.” It seemed nearly everyone in a circus knew someone who fit the generic description of the Ragged Stranger.
E.H. Pryor, a former circus worker, was one of those men.
“I am not sure, but I think this was Bill Noeth, whom I knew eight or nine years ago. Bill was just a kid then. He had run away from his home to go in a circus, Gentry Brothers. I believe his home was in Columbus, Ohio. He worked the commissary department, did odd jobs, made himself useful. Everybody liked him. I heard he went to another circus later. Bill would be about the age this man was and about his build. Bill didn’t have any freckles, though, but of course freckles come easily. Yes, it looks like Bill. Enough like him, I’d say, to be his brother.”
Looks like him enough to be his brother. Strong identification.
The newspaper story first written about Mr. Noeth would be carried over the news wire services and spelled his last name with an 'e'. Several other papers would later have the spelling of his name as Mr. North. There were no matching Noeth or North families in Columbus, Ohio and the police there did not have any missing persons reports that matched the description of the man the Chicago police were searching for.
Searching census records, there were dozens of William North’s and a few William Noeth’s that were born give-or-take five years of 1900. None seemed to have any connection to Columbus, or Ohio at all for that matter, and nearly all born around that time seem to have lived a longer life than the William Noeth or North that E. Pryor thought he knew.
William Noeth/North was not the Ragged Stranger. Bill North's brother, if he had one, may have been the Ragged Stranger.
“Chief of Police, Chicago. Hold body of man killed by Wanderer. Will arrive in morning to identify. – John Mac Donald”
The telegram above came over the wire to police Chief Garrity on a busy day. He had detectives closing in on a Wanderer confession; other detectives contacting Indiana and Ohio authorities on William Noeth/North’s behalf; still others were following leads regarding Al Watson; and the police were nearly finished disproving the ID of John Maloney. Hopefully the telegram wasn’t another goose chase.
It was. Mr. MacDonald showed up to the Carroll’s undertaker house as the ad-hoc coroner’s inquest was preparing to begin. He entered the funeral home and soon, after gazing at the corpse, he realized his nephew Harry MacDonald, missing from St. Louis since the ninth of June, was not the Ragged Stranger.
James Kendrick had a mother that loved him and missed him. It had been two years that he had been gone but the lonely woman read in a Pennsylvania newspaper of the unidentified body. Maybe it was her Jimmy, she thought. She went to her local police station and asked how they could assist her with making an identification and after contacting Chicago police, photos were mailed to the police in Scranton. Upon viewing a photo of the Ragged Stranger, no further inquiries were made. James Kendrick, despite his mother’s longings, was not the Ragged Stranger.
The Philadelphia police bet on the even longer of longshots. They contacted Chief Garrity’s staff and asked for a photo of the still unidentified corpse. They believed the Ragged Stranger fit the description of a missing person report of theirs. A person missing since 1912. Upon receiving the photo from the Chicago police, the case remained open for the Philly police as Thomas J. Collins was not the Ragged Stranger.
Unnamed Former Boys Home Resident
While many tried to force a name to the body, others tried in vain to pull a name from the body. Father J.C. Quille of the Working Boys home at Jackson and Racine swore he knew the body could but could not recall the name.
“I studied the young man’s face for a long time. It is familiar. I have seen it before, but I cannot place it. I’ve racked my memory, but just can’t seem to catalogue it. I was so sure I had seen it before, that it was the face of someone who had been at the home at some time in the past, that I returned to the home and took some of the boys there to see it. All of the boys recognize him as a former resident of the home, but not one of them could recall his name.”
The familiar looking but unnamed former boys home resident may have been the Ragged Stranger.
Unnamed Sideshow Worker
A husband and wife, proprietors of a carnival attraction, the ‘Twenty-In-One Side Show’, visited the morgue. Mr. Frederick Munster, 36 years old of 1009 west Adams street viewed the body and said it looked like a former employee of his.
“I recognize the long, flowing red hair and the fair complexion as well as the clothes. They are alike in build and in height.”
He had fired the employee in early June but could not remember his name and had nothing else to offer the police. The unnamed sideshow worker for the ‘Twenty-In-One Side Show’ may have been the Ragged Stranger.
At least Mrs. Gertrude Davis was able to put a name to the face that stared back at her at the morgue. ‘Red’ Murphy was who the body was, she told police. He had done some custodial work for her in the past at her old rooming house at Rush street and east Austin. He was a vagabond who worked the docks when he could, she said. A local saloon keeper on east Austin, Patrick McCahill, was also asked to come to the morgue for a viewing as ‘Red’ Murphy was well known to him.
No mention of ‘Red’ Murphy was ever again tied to the case.
Wanderer even spent time in the Joliet penitentiary with a convicted murderer by the name of Red Murphy. On August 12, 1920 James Edward ‘Red’ Murphy murdered Harry Caulkins, an acquaintance of Murphy’s after a deal to buy whisky went south. Caulkins had his skull crushed, his throat slit ear to ear, his abdomen slashed open and was stabbed eighteen times. Murphy began serving his life sentence in Joliet State Penitentiary in June 1921.
Red Murphy the dock working vagabond wasn’t likely the same bootlegging Red Murphy that served time with Wanderer, nor was there ever any further connection of any Red Murphy to the case, likely meaning, ‘Red’ Murphy was not the Ragged Stranger.
Part 10 coming Thursday, June 21 - The 98th Anniversary of the Crime; A Sneak Peak at the Upcoming The Mystery of the Ragged Stranger Podcast
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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