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November 3, 2020

Lake View Sanitorium

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Check out This Podcast Will Kill You's TB episode

Script

Tuberculosis is a chronic bacterial infection, that passes through the air, and attacks the lungs (sometimes, it will attack other internal organs, as well). Patients with an "active" form of tuberculosis, may feel: weak, loss of appetite, fever, chest pains, night sweats, a persistent cough and may even cough up blood. It is possible to be a carrier for the bacteria without displaying symptoms (asymptomatic carrier).
 
TB in WI
 
By the late 1870s, concerns that cases of tuberculosis, often referred to as consumption, were increasing in Wisconsin were expressed.  Physicians identified the need to gather information about the number of cases, their locations, patient ages, and fatalities, in order to better understand the effects of the disease in Wisconsin.  The information could then be used to help determine how to reduce the spread of infection and to develop viable treatments.
 
The cause of tuberculosis was unknown until 1882, and speculation regarding the possible causes of the disease was widespread.  Reports were intermixed with discussions of supposed sources including “soil moisture,” “climate change” and “insufficient clothing.”  A large component of health professionals strongly believed the origin to be genetic. In 1882, when Robert Koch discovered that the cause of tuberculosis was a bacteria called tubercle bacillus, the medical community could finally begin to address controlling the spread of the disease based on limiting exposure to contamination.  However, not everyone was convinced by Koch’s work, and even those who endorsed it included individuals who felt it unwise to accept the bacteria as the only source of the disease.  Also, no treatment was known.  Therefore, movements to develop appropriate treatments based on the bacterial nature of the disease were not pursued in earnest immediately. The Wisconsin State Board of Health continued to support treatment through “purity of air and removal from all special causes of irritation to the lungs... and the general upbuilding of the system by nutritious diet, with relief from overwork and from depressing anxieties...”
 
The first statistical report on the prevalence of tuberculosis in Wisconsin was presented in 1894 stating:
For the year ending September 30, 1893, according to the reports received from 593 localities in the state 622 deaths occurred from Consumption; and for the year ending September 30, 1894, from 648 localities 903 deaths are reported.  It is impossible to estimate the exact number of death that occur from this disease in the state at the present time.  Statistics in relation to these are of the most vital importance as it is now recognized that this is one of the preventable diseases with which we have to contend.
 
Collection of additional statistics, as well as intense advocacy efforts made by individuals and organizations, eventually led, in 1902, to the Wisconsin State Board of Health recommending the establishment of a state sanatorium for the care and treatment of patients with tuberculosis.7  In 1904, the Milwaukee county committee on tuberculosis was organized to “...address the question of the establishment of sanatoria for the treatment of consumption...” and to organize a campaign for the education of the public regarding the contagiousness of the disease and of the curability of consumption in the early stages.
 
Reports were prepared and, by 1908, there were three small sanatoriums in Wisconsin accommodating a total of 100 patients.  The oldest was River Pines, a private hospital that opened in August 1906, located on the Wisconsin River near Stevens Point.  The second to open was Blue Mound, located on the outskirts of Milwaukee, which operated as a philanthropic institution.  The third placed into operation was the publicly owned and operated Wisconsin State Sanatorium, near Wales (see Figure 2-1).  The three all struggled to remain stable financially, and operated at maximum capacity at all times.  They mainly provided care for incipient cases, and there was an acute need for isolation of advanced cases to help halt the spread of infection.  Also, many more patient beds were required.  Advocates developed a plan to address the need by establishing a system of county sanatoriums.  An enabling act was necessary for counties to set up the facilities, and a bill was developed and presented to the 1911 Legislature “permitting counties to build and operate county sanatoriums for the care of advanced cases.”  The bill was signed into law by Governor Francis E. McGovern on 27 June 1911 as Chapter 457 of the statutes.  The establishment of the Wisconsin county system for treating tuberculosis patients was unique compared to most states.  As a result, the majority of Wisconsin’s sanatorium facilities were built utilizing county funds and operated by the counties with only minor financial aid from the state.
 
The quick construction of the Greenfield hospital in Milwaukee, was based on rushed planning and design, resulting in errors that impacted the ability of the facility to function properly.  As a result, in September 1911, the Wisconsin Anti-Tuberculosis Association’s publication, The Crusader, published a report outlining a planning approach and architectural design for a model county sanatorium.  “So well thought out was the design that it was adopted at once by several county boards contemplating sanatorium construction. Indeed, most of the 17 county sanatoriums opened in the next 19 years were built essentially on this plan.”
 
The importance of implementing the county system in Wisconsin was underscored with the onset of the Great Depression.  As unemployment and homelessness rose, ideal conditions for spreading tuberculosis escalated.  Wisconsin’s established sanatoriums played a major role in caring for those struck by the disease.  The Wisconsin Anti-Tuberculosis Association published posters and brochures providing information about the services provided at the sanatoria.
 
Efforts of the Madison Tuberculosis Association
 
Beginning in 1907, a small group of men began to work toward the eradication of tuberculosis in Madison and the surrounding area.  The group formed the Madison Tuberculosis Association (MTA) in 1908 and established a campaign of public education and a survey of the prevalence of the disease in the area.  About two hundred cases were identified.  Members of the MTA developed a plan for a tuberculosis sanatorium focused on curing and preventing the disease in Madison.  Philanthropist Dr. Charles H. Vilas contributed the funds to purchase land and erect buildings for the Morningside Sanatorium, which served as the only facility of its kind in Dane County until Lake View Sanatorium was opened in 1930. Soon after its establishment, Morningside Sanatorium was unable to serve the quantity of tuberculosis patients in Dane County.  A campaign ensued to develop support for the development of a larger sanatorium to serve the county.  Finally, in 1928, the Dane County Board committed to construct a tuberculosis sanatorium with one hundred beds to serve the community.
 
Location & Construction of Lake View Sanatorium
 
In order to determine the design and location of the facility, a building committee was appointed.  Their first task was to choose a site for the Dane County sanatorium.  Once selected, the choice of the property in the town of Westport was unanimously endorsed.  This property had many desirable attributes including its location in the center of the county, proximity to Madison to make staffing easier, and the aesthetically appealing characteristics of the site.  In fact, according to the 1940 annual report, the site was unequalled from an aesthetic standpoint.
 
The high land on which the Sanatorium stands not only provides the best atmospheric conditions available, but presents a beautiful view, almost unsurpassed in the state of Wisconsin.  From these premises the eye may wander from the wooded hills in the west, over almost all of Lake Mendota to the University buildings, to the dome of the Capitol which always presents itself above the skyline of Maple Bluff, to the city of Madison straight to the south, and, more to the east, a typical Wisconsin pastoral landscape.  It is said that John Muir, the naturalist, in walking from Madison to Portage, paused on this hill to feast his eyes on this superb vista which he believed his last view of Madison.
 
The property was purchased from Henry Harbort (or Harbour) by Dane County in 1929.17  The original appropriation of $250,000 for construction had to be expanded by an additional $225,000 to complete the project.  The construction firm of J. P. Cullen & Sons, Inc., was hired to construct the facility.  Figures 2-4 through 2-6 include images of the building under construction.  When the building opened in 1930, it was “undoubtedly, at that time, the leading structure for the treatment of tuberculosis in the Middle West.” The facility included every modern convenience and equipment for the operation of the Sanatorium and for the medical and surgical care of the patients. The main building was completed and ready for occupancy on 1 June 1930. The first patient was admitted the evening before, 31 May 1930.  The first power plant on the property was completed the same year.
 
The name Lake View was selected because of the view one can command from its premises.  The ground floor of the sanatorium is on a level with the roof of the State Capitol and has an elevation of 150 feet above the surrounding countryside.
 
Although Morningside Sanatorium continued to operate in Madison, Lake View also admitted children when it first opened.  During the 1941-42 fiscal year the determination was made to cease treating children at Lake View.  The children’s rooms were converted to be used for adult patients.
 
Because the treatment of tuberculosis has changed considerably since the time the institution was erected, numerous changes within the physical structure of the building have taken place.  The ground floor originally had a large play room for children, and the porches on the third and fourth floors did not have roofs.  The roofs were added at a later date when sun treatment was no longer used.
 
From a review of the new facility by the first superintendent, Dr. W. C. Reineking:
 
When the Superintendent and Medical Director took charge of the institution in the Spring of 1930, he found a splendid up-to-date building, very effectively planned, and embracing all modern features for the care and treatment of tuberculous patients.  Those responsible for the selection of the site not only chose wisely from a practical point of view, but located the san. In the most beautiful and delightful spot that could possibly have been obtained.  From the point of view of the patients, the elevation, the outlook over Lake Mendota, and the immediate surrounds are ideal and conducive to recovery.  The hospital building not only has a very desirable abundance of floor space for each patient, including ample porches for the majority of the patients, but also an exposure to light, air and sunshine that permits each patient to receive the maximum of these valuable necessities for recovery
 
The builders also made liberal provision for every form of treatment known to medical science; good examining and treatment rooms, a well planned and equipped operating room, solariums and lamp rooms, facilities for direct sunlight treatment, children’s play room and school room, occupational therapy department, and the finest and most up-to-date X-ray installation obtainable.  Also a laboratory, treatment rooms, and everything that the most exacting physician might desire are provided.
 
