Murder, Mystery, Just Plain Spooky Articles & Stories



In April, 1871, Mr. Lyman Brown, wife and five children, were moving from Americus, Lyon County to Augusta, Butler County. When moving he stopped twice by himself, about two weeks apart with Benjamin Barrett, on South Fork, about three miles southeast of Cottonwood Falls. The third and last time he stopped at Mr. Barrett's, his wife and five children were with him, in April, as above mentioned.

The roads being heavy, Mr. Brown left a box of goods with Mr. Barrett, saying that he had two more loads of goods still at Americus and that he would be back in about two weeks, since which time Mr. Brown and family have not been heard from.

Some of the most sacred things belonging to a family were in the box left at Barrett's, such as a bible, containing all the family records and portraits of both parents and children.

It is believed that Mr. Brown and family have met with a sad fate some where between Cottonwood Falls and Augusta, and it is confidently hoped that if these facts are published in all the papers of the state something of their fate may be found out.

Any information in regard to this family will be thankfully received by D. H. Johnson, Topeka, Kansas. (The Sumner County Press, Thursday, November 13, 1873)

ARRESTED - Mrs. Baily Pilcher - A. B. Peltier

Our readers will remember the tragic death of Mrs. Bailey Pilcher which occurred on the 5th of September last at the home of her husband, five miles southeast of this city - an account of which was published in the Press of Sept. 11th. The mysterious circumstances connected with the event had almost passed from the minds of those who were immediately interested, as neighbors and friends, when on last Saturday, William Clark, the Sheriff of Potawotomie county, arrived in this city, having in custody A. B. Peltier, who is charged with being indirectly responsible for the death of Mrs. Pilcher.

Peltier is a half or quarter head Indian who sometime last spring took a claim some where in the vicinity of Pilcher's and who, during the time he remained in the country, boarded with Jackson, the neighbor from whom the medicine was obtained, from the effects of which Mrs. Pilcher died. During Peltiers stay at Jackson's it appears that he sometimes acted in the capacity of cook, and that he once served up a dish of potatoes for Jackson, of which, for some reason, he refused to partake and which was afterwards fed to a small dog. A short time after having eaten the potatoes the animal showed so many symptoms of having been poisoned, that Jackson was led to the conclusion that Peltier had intended to poison him. Shortly after this the Indian left this part of the country, and no person regretted his going. A few days after Peltier left, Jackson took a dose of quinine and suffered the same symptoms of poisioning that were exhibited in the case of Mrs. Pilcher, who died from the effects of the same medicine.

At the time of this writing, the examination of Peltier is progressing before Esq. Van Smith on the charge of having mixed strychnine with the quinine which Jackson was in the habit of occasionally taking, for the purpose of procuring the death of the later.
So far the prosecution has failed to develop any theory in the case, or to show any motive.

The prosecution is conducted by Chas. Willsie, county attorney, assisted by J. Wade McDonald, while the prisoner ably defended by Messrs, Blodgett, Tucker and Herrick. (The Sumner County Press, Thursday, November 27, 1873)


A Kansas Youth Shot Down on Entering His Grandfather's House

Chicago, Ill., Nov. 7---Mona McDonald, the 18-year-old of H. D. McDonald, proprietor of the Oxford, Kan., Register, was murdered in this city this evening by one of three burglars whom he surprised while they were attempting to rob a house at 2125 Wentworth avenue. Young McDonald has, for two months, been visiting his grandfather, who lives at that number. The boy entered it alone this evening and found the burglars at work. One of them shot him through the head as soon as he stepped inside. He lived only a few moments. All of the men escaped.
(Kansas City Times ~ November 8, 1895)




Fires Bullets Into Breast When Surrounded by Posse in a Field---Woman Hides in Closet

Belle Plaine, Kan., Aug. 20---In a fight provoked by Sam Wood's attempt to kidnap Ethel Manahan from her home near here today, James Thompson, 16, was killed; Mat Manahan, father of the girl, was fatally wounded, and Gaylord Manahan, 16, a son, was hurt. Wood spared young Manahan's life when the boy agreed to help Wood to escape.

