Jazz Age Murder Mystery

Hosted byIan Punnett

Jazz Age Murder Mystery

About the show

Joe Pompeo is a correspondent at Vanity Fair, where he covers the media industry. He previously worked at publications including Politico and The New York Observer, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Columbia Journalism Review, and elsewhere. He joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss one of the most electrifying but forgotten murder mysteries in U.S. history, and how it traces the birth of American tabloid journalism, pandering to the masses with sordid tales of love, sex, money, and murder.

On September 16, 1922, Reverend Edward Hall and his mistress Eleanor Mills were found dead beneath a crabapple tree on an abandoned farm near New Brunswick, New Jersey. Their bodies had been posed to appear as resting lovers, and intimate letters between the two were strewn about their bodies, Pompeo explained. The affair between Hall and Mills likely started in 1917, he added. Curious spectators arrived in droves to see the murder site and to take souvenirs due in large part to the level of newspaper coverage the sensational crime received, Pompeo reported. "People came from all around to this crime scene... sometimes there would be thousands of people who would pass through," he revealed, comparing the atmosphere to a carnival.

Publications of the time became obsessed with tragedy, such as murder and divorce, Pompeo continued. He proposed the sensational fare of tabloids, which were crime and scandal driven, captured the imaginations of the common man. "The form itself... was designed to make everything easier and more entertaining and more thrilling for the reader," he said. Unlike the so-called respectable newspapers, tabloids were sold in working-class areas of cities, Pompeo revealed. "They put something into their hands that was more acceptable to them," he suggested.

Haunted Objects

In the first hour, paranormal investigators Cody Ray DesBiens and Satori Hawes, from the Travel Channel's "Ghost Hunters" and "Ghost Nation" series, talked about their traveling exhibition, The Paranormal Couple's Haunted Museum of Objects, Oddities, and Curiosities (video). The museum has around 400 objects, most of which are from cases the pair has investigated. They allow the public to not only tour their exhibits, but also investigate alongside them and provide feedback on these items. "We found that random people... that live in total separate parts of the United States are experiencing the same things around certain objects," DesBiens revealed.

They talked about several haunted objects, including an African mask and a set of marionettes. The owner of the mask claimed when he held it, he saw visions of tribal dancing and smelled campfire smoke, DesBiens explained, noting visitors to the museum also report smelling campfire smoke. The marionettes were taken from a home where tragic deaths had taken place. "Everybody that sees these puppets feels really uncomfortable, they feel nauseous, they say they see them moving in ways that these marionettes shouldn't really be moving," Hawes said.

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