John Maloney

After having tracked down Earl Masters the police determined that the John Robinson Circus commissary ticket found on the body of the Ragged Stranger had been in a jacket Masters had lent to fellow circus worker John Maloney. The police determined that without telling any of his fellow workers, Maloney had left the circus in Duluth, Minnesota, and made his way to Chicago with Earl Masters’ jacket on his back and the commissary card in his pocket.

Maloney might have been trying to escape a past that had left a wide wake. The show in Duluth was the second to last show in Minnesota before the John Robinson Circus crossed the border into Canada for a string of eight shows. The fact that Maloney had a felony manslaughter conviction on his record would likely have presented problems at the border getting into Canada.

Chicago Daily Tribune from July 12, 1920.


After deserting his wife Maloney bounced from job to job and in early June 1920 was employed by the John Robinson Circus as a wagon driver. He was working as such the night of June 14, in Duluth, Minnesota when two white teenagers falsely accused some black roustabouts from the circus of rape.

Seven Negro circus workers were charged with the rape despite detectives being told by the woman’s doctor that after examining her he did not believe she was raped and suffered from nothing more than “nervous exhaustion”.

A mob estimated near 10,000 faced little resistance and overran the jail and pulled three young men from their cells, dragged them through a gauntlet of angry men, women, and children before ultimately running a rope up over a light pole and lynching the three men downtown Duluth.

In the end, three white men were convicted of rioting, with none serving longer than two years in jail.

No one was ever convicted for the lynching murder of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie.

While it would appear the only guilty parties in Duluth that night were a pair of teenagers and a mob, the fact that Maloney abandoned the circus after the lynching on June 15, arrived in Chicago on June 18, and had the jacket he was wearing wind up in another front-page murder on June 21 begs belief.

Despite his proximity to both crimes, John Maloney was stout, with black hair and in his mid-thirties. The body in the morgue was slight in build with red hair and in his early-twenties. John Maloney was not the Ragged Stranger.

The police were back to square one.