Wood lived on a neighboring farm. During the night he drove to the Manahan place in a buggy and routed out young Thompson, a farm hand. He demanded that Thompson produce Miss Manahan. The young woman overheard the conversation and hid in a closet. Thompson declined either to produce the girl or tell where she might be found. Wood shot him.

The elder Manahan then appeared. Wood grabbed an iron bar and beat him unconscious, then attacked Gaylord, the young son of Manahan.

Wood then entered the house and started a search for Miss Manahan. Twice he made the rounds of the rooms, but failing to find the young woman, ran out into the yard.

Young Manahan had recovered, and on his knees pleaded with Wood to spare the lives of his father and his sister. He promised to do so if the boy would help him get away. The two jumped into Wood's buggy and drove rapidly to the south. Two miles away Wood deserted the vehicle.

Wood was indicted by the March term of the Federal grand jury in this city for sending an obscene letter to Mrs. Minnie Owen, a music teacher of Wichita. He was released on $1,500 bond and trial had been set for September term.

Wood was overtaken by the posse this afternoon near his own farm, two miles north of Belle Plaine. He ran from a corn field into the road and fired three bullets into his breast. He was brought to Belle Plaine and will die.
(Cleburne Morning Review ~ August 21, 1912)


Killed the Affinity Who Was Only Thirty-Five Years Old, While The Woman With Whom He was Supposed To Have Been In Love Was Fifty-Seven

Wellington, Kas., Jan. 22---J. L. Vandaveer, 61 years old, is on trial for the murder of William Cann, a farmer, 35 years old, August 7, 1909. It is alleged Vandaveer suspected Cann of paying undue attentions to Mrs. Vandaveer, who is 57 years old, the mother of twelve children and has several grandchildren. Vandaveer lost money in a picture show, in addition to losing his wife's affections. He will set up insanity as his defense. He laid in wait beside a hedge for Cann for an hour and a half, at the edge of town and blew his shoulder to pieces with a shotgun as Cann was going home about midnight.

Cann lived several hours but refused to say that Vandaveer shot him, although it is believed he knew Vandaveer had found him with his wife and had warned him.


The state closed its case this morning after having proved that Vandaveer shot William Cann, known among his acquaintances as "Buster" because of his great size. The defense is now being made.

Mrs. Fred Cann, mother of the dead man, her face hidden by a heavy black veil and her hands trembling, told for the first time today how she knew her son had been shot.

"I had not gone to bed," she said, wiping her eyes frequently. "Then I heard the report of a shotgun and then William screamed. I knew it was William for I recognized his voice."

Mrs. Cann then told of how her son's faithful gray mare, Maud, which was hitched to the buggy in which he rode when shot, ran home with him, as she often had done before. Cann was a late stayer sometimes and as he lived with his parents, only a mile and a half from town, Maud was trained to know the route quite well.


Cann was shot while close to the Worden nursery, half way between Wellington and the Cann home. George Horsley, an ex-Wellington policeman, told of having been informed by Vandaveer of Cann's attentions to his wife and that he cautioned him and at one time had chased him from a buggy where he sat with Mrs. Vandaveer. Vandaveer had a revolver. Cann weighed 240 pounds and his running that night was not a record breaker. Mrs. Vandaveer said Cann had taken her into his buggy because her shoes hurt her.

The night of the killing Horsley was called to the Vandaveer home, in the southeast part of town, by a son of Vandaveer who had heard a shot near by the house and believed his father had committed suicide. Vandaveer had quarreled with his wife over Cann's attentions to her, and usually the quarrels were in the presence of the four sons who were at home. They knew he was in bad spirits.

The officer found no dead men, but a few minutes later he heard of the Cann shooting and suspected Vandaveer, who was questioned that night but denied the shooting.


The next day the shotgun was found in the weeds by Vandaveer's son, George, near the house and Vandaveer was arrested. He denied having shot Cann, but when Sheriff Holliday secured the gun from the son the elder Vandaveer acknowledged the shooting.

