And for my second post of the day, I am going to add some of my projects from my Digital Photography class from this past semester at Herkimer College so that you get to see my growing skills with Photoshop. So I hope you will enjoy them.
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 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 Mysteries in 1996. Some claim that she was sighted in South Otselic as well as some claims that she was sighted in Herkimer. 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 kept during his last months in Auburn awaiting execution 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.
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.
For starters, I originally uploaded this Q & A vlog to YouTube two weeks ago but I’ve been busy preparing for the new semester at HCCC that I forgot about it. So I have finally uploaded it to Blip today since I sort of found myself with only a half a day today since my teacher for two of my classes was absent today. Before I start asking the questions for this Q & A segment, I just want to let you know that so far the new semester at HCCC is going good. I have four classes this semester: Writing for Electronic Media, Applied Media Asthetics (formerly known as Video Production,) Voice and Diction, and another gym class where I get to use the Fitness Center again.
Now at least three of those classes should be easycakes for a guy who has spent the last few years involved with YouTube and the Internet but another concern has surfaced: How to get through the courses without pulling the YouTube card a little too much. I will admit that my YouTube and Internet skills got me through my first year pretty good. Well, good enough to make the Dean’s List twice. Now, the stakes are higher and it’s time to deliver yet again. I do have some high hopes for this semester and I might be able to score higher this time since I am learning stuff I already know.
So this Q & A vlog will be my last hurrah as far as the Q & A’s go. So without further ado, here we go.
Q: What is your morning routine?
A: Don’t really have a morning routine being I’m kinda nocturnal. Usually it’s just go to work. On weekends when I’m up during the day, I just do whatever.
Q: Funnyordie.com sent this one to me. Want to see why cats and Rihanna are the best?
A: I can agree with you on the cats’ part, but Rihanna? She’s hot but at least the cats didn’t appear in Battleship, lol.
Q: Do you doodle, paint or sculpt?
A: Not really. Not very good at it.
Q: Do you like motorcycles?
A: Yeah, I like motorcycles.
Q: And here’s another one from Funny or Die. Selena Gomez falls in love with a mysterious painter in a new video (that they posted on their site) What do you think about it?
A: As long as it’s a real man, it’s all good. 😉 And yes, folks. That was an obvious swipe at Justin Beiber.
Q: Are you usually early, late, or right on time?
A: It varies, but usually I’m on time.
Q: What websites do you visit daily?
A: Facebook, YouTube, Blip, Formspring, and my blog among other sites.
Q: This one’s not really a question but I’m gonna add it anyway. The doctors proved that while you are kissing, you’re actually losing calories. In a average kiss which lasts 3 minutes you lose 12 calories, that means that if you are about to eat a piece of chocolate cake you’ll have to kiss for one hour and 45 minutes.
A: Wow, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the information.
Q: Spider-Man, Batman or Superman?
A: Spider-Man all the way! Batman’s a very close second. Never really got into Superman outside of the movies or TV. I thought the comics were boring and he is pretty much the ultimate nice guy, which makes him more or less unrelatable .
Q: And yet here’s another one from Funny or Die. Check out 10 of the Greatest Yearbook Moments! Which is your favorite? And if you want to actually see the article, I’ll post the link right here for you: .
A: I like the random dog class photo in the yearbook as well as the Mrs. Rape kindergarten photo. I am not making this up. There really is a pic of a teacher with that name. Don’t believe me? Click the link above and see for yourself. Moving right along, I also like the attitude of the kid that said he would take a bullet for his best friend unless he had a hot girlfriend, which is also what I would do. The kid that used the Kim Jong Il quote however is sick.
Q: What’s up with all the ticklish feet questions on Formspring?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Do you prefer to listen to full albums or random songs?
A: Depends on the band and the album. If I just like the one song, I’d rather listen to that and download it than just buy the full album.
Q: Where did you get the shoes you’re wearing?
A: Uh, I bought them at Walmart on clearance… almost a year ago. lol. And no, I’m not gonna take a pic of them.
Q: What is the most important political issue of this election?
A: Right now it looks like a toss-up between the economy and gay marriage.
