Luella Pearl Hammer

Maybe Luella was crazy after all.

Maybe Luella was crazy after all.

Thanks to Sherry Smith for adding to my knowledge of Luella Pearl Hammer — one of Mary Skeele’s kidnappers. I’d been unable to find anything further about Luella in the Los Angeles newspapers after she went to prison for the crime; however, Sherry found a piece in the San Jose Evening News for May, 30, 1933 that said Luella was “moved from San Quentin to the asylum on June 6th”.

That piece of information motivated me to search for more. I discovered that Luella Pearl Hammer was born on September 22, 1895 in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. Her birth name was Luella Pearl Hammer so if she married, as the records reflect throughout her adult life, she never took her husband’s name.

Luella was listed in the Pasadena City Directory for several years, most notably in 1930  when she was living in the same house where she and Van Dorn would stash Mary Skeele for twenty-four hours in 1933.luella buckeye

The 1940 Federal Census has Luella residing in the Mendocino State Hospital for the Insane. Luella must have been able to convince the authorities that she was mentally ill, or perhaps she always was.

[Photo found at]

[Photo found at]

Luella claimed her profession as concert pianist and music teacher. She had been a student in the College of Music at USC, which is how she knew of Dr. Walter Skeele (Mary’s husband) who was Dean there for many years.

Luella Pearl Hammer lived to be 94 years old; she died on May 14, 1990 in Ukiah, Mendocino, California — the location of the mental hospital.

While writing and researching this tale I’ve been humming a Beatle’s tune, but substituting “Luella’s Pearl Hammer” for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a Joan in the song. Well, I hope that I can finally get rid of that ear worm!

P.S. Thanks again to Sherry Smith, and a huge thank you to Mike Fratantoni who introduced me to this case.

6 thoughts on “Luella Pearl Hammer

  1. I’m blushing, but happy I could help in some way. I’m so glad you found out the rest of the story. It seems as though she lived her life out at the mental hospital, so maybe she was mentally I’ll or “One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest”. Oh great, now I can’t get that song out of my head, lol.

    • Hey, you did good work and lit a fire under my butt, so credit where it’s due! It looks to me like Luella probably spent her
      life in the institution. But a person could spend their time in worst areas than Mendocino. I’m still humming the Beatles…

    • Luella Pearl Hammer died at \”Ukiah Convdlescent\” sometime after I quit work there. I worked up until November 1977. The Insane Asylum closed down sometime in the late 60\’s I believe that is when Luella went to the Convalescent hospital. She was there the 3 years I worked there, in excellent health and very fastidious about the care of her room. She had this walk with her hands behind her back and feet about 14 inches apart, walking as if she was so used to wearing shackles. She got along well with everyone that was kind and descent to her. She walked with a scowl that could easily turn into a smile. She could be heard talking to herself from time to time. I believe she was docile, but if you were angry with her as one CNA was, she could and did stab her in the back with a fork. Fortunately it did not break the skin.

      • Julie,
        Thank you so much for filling in the blanks for Luella Pear Hammer. I’ve always found her a fascinating person.

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