In 1849, Boston was rocked by the crime of the (19th) century when Professor John Webster murdered Dr. George Parkman in his lab at Harvard Medical School. The world was riveted by the investigation and trial that ensued, while the Boston Brahmins were shaken to the core by the scandal in their ranks. The courtroom drama lived up to our modern-day CSI standards, offering one of the earliest uses of forensic evidence and a legal standard still in use today. Listen to the show!
On August 22, 1927, Bartolomeo Sacco and Nicola Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair at Boston’s Charlestown State Prison. They were foreigners, accused of murder and ties to a shadowy terrorist group. Yet there were worldwide protests, and their funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Boston, with as many as 200,000 Bostonians in attendance. On the fiftieth anniversary of their deaths, Governor Dukakis officially cleared their names and declared a day of remembrance for them. How did these men go from hated foreign enemies to victims of a politicized justice system? Find out in this week’s episode!
In August of 1801, a young man named Jason Fairbanks showed up on his sweetheart’s doorstep. He was covered in blood, and telling the story of a suicide pact gone wrong. This tale of a rich kid gone astray could be ripped from today’s tabloid headlines. Fairbanks and his presumed sweetheart Eliza Fales were the center of a sensational trial, a daring escape from jail, and a manhunt that stretched to the Canadian border. Does this story of star crossed lovers have a happy ending? Listen to this week’s show to find out!
In 1901, a woman named Jane Toppan was arrested on Cape Cod for murder. By the time she went on trial, she had confessed to killing 31 people in Boston, Cambridge, on the Cape, and around the region, and she’s suspected of killing 100 or more. From a tragic childhood, she grew up to be a nurse. She tortured and murdered her patients in dark experiments, while being praised for her caring bedside manner. Before she was caught, she had graduated to killing entire families. Learn about the life and crimes of Jane Toppan, Nightmare Nurse in this week’s show.