The arrangement of having an available porch connecting with almost every room so that patients’ beds might be moved in or out, is a feature enjoyed by very few sanatoria, and is a large factor in the recovery of patients. In short, the location, well planned building and fine equipment, should place Lake View Sanatorium in the front rank, not only in Wisconsin, but in the whole middle west.
 
The medical approach to treating tuberculosis at the time included extensive bed rest, exposure to fresh air and sunshine, and a diet consisting of plenty of meat, fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.  Patients joked about growing fat at the Sanatorium, and in fact, it was a goal of the facility to increase the weight of many of the patients, who had grown emaciated from the effects of the disease.  Former patients commented on the very good quality and large quantity of food offered to patients at the Sanatorium.
 
The emphasis on fresh air and sunshine meant that the building site, design, and surrounding landscape were considered vital factors in the recovery of patients.  Throughout Wisconsin (and the United States) the movement focused on the treatment of tuberculosis applied a similar approach to emphasizing the location and design of sanatoria to maximize exposure to fresh air and sunshine.
 
By 1933, several cost-saving techniques had been initiated, including growing a garden to offset the cost of fresh produce, and operating a dairy plant to bottle and pasteurize milk at the facility.  The locations of the garden and other site features are illustrated in a sketch maps prepared for the patient newsletter, provided herein as Figures 2-10 and 2-11.  Revenues for the year ending in 1933, included produce grown in the institution’s garden and consumed at the Sanatorium, saving thirteen percent of the overall cost for food, or a total of $125.00.  In addition to providing food for the patients, the garden was a source of interest and pride to those housed at the institution.  The patient newsletter referred to the garden, and other landscape-related activities often. This was a common practice, not only at TB sanitoria but asylums and other isolated patient spaces - especially if there were concerns around disease transmission. Some sanitoria were completely self-sufficient.
 
By the end of 1933, the facility had 105 beds for patients that were filled at all times, and a consistent waiting list of ten to thirty patients.  These patients were crowded into the space intended for seventy-five patients, so conditions were by no means ideal.  The institution continued to operate at, or above, maximum capacity and administrators made a strong case for the allocation of funds to construct an employee’s dormitory.
 
The Dormitory for Help (also referred to as the Nurses’ Dormitory, or simply the Dormitory) was completed in 1934 and staff were housed in it from that point forward.  Removal of staff from the main Sanatorium opened up space for patients, and the patient bed capacity rose from 100 to 140 during the 1934-1935 fiscal year.  Each bed was immediately occupied as it was made available.  To accommodate the construction of the dormitory, the topography on the site was altered.  Most notably a large stone retaining wall was added south of the new building.  In addition, new roads and paths were constructed to provide circulation to the dormitory.
 
Water features were added to help with healing. South of the dormitory, Sputum Lake (or Sputum Pond) included a small ornamental bridge that crossed it at one end.  The patient newsletter records the construction of the pond in 1939, and the origin of the name “Sputum Lake.”  Apparently, the patients were curious about the construction activities and watched closely as the pond was constructed.  They joked that it would be filled with sputum, and named it “Sputum Lake.”  The name persisted and appears on several sketches of the property that were drawn during the period of significance.
 
Several other additions were made to the property in 1939.  The access road was rebuilt and a fence was installed at the eastern property line.  An area for raising hogs was established by fencing several acres of land on the north border of the property, and a herd of hogs was developed as a kitchen waste disposal system.  A chicken coop was also present on the property, providing fresh eggs for the institution.32  The presence of beehives, outbuildings, and fences in a sketch first printed in 1948 (see Figures 2-10 and 2-11) illuminates further the use of the landscape to help supplement the operations at the Sanatorium.  In addition, the northern portion of the property was used for disposing various kinds of refuse, from broken crockery to power house coal slag, old bricks, concrete, bottles, etc.  It appears that the path used to access the hog enclosure in the woods was once surfaced with slag, and a slag heap is located between the dormitory and Sputum Pond/Lake on the southern portion of the property.  Given the possible expense of removing these items from the site, it may have been yet another cost-saving approach to utilize the property landscape to dispose of selected materials.
 
A stone quarry existed to the west of the Sanatorium property during the period of significance (see Figures 2-10 and 2-11).  Oral history accounts include references to a bedrock cave system that may underlie the property.  Lake View hill is situated on an isolated bedrock knob of Ordovician Prairie du Chien dolomite underlain by sandstone.  Although it is possible that there are some enlarged fractures in the knob, it is not possible that an extensive cave system exists in this location as a cave would not form in the underlying and surrounding sandstone bedrock (Cambrian Jordan Formation).
 
Within a year of the opening of the dormitory, the superintendent was urging the county to improve the reliability of the supply of electricity and water at the institution.  The improved water supply was accomplished with the installation of a 300 foot deep well, elevated reserve water tank and water utility building in 1938.  By 1940 a new pumphouse was constructed.  The original power generator for the facility, constructed at the same time as the main Sanatorium building in 1929-30, did not include a back-up system.  When the boilers were turned off for maintenance or repairs, the electricity and heat at the facility would be interrupted.  This was especially problematic if operations were occurring, and the need for an emergency power plant was repeated often.
 
Daily schedules for patients included outdoor exercise prescribed based on the level of wellness reached.  An example from one guidebook explains:
Exercise is not prescribed for indulgence nor as a special reward.  It is an essential part of your treatment and must be taken as such.  All exercise should be taken at a slow, leisurely rate; violent exercise such as running and jumping is injurious to you.  Never let yourself get out of breath or become fatigued unless instructed by the physician to ignore fatigue or breathlessness.  ...Activity will be assigned by number as follows:
1. Strict bed rest:  You may sit up in bed for meals and washing only: reading and letter writing are to be done lying down.
Patients eventually built up to bathroom privileges, then meals in the dining room, and finally outdoor exercise was introduced in a phased manner:
7. 15 minutes twice daily of outdoor exercise...
8.30 minutes twice daily of outdoor exercise...
9.45 minutes twice daily of outdoor exercise...
10.1 hour twice daily outdoor exercise... Club and rehabilitation activities, including croquet in the summer, could be substituted as part of the regular outdoor exercise.
 
In 1948, a residential property adjacent to the Sanatorium, near the maintenance facilities, was purchased to serve as the home of the Associate Medical Director. The addition of this facility enabled the Associate Medical Director and his family to live together in very close proximity to the institution. Sometime during the later years of the operation of the Sanatorium, a superintendent constructed an ice skating rink for his daughters in the woods near the water tower. The rink was constructed by “leveling an oval area on top of the hill and using soils from the inside of the oval to create berms surrounding the rink.” The area was mown and kept clear until the 1980s, when woodland species began to encroach upon it. A 1997 survey identified the feature as a possible burial site or native American earthwork however, the 2008 archeological survey determined that it was constructed recently.
 
Downhill
 
Throughout the years of operation of the Lake View Sanatorium, changes were made to embrace newer treatment regimes and improve the success of patient treatment.  By 1953, Lake View Sanatorium began to see a steady decline in patients.  For the first time since its establishment, the institution housed significantly fewer patients than its available capacity.  Only 95 of the 140 beds were occupied on a regular basis throughout the year.  The stand-by electrical plant was finally completed during the year—providing a back-up source of power for emergencies.  The hog farm was disbanded in 1955, due to increasing difficulty in marketing the garbage-fed livestock, and the need to conform to city of Madison regulations (the property was annexed into the city of Madison ca. 1953).
 
In 1956 the number of occupied beds at the facility had dwindled to 60.  This number rose the following year when the State Sanatorium (in Milwaukee) closed and the patients were moved to Lake View.  In 1958 the fourth floor of the Sanatorium was converted into a general hospital, the first “Dane County General Hospital.”  The facility was used for bed-ridden patients who needed extra medical attention.48  By 1961 it appears that the facility was again accepting children as patients.  A tutoring program was expanded to assist the children who were missing school while at the Sanatorium.49  For the next several years, the issue of whether or not to close the Sanatorium and Hospital was debated, as the number of patients continued to decrease.  Concerns about an increase in the number of tuberculosis cases in rural areas were expressed; if the sanatorium closed, the patients would need to be transferred to facilities where they could contaminate other patients.  It was determined that Dane County could find another use for the main building, and plans were put in place to close the hospital (in January 1965) and the Sanatorium (in 1966).
 
When the Sanatorium was closed in 1966, the administration of the property was shifted to the Dane County Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Public Works, and Dane County Parks.51    Since that time, the main Sanatorium building has been used by the Department of Health and Human Services for administrative offices.
 
In 1991, the northern 22.5 acres of the site were designated as the Lake View Woods nature conservancy to preserve one of the last hilltops in Madison from development.  The Dane County Parks and Open Space Plan was amended in 1993 to include the southern portion of the Lake View property as an urban greenspace. Also in 1993, the 46 acre Lake View Sanatorium property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its significance related to the treatment of tuberculosis in Dane County.
 
The Dane County Board amended the 2001-2005 Parks and Open Space Plan to include Lake View Hill as a recreation park in 2004 and the park was placed under the jurisdiction of the Dane County Parks Commission in 2005.  Also in 2005, 2.34 acres of the Esch family property was donated to Dane County Parks Commission as an addition to the park.
 
