More Crime of the Century FAQs!
11. How closely did Hauptmann's handwriting match the ransom notes? I have heard that he was asked to make the same spelling mistakes at the police station when he was first interrogated.
Ans: BRH made this claim to explain the similarities, but no one else said this occurred, despite Scaduto's misunderstanding of James Finn's article in the Nov 2, 1935 issue of Liberty Magazine (but clarified on Nov 23). Wayne Jones (Murder of Justice) makes much of the requested writing of "singnature", but this word was never used during the Interrogation. Actually, these request writings can be ignored -- BRH's pre-1934 documents (conceded writings), along with his Appeal Letters to Gov. Hoffman, show remarkable congruity in spelling mistakes and handwriting styles (confusion between "s" and "c" - becauce/because - "befor" for "before" and final "-et" for the past tense "-ed"). The original materials are shown in J. V. Haring's book, Hand of Hauptmann, and in Clark Sellers' analysis in the Journal of Criminal Law, both 1937. When Hauptmann was examined in the Bronx on Oct 3, 1934 by Dr. James Huddleson, he admitted to an occasional speaking defect of adding a final "e" sound to many words - both in English and in German. This rare condition, applied to writing, is called lexical agraphia and there are numerous examples in the ransom notes ("note" for "not", "cane" for "can"). The Huddleson Report, commissioned by Hauptmann's first lawyer James M. Fawcett - as an Insanity Defense was considered - was only recently discovered.
12. Wasn't Hauptmann's lawyer not only incompetent, but suffering from syphilis and alcoholism as well? And what about the nickname Death House Reilly and his ladder stationery?
Ans: Edward J. Reilly (53) had won many murder acquittals in Brooklyn, NY and received a favorable 4-page profile in the Jan. 12, 1935 New Yorker magazine. Medical records at Kings County Hospital show no sign of venereal disease, alcoholism, or cirrhosis of the liver; a penchant for orange blossoms may have been exaggerated; he died Xmas Day, 1946, at the age of 65 (from a stroke). From Jan 30, 1937 - Mar 23, 1938, he was held at Kings Park State Hospital ("non compos mentis"), following a rancorous divorce from his third wife; he eventually argued a writ of habeas corpus and returned to the practice of law, and to the Brooklyn home of his mother Helen, who originally had him committed. Hauptmann's legal team also included experienced NJ attorneys Lloyd Fisher, Frederick Pope, and Egbert Rosecrans. No issue of defective representation was ever made although the case was appealed up to (and rejected by) the US Supreme Court (on other grounds). Reilly's supposed sobriquet is unattested except for some Underworld comments made at the beginning of his career - he subsequently was quite successful. A blank example of the stationery (unused) was published in 1936, but Reilly did not claim any connection between his client and the infamous ladder - he considered it a "prop."
13. Did Hauptmann have any previous interest in aviation that might link him to Lindbergh?
Ans: According to Nurnberg's book, he was fascinated while in Germany with the well-publicized 1919 Orteig Prize, which offered $25,000 to the first person(s) who flew the Atlantic - to or from Paris. He would later name his own child, born Nov. 3, 1933, Manfred (Mannfried) after the famous air ace of WWI, Manfred von Richthofen. The Red Baron was finally shot down in France on April 21, 1918, but many Germans thought he was killed unfairly, with a single bullet in the back, after he landed. This was disproved by the official autopsy, but many still swore revenge. When von Richthofen was re-buried in Berlin in 1925, it was the largest funeral ever held there; Anna's niece Maria Muller later claimed that she suggested the child's name. In the summer of 1931, Bruno took his first airplane ride - in California, for $12 - and while awaiting trial in 1934, enjoyed reading Floyd Gibbons' English biography of the German aviator.
14. Didn't Hauptmann have an innocent reason to convert his stock brokerage and commodities accounts to his wife's maiden name on March 24-27, 1933?
Ans: When examined on the witness stand by Reilly (Day 18), BRH stated that he had changed his trading name at Steiner, Rouse to Miss Anna Schoeffler because he feared being sued by Alexander Begg, a pedestrian whom he had struck with his car - he said this occurred a couple days before. But the auto accident happened on a rainy Oct. 17, 1932, and BRH had already agreed to pay $300 in regular installments - these had begun on Dec. 20, 1932 (using postal money-orders), and the document was later found in his safe-deposit box. After the name change, Hauptmann proceeded to buy (and sell) a total of $360,659 in stocks during the following year and a half; he would later write to Pinkus Fisch (May 4, 1934) that he and Isidor had formed a stock partnership in Nov. 1933. When he realized in December 1933 that Begg was not recovering from his mental breakdown and would probably die, BRH sent a final $20, leaving the last $60 unpaid. Begg did expire at the age of 51 on March 14, 1934, while a patient at Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital in Brentwood, Long Island. Although his wife Annette claimed in the Sept. 22, 1934 NY Times that the fractured leg and other injuries led to her husband's early demise, he died of an unrelated ailment.
