Posts filed under ‘fraud’

Widow Robbed by Spiritualists

A young couple by the name of McCarthy came to Los Angeles in 1890, and quickly made money in the real estate game. As luck would have it, one year later, Mr. McCarthy fell ill and died.  His widow, a healthy, handsome woman, was left a well appointed house on Temple street, but she proved unable to overcome her grief at the loss of her husband.  She shut herself in her second story parlor, and refused her friends invitations and entreaties to re-enter society.  Desperate to console her, they suggested she seek out spiritual support, and referred her to Mrs. Rich, a trance-medium of some local renown. After the widow had been visiting the medium for several weeks, friends noticed a definite change in her behavior.  When they called on her in her rooms they found her greatly agitated, crouched down in one corner of her room, clutching paper and pencil, which she used, she explained, to record messages from her dead husband.  The messages allegedly emanated from all corners and quarters of the room, and were sometimes delivered by a little girl named “Dewdrop.”

Mrs. McCarthy’s friends tried to calm her, and seemingly succeeded.  But soon thereafter the widow disappeared from her house on Temple street. Ten days later a police officer apprehended a raving woman, unsteady on her feet, in a hallway  near the corner of Sixth and Main streets. Her face was covered in red welts, and her tongue badly swollen. The officer suspected she was intoxicated, but soon discovered that she was bereft of reason. He was about to take the poor woman to the city prison, when a gentleman happened to recognize her as his neighbor, Mrs. McCarthy. He delivered her to her friends from Temple street, who took her into their home to convalesce.  Gradually, she recovered her wits and told them her story. 

Mrs. McCarthy had come to believe that if she strictly obeyed Mrs. Rich, the trance medium, in every regard, then she would, in time, be allowed to communicate with her dead husband.  At the medium’s instruction, Mrs. McCarthy gave Mrs. Rich all but 300 dollars of her personal fortune. The medium then promptly fled the city with her haul.  Distraught, Mrs. McCarthy sought out another clairvoyant, a Mrs. Coy, who plied her trade as a magnetic healer. Mrs. Coy, assisted by an unidentified man, took the half-demented widow into her house, drugged her, and shut her in a dark room for days.  They persuaded the widow to write checks for all of her remaining funds, and to give up her fur-trimmed cloak and her fine dress, for only if she were to renounce all wordly possessions, they claimed, would “the spirit of her dead husband see fit to address her.” On her way home to change she was intercepted by the police officer.

Mrs. McCarthy was unable to recover her lost savings.  Mrs. Coy claimed it was the widow’s idea to give up her money and her clothing, as she “wanted to do penance,” and that she merely assisted Mrs. McCarthy in her spiritual quest.

October 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm Leave a comment

Babies 4 Sale

 A girl of 16, Sadie Engelmann, left her family to try her hand at fame and fortune on the stage.  In San Diego, her beauty, if not her craft, won her many admirers, among them a dashing stenographer with the US Navy by the name of John Harvey.

When Sadie found herself abandoned by John and in need of a midwife, she checked in to the Bellevue Avenue Lying-in Institute in Los Angeles, where she deposited a newborn boy, whom she left in the care of the proprietress, “Dr.” Catherine Smith. At this point a disagreement ensued between Sadie and “Dr.” Smith concerning the details of the babe’s status.  Sadie claimed she left the child temporarily in “Dr.” Smith’s care, in order to earn enough money to pay the bill she incurred during her delivery. She testified that once she had settled her debt she would re-assume custody of the child.  “Dr.” Smith alleged Sadie sold her the newborn outright to pay off her debts and to free herself from the undue burden of its care.  Whatever the exact nature of their understanding, “Dr.” Smith appears to have taken possession of the child, and in turn sold the baby boy to a Mrs. W.W. Wilson, who had already acquired three other infants in a nefarious plot to appear as if she were the mother of quadruplets.

Stole baby quartet

The miraculously sudden appearance of the quartet of babies attracted the attention of the authorities, who promptly summoned Mrs. Wilson, “Dr.” Smith, Sadie Engelmann, and other parents of the illegitimate infants in to court to sort out the affair.  During the course of the trial, Sadie Engelmann claimed to have been accosted and threatened by various burglars “of Mexican aspect,” who, she alleged, were sent by “Dr.” Smith to dissuade her from testifying.

According to court testimony, Mrs. Wilson grew despondent after many years of trying to bear her own children, and eventually conceived the plan to to fill her and her husband’s home with a readymade brood of abandoned youngsters. She enacted this plan years before the quadruplets affair, procuring three children, whom she presented to her husband as his own, each time using an ingenious series of pads and pillows to trick him into believing she had indeed carried each child to term. The children were in the couple’s possession at the time of Mrs. Wilson’s attempted quadruplets heist. 

The trial ended with the conviction of “Dr.” Smith on the charge of child stealing. Upon appeal, the court handed down a sentence of 5 years probation, during which Smith was to cease and desist the practice of midwifery. 

Eventually, Mrs. Wilson was permitted to adopt the three children in her care before the trial, and to become a foster-mother to the two girls among the quadruplets. The boys, including Sadie Engelmann’s son, did not survive infancy. Mrs. Wilson went on to take on more foster-children, and to run a daycare facility in Hollywood. 

June 11, 2010 at 1:06 am 1 comment


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