A Book of Remarkable Criminals
The Mysterious Mr. Holmes
"The Holmes-Pitezel Case," by F. B. Geyer, 1896; "Holmes' Own Story,"
Philadelphia, 1895; and "Celebrated Criminal Cases of America," by T. S. Duke,
San Francisco, are the authorities for this account of the case.
I. HONOUR AMONGST THIEVES
In the year 1894 Mr. Smith, a carpenter, of Philadelphia, had patented a new
saw-set. Wishing to make some money out of his invention, Mr. Smith was
attracted by the sign:
B. F. PERRY PATENTS BOUGHT AND SOLD
which he saw stretched across the window of a two-storied house, 1,316
Callowhill Street. He entered the house and made the acquaintance of Mr. Perry,
a tall, dark, bony man, to whom he explained the merits of his invention. Perry
listened with interest, and asked for a model. In the meantime he suggested that
Smith should do some carpenter's work for him in the house. Smith agreed, and
on August 22, while at work there saw a man enter the house and go up with
Perry to a room on the second story.
A few days later Smith called at Callowhill Street to ask Perry about the sale of
the patent. He waited half an hour in the shop below, called out to Perry who, he
thought, might be in the rooms above, received no answer and went away. Next
day, September 4, Smith returned, found the place just as he had left it the day
before; called Perry again, but again got no answer. Surprised, he went upstairs,
and in the back room of the second story the morning sunshine, streaming
through the window, showed him the dead body of a man, his face charred
beyond recognition, lying with his feet to the window and his head to the door.
There was evidence of some sort of explosion: a broken bottle that had
contained an inflammable substance, a broken pipe filled with tobacco, and a
burnt match lay by the side of the body.
The general appearance of the dead man answered to that of B. F. Perry. A
medical examination of the body showed that death had been sudden, that there
had been paralysis of the involuntary muscles, and that the stomach, besides
showing symptoms of alcoholic irritation, emitted a strong odour of chloroform.
An inquest was held, and a verdict returned that B. F. Perry had died of
congestion of the lungs caused by the inhalation of flame or chloroform. After
lying in the mortuary for eleven days the body was buried.
In the meantime the Philadelphia branch of the Fidelity Mutual Life Association
had received a letter from one Jephtha D. Howe, an attorney at St. Louis, stating
that the deceased B. F. Perry was Benjamin F. Pitezel of that city, who had been
insured in their office for a sum of ten thousand dollars. The insurance had been