On this day in 1865 the infamous John Wilkes Booth, assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, died of a gunshot wound on the porch of the Garrett home in Virginia after twelve days on the lam. Or did he?
What if I told you that Booth was actually a tobacco merchant in east Texas in 1873? Or that he was a Shakespeare-quoting house painter in Enid, Oklahoma in the early 20th century? And that one could view his mummified remains at various circuses after the First World War? Crazy, right?
Not according to Finis L. Bates, a lawyer from Memphis, TN, in his 1907 confessional, The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth.
According to Bates, John St. Helen, a merchant in Granbury, TX, confessed his true identity while suffering from an illness to which he supposed he would eventually succumb. After his unexpected recovery, St. Helen elaborated on his confession to Bates and offered additional details of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln. The most explosive of these was the originator of the assassination plot, Vice-President Andrew Johnson. He also offered the true identity of the man mortally wounded by a Federal soldier at the Garrett farm. Bates immediately notified the State Department and Department of Defense but his pleas fell on deaf ears (conspiracy, anyone?).
In 1903, a house painter from Oklahoma named David E. George, committed suicide with a fatal dose of arsenic. Among some papers found on George was a note requesting that Bates be summoned. Upon his arrival several days later, Bates was able to identify the deceased George as his friend from Texas, John St. Helen, nee John Wilkes Booth. After claiming possession of the body, Bates then toured mummified remains around the United States, and, eventually, even offering for purchase to Henry Ford.
Come to the Rubenstein Library and read this true account of the life and death of John Wilkes Booth. Conspiracy theorists welcome!
Post contributed by Joshua Larkin Rowley, Research Services Coordinator.
Search The Devil’s Tale
Tag Cloud2011acquisitions 2012acquisition 2013acquisition advertisements advertising African American history archives artistsbooks civilwar conservation diaries digitization documentary dorisduke dukehistory durham durhamhistory economists events film fullframe games Haiti Heschel holidays human rights letterhead literature longcivilrights madmen Mad Men madmenmondays medicine movediary move prep movinghom photography recipes renovation rubensteinstaff scrapbooks sports students women's history zines
The Devil’s Tale Archive
- Internationalist Books and Community Center records, 1960s-2011. August 26, 2014
- Marcel Montassut papers, 1914-1975. August 21, 2014
- Bengal Chamber of Commerce letter of gratitude to Daniel Mackinlay upon his retirement, 1860 February 21. August 21, 2014
- John Symonds Breedon diaries and account books, 1736-1808. August 18, 2014
- Rosina Lyon letters, 1846-1849. August 15, 2014
- Walden; or, Life in the woods August 22, 2014
- Precationes ex veteribus orthodoxis doctoribus : ex ecclesiae hymnis et canticis, ex Psalmis denique Dauidis collectae, et nunc recens recognitae & auctae August 8, 2014
- The danger of premature interment : proved from many remarkable instances of people who have recovered after being laid out for dead, and of others entombed alive, for want of being properly examined prior to interment : also a description of the manner the ancient Egyptians, and other nations preserved and venerated their dead, and a curious account of their sepulchral ever burning lamps and mausoleums : likewise, the pernicious effects of burying in the body churches, and confined church-yards pointed out, whereby many valuable lives have been lost to the public, and their friends : selected from historical records August 7, 2014
- Conseils aux femmes de quarante ans August 7, 2014
- Selections from the Greek papyri; August 28, 2014
- The Jew; The gypsy and El Islam August 28, 2014
- Erik Gustaf Geijer som musiker August 28, 2014
- Robinsons Eiland; (Volume c.1) August 27, 2014
- Eine Mutter. Roman in Anschluss an Die Colonie. (Volume Bd.2 c.1) August 27, 2014