Monday, July 20, 2015

John Dillinger was Killed (July 22, 1934)

This week (July 20-26) in crime history – Serial killer Alton Coleman and Debra Brown were captured in Illinois (July 20, 1984); James Holmes killed 12 and wounded 70 other at a Colorado movie theater (July 20, 2012); The Scopes Monkey Trial ends with a conviction (July 21, 1925); Terrorists attempted to bomb the London Transit system (July 21, 2005); The Preparedness Day Bombing (July 22, 1916); Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested (July 22, 1991); John Dillinger was killed (July 22, 1934); Notorious California bandit Black Bart robbed a Wells Fargo Stagecoach (July 23, 1878); Serial killer Della Sorenson killed her first victim (July 23, 1918); Writer O. Henry was released from prison (July 24, 1901); California outlaw Joaquin Murrieta was killed (July 25, 1853); Serial killer Ed Gein died (July 26, 1984)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On July 22, 1934, John Dillinger, America’s “Public Enemy No. 1″ was shot and killed by FBI agents outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago. In a fiery bank-robbing career that lasted just over a year, Dillinger and his associates robbed nearly a dozen banks, broke out of jail, and killed seven police officers and three federal agents.

John Dillinger was born in 1903 in Indianapolis, Indiana. A juvenile delinquent, he was arrested in 1924 after a botched mugging. He pleaded guilty, hoping for clemency, but was sentenced to 10 to 20 years at Pendleton Reformatory. While in prison, he made several failed escapes and was adopted by a group of professional bank robbers led by Harry Pierpont, who taught him the ways of their trade. When his friends were transferred to Indiana’s tough Michigan City Prison, he requested to be transferred there as well.

In May 1933, Dillinger was paroled, and he met up with accomplices of Pierpont. Dillinger’s plan was to raise enough funds to finance a prison break by Pierpont and the others, who then would take him on as a member of their elite robbery gang. In four months, Dillinger and his gang robbed four Indiana and Ohio banks, two grocery stores, and a drug store for a total of more than $40,000. He gained notoriety as a sharply dressed and athletic gunman who at one bank leapt over the high teller railing into the vault.

With the help of two of Pierpont’s women friends, Dillinger set up the jailbreak. Guns were bought and arranged to be smuggled into Michigan City Prison. Prison workers were bribed, and a safe house was set up. On September 22, however, just days before the jailbreak was scheduled to occur, Dillinger was arrested in Dayton, Ohio. Four days later, Pierpont and nine others broke out of Michigan City. On October 12 Pierpont came to Ohio to free Dillinger in the process the Lima sheriff was killed. On October 30, the gang robbed a police arsenal, acquiring weapons, ammunition, and bulletproof vests.

The Pierpont/Dillinger gang robbed banks in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Chicago for more than $130,000, a great fortune in the Depression era, and eluded the police in several close encounters. In January 1934, the gang headed to Tucson, Arizona, to lay low. By this time, four police officers had been killed and two wounded, and the Chicago police had established an elite squad to track down the fugitives. They were recognized in Tucson and on January 25 captured without bloodshed.

Dillinger was extradited to Indiana, arraigned for his January 15 murder of Indiana police officer William Patrick O’Malley, and held at Crown Point prison. On March 3, while still awaiting trial, he executed his most celebrated escape. That morning, he brandished a gun and methodically began locking up the prison officials. The legend is that the weapon was a wooden gun carved by Dillinger and blackened with shoe polish, but it may also have been a real gun smuggled into the prison by an associate. Whatever the case, Dillinger raided the prison arsenal, where he found two sub-machine guns, and then enlisted the aid of another prisoner, an African American man named Herbert Youngblood. Dillinger and Youngblood then made their way to the prison garage, where they stole a sheriff’s car and calmly drove away.

Parting ways with Youngblood, Dillinger traveled to Chicago and formed a new gang featuring “Baby Face” Nelson, a psychopathic killer who used to work for Al Capone. The new Dillinger gang robbed banks in South Dakota and Iowa and wounded two more police officers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation joined the manhunt for Dillinger after he escaped from Crown Point, and on March 31 two FBI agents closed in on him at an apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dillinger and an accomplice shot their way out.

In April, the Dillinger gang went to hide out at a resort in Wisconsin, but the FBI was tipped off. On April 22, the FBI stormed the resort. In a disastrous operation, three civilians were mistakenly shot by the FBI, one of whom died; Baby Face Nelson killed one agent, shot another, and critically wounded a police officer; the entire Dillinger gang escaped.

With two other gang members, Dillinger traveled to Chicago, surviving a shoot-out with Minnesota police along the way. In Chicago, he lived in a safe house and got a facelift to conceal his identity. At some point, he also used acid to burn off his fingerprints. On June 30, he participated in his last robbery, in South Bend, Indiana in which one officer was killed, four civilians shot, and one gang member shot.

In July, Anna Sage, a Romanian-born brothel madam in Chicago and friend of Dillinger’s, agreed to cooperate with the FBI in exchange for leniency in an upcoming deportation hearing. She also hoped to cash in on the $10,000 bounty that had been put on his head. On July 22, Sage and Dillinger went to see the gangster movie Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater. Twenty FBI agents and police officers staked out the theater and waited for him to emerge with Sage, who would be wearing an orange dress (not red as has been erroneously reported) to identify herself.

At 10:40 p.m., Dillinger came out. Sage’s orange dress looked red under the Biographs lights, which would earn her the nickname “the lady in red.” Dillinger was ordered to surrender, but he took off running. He made it as far as an alley at the end of the block before he was gunned down, allegedly because he pulled a gun. Two bystanders were wounded in the gunfire and Dillinger was dead.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.” Because I will be on vacation next week’s installment will be postponed.

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ernest Hemingway was Born (July 21, 1899)

This week (July 17-23) in literary history – Erle Stanley Gardner was born (July 17, 1889); Hunter S. Thompson was born (July 18, 1929); Irish novelist Frank McCourt died (July 19, 2009); Emile Zola fled France (July 19, 1898); Ernest Hemingway was born (July 21, 1899); J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (July 21, 2007); Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice was entered into the “Stationers Register” (July 22, 1598); Crime novelist Raymond Chandler was born (July 23, 1888)
Highlighted Literary Story of the Week -

On July 21, 1899, Ernest Miller Hemingway, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and author of The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms and other classic works was born in Oak Park, Illinois. The influential American literary icon who tackled topics such as bullfighting and war in his work, also became famous for his own macho, hard-drinking persona.
As a boy, Hemingway, the second of six children of Clarence Hemingway, a doctor, and Grace Hall Hemingway, a musician, learned to fish and hunt, which would remain lifelong passions. After graduating from high school in 1917, he volunteered for the Red Cross as an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I, he was severely wounded by mortar fire while helping an injured soldier and spent months recuperating.
After the war, Hemingway returned home and married Hadley Richardson and the pair moved to Paris, France, and was part of a group of expatriate writers and artists that included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. In 1925, Hemingway published his first collection of short stories, which was followed by his well-received 1926 debut novel The Sun Also Rises, about a group of American and British expatriates in the 1920s who journey from Paris to Pamplona, Spain, to watch bullfighting.
By the late 1920’s, Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms, divorced his first wife and married Pauline Pfeiffer, left Europe and moved to Key West, Florida. In 1932, his non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon, about bullfighting in Spain, was released. It was followed in 1935 by another non-fiction work, Green Hills of Africa, about a safari Hemingway made to East Africa in the early 1930s. During the late 1930s, Hemingway traveled to Spain to report on that country’s civil war, and also spent time living in Cuba. In 1937, he released To Have and Have Not, a novel about a fishing boat captain forced to run contraband between Key West and Cuba.
In 1940, the acclaimed For Whom the Bell Tolls, about a young American fighting with a band of guerrillas in the Spanish civil war, was published. Hemingway went on to work as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II, and wrote the 1950 novel Across the River and into the Trees.
Hemingway’s last significant work to be published during his lifetime was 1952’s The Old Man and the Sea, a novella about an aging Cuban fisherman that was an allegory referring to the writer’s own struggles to preserve his art in the face of fame and attention. Hemingway had become a cult figure whose four marriages and adventurous exploits in big-game hunting and fishing were widely covered in the press. But despite his fame, he had not produced a major literary work in the decade before The Old Man and the Sea debuted. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, and Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.
After surviving two plane crashes in Africa in 1953, Hemingway became increasingly anxious and depressed. On July 2, 1961, he killed himself with a shotgun at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. (His father had committed suicide in 1928.) He was buried at the Ketchum Cemetery. Three novels were released posthumously, Islands in the Stream (1970), The Garden of Eden (1986) and True at First Light (1999), as was the memoir A Moveable Feast (1964), which was about his time in Paris in the 1920s.
Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that include the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles (2012) and America’s Literary Legends (2014). Visit Michael website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

