This show, “Michigan and other Mayhem”, is a sort of factual, slightly comical, always earnest podcast about interesting stuff in Michigan and around the world. It is done by two sisters-in-law (Ali and Jenn) that like to talk about random interesting stories. Expect cults, mysteries, murder, fast talking, and a couple of mental palate cleansers… and cuss words. Those happen on this show, a lot.
Episode 32: Bobby Dunbar Solved, JZ Knight, H.H. Holmes Highlights
- Pretend podcast music because Jenn likes it.
- Ali has a weird laugh. It is often loud.
Today we have a guest podcaster here for a return visit, Melina! Jenn has a subject that was suggested by Jake. Jenn’s new slogan, “It’s a cult. Run.” Melina is taking on H.H. Holmes highlights. Ali looked into the disappearance of Bobby Dunbar.
Jenn brought up a case in which a man pretended to be a lost child. DNA proved it wasn’t true. Ali was unhappy. There are millions of DNA backlog cases for rape kits. She wanted that DNA to get in line behind the untested kits.
Disappearance of Bobby Dunbar
In the summer of 1912, in Louisiana, the Dunbar family decided to escape the summer heat by camping near Swayze lake. Lessie and Percy Dunbar brought their two children with them, Bobby, the oldest at 4-years-old and their youngest, baby Alonzo. Swayze lake is part of the bayou and was know to be home to alligators.
August 23, 1912, Paul Mizzi, a family friend, took a group of boys down to the lake to hunt gar fish. After they all walk back, the group realizes that Bobby is missing. Bobby’s parents begin searching for him with local help. They were able to track Bobby to Swayze lake, but they couldn’t find a body and didn’t believe that he had drown.
I’ve read that Bobby had a distinctive had on, a straw hat with a broken strap and that his hat was never found. The reason why people speculate about the hat, is because it was believed if Bobby had fallen into the water or had been drug into the water by an alligator, his hat would had been floating on top of the water. The second theory is that someone lured him into the woods away from the group. Those people state that the hat was found a little distance from the lake about a day later.
Authorities and locals searched for the boy for eight months. It became national news. People were giving up hope as they kept meeting dead ends. Percy was offering a $1,000 reward (equal to $25,000 today) for information leading to his child.
On April 13, 1913, a man was arrested as a suspect. William Cantwell Walters, who was from North Carolina, was a traveling tinker moving through Columbia, Mississippi. William was traveling with a boy around four or five years old. The boy had blond hair and blue eyes, like Bobby Dunbar. William was seen whipping the boy by some local women.
William tells authorities a couple stories, landing on the one that said the little boy is his nephew, Charles Bruce Anderson. The child went by the name of Bruce and he was born to William’s brother and his brother’s servant, Julia Anderson. The child was illegitimate. William let them know that Julia had given him permission to travel with the boy. Authorities, unconvinced that he was telling the truth, placed the boy on a train and the boy went to the Dunbars.
Newspaper articles about the boy arriving at the train station to meet with Lessie and Percy. Some newspaper articles state that Lessie and Percy did not immediately recognize the child that arrived on the train. The stated that the boy who arrived didn’t recognize his little brother, Alonzo. According to some resources, that during their first meeting, the newly arrived Bobby was cold towards Lessie.
Other newspaper articles state that it was a loving reunion. That the little boy called to them and embraced them warmly. The differing accounts are said to be due to people being emotionally invested in the story, wanting it to be Bobby.
Truly, Lessie wasn’t completely sure the little boy was Bobby. During a second meeting with the child, Lessie looked for identifying marks, like a mole on the front of the child’s neck and a scar on his toe. He didn’t answer to the name Bobby, or to any name at all. The child was standoffish. The boy had a mole and a scar, and they warmed up to each other was she bathed him. While Lessie was giving the boy a bath, she declared the young boy was their son, Bobby.
It gets out that the Dunbar family found Bobby, and everyone was celebrating. There was a brass band that played when they arrived home and a parade was held in their honor.
Meanwhile, back in jail, William Walters is still pleading his innocence. At the time, kidnapping was an offense punishable by death in Louisiana. William was convicted of kidnapping by a jury of his peers. Soon after his conviction, Julia Anderson, the boy’s mother arrives in town. Julia’s information about the little boy, Bruce, matches William’s testimony. However, Julia said she gave him permission to take him on a short trip, just a couple days, not for months. With Julia’s arrival, the case is looking shaky against William. The state of Louisiana does not release William for two years but found it too expensive to retry him in court and he is let go. Bobby is still considered a Dunbar.
