And So Year 1 Ends

Year 1 of One Lone Cat ends with a sort of uneventful week where I take a couple days off from working out. Also I commemorate the anniversary of the famous American Tragedy murder case.


Blackcat Book Club: Murder of a Herkimer County Teacher by Dennis Webster

In this all-new installment of the Blackcat Book Club, I take a look at a true crime story written by a local author about the notorious 1914 Jean Gianini murder case.

Enter the Blackcatloner

                Before I answered the call of the Internet, I was originally planning to be a writer and prior to ten years ago, I had only limited experience with the Internet, mainly using it to look up the latest movies in development. That was before the rise of social media as we know it today. My foray into the Internet actually began when I set up my first email address on Yahoo in November 2005 and it was there where I first came up with my unique and prestigious username, Blackcatloner.
            Three months later in February 2006, I discovered blogging and I signed up for my first social media site on the long-since-extinct Yahoo 360 site where I first started blogging. Being that I did not have a computer or a digital camera at the time, I had to have a friend of mine who I was working with at Walmart at the time scan some photos of myself to put up online so that way I was not starting out blogging without people knowing what I look like. That was one thing I learned early on when I was starting out in social media where you have to have a picture of yourself otherwise not many people would want to get to know you.
            At the same time, I was researching for a book on the famous Chester Gillette murder case better known as “the murder that will never die.”  To coincide with the centennial commemoration events and to share what I learned about the case in preparation for my book, I opened up a blog site on Blogger devoted to that case. I called the site Chester and Grace: The Real American Tragedy. Even though I do not really update on the site anymore primarily because I pretty much covered everything about the case that needed to be covered, the site is still up on Blogger.
            I still continued to move deeper into the world of social media eventually signing up for Myspace back when it was still the social networking site of choice. However I could not use it at the public library because the library had a rule in place primarily to curb people from misusing it. Even in those days people were misusing social media. I eventually learned that the library up at Herkimer College was open to the public and I started going up there the following year to use Myspace.
            It was while I was getting started in the world of social media that I first discovered YouTube. I signed up for my YouTube account under the username Blackcatloner on October 30, 2006 which is pretty easy to remember because the day before that is my anniversary at work. So as of October 2015, I will have been making videos on YouTube for nine years. Now ironically, I was not originally planning to make videos being I did not have either a video camera or Internet access especially since I was operating out of the public library in H-town.
            Then 2006 turned into 2007 and I ended my run on Yahoo 360 when I decided to launch my Blackcatloner website in March of that year. I originally had it on Blogger along with my Gillette blog until 2009 when I exported the Blackcatloner site to WordPress where it has been ever since. In the meantime, I started becoming addicted to watching YouTube videos and eventually it dawned on me that maybe I should be making videos. But the one thing that really decided things for me was the day I watched a video by Cory “Mr. Safety” Williams known as “The Mean Kitty Song.” And that is pretty much why I cited Mr. Safety as an influence for my YouTube career when I eventually started making videos.
            When I first started doing videos, I uploaded my videos through a site called where I decided to upload cat photo montages since you know, cats are usually a top draw and a source for humor on the Interwebs. That while I still did not have a video camera, I ended up successfully uploading the first cat montage video to YouTube on January 5, 2008. I went on to upload a total of twenty-one cat montages while at the same time, I got my first video camera for my thirtieth birthday. I managed to film some live cat videos for the Internet while biding my time when I would eventually reveal myself on YouTube.
            And eventually on May 21, 2008 I filmed and uploaded my first vlog to YouTube and it was a movie review of the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And though I admitted that it’s not as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but I am in the camp that puts Crystal Skull over Temple of Doom. And I am probably gonna get some flak for this but deal with it. No matter what I thought of the movie, with that minute and a half video I finally made the transition from blogging to YouTube. Although the Indiana Jones vlog did not get a lot of hits, I followed it up with what is by far my most popular video to date: “The Librarian.”
            The idea for “The Librarian” came when I came across a video by popular YouTuber LisaNova where she was offering to do collab videos with other YouTubers using many of her popular characters that she used in her videos. The characters ranged from Emo LisaNova, Naughty Nurse LisaNova, Librarian LisaNova, Drunk LisaNova, and I think there was even a Rambo LisaNova character. All of the characters were dressed provocatively with cleavage showing which remains a trademark for a lot of female YouTubers to this day. I ended up using the Librarian one because I felt at the time that it would be the easiest one to do.
            I actually did the video with a flashback-type storyline played primarily for laughs. It started with me sitting at the computer in my living room at the time before cutting to the Librarian LisaNova clips. The portions with me in the library was actually shot in the gift shop at the Herkimer County Historical Society and I know it does not really match up but at least for my purposes it worked out for the best. And it was pretty well-received and like I said to this date it is my most popular video on YouTube with nearly 10,000 hits.
