Since we are nothing if not topical here, inspired by a recent story of a hair crime, today we look at some hair-collectors—not ones who wanted to make sentimental hair jewelry or memorial hair wreaths, as was so commonly done in the Victorian period, but persons with more sinister motives.
There is, of course, a sexual fetish involving cutting off hair that falls under the more general heading of trichophilia. When reporting on such outrages, the newspapers had their usual gleeful romp through the “Jack-the-[insert word that vaguely rhymes with ‘Ripper’ here] headlines. There was a large and legitimate market for human hair to be made into switches and wigs, a fact acknowledged by the first two articles. The violence and the ingenuity of some of these hair-raising encounters suggests a more ritualistic aspect. Or perhaps a Victorian urban-legend panic. Here are a few examples of “Jack the Clipper” in action.
“Jack the Clipper”
Cincinnati, Feb. 18. A sort of rival to Jack the Ripper and Jack the Kisser, is “Jack the Clipper.” He appeared in this city Wednesday afternoon. Mrs. Klesking, of 9 Abigail Street, called in Col. Deitsch and reported that her daughter Nina, 14 years old, had been stopped at Twelfth and Central Streets, by a man who tore off her hat and cut off her hair close to her head. A similar case was reported later by Mrs. Predrone of Baymiller street. Her 16-year-old girl had been stopped and treated in a like manner at Dayton and Lynn streets on the same evening. The man is described as of medium build, well dressed, and wearing a dark mustache. Pecuniary gain is supposed to be his object. Alton [IL] Daily Telegraph 18 February 1889: p. 2
GASKILL’S MAN CAUGHT CLIPPER
Hair Thief Arrested at Parkersburg, W. Va.
CANTON CARNIVAL CO.
He Followed the Local Show
Stole Tresses In the Crowds at the Street Fairs
“Jack the Clipper,” who plied his nefarious trade of stealing tresses at the free street fair in Akron, was caught red-handed in Parkersburg, W. Va., last week, while in the act of cutting the braids from the head of a school girl who was attending the Elks’ fair in progress there.
He has been following the Canton Carnival company, and worked the crowds at the street fairs at which the company exhibited.
GIVEN A DRUBBING
One of Manager Gaskill’s advance agents stopped over here, Sunday, says the Akron Beacon-Journal, while en route west, and he was authority for the statement. He said that the hair thief was seen in the act by one of the performers on the Midway. The performer leaped from the stage and administered a terrible beating to the fellow before the police could interfere.
When taken in charge he was found to have an apparatus concealed under his coat. To this was fastened a strong rubber band with two clamps attached and in the clamp were the braids the thief had just stolen.
PEFORMER GOT $70 REWARD
His modus operandi was to draw to the elastic band and while rudely jostling his victim, fasten the clamps to the braids, cut the hair with a keen scissors, let go the band, which in contracting suddenly drew the braids under his coat.
When the police took him in charge it was found that a reward was outstanding for him in Chicago, and to Chicago he was taken. The performer received $70 as his share of the reward. The thief claimed to be employed by a New York firm, which bought all the braids he clipped at a good price. Repository [Canton, OH] 10 October 1899: p. 2
Went the Shears of “Jack the Clipper” Through the Society Girl’s Luxuriant Tresses
Canton, Ohio, April 17. While in the act of putting her pet dog in the woodhouse last evening Miss Laura A. Weimer, a well-known society young lady, was deprived of her luxuriant black hair. A stranger pounced upon her, and, after striking her several blows, clipped off her tresses and then darted away in the darkness.
The young woman was found almost in a state of collapse from the excitement. Her screams brought the neighbors, but a thorough search failed to locate the “Jack the Clipper.”
The fellow threatened to kill Miss Weimer if she made an outcry. Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 18 April 1906: p. 1
A “JACK THE CLIPPER”
An Unknown Man With a Pair of Shears Frightens Little Girls at Springfield
Springfield, March 18. The little girls in the vicinity of the Fair Street school building have become very much terrified the last few days because of an unknown man who has been prowling around in that neighborhood chasing after them with a large pair of shears in his hand. He has a mania for catching the children and cutting off their hair. Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH] 19 March 1897: p. 3
Creepy tales, but pretty standard fare for men with an interest in hair, whether fetishistic or financial. I’ve read somewhere that more men than women have sexual fetishes. I don’t know if that is true, but the next story is the only instance I have ever found of a woman hair thief.
SCORES OF WOMEN ARE ROBBED OF THEIR HAIR
Mrs. Elizabeth Patrick, 57 Years Old, and of Prominent Family,
Accused of Collecting Switches From Oregon Fair Sex Under Pretense That She Would Have Them “Done Over.”
Thought to Be Unbalanced.
Eugene, Or., Dec. 24. Although she will on Christmas morning have completed a twelve-day sentence for stealing a gold umbrella, Mrs. Elizabeth Patrick, who claims her home is in Chicago, will again be arrested tomorrow on another larceny charge preferred by a score or more of women who claim to have been her victims.
Mrs. Patrick is said to have visited not only a majority of the homes in Eugene, but every town in the Willamette valley and collected hair switches to be “done over” and then returned to the owners for a cash consideration. In this way the Chicago woman has accumulated hundreds of dollars’ worth of hair which she had concealed in her apartments. Other articles of value were also secreted by Mrs. Patrick, and the sheriff and the prosecuting attorney have been kept busy during the past week investing complaints that come from every section of the state.
Mrs. Patrick claims to belong to one of the most prominent families in Chicago, giving her home address as 6411 Lexington Avenue, and that of her daughter as 6407 Lexington Avenue, Chicago. She has her husband was a prominent Mason and very wealthy before his death, and that her nephew, R. M. Patrick, is president of the First National bank of Marengo, Ill., and that E.D. Patrick, the cashier, is also related to her.
It is the opinion here that the woman is mentally unbalanced, although she talks rationally enough. She is 57 years old. Salt Lake [UT] Telegram 24 December 1913: p. 1
Any other Jaqueline-the-Clippers? Give them a light trim and send to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com.
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog, The Victorian Book of the Dead.