They Did What? Crime Blog

Detective X

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You remember the JJ Abrams show Fringe? I loved that show but I think what I loved the most about it was the crazy scientist Walter Bishop. The character was similar to other anchors of a good mystery series. The odd genius who can come up with a quick fix, or some obscure science that nobody understands to save the day. Kind of like a MacGyver without the mullet.

What if there was a real life genius who had a hand in almost a thousand criminal cases, laid the ground work for modern forensics, and was almost completely forgotten by history? I know, it sounds awesome. See below.

In 2014, a curator was searching the archives of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for a new exhibit. In a box, she found nine notebooks that belonged to a little known scientist who’d worked for the agency in the early 20th century.

Wilmer Souder was an everyday farm boy from southern Indiana. He went to college and earned his Ph.D. In 1916.  He then went to work at the National Bureau of Standards (now known as NIST).

Historically Souder is known for his work on materials used for dental fillings. When he’s mentioned in NIST historical records he’s described as the founder of the dental materials research program. His biography however also contains a seemingly random anecdote noting he was involved in investigating the murder and kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh.

Turns out that in addition to being an expert on dental fillings Wilmer Souder moonlighted as a sought-after forensic expert in handwriting analysis, typewriting analysis, and ballistics. His expertise and influence effected more than 800 cases throughout his career. Prior to the uncovering of his journals he was known to history only as Detective X.

How Souder came to be involved in forensic is not clear however at some point a request was made to develop a systematic way to do handwriting and typewriter analysis. Souder, whose specialty was taking exacting measurements and making precise comparisons, joined the project.

The nine notebooks found in the basement at NIST showed that during his career Souder was requested to lend his expertise to a variety of cases brought to the bureau by the Post Office, the Department of the Treasury, and various other government bodies. In addition to appearing in court as an expert witness, he helped pioneer some techniques still used in modern American Forensics.

He developed a method of projectile analysis in which he used a recent invention, the microscope, to compare expended bullets to see if they were fired from the same weapon. He advised the founder of the FBI’s forensic lab on policy and protocol. When he analyzed handwriting from ransom notes during the Lindbergh case he matched them to Bruno Hauptmann, who was eventually convicted and executed for the crime.

Souder brought the scientific method and statistics to law enforcement, a profession that was more art than science during that early era. The head of the New York Police Department at the time is reported to have said of Souder that he was, “the most outstanding expert [in forensics] on the continent in the last one hundred years.”

Somehow Souder’s work was lost to history, and Souder himself may have had a hand in that. While he actively published his dental work. Souder tended to downplay his work in the field of criminalistics. Some believe Souder feared criminals learning too much from his methods, or seeking him out for retribution. Souder had a wife and daughter, it’s understandable that he would not want his prosecutorial work to follow him home.

When Souder retired none of his contemporaries at NIST continued in the field of forensic research and eventually the agencies link, and Souder’s, to forensics was lost.

What a great story. One of those rare nuggets from history where an unsung hero finally gets the recognition he deserves. Kind of has a Sherlock Holmes vibe to it. And how cool would it have been to have the nickname “Detective X”?

Maybe I need to venture into the historical nonfiction genre for my next project.

John Stamp Author Page

References:
Greenwood, Veronique. “Secret Crime-Fighter Revealed to Be 1930s Physicist,” National Geographic, March 17, 2017. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/20…

 

Author Spotlight: Pamela Crane

Art of Fear

I have another author spotlight I would like to share since I am getting this blog up and going. Early reviews for Pamela Crane’s  The Art of Fear call it “An intricate literary thriller that will twist your brain and leave you breathless.” Pamela is the multi-award winning author of a long string of psychological thrillers.

SYNOPSIS:

“A life no girl should endure. A father no daughter could love. A twist no one would predict.

From award-winning author Pamela Crane comes a terrifying tale of small-town secrets and murder.

Ari Wilburn’s life ended long ago—the day she watched her little sister die in a tragic accident and did nothing to stop it. Crippled with self-blame and resented by her parents, she stumbles through life … and onto an unexpected clue that casts doubt on whether the death was accidental.

Now a psychological wreck, Ari joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a sex-enslaved escapee who finds her long-lost father dead. Suicide, police ruled it. But Tina suspects foul play. As a bond develops between the women in their shared loss, they’re dragged into playing a dangerous game with a killer.

Faced with a murderous wake-up call and two possibly linked deaths, Ari’s investigation puts her next on the killer’s list. But she’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Needing closure, Ari must face her demons and the killer behind them … or lose everything she loves.”

PAMELA CRANE’S BIO:

Pamela Crane is a professional juggler. Not the type of juggler who can toss flaming torches in the air, but a juggler of four kids, a writing addiction, a horse rescuer, and a book editor by trade. She lives on the edge (ask her Arabian horse about that—he’ll tell you all about their wild adventures while trying to train him!) and she writes on the edge. Her characters and plots are her escape from the real world of dirty diapers and cleaning horse stalls, and she thrives off of an entertaining tale.

She is the author of several award-winning and best-selling psychological thrillers.

LINKS:

http://www.amazon.com/Pamela-Crane/e/B00FOS91AI

facebook.com/pamela.crane.52
As always don’t forget to check out my books here.

Starting a Blog

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Hey Everybody I was trying to think of what else I could do to maximize my time behind a computer screen and decided to start a blog. If you check out the tagline this will be the world according to me, no apologies for that, but I will admit things might get a little weird from time to time. I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to blog about but for starters I’m thinking about detailing how I go about writing, what my strategy is, and where some of my material comes from. I was also thinking of throwing in some book reviews or product reviews if I see something I like and want to write about it. There will probably be a little thrown in about the family, two kids, great wife, and two old dogs. At the moment however I am hiding from hurricane Irma in Helen, GA. The fam is packed into a hotel room and I’m the only one still awake while the wind howls outside and the dog snores and takes up most of the bed.

More to come. Just getting started. For now though here is a shameless plug for my books.

I have mostly written crime thrillers in Spoilers and Brothers Keeper. Shattered Circle was an urban fantasy/crime novel, all published by Solstice Publishing. Where Angels Sing is a sequel to Spoilers and will be out October 3rd, can’t wait.

Anyway, have a good night. Out.