15. Is there any indication whatsoever that Hauptmann had the ransom money prior to the date that he claimed he found Fisch's shoebox in "Aug. 1934"?
Ans: Anna Hauptmann admitted that she never saw the golden shoebox in her narrow broom closet during the 9 months it was supposedly there (pushed back far enough not to be seen - but close enough to be knocked over!); Hauptmann had installed a lighting alarm on his garage - connected by a 70-foot wire to his bedroom - in the summer of 1932. Besides Cecile Barr's fairly accurate description of him (5'10", light brown hair) in November 1933 (during the last show at the Loew's Sheridan Movie Theatre on W. 12th Street & 7th Avenue), and other hints of a tall stranger with brown hair as early as Mar 1933 (Alsofrom), a new pattern of savings began at his Mt. Vernon Trust Co. Account #4313: from June 1932 to Jan 1933, he deposited nearly $500 in clean silver coins. From 1924-1932, such deposits - even when his wife still worked as a waitress - had totaled $1.47; in an odd coincidence, he deposited $132 in coins on the same day as his auto accident with Begg. Also, an intriguing entry in one of the Receipt Books found in his garage has lightly pencilled inside the back cover, in BRH's handwriting, 17/5/32 1850.-- This European-style May 17, 1932 date and amount could refer to the first two bundles of Lindbergh $10 gold notes (100 + 83) that NYC Police Officer James Petrosino found in the south wall of his garage on Sept 20, 1934, re-wrapped in the NY Daily News, totaling $1830 (two bills may have been recently spent). BRH also wrote this exact figure and date on the back of Pinkus Fisch's envelope (notifying him of Isidor's death) after he received it on April 25, 1934; Augusta Hile was Gerta Henkel's mother-in-law (the envelope numerals are mis-added, but the sum may refer to one of his two "$3750" mortgages or an amount Isidor owed Mrs. Hile). The other figures in the Receipt book - e.g. ($)395 - may indicate BRH's discounted Davega purchase (for cash) of a large and expensive Stromberg-Carlson radio-phonograph, completed on May 2, 1932, only 30 days after he quit the last job he ever held (see also FAQ 17). In addition, p. 49 of the Morgan Bank compilation of the ransom money serial numbers contains not only a sequential batch of bills found in the garage, but other "marked" Lindy bills that were spent as early as Nov 1933.
16. Wasn't it just a coincidence that Hauptmann quit work on or around April 2, 1932, exactly when the ransom money was paid to the kidnapper?
Ans: BRH only worked two days at the beginning of April 1932, and never again held - or sought - a salaried job (during the Depression). When examined by Edward Reilly on Day 17 (see CD-ROM Transcript), he claimed that he stopped working at the Majestic Apts because he was only being paid at the rate of $80 per month, instead of the promised $100. But on Day 20, Prosecutor Wilentz showed that he was indeed receiving $3.33 per calendar day, and not $2.66. His cancelled checks (acknowledged by BRH) confirmed the unaltered employment ledgers for his rate of pay, foreshortened here (see also FAQ 36).
17. I notice on pages 209-210 of Waller's book, Kidnap, that someone tried to buy a small piece of lumber in the Bronx with a (Lindbergh?) $10 gold note. Supposedly, the license plate number was written down, but whose was it?
Ans: On "Feb. 14, 1934" (around 11 am), two men entered the Cross, Austin and Ireland Lumber Co. at 118 E. 149th Street and attempted to buy a quarter-inch panel of plywood (24" by 48") for forty cents. When this met with resistance from secretary/cashier Alice Murphy, they paid with coins and pocketed her singles from a substituted $5 bill, but never returned for the board. Foreman William Reilly was suspicious [he said] of even the smaller denomination ([it might be] counterfeit money), and he recorded the car's plate: 4U 13-41; his story appeared in the NY Times, Oct 3, 1934, on p. 5. Anthony Scaduto's book Scapegoat does not mention the license plate detail on either p. 174 or p. 396, although both witnesses referred to it in their Statements to the Bronx DA. Arthur Koehler's article in the Saturday Evening Post, April 20, 1935, however, dates the lumberyard visit to Dec 14, 1933. If Koehler is correct, Hauptmann's license was 3U 36-24 at that time. It is possible that "2/14" was misread for "12/14" or several visits were involved (and Koehler/Bornmann were not present during the transaction). On Nov 20, 1934, Koehler returned to the yard to explore this discrepancy, but could not (it was not cited at the Trial).