When shown five little boys, Julia, like the Dunbars, couldn’t immediately picking out which one was supposed to her child. However, on inspection, she picked the same child that Percy and Lessie had. Unfortunately, the press was able to bias public opinion. They reported Julia’s initial hesitation, and in an effort to discredit her, used the fact that she was illiterate against her, that her son was illegitimate. They discerned her to be a woman of loose morals and poor judgment.
Hopeless, Julia returned home, leaving who she believed was her son with the Dunbar family. Bobby was raised by the Dunbars, but the mystery always swirled around the family.
Cut to 1999. Margaret Dunbar Cutright, Bobby Dunbar’s granddaughter, is given a photo album by her father that contained newspaper clippings about her granddad. It triggered her to start digging into her family’s history. She investigated the kidnapping through old news clippings at libraries, online, and even in the Library of Congress.
Margaret reached out the Anderson family. She came into contact with Julia Anderson’s granddaughter, Linda Taver. The Anderson family lore spoke of one of their uncles being kidnapped by the Dunbars to be raised by them. Both women set out to prove their family’s history as the true one.
There is friction between the two women as they comb through legal documents but one letter changes everything for Margaret. The letter had been written by a person who only identified themselves as “The Christian Woman” and was published in a newspaper. The letter writer believes the Dunbar family has the wrong child and questions as to why other people have not been able to view Bobby privately. It questions why two parents couldn’t identify a child that has only been gone to them for eight months. That, mixed with the differing newspaper accounts, makes truly question her grandfather’s lineage.
Suddenly Margaret believes the Andersons might be right, the child that was identified as Bobby could really Bruce Anderson. In 2003, Margaret’s dad, Bobby Dunbar Jr., finally relents to Margaret’s request to take a DNA test. His DNA was compared to Alonzo, Bobby’s younger brother. They did not come back a match. Bobby Dunbar Jr.’s father was not the little boy who was lost at a swamp. Oddly, the family didn’t test his DNA against the Andersons. It proved he was not Bobby Dunbar, but it didn’t prove he was Charles Bruce Anderson.
Naturally, this has caused a lot of tension in the Dunbar family, with Margaret. Their family has to adjust to a new narrative in their history and what the definition of family is for them, nature versus nurture.
In 2008, Angelina Jolie starred in a movie called Changeling, based on the story.
JZ Knight (Judy Zebra Knight)
JZ Knight is known as a new age teacher and author. She worked in the cable industry in Washington state. One day JZ went to a psychic who told her that in the future the enlightened one will come to her. In 1977, JZ was in her kitchen when she was first visited by Ramtha.
Ramtha was an ancient human who lived on the ancient content of Lemuria. (Ali had an epiphany; Lemuria was part of Richard Sharpe Shavers story. This is the story Jake commented on.) Ramtha lived 35,000 years ago. He had conquered two thirds of the known world. During his life, he learned how to project out of his body and into someone else. (Ali and Melina guessed at astral projection, but it was more like possession.) Ramtha speaks through people.
JZ claims to channel Ramtha. She appeared on TV in the 1980’s and wrote a book called “A State of Mind”. JZ created the Ramtha school of enlightenment. Jenn pulled a lot of videos to put out for our continuing conversation.
JZ had channeling Ramtha copywritten. No one else can channel him. She sued another woman for channeling him for $800. She also sued people who distributed information on Ramtha.
The school JZ created has some controversy. The enlightenment school is located in Yelm, Washington on her 80-acre estate. In 2007, her estimated income was $2.5 million dollars. Her teachings are available in 20 countries. Her school includes the use of drinking wine, smoking tobacco, and rock ‘n’ roll. JZ and her followers say the school is not a religion or a cult, it is a school. The students are working towards being an enlightened one and altering their personal reality on command.
To become enlightened, they work on meditation techniques, breathing techniques, energy healing, and blindfolded archery. They work to learn how to heal themselves and others.
One of JZ’s ex-husbands, a former body guard, and some past students refer to the school as a cult. Past students say the school practices brain washing, mind control, intimidating and fear techniques. They called JZ a spiritual predator. She would tell students that if they left lizard people and Jehovah will come back to Earth via spaceship.
