HLOM: New exhibit explores the Linden murders

Oct 9, 2017

It was a peaceful hamlet, before the string of murders began in 1917.

Today many people may still remember the stories of the unsolved Linden Murders. The Holland Land Museum is very happy to announce that its latest exhibit will be on the murders and will open in October. People may visit the museum to see if they can shed any light on the murders that have been referred to as perfect crimes.

The first murder happened in 1917, seven miles away from Linden in the town of Bethany. In Hunt’s Woods a young woman, 30 years old, was found fully dressed, face up in the woods with her face unrecognizable.

She had savage, facial head wounds, possibly done with a hatchet. She was unrecognizable. To this day they could not identify the victim.

In 1922, a frail 73-year-old, Miss Francis Kimball was killed. It seemed that the crime was committed by someone familiar with her household and habits because after the crime was committed the assailant locked the door to the top of the cellar stairs and cut telephone wires to the house.

When the perpetrator left the house, he went out the front door, then locked the door and left the premises. When her body was found, it was stuffed under a shelf in the cellar and a plank door was placed over her body. She was struck first in the jaw and then her head was pounded several times.

No money was taken, no clues, no suspect.

Seventeen months later, March 11, 1924, three more residents were killed.

Mrs. Mabel Morse, proprietor of Linden’s General Store, went to a neighbor, the Whaley’s, for milk.

The Whaley family lived only 50 yards away. When she didn’t return, men at her general store became worried and went looking for her.

The Whaleys’ door was locked and smoke was coming out of a window. They went to the first floor and saw the pile of 3 bodies covered with a kerosene soaked rag rug.

Tom Whaley worked for the railroad as section hand for the Erie Railroad and was shot in the neck, his wife had a single gunshot wound to the head and Mrs. Morse was clubbed to death with a wooden handle. All were burned but were recognizable.

Again, the small hamlet of Linden was overrun by police. Genesee County Sheriff’s Department offered a reward. I guess today these cases would be called cold cases. There were suspects but none were charged.

At the time, many rumors surfaced and were circulating around Linden. One was that Mr. Whaley knew who killed Miss Kimball. He kept the identity a secret, but now wanted to tell authorities. The murderer killed Mr. Whaley to silence him.

Another similarity in the Linden murders was neighbors discovered that both houses were locked and the authorities never discovered the keys.

There seemed to be no motive between the two cases.

I called Sue Morse Allen to find out what she remembers hearing about Mabel Morse’s murder.

She said Mabel was her father’s grandmother. She had died before he was born. She does remember her Nana, Lorena working the General Store and when people came in asking about the murders, she always said get out.

Sue said no one ever talked about it and if it was ever brought up, nothing was said.

So, the mysteries still linger, the murderer(s) involved have died but somehow the stories are kept alive by the curious public.

By Anne Marie Starowitz, The Daily News

Category: Community