"It's my gun and I might as well say I shot Buster," Vandaveer said.

The sheriff testified that Vandaveer said to him:

"I have so much financial and family trouble that I did not know what I was doing. I walked to the Worden hedge where I waited an hour and a half for Buster. After I bought the gun and five shells I went in some weeds behindn the house to try the gun to see if it was working. The first shell proved the weapon was all right, the second shell I kept for Buster Cann. The other three you will find in the rafters in the chicken coop in the barn. There is a revolver there, too of 22 caliber, which I considered too small for Buster.

The shot behind the house the night of the murder which Officer Horsley investigated was the one with which Vandaveer "tried" the gun before lying in wait for Cann.


Mrs. Vandaveer is not handsome and is 57 years old. She has five daughters married and six sons. The eldest child is a daughter 35 years old, and the youngest is a son of 11. Vandaveer has never been home since the day after the shooting. He owned a pretty homestead. Buster Cann was not married. Vandaveer is white with worry. He is past 60. A year ago last summer while he was selling tickets in a picture show conducted by himself and son-in-law and Cole Younger's street show was here, a man shoved a gun in the ticket window and demanded the money. Vandaveer took the gun away from the would-be highwayman and chased him several blocks.
(Evening Times ~ January 22, 1910)



Fully Exonerated By Kansas Neighbors


Almost direct from the county jail at Wellington, Kan., where he had been confined while being tried on a charge of murder in the first degree, J. L .Vandaveer has come to Salt Lake to help fight for the life of his daughter, Laura Vandaveer, who shot and killed Paul Shaunty at Fort Douglas last week.

Bent with age and broken hearted over his recent troubles, the father went to the county jail here late yesterday afternoon, and for the first time in six years met his daughter.

Where six years ago he had seen a bright, happy little girl, free from worry and trouble and bound for a pleasure trip to her grandmother's home, he now saw a young woman with the lines of her face showing worry and trouble, brought on by sleepless nights, worry and tears.

There was a sad scene enacted as the two met and fell into each other's arms. Overcome by the sight of her father, a real friend, the young woman broke down completely, and it was with difficulty that she was quited so that she could talk.

With tears streaming down her face, she told the story of the trouble at the fort which separated her forever from her lover. Having passed through a similar ordeal but a short month before, her father could appreciate every statement she made, and it was the most heartfelt of parental comfort that the unhappy woman received. This morning the father paid another visit to the cell and again there was a sad scene.


According to Mr. Vandaveer, his daughter left home six years ago, going at that time to the home of her grandmother in Weldon, Dewitt county, Illinois. Her father bought her a round trip ticket, but the girl, after completing her visit, did not return home, going to Springfield, Ill., instead.

She remained there with relatives until about two years ago, when she went to St. Louis, where she remained a short time. Between a year and a year and half ago she came to Salt Lake City and secured a position as a domestic at Fort Douglas, and shortly after that time it was heard that she was married to Shaunty.

"It was nearly a year ago," stated Mr. Vandaveer this morning, "that my wife received a letter from Paul Shaunty stating that he had married Laura and that he intended to get out of the soldier life as soon as possible. From that time on we addressed all our letters in the name of Mrs. Paul Shaunty, and she received them. We fully believed she was married, and we do not know yet that she was not. I have not asked her, because I believe she was legitimately married.


"I know at least that a marraige license was taken out. Laura was always a good girl, as I can easily prove. In Wellington, where she worked in the depot as a domestic, I have been told by her employer that she was always pleasant and did not have a quick temper. We often heard in a round-about way that Shaunty was not good to Laura, and we had heard that he beat her occasionally."

Mr. Vandaveer stated that he did not care to go into the details of the murder of which he was acquitted last month. He did, however, tell of the circumstances and the trial.


"A man named William Cann," he said, "had broken up several homes in Wellington, and he finally got familiar with my wife. I noticied his attentions and attempted to interfere, but they continued to become steadily more serious. Finally Cann got to coming to my house and abusing me on the street with statements of his familiarity with my wife. The climax was reached when neighbors began to talk about the affair, and Cann got so bold that he would take my wife out for buggy rides.

"There is a limit to human endurance, and when I could stand it no longer I committed the deed. That was last August and I went to jail immediately afterward. The trial came up in February and I was acquitted February 17, and released. The public had seen the way I had been hounded by Cann and the rest of the circumstances leading up to the murder, and was almost entirely in my favor. This was shown in the fact that I was acquitted and turned loose and a few days after my liberation was given a position with the city.


"My wife filed application for divorce, but when I left home she had changed her mind on that score, and I expect that the affair will be straightened out.

"But I am not worrying about that now. I am worrying about getting Laura out of her trouble. She has five sisters and seven brothers all living in or near Wellington, and they are willing and anxious to help fight the case and get Laura back home."

The gathering of evidence for the trial of the case next month has brought out a number of new facts which are greatly in the favor of the girl. According to what appears to be the most accurate account of the tragedy which can be secured, the shooting took place as a result of a quarrel in which Shaunty struck the girl a blow which nearly knocked her down. The quarrel grew out of the refusal, it is alleged, of Miss Vandaveer to give Shaunty money with which to desert the post and get out of the country.


The quarrel was overhead by several persons, including an electrician who states that he heard the two quarreling over money affairs for nearly five minutes before the shooting took place.

It is said that Shaunty came to the door and opened it. He was met by Miss Vandaveer, who was greatly excited over a quarrel which she had had with him but a short time before when he had asked for money that he might desert the army and "skip the country."

She argued with him when he came the second time and refused to give up the money for him to desert. He became angry, and it is alleged struck her a blow on the side which nearly knocked her down.


Overcome by the emotions she grabbed a pistol. which was on the table in the room and shot him. The gun was a double action affair and she kept pulling the trigger until the gun was unloaded. The first shot, it appears, entered his breast and three others entered his back. The last one missed its mark.

The woman states that she did not realize what she had done until it was al over, when she broke down completely.

One point which is vague at present is where the gun came from. Whether the woman had it in her hand or whether she ran to a drawer or to a table is uncertain. It is certain, however, that Shaunty did not get inside the door, his body falling over the door mat.

As to the proposition of the two being married, it is very uncertain, according to United States Marshal James Anderson. It has been learned that a license was taken out at the county clerk's office but no return of the certificate was ever made. It is doubted whether the ceremony actually took place. The suggestion is made by some, intimate with the circumstances, that Shaunty had met the girl and caused her downfall. She insisted on his marrying her, which he evaded as long as possible. The license was taken out to satisfy the girl, but still Shaunty refused to marry her.


It is the belief that Shaunty intended to desert the post in order to get away from her, and this led up to the quarrel and finally to the shooting.

At present Miss Vandaveer is much the worse in appearance for her week in jail. She has been able to eat but little, and she slept but a very few hours. The arrival in the city of her father, however, has greatly helped, and it is expected that she will be all right from now on. Her father will be here until Sunday, when he will go back to Wellington to remain until the middle of April, when the trial is scheduled to begin. Then he will return to help out in the fight. (Salt Lake Telegram ~ March 25, 1910)


A Caldwell Tragedy

Caldwell, Kan, June 22 - Two men supposed to be cowboys from Indian Territory, started a disturbance in the Red light Saloon here today and the City Marshal, George Brown, went in to arrest them. While attempting to disarm one of the ruffians the other drew a revolver and shot Brown through the head, scattering his brains all over the floor. Before an alarm could be given the desperadoes mounted their horses and started for Indian Territory. A pursuing party was immediately organized, but so far the murderers have not been captured. (Inter Ocean, June 23, 1882, page 2)


Bradford Brooks, 48, waived preliminary hearing at arraignment in Wellington late yesterday afternoon on a charge of first-degree murder of Kay Morgan, deputy sheriff and acting night marshal of Belle Plaine.

