One of the things I find most interesting and entertaining here in the Western History and Genealogy department is poring over our vast array of newspapers (both physical, and in microform). It’s nearly impossible to browse through an old issue and not run across something bizarre, humorous or downright fascinating (sometimes all three). So, I thought it was about time I start sharing some of my findings with you, in which I will highlight and discuss articles that have caught my attention. This piece marks the first in an ongoing series (though the “vol. I” in the title might have spoiled that revelation for you).
I was able to track down three distinct articles regarding today’s tale: one from the Denver Post, and the other two from the Leadville Herald Democrat, which is available on the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection site. (Time constraints prevented me from scouring every title for relevant articles.) Oddly, the articles in the Herald Democrat, though clearly about the same event, give wildly differing accounts. My narrative will draw from the varying interpretations to try to form a cohesive story (if not a coherent one).
So, without further ado, let’s begin with a doozy…
The Somnambulist and the Psychic Dentist
As initially reported on October 27, 1922, Mrs. Edith Miller was stabbed in the shoulder by a spurned lover with either an icepick or a kitchen knife. The wound wasn’t serious, and the story would hardly be worth mentioning, save for a couple noteworthy details. First, Mrs. Miller was apparently sleepwalking at the time, and second (and arguably more importantly), the spurned lover in question was in Denver – roughly 1,000 miles from the Miller’s Chicago residence – at the time of the attack. This may seem like a fairly solid alibi to the uninitiated, but Mr. C. E. Miller attributed this to the would-be suitor’s psychic powers. Just to make this explicitly clear, the Millers claimed that while Edith was sleepwalking, she was psychically assaulted in her dream by her rejected paramour, who was wielding a real-life ice pick. Eat your heart out, Freddy Krueger.
Strangely, for a story built on such a solid foundation, there were a number of discrepancies within the articles. For example, Mr. Miller alternately claimed the attacker was a dentist, a doctor or a French Army lieutenant. The couple declined to reveal the psychic assailant’s name to the police and the press. There was also the matter of either $1,200 or $2,000 worth of missing jewelry, as well as all traces of cash missing from Mr. Miller’s trouser pockets. The only piece of jewelry that remained untouched was a lavalier, which had been a gift to Mrs. Miller from the mysterious foe. (I just got chills. Did you get chills?)
Mrs. Miller, for her part, claimed in an interview that her assailant was in fact a captain in the French Army. Angered that she had rejected his marriage proposal in favor of Mr. Miller, he had accosted her twice before. The first attack had happened three years earlier, when the newlyweds lived in San Francisco. The captain/lieutenant/doctor/dentist appeared to Mrs. Miller telepathically, whipping her wedding ring from her finger, and declaring, “The next wedding ring you wear will be mine!” before disappearing. (The ring allegedly reappeared on her finger a couple days later, with no explanation.) The second assault was far more mundane, as he simply had a box of poisoned chocolates delivered to her. (No word on whether the chocolates were psychic.)
The poisoned chocolates incident drove the Millers to flee to Denver, and then shortly thereafter, to Chicago, in a desperate attempt to evade the spiritual tormentor. Wherever they turned, the couple claimed they received threatening letters and phone calls from their pursuer, once even having a note magically delivered through their second floor window. Given the supernatural adversary’s persistence, it was only a matter of time before a full-blown assault (or robbery) took place.
There was no apparent sign of a break-in, and the missing jewels were never recovered. The case remains unsolved to this day.
If you’re interested in more outdated news, be sure to visit WHG and ask about our extensive newspapers collections. Be sure to like our Facebook page to keep up to date on all your Western History and Genealogical needs.
Special thanks to librarian Alex Hernandez for first bringing this story to my attention.