One person shared the following anecdote: "My family owned the farm where the sanitarium [sic] is now. My great great grandfather was a farmer and shot him self on the land. I found the old farmer sighting interesting, as it was probably him. My grandmother is also buried in the cemetery along with all my relatives who came here from Germany. All this land was the Sachtjen farm for a long time. They also built the little church." While I can't fully substantiate this based on research, the family owned several farms in the area. The sanitorium is 1.3 miles away from a house built in 1852 on one of the family's farms, still-standing at 2215 N Sherman Ave.
 
Spooky Things
 
While the main building is imposing in its vintage horror visage, it is the woods behind it and the small graveyard to the west of the old Sanitarium that have the strongest reputation for paranormal activity. Reports of cold and hot spots, apparitions, strange lights, odd mists, and physical manifestations—such as being touched by phantom hands—are common on the trails woven throughout the tree-enshrouded Lake View Park, and in the nearby graveyard.
 
People who've walked through here report hearing voices - especially low-toned voices - and some say they've captured recordings. These range from random noises that are hard to make out to cries for help or being told to get out of there. There are also feelings of being stalked, slapped, having their hair pulled, seeing red eyes (although that could potentially be explained away by animals) and other unexplained occurrences.
 
While it was demolished in recent years from what I can tell, the abandoned dormitory building was a source of much spookiness. Many windows were missing and it was clearly out of use... Still, there were often lights left on and red-lit exit signs that add to the eerie feeling of the building. Many visitors reported an apparition at the door to this building.
 
In the woods there is also the ruins of what is rumored to be a crematorium, and a large depression over the spot that used to be an underground tunnel that housed the dead, due to the fact that they could only cremate the bodies once a week so as not to constantly diminish the air quality for the patients. Others believe they stumble across some old foundation to a torn down building - something they assume must have been nefarious - but this is likely the retaining wall built on the property during sanitorium days.
 
Paranormal belief aside, the grounds are a lovely example of Madison’s dedication to natural spaces, and perfect for a pleasant stroll. Dogs are allowed in the park, but must remain on-leash. As winter approaches, too, this is a major sledding hill so check that out if you're a sledder. Keep in mind, though, that the park closes at 10 pm and, due to housing some state services in the old building, is subject to routine visits from police.
 
If you're lucky, you might even see Sandhill Cranes as you pass by or walk through the park.
 
 
June 9, 2020

Tony Robinson

Photo source

Content note: murder, police brutality

With everything going on, I wanted to cover a murder-by-cop from 2015 that happened here in Madison. Tony Robinson was murdered by Madison PD Officer Matt Kenny - who murdered once before and is still on the force.

I lose my voice a little towards the end of this episode because it's a long one (that and I used my slightly-deeper-from-testosterone voice). Please listen with an open mind and without judgment going in.

There are resources below about racism, police brutality, and more. If you want to sign the petition to get Matt Kenny fired, you can do so here.

Episode sources

PS: right after I posted this, our mayor posted a thank you to police showing she lied through her teeth.

Resources

Required reading on anti-racism, white privilege, and being an ally:

Reading more

On defunding and abolishing police - and their qualified immunity:
How to support black folx:
FB group: 

 

Rough transcript (will update when able):

 
Today's case is one of the most upsetting cases of cops murdering black men in recent Wisconsin history.
 
Williamson Street, on the east side of Madison, is affectionately known to its diverse residents as “Willy Street”. It is lined with an array of progressive shopfronts: vegan cafes, a co-operative grocery store and a social justice center. On March 6, 2015, 18-year-old Javier - one of Tony's two roommates - called the police. The other roommate was not home. Javier had just left home to go to a basketball game and Tony chased the car down the street. He was acting erratically and Javier made sure to tell them that he was unarmed and not violent, but did need assistance. 
Earlier in the day Robinson had been out with a small group and had eaten magic mushrooms, according to a friend who was present at the time. The friend, who had known Robinson for five years, said Robinson was inexperienced with hallucinogens and had consumed a large quantity. “He had no clue what he was in for. Realistically, he needed someone to sit him down and tell him that everything was OK,” the friend said.  Robinson returned to Willy Street at around 5 pm after playing on the ice at Governor’s Island.
Following Javier's departure, Tony allegedly went across the street and punched someone. 
At around 6.30pm, Madison police officer Matt Kenny forced entry into the house - at 1125 Willy St - after apparently hearing a “disturbance” inside the apartment and forced entry. No one else was present in the apartment at that time, raising questions about the nature of the disturbance heard before entry was forced. 
 
The Police said Robinson was acting violently, and had knocked Kenny to the ground. Kenny then shot Tony. Kenny is said to have suffered a concussion and a sprained knee from the assault.  The dispatch audio indicates just 18 seconds elapsed in the time between his arrival and shots being heard. Police Chief Koval described the scuffle between the officer and the man as “mutual combat.”
 
Marshall Erb, a 27-year-old insurance worker who lives in the apartment next door, rushed to the window after he heard the shots. He told the Guardian that “gurgling and choking” noises could be heard, but he couldn’t see from where.
 
Olga Ennis, a 43-year-old neighbor from across the street, says she saw officer Kenny and another officer dragging the limp, bloody body of the biracial 19-year-old out on to the porch. "I watched them drag him out like a piece of garbage,” she said. Other said cops were standing around Tony, but not acting with any immediacy. Kenny claimed that he performed CPR on Robinson, and Robinson was taken to a hospital but later died. However, Ennis disputes that - “He was put on a gurney and he was lifeless,” she said. “He died at the house. He didn’t die at the hospital.”
 
“He was in a place in his head that no one else in the world, in the universe could have understood but him,” said the friend, who still seemed traumatised by the events. “You have one person [Robinson] who was so fucking gone, and another man [Kenny] who was trained and capable of reason. And they killed him... He needed help and they just took him.”
 
Tony's life
 
“Terrell grew up with no structure,” Turin Carter, his 24-year-old uncle, told the Guardian, explaining that little things such as regular meal times “help mold the child’s identity and help him know right from wrong”.
 
Tony lived in Stoughton from aged 5 to 9, a suburb to the south of Madison where racism is even more rampant than in Madison proper.  In his early teens, Carter says, Robinson effectively became the man of the house. But the instability and the ordinary angst of adolescence were compounded by changing three different high schools before he graduated from Sun Prairie high school, in another largely white community outside of Madison.
 
Racism is so rampant in Madison that nearly half of Madison’s black students don't graduate on time. Robinson finished early.
 
After graduation, Tony ran into one legal issue after having participated in a nonviolent home invasion with four others. When he was murdered, he was on probation but also dedicated to turning things around. He had plans to attend a community college and, someday, move to New York.
 
“I could not imagine somebody’s death impacting my life more profoundly,” Carter said. “There is something so beautiful about a black kid, especially in America, trying to make it against all odds and fucking up so bad, but then actively trying to better his situation and become a better person. He was so close. He was so close.”
 
Tony's mother, Andrea Irwin, said  “My son has never been a violent person, and to die in such a violent, violent way, it baffles me. Whatever you believe about my son, he was a human being and he was my son and... he was a brother and a nephew and a grandson,"
 
Officer Kenny's history
 
This was not Officer Kenny's first murder. In 2007, Officer Matt Kenny had shot and killed Ronald Brandon, who was standing on the porch of his own home, holding what was later learned was a pellet gun. Kenny is still on the police force. Chief Koval described this murder as 'suicide by cop' as Ronald had called the police to report someone wielding a gun. He then was sat on his porch where he put his pellet gun up to his head, and then pointed it at police. That's when Kenny fired multiple shots and murdered Brandon. The Dane County district attorney ruled the shooting as justified, and the Madison Police Department awarded Officer Kenny its medal of valor.
 
The aftermath
 
The Black Lives Matter movement has protested Robinson's death.[11][12][13] Some 1,500 protesters, mostly high school students who had staged a walk-out, filled the state capitol on March 9 to protest Robinson's death, yelling the "Hands up, don't shoot" chant through the capital building.  The Wisconsin Department of Justice investigated the Robinson shooting, as required by Wisconsin law.[15] Robinson's uncle said that the family had faith that the Division of Criminal Investigation will "handle [the investigation] with integrity".  On May 12, 2015, Dane County District Attorney, Ismael Ozanne, announced that Officer Matt Kenny would not face charges for the shooting of Tony Robinson. The shooting was labeled a "lawful use of deadly police force."
 
Chief Koval said it was “absolutely appropriate” for the protesters to express their feelings, but called for restraint. He consistently was antagonistic in press conferences, not really allowing for any concerns that the police locally had major issues with both racism and overuse of force. In fact, he seemed more worried about how this would reflect on officers at the time and on recruiting. Koval retired suddenly in October 2019, supposedly after pressure from Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. Rhodes-Conway has been a staunch advocate for speaking out against police brutality in the past. Quite frankly, I think his words - often combative and dismissive - speak for themselves:  “To the ‘haters,’ thanks to you as well — for through your unrelenting, unforgiving, desire to make the police the brunt of all of your scorn — I drew strength from your pervasive and persistent bullying,” Koval said.
 
The Robinson family attorneys insist that forensic and video evidence prove that Kenny lied about what happened the night Robinson was killed. In particular, they say that synchronized audio and video from the incident show that Kenny couldn’t have been at the top of the stairs when he began firing. “The audio and video show that Officer Kenny was at the base of the stairs — it doesn’t take a forensic scientist to see that. He couldn’t be at the top of the stairs for the first shot and then be coming out the [bottom] doorway by the second shot,” says Swaminathan. “That means that Officer Kenny’s story about being punched at the top of the stairs and responding with a shot is untrue.” He adds: “The location of the bullet casings are all at the base of the stairs and outside, indicating the shots were fired at the base of the stairs. There is no high-impact blood spatter anywhere above the halfway point of the stairs — that’s strong evidence that there were no shots fired at the top of the stairs.”
The family attorneys also fault the police department’s internal investigation, saying it was aimed to clear Kenny. Most specifically, Kenny was never questioned. “This is the main problem with the internal investigation: They asked zero questions. This isn’t a case where they asked some questions but didn’t ask other questions,” says Swaminathan. “They asked zero questions of an officer whose story at even first glance, was problematic. That’s a broken internal investigation process.”
 
In February, 2017, Robinson's family accepted a $3.35 million settlement from the city, to settle a civil rights lawsuit. Of course, the city would not admit guilt.
 
The family's legal team had placed evidence on a website, now defunct, to share with the public. Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association,says he wishes 1) that the family didn't do this and 2) that the case had gone to trial. “We find it difficult to reconcile the Robinson family’s efforts to try their case in the court of public opinion, after they chose to settle the case and stay out of a court of law,” he says. “If they felt as confident about their claims as they suggest, we would have preferred they hadn’t agreed to a settlement. Which was a choice that Matt Kenny did not have. Matt Kenny would have preferred a trial and the opportunity to clear his name again.”
In a later statement, Chief Koval said that he cannot respond to specific arguments raised by Robinson’s lawyers. “We cannot comment on a one-sided version of facts that will never be subjected to the cross-examination afforded by a trial,” Koval says. “To suggest that you have ‘new’ evidence supplied by experts paid by the plaintiffs should be considered in the context from which it is proffered.”
Kemble says she wants a new internal investigation so that Kenny will be “interviewed directly” and questioned “on the discrepancies between his story and the forensic and scientific evidence. Those are important questions that should be answered.”
Formerly a case manager for a transitional living service working with children, Ton'y mother says she lost her job due to the time she had to take off after her son was killed. She also was forced to move. A local TV station posted audio from a 911 call she made last January when she feared Tony was suicidal. The call included her address and phone number, which were broadcast.
“People would bang on my patio door at night and throw all kinds of stuff at my house,” she says. “I couldn’t sleep. I was scared I couldn’t get to my kids if something happened. So, we got out of there.”
Her second-oldest son now lives in Canada with Irwin’s brother. “I didn’t want him here. I’m very afraid for either of my boys to have an encounter with any police officer in the city because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” she says. “He can create his own friendships there and not have people know everything that’s going on in his life. He’s not gone for good, but he needed to go to grieve.”
In all, the $18,000 collected from the online campaign, “every ounce of it went to his funeral,” she says. “I had $10,000 in savings that’s all gone now. We haven’t even gotten him a headstone for his gravesite yet because we can’t afford it.” Irwin’s also leery of getting a headstone because the gravesite has been vandalized. “They keep stealing things from it, and someone drove over his grave,” she says. “We’ve tried to keep it secret where he was buried because there are so many people against us.”
Andrea recently got married and moved to California to escape the pain Madison caused and continues to cause her.
 
What has changed?
 
Despite Rhodes-Conway being against police brutality, she has lied to protesters in saying she can't affect change to measures like curfews that have been set recently. 
 
Acting Police Chief Victor Wahl has released a statement in response to the #8CantWait campaign nationally: 
  • Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds – MPD does not, nor has it ever, trained officers in chokeholds, strangleholds or any other similar techniques.  MPD policy specifically prohibits use of these techniques unless deadly force is justified.
  • Require De-Escalation – MPD has implemented a policy on de-escalation that requires the use of de-escalation techniques (such as time, distance, communication, etc.) when feasible.  All officers were trained in de-escalation when the policy was implemented.  New officers are trained in de-escalation and the principle is incorporated into many aspects of officer training (professional communication, tactical response, etc.).
  • Require Warning Before Shooting – MPD policy requires that "Before using deadly force, officers shall, if reasonably possible, identify themselves and order the subject to desist from unlawful activity."  This requirement is reinforced in officer training.
  • Require Exhausting all Alternatives Before Shooting – MPD policy clearly states that deadly force is "a measure of last resort, only to be employed when an officer reasonably believes all other options have been exhausted or would be ineffective."  This principle is emphasized in officer training.
  • Duty to Intervene – MPD policy and Code of Conduct states, "Any officer present and observing another officer using excessive force, or engaged in unlawful conduct, or in violation of the Madison Police Department's Code of Conduct has an affirmative obligation to intercede and report."
  • Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles – MPD policy states that shooting at a moving vehicles is never authorized unless: a person in the vehicle is threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle; or the vehicle is being operated in a manner that reasonably appears deliberately intended to strike an officer or other person, and all other reasonable means of defense have been exhausted (or are not present or practical).
  • Require Comprehensive Reporting – MPD policy requires that any officer who uses physical force, weapons, items, or devices against a person shall complete an original or supplemental report on the incident. This includes pointing a firearm at an individual. Additionally, officers who use "recordable" force must contact a supervisor to review the use of force and enter information about the incident into an internal database.  Each use of recordable force is reviewed by the MPD Use of Force Coordinator, and certain levels of force require an initial on-scene supervisory response/review.
  • Require Use of Force Continuum – The "8cantwait" initiative defines this as restricting "the most severe types of force to the most extreme situations" and "creating clear policy restrictions on the use of each police weapon and tactic."  MPD policy and training are consistent with this.  Deadly force is clearly restricted to extreme situations, and the use of specific tools/techniques is specifically restricted in policy.  MPD officers are trained in a manner consistent with the State of Wisconsin's Defensive and Arrest Tactics (DAAT) curriculum (as required by the State).  The DAAT system incorporates an intervention options matrix, with restrictions on specific techniques.
It's important to note that the 8 Can't Wait campaign is NOT endorsed by most black folx, especially black women who have been leading the BLM cause. The following is an update from black organizers:
"While communities across the country mourn the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Jamel Floyd, and so many more Black victims of police murder, Campaign Zero released its 8 Can’t Wait campaign, offering a set of eight reforms they claim would reduce police killings by 72%. As police and prison abolitionists, we believe that this campaign is dangerous and irresponsible, offering a slate of reforms that have already been tried and failed, that mislead a public newly invigorated to the possibilities of police and prison abolition, and that do not reflect the needs of criminalized communities.
We honor the work of abolitionists who have come before us, and those who organize now. A better world is possible. We refuse to allow the blatant co-optation of decades of abolitionist organizing toward reformist ends that erases the work of Black feminist theorists. As the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance recently noted, 8 Can’t Wait will merely “improve policing’s war on us.” Additionally, many abolitionists have already debunked the 8 Can’t Wait campaign’s claims, assumptions, and faulty science.
Abolition can’t wait."
A protest organized by Freedom Inc, Urban Triage, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) started off the protests here in Madison. Sawyer Johnson with recently stated at the first protest that  “We have a white queer mayor...as a fellow white queer person, I got to have a conversation with her. We refuse to denounce any black, youth leader that is continuing to lead the rebellion. Because that’s what it is. We care more about black lives than Urban Outfitters getting tagged. It is clear to us that Madison’s liberalism only masks the true white supremacy nature of capitalism. Not only does Matt Kenny still have his job, he’s training [police] on meditation.” 
The founder of Urban Triage,  Brandi Grayson, said earlier this week: “Some of us are upset at the looting. I get it. Some of us are upset about the property. I get it. But nobody is offering solutions or policy change...What was offered? Tear gas, More people showed up and donated to businesses, who have insurance, than donated to the cause. If you are really about black liberation, we need you to put your money where your mouth is.” 
She also says several years of leading peaceful protests over the police shooting of 19-year-old Tony Robinson, along with efforts to stop the construction of a new Dane County jail and remove police from schools, have given black youth the tools to create something new.  “[These protests] really were spontaneous and led by the youth. They have been paying attention to the organized protests that happened during the day [after Floyd’s death]. And you can see them using the same tools and strategies we use to direct the crowd and refocus the crowd. It’s powerful as hell,” says Grayson. “It’s like the youth is just waiting to be led. They just needed an example. They just needed a model and they are doing it.” 
“This is the greatest revolution since MLK was assassinated,” declared a young man on the mic at one protest. “Think about that. This is in every state.... This is international.” They're right! All 50 states in addition to 18 countries have participated in BLM marches. 
Aaliyah Grey, a 15-year-old Madison high school student, says she feels an obligation to her father. 
“I'm scared that he’s gonna walk out the house, the police are gonna think he did something wrong, and he's gonna get shot,” says Grey, who marched in the rain June 2 at a protest that ended without any violence downtown. “That's why I'm out here. I'm out here for him. I’m out here so my little sister will not have to grow up without a father.”
Arrieonna Cargel, another black teenager from Madison, says it feels like “people don't understand our pain and the struggles.”
“I’m here to end police brutality,” says Cargel. “I’m willing to risk my life for people who have lost theirs.” 
Tamaya Travis says the killing of Floyd is just the latest “horrific example” of injustice and indignities felt routinely by black youth in America. 
“We shouldn't be scared to go out in public. We can't hang out in groups because they think we're a gang. We shouldn't be scared to get pulled over,” says Travis, a black high school student from Madison. “We shouldn't be scared to talk to the police when we need something. But we're terrified because every time we do, our lives might be in danger. Because even three simple words — ‘I can't breathe’ — is not respected.”
Jay, an 18-year-old graduate of Madison Memorial, says he’s come out to protest at night to “finally see something positive happen. Black people are the most hated people alive. We have been for hundreds of years. Wouldn’t you be mad if you were me?” asks Jay. “There's a reason why we feel like this. There's a reason why we're upset. Our entire lives we have grown up at a disadvantage. There's no such thing as a peaceful protest. You don't get nothing out of that. We've been doing that for 60 years or longer and barely anything has changed,” he adds. “Barely anybody is hearing our voice. Barely anybody is coming up and speaking out on the fuckery that's going on all the time.”
The youth organizers use call and response chants to stop fights, weed out troublemakers, and prevent crowd panic. “Don’t start no shit, won’t be no shit” and “stay together” are common refrains if there’s a whiff of trouble. The method has stopped violent behavior without a single cop in sight.
The protests also feature drills in case police try to break up the protest or bad actors try to infiltrate. One of these methods is asking white allies to form a human chain around protesters of color.
“We aren’t asking you to take a bullet for us,” said one of the black organizers over the sound system while directing white protesters. “We just know that the police won’t shoot you...we are all on the same side.” 
Stacii and a few friends, who have attended several of the late-night protests, show up with tennis rackets to “swat tear gas canisters” if needed. 
“As a white ally, I am there to listen but to be ready to put my body between the police and people of color who are peacefully protesting,” Stacii tells Isthmus. “Having protective gear is vital just in case.”
A white man, who looks about 20 years older than most of the people in the crowd, walks around with a cart full of snacks. 
“There are supply houses across the isthmus. There’s a group, about 100 of us, who communicate covertly to make sure the youth have everything they need. We have a whole medic team, too,” says the man. “Our job is support, stay out of the way.” 
 
