Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.
Tonight’s feature is BUNCO SQUAD starring Robert Sterling, Joan Dixon, Ricardo, Cortez, and Dante.
Told in semi-documentary style, this film deals with a little-known section of the Los Angeles Police Department which is assigned solely to checking on the activities of fortune tellers, swamis, palmists, and other occult societies.
The primary story has L.A. police detectives Steve Johnson and ‘Mack’ McManus tracking down a wave of suicides they think have been influenced by a swindler-murderer Anthony Wells. The latter runs a pretentious house staffed with occultists across the board, and is trying to embezzle from Jessica Royle, a wealthy widow whose son was killed in action in World War II. Johnson uses his fiancée/actress, Grace Bradshaw, as an undercover operative to get inside information.
Ten days ago I narrated the first part of the Dear Hattie post. Your feedback was encouraging, and I took your constructive comments to heart. I will get better as I go along. I truly believe that an audio version of Deranged posts is an idea whose time has come.
I have other ideas for content, too. In my research I often find newspaper and magazine stories that run the gamut — some are heartwarming, others sleazy or just flat-out horrifying, but I don’t feel they are enough to support a full written post. These gems are perfect to share via audio.
I’ll begin digging through my files to see what I can unearth.
B.C. — Before Covid, I thought about adding narrated
versions of Deranged L.A. Crimes blog posts to the site, but I never got around
to it; until now.
For a long time I have dreamed of adding another dimension to the blog. I want to provide a variety of ways to access content. I realize it may not always be convenient to sit down and read an entire post. Maybe there are times when you would like to listen to a Deranged tale.
As an experiment I’ve narrated a recent post, Dear Hattie, Part 1. I’ve posted it here, and I’ll post the audio version of the conclusion to Dear Hattie soon.
What do you think about the idea of audio versions of Deranged tales? Is it something you might enjoy? I’d love your input. If you critique my reading be gentle, I’m definitely not a professional.
With unexpected time on my hands, thanks to the Safer at Home order here in Los Angeles, I’ve turned my attention to all types of content and considered various ways to take my passion for crime in new and challenging directions.
Last year I taught a course, The Dark History of Los Angeles, for a community learning organization. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. The biggest problem with teaching a course in person is enrollment. There are only so many people you can cram into a room. With that in mind, I’ve started to develop a curriculum for a series of crime courses I will teach online.
I’m excited about the challenge of online teaching. Whatever changes occur in the post-pandemic world, online courses seem a safe bet. My debut course is a free mini-course, Serial Killers 101. I will let you know as soon as it becomes available.
Thanks again for supporting Deranged L.A. Crimes. I am grateful for every one of you.
On March 10th, B.C. (before Covid) I was interviewed by Dave Schrader for his wonderful radio show, MIDNIGHT IN THE DESERT. We talked for 3 hours about historic Los Angeles crime.
When I first agreed to do the interview I wondered how we would fill the time. By the 2 1/2 hour mark I knew we’d never be able to cover everything. The time flew. Dave is a terrific host and I recommend that you check out his show. I hope to make a return visit sometime during the summer.
Dave’s area of expertise is the paranormal, but he also has an interest in crime. Here’s a little more about Dave:
Dave Schrader has been one of the leading voices of the paranormal since 2006 when he launched his wildly popular talk show, Darkness on the Edge of Town on Twin Cities News Talk – Minneapolis’s top-rated AM talk station.
The show grew to become one of the station’s most successful shows and most-downloaded podcasts, expanding Schrader’s reach globally. Seeing an opportunity, Schrader moved his show to Chris Jericho’s network of shows on PodcastOne, where he further expanded his worldwide audience.
I was interviewed by Grant Nebel and John Anderson for Ellroycast, their podcast which examines all things James Ellroy.
Grant and John are big fans of Ellroy’s work. His novels, screenplays, articles and LAPD ’53, the photo essay book I was fortunate to work on with James and his co-author Glynn Martin.
Grant, John, and I talked about Ellroy’s novel, The Black Dahlia, vis a vis the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short. There is an astonishing number of misconceptions about Beth Short. Over the decades the myth has not just obscured reality, it has devoured it.
