The Lady of Ossining
By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
The shadow of Sing Sing prison cast it's dreaded pall over the mysterious death of a young woman whose decapitated body was found 500 feet from Ossining railroad station.
February 21, 1906
She was wearing a steel gray tailor suit with a white shirt wait and black laced shoes with French heels. A fur stole surrounded her neck, and her black hat was trimmed with two black plumes and a white feather. Her hands were shapely and the nails were well kept. On her fingers she wore two rings, one with a pearl and the other with five sapphires surrounded by diamonds. Her dark auburn hair had three gold and amber side-combs in them, and she had dark eyes. The majority of her teeth were filled or crowned with gold. Her lower teeth were natural.
A beautiful, wealthy stranger that died a horrific death filled the headlines across the country, however despite the publicity no one was quick to step up and give her a name.
Not only was her head severed but the right arm was found between the south and northbound tracks.
It was known that she was struck by the Albany Express that passed through the station at 8 p.m. the evening before. Blood was splattered on the pilot of the engine when it arrived at the Grand Central Station. When the body was struck, the train was traveling at such a high rate of speed that none of the passengers or the crew noticed.
The auburn-haired lady arrived on the noon train at Ossining from the city. She was seen hurrying up the hill in the direction of the prison. Her unusual good looks caused her appearance to be remembered. A hackman said she carried a small handbag held by a gold chain. After she vanished up the hill no one in the town could remember seeing her again.
Conductor Newhouse stumbled over the body at about 9:30 p.m. There was no evidence of her reticule. Her jacket was gone as well as the arm that had been ripped from the body.
The absence of her purse led the police to believe it was a case of murder, and the officials at the prison did not remember her visiting at all. State Detective Jackson said he was positive the woman never came to Sing Sing prison as a visitor. So why was she there?
Where she was found was halfway between the station and the north gate of Sing Sing prison, which was the last place a woman would be found at night. The New York Central tracks lay between the Hudson River, and a rocky cliff 70 feet straight up to the winding prison road.
"To reach there otherwise than by dropping off a train the woman must have walked or been carried through the maze of tracks in the freight yards and past the station or else been put ashore from a boat."
James Gallagher, the towerman, only 100 feet away from the scene saw no pedestrian in his vicinity that night.
The body was taken to Ramsdall's Morgue where the coroner, John F. Sellick would make his investigation. There was no wound on the body except by the neck where it had been severed. She was about 5'3" to 5'6" and weighed about 150 pounds. Her age was estimated to be about 25 to 35 years.
While she was at the morgue, many of the townspeople came by to see her, and no one recognized her features.
Soon there was a theory that the woman at the tracks was Mrs. Durwood H. Martin, since she matched the description of the lady on the tracks.
The villagers wondered about the action of a woman dressed in purple who visited the prison, and then was seen at the Weskora Hotel and in George Dempsey's saloon. She wrote several letters at the hotel, and said she was the wife of a man named Martin who kept a restaurant on Broadway opposite the Hotel Astor. She was last seen the evening before the dead woman's body was found. Her husband's restaurant had been burned, and he fled to to Mexico after getting in trouble over a check. He had returned only a short time before. He was arrested, pled guilty and was sentenced to Sing Sing Prison.
The police believed there was no connection between the two women, however any hope of identifying the dead woman was not discounted.
The hopes were dashed when on February 25 , Mrs. Martin communicated with her relatives to say she was very much alive and staying in Schenectady.
There was another theory where it was believed the lady fell from a passing train which explained why she was not wearing a coat, gloves or had a handbag. Perhaps she was passing from one car to another and fell between the cars.
Was the Lady of Ossining a victim of murder, accident or suicide? Her name along with the answer to that question remains unknown.
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Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer