Several of my stories have been set in 1930s West Virginia. And there’s LOTS of great history from that era to draw from for ideas. But some history I won’t attempt to spin into one of my tales. And that goes for the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell who was hanged on this date 89 years ago in Moundsville, WV.
Harry F. Powers was a serial killer. He lured women in with “lonely hearts” ads and was ultimately convicted and hanged after killing Asta Eicher (and her children) as well as Dorothy Lemke. A career criminal, he moved to Quiet Dell, WV, in 1926 and married Luella Strother. He wrote hundreds of letters to women seeking companionship and at least a few fell for it. He lured in Asta and Dorothy using the alias Cornelius Pierson.
Harry was no mastermind, though. As Cornelius, he gave Quiet Dell as his home, and when Asta and her children disappeared, police were able to determine that the PO Box in that name led to Harry F. Powers. They investigated and quickly discovered plenty of incriminating evidence. A tip then led to the discovery of the bodies of Asta and her three children. A few days later, they found Dorothy’s remains.
Harry ultimately confessed to the killings, although a photo of his face and bare torso taken after his interrogation suggests the interviewers used some powerful persuasion to encourage him to do so. And while his wife Luella may not have been in on the murders, she certainly seemed a good match for Harry when she opened the house up as a roadside attraction where visitors could see the murder site of the Bluebeard of Quiet Dell. The attraction didn’t last long, though. Locals burned the house to the ground.
The trial was held at the Clarksburg Opera House and after two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Three months later, Harry was marched up the thirteen steps to the gallows. His widow did NOT claim his body.
Quite the story with incredible potential for twists and turns. But frankly, it’s a bit grim for me. Anyway, it’s already been written by Davis Grubb in his The Night of the Hunter which was also made into a seriously spooky movie starring Robert Mitchum. I think I’ll leave it at that!