Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sick Cadas

Detroit Free Press, July 15, 1947
If there was a science pertaining to words then "weird" and "Detroit" would be nearly synonymous with any mention of those hulking edifices which were collectively known as Eloise. Though miles separate our not so fair and violent city from the relatively safe confines of what used to be a mental asylum and hospital, short of a geo-political dissertation about how the suburbs and Detroit are completely different subsections of the same animal, the two go hand in hand. Another commingling phenomenon shared between the two is sudden episodic violence. On July 13, 1947 a brother and sister team provided the scenario for just that: the violent end of a life. Late that evening Henry Leo Cada plunged a jackknife into his sister's throat, severing her jugular vein causing her to bleed to death.

The Cada family of River Rouge had a history of mental illness. Both Gilbert Cada, the family matriarch, and his wife had died insane and the sickness was passed on to both son Henry, 28 and daughter Ida, 21. Ida had been in and out of mental institutions the previous months and Henry had a few stints himself after suffering shell shock during World War II, with his latest release coming just 3 months earlier from Percy Jones Hospital in Battle Creek.

Dr. Thomas K. Gruber, superintendent at Eloise, had recommended against Henry's release from Percy Jones due to his interactions with Ida during his visits to her at the Wayne County location. Both had a history of violence and Henry's surly demeanor during the visitations was enough to frighten the staff and warrant his banishment from the facility. Gruber was so troubled by Cada's behavior that he had contacted police to watch out for Henry and went so far as to intervene in getting Cada's taxi license repealed for fear that he would hurt somebody while on duty.

On July 11th Ida was given a weekend pass and released to the care of her aunt Emma DeBons from Roseville. Later in the day after finishing his shift at Murray Body Corporation in Ecorse, Henry went to the Aunt's residence to fetch his sister. The two were close companions but also had their share of difficulty in each others company. Besides the tense hospital visits they had rows concerning money, food and maltreatment with the police being called to the home that Ida shared with two brothers Gilbert and Harvey, and her sister Marie at 83 East Cicotte in River Rouge (Henry reportedly lived down the street at 28 East Cicotte.). The house was a frequent destination for the city's police to break up drunken arguments and fights and they considered the family "funny" in a not-so-flattering way.


Around 5PM that evening Henry and Ida made their way towards the Detroit River where Henry rented a 12 foot boat from a livery named Cash Colasinski. Colasinski told police after the murder that Cada was alone and surmised that he had picked up the girl somewhere along the shore. He said that Cada, still in his work clothes with a swim trunk tucked into one pocket, appeared "normal" to him and the only worry Colasinski had was Cada staying out after dark without lights on the boat. Henry left a paycheck stub and drifted downstream.

Canadian authorities suspect that after picking up Ida somewhere along the shore the two traversed the river to Ontario where they hitchhiked to Wheatley, nearly 50 miles southeast of Detroit where they next surfaced at 6:30PM on Sunday evening. A clerk witnessed them buying chocolate and soda pops from a gas station in town. Others suggested that Ida was staying at the family's summer cottage some 17 miles from Wheatley and that Henry had joined her there and the two then fled. Whichever way the saga transpired, the brother and sister duo wound up in a barn loft near Chatham on property being rented by Joseph Vankerkhoven off of No. 3 Highway. Four hours later Ida Cada was dead at the hands of her brother.

Soon after Henry confessed to a nearby farmer, John Dawson, that he had killed his sister and asked him to phone a doctor. The doctor refused to come because he either didn't believe the fantastical story or as he stated, that the details were too scant to afford a late night visit. Cada apparently returned to the barn so that he'd be present when the doctor arrived and when he didn't show, Henry returned to the Dawson farm. Now quite suspicious of Cada's motive they phoned the police. When the Ontario Provincial Police arrived Cada led them to loft where Ida's body lay mortally wounded.

