Cemetery John: The Undiscovered Mastermind Behind the Lindbergh Kidnapping

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Overview

For seventy-five years, the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's infant son has gone unsolved. Evidence, opinion, and logic have discredited the notion that Bruno Richard Hauptmann—electrocuted in 1936—acted alone. In this meticulous and authoritative account of the crime, the trial, and the times of the Lindbergh kidnapping, Robert Zorn clears away decades of ungrounded speculation surrounding the case. Inspired by his father's relationship with the actual accomplices—including the mastermind—he presents...
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Cemetery John: The Undiscovered Mastermind Behind the Lindbergh Kidnapping

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Overview

For seventy-five years, the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's infant son has gone unsolved. Evidence, opinion, and logic have discredited the notion that Bruno Richard Hauptmann—electrocuted in 1936—acted alone. In this meticulous and authoritative account of the crime, the trial, and the times of the Lindbergh kidnapping, Robert Zorn clears away decades of ungrounded speculation surrounding the case. Inspired by his father's relationship with the actual accomplices—including the mastermind—he presents the clearest ever picture of a criminal partnership, which would shake every class and culture of American society. Using personal possessions and documents, never-before-seen photographs, new forensic evidence, and extensive research, Robert Zorn has written a shocking and captivating account of the crime and the original "Trial of the Century."

From the ecstatic riots that followed the Spirit of St. Louis on either side of the Atlantic, to the tragic night that would shake America's sense of security, to the horror of the New Jersey morgue where Lindbergh insisted on verifying the identity of his son, Zorn's skillful treatment meets this larger-than-life story and gives it definitive shape—revealing the true story behind the crime for the first time.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The first true crime book I ever read, the book that hooked me on the genre was George Waller's 1961 Kidnap: The Story of the Lindbergh Case. In the half century since, I have read several accounts of the kidnapping and killing of the famed aviator's son, but none stirred my interest in the same way as did that original. Thus, I initially approached Robert Zorn's attempt to identify Bruno Hauptman's co-conspirator with reluctance. It turned out that my skepticism was unfounded: Cemetery John is not only well-written, but it actually advances a plausible candidate for the real engineer behind this terrible crime. Beginning with a memory from childhood by his father and background information on the crime scene and the Lindbergh family, the narrative moves smoothly to tracing the life of the strange man that he believes is the chief culprit. At this temporal distance, of course, "solving" a crime becomes a tentative venture, but Zorn does make a persuasive case. At very least, his research shows how police and prosecutors were overly eager to tie up the case quickly and neatly. For me, this book was a real find. —R.J. Wilson, Bookseller, #1002, New York NY

