Morbid Fact Du Jour for October 5, 2016

Today’s Swindled Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Johann Otto Hoch or John Schmidt as was his most accepted birth name, was born in 1863 in Birgen, Russia or in 1855 in Horrweiler, Germany.  He had numerous aliases although John Hock was the one he maintained through his execution.

Johann Hoch – Ladykiller

He purportedly came to the United States in 1883 with his first wife (that we know of) Annie.  What followed was almost 25 years of bigamy and murder.  He became infamous for poisoning his wives shortly after taking their money and earned the nickname “The Bluebeard Murderer” after the French folktale published in 1697 in which “Bluebeard” murders his wives.

He wed over 50 wives illegally and bilked them out of different amounts of money but murdered anywhere from a confirmed 15 to upwards of 30.

He was finally tried and convicted of only one murder and that was his second to last wife, Maria Walcker-Hoch who lived with him at 6430 Union Avenue.   He supposedly married Maria Walcker on December 10, 1904 in Chicago and almost exactly one month later on January 11, 1905 she was dead of Nephritis or inflammation of the kidneys.  Within five days he married Maria’s sister, Emilie Fischer from Joliet.  Three days later Hoch fled with $750 and Emilie reported him to the police as a swindler and bigamist.  The police became suspicious and had Emilie’s sister exhumed and they found 7.6 grams of arsenic in the body.

Hoch was indicted for bigamy and an arrest warrant was issued.  Hoch had made the mistake of asking his landlady, a Mrs. Kimberly, in New York to marry him within 24 hours of meeting her.  She contacted the police suspecting him to be Hoch and he was subsequently arrested and extradited back to Chicago where he was charged with the murder of Maria Walcker-Hoch.

The trial started April 19, 1905 and Hoch was convicted of murder on May 20th.  His original death by hanging was scheduled for June 23, 1905. Hoch had avoided the hanging a number of times while in custody.  Governor Deneen granted him a reprieve until July 28th.  Within an hour of his hanging he was given another reprieve until August 25th.  Before the August 25th date, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed to hear his case but on December 15th handed down its verdict which supported the lower court’s ruling.  The Supreme Court set his date of Execution to be February 23, 1906.

On the date of Hoch’s execution his attorney, Frank D. Comerford, attempted to make an appeal to the Federal Court on the basis that Hoch’s 14th Amendment rights had been violated because his wife was purportedly coerced by authorities to testify against her husband and commit perjury  (Of course she and 49 others were not his legal wives) Judge Landis denied his petition for a writ.

One day before his execution Hoch was moved to the Death Chamber of the County Courthouse and Jail (Now Courthouse Place Office Building) where he woke up and ate his breakfast sparingly.  He received several visitors on that day.  His first visitor at 9am was his spiritual advisor F.W. Schlechte.  He met the Reverend Schlechte with a military salute and they studied the Bible for about an hour.  His next visitor was a very strange young man who introduced himself as a hypnotist and medical student.  The “hypnotist” had slipped past the guards and told Hoch, “Look into my eyes”.  Hoch told the guards that he was a “crank” and only managed to make him tired.  The crank was removed.  His last visitor was his latest wife Emilie Fishcer-Hoch.  He bid her a fond farewell at about 6pm and retired with a cigar which he smoked until it burned his fingers.  He then reclined in his bed but according to guards did not sleep.

He was supposed to die sometime between 10am and 11am on the 23rd but Jailer Whitman postponed it to as long as 2pm as they waited for Judge Landis’s decision.

Upon hearing that Landis had refused a writ of habeas corpus the death warrant was read to Hoch who stepped up to the gallows at 1:32pm.  His final words were, “Oh Lord, our Father, forgive them all.  They know not what they do.  They hang an innocent man.  I am innocent.  Goodbye.”

The trap was dropped and Hoch died of a broken neck almost instantly.  The body was lowered and handed off to undertaker Ernst Matz.  (The Matz Funeral Home is still in operation)

Meanwhile it seemed that no cemetery wanted to allow a murderer to be buried on their property.  Even Waldheim that accepted a number of the anarchists from the Haymarket riots (Spies, Parsons, Engel and Fischer) refused.  In fact officials from Waldheim stated that the burials of the anarchists had brought such unpleasant notoriety to their cemetery that under no circumstances would they ever allow another body of a person executed for a crime to be buried in their cemetery.

Shortly before noon on February 24, 1906 Hoch’s body was interred in the potter’s field of the Dunning Asylum and Poor Farm in an unmarked grave.

Culled from: Chicago Now


Northern Michigan Asylum Attendant Floor Nurse Duties – 1886

The following is a list of the attendant floor duties for the Northern Michigan Asylum (aka Traverse City Asylum) in 1886 as culled from the book Angels in the Architecture.

1. Daily sweep and mop the floor of your ward; dust the patients’ furniture and window sills.

2. Maintain an even temperature in your ward by bringing in a scuttle of coal for the day’s business.

3. Light is important to observe the patients’ condition. Therefore, each day fill kerosene lamps, clean chimneys, and trim wicks. Wash the windows once a week.

4. The nurse’s notes are important in aiding the physician’s work. Make your pens carefully; you may whittle nibs to your tastes.

5. Each nurse on day duty will report every day at 7 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m.except on the Sabbath, on which day you will be off from noon to 2 p.m.

6. Graduate nurses in good standing with the Director of Nurses will be given an evening off for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if you go regularly to church.

7. Each nurse should lay aside from each payday a goodly sum of her earnings for her benefits during her declining years so that she will not become a burden. For example, if you earn $30 a month, you should set aside $15.

8. Any nurse who smokes, uses liquor in any form, gets her hair done at a beauty salon, or frequents dance halls will give the Director of Nurses good reason to suspect her worth, intentions and integrity.

9. The nurse who performs her labors and serves her patients and doctors without fault for five years will be given an increase of five cents a day, providing there are no hospital debts outstanding.

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