Palace of Death
by H.M. Fogle, 1908

Chapter 7
Charles "Blinkey" Morgan
August 3, 1888

A notorious and very shrewd criminal. Hanged Aug. 3, 1888, for murdering an officer in an effort to help a "pal" escape near Ravenna, Ohio.

The End of "Blinkey" Morgan's Career

One of the most remarkable men to pay the death penalty in the Penitentiary was Charles Morgan, or "Blinkey" Morgan as he was better known to the criminal classes, serial number 19,171. Morgan was hanged shortly after one o'clock on the morning of August 3, 1888. There is absolutely nothing known of the man's early history. Being of a cautious and reticent disposition, the place of his nativity, as likewise his family connections, were never revealed by him, even to his most intimate friends. On these points no interrogation could ever elicit a disclosure. The crime for which he paid the supreme penalty was murder; but whether innocent or guilty, God alone, perhaps, knows the truth. The evidence against Morgan, while wholly circumstantial, was sufficiently strong and conclusive to convict him.

The crime for which he was hanged was the outgrowth of one of the most daring burglaries ever committed in the state. On the morning of January 28, 1887, the employees who came early to the store of Benedict & Ruedy, 245 Superior street, Cleveland, Ohio, were astonished to learn that during the night burglars had forced and entrance to the store and made away with $8,000 worth of furs.

What made the theft seem almost incredible, was the fact that immediately in front of the building was a hack stand, where carriages were standing at all hours of the night. A few feet away was a corner that was constantly watched by police officers, and in addition to this, private watchmen patrolled the street faithfully.

It was found that the burglars had bored through the wood of the front door, inserted a set-screw, and had then knocked off the catch. After making a futile effort to crack the safe, the men turned their attention to gathering up the priceless fur garments that were scattered everywhere in endless profusion. Finding that they had secured more booty than they could get away with, the thieves left eight garments on the floor, taking with them thirty-six.

As soon as the affair became known, Police Captain Hoehn of the Cleveland police force, gave orders to his men carefully to watch all roads leading off toward the south. He had every reason to believe that such crooks as Mollie Hoey, McPhellany and the like, had escaped before by taking the Cleveland and Pittsburg and the "Nypano" railroads at the suburban stations. In response to a telegram from Pittsburg to the effect that one of the trunks had gone to Allegheny City and the other to the "Smoky City," detectives went to work on the case. They were joined soon after by Hoehn, and a railroad man who knew something about the case. The officers found, after a tiresome search, one empty trunk at a house on Balkam street.

The woman who kept the place claimed that on the previous Saturday, two men had rented a room of her. They afterwards brought two trunks there. One of the trunks was afterwards recovered. Harry McMunn, a noted crook, was then arrested as one of the probably burglars who so successfully did the seal-skin job at Cleveland. The proper requisition papers were secured and Captain Hoehn, who had been joined in the meantime by Detective Hulligan of Cleveland, prepared to take the man back to the scene of his crime. It was on Friday, just one week after the robbery, that Captain Henry Hoehn and Detective William H. Hulligan went to Allegheny and started on the eleven o'clock night train for Cleveland. As the train went rushing through the darkness, the officers were thinking, no doubt, that one of the robbers at least was going to pay the penalty of his crime. In the smoking car sat ten passengers, and among them was a man wearing a light overcoat and cap and holding a ticket to Ravenna. Hulligan, with the prisoner handcuffed to him, sat facing the baggage car, and in front of the pair, Captain Hoehn had taken his seat facing Hulligan. When the train steamed into Alliance and came to a stand, three men came aboard and entered the rear coach. They held tickets reading from Pittsburg to Alliance. Two were then ticketed through to Ravenna and one to Hudson. One was a dark complected man with a black moustache. He was rather heavy set and wore a fur cap. Another who feigned sleep wore dark clothing. Among the passengers were the Rev. C. Heiss of Cleveland and John Watts of Bristol, Indiana.

