|The Naked City||Nov 25 2014|
Front Page Detective shows on this November 1971 cover how to attract eyeballs with lurid art and titillating text. Eisenhower’s social secretary murdered? That sounds intriguingly political, but it turns out Eisenhower’s only connection is that his White House had more than a decade earlier employed the murder victim in a secretarial position. Though no political angle exists, the crime itself is still very interesting. Laura Carpi, scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, disappeared in February 1971. In June the decomposed body of a woman was found in New York City’s East River, labeled an accidental drowning victim, and twenty days later interred on Hart Island as a Jane Doe in the potter’s field there. After the body was identified as Carpi’s, the New York Times published a sensational story claiming that her head had been removed before burial for study by junior pathologists, or, according to some sources in the pathologist’s office, simply to be used as a desk ornament. The Times claimed that a technician had been cleaning out whatever grisly remnants of flesh were still attached to the skull and happened to find a bullet lodged in its neck tissue. Dealing now with a suspected homicide, police focused on missing persons, and eventually summoned Carpi’s dentist. Recognizing his own work, he made the positive identification.
The ME’s office became the center of a storm, with Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern blasting the Times story for insinuating that “the doctors in this office are cutting off people’s heads to make ashtrays.” He pronounced the entire article “grossly distorted.” Perhaps it was, but uncovering a murder by chance never looks good, and he didn’t help his cause when he responded to a question about why his staff had failed to discover the bullet by saying that he ran a mortuary, not a graveyard, and was extremely busy. Though his answer was callous, it was also correct. His office had a contant flow of bodies coming through—that year more than 1,800 alone that had been victims of murder—and his staff was overworked. Add to this the facts that Laura Carpi had thick hair that concealed the small caliber entry wound at the base of her skull, the slug had left no exit wound, and the head had been four months in the water, and it’s possible to see how mistakes could be made. As to why the head was kept, the unconvincing official reason was that it was because the dentalwork would allow for possible future identification—which only made sense if all the Jane and John Does on Hart Island were also headless.
In any case, the finger of suspicion for the murder immediately pointed toward Carpi’s estranged husband Colin, at right, who was battling for custody of their four children. Not only would the loss of this battle and subsequent divorce settlement wipe him out financially, but he was also well aware that his wife had been seeing another man. For various reasons—jurisdictional issues and general reluctance to pursue the crime—Colin Carpi didn’t go to trial for two more years. A mountain of circumstantial evidence pointed at him, but his acquittal was deemed by most legal experts to be the right decision. The prosecution simply bungled its presentation to the jury, and even if the courtroom aspect had been perfect, much of Colin Carpi’s suspicious behavior could be chalked up to the circumstances around the custody battle and his wife’s affair. Perhaps a not-guilty verdict was an anti-climax after the high drama associated with the identification of Laura Carpi’s body, but not finding the perp is the way it often goes in true crime, and real life.
|The Naked City||Oct 1 2014|
These two issues of Crime Detective, which appeared today in 1962 and 1964 respectively, both feature the same cover photo—each a reverse of the other—of Jean DiFede and Armando Cossentino. DiFede and Cossentino, who were thirty-six and nineteen, were May-December lovers convicted of murdering DiFede’s husband Dr. Joseph DiFede in order to collect a $72.000 life insurance policy (about $560,000 in today’s money). Dr. DiFede was attacked in his bedroom with a hammer and carving knife, and the disarray of the scene showed that he had battled fiercely for his life before succumbing to multiple blows and seven stab wounds. A third person on the scene later turned eyewitness against the lovers, claiming Dr. DiFede gasped to his wife with his last words, “I forgive you everything… Don’t kill me.” Meanwhile Cossentino stood over him and shouted, “Die! Die! Die!”
The eyewitness account (he said the extent of his participation had been helping to clean the crime scene because he feared for his life) was damning enough on its own. Police also discovered that Jean DiFede had bought Cossentino a new convertible, rented an apartment for him, and went on public dates with him. And just for good measure the all-male jury was repeatedly reminded that Cossentino was only two years older than Jean DiFede’s oldest son, who had been instructed to refer to her by her name rather than “mom.” When the guilty verdicts came down, Cossentino was sentenced to die in the electric chair and DiFede got twenty years. Upon hearing her sentence she screamed, “If I have to spend twenty years in jail I’d rather be dead!” As it turned out, neither of them died in prison. Cossentino’s sentence was commuted to life, and both eventually earned parole.
|The Naked City||Sep 1 2014|
This cover of Front Page Detective from today in 1968 features suspected murderer Alice Crimmins, and it caught our eye not only because of its bold graphic style, but because it’s a prime example of what is today called “slut-shaming.” It’s a term we don’t like, but we didn’t make it up. Basically, it’s the process of assassinating the character of women who dare to have multiple sexual partners, or perhaps who have few partners, or even one, but seem to enjoy sex a little too much. Generally it doesn’t matter if she’s married or single—it’s a special trap designed just for women.