            And what followed after that was me filming videos whenever I felt like it and I did some videos in that period that are no longer on the channel because they have either become redundant or I just didn’t like the quality. But keep in mind I was just starting out at the time but as far as I went, I was technically too far behind the rest of the elite YouTubers because while I was starting out on YouTube with slightly primitive equipment and Windows Movie Maker, the elite YouTubers were upgrading their videos to high definition and widescreen. It took me a while to do that but as time went on, I was able to figure out how to render my videos in HD using Movie Maker and I did a video on that too. It got quite a bit of hits, but I ended up taking the video down because I do admit the video quality was bad and I was using a really shitty headset mic which made my voice sound all garbled.
            While I was trying to keep up with the Joneses, I also dabbled in BlogTV back when that was a thing. It was a site where YouTubers could interact with each other and do live shows. My only outing doing a live show was kind of a disaster. I had tried to do another one later on but I either cancelled due to lack of nerves or bad timing. Right now I am fully aware of Google Hangout but right now with me finishing up school and my new responsibilities at work, I don’t really have the time to do another live show. Personally I think it is better just to do videos.
            Throughout the course of my career I have experimented with video ideas that worked or didn’t work. For example, in 2009 I got the idea to do news partly from watching Philip DeFranco where he did a news show (and as far as I know he still does) where he talks about news stories that have been happening and then adds his own thoughts which are usually in the form of snarky remarks and I’m like “Hey, I can do that.” But the thing was that he threw around the “f-word” a lot and at the time I was trying to keep my content as PG-rated as possible. As a result, I ended up starting the Black Cat Weekly news series. I ended up doing five videos where I covered stories such as a dead chupacabra, the official launching of the People of Walmart website and I even did a rant about Kanye West’s infamous stunt at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards where he interrupted Taylor Swift after she won an award. You remember the whole “I think you’re really talented. Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had the greatest video of all time!” Basically my take on the story was me telling Kanye to shut the fuck up. Of course I had to censor myself where I had a beep sound effect whenever I said the word fuck.
            While I was doing the Black Cat Weekly series, I did get praise for one story I did and it was about a gay teenager in Mohawk who sued the Mohawk School District (it has since merged with the Ilion School District) for not doing enough to help him against bullies that were tormenting him, beating him up and even making death threats against him. The case ended with the teen winning and the school paying his college tuition so to speak. And as the result of the video I got a comment from the teen himself thanking me for getting his story out. If I could get that kind of response, then I have really made a difference.
            But otherwise, the series as a whole was not very well-received. In fact, the haters came out in force, especially with the last Black Cat Weekly video I did because in addition to the story about Kanye West’s shenanigans at the MTV Movie Awards, I also included a story about one of Charles Manson’s accomplices being released from prison and being relocated to the Mohawk Valley and I really got hit by Manson supporters calling me a clown just like the media for still thinking that Manson is a killer. He is. So I ended up taking down the video but not before cutting the Manson story and reuploading the video as just the Kanye West story. In the end, I eventually took the whole video down. But that didn’t mean I didn’t get a chance to abuse the haters in reply comments where I managed to include the word hater in capital letters which is my way of marking them in case people who offer positive feedback will know who they are. Because in truth, haters are people who do nothing constructive but attack those who actually do something. In fact many hater channels that I got actually had either no videos on their channel or they had videos that weren’t really all that interesting.
            In fact the only existing videos that are left from the Black Cat Weekly era are the “Gay Teen” video and the “Chupacabra Pops Alli at Walmart” video and both had really high view counts so it wouldn’t really make sense to take them down. But in the end, the Black Cat Weekly was a failure. I probably should’ve had thicker skin but even though I had been on YouTube for only a year when I did the Black Cat Weekly, I still was not really ready to get negative backlash because that’s what happens in news and still does today.
            But then again each video I put up has been a learning experience as far as what works and what doesn’t work as well as how YouTube works and how to deal with certain aspects such as the haters and other stuff. And also during the Black Cat Weeklyera I discovered Blip as a possible alternative video upload site where I could make money off my videos.
            However about a month later, I decided to get a little revenge on the haters for the failure of the Black Cat Weekly by creating a masked character. And thank goodness it was Halloween season at work because I was able to find a clear plastic mask similar to the ones AngryAussie wore in his videos back when he first started out. I got a plastic mask which is supposed to make the wearer look like a horribly scarred person. And I saw the scars as kind of a metaphor for a hater who gets attacked for being an asshole to people who actually create videos. So I cut out the jaw just like AngryAussie did for his masks and lo and behold, Mr. Hater was born.
