Emma's Ghost

An interesting story from the later part of the 1800's shows how a murder of a young girl impacted many people for quite a long time afterward.


Chester Folk Have A Ghost

Murdered Young Emma Pfitzenmeyer's Spirit Now Turns Up

Hair-Raising Experience of Members of the Rumford Family

They Visit The Room In Which The Pretty Girl Met Her Death and Have A Lively and Very Interesting Time With A Spook

Special to the Inquirer

Chester, Feb. 26. -- The Schmidt residence, where that pretty German girl, Emma Pfitzenmeyer, lost her life after she had returned from a dance, has leaped into prominence again, and this time because the "ghost" of the murdered girl insists upon roaming about to the great consternation of those in the neighborhood.

Emma wasn't the kind of girl that would be likely to trouble the living, but after her tragic end it was some time before the owner of the Schmidt residence could get a tenant. Those persons who happened to be looking for a house were not afraid of ghosts, no indeed, but they didn't like to live in such places.

No Fear of Spirits

Finally a family came along that didn't care a cent for spooks, rather liked the idea, in fact. So a short time ago, John Rumford, his wife and 19-year-old daughter Mattie moved in. It wasn't long before Mrs. Rumford and a married daughter began to tell their friends about the unusual scenes in the house. They went so far as to say they had seen the ghost of some girl meandering around inthe roms. Mattie and her father laughed. "Rank nonsense," they called it.

Tuesday evening, however, the final blow came. It was about 9 o'clock when Mattie was asked to go upstairs and get a wrap for her older sister. Mattie started and what followed can best be told in her own words. Here is the story as she told it to the Inquirer correspondent:

She Saw Something

"There is one gas jet in the room and this was lit and turned down very low. As I entered the door of the room something came from the closet. It had long waving hair, and resembled Emma Pfitzenmeyer. I held out my hand t see if it was not some mistake , and it uttered the most piercing shrieks. I made a rush from the room, and as I put my foot on the first step I am positive I felt some one take hold of my arm.

After that I remember nothing until I recovered consciousness.

Her mother here related how they had picked her up at the bottom of the stairs unconscious, bleeding profusely from the mouth, and one of her feet badly sprained. The other members of the house are equally as positive as Miss Mattie, concerning the presence of soem mysterious being in the house.

She Saw Emma

Mrs. Rumford said, "I have seen the form of Emma Pfitzenmeyer, that ill-fated German girl, standing at the foot of my bed. I did not know the girl in life, but as she appeared to me she was of medium height, with light hair which hung loosely over her shoulders. On another occasion my husband was in the room with me. I called his attention to it, and as I did so, it vanished, leaving only a ring of smoke. He saw this and nervously opened the door to see where it had gone. At various times I have seen the hand and arm of a woman in different parts of the room. I do not believe in ghosts, neither do any of the family, but this has given us a terrible shock."

Source: 1892-02-27 The Philadelphia Inquirer


If the mystery of Emma's murder was ever solved, I haven't been able to find any further info. Her sister, Caroline, and brother-in-law, were originally charged with the murder but were both acquitted at the trial in April of 1891. The background of the story is covered in this old article:


Murder Beyond Doubt

The Theory of Chester's Bloody Mystery Sustained By Facts

Funeral of the Girl Victim

Jealousy, Hate and Revenge the Motives of the Deed

Arrests Looked For In A Day

Fredrick Schmidt and his Wife Relate Minute Circumstances of the Events of the Fatal Night and the Physicians Develop Some Damaging Facts

"Who murdered Emma Pfitzenmyer?"

Almost everyone in Chester is repeating these words. And they ask who murdered the girl because the events of the past two days have proved that the pretty German, whose bloody death is a strange puzzle to the authorities, was slain, and foully so at that, beyond the shadow of doubt. There are a few in Chester who cling to the idea that it is a suicide and those are mainly several who have veiled themselves in mystery, and say suicide because they are depending upon the clues run out by newspaper men to aid them in their searches.

Look Out For Arrests

"Look out for an arrest and possibly two arrests in connection with this affair within forty-eight hours."

An oficial who is following out a clue of his own gave this warning to an Inquirer reporter late last night, after a final conference between the Coroner, the District Attorney and Drs. Jefferis and Forwood, of Chester, and Dr. Formad, the Coroner's physician of this city, had been concluded. "I do not say the arrests will be made." he added, "but I expect they will be, and the developments will show that jealousy, hatred and revenge figured in the commission of the deed."

