Journalism kills you, but it keeps you alive as long as you're doing it.
Few crime reporters ever had the poor luck of Henry G. Trickey. The young, star-crossed journalist who loved covering murder cases for the Boston Globe--back in the day when it was a sensationalist rag and blood dripped from its headlines--managed to get himself so caught up in hoaxes and scandals that they sent him to an early grave.
Before journalism killed him, Trickey, born in 1868, was the second son of a railroad station agent in Massachusetts. The bright young man graduated from Belmont High School in 1884 and went straight on to the staff of the Globe. After entering the reporting field as a teenager, he quickly came to enjoy a tremendous reputation as one of the most aggressive reporters in New England. He traveled the country writing stories for the Globe, such as a piece that took him to Utah to discover the Mormon response to a new federal anti-bigamy law. One of his better known coups involved Jefferson Davis; Trickey managed to get a rare interview with the former Confederate president.
Trickey distinguished himself particularly during the murder trial of T. Thatcher Graves, M.D. (read my post about the Infamous Dr. Graves here.) Dr. Graves was accused of poisoning a wealthy patient for her money. In an interview with Trickey, Dr. Graves maligned his dead patient as an adulteress. Trickey ended up taking the witness stand at Dr. Graves's murder trial in Denver and disclosing all the nasty things that Thatcher Graves said about the dead woman. On cross-examination, the doctor's lawyers tried to show that Trickey was not above sending fake telegrams to potential witnesses to get them to reveal information to him (something the Boston Herald's man would confess to doing), but Trickey (rather unconvincingly) denied participating in his colleague's shenanigans.
Then in 1892, when Andrew and Abby Borden were killed only months after the affair with Dr. Graves, Trickey set up shop in Fall River and threshed the town for an exclusive. These were the days, mind you, when scoops and sensations and circulation wars dominated the industry, when a family-owned newspaper could make a literal fortune on a single edition with a hot story. And the Borden case was the most riveting crime story New England had seen in a generation, the "crime of the century" at a time when the phrase really meant something. So it came to be that a few months before the Borden trial was to begin, Henry Trickey paid a private detective named Edwin D. McHenry $500 for insider information about the Borden investigation. The new information explained everything: according to the detective, who was working with the Fall River public detectives, Lizzie had a lover (!) and this lover had gotten her pregnant (!!) and her pregnancy caused her father to threaten to throw her out of the house and disinherit her (!!!) and she therefore had a powerful motive to kill her folks.
McHenry's story was completely fabricated--sloppily so, in fact; the names and addresses of witnesses were made up--and this should have been easy to detect in a five-minute consultation with the Fall River city directory. Even Mrs. Borden's first name was spelled wrong. But the story wasn't ever fact-checked, even when the holes were obvious. If Lizzie had gotten pregnant... what happened to the baby? Did she... (insert Victorian Gasp) .... But Henry's editors never seriously questioned the story. They were too excited. The Boston Globe proudly trumpeted the shocking material on its front page and more pages inside and sold newspapers by the hundreds of thousands, creating a frenzy on the streets of New England.
Then the flood of denials came. It was soon apparent that the story was all bosh.
The same grand jury that indicted Lizzie Borden also indicted Henry Trickey. The exact charge is still not known to this day; the proceedings were secret and all records apparently destroyed, for Trickey was never taken into custody or arraigned. And the very curious thing is that Trickey was not indicted for his role in the fake Globe story--or so it was insisted by grand jurors who leaked some of the truth. So what, exactly, did Henry G. Trickey do to get himself criminally charged? Some rumors had it that he allegedly tried to tamper with an important witness, the Bordens' maid, Bridget Sullivan, perhaps attempting to bribe her to leave the country and make herself unavailable as a defense witness. But some said that he was indicted for tampering with an official in the employ of the government, which doesn't describe Miss Sullivan.
After learning that he was under indictment, Henry Trickey jumped the country, adopted the temporary name Henry Melzar, and wound up at the Grand Trunk station in Hamilton, Ontario. While trying to catch a moving train, he "stumbled and fell" beneath the wheels of a locomotive, which killed him "almost instantly," according to the Globe. The strange accident suggested suicide or at least reckless indifference to his own life. Or was he hunted to his death by overzealous detectives? The Globe was always a bit reluctant to tell the full story. And the exact reason he was indicted, the "confessedly highly sensational facts" that threatened to put him in prison (Fitchburg Sentinel), may forever remain a mystery wrapped in the Borden enigma.
More than 130 years after its founding, the Boston Globe of today is easily one of the most respected newspapers in the United States. But it is said that the ghost of Henry Trickey walks its halls.
Newspaper Story: One Hundred Years of the Boston Globe by Louis M. Lyons. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1971.
The Lizzie Borden Sourcebook by David Kent and Robert A. Flynn, Eds. Boston: Branden Publishing Co., 1992. This is the best book ever written--I should say, compiled--about the Lizzie Borden case. It is a collection of newspaper articles about the crime from dozens of newspapers that covered the affair from beginning to end. Let's just say they don't write crime coverage like they used to.
The Lizzie Andrew Borden Crime Library (featuring photos and brief biographies of Trickey and McHenry)
"Return of No Bill Expected From the Jury in the Case of Lizzie Borden; Mr. Trickey the Central Figure," The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel, Nov. 26, 1892.
"For Double Murder. Lizzie Borden is Indicted by the Grand Jury; Hatchet Said to Have Been Found; A Report that Henry G. Trickey Has Also Been Indicted," The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel, Dec. 3, 1892.
"Henry Trickey Dead; He Received Considerable Notoriety in the Borden Case ," The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel, Dec. 5, 1892.
"Jurors Are Talking," The Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel, Dec. 6, 1892.