The Ragged Stranger

Who was the Ragged Stranger?

The Ragged Stranger, an unwitting dupe to Wanderer’s diabolical plan, laid in the morgue for over a year, repeatedly misidentified. At least 16 men, were at one time or another, thought to be the Ragged Stranger.

Was Al Watson the Ragged Stranger? Or Eddie Ryan? Earl Masters? John Maloney? Earl Keesee? Joseph Ahrens? Was he a shell-shocked veteran? A scion of wealth? An orphan? To say there were a few open questions surrounding the Ragged Stranger case would be an understatement. Even now, almost 100 years after the crime, there are still some questions left open to debate.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting the police tried to identify the unknown man in the morgue at Ravenswood Hospital. He was a white male in his early 20’s with a pale complexion, freckles, and light reddish-brown hair that was longer than the style at the time. He had brown eyes above a broad nose centered on a long face with a high forehead. He stood a bit short of six feet tall and weighed 150 pounds.

He wore ragged clothing described as “well-worn and dirty” and of “cheap material” that included a dark coat, a tan army shirt, “bluish” cotton socks, and grey trousers tied up with a safety pin. A black cap was not upon his head but had been brought to the morgue along with his body. He needed a bath yet recently had had a haircut, shave, and manicure as his head was lice free, his face smooth and his hands immaculately clean.

The only money found on the man was 20 cents; one dime, one nickel, and five pennies. He carried commissary ticket #729 in the name of E. Masters issued from the John Robinson Circus dining car and a button for Chicago Chauffeurs Union Local 706 (Nearly every newspaper reported that it was for Chauffeur Union Local 906 though it appears there was no local 906 but rather a Local 706). A Colt M1911 revolver with serial number #C2282 was at his side.

His dead body had four bullet wounds from a .45 revolver shot at a range of one to three feet. Coroner’s physician, W. H. Burmeister, performed the post-mortem on the “unidentified white man” on June 22 at Carroll Undertakers at 4542 N. Ravenswood.

He found that gunshot wound #1 entered just below the xiphoid process (the cartilage-like piece at the bottom of the sternum) and traveled through the stomach and the aorta before it exited his back left of his spinal column.

Gunshot wound #2 entered near his beltline on his left side where it severed the iliac artery and went through the top of his pelvic bone to a slit like exit wound in the middle of his left buttock.

The bullet from gunshot wound #3 entered the left wrist and traveled through the forearm shattering both the ulna and radius bones before lodging near the left elbow.

Gunshot wound #4 was to the left groin three inches below Poupart’s ligament and just above the femoral artery (an area today known as the femoral triangle due to the concentration of vital arteries, veins, and nerves found in the region) and resulted in a large amount of internal bleeding.

Burmeister concluded death was due to “Hemorrhage from gunshot wounds of the body.”

That was all that was known.