It was then that Cada told police that he had killed Ida because she had "asked him to" so that she wouldn't have to go back to the Wayne County General Hospital at Eloise. He stated that she would rather die than go back for more electric shock treatments and that he had promised to facilitate this morbid option. He would maintain the "mercy killing" stance during his subsequent "petit jury" hearing even going so far as to say that his father was murdered at Eloise and that he didn't want to see his sister, after eight sessions of shock therapy, to end up the same way. Whether he meant it literally or it was just his mental instability rearing it's ferocious face is up for eternal conjecture seeing as he was an insane man fighting for his life at that point. He was taken to a mental facility at Penetanguishene and held until the next session of the court commenced the following autumn.

The OPP however believed that this was anything but a mercy killing , preferring to label it a murder-suicide gone awry by Henry's cowardice. In official reports they stated that an unnatural love occurred between the two with suggestions that they hadn't run away together in a traditional sense of escape but had actually eloped to carry out their incestuous relations. Perhaps realizing that they couldn't legally sustain the affair they opted for suicide. The fact that Ida didn't resist or struggle with her brother during the stabbing seems to confirm such a scenario.

At his trial in September before the High Court of Ontario he spoke forcefully about his experiences with electric shock treatment, he had completed 26 sessions, and said that he'd rather be hanged or put to death by electric chair since "there you only die once." He went so far as to say that if he was given further shock therapy that he would kill again to force the courts into giving him the electric chair.

Dressed in a light gray, double-breasted suit he comported himself respectfully and answered that he knew exactly what he was doing when he killed Ida and that "it was the only way out." His testimony coupled with the testimony of several psychologists that he suffered a persecution complex stemming from his earlier stints in mental hospitals convinced the court that he was unfit to stand trial. Cada was convinced that he had been railroaded from his military service due to a beating he received by fellow soldiers because he refused to join the C.I.O. A theory which doctors rebuffed claiming that he had actually suffered the injuries from leaping out of a moving train while being transferred between mental hospitals. He was also certain that the Catholic Church was out to get him because a charity affiliated with the church had recommended shock therapy, though their influence likely had no bearing on his treatment.

Cada was remanded back to Penetanguishene. What his treatments were are not known but his criminal behavior continued. Within six months he would escape the mental institution along with notorious murderer Melville Wilkie, a repeated escape artist, who had burned his wife and infant daughter to death in an intentionally set house fire in Owen Sound for the insurance money. The two were taken into custody without incident nearly a week later when they were found huddling near a brush fire in Cedar Point, Ontario, 40 miles north of Penetanguishene. Wilkie would escape several more times while Cada, just three weeks after his recapture, managed to stab guard Robert Maurice just below the eye when he brought Henry a glass of water.



FURTHER READING


1947

Charge Man Slew Sister; The Ottawa Citizen, July 14, 1947

Murder Reveals Fantastic Story; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Sister Dies When Knife Slits Throat; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Trail Of Insanity; The Windsor Daily Star, July 14, 1947

Jury Rules Cada Unfit To Be Tried; The Windsor Daily Star, September 16, 1947

Motive Still Sought In Girl's Death; The Windsor Daily Star, July 16, 1947

Confesses Killing Sister; The Warsaw Daily Union, July 17, 1947

Untitled; The Grosse Pointe News, July 17, 1947

Cada Must Stand Trial; The Windsor Daily Star, July 28, 1947

Henry Cada Ordered To Stand Trial For Murder; The Windsor Daily Star, July 29, 1947


1948


Officers Hunting Escaped Maniacs; The Owosso Argus-Press, March 22, 1948

Two Insane Murderers Recaptured; The Calgary Herald, March 23, 1948

2 Confessed Slayers Retaken In Ontario; The Ludington Daily News, March 24, 1948

Cada Stabs Hospital Guard; The Windsor Daily Star, April 12, 1948


1952

Captured; The Sunday Sun, March 29, 1952

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Somnambulism in the Suburbs

If trial and error are the main catalysts towards scientific purity then doctoral candidate, Gerald G. Griffin, a part-time psychology instructor at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn and former psychologist for Oakland County schools, was well on his way to conducting the perfect experiment. During an evening session of his entry level sociology class on Friday November 12, 1965 he discussed both the merits and benefits of hypnotism to a non-believing audience. Having previously experimented with the practice in his classes, Griffin, an "amateur hypnotist", was obviously an eager practitioner despite his lack of credentials. But word had gotten out by a student to her clergyman who in turn notified the school's Dean, Ray Howe, and Griffin was reprimanded with Howe demanding that such experimentation had no relevance in a basic course. Having been warned not to repeat the incident in-class he agreed to meet some students for an off-campus session. First though, he made a pact with the class that the sessions must remain secret. While their agreement held firm the experiment soon went awry.

One of the eager to learn was 18 year old coed Cynthia Wellman of Inkster. She agreed to meet Griffin at a parking lot near the school campus for an impromptu session. While sitting inside a car Griffin put Wellman into the requested trance. It's not clear whether other students participated in the exercise or what exactly transpired during the session but when it came time to awaken Cynthia she remained spellbound. Griffin then spent several hours trying to revive her using the techniques which enabled the trance, all to no avail. Griffin then panicked, which may have led to his difficulty in returning her to consciousness, but certainly didn't help with his cause. After repeated attempts failed to rouse the girl, the married father of two children drove Wellman to his residence and attempted to let her sleep it off on the couch. When that method also failed to return results she was taken to the Wayne County General Hospital in Eloise.

Under the care of Dr. Bruce Danto she was given sodium amytal, or truth serum, a barbiturate used to relax patients or to induce drowsiness in those with insomnia. It was first used clinically to treat psychiatric patients in the late 1920s and later by law enforcement to coax suspects into confessing to a crime. The drug came under scrutiny when tests showed that patients under the influence of the drug were highly susceptible to fabrication and coercive suggestion by outside influences. When the drug began to arouse Wellman from her somnambulistic state, Griffin transferred his control over the girl to Danto, who after several hours (and 16 total hours from the start of the original hypnosis) managed to fully relieve her of the hypnotic state.

Griffin, who was later thoroughly questioned by Inkster police, was suspended from his post at the community college and later resigned the position. No charges were filed by authorities mainly due to the fact that there were no laws on the book at the time and because investigators were convinced that no improprieties took place outside of the actual act itself. Griffin was rattled by the episode but maintained a professional demeanor in asserting that he was "a scientist" and had only used the procedure in good faith and as a teaching tool despite the unfortunate results.



FURTHER READING


Instructor Suspended For Hypnotizing Coed; The Owosso Argus-Press, November 12, 1965

Hypnotism Experiment Backfires; The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 15, 1965

Hypnotist Is Suspended By A School; The Lawrence Journal-World, November 15, 1965

Teacher-Hypnotist Suspended; The Windsor Star, November 15, 1965

Classroom Hypnotist Still Under Suspension; The Victoria Advocate, November 16, 1965

In 16-Hour Trance; The Free Lance-Star, November 16, 1965

In Long Trance; The St. Joseph News-Press, November 16, 1965

Instructor Faces Suspension For Hypnotizing Coed; The Lewiston Morning Tribune, November 16, 1965

Experimenter In Hypnotics Suspended; The Titusville Herald, November 16, 1965

Hypnotist Instructor Resigned; The Owosso Argus-Press, November 17, 1965

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Witch of Delray


To say that Rose Veres was not revered in the small Hungarian enclave of Delray on Detroit's south side in the 1930s would be an understatement. The fact that she was considered a witch by her neighbors on Medina Street was less a testament to her affability than her disregard for human souls. Not that she wasn't eager to help her fellow man--taking many of the area downtrodden into her house as boarders--but that her motives were spun from animus and self-serving greed cancelled out any exhibited perception of goodwill. So when she was arrested for the murder of Steve Mak, a tenant in her "house of funerals", who was reported to have accidentally fallen while doing home repairs, witnesses came forward in droves to accuse her of much worse than simple manslaughter.

