The Last Days of Cleveland by John Stark Bellamy II

Gray & Company, Publishers

Last Days of Cleveland by John Stark Bellamy II
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The Last Days of Cleveland

and More True Tales of Crime and Disaster from Cleveland's Past

by John Stark Bellamy II

  • Softcover, 254 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • ISBN: 978-1-59851-067-6
Heroes and rogues fill the pages of this book. The stories will hold your attention and chill you to the bone. — Crime Shadow News

Cleveland's master of historical crime and disaster returns with 15 more true tales in this sixth volume of his popular series, including . . .

• West Park sisters Helen, 11, and Marguerite, 10, who died after eating Rough-on-Rats brand poison in their grandmother's basement— victims of a genetic “suicide mania,” or driven to death by the cruelest caretaker since Hansel and Gretel's stepmom?

• Joseph “Specs” Russell, who vaulted to fame in the summer of 1927 by staging as many as 52 stick-ups and making fools of Cleveland lawmen with his “impossible” escapes from their dragnets;

• Jeanette McAdams—just unlucky, or the Lucretia Borgia of Ashtabula County? After the suspiciously similar deaths of her five siblings, neighbors began to take note of the crowded family graveyard;

• Salty and ageless George Wallace, who served the city as a fireman for 62 years, 30 of them as chief, and endured to become the oldest fire chief in the world—with a mastery of incessant profanity that could be heard for four city blocks and made mule skinners blush;

And more true stories of courage, fear, deception, and villainy—including a disaster caused by the author himself!

Sometimes gruesome, often surprising, John Stark Bellamy's tales are meticulously researched and delivered in a literate and entertaining style.

Illustrations: 40 black-and-white photos

There are half a dozen murders, several suicides, a shipwreck and the story of a persistent Roaring Twenties holdup man whose prison career was as engrossing as his crime spree. As Bellamy's other books are replete with tragedy on an epic scale, these “tales of woe,” a phrase he likes to use, seem somehow intimate. That is, if a beheading can be intimate. The bloodless stories are just as interesting — Akron Beacon Journal
Bellamy does not merely recount twice-told stories. He writes like newspapermen used to write before journalists were trained to write formulaic, AP-style abomination. He writes as if his supper depended on the evening's headline . . . When Bellamy sticks to the subject, he is unimpeachable. And it's not just his knowledge. More than anything it his enthusiasm and affection for his subjects (and their city) that makes Bellamy so compelling. —
Heroes and rogues fill the pages of this book. The stories will hold your attention and chill you to the bone. — Crime Shadow News
A must for fans of local crime and disaster stories. . . The stories are at times amusing, at other times heart-wrenching . . . and always engaging. — Hudson Hub-Times
Even if you live in Cleveland, you don't know as much about this city—rich in culture and history—as John Stark Bellamy II . . . He exposes the darker side of Cleveland—its murderers and petty thieves—and a few of the Forest City's heroes (firemen and policemen, not politicians). He has made a career of chronicling Cleveland's rowdy and sometimes funny past. — Technorati
The Last Days of Cleveland: and More True Tales of Crime and Disaster from Cleveland's Past, by John Stark Bellamy II
Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • 1 Suffer the Children
    The 1907 Curtis Horror
  • 2 Some People Never Learn
    The Specs Russell Saga
  • 3 “A Little Excitement”
    The Star-Crossed Corrigan Family
  • 4 “I Die an Innocent Man!”
    The Gruesome Death of William Beatson
  • 5 Ohio City Shootout
    The 1875 Murder of Michael Kick
  • 6 Cleveland's First Disasters
    I. The Perils of Ben, and His Startling Escape
    II. A Tragic Voyage
  • 7 Murder on the Shaker Road
    The Strange Deaths of John and Josiah White
  • 8 Fireman's Fireman
    The George Wallace Legend
  • 9 The Last Days of Cleveland
    The 1925 Adventist Hysteria
  • 10 All Unhappy Families Are Not Alike
    The Ashtabula McAdams Family Values
  • 11 “They Say I've Been Killing Someone . . .”
    The Butchery of Greenberry Hood
  • 12 Shabby Death on Sheriff Street
    The Murder of Louis Weik
  • 13 Third-Rate Romance, Prospect Avenue
    The Murder of ?
  • 14 Cleveland's Greatest Historian
    S. J. Kelly's Forgotten Treasures
  • 15 My First Disaster
    How I Got to Be “The Cleveland Historian Your Mother Warned You About”
  • Photo Credits
Audio for The Last Days of Cleveland

