Robert Wilhelm writes about historical true crime with a particular interest in nineteenth-century American murders. He is the author Wicked Victorian Boston (The History Press, 2017) which documents vice and crime in nineteenth century Boston and the efforts of reformers to control it, and Murder and Mayhem in Essex County, a chronicle of murders and other capital crimes in Essex County Massachusetts from the Puritans to the turn of the twentieth century.
His blog Murder by Gaslight (www.murderbygaslight.com), “A compendium of information, resources, and discussion on notable nineteenth century American murders,” has been running continuously since 2009. In his weekly posts, Robert has written the stories of more than 500 American murders. In 2014 he published a compilation of fifty posts from Murder by Gaslight, entitled The Bloody Century (Night Stick Press, 2014). He also maintains a smaller blog, The National Night Stick (national.night-stick.com), with illustrations and articles on crime, eccentricity, and the sporting life in 19th Century America.
So Far From Home: The Pearl Bryan Murder
Historical True Crime
The headless corpse of a young woman, discovered in the woods of Northern Kentucky in February 1896, disrupted communities in three states. The woman was Pearl Bryan, daughter of a wealthy farmer in Greencastle, Indiana, and her suspected killers, Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling, were dental students in Cincinnati, Ohio. How Pearl Bryan died so far from home is an enduring mystery.
It was the age of yellow journalism when sensational murder cases drove newspaper circulation, and daily papers competed to print the most gruesome details and explicit illustrations. Local crimes became national news, and readers followed the daily progress of police investigations and murder trials as if they were serialized mysteries. The murder of Pearl Bryan in 1896, featuring a headless body, remorseless villains, and threats of civil unrest, fit the bill perfectly. So Far from Home: The Pearl Bryan Murder revisits the story as it unfolded in the daily press.
The Bloody Century: True Tales of Murder in 19th Century America
Historical True Crime
A murderous atmosphere pervaded nineteenth-century America and lurid murders dominated newspaper headlines.
The Bloody Century retells the stories of Americans, driven by desperation, greed, jealousy, or an irrational bloodlust, to take the life of someone around them. It presents 50 of the most intriguing murder cases from the archives of American—the famous, the sensational, the unsolved.
Richly illustrated with scenes and portraits from the time of the murders, and including songs and poems written to commemorate the crimes, The Bloody Century invokes a fitting atmosphere for Victorian homicide.
The days of America’s distant past, the time of gaslights and horse-drawn carriages, are often viewed as quaint and sentimental, but a closer look reveals passions, fears, and motives that are timeless and universal, and a population inured to violence, capable of monstrous acts. A visit to The Bloody Century may well give us insight into our own.
Wicked Victorian Boston
Victorian Boston was more than just stately brownstones and elite society that graced neighborhoods like Beacon Hill. As the population grew, the city developed a seedy underbelly just below its surface. Illegal saloons, prostitution, and sports gambling challenged the image of the Puritan City. Daughters of the Boston Brahmins posed for nude photographs. The grandson of President John Adams was roped into an elaborate confidence game. Reverend William Downs, a local Baptist pastor, was caught in bed with a married parishioner. Author Robert Wilhelm reveals the sinful history behind Boston’s Victorian grandeur.
Murder & Mayhem in Essex County
“The importance of the area to early America . . . make the book a must-read for anyone interested in the dark side of New England history” (Early American Crime).
The idea of a criminal record originated in the early seventeenth century when the magistrates of the Massachusetts Bay Colony began recording dates, places, victims and criminals. Despite, or perhaps because of, the strict code of the Puritans, some early settlers earned quite the rap sheet that landed them either in the stocks or at the end of a noose. With biting wit and an eye for the macabre, local author Robert Wilhelm traces the first documented cases of murder and mayhem in Essex County, Massachusetts. Discover the story of Hannah Duston’s revenge on her Abenaki Indian captors, why the witchcraft hysteria hung over Salem and Andover and how Rachel Wall made her living as a pirate. Decide for yourself whether the accused are guilty or if history lends itself to something else entirely.