Detroit of the 1930s was a cauldron of mass immigration (black migration included), industrial bloom in wilt and riches to rags stories. With the Depression in its early churning and unemployment skyrocketing the working man was sent into a spiral of hopeless searching for unattainable answers. As was the norm in many immigrant neighborhoods already, boarding tenants in extra rooms was one of the ways to sustain financial stability on the home front as jobless men and lower wage earners flocked to ramshackle rooms in unkempt boarding houses. Mrs. Veres's home was one such dosshouse in the grimy industrial part of the city.

Rose Veres had first come to the Detroit Police Department's attention in 1925 when two boarders died of acute alcohol poisoning. She was questioned, arrested for suspicion of murder and then released without charges being filed due to insufficient evidence. Two years later her husband, Gabor Veres, and a tenant named John Toth (another source states his name as Louis) died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also contributing to her malfeasance was the fact that the neighbors were terrified of the so-called witch and refused to testify against her, "We are afraid to catch her eye. She can make our children sick and our husbands lose their jobs. She knows all kinds of magic." So that when it came time to give depositions the Hungarians would cringe and proclaim in feigned ignorance, "I don't verstek" or "me no talk." However, with the changing demographics of the neighborhood--five black families had settled there--her luck was about to expire.

On August 25, 1931, Steve Mak 68, fell off a ladder while working near the 3rd floor attic window. A witness named George Halasz claimed that Mak was pushed by a "pair of arms" and then moments later Veres peered from the window. The incident had followed loud quarreling from the attic area Halasz added. Furthering the claim was the testimony of a "negro" named John Walker who claimed to have also seen the fall. He told police that Veres had admitted to killing Mak but under completely different circumstances than were first suspected. Walker said that Veres, her son William and another tenant had beaten and poisoned Mak and when he failed to succumb to death they tossed him from the attic window, where a ladder had been stationed outside to dress up the appearance of an accidental fall. Giving credence to Walker's claims were medical examiner's finds of skull fractures which pointed to multiple injuries not consistent with trauma from a simple fall as well as the discovery of a blood-stained gas pipe found in the cellar of the home. Walker added that Veres had promised him $500 if he kept quiet about the incident.

The other black families living in the neighborhood also gave depositions as did a little girl named Marie Chevalia. She lived directly across the street from the Veres home and on the morning of the incident she sat making mud pies in her front yard. She had heard stories about the witch prowling the alleys in the middle of the night in long flowing garments and a cape, in search of "victims." So when Veres appeared at the front door and descended down the steps she commanded the 11-year-old's full attention. Marie recalled that Veres had stopped to give instructions to John Walker, a tenant at her house of horrors as well as a handyman, who was watering the lawn to cease his operation. He did so, retiring to the basement to switch off the spigot.

Detroit Free Press, August 27, 1931 (enlarge)
It was then that Veres placed a ladder against the window where Mak would begin his sojourn towards death. Soon he ambled from the house carrying a small box of nails and a hammer. He shakily ascended the ladder and when reaching the window, opened it and sat on the sill for a moment. A minute or so later George Halasz appeared at the house calling on another boarder named Mike Ladd. With no reply seemingly forthcoming, he leaned against a tree and began rolling a smoke. John Walker was also returning to the scene nearly simultaneously. As he approached the area where Mak was sitting suddenly the box of nails, followed shortly thereafter by the hammer, thudded to the ground. Walker drew his hands upward to cover himself, stepped back and then glanced towards the window and witnessed Mak hurtling to the ground where he lay mortally wounded but still alive. Walker immediately scampered to the back of the house to gather Veres, Halasz stared dumbfounded at the spectacle before him and Marie Chevalia ran screaming into her home.
The piercing screams of the little girl aroused the neighbors and a crowd began to assemble. The clanging sound of the approaching ambulance's gong stirred in the din of voices. Mak was whisked off to Receiving Hospital and Veres gave her report to the unsuspecting officers who had no reason to suspect foul play at the time since the legends of Medina Street were largely a self-confined phenomenon. Eventually though, the talk turned to foul play as the witnesses came forward en masse and Veres was arrested.