            To complete the Mr. Hater character, all I had to do was turn my hat backwards and put on a silly voice because that’s pretty much what haters sound like. And I decided for this character’s debut that I would subject him to a little video that everyone on the Internet has pretty much heard about: 2girls1cup. And by having Mr. Hater being subjected to 2girls1cup, I decided to make a video with a moral attached to it by telling people not to be haters. It’s a moral I know nobody will listen to because there have been haters since the beginning of time and there always will be haters.
            So far I have done two solo videos with Mr. Hater and he’s popped up on occasion in other vlogs I did. So will I do another solo video as Mr. Hater? Very likely yes. You will definitely be seeing more of Mr. Hater in the future.
            Then a couple months later, I decided to take my videos in another direction partly because at the time I was watching Charles Trippy’s daily vlog series Internet Killed Television, I decided to do a vlog series where I shot around town and showed videos of me doing stuff. The only problem was that I didn’t have the time, discipline or the resources to do a daily vlog series. So I opted instead to do a weekly vlog series which I called The Adventures of Blackcatloner which ironically was the original name of my website. But if you think doing a weekly vlog series is easy, well I’ll let you in on a little secret: It isn’t. There were days I actually missed for one reason or another and there were days where I actually did filler episodes. But from February 2010 until June 2011 I was able to film stuff around town and talk about things that were going on in my day-to-day life and it was there where I filmed the world’s largest omelet being made by Crazy Otto’s Empire Diner in H-town. But probably the most important event that I filmed there was when Sylvester Stallone and Mike Tyson were inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2011.
            Then tragedy struck. Shortly after I uploaded that video, the computer that I was editing my videos on got a virus and I was unable to film, edit or upload videos for a while which turned out for the best because during my downtime, I was starting college at Herkimer College where I was originally majoring in Radio/TV Broadcasting. And for the most part, I credit my success in college to the fact that I was on YouTube and my blogging career. Also during my downtime on YouTube, I learned that I can upload videos as long as I want and I could also monetize my videos.
            Then after I got past my first semester, I finally got a laptop for school the following semester. I eventually picked up where I left off but not until I learned about YouTube’s plan to make every content creator a partner as opposed to what channel can bring in the most subscribers and my channel qualified for this so I gladly accepted it. However I did not start making videos until the summer and I picked up right where I left off. And as an added twist, I decided to do regular movie reviews partly because I started watching The Nostalgia Critic at the time and my plan was to review both new movies that came out in theaters as well movies that have been around a while. It also helped that I saw some pretty big movies that year, such as The Avengers, the Spider-Man reboot and The Dark Knight Rises. It felt good that I decided to do on a regular basis something that I have only done sporadically early in my career. I had only done a couple of movie reviews at that point but I have an opportunity to make jokes in the reviews which is kind of the norm on the Internet.
            There were some reviews that I had taken down for various reasons such as a review I did on the 2009 Star Trek reboot which I did after I saw that in theaters and most of the other reviews I did in that time period are long-gone but I do plan on redoing reviews of those movies in the future. Also I had originally planned on keeping the reviews separate from my regular videos. In fact I created a separate channel for the reviews both on YouTube and on Blip.
            And of course I continued with the weekly vlogs, picking up right where I left off. I even filmed some portions of my time on campus because I was going into my third semester at Herkimer College. In fact, since I was a Radio/TV major at the time, I was practically encouraged to continue filming videos on campus. In fact I also filmed the weather segments for the HCTV Channel 99 news segments. But after the semester ended and Christmas came, I made it to fifty-two vlogs which is equivalent to a full year worth of vlogs despite the fact that it took me nearly two years to make that goal. And it was after the Christmas vlog that I decided to end the weekly vlogs and stick to doing random vlogs.
            With the vlogs I decided to include vlogs based on projects I did in school. For example, the rant I did about paying on dating sites was based on a paper I did for Creative Writing. Also both my “Twilight Ruins Relationships” and my “Why American Men Should Date Foreign Women” vlogs were based on projects I did for my Voice and Diction class but other than that a lot of my vlogs were original and I eventually incorporated the reviews into my vlogs. At the same time, I also started doing Mystery Science Theater 3000-style riffs on Public Domain educational movies starting with a movie called Health- Your Posture. Since then I have done several riffs including one on the notorious anti-gay film Boys Beware as well as the 1930’s exploitation film Sex Madness. The riffs are a lot of fun and I have decided to make that part of my normal batch of videos.
            There was a time where I was toying with the idea of leaving YouTube to post material on Blip. So throughout the remainder of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, I was posting my new vlogs and riffs to Blip partly because the Blip players worked really well on my website even though I know a lot of people complained about how slow the players were. But two things happened that forced me come back to YouTube: First, I picked up a computer virus that pretty much screwed up and eventually killed my first laptop. However I was able to get a few videos put up on YouTube as well as Blip before my laptop died.