No crime in the calendar of the busy little city's violent deaths has excited Chester as has the mysterious butchery of Emma Pfitzenmyer. By what agency an assassin could have been secreted in the chamber in which the girl was murdered is one of the elements of the tragedy that cannot be explained, as no person but Emma and her married sister, Mrs. Frederick Schmidt, had access to the house, and they were at the hall of the Singing Society. Frederick Schmidt, the brother-in-law, was downstairs sleeping, according to his statements, and did not hear the girl enter the house just before she met her death. They each carried a key - Mrs. Schmidt the store key and Emma the key to the hall door.

Loud Voices and A Scuffle

It was reported that Miss Jeanes, who keeps a trimming store on Third street and sleeps on the second floor of her brother's picture frame store, at 702 Edgemont street, next door to the house where the girl met her death, had heard sounds of a struggle and loud voices just before the murder, but when questioned last night she said the report was false and the first intimation she had of a crime was the next morning.

The authorities had ordered everybody in the slightest way connected with the case not to say a word to inquirers of the particulars, and as a consequence, there is a silence about the affair as thick as a fog. But last night Fredrick Schmidt and his wife, who discovered the dead body of her sister, made full and complete statrements of the whole affair. It was the first time Mrs. Schmidt opened her mouth to speak of the tragedy to an outsider, and Schmidt said to the reporter:

"This is the only complete account I have given to any one." he told the story from the time of the girl leaving the house to be taken to the ball up to the finding of the body by his wife, and Mrs. Schmidt related every circumstance connected with the affair that she was in any way connected with. The Schmidt family were at the home of Otto Walther, the husband of Mrs. Schmidt's sister, 1013 Parker street, and it was there that they were interviewed last night. Schmidt told a straightforward story and said that he and his sister-in-law were alone in the dining room for a few moments when she came home the first time, but that she did not even enter the room when she came back to look at the baby a second time, but went upstairs and never came down alive.

Emma's Movements Before Death

Karl Pfitenmyer and the dead girl left the Schmidt's house about 8 o'clock on Wednesday evening to go to the ball. Mrs. Schmidt and her sister, Mrs. Otto Walther, went an hour later, leaving Schmidt in charge of the baby Otto, in company with the boy, Forrest Miller. In the stories of Forrest Miller one essential point differs.The lad in his statement says that he was sitting in his room writing when Emma came in and asked for the baby and Schmidt says that either the boy is mistaken or that Emma made three visits to the house, for the first timet hat he saw her after leaving for the ball was after the boy had gone to bed.

"I had gone upstairs to get the baby and bring him down and he had been sleeping on the sofa, " said Mr. Schmidt, "when Emma came in and said: "Can Carrie stay at the ball a little longer?" I said yes and Emma came over and looked at the baby. She stayed in the room for a few moments and she had left the hall door open and when she was half way up the stairs I asked her why and she said she was going out again. I thought Emma was upstairs after a shawl as she came home from the ball without a hat or a wrap on. After being upstairs for a few moments she went out through the hall. In doing this she had to walk past several barrels that stood in the hallway and I do not see how any one could go past them in a hurry without making a noise.

"I was dozing and I judge, about 11 o'clock when she came back again. I did not hear her enter this time, but was awakened by her voice and saw her standing in the door way. She asked me again how the baby was and when I told her alright she started upstairs again. She did not have a wrap or a hat on this time either. I heard her moving around above. I fell into a doze again, and was awakened by hearing a noise as if a chair had fallen. Then I fell off again and slept until I heard a rattle at the store door, and getting up I went toward the front where I met my wife half way. We went toward the kitchen together and she said, "Emma soon comes home." "Emma is home", I answered, and was often their habit, my wife started upstairs to talk with Emma before going to bed. Mt wife soon screamed, and on running upstairs I saw that something terrible had happened."

The Sister's Story

Here Mrs. Schmidt and her sister, Mrs. Otto Walther, were overcome and for a few moments no one could speak a word. Then as the former regained her self-composure she told what she knew of her sister's movemetns. "As soon as I arrived at the ball I gave Emma the key to the hall, keeping the store door key for myself. Pretty soon I began to get worried about the baby and said I would go home to look after him. Emma was with me and said: Caroline, let me go home; you stay here and enjoy yourself." I let her go and she came back soon and said Fred told her I could stay. About 11 o'clock I thought I would go home and she again offered to go down home for me.