Detroit Free Press, October 28, 1931
Tight-lipped, the shrunken woman was nearly mute during her long interrogation, claiming that she didn't speak English, although when confronted with a witness against her she was reported to have said, "You keep your mouth shut." As the evidence mounted against her the stoic widow maintained that the death of Mak was an accident. The investigators even believed that the witchy woman, known to cast the evil eye and dispersions at neighbors, was trying to affect a hypnotic influence over them as she stared steadily at her interrogators while pointing her finger in a strange manner. Two of her sons, William, 18, and Gabor were also interrogated along with two former boarders Steve Gecse and Sam Denyen, with William ultimately being charged alongside his mother.

Finally, on August 31, nearly a week after the accident and countless hours of grilling, Veres broke down and admitted to pushing Mak from the window, claiming that she was hard up for money. As police would uncover in their investigation of Steve Mak's death, she had a slew of husbands and just as many insurance policies with herself as the beneficiary. The early estimates were in excess of 50 policies (court testimony would state 75) approaching $70,000 total with most naming her as the beneficiary. The investigation turned up a total of 12 suspicious deaths including Mak. The Daily News of Huntingdon, PA listed the victims as:

John Toth, carbon monoxide poisoning
Steve Fiasch, alcoholism
John Kolachi, intestinal ailment
Gabor Veres, carbon monoxide poisoning
John Norvay, undetermined
Louis Kulacs, undetermined
Alex Porczios, undetermined
John Skrivan, supposed hanging
Steve Sevastian, supposed alcoholism
(this finely researched blog states different names and gives some brief biographical information on the men along with a detailed genealogy of Rose Veres, as well as further evidence that there might be more victims, including Veres's own children.)

Added to the list after the extradition and interrogation of former tenant Sam Denyen from West Virginia, was the name of John Coccardi, who was named in letters by Denyen to have died under mysterious circumstances shortly after he moved from the Veres home.

After a short trial the following October, Veres and her son William were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, Rose at the Detroit House of Corrections and William at Jackson State Prison. In December of 1945, after many denied requests for a re-trial, Rose Veres was retried and exonerated of the murder. She fainted upon hearing the verdict.

Detroit Free Press, October 15, 1931

FURTHER READING


1931

Hurled Man To His Death; The San Jose News, August 25, 1931

To Exhume Bodies Of Nine Believed Murder Victims; The Grape Belt, August 25, 1931

Woman Is Held As Blurbeard; The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 25, 1931

Woman Killed For Insurance, Is Allegation; The San Jose News, August 25, 1931

Detroit Woman Held In Mystery Deaths Of 10 Men; The North Tonawanda Evening News, August 26, 1931

Say Man's Fall Not Accidental; The Spokane Daily Chronicle, August 26, 1931

May Exhume Bodies To Reveal Murder Plot; The Indiana Evening Gazette, August 27, 1931

Police To Probe Deaths Of Nine; The Daily Times, August 27, 1931

Spectre Of 9 Strange Deaths Stalk Woman; The Daily News, August 27, 1931

May Exhume Nine Men's Bodies To Determine Deaths; The Daily News, August 28, 1931

Woman Says She Killed One Man; The Greensburg Daily Tribune, August 28, 1931

Witness May Help Clear Up Mystery Of Twelve Deaths; The Owosso Argus-Press, August 29, 1931

Alleged Witch Admits Killing Aged Roomer; The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, August 30, 1931

Deroit Free Press, October 1, 1931
Mystery Deaths Of 12 Men Under Probe; The Montana Standard, August 30, 1931

Detroit Woman Admits Killing One of 12 Men To Collect Insurance; The Southeast Missourian, August 31, 1931

Killed Mak, Says; The North Tonawanda Evening News, August 31, 1931

Mrs. Veres Confessed To Killing Roomer; The Constitution-Tribune, August 31, 1931