Then the second problem arose. I got an email from Blip saying that they were gonna cancel my channel. Thankfully a lot of my vlogs that I had up on the channel were already on YouTube but the remaining videos needed to be reedited before I could put them up, a couple of them for copyright reasons despite the fact that I uploaded the videos to Blip while following the guidelines of Fair Use as defined under the Digital Millennium Communications Act. So I had to wait until late August when I got my current laptop and I was at the start of the Fall 2014 semester. As a result I managed to get the rest of the videos I edited for Blip back on YouTube and at the same time I have been able to do new videos and I have been back on YouTube ever since.

            And as it stands now, I have no intentions of leaving YouTube anytime soon and at the same time, you will be seeing more of Blackcatloner for as long as I am able to continue doing the videos. Which I am hoping will be forever.

Chester, Grace and Me: Revisiting a Murder That Won’t Die

            It was just a typical July night in 2005 when I first learned of one of the most famous murder cases in New York State history.   

            I was on break from my overnight job at Wal-Mart in Herkimer, New York when I stumbled upon a newspaper article from one of my area’s local newspapers, the Herkimer Telegram. On the front page of that particular paper was a photo of a small group standing in front of the old Herkimer County Courthouse and two of them were actors dressed in Victorian-era costumes. The headline above the photo announced the 100th anniversary commemoration of the murder of Grace Brown at the hands of her one-time lover Chester Gillette at Big Moose Lake on a hot summer day in 1906. That infamous act inspired the classic Theodore Dreiser novel An American Tragedy, the 1951 film A Place in the Sun, and a Metropolitan Opera production that debuted later that year.
            And for me, what started out as one newspaper article eventually turned into over two years of research (for a book that never materialized); active participation in the commemoration events; a blog site (which is the only surviving blog from when I started blogging in 2006); and even meeting descendants of participants in the case both online as well as off.
            Since the case is still researched and talked about all over the world, there really isn’t a need to recap the story but I will anyway.
            Chester, the son of Salvation Army missionaries spent most of his childhood traveling around the western part of the country at a time when the West was still for the most part untamed. Due to his family’s religious activities, Chester frequently moved around a lot and among some of the places he traveled to included Spokane, Washington, San Francisco, California and Hawaii. Unfortunately his family’s religious ethics frequently put him at odds with the rest of the family and ultimately thanks to the assistance of an influential uncle, Chester was able to go to Oberlin Academy to help establish himself in a new career.
            His first year turned out to be a success but by the following year he lost his focus and dropped out due to poor grades because he was more interested in “having as good a time as possible” (his motto in life.) Between 1903 and 1905 he had a variety of odd jobs most notably as a railroad brakeman. That was until another successful uncle who owned a successful skirt factory business in Cortland, New York invited Chester to go and work for him.
            Chester arrived in Cortland in April 1905 and went to work in his uncle’s factory. Despite the fact that he was the nephew of the factory owner, Chester was shown no favoritism as he was hired to work in the stockroom for ten dollars a week. However outside the factory, he quickly became popular among the people of Cortland because of his athletic ability and he was a really good storyteller where he found that his past made for excellent conversation with some of the upper middle-class girls he became acquainted with.
            Right about the time he was getting settled into his new life, Chester became involved with Grace Brown, the daughter of a farmer in a rural town called South Otselic, about thirty miles away. She arrived in Cortland a year earlier to care for her older sister’s son and was hired at the factory as an inspector several months before Chester arrived. He called on her outside of work despite being told by his uncle not to fraternize with his fellow co-workers outside the factory. So they had to keep their relationship a secret. He rarely (if ever) took her out in public and their dates (if you can call it that) were more or less relegated to the parlor of her boarding house.
            Grace knew Chester had been seen in public with other women from the more prominent families in town but she was somewhat tolerant of this and holding on to the firm belief that he was only having fun with them while saving his real love for her (or so she thought.)