As a historian, I have an obligation to uncover and tell the truth. It isn’t easy with a case as infamous as the Black Dahlia.
Each time I read an article that begins with Beth arriving in Hollywood to pursue dreams of stardom I want to hurl the offending document across the room, or set fire to it.
Did Beth write to her mother and tell her she was seeking an acting career? Sure. Was it the truth? Emphatically no! There is no evidence that she went on a single cattle call, appeared as an extra, or did anything other than have the occasional Hollywood address.
Why, then, do the myths persist? Maybe because to some people they seem sexier than the truth. As far as I’m concerned Beth’s real life is more fascinating than the myth.
Her death reveals the dark side of the Greatest Generation. Beth’s story is not the trope for a wanna be Hollywood glamour girl. If you’re seeking a Hollywood tragedy metaphor, then read about Peg Entwistle who jumped 50 feet to her death from the “H” in the Hollywood sign on September 16, 1932.
Beth, and many other young, single women, coped with the chaos of Post-War Los Angeles by drifting from man-to-man, room-to-room and bar-to-bar. Los Angeles was a place where a fixed address was a luxury few could afford (even if they could locate a vacant apartment), and violent crimes committed by troubled vets frequently made headlines.
I’m glad that Ellroycast is visiting his world. His novels capture the zeitgeist of Post-War Los Angeles: the darkness and danger, the violence and the victims.
“I never knew her in life. She exists for me through others, in evidence of the ways her death drove them” ― James Ellroy, The Black Dahlia
Thanks again to Grant and John for inviting me to Ellroycast.
D.C. Kent survived his self-inflicted wounds. The bullet
wound in his head was superficial and the gash in his throat healed. With no
chance of succumbing to his injuries, D.C. decided to lay the groundwork for his
Too bad D.C. wasn’t an actor or he would have known better than to break character in the middle of a performance. He pretended not to hear when someone spoke to him. He rolled his eyes and did everything but drool. Whenever someone took him by surprise, he dropped the pretense. The deputies in the jail ward at the receiving hospital saw through his act, and so did the trusties.
A clue to D.C.’s state of mind was obvious in his choice of a lawyer. An insane man would not care if he had a lawyer or not. D.C. cared enough to engage the services of one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country, Earl Rogers.
Earl Rogers, admitted to the California bar in 1897, was an
attorney of uncommon skill. He appeared for the defense in seventy-seven murder
trials and lost only three. During one of
his most famous cases, “The Case of the Grinning Skull,” Rogers introduced the victim’s skull into
evidence to prove that what looked like a fracture caused by a violent blow
from a blunt instrument, delivered by his client, was, in reality, the result
of the autopsy surgeon’s carelessness with a scalpel. The jury acquitted Rogers’
If you think that “The Case of the Grinning Skull” sounds like
the title of a Perry Mason novel, you’re not far off. A decade after Rogers’ death in 1922, author
Erle Stanley Gardner resurrected Rogers in the character of Perry Mason.
Rogers visited D.C. in jail. D.C. was despondent, whiny, and in a state bordering on nervous collapse. He dropped his insanity act and asked Rogers to tell him if he had any chance of an acquittal. Rogers pulled no punches. He told D.C. he would have to get a grip on himself or the chances of him walking out of the courtroom a free man were zero to nil.
D.C. then asked Rogers about the worst-case scenario. What would happen if a jury convicted him? Again, Rogers leveled with his client. He told D.C. he might get from one to ten years in the penitentiary. D.C. collapsed. D.C.’s next question was about Rogers’ fee. Rogers had had enough of D.C.’s hand wringing and complaining. He said,
“Even if it costs you everything you have; it would be cheaper than going to the penitentiary.”
Rogers urged D.C. to be a man, not a coward. His plea fell on deaf ears.
While D.C. and Rogers talked, a patient was admitted to the
hospital. To treat the patient, someone
opened the large medicine cabinet near D.C.’s bed.
D.C. made a move to get up from his cot, but Special
Officer Quinn entered the room and D.C. sat back down. As Quinn turned to
leave, D.C. got up to follow him. He said he had to use the restroom.