Click to listen to John Stark Bellamy II share his own personal disaster:

Audio was provided by Stephen Bellamy

About John Stark Bellamy II
John Stark Bellamy II

John Stark Bellamy II is the author of six books and two anthologies about Cleveland crime and disaster. The former history specialist for the Cuyahoga County Public Library, he comes by his taste for the sensational honestly, having grown up reading stories about Cleveland crime and disaster written by his grandfather, Paul, who was editor of the Plain Dealer, and his father, Peter, who wrote for the Cleveland News and the Plain Dealer. More About John Stark Bellamy II

Question & Answer with the author...
Q: Unlike your other books, this one includes a specific disaster from your own past. Why did you wait until now to tell the story?

A: I always wanted to write this story (“My First Disaster”) but I think my mother would have found it simply too disturbing to read. She actually had no inkling of how perilous the episode was and how close it came to putting an end to one of her children––and one of the neighbor's children. When my mother died in 2004, I finally felt I could write the story.

Q: In the new book, you write about Helen and Margaret Curtis, two very young girls who ended their lives with rat poison. What led them to do such a thing?

A: The sisters were 10 and 11 years old in 1907 when they committed suicide in their grandmother's West Park home. But we still don't know if, in fact, their mother was a world-class child abuser whose maltreatment of her children drove them to this terrible dual suicide.

Q: You also write about the wealthy Corrigan family who might have been “cursed.” What makes their story so disturbing?

A: We have essentially four generations of a family involved in this story. James and John Corrigan were two of Cleveland's most successful men in the early 1900s, but despite all their wealth, they weren't immune to tragedy. James' luxury yacht, the Idler, sank, taking the lives of six family members. Four generations later, one of John Corrigan's great-great granddaughters and her husband burned to death in their home in Hunting Valley. It's just an unrelenting tale of woe.

Q: The title story, “The Last Days of Cleveland,” refers to the “End of Days.” How is it a Cleveland story?

A: Two reasons. First, because it gives proof that Cleveland isn't immune from the kind of crazes and panics we tend to associate with more “melodramatic” regions of the country, like California or the Deep South. And, let's face it, aside from being a wonderfully wacky story, it's a perfect example of how Cleveland's inventive journalists of bygone years could take an admittedly minor phenomenon and turn it into circulation gold!

Q: The Butchery of Greenberry Hood is a story about murder, but how did journalism at the time also play a role in the tale?

A: When the trial of the accused took place, most Clevelanders got their information from newspapers. Because the accused—as well as the victim—were African Americans, they were basically vilified in the press. Stephen Hood was depicted as a sub-human monster and called a “savage type” in newspaper stories. Quite remarkable when you think of journalism standards today.

Q: Why do you think people like your books?

A: With all due immodesty, what's not to like? As a kid, I attended CYO camp in the summer where we'd sit around a campfire eating marshmallows. The counselors got their jollies by telling us terrifying stories, some of which were based on local folklore, others made up. I'm looking for that same kind of campfire-tale effect in the stories I write. These are the kinds of stories that attract me and ones I think appeal to my readers, too.

Q: What's next on the agenda for John Stark Bellamy? Are there still more true tales of Cleveland crime and disaster to tell?

A: Yes, and I'm still writing about them. I have this thing I call “Bellamy's Register of Cleveland Woe” which has 15,000 items of bad things that have happened in Cleveland. And believe me, there have been a lot of bad things that have happened. You've heard the expression, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?” I think the bad things that have happened in Cleveland have made the city and its people that much stronger.

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