32: SERIAL KILLER post thumbnail image

Oliver Haugh. It’s normal to wonder “what if” because we are never sure which chance encounter will have the most affect on our lives. How does an injury received while playing hockey lead to one of the greatest achievements of man in the 20th century? A man who became one of the most notorious murderers in the early 1900’s had a profoundly terrible affect on Wilbur Wright and most of the people he came in contact with. 


What Does a Serial Killer and the First Airplane Have in Common? June 14, 2017. Aviation Oil.

The Madness of Doctor Oliver Crook Haugh. By Mark Hoover. April 22, 2020.

Dr. Haugh Pays Death Penalty. Los Angeles Herald. April 19, 1907.——-en–20–1–txt-txIN——–

The Strange Case of Dr. Haugh. December 15, 2021.

May be the “Ripper”. New York Tribune, November 12, 1905.

About Hyoscine Hydrobromide.

A Brief History of the Insanity Defense. By Richard Lettieri Ph.D. June 4, 2021.


So, my son had to read a biography for his ELA class last quarter and he decided on The Wright Brothers. Since we used digital copy and the book was on my kindle, I decided to read it too…and it was so good. But one short section got my attention. While Wilbur Wright was still in high school, he was making plans to attend Yale after his graduation, but these plans ended when he was injured in a hockey game. Wilbur was hit in the face with a hockey stick so hard it knocked out most of his upper front teeth. This accident had a long-lasting effect on Wilbur. For several weeks he was in terrible pain in his face and jaw. He then had to be fitted with false teeth, which had some digestion complications. Wilbur is said to have had heart palpitations and spells of depression that grew into longer and longer periods. During this time the Wright’s mother Susan was also dealing with failing health as she fought tuberculosis and Wilbur took up caring for her. Not much is known about the incident which left Wilbur seismically changed but Will’s father Bishop Milton Wright had written in his diary that “the man who threw the bat that struck Wilbur” became one of the most notorious murderers in the history of Ohio.

I’ve mentioned it before, I’m from Dayton, Ohio, and you don’t grow up in this area and not know about the Wright Brothers and their contribution that altered the course of world history. The lore of the two engineers and bicycle shop owners is taught just about from the moment of birth. And I’ve heard this story about a murderer being connected to the Wrights before, but I could never remember the name of the man who smashed Wilbur Wright’s teeth in. But there it was and since I’ve tried over the years to search out who it was, but never made any good connections. I realize now I was searching for the wrong connection. For some reason I thought the guy was related to the Wright Brother’s. I was always searching for someone named Wright or a cousin of the Wright’s and since I started out wrong, I couldn’t find him. But now I have his name. Thank you, Bishop Wright, and David McCullough (author of the Wright Brother’s biography). And so, we’re off…

At the time of the accident with Wilbur, Oliver Crook Haugh (I’ve looked up how to pronounce his last name. It’s either Huff, How, or Hah, I’m going to go with Hah) lived about two blocks from the Wright Family home on Hawthorn Street in Dayton. Oliver was three years younger than Wilbur, so it puts him around 14 or 15 when the incident with Wilbur Wright happened. He lived with his mother and father Frances and Jacob and a brother named Jesse. He also had a part time job working at a drug store on West Third Street.

It’s widely believed that Haugh was suffering from serious pain due to rotting teeth. He would self-medicate with cocaine and tooth drops. To no one’s 2023 surprise he quickly became dependent on drugs. He began making “cures” using recipes he found in medical pamphlets. Most of these were counterfeit versions of the Bateman’s Pectoral Drops, which the primary ingredient was Opium. Yes. Good idea, add a stronger drug. Oliver Haugh could never shake these addictions, and this played a large role in what was to come.

Again to no one’s 2023 surprise Haugh became very skilled and competent in mixing drugs for customers of the drug store he worked. A local physician Otho Evans Francis suggested to Oliver he should become a doctor. And Oliver thought that seemed like a good idea and enrolled in the Cincinnati Medical College in 1888. But because he was a drug addict, he couldn’t hold a consistent attendance record and also had problems with paying the tuition. He left the Cincinnati school without finishing. In the meantime, he fell deeply in love with a young woman named Anna Margaret Eckley. When her father suddenly passed away due to pulmonary apoplexy, which is a hemorrhagic pulmonary edema (bleeding in two or more pulmonary lobes within the interstitial space and/or alveoli, Anna inherited his life insurance payout. Oliver quickly married Anna and moved into her family home. He used some of his wife’s inheritance to enroll in the Miami Medical College, also in Cincinnati, but was asked to leave after one semester. I’m kind of picturing a Jesse Pinkman type here, no matter what his good intensions are, he can’t shake the hold drugs have on his life. He continued to follow his dreams of becoming a doctor and finally graduated from Louisville Medical College in the spring of 1893.

