Bald Knobber 2: The Botched Execution of Chief Bull Creek Dave


A special edition of Yesterday’s News exploring the criminal justice system at its most extreme: Inflicting the Death Penalty

This episode is a sequel to the tale of The Giant Vigilante Captain Nat Kinney, about one of the Bald Knobber masked vigilante groups that sprang up in the Ozark region after the civil war.

This story concerns the Bald Knobbers in the adjacent county to Nat Kinney, where once again, and another instance where vigilante justice backfires. It’s a good story and has a lot of action, including a jail break.

But my favorite part is the heart-breaking report of the artist who ventures into the hills to get sketches of the families of the condemned men just days before their scheduled execution. The sketches are posted below, but his word pictures are some of the most powerful I’ve come across in the historic newspaper archives.

Music by Dave Sams


1887-0312-the_springfield_leader_sat__mar_12__1887_ 1887-0316-the_daily_gazette_wed__mar_16__1887_ 1887-0317-the_cincinnati_enquirer_thu__mar_17__1887_ 1888-0413-st__louis_post_dispatch_fri__apr_13__1888_ 1888-0414-the_evening_kansan_sat__apr_14__1888_ 1888-1230-chicago_tribune_sun__dec_30__1888_ 1888-1230-the_inter_ocean_sun__dec_30__1888_ 1889-0509-st__louis_post_dispatch_thu__may_9__1889_ 1889-0510-st__louis_post_dispatch_fri__may_10__1889_ st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_bill-walker st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_cabin st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_chasnewman st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_dave-walker st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_home st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_john-matthews st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_matthewschildren st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_mrs-walker st__louis_post_dispatch_sun__may_5__1889_walker-children st__louis_post_dispatch_thu__may_9__1889_bull-creek-dave

Crane Neck Nugent, Prohibition Trigger

The Gangster Chronicles Book Two


A reading from historic newspapers in the golden age of yellow journalism

The second volume of The Gangster Chronicles explores one of the many side effects of the Great Experiment, America’s Prohibition on alcohol.

I’ve often contended that Prohibition made criminals out of a lot of ordinary people who just wanted to drink and serve drinks. But it also gave some truly bad men an opportunity to misbehave.

Although he had one of the worst nicknames names ever, Raymond “Crane Neck” Nugent, was one of the most ruthless of the era’s gangsters.

Before his own demise, Nugent would be suspected in at least 15 high-profile murders, including the most famous gangland massacre of the Prohibition era. Yeah, he was probably one of the guns at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Chapter 1: What the Cab Driver Forgot

Charged with the murder of Bob Schief outside Farley’s Cafe in the “Jungle” district of Hamilton, Ohio, Crane Neck Nugent, 25, and co-defendant John “Todd” Messner stand trial, but the judge directs  a not-guilty verdict when the state’s chief witness changes his testimony.

Chapter 2: Cincinnati Bootlegger War: Crane Neck’s Early Hits

The gangsters are falling like dominoes in Cincinnati and Hamilton. Gus Fitch, Bob Sollick, Glenn Hiatt and Martin Dailey are among the victims of Crane Neck Nugent and his partner Bob “The Fox” Zwick. In the meantime, the gangster Jack Parker shoots and kills the aspiring boxer Buddy Ryan in an argument over a woman.

Sidebar: The Gangster Called “Fat”

One of Crane Neck’s employers gets into a spot of trouble when he shoots another large gangster in a speakeasy altercation.

Chapter 3: The Assassination of Robert Andres

With the heat turned up high in Ohio, Crane Neck retreats to Kansas City to join the gang of his Army mentor Fred “Killer” Burke, the leader of his own gang there. A Toledo job goes south on the Burke gang, and a patrolman ends up dead from machine gun fire. Meanwhile Jack Parker, Todd Messner, Breck Lutes, Rodney Ford, and Bob Zwick hold up a craps game at the Pelican Club in North College Hill, killing the town marshal who stopped in to chew the fat. Later, Jack Parker is found dead outside Lebanon, Ohio. When the state’s chief witness in the first trial for the marshal’s murder turns up charred in an abandoned barbecue shack, police enhance their search for Crane Neck and Bob the Fox, while the surviving Dumele killers face the music.

Chapter 4: The St. Valentine Day Massacre

Nugent’s career included work with the gang of Fred “Killer” Burke of St. Louis, whom he got to know when they served together as machine gunners in World War I. While no one was ever charged with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, it is generally agreed that Al Capone hired the Burke gang, whom he called his “American Boys,” to take down his rival Bugs Moran. In this episode, we’ll also hear about Burke’s murder of a policeman in Michigan a few months after the massacre and his capture two years later when some of this information came to light.

Chapter 5: The Hit at Symmes Corner

Crane Neck returns to Cincinnati to do a favor for his old boss, Fat Wrassman: Even the score for the hit on George Murphy. But it means going after his partner, Bob “The Fox” Zwick. You don’t want to miss the showdown in the streets of Cincinnati between Fat Wrassman and Detective Dutch Schafer.

Chapter 6: Chasing the Fox of Gangsterdom

Crane Neck gets arrested in a Florida speakeasy, then is quickly in the wind again. Meanwhile, the hunt for his former partner and archenemy Bob Zwick continues. When Zwick’s reign of terror finally ends, details of their worst exploits are revealed in court.

Musical direction by Dave Sams