Q: Who is one of your favorite authors?
A: Stephen King.
Q: Do you like looking in the mirror?
A: Well I’m not vain if that’s what you’re asking.
Q: If you could be any video game character, which character would you be?
A: Max Payne so I use the cool Matrix effects to dodge obstacles.
Q: What’s your favorite romance movie?
A: Romance movies are not really my thing, me being a guy and all but I would have to go with Titanic.
Q: Do you have good vision?
Q: Do you prefer Batman Begins or The Dark Knight?
A: The Dark Knight. But then again I’d take both over Batman and Robin. Then again, I actually liked The Dark Knight Rises over The Dark Knight.
Q: Would you rather go to a pub/bar or a nightclub?
A: Either one as long as they got hot chicks.
Q: Who was the first celebrity you had a crush on?
A: I’d probably have to go with Madonna on this one.
Q: The Simpsons or Futurama?
A: The Simpsons.
Q: The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love. Is it true?
A: Depends on your point of view. But in my opinion independence is more important.
Q: Have you ever seen a ghost?
A: No I have not seen a ghost despite the fact that I have been in haunted places before, like the 1834 Herkimer County Jail here in H-.town. One ghost I was actually hoping to look for was the ghost of Grace Brown up at Big Moose Lake. Her murder up at the lake inspired the classic novel “An American Tragedy” and the film “A Place in the Sun.”
Q: Do you have a dreamcatcher?
Q: Would you rather watch a movie or watch TV?
A: Watch a movie.
Q: Do you need glasses?
Q: Which instrument do you wish you could play?
A: Electric guitar.
Q: Going to a wedding soon?
A: Haven’t been to a wedding and I’m not really planning on going to any in the near future.
Q: Do you wear watches? Why or why not?
A: Not really. My phone’s sort of taken the place of my watch.
Q: Have you been to your country’s capital?
A: Yes. I went to Washington, DC for my 8th grade class trip and that was waaaay back in 1993. We were there for three days.
Q: Are you good at keeping secrets?
A: Depends on what the secret is.
Q: How do you flirt?
A: On the Interwebs.
Q: Is it possible to fly on a violin?
A: Not that I’m aware of.
Q: Do you ever write notes on your hands?
Q: How many pillows do you sleep with?
Q: How many boyfriends/girlfriends have you had?
A: Let’s just say I can count the number of girlfriends on one hand and leave at that, okay?
Q: Describe the worst fart ever.
A: It would probably be like a nuclear explosion, especially if you light a match.
Q: How do you handle a boring class/day of work?
A: One day at a time. Actually, I just work on material for videos.
Q: What game are you the best at pwning face at?
A: Super Mario Bros. 1-3.
Q: Who’s your favorite athlete?
A: Michael Jordan.
Q: Are you looking forward to the Olympics?
A: Well the Olympics have come and gone and the only reason I have to watch the Olympics is to look at all the hot female athletes so you could say that I was pretty excited to see the Olympics.
Q: Who do you consider to be the greatest action star of all time? If it’s too hard, choose 3.
A: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford
Q: What do you use for your alarm to awaken you?
A: An alarm clock although at times it can be unreliable. Other times, I use my phone.
Q: Do you say soda or pop?
Q: Do you like Quentin Tarantino’s work?
A: Yeah, I like Quentin Tarantino. Pulp Fiction is one of my all-time favorite movies. Not sure yet if I want to see Django Unchained (mainly because it’s about slavery) even though I heard that Leo is supposed to be good in that as the evil slave owner. But other than that and the fact that I haven’t seen either Jackie Brown or Reservoir Dogs, I think Tarantino’s one of the awesomest directors ever.
And now let’s move on to the Meetme questions, even though there’s only two of them.
Q: How old do you think you’ll be when you get married?
A: Not getting married even if I do find someone.
Q: Are you single and would you date anybody you meet online?
A: Yeah, I’m single and maybe I’ll date someone I meet online.
And there you go, that is it for the Q & A’s for now while I am at college. That will at least buy me some time to get some more material in case I do more Q & A’s after the semester’s over. In the meantime, TAOB will continue and the movie reviews will continue. So here’s to the new semester.
