Thursday, November 8, 2012

The One-Armed Bandit, A Sharp-Dressed Maniac & Benjamin Reebeck

The bread baked in the kitchen at Eloise was quite heavenly according to the guards and convicts at the county jails and the House of Corrections where it was sometimes sent, drawing rave reviews. Had the sharing practice been in place on November 14, 1904 when Henry Oesterreicher, head baker at the facility, nearly had his arm severed at the elbow courtesy of an electric dough mixer, they might not have come to the same conclusion.

His fortunes didn't change much in the short term as he turned to a life of crime due to the loss of the mangled arm. Having held up a man named Barnhart Bolt, his accomplice Joe Ward and he were both convicted of armed robbery. Oesterreicher, who had given a false name at the time of his arrest, was spared a prison term when the Detroit Free Press identified and printed his real name. Thanks to the original story which had appeared 6 months earlier and was brought to the judge's attention by the sister and mother of the man who cared for them, his hard luck story was given a favorable light and the court showed mercy on him.

The Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1905

*     *     *

The Detroit Free Press, May 27, 1904

Joseph Jemokinski might have been mentally unbalanced but it didn't impede his ability to remain a dapper gent. Having escaped from his asylum-bound keeper in a demented state he made his foppish getaway sporting a freshly-shaven mug, a blue suit and a soldier's cap. Good evening to you, sir!

*     *     *

The Detroit Free Press, June 2, 1905

It's understandable and expectant that full-time supervision of an asylum filled with mad folks, invalids and paupers is a daunting task. But the fact that Benjamin Reebeck, a paralytic, was not only able to make it to the train tracks outside Eloise then go unabated to his death while staggering across them and being struck by a train tends to suggest that security was quite lax and negligent. Just the same the 53 year old died from his injuries an hour later.

No comments: