The Maniac in the Bushes

And More Tales of Cleveland Woe

John Stark Bellamy II


Thirteen more incredible true stories of Cleveland crime and disaster from the author of “They Died Crawling.” Meet Martha Wise, the Merry Widow of Medina, who poisoned relatives because she enjoyed funerals; Cleveland Safety Director Eliot Ness and his nemesis, the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run”; and many other local heroes and villains.

Softcover / 298 pages / 5.5 x 8.5 in. / 90 photos

ISBN: 9781886228191


“Morbidly fascinating and wickedly entertaining.” — The Plain Dealer

The second volume in Bellamy’s popular series includes 13 more incredible true stories of Cleveland crime and disaster, including . . .

• Martha Wise, Medina’s not-so-merry widow, who poisoned a dozen relatives with arsenic—including her own husband, mother, brother, niece, and nephews—because she enjoyed attending funerals;

• The legendary Torso Murders, which baffled Cleveland safety directory Eliot Ness, two Cuyahoga County coroners, and the entire Cleveland police force as they tried in vain to catch the perpetrator—whom newspapers dubbed the “Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run”;

• The unspeakably horrible Collinwood School Fire of 1908, in which 172 schoolchildren perished in panic because of obstructed fire exits;

• Hammer-wielding Velma West, a big-city girl of Cleveland’s Jazz Age driven to murder her small-town husband by the slow pace of life of Painesville—and her own obsession with another woman;

• The Flats lumber fire of 1914, which leveled Cleveland’s industrial Flats, melted bridges, and very nearly set the entire city ablaze;

• The enduring mystery of ten-year-old Beverly Potts, whose puzzling disappearance from west-side Halloran Park in 1951 launched Cleveland’s greatest manhunt;

And many other local heroes and villains in these compelling tales of mayhem, melancholy, and mystery.

Additional information

Weight0.76 lbs

Softcover, Softcover (Autographed)

Table of Contents


Torso Prologue: The Mystery Begins

1. “Twelve O’Clock Girl in a Nine O’Clock Town” (The Red Rage of Velma West)

Torso Interlude 1: Jackass Hill, Kingsbury Run

2. Ash Wednesday Forever (The 1908 Collinwood School Fire)

Torso Interlude 2: Flo Polillo and the Dog That Did Bark in the Night

3. The Maniac in the Bushes (The 1921 Foote-Wolf Terror)

Torso Interlude 3: Birth of a Legend

4. “Bring Out Your Man!” (The 1887–1888 Saga of Bold, Bad “Blinky” Morgan)

Torso Interlude 4: The Mad Butcher of Big Creek

5. Death of the Music Lovers (The 1908 Ziechmann-Bernthaler Tragedy)

Torso Interlude 5: The Remains of the Day

6. Bad Day at Newburgh (The 1872 Northern Ohio Insane Asylum Fire)

Torso Interlude 6: Beulah Park Redux

7. A Fiend Walks in Cleveland (The 1930 Death of Janet Blood)

Torso Interlude 7: A Rose Ain’t Necessarily a Rose

8. A Fatal Bottle of Beer (The J. J. Phillips Mystery of 1907)

Torso Interlude 8: Torso No. 10—The Legend Grows

9. Medina’s Not-So-Merry Widow (Martha Wise’s Deadly Crying Game)

Torso Interlude 9: Another Lady, Another Dead End

10. “They’re Killing Them on the Bridge!” (The 1920 Sly-Fanner Payroll Murders)

Torso Interlude 10: “They Call Me Mad and a Butcherer . . .”

11. Cleveland’s Burning! (A Trio of Catastrophic Fires–1914)

Torso Interlude 11: Mad M.D.s and Frank Dolezal

12. “You Better Be Home Before Dark” (The Beverly Potts Mystery–?)

Torso Epilogue: Farewell to the Mad Butcher

Photo Credits

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