Well here is the latest Q & A vlog with some more questions that I answered on Formspring and on Myyearbook.com. And as I did in the last Q & A video, I started with the questions from my Formspring account first.
Q: If you could master one talent of your choice instantly, what would you choose?
Q: What’s your favorite clothing brand?
A: I don’t really have one, most notably because I can’t really afford to buy designer brands.
Q: What is your favorite book?
A:Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. A very close second would be Theodore Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy” because it is based on the real-life Chester Gillette murder case in 1906 for which the trial was held right here in H-town.
Q: What was the reason that made you start youtubing, and how long have you been making videos for YouTube?
A: I was inspired by another YouTuber (Mr. Safety) and I was looking for a way to expand what I have been doing on the web (blogging and social networking) and I have been doing YouTube videos for just over 3 years.
Q: What do you think about Charlie Sheen #WINNING?! 🙂
A: No comment, although he makes for good comedy. 😉
Q: What would be your number one relationship-breaker? What is unforgiveable in your book?
Q: What’s the first thing you check when you turn on your computer?
A: My Email.
Q: What part of marriage is the most appealing aspect to you (whether you’re actually married or imagining what the most appealing would be)?
A: Togetherness, even though I am not a firm believer in marriage.
Q: If you could be the president or leader of your country for one day, what would you do?
A: Boost the economy for starters.
Q: How would you describe your personality?
A: In a word: Complex
Q: What is your relationship status? (eg. single/In a relationship/other)
A: Obviously single.
Q: Are you a morning or night person?
A: Night person, partly because of my job.
Q: Do you watch “Unsolved Mysteries” at all?
A: I used to as a kid. I recently found some episodes on YouTube and the most recent episode I watched was the “Grace’s Ghost” episode because it was about the Gillette case and the possibility of the existence of Grace Brown’s ghost at Big Moose Lake. (Yes, folks, I am still planning a video about the Gillette case in the near future.)
And here are the questions from Myyearbook.com:
Q: If you had to give all your money away to a charity, what one would you choose?
A: The American Heart Association because I do the Heart Run every year. Unfortunately, I did not do the Heart Run this year because of the weather.
Q: What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled for April Fools Day?
A: Haven’t really pulled too many pranks.
Q: What story did you have your parents read to you over and over again as a child?
A: I don’t remember.
Q: Who is the worst actor in Hollywood?
A: There’s quite a few… Don’t want to name names, but only to protect the not-so-innocent.
Q: When do checks expire? How long does a person have to cash a check after is it issued?
A: I think it’s like 90 days or something like that.
Q: If you met “the one”, what do you think it would feel like?
A: IDK. I haven’t really been in that situation.
Q: How much does physical attraction matter to you…a lot, a little, or not at all?
A: A lot.
Q: If you joined the circus, what act would you most want to perform?
A: Lion tamer.
And that is pretty much it for this segment. If you want to ask me a question and don’t have a Formspring account, you can ask in the comment section below here on the blog or on the YouTube video page.
Music by Nathan Wills:
There were a wide variety of floats and people in the parade. Most of them had to do with the Revolution and had many marchers dressed in Revolutionary War-era costumes. Some of them were basic floats with bands, clowns, beauty queens and themes that dealt with historic events in Herkimer. There were also military marchers, public officials, and even Ronald McDonald was in the parade.
Of course there was one piece of Herkimer history that was not represented in the parade and that is the piece of history that I am involved in: Two individuals by the name of Chester and Grace. Of course they were last year, but I still think that they should have been represented. There just wasn’t enough interest.
Anyway, I have just uploaded the photos into a new set on my Flickr photo site. I have just added a link to that new set on my profile. It was a lot of fun and I am glad that I went. I didn’t really get to partake in the after-parade party in Myer’s Park afterwards because I had to work that night. Then as I was going into Wally World after a brief stop-off at Mickey D’s, they were having the fireworks display outside. I didn’t really see too much of that because I had to eat dinner before work that night. Besides, fireworks aren’t usually my thing anyway.
In short, it was a pretty enjoyable day.