Here’s a trio of odd little stories that probably had tongues clucking for a few days in 1910 Santa Rosa:


A farm family on Occidental Road woke up a few days before Christmas to find some of the windows open, hair scattered everywhere and their little girl nearly bald. Eight year-old Aldora Maria Souza insisted a stranger had crept inside late at night and cut off all her locks, leaving her very frightened. (The Press Democrat story mistakenly identifies her as being two years older and named “Madaline,” although the census and other records show neither could be accurate. These misunderstandings might be explained by the family speaking only Portuguese, with the presumed exception of Aldora who was attending country school.)

Authorities took the story seriously and the Deputy Sheriff in Sebastopol organized a posse to search for the deranged man. No one was found, but they heard there was a rumor she told a schoolmate that she was planning to cut off her hair, and supposedly she had once before told a similar story about an attack by a mad barber.

The PD reporter, writing rather skillfully in the tone of a parent trying to coax a child into admitting a fib, made it clear everyone believed little Aldora whacked off her own curls and made the crazy story up. Gentle Reader certainly believes the same, I’m sure. But in the next column on that page of the Press Democrat was a story about a Santa Rosa dragnet for Ray Glatfelder, a young criminal who escaped police custody the same night as Aldora’s haircut. An interesting detail about Mr. Glatfelder’s escape: He was wearing handcuffs at the time.

Ray Glatfelder

(RIGHT: Not long after his escape, the Press Democrat published Ray Glatfelder’s picture in an unusual “wanted criminal” item. As far as can be determined, Glatfelder was never captured.)

Ray Glatfelder was certainly more enterprising than the usual dumb clucks who made up Santa Rosa’s criminal class. Two years earlier, when he was 19 or 20, he had escaped from the county jail by digging through the wall of his cell and lowering himself from the second floor by means of knotted bedsheets. Captured a few weeks later, he was sent to the Preston School of Industry, the toughest reform school in the state – literally a San Quentin for children. When he escaped in handcuffs from Santa Rosa police in 1910, he had been recently discharged from Preston and was being arrested for burglary.

So it’s surely a coincidence that Glatfelder escaped the same night Aldora’s hair was chopped off a few hours later. It was another coincidence that there would be two simultaneous manhunts in Sonoma County the next day. (Had that ever happened before?) And it’s against all odds that a guy who happened to be a burglar and needed to steal a hacksaw or file would be clever enough to use a little child as a diversion to cover up his theft. The chances were even remote that readers would find any possible connections between the two stories that appeared side by side on the same page of the Press Democrat.



Man passes a fellow walking down the street and thinks, hey, I’ve got a suit just like that in my closet. Not anymore.



It was 3 o’clock in the morning when George Forepaugh woke up the Assistant District Attorney with startling news: Herman Hankel had killed himself.

The 43 year-old Hankel was a well-known figure in Santa Rosa, serving as a policeman on the town’s five man force starting around 1890 (he continued to serve at least up to 1926) and his adventures have been mentioned often in this journal. He was identified in the articles below as a “former police officer” because for reasons unknown – bad health? – he was not on the force in the years around 1910-1911, and was listed as unemployed in the 1910 census.

Forepaugh told the Assistant D. A. he was roused from sleep by his landlady. Her sister, Mrs. Julia Hankel, had phoned to say that Herman was upset about some property matter and told her he was going to commit suicide. He took his gun and went outside. She told her sister she heard a shot. Julia begged her sister for help, and she in turn woke up her tenant who in turn woke up the D. A. The men went to the Hankel home and looked about, finding no corpse in the yard. They were all gathered in the house and Forepaugh was about to telephone the police when in walked Herman, not dead at all and with a revolver in his hand. Forepaugh bolted out the door as fast as he could.

The next day, the Hankels were in fast rewind: No, there was no suicide threat and no shot fired, Julia said, effectively calling her sister a liar. No, Herman said, he had no gun (although the Asst. D. A. told the Press Democrat that Hankel was indeed armed). A followup item in the PD stated “The trouble is said to have grown out of family differences,” leaving readers to scratch their collective heads, pondering if the sister-in-law might have whipped up a story because of some sort of vendetta against Herman or Julia, or maybe tensions were generally explosive in the Hankel household because of his lack of work or other issues (Julia was a respected dressmaker, so the family had some income in that period).

And what of poor Mr. Forepaugh, who apparently was dragged from his bed and thrown into act III of the turgid Hankel melodrama? Why did he quickly flee when Herman appeared? Did he have some connection with Julia or Herman that involved him in their “family differences?” The next day, Herman spotted Forepaugh on the street and tried to beat him up. Herman was restrained by a crowd and arrested for assault, taken to jail by one of his former fellow officers.

“The story was being discussed about the streets last night,” the Press Democrat observed. I’ll bet it was.

As a bonus oddity, to the right is one of the ads that appeared in the 1910 Santa Rosa papers for Professor Whittier, exhibition roller skater; presumably he’s about to jump over those mismatched kitchen chairs instead of staring them into submission. But what’s with the “coast to death?” His big trick sounds risky yet oddly nonchalant. Perhaps he was imitating another performer who had a stunt called the “roll to doom” or “glide to the grave” or something.

Girl’s Story as to Attack By Man Armed With Scissors Believed to Be Fanciful

Did ten year-old Madaline Souza, daughter of a farmer residing some miles from Sebastopol on the old Occidental road take a pair of scissors and cut off her golden tresses or did some mischievous man ruthlessly despoil her flowing head of hair? Is the story she tells fanciful or real?

Madaline says a man, a stranger, who cut off a portion of her locks some time since, returned to her home on Tuesday night and completed the job, leaving her all shorn. Officers and others are inclined to believe that little Madaline, who attends the district school in her neighborhood, fancies all this.

When it comes to the fact that her hair has been cut there is realism beyond peradventure of a doubt in that ocular demonstration is sufficient to prove that part of the case.

At any rate when the girl’s family arose they found some of the windows, shuttered and barred on the previous night, were open Wednesday morning. They found Madaline’a hair strewn about here and there, and were met with the girl’s declaration that during the night a man, the same one who on a previous occasion had cut off a part of her hair, had returned and had broken into the house, finished the hair-cutting, and had departed, leaving her very frightened.

When the news spread through the community Wednesday morning, a posse was formed to find the alleged bad man hair-cutter, and Deputy Sheriff Fred R. Matthews of Sebastopol headed and directed the search among the Occidental hills and dales for the culprit. The search lasted all day and by nightfall the searchers had found nothing and were of the opinion, some of them at least, that Madaline had allowed her imagination, to run rampant, especially when a rumor reached their ears that another school girl had been told by the Souza girl that she intended cutting off her hair.

Things had quieted down a boit in the neighborhood Wednesday night and the earlier rumors of the daytime to the effect that an insane man had cut the girl’s hair were allowed to pass. Inquiry at Sebastopol on Wednesday night elicited the information that the girl was apparently the only one who had seen the strange man with the naughty scissors.

– Press Democrat, December 22, 1910
Hunt all Day and Night By Officers Fails to Locate Self-Confessed Burglar

Up to an early hour this morning Ray Glatfelder, self-confessed burglar, who on Tuesday night made his escape with handcuffs clasped about his wrists, had not been captured, despite the silly rumors that were afloat as to his death and arrest.

The officers were on the alert all day Wednesday and at night but he could not be found anywhere. He is believed to be hiding somewhere in town.

– Press Democrat, December 22, 1910
Man Prides Himself on His Taste as Dresser When He Sees How Well Another Man Looks–Burglar

Supposing you had a natty suit of clothes hanging in your closet at home, and one day while you were out for a drive you met a stylishly dressed man wearing a suit of the same pattern and cut as your own, and after congratulating yourself on your idea of taste in the selection of clothes you were to return home several hours later to find that during your absence a burglar had ransacked the house and among other things had carried off your new suit, and knowing that you had passed that burglar and suit on the road, wouldn’t it jar you?

In brief this is just what happened to E. H. Johanssen, who resides in the Sonoma Valley, near Sonoma. He recognized a suit of clothes that he could have sworn was his on the anatomy of another man and when he returned home he found that a burglar had visited the house during his absence and had carried off many articles of value including the suit of clothes he had just bought.

The burglar had a good start and though the officers were notified soon after the discovery of the burglary he had made his get-away. If Johanssen meets that suit out walking there will be something doing, though.

– Press Democrat, June 26, 1910
Assistant District Attorney Hoyle Called from Bed at Early Morn by Startled Resident

Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle was called from his slumbers about 3 o’clock Monday morning and informed that his neighbor, former Police Officer Herman Hankel had shot himself at his home nearby.

An immediate investigation was made by Mr. Hoyle and George Forepaugh, who had given the alarm, but as nothing could be found of the supposed suicide’s body. Forepaugh started to summon the police. He was just in the act when the supposed dead man appeared upon the scene with a gun, and Forepaugh mad his escape with dispatch, declaring afterwards that the doorway was not nearly wide enough for him.

There are various stories regarding the affair, but from them all it would appear that Hankel had been having some trouble over property rights, and finally informed his wife that he would end it all by killing himself. Telling her farewell he took his gun and going outside the house fired the weapon into the air. As Hankel failed to return, Mrs. Hankel feared he had carried out his threat.

Mrs. Hankel called up her sister, Mrs. Georgia Redwine, and informed her of the facts as she understood them. Mrs. Redwine called Forepaugh, who rooms in her lodging house, and asked him to find the body of the suicide. Forepaugh apparently did not relish the job, and so involved the aid of Assistant District Attorney Hoyle. Not being able to find the remains they were looking for, Forepaugh went to the telephone to summon the police and was just calling the number when the supposed dead man made his appearance. This cut short the investigation.

The story was being discussed about the streets last night, but when called upon Mrs. Hankel denied that there was any truth in the report of attempted suicide, and denied that she had heard any shot fired during the night or morning.

Forepaugh, however, tells the story as related above, and Assistant District Attorney Hoyle admits being called by Forepaugh with the statement that Hankel had killed himself, admits that he assisted Forepaugh in the search for Hankel’s dead body and admits he was present when Hankel came back into the house carrying a revolver in his hand.

– Press Democrat, June 22, 1910

Former Police Officer Herman Hankel assaulted George Forepaugh on the public street last night, and was arrested by Officer Yeager and taken to the police station, where he gave bail for his appearance this morning. Hankel is a large man and would make two or three of Forepaugh, but bystanders prevented any serious results. The trouble is said to have grown out of family differences.

Hankel Denies the Report

Former Police Officer Herman Hankel called at the Press Democrat office Thursday night and denied the report that he recently threatened to commit suicide. He maintains that he did not have a gun, and no gun was fired.

– Press Democrat, June 24, 1910

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