Killer in the Attic: And Still More Tales of Cleveland Woe


The fourth volume in John Stark Bellamy?s classic Cleveland crime and disaster series features 26 more gruesome, horrible, tragic, and despicable?but true?tales, including:

? Love-crazed Clark Hill, who warmed up his teenage girlfriend with an overdose of Spanish Fly in her milk shake;

? The chilling Cuyahoga River scow disaster, in which 16 clinging, drowning men fought so desperately to stay afloat that they dragged each other to the dark bottom of the river;

? Doomed workmen Patrick Toolis and Patrick Cleary, ...

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The fourth volume in John Stark Bellamy’s classic Cleveland crime and disaster series features 26 more gruesome, horrible, tragic, and despicable—but true—tales, including:

• Love-crazed Clark Hill, who warmed up his teenage girlfriend with an overdose of Spanish Fly in her milk shake;

• The chilling Cuyahoga River scow disaster, in which 16 clinging, drowning men fought so desperately to stay afloat that they dragged each other to the dark bottom of the river;

• Doomed workmen Patrick Toolis and Patrick Cleary, buried alive in the very concrete that became Cleveland’s celebrated Terminal Tower;

• Not-so-friendly Dorothy Kaplan, who deposited shards of glass in her neighbors’ milk in hopes of helping slow the “noisy” couple down a bit;

• Mafia legend Shondor Birns, whose high-profile life of crime came to an explosive end when he started up his Lincoln Continental one fine day;

And other detailed and compelling accounts of the unspeakable.

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Editorial Reviews

Cleveland Scene
You’d have a tough time finding somebody in town more learned—or enthusiastic—about the city’s history of death and disaster.
— Michael Gallucci
Medina County Gazette
A narrative of 26 stories of Northeast Ohio horrors and tragedies that are fascinating and yes entertaining . . . often in a bizarre way that leaves the reader feeling guilty for being so entertained.
— Sandra Fahning
Ohio Magazine
Bellamy regales readers with tales of 26 of Cleveland’s most dastardly deeds . . . [His] way with words turns history into a current event.
Sun News
[Bellamy’s] books, which detail some of the most grisly murders and disasters in Greater Cleveland’s history, are often stranger than fiction . . . Bellamy employs an extremely mannered prose, inspired largely by his fascination with 18th century English writers. And his highly stylized writing, along with the fact that he will not touch stories that still touch contemporary nerves, are reasons the books can be thought of as entertainment.
The Plain Dealer
A chatty, amiable little book that thankfully delivers a lot less gore than it promises. Bellamy’s [stories] focus more on re-creating the setting than spelling out grisly details . . . What also works in this quirky collection is Bellamy’s willingness to pass judgment . . . With long-ago people and places coming so vividly to life—Bellamy’s research is meticulous—Cleveland readers will enjoy this compilation of crime on every corner.
— Michele Ross
Bellamy knows more about death and disaster in our city than anyone.
— Danny Czekalinski
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781886228573
  • Publisher: Gray & Company, Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/30/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 298
  • Sales rank: 1,390,955
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Stark Bellamy II is the author of six books and two anthologies about Cleveland crime and disaster. The former history specialist for the Cuyahoga County Public Library, he comes by his taste for the sensational honestly, having grown up reading stories about Cleveland crime and disaster written by his grandfather, Paul, who was editor of the Plain Dealer, and his father, Peter, who wrote for the Cleveland News and the Plain Dealer.

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Table of Contents



1. Smithereen Street: The 1953 West 117th Street Explosion

2. Friday on His Mind: The 1948 Spanish Fly Killer

3. A Gangster’s Gangster: The Improbable Story of “Big Jim” Morton (1884–1960)

4. Cuyahoga Death Trip: The 1896 Willow Bridge Scow Disaster

5. The Man with the Twisted Life: The Sad Saga of Ernst Watzl (1929–1930)

6. “They’ll Never Take Me Alive!”: The 1906 Slaughter of Mary Sheperd

7. Death in the Deep Pit: The 1928 Terminal Tower Tragedy

8. “A Quiet, Middle-Aged Man”: The 1930 Assassination of Dr. Alfred P. Scully

9. A Most Unquiet Grave: The Sarah Victor Scandal (1868)

10. Paddle Wheel Deathtrap: The 1850 G. P. Griffith Disaster

11. When Monsters Walk: Mary Jane Brady and the Collins Twins (1943)

12. The Killer in the Attic: The 1903 Reichlin Murder

13. Sooner or Later . . .: The 1949 Thompson Trophy Tragedy

14. Jazz Age Hit-Skip: The Alice Leonard Story (1928)

15. “I Am Settling for All Past Wrongs . . .”: William Adin’s 1875 Cross-Town Bloodbath

