Quite some time ago, TSO of Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor
, put up a post
in which he said, “Beware of anyone who is referred to by the media with three names. John Mark Karr is the latest, but see John Wayne Gacy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark David Chapman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, etc..."
I emailed him, “I was moved to wonder what some of our literary luminaries of the past would be up to these days: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Edgar Allan Poe...Louisa May Alcott?”
It occurred to me at the time that something could be done with the idea; I finally got around to it.
* * * *
WORCESTER, MASS - November 16, 1863: Merchants and bankers throughout New England are breathing more easily today as a period has been put to the lawless career of notorious bandits “Ralphie and Lou.”
The outlawed couple, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 60, and Louisa May Alcott, 31, both of Concord in this State, met their deaths in a hail of lead from the firearms of the Worcester constabulary, assisted by elements of the erstwhile 44th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, home after service in the North Carolina theatre.
Emerson embarked on his criminal career at an early age, robbing the Lexington Farmers & Drovers Bank in 1822. Arrested, convicted, and imprisoned, he nevertheless contrived to escape and thereafter, for four decades, eluded the combined forces of law and order in six states.
Alcott linked up with Emerson in 1848, when the 16-year-old inmate of the Bedford Girls Academy encountered the swashbuckling 45-year-old Napoleon of crime during his epic looting of the Academy payroll. Dazzled by Emerson’s Satanic glamour, and seeing a chance to escape her life as a worse than indifferent scholar, Alcott soon became a prominent member of the band and, thanks to her reckless daring and complete lack of scruple, rapidly rose to become Emerson’s right hand.
Rumors of a romantic relationship between the pair, though widespread, were never confirmed.
The gang led by “Ralphie and Lou” (a soubriquet which gained national currency after having been bestowed on them by journalist T. Farnsworth Pennyfeather of the Burlington, Vermont News-Gazette & Country Advertiser
) committed scores of outrages spanning the length and breadth of New England. Among the most infamous were the bullion theft aboard a moving train on the Boston & Maine line, the mass holdup of the National Jewelers Association convention in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the rifling of the Rare Books collection at Yale University…
* * * *
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - March 10, 1875: The literary world was rocked to its foundations last week when noted writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 68, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, was unmasked as a British espionage agent by the United States Secret Service.
Acting on intelligence received from unnamed sources, Federal agents seized Longfellow as he was on the point of entering the British consulate in this city. Found in his possession were papers clearly indicating that for years he had been cleverly encoding military secrets into his published poems.
“Paul Revere’s Ride,” for example, when the captured key was applied, proved to contain a complete and accurate description of the fortifications guarding Boston Harbor. Similarly, a detailed outline of the U.S. Plan of Operations in the event of war with Canada was found in “The Song of Hiawatha…”
* * * *
CONCORD, MASS - September 15, 1849: Speculation is running wild, following the mysterious disappearance of one of Concord’s most controversial residents.
Henry David Thoreau, 32, vanished from his shack in the Walden Pond area two months ago and has not been seen since. The enigma has deepened and taken on a tinge of horror as evidence of Thoreau’s macabre secret life has slowly come to light.
Questions had long been raised about Thoreau’s inexplicable ability to sustain himself with no visible means of support. Now, with the discovery of a number of fragmented coffins in the cellar of his dilapidated residence, taken together with signs of recent disturbance in local graveyards, a new and disquieting question is being asked: Was Henry David Thoreau a ghoul and cannibal?
Detectives have interviewed Dr. Isaac Van Helsing, who is known to have paid a visit to Thoreau on the day preceding the latter’s disappearance, and is presumed to be the last man to have seen him…
* * * *
BOSTON, MASS - May 17, 1879: Legendary crime boss John “Greenleaf” Whittier, 72, was indicted today in Federal court on 107 counts of customs duty evasion.
Whittier has for many years been known to be the undisputed controller of illicit activity and vice on and around waterfronts from Stamford, Connecticut to Bar Harbor, Maine, defying the law, public opinion, and fulminations from innumerable pulpits.
He began his career of infamy as an enforcer for John “Dollar Bill” Trumbull. Gradually he rose through the ranks of crime: managing a string of disorderly houses in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1831-1833; heading up an extortion ring in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1837; engaging in opium smuggling and the white slave traffic during the early 1840s.
In 1851 he organized Trumbull’s assassination and succeeded him as leader of New England’s coastal underworld…
* * * *
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - April 26, 1837: A reign of titillating terror has come to an end with the apprehension of Baltimore’s notorious “Kissing Bandit.”
The osculating outlaw has proven to be Edgar Allan Poe, 28, of this city.
His practice was to waylay an unattended young lady at night, enquire her name, and then, in alternation, to improvise verses addressed to her and to buss her heartily on the cheeks and lips.
Poe’s attorney is expected to mount an insanity defense, claiming that his client only committed his amorous assaults when “crazed with wine.”
Among his more notable victims, Miss Helen Carteret, Miss Irene Roux, and Miss Annabel Lee Horvath have all expressed relief at Poe’s capture. Miss Raven Fairchild could not be reached for comment…