A. L. Chase, justice f the peace, ruled that since Brooks was held under a capital offense he was not eligible to bail.

Brooks was taken from the Wichita jail shortly after 1 o'clock and after his arraignment he was returned to Wichita and lodged in the Sedgwick County jail for safekeeping.

John Potucek, Sumner County attorney, said he hoped to have the case docketed for trail in the October term of district court. It is assumed that Brooks will be kept in jail here until that time.

Potucek says he will ask the death penalty. (September 24, 1935)

Dies from Pistol Wound

Belle Plaine, Kas., Nov. 11 - Accidental discharge of a small pistol here yesterday claimed the life of Robert Gentry, 15. Robert was shot in the abdomen when his companion, Lee Daniels handed him the weapon to shoot at a bird. (The Hays Daily, Monday, November 11, 1929)


About half-past one o'clock today William Meagher, a crippled boy who has been an inmate of the poor farm for several years, shot and instantly killed Newton Howe, a young man who was working about the place.  The only witness to the tragedy was a half-witted boy named Garlitz, who can give no connected account of the circumstances of the shooting.

Willis Reed, the new superintendent of the farm who had taken charge only the day before, was in the house when the murder was committed, but hearing three revolver shots, two in quick succession and a third after a little interval, hurried out to ascertain the cause.  Near the barn helmet Meagher coming toward the house, who exclaimed, "I've shot the d---d --- ---- --- ---- and I want you to take me to town and have the sheriff arrest me."  Thinking that a doctor might possibly be more needed than the sheriff, Reed pushed past him into the barn, where he saw the corpse of Howe lying on the floor almost under one of the horses.  Dragging him out upon a pile of straw the poor fellow was discovered to be past all surgery.  One bullet had struck him in the temple and had probably killed him instantly, while blood was also flowing from a wound in one of his thighs.  The hasty examination made by Reed did not disclose any other wounds.  Mounting his horse he rode at full speed into town and notified the sheriff and coroner.  Meagher made no effort to get away, and was taken into custody by the officers upon their arrival at the place.

Meagher is a lad about nineteen years old, who, as will be remembered by many of our readers, had both legs cut off below the knees by a Santa Fe freight train at Oxford some three years ago.  He sued the company for $10,000 damages, but the case has never come to trial.  Since the accident he has been a county charge and has been supported at the poor farm most of the time.  Howe, the man he shot, had been working at the farm for the last six months and had been retained by Mr. Reed for another year.  He has a brother and sister living in the city.  Meagher is supposed to have a grudge against Howe over $1.70 borrowed by him, and which the latter according to Meagher's statement, refused to repay, and some words over this money probably led to the killing.  It is not known where Meagher secured the pistol with which the fatal deed was done, but it is supposed to be one he had secreted about the place.  The coroner's inquest is now in progress at which it is hoped the whole sad story will come out.
(Wellington Monitor ~ December 31, 1891 ~ Submitted by Susie Crittenden Cochran)


Wellington, Dec. 17 - The town of Caldwell is in the hands of six cow boys, and the officers are powerless to do anything. Mike Meagher, formerly Mayor of the city, but lately Marshal is killed. The Sheriff with a posse from Wellington is just starting to the scene of the trouble.

Topeka, Dec. 17 - A special dispatch to the Commonwealth from Caldwell states that a number of cowboys entered that town this morning and after filling up with bad whiskey attempted to run the town. Among other deviltries that suggested themselves was to shoot as close to the men on the street as they could and not hit the victim. The affair caused a few determined men to take a stand on a corner and fight the crowd. Mike Meagher, ex-Mayor of Caldwell, was  killed outright and three of the cowboys bit the dust. The cowboys finally gave up and rode away, followed by a large posse of citizens. At last accounts the remainder of the gang, four in number were surrounded and assistance from the town was expected.