Pushed Victim Out The Window; The Nevada Daily Mail, August 31, 1931

'Witch' Held; The Oelwein Daily Register, August 31, 1931

Confesses; The Washington Reporter, September 2, 1931

Widow Quizzed In 10 Deaths; The Newburgh News, September 2, 1931

Detroit 'Witch' Held In Deaths; The Daily News, September 3, 1931

Says 'Pair Of Arms' Shoved Steve Mak In Fall To Death; The Ludington Daily News, September 3, 1931

'Witch,' Son Facing Life For Murder; The Pittsburgh Press, October 6, 1931

Woman And Her Son Are Convicted Of Murder Of Roomer; The Niagara Falls Gazette, October 6, 1931

Life Sentences For Detroit Mother, Son; The Lewiston Daily Sun, October 15, 1931

Mrs. Veres And Son Sentenced To Life; The Ludington Daily News, October 15, 1931


1945

Detroit Free Press, September 16, 1944

Acquittal Follows 13 Years In Prison; The Pittsburgh Press, December 11, 1945

'Witch' Acquitted; The Middlesboro Daily News, December 17, 1945

Deroit Free Press, December 5, 1945 (enlarge)
There's also an excellent newspaper article from 1932 and a write up posted on this blog.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hugh Cannon: Lightened Millions Of Hearts; His Own Is Buried In Poorhouse


In the early 1900s Hughie Cannon's name in the music world was gold. He had written several hits including "Bill Bailey" and "Goo Goo Eyes" and was collecting royalties aplenty. His drinking and drug habits though decimated much of what he had worked for and he was reduced to banging out drunken tunes on barroom pianos for his drinking fare. He eventually sold the rights to most of his songs and was left penniless, divorced and in failing health when he arrived at Eloise in 1910.

He told a Detroit newspaper at the time of his admittance into the poorhouse, "I quit the coke easy. Fifteen days of jail cured me of that. I hit the pipe in New York for a year and stopped that. I went up against the morphine hard and quit, but booze, red, oily booze -- that's got me for keeps. I started when I was 16; I'm 36 now, and except for seven months on the wagon I've been pickled most of the time. It was twenty years -- twenty black, nasty sick years -- with only a little brightness now and then when I made good with some song."

His ex-wife, Emma Dorsam, confirmed Cannon's own musings in her divorce filing, "For a period commencing about a month after our marriage and continuing to the time of our separation, defendant was drunk nearly every night; he seldom if ever remained at home to spend the evening but would consort with people of evil repute and would generally come home about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning in a drunken condition." Only a few years later in 1912 he died at an Ohio infirmary  from cirrhosis of the liver.

There was a story published after Cannon's death concerning the hasty writing of the hit song "Bill Bailey" and two friends of the musician who literally forced the issue. According to the legend, Cannon, needing money for a date came to the office of his publisher Howley, Haviland and Dresser and asked for a loan. Howley and Dresser told him that they would give him a loan but he would have to work for it and enticed him into the piano room. Once in they locked the door and despite his protest wouldn't open the door until he completed a song. Once the words and lyrics for "Bill Bailey were completed Howley cut him a check for $50 and Cannon bolted out the door. The yarn has been disputed as pure fiction by other writers but is a good folktale nonetheless.

There is an excellent article about the real Bill Bailey, his connection to Cannon and Bailey's ex-wife whom the song was written about. She was none too amused by the song or her former husband's wild antics. Here's Patsy Cline's version of the original ragtime classic which is most likely as far from the original as is possible but since I don't care for honky tonk it'll have to do.



FURTHER READING



1910

Ragtime Author In Poorhouse; The Indiana Evening Gazette, January 17, 1910

Booze Got Him For Keeps; The Nevada Daily Mail, January 26, 1910

Composer A Pauper; The Titusville Herald, January 26, 1910

He Lightened Millions Of Hearts; His Own Is Buried In Poorhouse; The Tacoma Times, February 4, 1910

Former Song Writer Now A Wreck; The Music Trade Review, November 1910


1912

Cannon death notice; The New York Dramatic Mirror, July 3, 1912


1919

Cannon Worked Fast; The New York Dramatic Mirror, January 18, 1919