There is an online community for students who did leave. It provides them support to cope with their new lives. In 2011, JZ was quoted as saying, “F*** God’s chosen people. I think they have earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the God d***** gas chamber by now.” Another quote attributed to JZ says Mexican people breed like rabbits and are poison. She also has something to say about gay men, claiming they were once Catholic priests. She also throws a jab at organic farmers, claiming that they have bad hygiene.
Just wait for the continuing conversation videos of JZ Knight.
H.H. Holmes Highlights
Melina said that Chicago newspapers, in the late 1800’s sensationalized the killings of H.H. Holmes. They put his potential murder number at 200, while Holmes originally claimed 27. He did later give a number around 120 victims.
A book by Adam Selzer wrote “H.H. Holmes, The True Story of the White City Devil” after reading a book about H.H. Holmes called “Devil in the White City”. Adam wanted there to be an H.H. Holmes story with more facts and less fiction.
H.H. Holmes had created a murder house for the Chicago World’s Fair. He was only there for three years. They called a room a hanging room because it had rope in it, it was speculation. H.H. Holmes called the structure the Chicago World’s Fair Hotel, but the hotel portion was never opened to the public. Holmes was basically a con artist.
Holmes has a Michigan connection. He went to University of Michigan Medical School to become a physician. He did receive a degree even not being the best student. He became a pharmacist and also sold life insurance.
Holmes was living in Philadelphia and had swindled so many people that when he moved to Chicago, he changed his name from Herman Webster Mudgett to Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. He didn’t want to be found for his former crimes.
In Chicago, Holmes started working at a drug store. A woman owned the store after her husband died. He convinces her to sign him as the main beneficiary of her estate, swindles her money, and buys a lot across the street. He was conning other people the same way during this time.
What is called his murder house, started as two-building multi-story mixed use building. The bottom floor was for retail, his pharmacy. He required that his employees have life insurance with him listed as the beneficiary. The second story was to be apartment buildings. After receiving more money from investors, Holmes said he would create a third story as a hotel.
The people the worked at Holmes retail shop were comprised of female clerks. He would often have affairs with the clerks in the above apartments. He also murdered some of them for the insurance.
Holmes took the bodies and stripped them of their muscles and flesh, selling their skeletons to medical schools. He was trusted since he was a doctor.
The murder house took up an entire street block. There were sound proof rooms, secret passages, disorienting maze-like halls, hatches in the floor that had chutes directly to the basement. There was an incinerator, a kiln, acid vats and lime pits. There were rooms that had doors that only locked on the outside, and inside the room were gas jets to asphyxiate people. Holmes also had a vault in his office that he would use to suffocate someone.
Holmes also used to violently beat his first wife, Clara, when he lived with her in Pennsylvania. He left her but didn’t sign divorce papers when he married Myrta. She was swindled out her money before he left, and again no divorce papers. Georgiana, his third wife, didn’t know about the others.
Holmes doesn’t get caught because of the murder house.
He was caught November 17, 1894.
Holmes had a scheme with an associate named Benjamin Pitezel. They were going to try to perform insurance fraud. Holmes first tried to take insurance on himself for $20,000 but the insurance company didn’t believe them. Next, he convinces Benjamin to take out a life insurance policy for $10,000. Holmes then kills Benjamin and lies to Benjamin’s wife, saying he was out of the country, either in England or South America.
Holmes gave Benjamin’s widow $500 of the insurance money, but Benjamin’s kids were still suspicious of him. Holmes left he widow, her oldest and her youngest child at home but took her three other children with him. He said he would take care of them.
Holmes killed two of the female children by placing them in a trunk, drilling a hole, and putting a hose attached to a gas line into the hole. The young boy was chopped up and burned.
When Benjamin was still alive, he met Mary Hedgepeth, another scam artist. She is the one that had hooked up Benjamin and Holmes with an attorney for the insurance scams. Mary is the one that turns Holmes in because she didn’t get her cut of the money.
Holmes, while in jail, starts confessing about his crimes in the murder house. He received the death penalty for killing Ben. Serial killers like to brag. Holmes sold his story to the news for $10,000. He went to his death calmly.
Holmes wanted his coffin buried 10 feet deep and covered with cement so that it wouldn’t be upset by grave robbers.
At the gallows, Holmes neck did not snap. It was 15 minutes before he was declared dead. He had a slow painful death.
There are several books, tv shows, VR games, documentaries and a graphic novel about H.H. Holmes. The newest show is going to have Leonardo Dicaprio playing H.H. Holmes.
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