Before anyone could stop him, D.C. sprang to the open
medicine case, threw back the doors and grabbed a bottle of carbolic acid. He poured
most of the bottle’s contents down his throat. Some of the caustic liquid
spilled down his shirt and burned him.
Deputies grabbed D.C. and carried him to the operating
room. He frothed at the mouth and writhed in agony, but said nothing.
A doctor was at D.C.’s side within 5 minutes. The doctor administered the antidote, but it
was too late. Ten minutes later, D.C. died.
Deputies searched the dead man’s cell and found a letter to
The letter read:
“Dear, Dear Hattie: I suppose that sounds queer to you. This is the longest time in seven years that I have not heard from you. Now I ask you if possible, to forgive me. Next, if possible, to assist me in my greatest hour of trouble.”
Unbelievable. D.C. had the unmitigated gall to beg Hattie, the woman he attempted to murder, to assist in his defense.
True to his character, D.C. continued:
“I am suffering the tortures of hell. I wish you could know one-half of my life in the last thirty days. Now, Hattie, I shall be plain with you and am going to ask you to return kindness for unkindness.”
The letter rambled along in a self-serving fashion to its
conclusion, which was a pathetic plea:
“Oh, I beg you, save me, for it is all with you. Think of me in jail, all covered with filth and lice; only beans and bread and treated like a dog. Save filthy me, I beg of you. Please tell Mr. Rogers your feelings in the matter.”
D.C. lied about the conditions in his cell and his treatment. Everyone who came in contact with him recalled him as, “troublesome, peevish, and fretting constantly because he could not do as he pleased.”
On the date scheduled for D.C.’s arraignment, Justice
Morgan dismissed the case because of the “death of the defendant by suicide.”
A former associate of D.C.’s paid to ship the body to Burlingame,
In his will, D.C. deeded Hattie his interest in the furniture
of the Columbia lodging house. Small
recompense for the agony she endured.
Hattie survived her wounds and married. George thrived. He served in World War I. Following the war, he became one of the first motion picture art directors. In 1924, he married Thelma Schmidt, and Hattie was there.
Late in the afternoon on June 29, 1935, George and veteran cameraman Charles Stumar left the Union Air Terminal in Burbank. They headed to a location near Triunfo where they planned to scout locations for an upcoming Universal Pictures film.
Stumar brought the plane in for a landing on an improvised field owned by the studio. It was twilight; the field was rough and uneven. Martin Murphy, a production manager for Universal, witnessed the crash. He telephoned the studio to report the accident and to let them know that he believed both occupants of the aircraft to be dead.
Upon hearing the news, Captain Morgan of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s aero detail hopped into his plane to survey the scene. When he arrived he confirmed everyone’s worst fears.
February 15, 1901/ Columbia Boarding House/South Broadway, Los Angeles
Hattie Wiley and her three-year-old son, George, stood in the kitchen and they talked as she fixed his lunch.
George heard someone and turned to see D.C. Kent, Hattie’s former fiancé and co-owner of the boarding house, enter the room. Hattie turned from the stove to face D.C. and they argued about her recent decision to end their relationship, both personal and professional. D.C. brought up a revolver he had concealed in his pocket, leveled it at Hattie. and fired three rounds. George, who stood between the two, escaped injury as the bullets whizzed over his head.
Stunned and bleeding, Hattie screamed and lurched into the hallway dripping blood. She collapsed on the floor and whispered, “My mother, my mother.”
George followed behind her. He cried, “Mommy, mommy, what is the matter?” She couldn’t respond.
Residents heard the commotion and crowded into the corridor. One chambermaid gathered her wits about her and phoned the police. Then everyone heard a sharp crack. Seconds later, D.C. reeled out of the kitchen, bleeding from his head. The blood ran down his face and soaked his shirt. He started toward his room at the top of the stairs.
Police arrived. The residents weren’t much help; they didn’t know what had happened.
An officer found D.C. in his room, He clutched a straight razor and stood over a washbasin filled with blood. Before the officer could intervene, D.C. brought the blade to his own throat and slashed. He stumbled against a trunk. The room was an abattoir.
