Carrie Brown (1834 – 1891) was a New York prostitute who was murdered and mutilated in a squalid room at the East River Hotel on April 24th, 1891.
She appears to have been something of a character, and, when participating in drinking games, she was known for quoting from the works of William Shakespeare. This had led to her becoming known amongst those she associated with as “Shakespeare” – although several press reports stated that her nomenclature was “Old Shakespeare.”
The murder was a gruesome one, and, in consequence, the American newspapers were quick to spot the similarities between Carrie Brown’s murder and the Whitechapel murders of 1888. As a result, almost immediately, the press were soon pondering the startling possibility that Jack the Ripper had transferred his murderous activity from London to New York.
HORRIBLE BUTCHERY OF A WOMAN
The following account of the atrocity appeared in The New York Commercial Advertiser, under the above headline, on April 29th, 1891:-
She Was Of The Same Class And Was Slain In The Same Manner As The Whitechapel Victims The Unfortunate Creature Was Strangled and Disemboweled
“The strong probability that London’s fiend in human form, “Jack the Ripper,” has transferred his field of operations from Whitechapel to the slums of New York has sent a thrill of horror throughout the metropolis.
The slaughter of the woman Carrie Brown, or “Shakespeare” as she was familiarly known, in a squalid room on the fourth floor of “the East River House” a disreputable dive on the corner of Water and Catharine streets, in many particulars closely resembles the work of the Whitechapel fiend, and the police are strongly of the opinion that he is really in New York.
The main difference which this crime presents from the London butcheries lies in the fact that the New York victim was strangled, whereas the murderer’s work in London was invariably begun by cutting the throat.
A HANDSOME WOMAN
She was a handsome woman, with striking features of a Roman cast and a form of remarkable symmetry for a woman of her age.
There are even traces of refinement visible beneath the marks left by a life of dissipation.
THE HOUSE OF ALL DRINKS
The place in which the woman’s life was ended is known to the residents in the locality as the “House of all Drinks.”
It has a bad reputation and is perhaps one of the worst of its class in the city.
THE STORY OF THE MURDER
The story of the murder in detail is as follows:-
On Thursday night among the other unfortunates who came to the hotel was an old woman, gray, not bent.
She was dressed in blue checked gingham, and carried a little red calico bag with her handkerchief and two pairs of spectacles.
She must have been sixty, her hair was so nearly white.
With her was Mamie Healey, a poor sodden wretch.
They had a glass of beer, the two women.
Then Mamie Healey, with her rags and her drunkenness, went out into the wet street.
For fear she would go to sleep, old Shakespeare, with her little red bag and her thin, weazened, painted cheeks, wandered forth too, into the rain.
It was 11 o’clock when the bell of the hotel door rang. Mary Miniter answered it. The old woman was there again and had a man with her.
SHE WANTED MIXED ALE
The man asked for a fifty cent room and gave his name as C. Nicolai and said Shakespeare was his wife.
“Aw!”, said the old woman, with a coaxing look at the man, “can’t I have some beer”
He never spoke; just nodded his head and took out his pocketbook and drew from it ten cents.
“Beer or mixed ale?”, asked Mary Miniter as she took the dime.
“Mixed ale,” answered Shakespeare.
Mary Miniter went to the bar, got a pail of mixed ale, brought it back and handed it to the old woman, and “C. Nicolai and wife” went up the narrow, uneven stairs, four flights.
Mary Miniter said “Good night” and went, about her business.
The night at the East River hotel passed much us most nights do there. It is doubtful if the place is ever closed.
When morning came, the front door was opened, and at 9 o’clock the housekeeper asked Eddie Fitzgerald to go up and “clear the floors.”
IT WAS A HORRIBLE SIGHT
When he reached the fifth floor, Fitzgerald came to 31, that corner room.
To the left of the door, against the wall, stood the bed.
The door opened against it, and Fitzgerald had to push the door’s width and get away into the center of the room before his sight fell upon that bed.
There, nude from feet to breast, lay old Shakespeare.
Above the shoulders, only a confused mass of clothing, and the bedclothes tumbled over against the wall,
The woman’s feet were toward the door. She lay at the outer edge of the bed, but her head was on the center of the pillow.
Blood on everything. Blood on the sheets, quilts, bedstead and floor, smeared in finger marks upon the limbs, which were still shapely despite her age. The body was twisted. The left leg crossed above the right, under which lay the entrails at the woman, which the butcher in his frenzy had clawed out.
Both shoulders lay flat upon the bed, and it seemed as though the murderer had twisted the limbs over toward the wall in furtherance of his awful object.
HE FLED WITH A SCREAM
The right arm was under the woman, and the skinny hand reached out as if clutching at something beyond the sideboard of the bed.
Beneath the right thigh was thrust the knife with which the murder had been done, the bloody handle projecting.
The whole horrible picture struck upon the sensitive palate of little Fitzgerald’s intelligence in a second. With a scream, he fled down the long hallway.
There was no more business done in the East River hotel yesterday.
THE POLICE TAKE CHARGE
A man ran to the police station in Oak street, whence Captain O’Connor sent Detectives Doran and Griffin.
Then the message went to headquarters.
Inspector Byrnes ordered Detectives Crowley and Grady to the place, and by 10:30 the hotel was under police care.
HE HAD CARVED A CROSS
Coroner Schultz, was soon at the scene.
Around the murdered woman’s head was tightly wrapped an old white cotton skirt.
When Coroner Schultz took that off he disclosed the old, hard, gin stained face, drawn into a look of intense pain, the dishevelled gray hair hanging down her back, and the throat showing the purple marks of fingers that had clutched it. The woman had been strangled to death.
Then had followed the mutilation which connected the crime with “Jack the Ripper’s” handicraft.
Beginning near the end of the spine the murderer had cut deeply frontward to a point on the lower part of the abdomen and then back again to where he started.
What he had cut away had disappeared. He must have taken it with him. There was no sign of it in the room.
Disembowelling had followed this awful surgery.
This completed, the murderer had left his mark on the body.
On the back of the left hip in jagged lines more than a foot long he had scored a rude cross. On the door, the murderer had made his mark again. The boards which form the wall bore such a cross as he had cut on the body, scratched in with the point of a knife.
Of man’s attire there was no trace in the room.
THE MURDERER GONE
Gone the murderer was, and no one in the hotel saw him go, so far as the police could find out.
But this would be comparatively easy if he could walk the rattling floors and creaking stairs softly enough not to attract attention.
INSPECTOR BYRNES AT WORK
Inspector Byrnes put his best men on the case.
They showed remarkable activity, and followed clew after clew in the hope of getting at something tangible.
AN ARREST MADE
The first important arrest in the case was made at half-past 9 o’clock last night.
Detectives Crowley and O’Brien, who had been looking all day for a man called “Frenchy.” came across him in Water Street and took him to the station house.
“Frenchy” is a tall fellow, with a long, slim nose, and looks like a Greek.
He knew the murdered woman.
INSPECTOR BYRNES ON HIS METTLE
The police are still turning heaven and earth to catch New York’s “Jack the Ripper.”
Arrests have been made by wholesale in the case, and the police and detective forces have spent most their time since the murder of the woman “Shakespeare,” or Carrie Brown, to hunting “Jack the Ripper.”
Inspector Byrnes is evidently on his mettle, and has been personally directing the search for suspects.
ARRESTS HAD BEEN MADE
At 8 o’clock yesterday afternoon, the Inspector boarded the Red “D” line steamer, Philadelphia, lying at her pier in the East River, and personally arrested the second engineer, who answers almost perfectly to the description of the murderer as given by Mary Miniter, the housekeeper at the East River hotel.
Still another arrest has been made that tallies with the description of the supposed “Jack the Ripper.”
Two park policemen found a man in City Hall Park.
He wore a sand-colored coat and blue trousers, and, if anything, was scarcely shabby enough for the companion of the degraded victim at the slum lodging house that fatal night.
THEY KNOW THE MURDERER
Inspector Byrnes says he knows who the murderer is.
“Frenchy,” one in the first suspects arrested, has a disreputable cousin, and it is this cousin whom the police believe is New York’s Ripper.
The women among the prisoners’ had often been in the company of both of the men.
They said that the two of them usually travelled together, but when one of them appeared alone he generally went about inquiring for the other, whom he designated as his cousin.
It appeared from the statements the women that the cousins had frequently gone with them to the East River Hotel.
On the night of the murder “Frenchy” occupied alone room 33, which was across the hall from the room where the murder was committed.
When the inspector heard the women’s story he sent again for Mamie Miniter, the woman who let the couple into the hotel that night, and she recalled the fact that “Frenchy” was in the house that night, and said she recognized the man who came in with the murdered woman as “Frenchy’s” cousin.”