Particulars cannot be learned with the general excitement that prevails even at this late hour, but it seems that last night and this morning a party of cowboys named respectively Sherman, alias Talbot, Jim Martin, Bob Munsing and a fellow named Lowe were drinking and carousing. About 6 o'clock this morning they began to show a disposition to raise a row and as a preliminary move Geo Speer shot off his revolver into the sidewalk on Main street. Through efforts of the police the disturbance was suppressed and as a precaution additional policemen were put on, among them Mike Meagher. About 1 o'clock the party above named turned loose and began to shoot indiseriminately. Talbot shot Meagher from the rear of the bank building killing him instantly.

Citizens turned out at once with such guns as they could get hold of, and attempted to take in the party who in the meantime had proceeded to the livery stable in the north part of town, and compiled the men in attendance to give them horses, mounted and started off. Speer attempted to saddle a horse at the red light dance house and while doing so was shot by some one of the citizens. The others struck off in the direction of Hunneswell and about two miles east struck south for the Territory. A party of citizens started after them and at last accounts were within sight of the four fleeing cowboys. It is likely they iwll be taken and if brought back alive nothing will save them from pulling hemp. The excitement here is intense and present disposition is to make the siders and abetters of this murderous gang pull out from this neighborhood.

The preliminary examination of Stinson, one of the section bosses charged with defrauding the Santa Fe Road was concluded at noon today. The defense did not examine any witnesses. Stinson was bound over to the District Court in the sum of $1,500 and in default of which was sent to jail.

Caldwell, Dec. 17 - One of those terrible border shooting affrays occurred in this city about 1 o'clock this afternoon, resulting in the death of Mike Meagher, formerly Mayor. He was shot by a Texan named Jim Talbott. Talbott was one of the leaders of the element that wanted to hang Danford without giving him an opportunity to settle, and was one of the leaders of the party who took Danford from the Sheriff at the this point. Dave Speer belonged to the Speer family of Caldwell, Kas., known as Royal Citizens, who are engaged in the liquor and dance house business. Dave was arrested last year on the charge of shooting and killing Frank Hunt, the Marshal of Caldwell but discharged for lack of evidence and was hardly twenty years of age. The cowboys made their escape from town and were pursued and at last accounts are surrounded in the timber on Polecate creek, some twelve miles south of Caldwell. Rumors of an engagement in which three or four citizens and two cowboys were killed are rite, but nothing definite can be learned, the operator at Caldwell having been out of his office since 8 o'clock this evening. (The Lawrence Daily Journal, Sunday Morning, Front Page, December 18, 1881)




H. L. Palmer and Emil Shaffer Had the Skeleton in Wellington Friday Afternoon---Skull Looked as if Man Had Been Scalped

There's a great mystery for some of the great Hawkshaw detectives of this part of the country to solve.

Who was the man, whose skeleton was dug from the Arkansas river, one mile north and one half mile west of Derby, late last week, by three farmers of that vicinity?

H. L. Palmer, Emil Shaffer and W. E. Bryan, all prominent farmers of that locality were plowing on an old sand bar in the bed of the Arkansas river. They were plowing unusually deep in an effort to reach black soil.  The plow struck something which for the second held, then it gave way and a piece of wood was turned out by the plow.  This led to an investigation, with the result that an old wooden box, nearly rotted away was found which contained the skeleton of a man.  The bones were intact, but were taken out one at a time and kept.  Mr. Palmer and Mr. Shaffer were in Wellington, Friday afternoon with the bones.  Every bone of the body, except the knee cap, was saved.

Old timers of that vicinity, who have lived there for the past fifty years were talked to about the bones, but none of them remember of any one ever having been buried in the river at the point where the box was found.

Mr. Palmer is of the opinion that the man had at one time been scalped and the wound healed.  The cranium at a point where a scalp would be made, is of the color the skull would be if the scalp had been removed and the wound would heal.

The skeleton, as lay in the box, measured nearly six feet.  The man must have been well up in years at the time of his death. The jaw bones show that many teeth had been missing and only two teeth were found when the bones were dug out.  There wer no articles of any kind found in the box.

Mr. Palmer says the finding the skeleton has caused considerable talk in that neighborhood.
(Wellington Daily News ~ May 11, 1918)


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