Friday, October 11, 2013

"a Writer of Newspaper Verse, Mysteriously Murdered"! (1896)

A sensational story - therefore the yellow journals of New York then, as now, could be depended upon to get it wrong! Perhaps the finding that poor Mary E. Hills starved to death came after the newspapers' artists had done their work, as they still published portraits, crime scene diagrams, etc. when one wouldn't think that necessary for a case of starvation?

Our lives posterity may judge; so we

        But work well now, would hear nor blame nor hiss;

Content to say in all humility,

        Each one, some day, has epitaph like this.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,

        Or draw his frailties from their dread abode

(There they alike in trembling hope repose).

        The bosom of his father and his God

What care, if not to us has come the prize,

        Since we know we joined the chorus, exulting, free?

We sang: "Shame on the fools who have but eyes?"

        And "King of minstrels, live forever!" said we.

Adding, perhaps, to the tragedy:

"In the cottage where she died were found many manuscripts. They were most carefully written, some with a typewriter, while some were printed so cleverly that they looked as if they were typewritten. Many first drafts written in the beautifully clear hand were found. Men who gained entrance to the house stole many of the manuscripts" (italic emphasis added).

Even with all the media attention on the crime scene, nobody ever secured it. Perhaps all the media attention on the crime scene was enabled by the failure to secure the crime scene; perhaps the manuscripts were stolen by unscrupulous reporters.

Among the many articles about her death:

"Strangled By a Thief? Miss Hills, Poetess and Teacher, Found Dead in Her Cottage; Arms Tied with a Stocking; Her Chamber in Confusion, as if She Had Been Dragged Out of Bed Struggling for Life; Bruises on Her Throat, Arm and Body; Drawers Ransacked for Money Which the Lonely Woman Was Supposed to Keep There." N.Y. World. January 22, 1896: 1 col 4.

"Found Dead; Miss Mary E. Hills, a Writer of Newspaper Verse, Mysteriously Murdered; Was Probably Strangled; Her Body, Covered With Bruises, Found in Her Cottage at Mamaroneck Yesterday--Evidences of a Terrible Struggle." Buffalo Evening News. January 22, 1896: 1 col 5.

"Starved, Not Slain; Death of Miss Hills Strange, but It Isn't Murder; Mamaroneck's Mystery Brief; Autopsy Shows That the Poor Little Poetess Died from Lack of Nourishment." N.Y. Press. January 23, 1896: 1 cols 5-6.

"It Was Not a Murder; Miss Mary E. Mills Starved to Death; Result of the Coroner's Investigation-A Bonny Brook Farm-Little Foundation for the Sensational Reports about the Case-A Sample of the Woman's Poetry." N.Y. Tribune.. January 23, 1896: 1 cols 2-3.

"Mysterious Death; Miss Mary E. Hills Found Dead; Had Probably Been Dead 14 Hours; No Marks of Violence on the Body; The Murder Theory but Mere Sensation; No Evidence That Robbery Was Committed; The Bound and Gagged Story Groundless; We Believe Death Due to Natural Causes; She Was Eccentric and 38 Years of Age; The Inquest Yesterday." Port Chester Journal. January 23, 1896: 4 cols 3-5.

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