18. What color was Hauptmann's own car and did its rumored change in appearance indicate any role in the crime?
Ans: BRH ordered his new 4-door Dodge sedan from Williamsbridge Motors in the Bronx on March 3, 1931 with a deposit of $27. He paid the balance of $710, also in cash (most of it from a $640 bank withdrawal), on the day he took delivery (Mar 9); the car was dark blue and had wire wheels. By late 1932, his Auto Registration noted "4 wood wheels" but they became wire again by 1934. Some books claim the car was originally dark green and had been repainted, but that is not true. A motoring novice (despite his claim of an aborted honeymoon trip by auto in 1925), Bruno received two traffic tickets (both for passing red lights: April 17, 1931 and April 12, 1932) and had one automobile accident, hitting a pedestrian (see FAQ 14). As was customary, his license plate changed annually, and only the last - 4U 13-41 - caused his arrest on Sept. 19, 1934, after it was found written on the back edge of a $10 gold note (A73976634A) which he used to buy 5 gallons of Ethyl the previous Saturday. He later said that he had only one gallon in his tank, but drove from the Bronx to Lexington and 127th St. in Manhattan to make his 98-cent Warner-Quinlan purchase. Although the car, weighing 2668 pounds, was listed as a 1931 on his Registration, court testimony and the engine number (DD42570) established it as manufactured in late 1930 (see FAQ 27).
19. If the ladder broke during the kidnapping (perhaps fracturing the child's skull), is there any evidence for a serious injury to Hauptmann himself?
Ans: The ground below the Nursery window showed little indication of such a fall - perhaps the ladder fell on the wooden catwalk left by recent construction. But there are some signs of a 1932 leg injury: When Anita Lutzenburg met him on Hunter's Island in July 1932, she recalled that he had sprained his ankle and limped. The salesman at Williamsbridge Motors, where Hauptmann bought his car, claimed (in the newspapers) that he saw a bandaged left leg during a repair call in 1932. Fred Hahn recalled such an injury, but it was later denied in his restaurant. On Day 13 of the Trial, neighbor Ella Achenbach said she saw Hauptmann limping on her sun porch, after a trip in March 1932 (this brought a fierce courtroom reaction from Anna H.). And from January 3 - April 17, 1933, BRH visited the Manhattan leg specialist, Dr. Otto Meyer, a total of ten times for chronic phlebitis. Dr. Meyer informed Agent Turrou (just before Sept. 24, 1934) that the condition could have been caused by a fall from a ladder during 1932. None of the $10 bills used in his payment (one per visit) were traced at the time. In his Autobiography, Hauptmann said he could have sprained his leg on the rocks at Hunter's Island or injured it playing soccer.
20. Some books have suggested that the handwriting in the first Nursery Note was different from the later ransom notes. Could any of the subsequent letters have been written by another individual who would then have only committed extortion?
Ans: While the first Note left in the child's room is clearly in a disguised hand (using the left?), it contained the author's intended link to the others in the month-long negotiation: the unambiguous singnature at the lower right. Two intersecting circles outlined in blue, with a solid red imprint in the center, three holes punched horizontally in the paper, and two vertical "squiggles," all belie modern claims that the first note was widely circulated, as far west as the Rockies. (Ahlgren and Monier). Despite a brief flurry of ambiguous verbal reports, the Archivist at the NJSPM has stated that no similar communication was ever received by the Lindberghs - even Means and Curtis conducted their hoaxes without it. Morris (Mickey) Rosner and Salvatore Spitale testified at the June 2, 1932 John Doe Grand Jury Hearing in Hunterdon, NJ that they did NOT make or circulate any facsimiles. Lawyer Robert Thayer, who gave Rosner the one "copy" shown to Spitale, said in his deposition: I did not trace any part of the note but the copy that I made was a free hand copy. - there were no photostats. In addition, the first and second Notes were torn from the same sheet of paper - their edges matched (according to experts Osborn, Stein, and Sellers)! Both envelopes also had the same watermark - "Fifth Avenue Bond." The kidnapper achieved his goal: no one else ever tried to duplicate the unique identifying mark, holes, and colors - the ransom payment, and responsibility, were to be his alone.