Sherlock's Danger Night

A Sherlock Inspiration for the Glycerine Molecule Scene: The Lindbergh Kidnapping

A kidnapping of the child of a wealthy family. Footprints on a nursery floor. A trace of glycerine visible under microscope. A German connection. Sound familiar? All these elements were part of  one of the most famous crimes of the 20th Century, the kidnapping Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr., the infant son of the famed aviator, Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

About the Kidnapping

The 20-month-old toddler was abducted from his family home in East Amwell, New Jersey, near the town of Hopewell, New Jersey, on the evening of March 1, 1932. Over two months later, on May 12, 1932, his body was discovered a short distance from the Lindberghs’ home. A medical examination determined that the cause of death was a massive skull fracture.

After an investigation that lasted more than two years, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested and charged with the crime. In a trial that was held from January 2 to February 13, 1935, Hauptmann was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. He was executed by electric chair at the New Jersey State Prison on April 3, 1936, at 8:44 in the evening. Hauptmann proclaimed his innocence to the end.

It was the discovery of glycerine and emory left behind on a ransom bill that led the New York City’s Toxicologist to conclude that the Lindbergh baby kidnapper used an emory wheel to grind tools. Authorities concluded from this and handwriting samples that the kidnapper must be a German mechanic.  Hauptmann, a match, was apprehended, convicted, and sentenced to death for his role. This is one of the first famous cases “cracked” by the use of chemistry and toxicology.

Any doubt about the connection? Take a look at this December 1934 Popular Mechanics article, “Sherlock Holmes Returns" about how the detectives in the case were modern-day Sherlocks.

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