A Visceral Haunting

A Visceral Haunting Jars of preserved viscera

A Visceral Haunting Jars of preserved viscera

Today, a story of a rather unusual haunting. Objects are often said to be haunted–a haunted doll named Annabelle is the star of a new horror film, while Ebay swarms with haunted rings, paintings, furniture–and dolls–usually whey-faced china heads with awful synthetic hair and  implausible backstories. But the haunted object–if it can be called that–in this story is something more personal, more visceral.


Hard To Find Storage Place For Viscera of Murdered Man.

[Kansas City Journal.]

Is there some person who is not superstitious who will provide the prosecuting Attorney’s office with storage room for one suitcase containing the viscera of Colonel Thomas H. Swope?

Henry L. Jost, First Assistant Prosecutor, spent an hour yesterday trying to find someone to do so, but failed. He expects to find a safe storage place within the next day or two.

Immediately after the Hyde trial, the suitcase containing part of the liver and kidneys and some of the “extract” of which the scientists talked so much during the trial, was taken to the safety deposit vaults of a safe deposit company. The grip was placed in a corner of the room almost unnoticed, till the word was passed about telling of its contents. Straightway there was panic among the negro help at the bank.

Complaints were made by frightened Africans that groans emanated from the suitcase and that on Saturday afternoons, when the bank is closed, the shadowy form of the late Colonel Swope walked among the money vaults. It was a case of getting rid of the viscera or doing without janitors. So the viscera had to go.

Marshal Joel B. Mayes was the next custodian of the suitcase. He has had it several months. Mayes is not superstitious, but the negro “trusties” who sweep out his office didn’t like the looks of the grip. They, too saw shadowy figures walking abroad and asking the way to Independence, and it was a case of moving the viscera or not getting his office swept.

So yesterday marshal Mayes appealed to Mr. Jost to find another place for the outlawed suitcase. Mr. Jost tried to unload it upon the Coroner, but the latter would have none of it. Jost then tried several doctors, with the same result. He hopes for better luck to-day, for the Prosecutor’s office has not room enough to keep its papers in the office safes, let alone a suitcase.

“The viscera must be preserved,” said Mr. Jost, “for, in case there is another trial, they may be called for. Should the state dispose of them there would be a cry that evidence had been done away with. Such an imputation shall not lie against this office.”

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 12 August 1910

Mr. Jost was remarkably prescient. There would be not just another trial, but a total of three. The first was just the prelude to a Murder Case that Would Not Die. Dr. Bennett Clarke Hyde, a Kansas City doctor with a reputation for cruelty to women, was accused of murdering the immensely wealthy Colonel Thomas H. Swope by administering a capsule of cyanide. Dr. Hyde’s wife was Swope’s niece and he was tired of waiting to inherit. Col. Swope died in agonizing convulsions on 3 October 1909 after being treated by Hyde. Just prior to Swope’s death, one of his heirs, Moss Hunton, died at the Swope home of “apoplexy,” also while under the care of Dr. Hyde. In December of 1909 an epidemic of typhoid fever broke out in the Swope household; one person died. The motive seems to have been to wipe out the other heirs.

Dr. Hyde was indicted for murdering Col. Swope and for introducing typhoid germs and poisons into medicines and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, in May of 1910. A higher court remanded the case for a new trial. The second trial ended in a mistrial when an insane juror escaped through a window and disappeared. The third trial ended in a hung jury. A fourth trial was to be held, but a number of key witnesses had died and Hyde’s wife, who had spent a good amount of the money she had inherited on her husband’s defense, finally prevailed, getting the case dropped in 1917. Adding to the tangled nature of the case, while Mrs. Hyde stood by her man, her mother, Mrs. Logan Swope, also mother of most of the typhoid victims, was the first to draw official attention to the suspicious nature of the deaths, leading to exhumations, trials, and a 10-year estrangement from her daughter until Mrs. Hyde, in yet another twist, filed for divorce in 1920, charging “extreme cruelty and violence.”

Dr. Hyde must have had considerable sang froid. He sued (unsuccessfully) the Kansas City Star for $2,500,000 damages over an article they published relating an incriminating conversation supposedly between one of Col. Swope’s physicians and nurses in the Swope home. Dr. Hyde died in 1934.

You’ll find a number of articles about the case here.  A ghastly thought: the article never mentions specifically that said viscera were contained in the usual bottles of preservative liquid…

Murder victims make for some of the most interesting ghosts. The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past, contains a chapter called “A Vat of Acid: Homicidal Hauntings.” Any favorites in this category?  Place in a capsule and send with a glass of water to Chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com

In one of my Haunted Ohio series books, Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio, there’s a story with similar motifs to this one: a doctor, poison, greedy heirs, and–viscera. Read “The Undertaker’s Revenge” tomorrow, over at Mrs Daffodil.

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.


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