In the end Crimmins was convicted of manslaughter, the verdict was overturned, and she was tried again. The second trial took place in 1971 and featured less overt slut-shaming than the first, but Crimmins was notorious by that point and her reputation once again may have contributed to her conviction, this time for both manslaughter and murder. These verdicts were struck down in 1973, the manslaughter conviction was quickly re-instated, and Crimmins served another four years before being paroled in 1977, after which she went on to live in quiet obscurity. See more of Front Page Detective’s lurid cover style here.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Jul 29 2014|
Above is a very nice True Detective from July 1959 with a Brendan Lynch cover depicting a woman startled by the arrival of a criminal. It’s actually a perfect cover, because inside the issue you get an interesting story related by Elma Baldwin, who was kidnapped by a paroled convict named Richard Arlen Payne. Payne snatched Baldwin and three her kids at gunpoint as part of an ill-conceived plan to trade them for the release of his former cellmate Burton Junior Post, aka Junior Starcher, who was serving time at West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. Payne didn’t want Starcher out because they were buddies. Quite the opposite—he had vowed to kill the man, and threatened to torture and murder the Baldwins if his demands weren’t met. He wrote in a note to Governor Cecil Underwood, “My purpose is to kill and take the head of my worst enemy, who is now out of reach. I must kill him or go mad.”
You’re probably asking why Payne never did anything to Starcher while they were cellmates. Payne’s answer was simple: “I could have killed him at any time, and I thought about it very seriously. At times I had a blade to his throat. But he was as good as done for anyway, because I knew once I got in the free world there were ways that I could get at him.”
Well, maybe not so much. In any case, the kidnapping was big news in 1959, probably owing to its sheer incomprehensibility. Today it’s mostly forgotten but remains a good case study of the benefits of being able to let go one’s anger. The entire event lasted only twenty hours, ending with a brief shootout in which nobody was injured, followed by Payne’s admittance to a mental asylum. Asked if Starcher had done anything specific during their time at Moundsville to engender such hatred, Payne said, “Well, nothing I can put my finger on. It was just a sort of natural hatred.”
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 10 2014|
Below, eight covers of Front Page Detective depicting imminent bodily harm. Front Page Detective went through several cover styles, from pulp magazine-style paintings to close-up photos of distressed faces. These are from the early and mid-1970s.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Dec 28 2013|
True Detective gives readers the lowdown on several crimes in this issue published this month in 1958, but the most chilling story involves 18-year-old Marjorie Schneider, who was parked in a secluded lover’s lane near Fort Collins, Colorado with her date and another couple when she was abducted at gunpoint. True Detective scribe Jonas Bayer tells readers how the perpetrator was a man named Floyd Robertson, who first shot up the car, then robbed the quartet inside, and finally dragged the screaming Schneider away, saying, “I want the blonde to come with me.” With the car non-functional, the survivors ran two miles to a telephone. Their call touched off one of the largest searches in Colorado history. When police caught Robertson just days later, he admitted that he had abducted and raped Schneider, shot her three times in the head, then buried her body 600 feet up the side of an incline overlooking Highway 14. Robertson was later convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison. The cover art on this issue is by Joe Little, who painted covers for Master Detective, Saga, Male, Man’s World, and many other mags. More from him later.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 28 2013|
We’ve already shared a couple of issues of Myron Fass’s true crime magazine Crime Does Not Pay. You can see those here and here. This issue is from October 1970 and features yet another hapless victim of diabolical torture. This is probably the most extreme piece we’ve seen from this magazine (notice the two women in the rear awaiting the same treatment) and of course it’s uncredited, but it does resemble Fass’s own work, actually. Crime Does Not Pay had featured regular tabloid-style covers since its launch in 1968, but sometime in late 1969 Fass decided to use the same sort of violent, painted covers that had been appearing on his other imprints like Weird and Terror Tales. These painted issues of Crime Does Not Pay are incredibly rare—so far we’ve seen four. But we’ll keep looking.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 14 2013|
Here's an amazing cover of Master Detective published this month in 1962 featuring a woman being menaced by a giant disembodied head. Design-wise, we think this is inspired stuff. There are more than one hundred true crime magazine covers inside Pulp Int., and you can see them in chronological order by clicking here.
|The Naked City||Mar 5 2013|
This two-color cover from Headquarters Detective appeared in March 1958 and features a pose that you see quite a bit on vintage crime magazines—the man standing above a terrorized woman, often with a phallic symbol in hand. We’ve been gathering up some covers in this style and we’ll share what we’ve found pretty soon. This cover is also noteworthy because it reports at bottom left on the last of six murders that occurred in the Chicago area between October 1955 and August 1957. Three boys and three girls ranging from ages eleven to fifteen were stripped, battered, strangled, and in the cases of two of the girls, raped.
But it was the sixth murder that truly horrified already shaken Chicago residents. The killer—and if it was the same killer his violent tendencies were growing—dismembered Judith Anderson and set the body parts afloat in Montrose Harbor in two metal drums. The smaller drum contained the girl’s head, right arm and left hand, the second the rest of her. The head had four bullets in it. Police followed many leads—according to at least one account they investigated 109,000 homes, 40,000 to 50,000 garages and basements, 900 businesses, and 200 boats. They heard countless confessions, all of which turned out to be false—save for possibly one.
Some local fishermen told police that several nights before Anderson’s remains turned up they saw a car on the opposite shore of the harbor. They knew it had backed up to the water because they could see its brake lights. A person they described as well-built got out, opened the trunk of the car and threw something—or several somethings—into the water. When he drove away they noticed that one of his brake lights was out. The detail of the broken light helped generate a suspect, someone with a criminal record and a history of sexual violence, but police were never able to pin the killing on him even though at least one investigator claimed he had confessed. Ultimately police never solved Anderson's murder, or the other five.
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 16 2013|