16. Damn the Torpedoes: The Fireworks Factory Horrors (1902–1903)

17. “No Mother, Nor No Mother, Nor Nothin’”: The 1900 Death of Alfred Williams

18. Death of the Dance Hall Girls: The 1905 Anna Kinkopf/Eva Meyer Murders

19. Burning, Burning, Burning River: The Cuyahoga River Fires of 1868, 1912, 1922, 1952, 1969, and . . .

20. Three Distaff Poisoners: Elsie Bass (1917), Anna Kempf (1928), and Dorothy Kaplan (1956)

21. Orville’s “Little Boy Blue”: The 1928 Melvin Horst Mystery

22. The Body in the Harbor: Samuel Smith’s Fatal Jetsam (1904)

23. A Victorian Scandal: The 1888 Thomas Axworthy Affair

24. Shot in His Own Bed: The 1868 Murder of David Skinner

25. Rampant Criminality: The Legend of Shondor Birns (1906–1975)

26. When Nature Frowns: The 1924 Lorain Tornado

Photo Credits

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2003

    Dark History

    Killer in the Attic is a very interesting book. Details of crimes and tragedies throughout Cleveland's history included, it makes you feel like an archaelogist. Very good overall for a sense of Cleveland past.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2002

    A Message From the Author

    Like parents, all authors have their favorite offspring, whether they admit it or not. I cherish all my stories of Cleveland mayhem but I must confess a special fondness for the alternately homicidal and hapless subjects of The Killer in the Attic. Although less well known to Clevelanders than the Marilyn Sheppard murder mystery or the East Ohio Gas Company fire, these 31 new narratives have their own fascinations. Killers of stunning malevolence stalk their pages: Clark Hill, the ¿Spanish Fly¿ killer who decided to disguise an aphrodisiac overdose as carbon monoxide poisoning; Henry Hagert, the adolescent monster who killed two Bay Village twins in 1943 ¿just for the heck of it¿; Sarah Victor, who posed as her brother¿s saintly sick-bed nurse while methodically poisoning him for his insurance money; Samuel Smith, who killed his wife Inez in 1904, put her corpse in a trunk and lobbed it into Lake Erie; William Adin, who settled his domestic turmoil by killing three women with an ax and hammer; Harry Smith, who shot down his lover Mary in front of her horrified elementary school pupils; Anna Kempf, who mixed rat poison with chocolate ice cream and then fed it to her children; and many more malefactors of varying competence and fate. Cleveland crime buffs will be happy to find that I have included a lengthy profile of Shondor Birns, Cleveland¿s most notorious 20th century hoodlum. Nor have I neglected natural and man-made calamities: Killer in the Attic contains almost as many disaster stories as all my previous books combined, including: the 1924 Lorain-Sandusky tornado; the 1928 Terminal Tower accident that buried two men under tons of concrete at the bottom of a 128-foot shaft; the horrific S. S. Griffith ship fire of 1850 that killed hundreds just off the shore of Lake County; the 1953 West 117th St. explosion that wrecked a mile of a busy Cleveland thoroughfare; the 1949 National Air Race tragedy; the 1896 Old Riverbed Scow disaster and yet more chapters of Forest City mayhem. Not to mention two prime and undeservedly forgotten scandals: Cleveland City Treasurer Tom Axworthy¿s embezzlement of $500,000 in 1888, a crime for which he was never punished; and the sad tale of Ernest Watzl, a respected Cleveland scientist who tried to find a new life by faking his death and running away with a woman half his age. These tales, sometimes shocking and sometimes poignant, are all dear to my heart and it is my great pleasure to share them with fellow enthusiasts of Forest City crime and disaster.

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