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The Ghosts of Hopewell: Setting the Record Straight in the Lindbergh Case Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 15, 1999
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The sad story of Charles Lindbergh's baby, kidnapped and murdered at the height of America's love affair with its aviator hero, is common knowledge, as is the scandal and corruption surrounding the conviction and execution of Bruno Hauptmann for that crime. In The Ghosts of Hopewell, Jim Fisher tells us another story, one more surprising in its lack of conspiracy and intrigue. Fisher writes simply, clearly, and with conviction--firmly convinced that Hauptmann was indeed the killer. As he sorts through the evidence, the testimony, the motives, and the crime itself, it becomes clear to the reader, too, that this was not simply a case of corrupt politicians and law enforcement officials trying to put a controversial murder to rest. It was, as believed originally, a case of an unemployed immigrant who saw an opportunity to make a few quick bucks on the brutal murder of the innocent child of America's celebrity of the day. --Lisa Higgins
From Library Journal
The author, a scholar and former FBI special agent, updates his 1987 The Lindbergh Case (Rutgers Univ.) to scrutinize theories on who really was responsible for the Lindbergh kidnapping, concluding that Bruno Hauptmann was indeed guilty. Fisher takes a clear and comprehensive approach to the historical record, physical evidence, the justice system, and commentators both contemporary and more recent, adding his own insights into the never-ending public mania for celebrity and controversy. More photographic evidence could have been used to bolster his arguments, and the grammar could have been more carefully edited. Occasionally, Fisher is a little too quick to dismiss other theorists as cranks without justifying his opinion. In addition, his earlier title and Susan Hertog's Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Life (LJ 10/15/99) note an experimental reconstruction by police of the kidnapper's ladder that is not mentioned here. Given the passage of time, the gaps in the evidence, and new forensic techniques, it's not likely that anyone will ever have the final word in a case like this, but Fisher's book provides straightforward coverage of a perennially interesting subject. For all collections.
-Barbara Ann Hutcheson, Greater Victoria P.L., BC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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On March 1, 1932, Charles Lindberg Jr. was kidnapped from the Lindberg’s home in Hopewell, New Jersey. Found was a three section ladder that would have reached to 30 inches below the baby’s window. There were marks under the window where the ladder had stood. There were footprints reported, but no one seemed to have a clear grasp of how many persons or whether they were coming or going.
A ransom note marred with misspellings was discovered demanding a total of $50,000. The note was signed with a unique mark consisting of interlocking circles, a red spot in the middle and three holes—one in the red mark and the other two outside the connected circles in line with the center hole.
Sometime later, Lindberg representative John F Condon met a man he called “Cemetery John” in a Bronx cemetery and gave him the ransom money. The man produced a paper claiming the child was on the “boad Nelly.” On May 12, 1932 the baby’s body was discovered in the woods perhaps two miles from Lindberg’s house in a crude grave. Investigation would prove the child died from head trauma, likely on the very night he was kidnapped.
A little over two years later, Bruno Richard Hauptman a German born carpenter was arrested for the crime. He was eventually executed.
This story tries to stick with the known facts of the case without delving into unknowns. It was written in rebuttal to books trying to prove Hauptman innocent. The author makes no secret of the fact that as far as he is concerned; the courts got the right man.
There are three points that make me wonder. The first is that although there were unknown fingerprints on the recovered latter, none of them were Hauptman’s. The second is that the given side by side comparisons of known Hauptman writing and disputed writings from the ransom demands don’t really match too well. Of course, this picture is only one of many, but it is the one the author chose to use. And the third is that they could not beat, coerce, sway, or even promise life instead of the electric chair and make Hauptman confess to the crime.
But one glaring fact cannot be ignored. Hauptman had a lot of the marked ransom money. This is not in dispute. Hauptman said he was holding it for another person, yet he was identified as the person passing the money in stores. And he actually had a marked $20 bill in his wallet when arrested!
Tool marks and a board from his attic tied him to the ladder. That also is not really in dispute. Tools do leave distinctive marks, and rail 16 was fitted back into place in the attic floor.
But I do not believe Hauptman did the actual kidnapping or the murder. He had to be involved, however. He made the ladder and he had the ransom money. Being involved alone would have been enough to land him in the electric chair.
I give the book four stars. I think the author did a great job of research and his prose flows easy and isn’t difficult to read. Bravo, Jim Fisher!
Quoth the Raven…
I was happy to discover this book, which adds to what Fisher covered in his major work (429 pages).
Ghosts is 161 pages of text and, of necessity, much of it is a condensed repetition of his earlier work.
for those readers who have not, or who don't wish to wade thru the 429 pages of his earlier work.
I expected this : it would be ridiculous to assume that there would be 129 pages of new evidence.
But there was evidence Wilentz chose not to use, as it was not needed for a conviction, which
is of value in shredding revisionist theories that claim Hauptmann's innocence. And there is new evidence -
some discovered not that long ago by researchers that has never before been published. I recommend this
book to those who do not wish to invest their time in Fisher's larger work and for those, like me, who
want to possess all the information available on the case. From what I read while frequenting Lindbergh
kidnapping forums, belief that Hauptmann was innocent seems to be rare these days amongst those
most interested in the case. Therefore the question still alive on these forums is not about Hauptann's
guilt but about whether he had an accomplice. On this question Fisher 's view, never strongly held,
seems to have evolved somewhat from what he believed in his earlier work.
Jim Fisher is, without doubt, the world's authority on the Lindbergh kidnapping. He has a solid background in both law and law enforcement so he understands how both police investigations and criminal trials proceed. He researched both books exhaustively at the Lindbergh Case Archives in New Jersey, viewing all the evidence in the case and voluminous records from both the investigation and the trial.
If you want to know what REALLY HAPPENED to the Lindbergh baby and who REALLY committed the crime, read Fisher, forget all the other poorly researched, tinfoil-hat, conspiracy-pushing books. They are mostly rubbish. Fisher's works on the subject form THE authoritative source. Both books by Fisher are terrific! I own them both and re-read them every so often. He really makes the case, the participants, and the time period come alive!
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