"I allowed her to, and did not notice whether she came back or not. When I came home and found out from my husband that Emma was home and upstairs, I started up to see her. I went to the door of her room. It was open but there was no light. She used to wash and dress in my room, because it was warmer than hers and lighter. There was a German candle-taper burning on the bureau in my room and as I opened the door - which was tightly shut - I saw Emma laying on the floor, her head toward the door and her body stretched out on a line with the bureau. As she was subject to cramps I thought it was an attack and picked her head up in my arm. Then I saw how limp she was and flet the warm blood come through my dress. By the light of the candle I also saw she was dead, and screamed. My husband came running up the stairs, and we thought a burglar had broken into the house and killed her."

"When I saw the cheese knife on the floor and Emma's clothes lying around and her jewelry scattered," said Schmidt, "I told my wife we must give an alarm and go for the doctor. It was as much as I could do to get her away from the body. She clung to it, crying and moaning. Then we both started down the street to tell Brother Karl, whom we met coming from the ball. We broke the news to him and he took my wife home while I started for Dr. Ulrichs He was sick and could not come and I got Dr. Graham and told Policeman Stringer what had happened."

Inspecting the Scene of the Murder

Mayor Coates, Officer Stringer and the Inquirer Representative entered the house where the murder was committted and made a minute examination of the premises. Offier Stringer told how the body lay when he was called in and how every circumstance pointed to murder. He told how the cheese knife lay straight along the bureau on the floor, with only one side smeared with blood, and about the finding of a piece of show paper which had evidently been wrapped around a long knife with a knife blade an inch wide. He also pointed out the exact position in which the girl lay, with her head towards the door, and where her clothing was found. Officer Stringer said that Undertaker Crumbie's statement to the effect that he had made the blood marks on the door knob was not correct, because they were there when he came upstairs.

Here is one strange incident in connection with the affair. It will be remembered that the door was fond tightly shut by Mrs. Schmidt, according to her statement, and that a handmark of blood was upon the outside. Officer Stringer explained how the clean linen hanging over the chair had been smeared with fresh blood, as if a hand had been drawn over them.

Fallacy of a Suicide Theory

To show the fallacy of the suicide theory it is only necessary to say that the cheese knife with which the girl is said to have committed the deed is nearly two inches wide, with a blunt point, and the straight, keen knife which caused death was plunged directly from the back deep into the neck with a strong arm, and it is only an inch wide. This proves question that the blow was not self-inflicted and that whoever made the fatal thrust did it with the sharp knife carried in the straw paper found by Officer Stringer, and then, after stabbing and hacking the girl's throat, in desperation tore off her clothes, smeared one side of the cheese knife with blood and laid it carefully on the floor beside the girl's body, near her jewelry, to make it appear like suicide.

The physician's examiniation revealed one important fact yesterday, and that was that the girl had criminal relations with some one less than twenty-four hours before her death. The theory that she was assaulted is scouted by all, as there were no marks of violence on her person, beyond the knife wounds about her throat and a small bruise on her left leg above the knee.

The victim was buried in Chester Rural Cemetery yesterday afternoon, from the residence of her brother-in-law, Otto Walther. Rev. Charles Jeffries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, officiated, Martin Eichel, Elwood Klingerburg, Julius Fingst and August Sentt were pall bearers. Crowds of curious people besieged the house and cemetery.

The Love Theory

"Did the girl have a lover, who jealously murdered her?"

This theory has been advanced by not a few, and it must be admitted that there might be some grounds for such thoughts. Until six months ago, she had been acquainted with George Dubehorn, a young butcher of South Chester, and according to the statements of Otto Watlher, this man called upon her twice while she was living at his house. Emma kept house for him while his wife was in Germany.

But the family were not inclined to favor the young man's attentions and his visits ceased. It is positively stated that she did nto see any male admirers at the ball, and Mr. Howarth, with whom Emma lived in service until two weeks ago, said last night that during her term there she had not a single male visitor.

"Incidents have come to my mind since the death of Emma," said Frederiick Schmidt, "Which make me think that she may have killed herself while in a fit of melancholy. Not long ago when my wife was out, I heard Emma groan and going out into the kitchen where she was asked her what was the matter. She did not hear me and seemed to be lost in thoguht. After she regained her composure she did not remember giving vent to her feelings."

There is a phase in the case which, if developed by an arrest within twenty-four hours, will disclose a state of affairs with which the girl was connected that will settle once and for all the possible motive for the murder. Meanwhile the authorities are struggling with theories and the chapter of yesterday closed last night with a second post-mortem, held at the cemetery.

Reference: 1890-12-07 The Philadelphia Inquirer