Monday, July 13, 2015

The San Ysidro Massacre (July 18, 1984)

This week (July 13-20) in crime history – Ruth Ellis was convicted of murder and would later be the last woman executed in Great Britain (July 13, 1955); Billy the Kid was shot to death (July 14, 1881); Richard Speck murdered eight nurses in Chicago (July 14, 1966); John Walker Lindh, The American Taliban pleaded guilty to weapons charges (July 15, 2002); Designer Gianni Versace was shot to death (July 15, 1997); Army doctor Jeffrey MacDonald murdered his family (July 16, 1979); Casey Anthony was released  from jail (July 17, 2011); James Huberty shoots and kills 21 people at a San Diego area McDonald’s (July 18, 1984); Boxer Mike Tyson raped beauty pageant contestant (July 19, 1991)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On July 18, 1984, James Huberty opened fire with automatic weapons in a crowded McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California, killing 21 people and wounding 19 others. Minutes earlier, Huberty had left home, telling his wife, “I’m going hunting… hunting for humans.”

Huberty, who had a history of mental problems, lost his job in Ohio the previous year. He brought his family to San Diego and worked as a security guard until he was fired again, a month before the shootings. His wife claimed that Huberty called a mental health clinic to make an appointment for counseling but was never called back. He had an obsession with guns.

Bringing several of these weapons, including a 9mm automatic pistol and semiautomatic rifle, into the McDonald’s two miles from the Mexican border, Huberty demanded that the 45 patrons get on the floor. He then walked around the restaurant, calmly shooting people. He killed 20 in the first ten minutes, including four who tried to escape. There were so many shots fired that the police first assumed that there was more than one gunman inside. Shooting at a fire truck that responded to the scene, Huberty also grazed one firefighter with a bullet.

An hour after the shooting began, an employee managed to escape through the basement and inform the SWAT team that Huberty was alone and without hostages. With this information, sharpshooters were told to “take him out.” A marksman sent a shot through Huberty’s chest and killed him. After making sure that he was dead, police finally entered the restaurant.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, July 10, 2015

E.B. White was Born (July 11, 1899)

This week (July 10-16) in literary history – Short story writer Alice Munro was born (July 10, 1931); E.B. White was born (July 11, 1899); Geoffrey Chaucer was appointed Chief Clerk of the king’s works (July 12, 1389); William Wordsworth visited Tintern Abbey (July 14, 1811); Novelist Iris Murdoch was born (July 15, 1919); J.D. Salinger’s The Cather in the Rye was published (July 16, 1951)

Highlighted Literary Story of the Week -

On July 11, 1899, E.B. White, the author of the popular children’s novel Charlotte’s Web was born in Mount Vernon, New York. White, a longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine who was known for his graceful, witty prose, also updated and expanded The Elements of Style, an English usage guide that remains a standard text for many high school and college students.

