Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Mt. Elliott Mad Man

In the realm of the written word the name of John King and Detroit go together like a well-collared bell intoning a distinct language of recognition. But this isn't a story of ambition or about an antiquarian with arms open wide enough to enfold a million books in his vouchsafe warehouse. The Mr. King of this tale jumps off the page and marauds, putting to end any conditions of plot or rejoinders.

Mr. John was a wild man. Not of his own volition but due to some form of loose gravity within the mechanisms of the mind that ran afoul of syncopation and maligned his highs and lows. So he was cast away to the St. Joseph Retreat in Dearborn from his home in the city. Whether he was cured or not he was returned home once more. Thus began his folly.

With a belief in his mind that there was a great lake in the middle of Mt. Elliott Cemetery, which offered the perfect lodging for an outdoorsman, he moved his living space there for a middle summer week in late July of 1906. The humid, hot nights proved his vision a misnomer and he climbed the great trees at night to sleep among the cool confines of the ever-giving limbs.

When unfettered by sleep he jagged along the cemetery perimeter in a jerky stride stopping to throttle a citizen or two before finally being confronted by a peace officer who he also reportedly tossed aside like a niggling bramble branch stretched out to stunt his masculine endeavor.

For several days Detroit's finest officers attempted to capture the elusive urban Tarzan but without reward. He was finally corralled by his kinsfolk and taken back to the Dearborn retreat from whence he came. A few more days residency there did nothing to assuage his mania and after his eventual release he became agitated once more while on the home front.

When attendants from the St. Joseph Retreat were summoned for him he leapt through a window pane upon their arrival to escape their friendly administrations. He was returned to the sanctuary a few days later and did not go on to found the John King bookstore downtown. A far better telling of the story would have been to lie and say that he indeed had. Maybe next time I will be that orator of folktales. This time, I'm afraid, I'm sticking to scant facts of this most unfortunate and amusing madman.


Captured In Cemetery; The Detroit Free Press, July 23, 1906

Lunatic Sleeps In Lofty Trees; The Evening Telegraph, August 31, 1906

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