            Everything soon changed when Grace found out she was pregnant in the spring of 1906. And given the fact that she was not married, that was a major no-no in those days. There was clearly no question as to who the father was. However that “father” was unwilling to take responsibility for his actions because he didn’t want to give up on his good times. Finally, Grace agreed to give up her job and her boarding house in Cortland and returned to her family’s farm while waiting for Chester to get his affairs in order so he can arrive with a solution.
            For three weeks, the suspense rose. Grace wrote a series of letters to him urging him to do the right thing. However, Chester continued to stall and go about his business as though nothing was wrong. She was sick as a result of being pregnant and also sick from the stress of her burden. Her family noticed her ill demeanor but didn’t really think anything of it. After all, it was normal for a girl her age in those days to behave in a melodramatic way. Finally she called him at the factory threatening to return to Cortland and expose him. Fearing scandal that could tarnish his uncle’s family name, Chester finally agreed to meet her.
            On July 9, 1906, they embarked on their journey to the Adirondacks from the town of DeRuyter and after spending two nights in Utica and Tupper Lake under assumed names as a married couple from New York City, they arrived at Big Moose Lake. There Chester decided to drop the “married couple” act and signed the ledger using Grace’s real name and listed her hometown as South Otselic while using the assumed name of Carl Grahm of Albany. Then they rented a rowboat for the day and they rowed around the southern shore of the lake, stopping for a picnic at some point. Other people out on the lake and in camps along the shoreline saw them rowing around. They stood out because people who saw them found it odd that there was a suitcase with a tennis racket strapped to the side of the boat. They also noticed that Grace was not happy.
            What happened around 6 p.m. that afternoon may never be known but what we do know is that Grace ended up at the bottom of the lake with her head nearly split open; the rowboat overturned and adrift with Grace’s black cape draped over the bow and a straw hat floating nearby and Chester Gillette long gone.
            What happened was that when the boat overturned Chester went into the water and managed to swim to shore. Grace on the other hand could not swim and Chester knew that, primarily because she said so in one of her letters to him. Later, many took this as a sign that Chester took that fact into account while planning murder.
              After getting out of the water, Chester retrieved his suitcase that he left on shore and hit the road that led to Eagle Bay. While en route he stopped and hid the tennis racket under a log on the side of the road. By nightfall he managed to find his way to the Arrowhead Hotel in Inlet which was right on Fourth Lake. There he signed the hotel ledger under his real name and location and proceeded to live the life of a typical Adirondack tourist which included a mountain climbing trip up Black Bear Mountain and meeting up with two society girls he was frequently seen with in Cortland.
            Unbeknownst to him, word of Grace’s death found its way to Herkimer where the district attorney George W. Ward began to suspect foul play and while en route to the crime scene he met a man from Cortland who worked in the factory with both Chester and Grace. The man was on his way to the Adirondacks in response to a request Chester made about sending money up to Eagle Bay, despite the fact that by then he was on Fourth Lake.
            Ward finally caught up to Chester at the Arrowhead on Saturday morning, July 14 and arrested him for Grace’s murder. While being interrogated, Chester told different stories about what happened, including the fact that he denied knowing the victim; that it was an accident; that she was suicidal because of her condition and so on. After being arraigned, Chester was taken to the 1834 Herkimer County Jail to be held for trial.
            Chester’s trial was held in the old Herkimer County Courthouse in Herkimer on November 12, 1906 and lasted about three weeks. It promised to be the trial of the century and the crowds as well as the press that converged on the small town were not disappointed. Hundreds of witnesses testified, telling the story of Chester and Grace’s relationship as well as their activities in the days leading to her death. However, the real attraction came when Ward read Grace’s letters to Chester (obtained without a search warrant) in open court and it caused an emotional sensation that left everyone, save for Chester himself, in tears.