After his graduation he decided to make his way back to his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.  He opened his own office in March 1894. Around this time, he read the book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. And be warned, this is going to take a turn here…because this man was seriously unhinged. Haugh wanted to change science and began exploring the idea that two beings could share a single body. He believed he could be two different people and began experimenting on himself. Because he thought this book was a non-fiction? From his journals “I am at work on the evolution of a drug, which in its perfection, will create a new era of science, a new order of thought, and a new race of beings. I will bring into the reality of day something more wonderful than Stevenson in his wildest dreams ever imagined. I will prove that which he only suggested–the certainty that two beings can exist in the one body, the one blotting out the influence of the other.” I kind of wonder if anyone in his life was like “bro, you know that’s not real, right?”

From this point on Oliver Haugh goes through a period of stability and instability for several years. He moved around a lot, setting up medical practices wherever he was but these would eventually close. Some lasted longer than others. He struggled with sobriety. If he was clean, he could do well for a while, but he always fell back into his addiction. He was admitted to an asylum twice, both times during sober periods.

Oliver and Anna struggled through out this time. She attempted to leave him several times but ultimately returned to their marriage. Their relationship was as tumultuous as he professional life. Periods of calmness followed by periods of violent outburst on Oliver’s part. The couple also had two children during this time. Haugh was never faithful to his wife and carried on several affairs. To add to the insanity of this man’s life, he also married a few of the women he had affairs with all while still married to Anna.

This guy was just unstable. He had many patients die while under his care. One of his girlfriends, who lived in Toledo died. His reputation was so bad he was run out of his hometown of Dayton and forced to move to other towns and states. He claimed mineral baths were the proper treatment for many of the diseases and health problems his patients had, but eventually they would die because he neglected them and didn’t give proper care.

In 1900, the first time he was admitted to an asylum, he stayed for several months and was released in December 1901. He moved to Milwaukee and then set up a practice in Spooner, Wisconsin. He left Anna in Ohio, which is probably a good thing. In Spooner he claimed he was “a Doctor who could cure any disease.” Um, ok, don’t set the bar really high or anything. Be sure to bake that inevitable failure right in at the start. He’s a doctor, so he’s obviously considered an eligible bachelor, so he sets out dating right away. He meets a woman named Delia Betters and marries her ASAP. Yes, let’s bring more people in to this circus. He gets arrested in Spooner when a patient of his dies. Remember he said he can cure any disease. But somehow, he was acquitted of the charges. And surely, he felt like he dodged a bullet so he and Delia leave Spooner for Suring, another small town in Wisconsin. There a patient died of an apparent overdose of Morphine. But no one blamed him for this death, so his practice in Suring seemed to thrive. But as we know with this guy, time and time again, he can’t stay on the upward trajectory. He must burn it all to the ground.

The end to this short-lived upward mobility came when Haugh and Delia moved to Michigan so she could be close to her mother. There Delia discovered Oliver was still married to Anna. She left him and was planning to report him to the authorities for bigamy. Anna begged Delia not to report him, because I’m sure Anna has done the math at this point and realized an incarcerated Oliver can’t support her and her two children. So Delia complied with Anna’s wishes and didn’t report him. It doesn’t appear that she ever got a divorce either, but she never went back to Oliver. After Delia left, Oliver began caring for her mother, and stayed with her until her “sudden” death in 1903.

After Delia’s mother died, Oliver was admitted to an asylum in Lebanon, Ohio. This is the second time he was admitted to the asylum. This visit was shorter than the first. While in Lebanon, Oliver admitted to Dr. Hermann that he had killed several women while performing abortions and wanted to kill his brother Jesse. He also threatened Hermann, that he would kill him if he told anyone. It appears Dr. Hermann believed Oliver would actually kill him and he kept the secret to himself, even after Haugh was released. After Oliver was released, he became friends with a woman named Jenny Twoey. Haugh began “dating” Jenny (while still married to Anna and Delia) and used her inheritance to start a new practice in Lima, Ohio.

Haugh was a terrible influence on Jenny. While she was with him, she became addicted to cocaine and morphine. He was able to convince her to move to Cleveland and start a saloon. He’s in that early things are going to work out this time stage, but it didn’t last long. Like everything in his life, anything he touched became tainted. They were fined for operating a business where prostitution took place. He was practicing as a doctor from the back room of the saloon…that seems legit. But he was arrested for disorderly conduct. While he was in jail Jenny died. He ruined her. I’m so sad for her. She didn’t stand a chance against him. After he got out of jail he drifted for a while. He made his way back to Dayton but Anna refused to take him in so he ended up moving into his parents home.

Now his life was starting to bottom out. Anna filed for divorce, for real, and his parents cut him out of their will. This set him off. He threatened to kill them if they didn’t put him back in. Umm…fear for your life no matter what in this instance. He wasn’t making idle threats to his family. And they all should have been in fear for their lives.