After a number of days and night launching tear gas - which, btw, violates the Geneva Convention - in addition to flash grenades and projectiles at protesters, things have quieted down.
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, too, has attempted to distinguish the masses of peaceful protesters from small groups that police witnessed June 1 making molotov cocktails, wielding baseball bats, and setting off fireworks near the crowd. She has repeatedly praised several daytime demonstrations organized by Freedom Inc., Urban Triage and the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) following the death of Floyd. 
But Sawyer Johnson, a member of PSL, rejected the mayor’s support at a June 1 daytime rally, saying the groups side unequivocally with black youth — some of whom may have looted — and consider the criminal activity part of an effort “to lead the rebellion.” 
Rhodes-Conway still pleaded in a June 2 statement for the nighttime demonstrations to end.
“Please stay home tonight. I welcome protests — particularly in the daytime — but I do not want legitimate protests to continue to provide cover for this violent, unacceptable behavior,” said the mayor. “I understand anger, but there is no excuse for putting lives in danger, and that is what is happening. Again — please stay home tonight, and tomorrow night.”
Thankfully, starting June 3, police were invisible downtown — keeping watch of the protest from surveillance cameras and through dark windows in buildings overlooking the demonstrations. Police strike teams continue to stand ready in tactical gear inside the City County Building and at the Capitol but have not been deployed recently.
 
Ciara says organizers “haven’t put an end date on justice” and the demonstrations will continue until their demands are met. “We demand that Matt Kenny be fired and that the community has control over the police. The community should be in charge of investigating police violence — not other cops. We have no plans on stopping until then.” 
 
What now?
I'm here to tell you an uncomfortable truth: all white people are racist. Hear me out - I'm white. I hate knowing that I'm involved in racism. The reality is, though, that I benefit greatly from my porcelain skin in a way that folx who are BIPOC - black and brown and indigenous and people of color - will never experience. Systems are not built to oppress me on the basis of my race. That doesn't mean my life isn't hard - all it means is my skin color isn't part of that difficulty. 
Those of us who are white must see that recognizing white privilege doesn't mean we're awful people. As James Baldwin, a noted black queer author, once said, " Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.." We cannot change the oppressive systems that exist until we see them for what they are. Right now, that means listening to black folx specifically and following their lead. It means that, if we can, we should be out there protecting black folx with our white privilege, lifting up their voices, and supporting them however we can. It also means not tone policing or automatically deciding that rioting isn't from BLM as a movement. The notion of agitators from the outside coming into cities has been used for eons to explain away the momentum that civil rights work has picked up, and we do folx a disservice by believing that lie.
Instead, we must recognize that property isn't worth anywhere near as much as human life. 
When I call you in or out, either on this pod or in other ways we interact, I do it because I care about you. I'm not alone in this. Those who point out issues? We do it because we want to help you grow and improve. We want you to rise up to where we all should be right now, to be on the right side of humanity and history - and we know you can be. This is especially true when fellow white folx call you out on racism-related issues. We know that you can find your way to anti-racist work. We believe in you because, frankly, we wouldn't be your friends if we didn't.
That emotional investment? That's love. If people didn't care, they'd probably just unfriend or block you and move on.
 
When you're called in or out? Please don't offer false platitudes like thanking folx without following up with action. Be transparent and share the work you're doing to learn and listen so that there is accountability. We all have to do better, and part of that involves holding each other to that. Growth isn't comfortable. It pushes our limits, reminds us we're human, and points out our flaws. It reminds us that we have work to do, and that we actively need to follow through with that work. We can't grow in comfort, though - just like, say, napping for a weekend doesn't produce any change in the world. We still have to meet it, sit with it, and process how to move forward.
 
In addition to sources for the information in this article, I'm putting in a list of anti-racism resources. Let's work on learning and doing better. If you want to be a part of a group where we can work on that, there's a FB group for this podcast. Come join it and let's work on being anti-racist together.
May 3, 2020

Florence Peters

Check out the following pods and spooky series
  • Buzzfeed Unsolved (find on YouTube, Buzzfeed app, Amazon Prime)
  • Mirths and Monsters
  • Nothing Rhymes with Murder
  • Straight-Up Enigmas
  • Octoberpod
  • Haunted Happenstance
  • 3 Spooked Girls
  • Unsolved, Unexplained
  • Horrifying History
  • Two Scared Siblings
Florence Peters
 
 
So, today's episode is close to home for me - literally. While I've spent nearly all my lockdown time at my partner's apartment in Middleton, our story is set in Westport - a tiny town between the north side of Madison and Waunakee. The apartment I'm in the middle of moving out of just so happens to be there on Westport Road. 
 
Florence Peters and her husband John farmed together in the late 1930s. Their marriage wasn't in great shape. While John hadn't cheated, Florence had engaged in multiple affairs. So, when 23-year-old farmhand Edward Harvey came along in 1938, it didn't take long for the 38-year-old Florence to fall for him. 
 
By July of that year, Florence had also grown tired of John. He was oblivious to the affair, but was cramping the couple's style. She sent Harvey out to the barn to grab some arsenic, something they had around for pest control. He was excited and ready to have Florence all to himself, and picked up the poison without saying a word.
 
While John was out milking the cows, Florence mixed him a drink. He fell ill that night and was confined to the bed. Meanwhile, Florence tried to play concerned wife. She was there to nurse him back to health, helping him with whatever he needed. One day, he asked her to fix him up a drink to help him feel better. She couldn't help but mix some more arsenic into milk. He got sicker and there were concerns from the townsfolk, especially the police.
 
See, as much as John hadn't noticed the affair, neither Florence nor Harvey were being discrete at all about their feelings for each other. Police brought Henry in for questioning, but he wasn't cooperative at all. He was released, despite being charged with resisting arrest, if he left the state.
 
Meanwhile, John had gotten so sick that he was moved to a hospital in Madison. Florence and her children moved to an apartment at 1335 Rutledge Street in Madison to be closer to John. That's only two blocks in from Lake Monona in what is now a pretty on-demand neighborhood. Harvey moved in with them secretly... or not so secretly.
 
By the end of September, the home was raided and both Florence & Harvey were arrested for committing 'lewd and lascivious' behavior for living together. Harvey explained that the two were engaged to be married once Florence divorced John. Nonetheless, the two were being held in jail.
 
In the meantime, John's family recalled a similar illness of someone in the community just a few years before. Henry Kessenich fell ill in 1930 in a similar manner. John's family asked the police to revisit the investigation and they performed an exhumation. The state toxicologist at the time, Dr. F.L. Kozelka, indeed found arsenic in the victim's hair roots and tissues.
 
Henry's wife had apparently wanted a divorce as she had fallen in love with a younger farmhand, but Henry had refused. As fall came on, the wife had gotten poison from the barn and put a small amount in Henry's tea. Within two days, he fell incredibly ill and began vomiting. Henry died quickly thereafter, and his death was attributed to pneumonia. Doctors were interested in doing an autopsy, but the widow didn't want it so they passed. While people in the community clearly were suspicious, there was no further investigation. The wife collected $1000 in life insurance, which would be just over $15k today.
 
In case you hadn't guessed, this was clearly Florence. Three years after his death, she married John Peters. Between 1933 and 1938, the two had two of their own children in addition to the two children from her marriage to Henry. When investigators met with her and accused her of murdering Henry, she asked "Whoever would think I did that?" She was quickly confronted with the evidence and confessed. Investigators had Florence right where they wanted her and brought up the evidence that she poisoned John, to which she immediately confessed. 
 
Following her confession to the Kessenich poisoning Wednesday, Walstead and Mrs. Guynes interrogated Mrs. Peters to clarify her motive for her action nine years ago.
“Why did you give it to him?” Walstead said, grilling her on the motive for the Kessenich poisoning.
“Because I wanted to be free, just as I told you, that I wanted to go by myself,” Mrs. Peters said.
“Why didn’t you divorce him?” Walstead queried further.
"Because he wouldn’t give me a divorce,” she said.
“Your married life had been unhappy with him, had it?” Walstead wanted to know.
“How much did you put in the tea?” the assistant prosecutor Slim Dick Post, asked her.
“Not a quarter of a teaspoonful,” was the answer.
“Did you once give it to him more than once?” Walstead continued.
“No, sir,” she answered, Walstead said, and went on to tell him that Kessenich became ill the second day.
 
Shortly thereafter, Florence confessed in court. She pled guilty in front of the judge, speaking in a low and quiet voice. As she began to walk to the witness chair to expand upon her confession, she fainted. The next day, they tried this again. The court asked if Florence had anything to say prior to sentencing. Policewoman M. Pearl Guynes was accompanying Florence; she shared, after whispering with Florence, that she wished for a swift sentence. Judge Roy H. Proctor asked again if it was Florence's intent to plead guilty as the charge from 1930 had been added. She responded in the affirmative. “What is your plea?” Proctor asked, referring to the first-degree murder charge.
“Guilty,” was the low answer, and the judge pronounced her guilty.
The second charge was read, and the judge again questioned her.
“I did poison him,” she said, explaining her actions toward her second husband, Peters, in July, “but he was after me all the time.”
“You did not want to do it?” Proctor asked.
“No, not until he forced me to,” she said.
“But you are guilty?” he persisted.
“Yes,” she said, tonelessly, strain evident in her whole bearing.
 
 
Proctor began his sentencing:
"No good purpose would be served to recount the incidents leading to the discovery of the crime. I am satisfied that you were fully aware of what you were doing. You have committed the most serious of all crimes and it is the duty of the court to impose the penalty set in the statute." While Proctor was in the middle of sentencing Florence to life in prison, she cried out and fainted. Adding to the sentencing, Proctor did drop the lewd and lascivious charges, but did additionally sentence Florence to 1-10 years for poisoning John.
 
Florence was sent to Taycheedah women's prison. While she was there for her life sentence, due to fainting she thought she was only there for the 1-10 years she was sentenced. Police didn't tell her for some time as they couldn't bear to inform her that she would effectively never see her children again.
 
By this point, John was doing much better. It's amazing how not having someone actively poison you will do that. He moved into the Rutledge Street apartment, caring for all four children. While he initially promised to care for the two Kessenich children, they were later sent to live with Florence's relatives while John raised his two biological kids. While this sounds kind of bad, Andrew was 17 and Blanche was 11 at this time. They were, thankfully, not very young. Catherine and Billie, John and Florence's biological children, were four years old and 10 months old respectively.
 
Harvey was awaiting his own trial and pissed about Florence's sentencing. While he pined for her, Florence didn't feel the same. He soon confessed to his part. Due to Florence's prior murder and Harvey's youth, they took pity on him believing that he was harmed more in the process than committing harm. The assistant DA Elliot N. Walstead argued that Harvey should be given leniency. Judge Proctor disagreed, sentencing Harvey to the same 1-10 years as Florence. This was to be served at the Green Bay Reformatory.
 
Florence was eventually paroled in 1951. She remarried and moved out of the area, being discharged from parole in September of 1969. I wish that I had information about how the rest of their lives went, but I don't. Much about this case was hidden as a family secret until 1985 when the Wisconsin State Journal's Crimes of the Century was published. Combined with relocation and name changes - and the fact that I can't really go digging through the Historical Society stacks and microfilm, thanks to the pandemic - makes it difficult to know what happened to anyone in this case. 
 
References
April 13, 2020

Peter Kurten

Content note: abuse, incest, animal torture, bestiality, sexual assault, murder

Photo source

Rough transcript (will upload full one later this week)

Hello spooky friends!

I apologize for the long delay in new episodes. Life has been intense between moving, divorce stuff, and hockey. That's right - ya boy started playing hockey! I've continued the strong Wisconsin tradition of learning how to do a tough sport on a slippery surface.

Today's episode

The subject for this episode is one Peter Kurten. To those of you who think you recognize this name, you may be wondering why I'm covering him here. After all, this guy is a German serial killer. I won't spoil this yet, but there is a major Wisconsin connection at the end of the story.

Peter's Life

Peter Kurten was born in Mülheim am Rhein in Germany on May 26, 1883. He was the third of 13 children, although two of his siblings would die early on. His family lived in a one-bedroom apartment and his father routinely beat everyone in the family. Even worse, Peter's dad would often force the children to watch him and his wife have sex when he was drunk. In 1894, the father would be found guilty of committing incest with his oldest daughter, aged 13 at the time. Peter's mother was able to use this as a basis for separation and moved to Düsseldorf.

Throughout his childhood, Kurten would endure a number of hardships - and begin on the path to becoming a serial killer.

Because of his fathers' abuse, Peter's academic performance suffered. Additionally, he would run away frequently or try to stay at school as long as possible, avoiding returning home. He learned how to commit some petty crimes in order to keep himself fed while living on the streets.

At the age of 9, Peter claims to have committed his first murder. He pushed a school friend into the water, knowing this kid couldn't swim. Another kid jumped in to try to save the first and Peter claims he held both of their heads underwater, drowning them. Police wrote these off as accidental. 

 
At the age of 13, Peter had a girlfriend. They were sexually active but she would not allow them to have PiV sex. Instead of just jerking it like the rest of us would do, Peter resorted to bestiality. Soon, he found he could not orgasm without stabbing these animals during the act. He swore that he stopped this after being discovered doing this with a pig. Of course, this followed a time when he befriended a local dog catcher who let him sidekick it up during work. Together, they would abuse the animals they caught. Around this time, he also tried to rape the sister who had already suffered sexual abuse at the hands of their father.
 
An FBI profile of Kürten's criminal behavior later concluded his compulsion to abuse and torture animals and to commit arson were a manifestation of his need to feel a sense of control in response to his chronically abusive upbringing.
 
The arrests begin
 
In total, Kürten would serve 17 separate sentences of imprisonment between 1899 and his arrest, the combined total of which equals 27 years of his life. Let's dig into why...
 
He was arrested in 1899 after stealing money from his boss and skipping town, serving a month. In November of that year, he claims to have committed his first adult murder. He stated that he picked up an 18-year-old girl and persuaded her to accompany him. He claimed to have engaged in sex with the her before strangling her to death with his bare hands. In 1900, he would be arrested again for fraud and attempted murder by gun of a young girl. He served four years in Derendorf, a borough of Düsseldorf.
 
Upon being released, he was drafted into the 98th Infantry Regiment of the German army. He quickly defected and began committing acts of arson. He was arrested on New Year's Eve, admitting to 24 counts of arson. He also stated that he gained sexual excitement over the notion of possibly burning homeless people alive in these fires. He also had committed and attempted robbery. The military tried him and he was imprisoned from 1905 to 1913 in Münster. He refused to follow rules and often found himself in solitary confinement. During this time, Peter later stated, he began to be introduced to intense forms of torture - and gaining sexual satisfaction from them. He would consider performing the 'corrective' torture he experienced in the penal system towards women, often achieving sexual satisfaction from this.
 
The first murder we know for sure Kürten committed occurred on May 25, 1913. During the course of a burglary at a tavern in his hometown, he encountered a nine-year-old girl named Christine Klein asleep in her bed. He strangled the child, then slashed her twice across the throat with a pocket knife, ejaculating as he heard the blood dripping from her wounds onto the floor by her bed.
 
The following day, Kürten specifically returned to Köln to drink in a tavern located directly opposite that in which he had murdered Christine Klein, in order that he could listen to the locals' reactions to the child's murder. He later recollected to investigators that he derived an extreme sense of gratification from the general disgust, repulsion, and outrage he had heard in the patrons' conversations. He would visit her grave, too, and spontaneously ejaculated while handling the soil there. He was not caught.
 
Two months later—again in the course of committing a burglary with the aid of a skeleton key—Kürten broke into a home in Düsseldorf. Discovering a 17-year-old girl named Gertrud Franken, Kürten manually strangled the girl, ejaculating at the sight of blood spouting from her mouth. He was not caught here, either.
 
After murdering Franken, Kurten was arrested for burglaries and arson. He was originally sentenced to six years, although he served an extra two due to being a shit. 
 
Released in April 1921, Kürten relocated to Altenburg, where he initially lived with his sister. Through his sister, Kürten became acquainted with a woman three years his senior named Auguste Scharf, a sweet shop proprietor and former prostitute who had previously been convicted of shooting her fiancé to death. Two years later, Kürten and Scharf married, and although the couple regularly engaged in sex, Kürten later admitted he could consummate his marriage only by fantasising about committing violence against another individual, and that, after their wedding night, he engaged in intercourse with his wife only at her invitation. For the first time in his life, Kürten obtained regular employment, also becoming an active trades union official, although with the exception of his wife, he formed no close friendships.
 
Things seemed to be going pretty well for him, all things considered.
 
Then, in 1925, the couple moved back to Düsseldorf. Peter began having a series of affairs. When Auguste discovered these, both women reported Peter to the police saying they were either seduced or raped. Only the individual who cited seduction and threats had their claims pursued. Peter served six months in prison.
 
Peter's crimes just jumped up from there. In 1929, he stalked an elderly woman named Apollonia Kühn and stabbed her repeatedly with scissors. Despite many of the wounds going down to the bone, Kuhn survived! Five days later, he strangled a nine-year-old girl named Rosa Ohliger until she was unconscious. He then stabbed her in the stomach, temple, genitals, and heart with a pair of scissors, spontaneously ejaculating as he knifed the child and inserting his semen into her vagina with his fingers. He hid her body initially under leaves, returning later to set her on fire. Another five days later, he murdered a 45-year-old mechanic named Rudolf Scheer in the suburb of Flingen Nord, stabbing him 20 times, particularly about the head, back and eyes.
 
It wasn't hard to tell, given the timeline and locale, that one person was responsible for these crimes.
 
Although Kürten did attempt to strangle four women between March and July 1929, one of whom he claimed to have thrown into the Rhine River, he is not known to have killed any further victims until August 11th when he raped, strangled, then repeatedly stabbed a young woman named Maria Hahn. She was looking to marry and he took her on a date, later luring her into a meadow in order that he could kill her; he later admitted Hahn had repeatedly pleaded with him to spare her life as he alternately strangled her, stabbed her in the chest and head, or sat astride her body, waiting for her to die. Fearful his wife might connect the bloodstains she had noted on his clothes with Hahn's murder, Kürten later buried her body in a cornfield, only to return to her body several weeks later with the intention of nailing her decomposing remains to a tree in a mock crucifixion to shock and disgust the public; however, Hahn's remains proved too heavy for Kürten to complete this act, and he simply returned her corpse to her grave before embracing and caressing the decomposing body as he lay beneath her remains. He then reburied her body.
 
After this murder, he sent the police a map to her remains. He also would change his weapon of choice from scissors to a knife. 
 
On August 21st, he randomly stabbed three individuals who all lived and reported their experiences to police. Three days later, he saw two sisters - aged 5 and 14 - and murdered them both. He decided to suck the blood from their stab wounds, too, leading to him earning the nickname Vampire of Düsseldorf. Not content, he approached a housemaid in her late 20s the next day and propositioned her for sex. When she declined, he attempted to murder her. She survived but was unable to provide details about her attacker.
 
In September, he attempted to murder two more people, but failed. He felt it was time to change his murder weapon again - this time, to a hammer. He also began to travel more, using train stops to commit his murders.
 
At the end of September, Peter met a 31-year-old servant girl named Ida Reuter at Düsseldorf station. He asked Reuter to accompany him to a café, then for a walk near the river. He repeatedly struck her about the head with a hammer both before and after he had raped her. On October 11, he met a 22-year-old servant girl named Elizabeth Dörrier outside a theater. As had been the case with Reuter, Dörrier agreed to accompany Kürten for a drink at a café before the pair took a train to Grafenberg, with view to a walk alongside the Kleine Düssel river, where she was struck once across her right temple with a hammer, then raped. Kürten struck her repeatedly about the head and both temples with his hammer and left her for dead. She was found in the early hours of the morning and never woke up from the coma she was found in. 
 
On 25 October, Kürten attacked two women with a hammer; both survived, although in the second instance, this was only because Kürten's hammer broke in the attack. On 7 November 1929, Kürten encountered a five-year-old girl named Gertrude Albermann in the Flingern district of Düsseldorf; he persuaded the child to accompany him to a section of deserted allotments, where he seized her by the throat and strangled her, stabbing her once in the left temple with a pair of scissors as he did so. When Albermann "collapsed to the ground without a sound", Kürten stabbed the child 34 further times in the temple and chest, before leaving her body in a pile of nettles against a factory wall.
 
The murder of Gertrude Albermann proved to be Kürten's final fatal attack, although he did engage in a spate of non-fatal hammer attacks and attempted strangulations between February and May 1930, maiming 10 victims in these assaults. All recipients survived and many were able to describe their attacker to police.
 
On 14 May 1930, an unknown man approached a 20-year-old woman named Maria Budlick at Düsseldorf station. Discovering Budlick had travelled to Düsseldorf from Köln in search of lodgings and employment, he offered to direct her towards a local hostel. Budlick agreed to follow the man, although she became apprehensive when he attempted to lead her through a scarcely populated park. The pair began to argue, whereupon another man approached the duo, asking whether Budlick was being pestered by her companion. When Budlick nodded, the man with whom she had been arguing simply walked away. The identity of the man who ostensibly came to Budlick's aid was Peter Kürten. Kürten invited the distressed young woman to his apartment on Mettmanner Straße to eat and drink before Budlick—correctly deducing the underlying motive for Kürten's hospitality—stated she was uninterested in engaging in sex with him. Kürten calmly agreed and offered to lead Budlick to a hotel, although he instead lured her into the Grafenburg Woods, where he seized her by the throat and attempted to strangle her as he raped her. When Budlick began to scream, Kürten released his grasp on her throat, before allowing her to leave.  Budlick did not report this assault to police, but described her ordeal in a letter to a friend, although she addressed the letter incorrectly. As such, the letter was opened at the post office by a clerk on 19 May. Upon reading the contents of the letter, this clerk forwarded the letter to the Düsseldorf police. This letter was read by Chief Inspector Gennat, who deduced there was a slim chance Budlick's assailant might be the Düsseldorf murderer. Chief Inspector Gennat interviewed Budlick, who recounted her ordeal, further divulging one of the reasons Kürten had spared her was because she had falsely informed him she could not remember his address. She agreed to lead the police to Kürten's home, on Mettmanner Straße. When the landlady of the property let Budlick into the room of 71 Mettmanner Straße, Budlick confirmed to Chief Inspector Gennat this was the address of her assailant. The landlady confirmed to the chief inspector the tenant's name was Peter Kürten.
 
Peter Got Caught
 
Although Kürten was not at home when Budlick and Chief Inspector Gennat searched his property, he spotted the pair in the communal hallway, and promptly left. Knowing that his identity was now known to the police and suspecting they may also have connected him to the crimes committed by the Vampire of Düsseldorf, Kürten confessed to his wife he had raped Budlick and that because of his previous convictions, he may receive 15 years' penal labour. With his wife's consent, he found lodgings in the Adlerstraße district of Düsseldorf, and did not return to his own home until 23 May. Upon returning home, Kürten confessed to his wife he was the Vampire of Düsseldorf. With Kürten's full consent, he urged his wife to collect the substantial reward offered for his capture, Auguste Kürten contacted the police the following day. In the information provided to detectives, Kürten's wife explained that although she had known her husband had been repeatedly imprisoned in the past, she was unaware of his culpability in any murders. She then added that her husband had confessed to her his culpability in the Düsseldorf murders, and that he was willing to likewise confess to police. Furthermore, he was to meet her outside St. Rochus church later that day. That afternoon, Kürten was arrested at gunpoint.
 
Kürten freely admitted his guilt in all the crimes police had attributed to the Vampire of Düsseldorf, and further confessed he had committed the unsolved murders of Christine Klein and Gertrud Franken in 1913. In total, Kürten admitted to 68 crimes including 10 murders and 31 attempted murders. He made no attempt to excuse his crimes, but justified them upon the basis of what he saw as the injustices he had endured throughout his life. Nonetheless, he was adamant he had not tortured any of his child victims. Kürten also admitted to both investigators and psychiatrists that the actual sight of his victim's blood was, on many occasions, sufficient to bring him to orgasm, and that, on occasion, if he experienced ejaculation in the act of strangling a woman, he would immediately become apologetic to his victim, proclaiming, "That's what love is all about". He further claimed to have drunk the blood from the throat of one victim, from the temple of another, and to have licked the blood from a third victim's hands. In one of these instances, he had drunk so much blood from the neck wound he had inflicted upon victim Maria Hahn that he vomited. Kürten also admitted to having decapitated a swan in the spring of 1930 in order that he could drink the blood from the animal's neck, achieving ejaculation in the process.
 
There's a lot of interesting information about his psychological study and trial. It's not something I feel is super relevant to cover here. Needless to say, he was convicted and sentenced to death. On the day he was to be killed, he asked to write letters of apology to his victims' families in addition to one for his wife. For his final meal, he had Wiener Schnitzel, a bottle of white wine, and fried potatoes - and asked for seconds which he was granted.
 
At 6 am on July 2,1931, Kurten was marched to a guillotine. As someone who derived intense pleasure from gushing blood, he asked "Tell me...  after my head is chopped off, will I still be able to hear, at least for a moment, the sound of my own blood gushing from the stump of my neck? That would be the pleasure to end all pleasures." He had no other final words before being beheaded.
 
Wait, where's the Wisconsin connection here?
 
After Kurten was executed, scientists were keen to learn how he worked. They took his brain to study it in an effort to find what made him evil. The head was bisected and mummified. Arne Coward, a noted collector of strange things with a torture museum in Hawaii, wound up with it following World War II. Coward had acquired the famed Nuremberg Torture Collection in order to open up this museum. That collection has made international tours, and went through the US just before the turn of the 20th century.
 
Ripley Entertainment, Inc., tried to buy the museum from Coward. The Nuremberg collection itself was divided up after Coward's death in 1989, and Ripley's settled for some pieces. The Nuremberg collection itself was divided up. Initially, the third-party seller Randall Miller and Edward Meyer, VP of Exhibits and Archives at Ripley Entertainment, Inc., had no idea whose mummified head they were bargaining over in June 1989. Meyer was interested in acquiring more mummified objects for Ripley's and found the head a great specimen. He says "It didn't have to have a story to be interesting to me. Visually, this is a museum piece." And, he's right. The head is split straight down the middle so that one can see the inner workings of the skull, sans the brain of course. 
 
Meyer recalled that the Kurten head came with a magazine article depicting the crimes of Kurten. Without having seen this ahead of time, Meyer could have had no idea what the significance of this mummified head was. Given that, Meyer ranked Kurten's head as one of the top five strange things they have in their collection. 
 
The Ripley's Believe It Or Not! museum in the Wisconsin Dells was slotted to open in May 1990. As the designers began to work on a display for this head, they designed a whole gallery around medical oddities for the Dells location. While there has been a slight change towards torture, Meyer believes Kurten's head is likely the only thing that has never moved or changed from our local location. 
 
The problem with Ripley's
 
In episode one of the web series Serial Killer Culture, available on Amazon Prime, Meyer takes the viewers through the Ripley warehouse in Orlando, Florida. In it, he's quick to point out the various tribal art and how important it's been to the organization. Ripley himself, Meyer says, traveled to around 201 countries during his lifetime to collect the strange and unusual. He also makes some assumptions about cannibalism and other practices that are seen as 'other' to Western eyes. He's also proud of the nearly 100 shrunken heads the organization owns, even using two pretty out-of-date racial comments for 2016. Despite this, Meyer considers himself to be an educator.
 
This is a great display of colonization and seeing those different from yourself as 'other.' Noted exhibits, both current and past, display medical anomalies and resort to ableism to shock attendees. Meyer's racism aside, we also see racism instilled in a wonder over shrunken heads, tribal instruments, and other attractions. In the show notes, I've linked a paper from Sarah Haughenbury called 'A Spectacle Of The Odd: Constructing Otherness In The Odditoriums Of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!' Haughenbury explores these issues closely, from ableism and racism to lack of context and ethics. The otherness involved in cultural tourism, especially without proper context, harkens back to the days of sideshows. These generally remove personal agency, just like Ripley's does with displaying bodily remains, especially without specific consent.
 
Links
 
 
Next episode
 
My goal is to bring the show back to every other week here. You should see a new episode in two weeks. I'm hoping to pull together a few more ways to interact with folx, too!

Content note: murder, sexual assault

Photo source

Everyone and their BFFs confessed to the abduction and murder of Georgia Jean, but her disappearance remains unsolved over 70 years later. If that wasn't enough to bring out the feels, I'm in the middle of a surprise divorce!

Also! The True Crime Podcast festival is this Saturday, July 13, at the Marriott Downtown, right on the magnificent mile. There are over 80 true crime podcasters coming - including True Crime Obsessed and even me!

This is a full-day event, and gives you a chance to meet your favourite podcasters in a large-scale meet-and-greet, with several panel discussions and live episodes too. Come hang out! To find out more and join the almost 400 people who have bought tickets, head to tcpf2019.com or look for it on social media. I can't wait to see you there!!

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Transcript

Please note this is a rough transcript due to time limitations. I'll come back and fix it!

Welcome to the most belated episode of the Spooky Sconnie podcast thus far. This is the podcast that seeks to dive into everything from Wisconsin, from the true crime and paranormal stuff to cryptids and just wonderfully weird Wisconsin history. And I'm your host, Kirsten Schultz.

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May 11, 2019

The Beast of Bray Road

Content note: animal mutilations with details
 
 
This week, I'm covering the Beast of Bray Road - just like Em from And That's Why We Drink did during one of their live shows here in Madison this week. I'd totally planned it already, so the coincidences are the best. What do you expect from the two coolest theybes?
 
Resources
Transcript
 

Welcome to episode nine of the Spooky Sconnie podcast, the podcast that covers everything fun from Wisconsin, from the criminal and the paranormal to the just plain weird. I'm your host, Kirsten Schultz. And on this edition we're covering a story I got to see live this week actually, um, this week, the wonderful podcast And That's Why We Drink was here in town. And I went and saw them both nights. They were performing at comedy on state, on state street here in Madison, and it was a really great time. Um, I love Em and Christine, the two of them are just hilarious, and it's always fun when I get to see them and say hi. So I really enjoyed that and they covered some cool stuff that I'll be bringing up soon. Um, although I guess, you know, really they covered two stories I've already done too, which is kind of cool.

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Content note: mention of suicide, anti-semitism

In this week's belated episode, I talk about the witches of Whitewater, the Morris Pratt Institute, and how traditional views of what's 'weird' shift throughout time. Don't forget to check out the True Crime Podcast Festival in Chicago. Look, I know it's not until July, but it was SNOWING today and I need something to look forward to in my new older age.

Photo of the Morris Pratt Institute from Wisconsin Historical Images

Resources

Transcript

Welcome to another edition of the Spooky Sconnie Podcast, the podcast that talks about everything, wonderfully creepy, spooky, criminal, and weird in the state of Wisconsin. I'm your host, Kirsten Schultz. And before we dive in to today's very interesting topic, I do just want to remind everybody that I will be at the true crime podcast festival in Chicago that's coming up in July on the 13th. It's a Saturday, it's just the one day, but it's like all day. We did get some more details that um, there's going to be a meet and greet portion of the event with a kind of a relaxed atmosphere and that podcasters are going to be around in the main hall, um, so that you can come meet with us and hang out. So you know, come hang out. The website for that is tcpf2019.com and you can get your tickets and see all the cool stuff going on. I apologize for this episode being late. Um, yesterday was my birthday and I chose to go get drunk and eat a hamburger instead of recording my podcast. But also I have just started a new full time job and my schedule's been a lot busier because of that and because of some of the other volunteer stuff I'm doing. So I just didn't have time to record. I mean I probably did, let's be honest, but I didn't really.

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This week, let's talk about the father of Earth Day! He did a lot of great stuff - like pushing for side effects to be listed with medications - and preached some racisms. Why do people suck so much?

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Featured image from NASA

Transcript

Welcome to another edition of the Spooky Sconnie Podcast, the podcast that talks about everything, spooky paranormal, and weird in the state of Wisconsin. Since it's April, I thought that it would be remiss of me to not discuss the founder of Earth Day and the actual founding. And it was created by a Wisconsinite naturally. His name was Gaylord Nelson and he was born on June 4th, 1916 in a city called Clear Lake. Um, it's located up in Polk county which is kind of the upper north western corner of the state and it's about an hour away from Minneapolis. Nelson's father's parents - so his parental grandparents - were immigrants from Norway who moved to the area in 1878 and I couldn't find much about his maternal grandparents, but his mother was a nurse. Um, at least she completed the training to do that, but she spent most of the time kind of at home, spending time with the kids, that kind of stuff.

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In this episode, I give an update in the Jayme Closs case before going on to cover the history of one of the coooooolest cemeteries in Wisconsin - Forest Hill in Madison. Come learn about the northernmost Confederate cemetery, effigy mounds, and some willllddd history - oh, and make sure to visit the FB page for pics!

Resources

Transcript

Welcome back to the Spooky Sconnie Podcast - the podcast that talks about everything, spooky, funky, criminal and weird in the state of Wisconsin. Before I dive into this week's topic, I wanted to give an update because I'm recording this right now on Wednesday the 27th and that means Jake Patterson who abducted Jayme Closs and killed her parents in October of 2018 was just arraigned and pled guilty to charges. So I wanted to talk a little bit about that before I dive into today's topic. Upon entering the court, he was crying and sniffling as he answered the judge's questions. He pled guilty to the three charges against him, which was killing Jayme's father, killing Jayme's mother, and then kidnapping Jayme. Um, the murders bring with them a life sentence while the kidnapping charge could be up to 40 years. So he's basically facing, um, two life sentences and an extra 40 years.

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