The Wall Street Journal
Mr. Zorn embeds his theory in a deft narrative that borrows gracefully and with credit from many previous books about the Lindberghs and the kidnapping
The Daily Caller
Robert Zorn's account of his own investigation into this 80-year-old mystery is as compelling and dramatic as the crime itself. The term 'page turner' is used too frequently, but Cemetery John is just that. Once you start reading it, you will not stop. This book should be on the top of everyone's summer reading list. You won't be disappointed.
From the Publisher
"Narrator Sean Runnette has a gentle, probing voice that always seems to be asking questions, a style that works well with a book such as this." —-AudioFile
Library Journal
Five years after Charles Lindbergh flew The Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris, his infant son Charlie was kidnapped in the "Crime of the Century." Only Richard Bruno Hauptmann was executed for the crime, even though the police knew in 1932 that he didn't work alone. In this take on the crime, Zorn holds that his father, the late Eugene C. Zorn Jr., overheard what he believed to be plans to kidnap the child, and that a second kidnapper, working with Hauptmann, left enough clues behind for Zorn's father, then 15, to put together a case. The book lays out his evidence alongside FBI analysis as well as personal stories from the author's father's childhood. VERDICT Zorn truly believes he has discovered the mastermind behind the Lindbergh kidnapping, but he blurs some of the case's facts and justifies theories that do not line up with evidence. Zorn also fills the book with Lindbergh hero worship and neglects to mention Lindbergh's affairs or Nazi sympathies, and these aspects further mar the author's credibility. While an interesting read for Lindbergh fans, this does not definitively close the case.—Kathleen Quinlan, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Debut author Zorn makes a compelling case that the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping was orchestrated by a Bronx deli clerk who got away with the crime scot-free. The author argues that German immigrant John Knoll masterminded the kidnapping of world-famous aviator Charles Lindbergh's young son. Convicted of the crime in 1935, Bruno Kauptmann was executed the following year, without mentioning any accomplices. On the night of March 1, 1932, Zorn writes, kidnappers climbed a ladder up the side of the Lindberghs' New Jersey home to steal the sleeping toddler from his bed. Although his parents met the ransom demands, their son was never returned; little Charlie Lindbergh's remains were found near their home more than two months later. Zorn's connection to the case is personal. His late father, economist Eugene Zorn, grew up in the South Bronx, where Knoll rented a room. The elder Zorn recalled witnessing a conversation about the kidnapping in 1931, when he was 15, among Knoll, his brother and a man Knoll called "Bruno." Reading about the case in 1963, Eugene's memory of the exchange returned, sparking his suspicion of Knoll, who, even by the accounts of Knoll's own family members, was a disturbed, stamp-collecting loner obsessed with aviation and deeply jealous of Lindbergh's fame. Eugene shared his theory with the Lindberghs in a letter but never received a response. Several of the book's 23 photographs and illustrations reveal striking similarities between the police sketch of "Cemetery John," who collected the $50,000 ransom, and Knoll, now deceased. Knoll skipped town just before the start of Kauptmann's trial. Zorn's research includes new forensic evidence, personal and historical documents, and interviews, laying the foundation for a thrilling true-crime tale that offers a resounding answer to the question of who was really responsible for the kidnapping.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781452608938
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/30/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Robert Zorn, the author of Cemetery John, is the founder of two business software companies and a graduate of Duke University and the Wharton School of Business.

Sean Runnette, a multiple AudioFile Earphones Award winner, has produced several Audie Award–winning audiobooks. He is a member of the American Repertory Theater company, and his television and film appearances include Two If by Sea, Copland, Sex and the City, Law & Order, and Third Watch.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 11

Introduction 15

Part I

1 The Crime 23

2 Citizen of the World 29

3 Reconnaissance 38

4 Johannes 51

5 The Stamp Collector 57

6 The Singnature 64

7 Butterflies 71

8 Underworld 76

9 The Go-Between 86

10 The Cemetery 93

11 The Little Package 101

12 Payment 107

13 Hand of the Kidnapper 115

14 The Victim 123

Part II

15 A New Life 133

16 "The Killers" 140

17 Capture 146

18 Interrogation 156

19 "Not the Man" 163

20 Homecoming 171

21 Trial of the Century 177

22 The State's Case 182

23 Sworn to Truth 186

24 "Who Is John?" 192

25 The Carpenter 198

26 The Verdict 205

27 Arrival and Departure 211

Part III

28 Silence 219

29 Last Chance 224

30 Justice Delayed 231

31 Cemetery John Knoll 238

32 An Uncommon Criminal 246

33 March 1, 1932 254

34 The Archivist 264

35 Approaching Lindbergh 269

Epilogue 276

List of Experts 279

Acknowledgments 281

Notes 285

Index 311

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 25, 2012

    I Couldn't Put It Down

    Cemetery John is one of the most fascinating books I've ever read! I literally could not put it down. Although a nonfiction book, Cemetery John is as easy to read as any popular work of fiction. Mr. Zorn makes this very complex case easy to understand without trivializing the subject. Also, he never resorts to sensationalism, obscenity or vulgarity -- and thus makes the book suitable for all readers. This book does not deal with Lindbergh's later life, as that had no bearing on the kidnapping case. This book deserves a wide readership. Obviously, it will appeal to history buffs, followers of true crime and mystery lovers. But it can be read and enjoyed by anyone who wants an absorbing and fascinating book.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2012

    Thirty years after the “Crime of the Century” was co

    Thirty years after the “Crime of the Century” was committed, economist Gene Zorn realized that he possessed vital clues concerning the case. As a teenager growing up in the Bronx, Zorn had actually overheard his neighbor, John Knoll plotting the kidnapping of Charlie Lindbergh.

    Gene’s son, author Robert Zorn, took over the investigation and discovered compelling evidence linking Knoll to the crime. By utilizing modern crime solving techniques and consulting top experts (there’s actually an impressive list of experts quoted in the book), the author makes a very strong case against Knoll.

    “Cemetery John” is a fascinating book and an enjoyable read. I highly recommend it.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I saw the book in Barnes & Noble the other night on the way

    I saw the book in Barnes & Noble the other night on the way home from work: CEMETERY JOHN by Robert Zorn. It looked beyond intriguing. The main premise of the book is that Bronx resident Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the rightfully reviled man who was most certainly a part of the kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh's baby in 1932, did not act alone. Hauptmann's participation in this sick crime, in which the kidnapped baby was killed, despite the Lindberghs having paid a hefty ransom, may well have been as a mere accomplice and follower in what was known as "The Crime of the Century."

    The leader? One John Knoll, whose neighbor in the Bronx was author Robert Zorn's father, Gene.

    Gene had shared his belief of John Knoll's involvement with Robert for years. Both father and son had unofficially worked to prove Gene's theory. Gene has since passed away, and Robert continued with researching the case. The astonishing result of what the Zorn men found is this new book. The title is taken from the fact that "John" was the name the kidnapper identified himself by when meeting with an intermediary at a Bronx cemetery, where he was given the ransom money for the child who was, by then, probably already dead. Hauptmann maintained until his execution that he himself was not "Cemetery John," though of course nobody believed him; part of the ransom money was definitely found secreted on his property. Besides, if Hauptmann had been "Cemetery John," while on trial for his life, he'd never have admitted it.

    'Twas the night before payday when I spotted the book in the store, so I decided I'd come back and pick it up the next evening, once I had a bit more cash in my purse. By the time I returned, a mere 24 hours later, the store appeared to be sold out of copies. The staff had to find one for me since the rest of them had already been sold straight off the shelves. Such is the power of a well-written, entertaining and fabulously researched book.

    I don't want to say too much more about the content of this amazing story, since to do so would spoil it for any potential readers. All I will say is that I cannot recommend this book enough! It's the research coup of the year, and if you want a great true crime read, run right out and buy your copy today - before your bookstore runs out of them, too.

    Hats off to both Robert Zorn and his late father, Gene!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    This is an excellent book

    Mr. Zorn presents a riveting account of the heartbreaking crime and of the bizarre trial that marked the end of the official investigation into the Lindbergh kidnapping. His perspective is unique and intensely personal, yet he approaches the subject with commendable objectivity and clarity. Zorn has wisely confined his analysis to observations related to the crime rather than delving into later controversial events in the life of the renowned aviator - events which clearly had no bearing on the 1932 kidnapping. I detect no hero worship in this account .

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2012

    A superb and lucid account of the crime, trial and disposition o

    A superb and lucid account of the crime, trial and disposition of the case. highly plausible account.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2012

    surprisingly new

    As a criminal defense lawyer, I have long been fascinated with the Lindbergh kidnapping and subsequent legal proceedings. This is an excellently researched and developed theory of the conspiracy and conspirators. I have no doubt that, if this case were to occur today, this evidence would be pursued and could result in capture of all persons involved.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012

    I have read a number of books on this subject and on Lindbergh h

    I have read a number of books on this subject and on Lindbergh himself; I've also written one. Although the kidnapping, like the Kennedy assassination, can never be fully put to rest, this book offers some of the best theories of what really went on. As another reviewer pointed out, there is no reason to fault it for not discussing some of Lindbergh's later, sometimes distasteful, activities; those happened after the fact. If there is any "hero worship" here, it is justifiably in the author's admiration of his father and his dedication to continuing his father's work. It's a good book, very well written, and logically argued. I enjoyed it immensely.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014

    Totally not innocent

    Hauptman was so not innocent, but he was also not alone. He was the scapegoat of the other(s) involved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    Innocent!!!!

    Hauptman was innocent--what a railroading!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2013

    Ss

    Interesting from the first moment I started reading. If nothing else, the composite picture of cemetary John and John Knolls picture are one in the same. Never have I seen two pictures match so closely. The author has me convinced!

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    reccomend

    the story was just ok! it was a bit confusing at times until you remember that the story is being told as hear say.thru the author's father.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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