Archive

1942


Weegee, [Jeremiah Erranght’s room], 1942, screenshot from icp.org

body bag (not empty)
books (open and closed)
box (open)
calendar (February 1942)
cans (open and closed)
coat
lamp (empty)
newspaper
quilt (in sink)
Selox soap box
sink
table
window (open)

(First Jeremiah Erranght, 55, post is here.)


Weegee, [Jeremiah Erranght’s room], 1942, screenshot from icp.org (Detail)

(Book on box… what did the “recluse” read?)

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(Screenshot from icp.org)

Page 220 of the essential and indispensable book “Extra! Weegee” features a photo of a large, empty box. The photo (exactly like the photo below) is cluttered and claustrophobic, yet empty. Perhaps it’s a crime scene. There are boxes, cartons, a coat, and papers on top of the empty box and on shelves in the background, there’s a can or two on the ground; a pole and it’s shadow are in the foreground.
Beneath the photo in “Extra! Weegee” is a caption:

“RECLUSE DIES IN COFFIN-LIKE BED.
New York – Nightly for thirty-five years, Jeremiah Erranght, 55, would lock himself in the four-foot square iron box and go to sleep. When Erranght, who kept to himself, not allowing anyone to enter his squalid two-rooms at 79 Allen St. was missed by neighbors, the police were summoned. Breaking into the apartment, the police were confronted with the strange box. Using torches, the box was opened and inside was discovered the body of Erranght. Neighbors say he is quite wealthy.”

It’s an intriguing and enigmatic photo, appropriately people-free; Grand Guignol reality from the gritty ghetto of the (Lower) East Side… We didn’t see any coverage in PM. The NY Post had the best coverage. The Daily News coverage was silly and the NY Times had a pair of articles. AP distributed a widely printed short story. All photo-free. (No mention in the press about the Selox soap boxes: “The Speed Soap. Saves time, clothes, work, money”; “The Speed Soap. Quick sudsing – safe – economical,” for clothes and dishes.)

March 16, 1942:

NY Post, front page, then page 8:
Dies in Coffin in Which He Lived.
Eccentric’s Body Clothed in Galoshes, Earmuffs

“The mystery of Jeremiah Erranght, accurately nicknamed Dracula by a sharp-eyed East Side kid years ago… lived for 35 of his 55 years in a two-room flat at 79 Allen St… Yesterday police smashed down the door… and found him dead.
Like Dracula, the king vampire of Bram Stoker’s creation, the recluse had almost literally dwelt in a coffin. His six-foot length was found crammed in a four-foot-square sheet metal box, which he had built himself… its narrow door was padlocked on the inside.
…He had a job – coach washer for the Pennsylvania R.R. [in Sunnyside, Queens] – to which he went faithfully, clad in a black suit, black hat and a capelike outer garment…
He bought prodigiously and fantastically. A crate of eggs, two boxes of apples, 12 dozen oranges. Six boxes of candles… A case of ketchup…
…once a month the recluse would open his door a crack, slip $15 though and utter a single sepulchral word: “Rent.”
The police who forced their way into the place yesterday saw a strange sight. The windows had been nailed shut and were opaque with decades of grime. Two tables were deeply encrusted with dirt, as were two chairs…
The body was clothed in trousers and undershirt, galoshes and earmuffs. There was no bedding in the box.
Two old trunks held only yellowed scraps of paper, on which the writing was mostly illegible… and a key to a safe deposit box…”

AP: “…They broke into his unlighted and unheated room after neighbors reported him missing for several days and plowed through the trash-filled, furniture-less abode for half an hour before deciding to pry open the big box.
There, knees drawn up because of his six-foot figure’s space requirements, they found Erranght, wearing galoshes and ear muffs. Natural causes, they said, apparently brought the mystery man’s unnatural life to an end.”

Daily News:
Lone ‘Dracula’ Dies In Box He Slept In
A mysterious, silent black-clad recluse, called Dracula by the children of the neighborhood, was found dead yesterday in a four-foot square, homemade sheet-metal box in which he slept at his one-room flat at 79 Allen St…
The room was without gas, electricity, heat or furnishings except the metal box and two trunks containing some newspaper clippings and faded letters…
His only purchases at a nearby store were candles and oatmeal…”

NY Times:
Recluse Dies Locked in 4-Foot Metal Box
In Which He Slept Wearing His Galoshes

