Exit Speech

When New York gangster Dutch Schultz was shot in 1935, police had a stenographer take down his delirious last words. Find a confession here if you can:

  • “Police, police, Henry and Frankie. Oh, oh, dog biscuits and when he is happy he doesn’t get snappy.”
  • “I am a pretty good pretzler. Winifred. Department of Justice. I even get it from the department.”
  • “Please, I had nothing with him. He was a cowboy in one of the seven-days-a-week fight.”
  • “There are only 10 of us. There 10 million fighting somewhere of you, so get your onions up and we will throw up the truce flag.”
  • “The sidewalk was in trouble and the bears were in trouble and I broke it up.”
  • “No payrolls, no walls, no coupons. That would be entirely out.”
  • “Oh, sir, get the doll a roofing.”
  • “A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim. Did you hear me?”
  • “Please put me up on my feet at once. You are a hard-boiled man. Did you hear me?”
  • “Please crack down on the Chinaman’s friends and Hitler’s commander. I am sure and I am going up and I am going to give you honey if I can.”
  • “I am half crazy. They won’t let me get up. They dyed my shoes. Open those shoes. Give me something. I am so sick.”

His final words were “I will settle the indictment. Come on, open the soap duckets. The chimney sweeps. Talk to the sword. Shut up, you got a big mouth! Please help me up, Henry. Max, come over here. French-Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.”

Fox in Stocks

In 2007, prison inmate Charles Jay Wolff sent a hard-boiled egg to U.S. District Court Judge James Muirhead in Concord, N.H.

Wolff, who was awaiting trial for sexual assault, said he was an Orthodox Jew and demanded a kosher diet.

In his judgment, Muirhead wrote:

I do not like eggs in the file.
I do not like them in any style.
I will not take them fried or boiled.
I will not take them poached or broiled.
I will not take them soft or scrambled,
Despite an argument well-rambled.
No fan I am of the egg at hand.
Destroy that egg! Today! Today!
Today I say!
Without delay!

“We’ve told him, if you don’t like the eggs, don’t eat them,” said Assistant Attorney General Andrew Livernois.

Damned If You Don’t

Marijuana is illegal in North Carolina, but the state still profits from its sale. Under state law, anyone who purchases illegal drugs must buy stamps within 48 hours and affix them to the controlled substance. If you’re caught without stamps, you’re still liable for the tax.

No one expects people actually to do this — since 1990, only a few dozen people have bought the stamps, and many of those are thought to be stamp collectors. But the state has collected more than $68 million for failure to display them.


Grave inscription of a horse thief:

He found a rope and picked it up,
And with it walked away.
It happened that to other end
A horse was hitched, they say.

They took the rope and tied it up
Unto a hickory limb.
It happened that the other end
Was somehow hitched to him.

From Frederic William Unger, Epitaphs, 1904

See No Evil

Ken Rex McElroy was the town bully of Skidmore, Mo., and a thoroughly vile man. A thief, rapist, and arsonist, he had been charged with dozens of crimes but avoided jail by intimidating witnesses.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that two townsmen finally shot him to death on July 10, 1981, in broad daylight in the center of town.

But somehow, though McElroy’s wife identified the attackers, none of the 46 witnesses could quite recall what they had seen that day.

Without corroboration, the case could not move forward–and it remains unsolved to this day.


In 1800, robber and housebreaker Pierre Coignard was sentenced to 14 years’ hard labor in the prison at Toulon. After five years he escaped, journeyed to Catalonia, assumed the identity of a local nobleman, won glory fighting in the Spanish ranks, entered the French army, rose to become a decorated colonel …

… and was recognized in Paris by one of his former cellmates.

He was tried, convicted, and returned to the same prison he had escaped 18 years earlier.

Numbers Game

On June 18, 1964, an elderly woman was walking through a Los Angeles alley when a blond woman with a ponytail pushed her to the ground and stole her purse. The blond woman escaped in a yellow car driven by a bearded black man.

Police arrested Janet Collins, a ponytailed blond woman whose bearded black husband drove a yellow Lincoln. At trial, a local mathematics instructor testified that there was 1 chance in 12 million that another couple would meet this description, and the jury convicted the Collinses of second-degree robbery. Sound reasonable?

Well, no. The California Supreme Court reversed the conviction, noting that the prosecution had offered no statistical evidence and that the mathematician had simply invented estimates for each of the six factors and multiplied them together, without adjusting for dependence or the possibility of mistake.

“The testimony as to mathematical probability infected the case with fatal error and distorted the jury’s traditional role of determining guilt or innocence according to long-settled rules,” wrote justice Raymond Sullivan. “Mathematics, a veritable sorcerer in our computerized society, while assisting the trier of fact in the search for truth, must not cast a spell over him.”


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Al Capone’s jail cell, Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia. High-level gangsters retained amazing power even inside maximum-security penitentiaries. Visiting Frank Costello in prison in the 1950s, lawyer Edward Bennett Williams mentioned that he’d been unable to get tickets to My Fair Lady that evening. “Mr. Williams,” the Luciano boss upbraided him, “You should have told me. Maybe I could have helped.” Williams thought no more about it and returned to his hotel, where shortly there was a knock at the door. A broad-shouldered man handed him four tickets to that evening’s performance and silently walked away.

“Hanged by a Ghost”

An old volume of the Quarterly Review mentions a crime discovered in a most extraordinary way in Australia in the year 1830, of which a public record is preserved, and which figures with full details in the journals of that period. The confidential steward of a wealthy settler near Sydney stated that his master had suddenly been called to England on important business, and that during his absence the whole of his immense property would be in his exclusive care. Some weeks after an acquaintance of the absentee settler riding through his grounds was astonished to perceive him sitting upon a stile. He strode forward to speak, when the figure turned from him with a look of intense sorrow and walked to the edge of a pond, where it mysteriously disappeared. On the morrow he brought a number of men to the water to drag it, and the body of the man supposed to be on his way to England was brought up. The steward was arrested, brought to trial, and, frightened at the story of his master’s ghost, confessed the crime, stating that he did the murder at the very stile on which his master’s ghost had appeared. He was duly executed.

The World of Wonders, 1883