The Strange Tree Group
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Michael Thomas Downey
Kara Klein Mackey
Phineas X. Jones
Jenn Liang Chaboud
Matt Liang Chaboud
Amber Vaughn Robinson
October 22nd 1910: Dr. Crippen convicted
On this day in 1910 Dr. Crippen was convicted of poisoning his wife. He was then hanged at Pentonville Prison in London. Crippen was an American doctor who killed his wife in order to be with his mistress. Upon being questioned about her disappearance he fled with his lover to Brussels. The police then searched his house and found human remains under the basement floor. The captain of the ship taking the fugitives to Brussels recognised them and sent a telegram to the police. Crippen was confronted by disguised police officers on the ship and arrested.
"Have strong suspicions that Crippen London Cellar Murderer is among saloon passengers…"
The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen
by Emily Schwartz
Directed byJimmy McDermott
Coming to FringeNYC and
SUN 8/17, 12:00 - 1:30 pm / MON 8/18, 9:00 - 10:30 pm / THU 8/21, 4:15 - 5:45 pm / SAT 8/23, 9:30 - 11:00 pm / SUN 8/24, 4:30 - 6:00 pm
Dr. Harvey Crippen emigrated to London in 1897 with his wife Belle to begin a homeopathic medical sales career. However, one day in 1910, Belle “disappeared”. An inquiry into Belle’s disappearance revealed that Dr. Crippen purchased five grains of the poison hydrobromide of hyoscine at the neighborhood pharmacy just before his wife’s disappearance. Hyoscine, of the poisonous nightshade family, was at the time used in very small doses to treat the “violently insane”. Eventually, police started digging in Crippen’s cellar and found the body of Belle, which contained both a gunshot wound and traces of hyoscine.
Hawley Harvey Crippen (September 11, 1862 – November 23, 1910), usually known as Dr. Crippen, was an American homeopathic physician hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, on November 23, 1910, for the murder of his wife, Cora Henrietta Crippen. He was the first criminal to be captured with the aid of wireless communication.
After a party at their home on January 31, 1910, Cora disappeared. Hawley Crippen claimed that she had returned to the US, and later added that she had died, and had been cremated, in California. Police first heard of Cora’s disappearance from her friend, but began to take the matter more seriously when asked to investigate by a personal friend of Scotland Yard Supt. Frank Froest
During four searches of their house the police found the remains of a human body, with traces of the calming drug scopolamine.
Trial and execution
During Dr Crippen’s trail the pathologist for the prosecution said they had found large quantities of the toxic compound hyoscine in the remains, and Crippen had bought the drug before the murder from a local chemist.
After 27 minutes of deliberations, the jury found Crippen guilty of murder and he was hanged at 9 a.m. on November 23 at Pentonville Prison, London.
Possible motives for the murder
A theory which was first propounded by Edward Marshall Hall was that Crippen was using hyoscine on his wife as a depressant or anaphrodisiac, but accidentally gave her an overdose and then panicked when she died. It is said that Hall declined to lead Crippen’s defence because another theory was to be propounded.
In 1981, newspapers reported that Sir Hugh Rhys Rankin claimed to have met Ethel Le Neve in 1930 in Australia and that on that occasion, she told him that Crippen murdered his wife because she had syphilis.
The Crippen murder was featured in a popular song:
Dr Crippen killed Belle Elmore
Ran away with Miss le Neve
Right across the ocean blue
Followed by Inspector Dew
Ship’s ahoy, naughty boy!
In 2011, Strange Tree Group presented a world-premiere play by Emily Schwartz, The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen, at the Steppenwolf Garage Rep. The production was a runaway success, selling out almost every performance and garnering critical raves. The script won that year’s Jeff Award for Best New Work; director Jimmy McDermott won the Jeff for Best Director of a Play; and the performers were nominated for Best Ensemble. (Many of the same actors, as part of another Strange Tree ensemble, won that award anyway, for King Phycus. It was a good year.)
Now we’re bringing the show back. Jimmy and all the lead performers are returning. We’re adding live music. We’re adding more gore. And the whole thing is going to New York for a whirlwind five performances at the New York Fringe Festival.
To do this thing right, we need $5,000. The set is minimal, modular, and inexpensive. We’re staying with friends in NYC to keep lodging costs down. But we do need to build new set pieces; to provide per diems for 20 people; to transport cast, crew, set, gear, and musical instruments from Chicago; and to do all the promotion and marketing that’ll help this show get the audience it deserves.
Your donation, of any size, makes an impact. In return, you can get
Individual donors are the lifeblood of Strange Tree Group. Because of our tiny operating budget and irregular production schedule, we don’t qualify for a lot of grants. Our shows exist almost entirely because of the generosity of our audiences. They have demonstrated that generosity time and again—for example, in last year’s successful campaigns for a crowdfunded time machine and bandit caravan. Each donor really is important to us—that’s why we sneak their names into design elements. You’re literally part of the show.
Tell your friends in New York!
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