Elwyn Brooks White was the son of a piano manufacturer and the youngest of six children. He attended Cornell University, where he edited the school newspaper and was dubbed Andy, a nickname given to students with the last name White, after Andrew D. White, the university’s first president. After graduating from Cornell in 1921, White worked as a newspaper reporter and a production assistant and copywriter for an advertising agency. In 1927, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, which had been founded two years earlier. White, along with his friend and fellow writer James Thurber, is credited with playing a central role in shaping the magazine’s tone and direction. For over 50 years, White contributed essays, poems and other pieces to the publication.

In the 1930s, White and his wife, Katherine Sergeant Angell, a writer and editor whom he met at the magazine, moved to a farm in Maine. In 1945, he published his first children’s novel Stuart Little, about a mouse born into a human family. The book was followed in 1952 by Charlotte’s Web, about a pig on a farm who is saved from being slaughtered with the help of a spider named Charlotte. The story was inspired by life on White’s own farm. His third children’s book, The Trumpet of the Swan, about a swan born without a voice, was published in 1970.

In 1959, White reedited The Elements of Style, a handbook that was first published privately in 1918 by his former Cornell professor William Strunk. He received numerous awards during his career, including an honorary Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for the body of his work. He died on October 1, 1985, at his home in North Brooklin, Maine, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At a memorial service, New Yorker writer Roger Angell said of his famously shy stepfather: “If E.B. White could be here today, he wouldn’t be here.” E.B. White is buried at Brooklin Cemetery in North Brooklin, Maine.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six award winning nonfiction books that includes Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:


Monday, July 6, 2015

The Moors Murders Began (July 12, 1963)

This week (July 6-12) in crime history - July 6, 1946 - Former mob boss George “Bugs” Moran was arrested in Kentucky; July 7, 1865 - Mary Surratt and three others were executed for Abraham Lincoln’s assassination; July 8, 1898 - Soapy Smith, notorious conman was murdered; July 8, 1960 - U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was charged with espionage; July 10, 1925 - The Scopes Monkey Trial began; July 10, 1992 - Joseph Hazelwood’s conviction in the Exxon Valdez oil spill was overturned; July 11, 1804 - Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel; July 11, 2010 - Colton Harris-Moore, The Barefoot bandit was captured in the Bahamas; July 12, 1891 - Wild Bill Hickok had his first gun fight; July 12, 1963 - The Moors Murders began 

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week - 

On July 12, 1963, 16-year-old Pauline Reade was abducted while walking near her home in Gorton, England, by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the so-called “Moors Murderers,” launching a crime spree that would last for over two years. Reade’s body was not discovered until 1987, after Brady confessed to the murder during an interview with reporters while in a mental hospital. The teenager had been sexually assaulted and her throat had been slashed.

Brady and Hindley met in Manchester in 1961. The shy girl quickly became infatuated with Brady, a self-styled Nazi, who had an obsession with sadistic sex. In order to satisfy their sadistic impulses, Brady and Hindley began abducting and killing young men and women. After Pauline Reade, they kidnapped 12-year-old John Kilbride in November and Keith Bennett, also 12, in June the next year. The day after Christmas in 1964, Leslie Ann Downey, a 10-year-old from Manchester, was abducted.

In 1965, the couple murdered a 17-year-old boy with a hatchet in front of Hindley’s brother-in-law, David Smith, perhaps in an attempt to recruit him for future murders. This apparently crossed the line for Smith, who then went to the police.

Inside Brady’s apartment, police found luggage tickets that led them to two suitcases in Manchester Central Station. They contained photos of Leslie Ann Downey being tortured along with audiotapes of her pleading for her life. Other photos depicted Hindley and Brady in a desolate area of England known as Saddleworth Moor where police found the body of John Kilbride.

The Moors Murderers were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1966. For his part, Brady continued to confess to other murders, but police have been unable to confirm the validity of his confessions. Hindley died on November 15, 2002 from a brain aneurysm and Brady remains incarcerated at the Ashworth Psychiatric Hospital in Maghull, England.  