A taciturn six-footer whose long black cape and hat were a familiar sight on the East Side was found dead yesterday in a metal chamber that served as his bed in the two squalid rooms he had occupied for thirty-five years at 79 Allen Street.
Death was apparently due to natural causes, the police said… had pried off the lid of the boxlike bed 4 1/2 feet high and 4 feet wide and long… The chamber was ventilated by small perforations in its two-inch-thick walls…
…The only food in the rooms was oatmeal. There were a couple of broken tables and chairs and the metal chamber that a policeman said resembled a ‘medieval torture chamber.’…
…alarmed at not having heard the heavy iron door clang shut at night, Siebert [the janitor who lived next door] called the police.
In the neighborhood the children spoke of him as a ‘Dracula-like’ figure…”

Syracuse Herald-Journal:
‘Ghetto Dracula’ is Found Dead in His Torture Bed
Death today sealed the mystery of the Ghetto ‘Dracula.’
In a trash-littered, bedless two-room East Side apartment…
His elongated figure garbed in a long black cape and wide black hat caused children to call him Dracula.
Police said the almost furniture-less candle-lit apartment shed little light on Erranght. Two black trunks filled with yellow, illegible documents, a safety deposit key and $150 in postal certificates were found by police…”


(Screenshot from icp.org)


PM, August 17, 1942, pp. 8-9

Weegee Passes Up a Movie for a Holdup Alarm… And Gets This Group Portrait of Five Prisoners
“by Weegee”
“I was on the way to the Fifth Ave. Playhouse to see the movie, “Sins of Bali,” strictly a cheesecake affair, when I picked up a signal on my police radio for a holdup car. I went chasing after the car instead of going to the movie…”

“…Arrest didn’t dampen the spirits of Lillian and Pauline, 16 and 18, when they posed for this picture. Their companions, left to right, are Steve Samanek, 27, Raffael Martini, 18, and Baspay Cabrera, 23. Cabrera and girls worked outside, police say.”

(One of our favorite PM spreads. PM ran the better photo…)

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New York Daily News, August 17, 1942
Stickup Quintet and Burglars: “These five youngsters have admitted that they are the stickup quintet that had police on the jump for a week. They’ve confessed to 20 robberies in the last seven days, which netted $1,500 in loot. Rear: Steve Samanek, Raffael Martini, Gaspay Cabrera,” Lillian Hornyak and Pauline Hornyak.”

“Sins of Bali,” “strictly a cheesecake affair…”
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North Tonawanda NY Evening News, November 1942

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Unknown Weegee

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Berinson book

(A slightly edited re-post.)

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New York Daily News, February 9, 1942

“Crying Babies Drive Nurse Crazy; She Dopes 2, 1 Dies
Her face pale with grief, nurse Irma Twiss Epstein, whose own baby died a year and a half ago, is booked at Morrisania Police Station in the death of a new-born baby whose crying was ‘driving me crazy'”

[“Aliens Begin Registering. Registration of enemy aliens begins today…”]

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PM, February 9, 1942, p. 3

“Here is Nurse Accused of Killing Baby
Distraught and pale with grief, Irma Twiss Epstein, 32 year-old nurse, whose own baby died 18 months ago, is booked on a homicide charge in the death of a baby whose crying, she said, “drove me crazy.” Miss Epstein, Bronx Maternity Hospital nurse, is accused of giving a powerful drug to the 20 hour-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Castro Vallee, whose only other child died after birth 11 years ago. Another infant, 4 days old, was revived by nurses and doctors after Miss Epstein was found in a hallway hysterically sobbing: eyedropper, baby.” Hospital records showed she entered service there in 1940 and after nine months took a leave of absence to have a baby. Police said she had been in Bellevue’s psychopathic ward two years ago for observation after tasking an overdose of sleeping tablets. She told police at Morrisania Station she expected to be married soon. PM Photo by Weegee.”

PM, February 9, 1942, Vol. II, No. 168, p.3

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PM, February 3, 1942, pp. 10-11, Vol. II, No. 164

Off Duty Cop Does Duty, Kills Gunman Who Tries Stickup
The boys were playing a little pool and cards in the Spring Arrow Social and Athletic Club, 344 Broome St., near the Bowery last night. Patrolman Eligio Sarro, off duty, went in for a pack of cigarets. Four men entered. “This is a stick-up,” the leader muttered. Sarro was a little slow getting his hands out of his overcoat pockets. “Get ’em up,” ordered the leader, Sarro did. One hand held a gun. When he got through firing, the leader was dead.

The usual curious crowd gathered after the gunman, fatally wounded, staggered from the entrance. He was about 22, dark and chunky. Police said he was Andrew Izzo with a record of six arrests.

Patrolman Sarro smokes a cigaret a few minutes after he dropped the gunman. He’s assigned to the Empire Blvd. precinct in Brooklyn. He lives only a few doors from the club.
PM Photos by Weegee

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NY Times, February 3, 1942