Category Archives: Crime

Haydn a head of Beethoven

In 1827 the world of music mourned the death of Ludwig van Beethoven.  His funeral was attended by an estimated twenty thousand people and included many dignitaries and leading composers.

Despite this look, Beethoven kept his head

Among the throngs of people who came to pay their respects, one group came forward with a strange request.  These men believed in Phrenology, the study of the shape of the skull in the belief it could give clues to a person’s intelligence and various attributes.

While it was easy to get hold of the skulls of executed criminals and of the poor who died in hospitals, what these men really wanted was the skull of a genius to see where this gift came from.

It perhaps comes as no surprise that this request was refused, but it was certainly not the first time these phrenologists tried to get hold of a composer’s skull.

Joseph Haydn in his prime, his head still attached to his body.

In 1809, as Napoleon’s troops approached Vienna, Joseph Haydn died and a simple funeral was hastily arranged.  Haydn’s patron, Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy II, pledged to transfer his remains to the family seat when the wars ended.  However, unknown to the Prince, his former secretary Joseph Carl Rosenbaum had agreed to an arrangement with local prison governor Johann Nepomuk Peter (an amateur phrenologist) to dig up Haydn’s corpse and remove the head.

Having cleaned the skull, Peter declared that the “bump of music” in Haydn’s skull was fully developed and was so proud of his possession that he kept it in a custom made box.  It was not until 11 years later, in 1820, that Prince Nikolaus decided to dig up Haydn’s remains and transfer them to a specially built tomb, and that’s when they discovered the head was missing.

Prince Nikolaus II, a man desperately in need of a head.

It did not take long for the Prince to discover the culprits were Rosenbaum and Peter and sent his soldiers round to find the skull.  Peter had by then given the skull to Rosenbaum, and when the soldiers came round he hid it in the straw of the bed and his wife lay on it pretending to be menstruating.  The soldiers gave up and came back empty handed.  After a few threats Rosenbaum got hold of another skull and gave it to Prince, but tests revealed it to be that of a 20 year old man.  Rosenbaum found another skull, of a much older man, and this was accepted as genuine and was buried with Haydn’s body.

Haydn’s real skull was kept with Rosenbaum, who left it for Peter in his will.  Peter’s will stated that the skull should then be given to the Vienna Conservatory of Music, but his wife gave it as a gift to her doctor, who gave it to the Austrian Institute of Pathology and Anatomy.  There was a lot of arguments and court cases involved as to who should own the skull (no consulted the Esterhazy family), but it finally stayed with the Society of Music in Vienna where it was kept in a glass case on top of the piano.

In 1932 Prince Paul Esterhazy decided to build a new marble tomb for Haydn, and he petitioned for the skull to be returned so it could be buried with the rest of Haydn.  Unfortunately, WWII and the cold war that followed created further complications.

Haydn’s final resting place

It was not until 1954 that the skull was finally returned and in a grand ceremony full of music, Haydn’s body and skull were finally laid to rest in Eisenstadt, the seat of the Esterhazy family.  It was the first time in nearly a century and a half that the body and head of the great composer were together again.

However, no one knew what to do with the existing skull in Haydn’s grave, and it was allowed to stay.  His tomb now contains a body and two heads, at least one of which we know to be Haydn.

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Posted by on Tuesday 5th June 2012 in Crime, History, People


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The Durable Mike Malloy

Real life sometimes rivals fiction, and the story of Michael Malloy (1873-1933) rivals most.

The story starts in early 1932 in New York, at the height of prohibition, when four men formed what was to be called The Murder Trust.  The men were Anthony Marino, owner of a local speakeasy, his bartender Joseph Murphy, local undertaker Francis Pasqua, and fruit vendor Daniel Kreisberg.  They would later recruit taxi driver Harry Green.

At a time when many people were looking for some easy money, they decided to murder Marino’s girlfriend, Betty Carlsen, after insuring her life for $800 (about $13k in 2011).  It was a very simple idea.  They got her drunk, took her to her room, stripped her naked, laid her out in her bed and poured cold water over her.  They then left her windows open and returned the next morning to find her dead from what the coroner declared was pneumonia compounded by alcoholism.  Their plan seemed to work perfectly.

During this time Malloy was a local homeless man who had originally come from Ireland and had been a firefighter at one time.  He was 60 and well past his prime and had become an alcoholic.  For a while he’d earned some money by occasionally sweeping floors, and this was enough to pay for some lodgings and drinks at Marino’s speakeasy, but as money dwindled he would hang around trying to cadge drinks from one of the other regulars.

So it was that when the Murder Trust looked to make some more money they saw Michael Malloy as an easy target.

Marino told Malloy that because of a price war with other bars, he would let him have free credit, allowing him to drink throughout the day and night. Malloy was so happy to get free drinks (and a free lunch) that he didn’t suspect a thing and even signed what he thought was a petition for Marino to be elected for local office, but turned out to be life insurance forms for $3,576 (a little over $60k in 2011).  He was even allowed to sleep at the back of the bar to let him stay as long as he needs.

They figured this broken old man will drink himself to death very soon, but he returned each night and it started costing them too much.

