Deja Vu All Over Again

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A Canadian soldier identified as the Ragged Stranger? Check.

A hotel registry dutifully signed by the person identified as the Ragged Stranger every day up to the murder? Check.

A hotel bill left open and unpaid after the murder? Check.

A Ragged Stranger met on west Madison street? Check.

The police must have felt like they were having Deja Vu. The more time passed, the more often similar identifications continued to reoccur. Sharing some details of his identification with John Maloney and Al Watson before him, another Ragged Stranger identification made headlines.

“That’s him. His name is John Barrett. He’s an ex-Canadian soldier. I knew him slightly, but don’t know just where he came from. I met him one day on Madison Street. He told me he was broke and needed money for a meal. I had a few dollars laid away and I loaned them to him. I took these checks as security. I never saw him again.”

 

Ragged Strangers like John Barrett frequented the area of West Madison Street known as Skid Row. Here, Mr. and Mrs. F.A. Mabee hand out money to the needy, circa 1915. Chicago Tribune Historical Photo,

Ragged Strangers like John Barrett frequented the area of west Madison street known as Skid Row. Here, standing up on the curb wearing a top hat, Mr. F.A. Mabee and his wife hand out money to the needy, circa 1915. Chicago Tribune Historical Photo. 

 

Upon visiting the morgue, a man named Herbert Potter was said to have unhesitatingly identified the Ragged Stranger. A Canuck himself, Potter had visited the police station to tell them he knew the Ragged Stranger and confirmed some minor details of the deceased’s description.

“Yes, I remember such a man. I loaned him $15 (about $180 in 2018 dollars) last February on a couple of baggage checks he had. I had read about the Wanderer case but I didn’t connect the ragged stranger up with the man Wanderer hired to play a prank and then killed. Barrett stayed at the Old Ironsides hotel, I think. I remember him particularly because of a protruding tooth in the front of his mouth. I never claimed the baggage. I guess it’s either at the Old Ironsides or else it’s at the depot. Let’s go over there.”

Looking east here from a half block or so west of the intersection of Madison and Halsted. The black arrow denotes the Mid City Bank, one of the buildings pictured in this postcard still standing. Cheap flop houses provided and ever constant stream of ragged strangers.

Looking east here from a half block or so west of the intersection of Madison and Halsted, the black arrow denotes the Mid City Bank, one of the buildings pictured in this postcard still standing. Cheap flop houses up and down Madison street provided and ever constant stream of ragged strangers. 

 

The police had their first solid lead on the identity of their unknown victim in months. They took Potter over to 651 west Madison to the Ironsides Hotel. The night clerk could not remember Barrett but was willing to check the register and the baggage check. After taking the receipts from Potter he searched for the bags to no avail. Barrett’s bags were gone.

The front desk register offered a bit more tantalizing information for the police. Barrett had checked in to the flop house in February and had dutifully signed his name every day since. Everyday up to June 21st that it is. The day after the murder was the first day devoid of his signature on the register. Could this be the big break the police were looking for? Could they finally have put a name to the face that so many had looked at and thought they knew? Potter for one sure seemed to think so.

“Positive? Of course, I’m positive. Do you think I’d loan money to a man and not know him again? Say, I’m not that easy. I’d know him in hell.”

 

November 2, 1920 Vancouver Daily World, British Columbia, Canada.

November 2, 1920 Vancouver Daily World, British Columbia, Canada.

 

Others that knew Barrett at the Ironsides Hotel claimed he was from Vancouver but was much older and in no way physically resembled the Ragged Stranger. The Canadian armed services informed the Chicago police that there was indeed an ex-Canadian soldier from Vancouver named John Barrett but he was 50 years old while the unknown body in the morgue was in his early 20’s.

John Barrett was not the Ragged Stranger.

 

Coming Wednesday, August 15- He Was a Kind Young Fellow

Available now... Podcast Episode #4- Carl Wanderer Goes to Trial

 

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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