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six award winning nonfiction books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1848-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ernest Hemingway was Wounded During World War I (July 8, 1918)

This week (July 3-9) in literary history – MFK Fisher was born (July 3, 1908); First edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass was published (July 4, 1855); George Bernard Shaw quit his job at the telephone company (July 5, 1880); Mark Twain began reporting in Virginia City (July 6, 1862); Literary character Dr. John Watson, sidekick of Sherlock Holmes was born (July 7, 1852); Ernest Hemingway was wounded during World War I (July 8, 1918); William Faulkner allegedly joined the Canadian Royal Air Force (July 9, 1918)

Highlighted Literary Story of the Week -

On July 8, 1918, Ernest Hemingway was severely wounded while carrying a companion to safety on the Austro-Italian front during World War I. Hemingway, working as a Red Cross ambulance driver, was decorated for his heroism. While recuperating he fell in love with a beautiful nurse (who broke his heart) before being sent home.

Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. After the war, he found work as a writer for the Toronto Star and married Hadley Richardson. The couple moved to Paris in 1922, where they met other American expatriate writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. With their help and encouragement, Hemingway published his first book of short stories, Three Stories and Ten Poems in 1923. This was followed by the well-received novel, The Sun Also Rises in 1926. Hemingway would marry three more times, and his hard living and sporting life style would be followed almost as closely as his writing.

During the 1930s and 1940s, he lived in Key West and then in Cuba while continuing to travel widely. He wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, his first major literary work in nearly a decade. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. The next year he and his wife third wife, Mary Welsh were severely wounded in a plane crash in Africa. Later that same year, he was awarded the Noble Prize in Literature. In the coming years he became increasingly anxious and depressed. Like his father, he eventually committed suicide, shooting himself on July 2, 1961 at his home in Ketchum, Idaho and was buried at the Ketchum Cemetery.

Check back every Friday for a new Installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author six award winning nonfiction books that includes Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit his website for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ohio Murder Case Inspired Hit TV Show (July 4, 1954)

This week (June 29-July 5) in crime history – U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty (June 29, 1972); Night of the Long Knives (June 30, 1934); Old West gunfighter Clay Allison was killed (July 1, 1887); NBA star Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual misconduct (July 1, 2003); President James A. Garfield was shot (July 2, 1881); Martha Ann Johnson was arrested for killing her four children (July 3, 1989); Marilyn Sheppard was murdered (July 4, 1954); Black Sox trial began (July 5, 1921); Old West outlaw Bill Doolin escaped from jail (July 5, 1896)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On July 4, 1954, Marilyn Sheppard was beaten to death inside her suburban home in Cleveland, Ohio. Her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, claimed to have fallen asleep in the family’s living room and awakened to find a man with bushy hair fleeing the scene. The authorities, who uncovered the fact that Dr. Sheppard had been having an affair, did not believe his story and charged him with killing his pregnant wife.

Creating a national sensation, the media invaded the courtroom and printed daily stories premised on Sheppard’s guilt. The jurors, who were not sequestered, found Sheppard guilty. Arguing that the circumstances of the trial had unfairly influenced the jury, Sheppard appealed to the Supreme Court and got his conviction overturned in 1966. Yet, despite the fact that Sheppard had no previous criminal record, many still believed that he was responsible for his wife’s murder.

The Sheppard case brought to light the issue of bias within the court system. Jurors are now carefully screened to ensure that they have not already come to a predetermined conclusion about a case in which they are about to hear. In especially high-profile cases, jurors can be sequestered so that they are not exposed to outside media sources. However, most judges simply order jurors not to watch news reports about the case, and rely on them to honor the order.

Sheppard’s case provided the loose inspiration for the hit television show The Fugitive, in which the lead character, Richard Kimble, is falsely accused of killing his wife, escapes from prison, and pursues the one-armed man he claimed to have seen fleeing the murder scene.

In 1998, DNA tests on physical evidence found at Sheppard’s house revealed that there had indeed been another man at the murder scene. Sheppard’s son, who had pursued the case long after his father’s death in order to vindicate his reputation, sued the state for wrongful imprisonment in 2000, but lost.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: