On a frigid winter day in January 1910 the Chicago headlines trumpeted, "Chicago Fiend Second White Chapel Ripper". The reason for the sensational story was based on the opinion of Assistant Police Chief Schuettler following the coroner's report for a post mortem completed on the body of Mrs. Jennie Cleghorn (AKA Anna Furlong). She had been found mutilated and decapitated in a south side rooming house which doubled as a brothel situated over a saloon owned by James Seeley at 1702 Armour Avenue (also given as 51 West 17th Street). Little did the police or the public know that this grisly crime was only the beginning.
The year was 1910, only a few years before, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of killing her parents and Jack the Ripper had stalked the streets of London. Closer to home H. H. Holmes had lured his victims who were visiting Chicago to his notorious Murder Castle and swung from the gallows in 1896.
The police believed the murderer had crept into the woman's flat while she slept, but there was a mystery as to how he had gained entry. He then strangled her since her trachea had been crushed, and then with a dull knife he went on to chop, hack and slash the woman's body. Other stories describe it was believed an ax had been used for the crime.
The police found her body clad only in a nightgown. The room reflected that the woman had fought terribly for her life. The furniture and walls of the room were splattered with blood. The killer cut out her heart and other organs and then replaced them inside the body cavity. In an effort to hide her identity, he took the head. Her scalp had been torn from her skull and was found, with an ear attached under the bed wrapped in bed clothing. The police also found that the incisions made on the body were done with surgical skill.
The following is one of the stories that details the story of this horrid discovery on a very cold winter day in the Windy City’s South Side:
The head could not be found but part of the right ear and the scalp above it remained on the bed.
Anna was later identified as Jennie Cleghorn. Rooming houses above saloons were brothels, and as observed by the police officers who visited the scene she appeared to come from a genteel background. Witnesses who knew her said that she had described where she had once possessed considerable property in Englewood, which her husband had made her convert into cash, after which he abandoned her for another woman. She was deserted by former friends and drifted to the underworld of St. Louis and there she remained until five or six months before her murder when she had moved to Chicago.
Jennie's scalped hair was found done up in bedclothes that lay in a corner of the room, and on January 24 Jennie’s head was found in a vacant lot at 251 Armour Ave, where the police believe it had been thrown since the day of the murder.
Once the doctors had a chance to examine the body they concluded that the heart and organs had been cut out and then replaced into the body's cavity again.
Shortly after the murder, the police was considering several of the visitor or roomers as suspects and detained them, even going to Louisville to bring one of them back to Chicago. Eventually they were all released, and the police had no leads, but that changed a few months later, when another murder was committed.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer