Column: As Halloween approaches, an eerie holiday taleWORTHINGTON — That evening haunted by ghoulish, ghostly, ghastly tales is nearly upon us once again. The eve of All Saints Day. The hallowed evening.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — That evening haunted by ghoulish, ghostly, ghastly tales is nearly upon us once again. The eve of All Saints Day. The hallowed evening.
It was called to my attention lately that through a number of years — 1945-1950 — Dr. E.A. Kilbride, Nobles County’s coroner, kept a record of his investigations in a loose-leaf notebook. He wrote a succinct account of each death.
Dr. J.S. Kilbride and his son, E.A., built the historic Kilbride Hospital that is preserved at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 11th Street. Both were well-known and respected through Nobles County in the first half of the 20th century. E.A. Kilbride — Ed — was a popular man closely involved in the Worthington community. Both father and son were notably short, perhaps no more than five feet tall.
Names of the deceased in Dr. Kilbride’s notebook are best omitted. Children and grandchildren of those dead still live in the area.
When there was little to say Coroner Kilbride said little:
“He fell dead in the post office.”
The longest, most detailed and most wicked account is from a Christmas eve choked with wind and snow.
On that Dec. 24 a young farmer and his brother stopped at Joe Scholtes’ legendary general store at Wilmont. The farmer wanted a dress for his wife, but he had a special request. He could not write well. He would buy the dress if Joe would write a Christmas letter to accompany it. Scholtes sat down with a pen and a sheet of white paper and put his customer’s thoughts into written words.
With the purchase completed, the brothers left the store. The young farmer upon whom the coroner was focused decided to attend a Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel church. After mass, he set out for home walking west on a blacktop road.
The coroner received a call at 9:15 p.m. from a Wilmont man saying there was a man’s body on a road west from Wilmont. Kilbride wrote, “We were having a blizzard and visibility was poor.” The coroner asked Nobles County Sheriff Sandy Deuel to accompany him.
When they arrived at the scene, Kilbride and Deuel made out three or four men standing near what they recognized as a body. After a very brief examination the coroner determined the man was dead. and the clear cause of death was that he had been struck by a car heading east. It appeared the left ankle had been run over by a car tire. There were small, minor cuts on the face.
The shock for everyone — a Christmas story becomes a Halloween story — whoever was driving the car which struck the young farmer stopped, searched and robbed the body.
Kilbride reported, “The coat, which had apparently been buttoned, as well as the jacket and sweater, was unbuttoned and laying open. The body had been turned over on its back as it lie on the road and the coat, which would have been buttoned normally on such a night, was unbuttoned, as were the undergarments. His billfold … in his front overall pocket protruding from his jacket pocket was empty. …There was no money on the body.”
Oh, but there had been money —
Joe Scholtes, “merchant at Wilmont,” was there to tell the coroner of the sale of the dress and the Christmas letter. Scholtes “gave him back change after the purchase. This money, he says, [the victim] put in his pocket.”
An autopsy determined “the spinal column to be completely severed.” A man had been killed accidentally on Christmas Eve and then robbed.
Dr. Kilbride seemed outraged.
At other times he seemed to smile.
“I went to this [77-year-old] man’s shack in town with the sheriff. He was dead on his living room floor … half clothed. It seemed he had taken an old girl friend to the Depot Lunch at noon. …They had gone to bed for a little rest when he got up not feeling well, collapsed and died.”
What of the neighbors’ stories of hidden money? “I dug up a fruit jar in the garage containing $30 … old boxes in drawers yielded coins which he used to hide away in his bootlegging days…”
The coroner’s report.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.