Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My flashlight inquiry…

Back in March I was prepping some articles for my Monmouth/Dawson/Mitchell postings when I came across an interesting fellow from Australia. Dan has a very interesting blog about which I am apprehensive about telling for fear the five or six of you reading will abandon me for him. Anyway, Dan likes flashlights…well…like may be understating it a bit but he knows his stuff even if he claims he’s not an expert. I had a hypothesis rattling around my skull about the flashlight found in Monmouth but I needed to somehow verify its viability so I fired off an email to Dan to get his opinion. The long and short of it is my hypothesis is valid while my thinking had to change.  Initially I felt the flashlight was some kind of souvenir you might buy on the counter at a roadside diner. You know the kind I’m talking about; the cheap tin flashlight with “Yellowstone” stamped into the body. I thought what was written on the flashlight was “Lovely Colorado Springs” and that you could pick one up on the way out the door of your local TB hospital (or at the neighborhood grocery store across the street from your house). With this in mind I thought it highly likely the flashlight was absconded from either the Burnham or Wayne cottage as the killer’s souvenir. He then used it to guide himself through the Dawson house and as a replacement for an oil lamp with its chimney removed. After killing the Dawsons the killer dropped the flashlight as he crawled through the fence at the back of the property and either didn’t notice or didn’t take the time to pick it back up. I still believe the crime scene scenario is valid but the probability the Wayne or Burnham families owned a flashlight at all are a bit slim. As Dan put it “[Novelty flashlights were common], yes - though they weren't cheap.” Indeed they were not. The photo above is of an Ohio Electric Flashlight from about 1900. Note the price on the box of a hefty $2.50. By 1911 the technology in flashlights had gotten better but the price remained about the same. The average salary for a worker was around $2.20 so a flashlight of any kind would cost more than a day’s earnings for the time period. Adjusted for inflation it would be the equivalent of $54.99! The best flashlight I own is waterproof, floats in water and has a beam bright enough to drive off vampires and it cost me half that price. Henry Wayne had $55 in savings so it’s possible the flashlight was his but clearly a flashlight would be considered a frivolous purchase by either family. While I can’t discount my hypothesis entirely, I am moving it to the “highly unlikely” category. Check out Dan’s blog. 

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