When a colleague asked whether I had read Sunday's story about the impending demise of the Chicago Daily News, I said I had not. Stories about newspapers faced with bankruptcy depress me, and I try to avoid them.
"The guy who wrote it," said my friend, "mentioned Bob Casey's great lead on the Anna Hahn murder case. Didn't you cover that one too?"
Yes, I was there. My typewriter in te courthouse press room had been between those of two of the best known reporters of the day, Robert J. Casey and George Dixon. During the 30 days the trial ran, I learned more from them than I had learned during four years of college.
Naturally, I had to look through our back issues to find out what the man from the Daily News had written about the Hahn trial. This is what I found:
"This one (was) written by Robert J. Casey, in 1938, when a woman went on trial in Indiana for disposing of a succession of husbands for their money: 'Anna Marie Hahn's 11 husband came to court today - 10 of them is glass jars and one in a blue serge suit.'"
Well, that's what comes of quoting from memory. It wasn't husbands dear Anna was found guilty of Poisoning with arsenic; it was lonely old unmarried men. Anna's husband knew nothing of her activities, and he was the one who attended her trial in a blue serge suit. Another small detail was also askew in the writer's memory: The prosecution referred to four victims, not 11, and the prosecuting attorney had begun his final argument before the jury with the word's, "In the four corners of this room stand four dead men." And oh, yes - one more thing. In those days, Cincinnati was in Ohio, not Indiana.
But I will have to agree that the original version, in which Casey had his facts straight, really was a helluva lead - the kind a man tends to commit to memory. A lead that sticks in my mind was on a United Press story written smack on deadline. Its first paragraph said: "A stiffening corpse and a mudied pool of blood in the filth of an alley were all that were left today of John Dillinger, arch criminal of modern time." I hope somebody doesn't tell me I remembered that one wrong.