            Herkimer was clearly not ready for the type of media circus that they hosted another sensational trial as well as execution some twenty years earlier: The trial of Roxalana Druse who was found guilty of murdering her abusive husband. Reporters from New York City were in Herkimer covering the trial, many of them were from the Hearst chain or the “yellow journalism” papers that dominated the media in that day and age. The city reporters tended to fabricate stories to sell papers and their time in Herkimer was no exception. At one point, they even dressed up in old clothes and pretended to be a lynch mob who wanted to gain access to the jail and hang Chester.
            The letters were not the only thing that attracted people to the trial. There were also reports of a love triangle and the media singled out one particular woman to be the “other woman”: Harriet Benedict, the daughter of a prominent Cortland attorney. Harriet went on the stand and testified that Chester was merely a friend and their only date was an outing on a local lake on the Fourth of July, the week before Grace’s death. Harriet would never be allowed to forget her role in the Gillette case.
            Chester himself also testified as the first witness for the defense. He told the court that Grace was depressed and after he suggested returning to her parents’ farm to confess all, she became frightened and jumped into the lake. Not many people believed him, especially after Ward’s ruthless cross-examination of him. When the trial was given to the jury, they convicted him of first-degree murder within five hours. In those days, if a criminal was convicted of first-degree murder it meant an automatic death sentence.
            On December 12, two days after receiving his death sentence, Chester was transferred to Auburn Prison. On the train, he was able to mingle with a traveling burlesque troupe who ironically were also headed for Auburn for a show. Enjoying the limelight for perhaps the last time, he signed autographs for the performers. After all, it wasn’t every day that people got to take a train ride with a convicted murderer, let alone one on his way to the electric chair.
            During the fifteen months he spent on Death Row, Chester’s attorneys filed an appeal with the New York State Court of Appeals which was later denied and Chester’s parents attempted to appeal to the governor for executive clemency and get the sentence reduced to life in prison. They presented new evidence that included a claim that Grace suffered from epilepsy. The governor declined to intervene after a phone call from the warden of Auburn Prison reassured him that Chester had confessed.
            And so with all hope of appeals and reprieves exhausted, Chester was executed in the early morning hours of March 30, 1908. He was only twenty-four years old. However his story did not end in the death chamber of Auburn Prison.
            With the publication of An American Tragedy in 1925, the true story of the case became confused with what Dreiser wrote (he included Grace’s letters nearly word-for-word as well as the trial transcript and the city papers that were mainly fabricated anyway) and it remained that way until Craig Brandon published his book Murder in the Adirondacks in 1986. Since then, new theories have emerged about the case such as the theory that Chester and Grace were actually looking for an orphanage for Grace to stay in until her baby was born so that she could give it up and return to her regular life as though nothing had happened. Another theory that has surfaced was that her death was a result of a suicide pact she had with Chester that went wrong. And I am sure that there will be more that will emerge as time goes on.
            As far as my experiences go during the Centennial commemoration in 2006, I attended nearly all the events except for a few, namely a bus trip to the premiere of the American Tragedy opera at the Metropolitan Opera house and probably the most important event of the commemoration: Grace’s memorial at Big Moose Lake on the anniversary of the murder because I could not get out of work that day.
            From the events I did attend though, I was an usher for the Herkimer performances of the trial reenactment that was performed by the Ilion Little Theater Club, including a performance that was held in the same courtroom where the real trial took place. I also went on a bus trip sponsored by the Herkimer County Historical Society to the sites that related to the case in Cortland and South Otselic, including the factory building in Cortland which has been an appliance store for years, Grace’s home in South Otselic as well as her gravesite.
            And here’s where I have a little story to tell. Everyone knows the stories about the possibility of the existence of Grace’s ghost, right? Well as far as ghost stories go, I personally have not had many encounters with ghosts despite the fact that I would like to see one.