Before D.C. could slice his throat a second time, the officer punched him. Dazed, D.C. dropped the razor. The cop grabbed D.C.’s arm and tugged him into the hallway. D.C. glanced over his shoulder at Hattie, who was still on the floor bleeding. George stood near her and wept, he begged his mother not to leave him.
An ambulance transported D.C. to a nearby receiving hospital where a doctor stitched him up. D.C., who had been mute during the ride from the boarding house, suddenly blurted out, “I’m sorry I didn’t succeed.” Then retreated into a silent sulk.
A reporter came to interview D.C, but he would not, or
could not, speak.
Hattie went to the California Hospital where a friend of
hers, Dr. C.G. Stivers, examined her. The prognosis was grim. She suffered
three serious gunshot wounds. Two of them entered her chest, and a third went
through the fleshy part of her arm. The bullets that entered her chest
deflected into her liver.
While they waited to see if Hattie would live or die, detectives began their investigation.
When he was younger, D.C. was a well-to-do businessman in Burlingame, Kansas. For whatever reason, he turned to alcohol. Once he started drinking he couldn’t stop. At some point, D.C. summoned the strength to vanquish his demons. He pulled himself together and made a fortune in the dry goods business.
Material success didn’t satisfy him. D.C. was restless and told his wife that he was miserable in Kansas. He wanted to move away and start fresh–without her. He told her to consider herself a widow, and he walked out.
He moved to Oklahoma, and later to Los Angeles where he got into the real estate business and bought the Columbia boarding house with Hattie.
Local newspapers speculated about the couple’s relationship. That they were engaged, or had been, and were living under the same were roof suggested an intimacy that could ruin Hattie’s reputation.
Mr. Harrison, Hattie’s father, took offense at the rumors and tried to set the newshounds straight. He said,
“My daughter’s character is above reproach as anyone who knows her will agree, and although she and Kent lived in the same house for several months, there was never a whisper of anything improper between them. They were engaged to be married, but Hattie broke it off. She told me she learned that D.C. was immoral. She said he had grown repulsive to her, and that she did not love him. Knowledge of this, coupled with an insane jealousy, undoubtedly prompted him to attempt her murder.”
Mr. Harrison then explained how his daughter knew D.C.
“D.C. was a friend of Wiley, my daughter’s divorced husband, and at various times lived with her and her family, both in Oklahoma and at Tropico, in this State. About two years ago Hattie rented a ranch from D.C. in Tropico. He boarded with she and her husband, and the latter’s mother. After Hattie’s divorce she lived for a time in East Los Angeles. Last April she came to our home at Tonawanda, New York, returning in September to Los Angeles, where she immediately joined D.C. in the purchase of the lease and fittings of the Columbia lodging house. My wife and I lived at the place with them, and there was never anything improper between them. D.C. agreed that Hattie should conduct business at the lodging house while he would devote his attention to his real estate business. He failed to carry out this agreement and spent most of his time at the house. He was insanely jealous of Hattie and would become angry when any other man talked with her.”
As D.C.’s jealousy increased and became more out of control, the Harrison’s sent Hattie to Long Beach for a week. She returned home determined to sever her ties to D.C.
Hattie was unaware that while she was in Long Beach. D.C. hired a private investigator to shadow her. The P.I. observed Hattie with a man and they seemed enamored of each other. D.C. was enraged by the news — he decided to seek revenge.
Dr. C.G. Stivers performed a laparotomy on Hattie. A laparotomy is a surgical procedure in which the doctor makes an incision in the abdominal cavity. The doctors opened Hattie up and traced the two bullets lodged in her chest to assess the damage. A lengthy operation to remove the bullets would kill her, so they left well enough alone.
Despite the earlier dire prognosis, Hattie rallied. She regained
her strength and doctors felt confident that, barring anything unforeseen, she
While Hattie recovered, D.C. paced the floor of his room in the jail ward of the receiving hospital. His biggest fear now was that he would go to prison for the attempt on Hattie’s life.
He mulled over his options. There wasn’t much he could do –
other than feign insanity.