On November 5, 1905, a little after midnight, Oliver ran to a neighbor’s house and reported his family home was on fire. He gave evasive answers as to where his family members were. Some he told they were still inside, some he told they had gotten out. He was acting strangely, and his neighbors noticed. He claimed he was in bed in the room he shared with is brother and woken up to smoke. He managed to escape, but his brother was trapped in the room. His parents were also trapped in their room. The medical examiner Dr. Walter Z. Kline (if you listened to earlier episodes, he is the same medical examiner that investigated the Dayton Strangler victims). He didn’t believe Haugh’s story. His changing stories were only the first red flag. During the investigation the police found he had ordered a large amount of oil pre-fire. And witnesses reported seeing a trail of the oil running through the house. He also ordered a bulk order of hyoscine hydrobromide.

I had to look up what hyoscine hydrobromide is. It’s generally used to control motion sickness. It works by affecting the inner ear and brain to control nausea and vomiting. It also reduces the amount of saliva and relaxes the muscles in the walls of your stomach. Now it comes as a patch for the user to wear, but it can be given as an injection. This medicine is also used in palliative care for end-of-life situations to make the patient more comfortable. Hyoscine Hydrobromide was used in small doses when Haugh was in the asylum. In large quantities or overdoses the drug causes paralysis.

Dr. Kline believed that Haugh drugged his family and set the house on fire. The three bodies had nearly completely burned but showed signs of mutilation. Haugh was arrested for murder and taken to the Dayton jail.

On November 10th while his family was being buried (IN A SINGLE CASKET, because there were so few remains) Haugh was standing before a judge and pleaded not guilty. He remained in prison until the trial began in February 1907.

The trial began on February 22nd and went for 10 days. The prosecution called 54 witnesses who testified to Haugh’s drug use and insane behavior. His defense was insanity, but the court declared him as legally sane and able to stand trial.

The insanity defense as a legal concept was born in England, in 1843. A man named Daniel M’Naghten attempted to assassinate the British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. M’Naghten he believed was conspiring against him. Due to his psychosis, the court acquitted him and thus established what was known as the Mr. M’Naghten Rule. It requires that a defendant is to be found not guilty of an offense if, at the time it occurred, his mental disorder was so grave as to (1) interfere with his ability to know or understand the nature or quality of his criminal behavior, and (2) to have compromised the defendant’s ability to know or understand the legal or moral wrongfulness of his behavior. This two-pronged rule became the legal standard for an insanity defense in the United States as well.

The jury didn’t have to deliberate long and found Haugh guilty of the three murders. He was sentenced to death in the electric chair. He died on April 19, 1907, and buried in the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Franklin County, Ohio near Columbus. On the day they were set to electrocute Haugh the area around the prison experienced a power outage which affected the prison buildings. But never fear, the electric chair was powered by the prison dynamo. A dynamo is a generator powered by some other means like water or fuel.

Throughout his life, it is believed he was married 9 times and four of his wives died due to hyoscine injections to the spine. The number of victims he had is truly unknown, but at the lowest estimate 13 people died by the hands of Oliver Crook Haugh.

In his statement They say that I murdered my father, my mother and brother with hyoscine for the sake of the money. Then they say that when I have taken enough of the hyoscine the man within me disappears, and Hyde is the power. It seems and though I must do something–destroy something. My only recourse is to get out into the street–out into the open country–away from men and women, lest I murder them. It is possible for me to have murdered these people and know nothing of it . . . all that I do know is, that if I die for these crimes, I shall at least have established the proof of the theory on which I have always insisted–that two beings, one of good, the other of evil, may exist in the same man, and in that respect at least I shall have rendered a distinct service to posterity.

So yeah, he still won’t take responsibility. I did it, but I didn’t know I was doing it. No. there was too much planning. He threatened his family, he premeditated how he would do it, then he purchased the instruments of his family’s demise. He was sane enough to set up a plan to try and cover his tracks. And the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde stuff is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors attempt to absolve himself.

After his arrest and trial he was connected to many other murders of young women in Cincinnati. The murders had been attributed to a mysterious “Jack the Ripper” operating in Cincinnati. Haugh was in the Cincinnati area when the bodies of five women were found over a period of several months. The first victim May McDonald was found near the Spring Grove Cemetery. Her head was crushed by a blow to the head with a rock. Police speculated a man of great strength must have committed the murder. Later Lulu Mueller, Alma Steinway, Mary Reichert and an unidentified girl were all found with similar injuries. The police never found enough clues to develop a theory on who committed the murders, so they tried to say Haugh did them. But if you have listened to episodes 18 and 19, these murders are better connected to the killer Hick White, who was responsible for the murders of five women and one man in Dayton during the years 1900-1910. Hick White is most likely the murderer of the five women in Cincinnati also.

And how does Wilbur Wright and the first airplane fit into this? There’s no telling what would have happened if Wilbur had gone off to Yale and left his older brother Orville behind. Because he stayed home his curiosity was first peaked after reading stories of other men trying to perfect powered flight. Would he have had the time to study birds and develop the idea of the bilevel plane? There’s no telling. It’s true that the encounter with Oliver Haugh left him permanently changed, both physically and mentally. And as he wrote in his own diaries and journals while studying birds “No bird soars in a calm”

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