It was then that Murphy, having previously practiced chemistry, suggested lacing Malloy’s drinks with antifreeze.  After a few shots of whiskey Malloy didn’t notice when his drinks were substituted with antifreeze and soon passed out.  Pasqua the undertaker felt for his heart beat and declared it was so weak he was bound to be dead by morning.  Three hours later Malloy woke up, dusted himself off and apologised for passing out, then asked for another drink!  For the next few nights they plied him with ever greater amounts of antifreeze, but Malloy came back each day.

Not only were they losing a lot of money on the alcohol they plied him with, now they’d also spent a small fortune on antifreeze.

They changed the drinks to turpentine, and then horse liniment which was laced with rat poison.  Each night Malloy would pass out and return the next day thirsty for more.  He seemed to like these new cocktails.

Pasqua then remembered burying a man who ate some raw oysters with some whiskey.  To make sure it worked they left some oysters out to go off, then soaked them in antifreeze and gave this free lunch to Malloy.  Not only didn’t it kill Malloy, but he came back the next day hoping for some more delicious free lunch.

Murphy decided to attack this problem from two ends.  He left a can of sardines out until they smelled really foul and spoiled, spread them on a sandwich, added rat poison, sprinkled on carpet tacks and even shavings from the sardine can itself, and this was all washed down with antifreeze.  They figured if poison couldn’t kill Malloy, he’d get a stomach hemorrhage.

Sure enough, Malloy turned up the next day for more drinks and perhaps some more free lunch.

By now it was winter, and New York was gripped by freezing weather several degrees below zero.  To save money on more poison and the various ingredients they’d been feeding Malloy, the squad plied him with enough alcohol until he passed out, they then recruited Harry Green to help take him to Claremont Park, where they laid him down in the snow, stripped his shirt off, then poured five gallons of water on him and left him to freeze to death.

The next day Pasqua turned up with a heavy head cold from the previous night’s exposure, but Malloy turned up looking none the worse and wearing a new suit.  It turned out the police found him and turned him over to a welfare charity who gave him some new clothes.

By now they’d spent a small fortune on antifreeze, turpentine, horse liniment, rat poison, oysters, sardines, carpet tacks, and not forgetting enough whiskey to fill a swimming pool.  They needed professional advice.

They asked a professional killer, “Tough Tony” Bastone, for advice and he told to stop wasting time with poisons and just murder him physically.

And so, having gotten Malloy drunk (and presumably wondering where his delicious lunch was), they took him in Green’s taxi to Pelham Parkway, stood him up in the middle of the road and backed the taxi up.  As they launched the car at Malloy he inadvertently stumbled out of the way, so they bundled him in and took him to Gun Hill Road.  Green backed the taxi up and launched it at Malloy, reaching 45mph and WHAM!  Malloy was sent flying by the impact and seemed out for the count.  To make sure they even ran him over (better be sure…)

The guys returned to the bar and waited for the news that Malloy had been found dead.  As the days passed there was no news, nothing in the obituaries, none of the local morgues and hospitals had heard of him and it seemed he disappeared altogether.

As they needed a body they picked another bum, Joe Murray, got him drunk, stuffed his pockets with IDs identifying him as Malloy, and ran him down in the taxi.  It seems that even adopting the name of Malloy gives you super strength because Murray survived and spent two months in hospital.

Then, three weeks after leaving Malloy’s broken body on the road he turned up in the bar apologising for being away.  It seems he got knocked down and sustained a fractured skull, concussion and a broken shoulder, so he’d been unable to give his name when he was taken to hospital.  He was fine now though, and guess what?  He was thirsty.

At Bastone’s advice they decided not to play any more games.  They got him drunk, took him to the back and placed a hose in his mouth, with the other end connected to the gas.  Perhaps Malloy felt sorry for them, who knows, but this time he finally succumbed and was declared dead the next morning.  The gang paid a local doctor, Frank Manzella, to pronounce death from pneumonia and it seemed they finally achieved their result.

However, the ghost of Mike Malloy could not rest.  Murphy was in jail for a separate charge when one of the insurance companies tried to contact him to hand over the payout, they got suspicious and contacted the police.  Then there was a hitman who told his friends the gang had tried to hire him to snuff Malloy out, but his fee was too high.  It didn’t help that Green hadn’t been paid and was complaining about to anyone who’d listen and as police started to investigate they found out about Betty Carlsen.  Malloy’s body was exhumed and the true nature of his death came out, the gang, including Green and Manzella, were arrested and charged with murder.

During the trial the men claimed the whole scheme had been Bastone’s idea, and that he’d forced them to carry out the deed, and as Bastone had been killed not long after Malloy he couldn’t testify against them.  This didn’t wash with the jury and all six were found guilty.

For their parts Green and Manzella were sent to prison.  In June 1934, at the infamous Sing Sing prison, Marino, Pasqua and Kreisberg were electrocuted, with Murphy sharing their fate a month later.

As for Malloy, he was reburied and rumour has it his body is still as indestructible as ever.

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Posted by on Tuesday 13th September 2011 in Crime, People


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