     Over the years, many people claimed to have seen Grace’s ghost on Big Moose Lake which was featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteriesin 1996. Some claim that she was sighted in South Otselic as well as some claims that she was sighted in Herkimer, most notably in the 1834 Jail near Chester’s cell. How is that possible? Grace never saw Herkimer while she was alive. The answer to this would be something that I have learned about ghosts and that is if there is a place or event that has anything to do with them, then there is a good chance that their presence would be felt. For all we know, Grace’s ghost could have even witnessed Chester’s trial. Something to think about.

            I did not encounter Grace’s ghost when I went up to Big Moose Lake in August 2007 but the closest I came to seeing or feeling Grace’s presence was when I went to her farm in South Otselic during the bus trip the year before. As I was walking past an apple tree on the property, I suddenly got this feeling that she was there. At that point, I remembered a photo I saw in Murder in the Adirondacks of Grace standing in front of an apple tree. To this day, I still cannot explain it.
            I was also present when the historical marker was placed in front of the 1834 Jail that housed Chester. And it was also at that point where it was revealed that the great-granddaughter of Chester’s sister kept and preserved a diary that Chester wrote in during his last six months in Auburn awaiting execution. The diary showcased his transformation from a shallow self-absorbed boy into a mature thoughtful Christian man. The final entry was written about a few minutes before he was led to the chair. The diary was donated to Hamilton College where a majority of the artifacts from the Gillette case are stored including Grace’s letters and sure enough I was there for the donation ceremony. The diary has since been published in book form and is available at the Herkimer County Historical Society or online at sites like


            In conclusion, we may never know for sure what happened at Big Moose Lake on July 11, 1906 but interest in the case continues to this day. The Herkimer County Historical Society gets requests every year for information on the case, therefore reinforcing its status as “the murder that will never die. And for better or worse, I am proud to have taken part in this little piece of Central New York history.