When Ravenna was reached, the three men suddenly sprang up, whipped out their revolvers and barred the rear door, at the same time telling the passengers to sit quietly, if they valued their lives.

At this juncture the man in the smoking car came hurriedly back, bearing in his right hand a queer looking parcel, wrapped up in newspaper. He suddenly raised this high in the air, and before Detective Hulligan was aware of his intention, brought it down with terrible force on his head. Hulligan dropped forward and Hoehn sprang to the rescue, firing right and left with his self-acting revolver. One of the thugs was wounded by his fire. The desperadoes now began shooting and gradually forced Hoehn out of the door. Hoehn cried for help, and two railroad men rushed up. Hulligan had in the meantime been terrible beaten over the head. He was dragged senseless from the car, and McMunn was freed from his fetters by a key which one of the murderers possessed.

The desperadoes fled from the train, carrying the man who had been wounded. Hulligan was found leaning against the baggage car with his head cut and gashed in a terrible manner. Hoehn had been shot and was also nearly dead.

When the train pulled out it was discovered that Hulligan was not aboard. The train was backed up, and the unfortunate man was found dead.

Morgan, McMunn and another of the gang were arrested some weeks later a Aloena, Michigan. They were making preparations for flight into Canada.

These three men were taken were taken back to Ravenna and placed on trial for the murder of the detective. All three were convicted of murder in the first degree, but McMunn and the other party were granted a new trial later on, and in some manner evaded the punishment which they, no doubt, richly deserved.

Morgan failed to establish his innocence, and circumstances being being decidedly against him, he alone suffered the penalty for Hulligan's murder.

Morgan was received at the Penitentiary on Thanksgiving day, 1887. He was a man who would attract attention anywhere. He might have been mistaken for a banker, a college professor, or a clergyman, rather than a criminal. He was apparently about forty-seven years of age. He had dark hair and regular features. One of his eyes had at some time been injured, and from this defect he derived the name of "Blinky." In dress he was neat to a fault, and always wore either a black or white neck-tie and dark clothing. To hide the defect in his eyes and to aid his sight, Morgan habitually wore gold-rimmed spectacles.

In personal address Charles Morgan was a polished gentleman. He was never heard to utter an oath until toward the end of his life in the Annex. He hated the sight of the motley crowd of visitors, who stood and gazed at him as they would a prized bull or a chained lion. For those friends who made his last days seem pleasanter by their welcome visits, he had nothing but kind words. The guards and prison runners who were intimately acquainted with him, were drawn toward the man with an irresistable force. They all thought highly of him, and many expressed a strong doubt of his guilt. To the ladies and children he showed the kindest attention, and his stern face always lighted up when any little ones were brought to see him.

Morgan was a great reader, and hailed the entrance of a book or newspaper with great joy. He was also somewhat of a philosopher, and could reason with the best of men in everything but his own case and religion.

Morgan always looked upon himself as a martyr, sacrificed upon the altar of public prejudice. Perhaps he was right. He always asserted his innocence; and maybe he was innocent.

In regard to religion, "Blinky" never professed any religious belief; he was what might be called an atheist. He did not believe in heaven or hell; but at times in various writings he used the words, "God knows," or "thank God," showing that he partly, at least, acknowledged the existence of a Supreme Ruler. The Chaplain, in conversation with him a few days before the execution, said that if the condemned wished any spiritual consolation whatsoever, he (the Chaplain) would bring him the one he wished. Morgan then stated that he did not wish a minister.

As Morgan did not wish to make a statement upon the scaffold, the following was written and addressed to the Warden.


Warden Ohio Penitentiary.

Dear Sir:--

I address you at this time for several reasons. There will be curiosity, no doubt, and perhaps some interest in what I may have to say relative to my alleged connection with the crime for which I am to be executed, and to satisfy the curious, as well as to relieve the overburdened minds of the interested, I reassert my declaration of entire innocence of any connection whatever with either the theft of the furs, the rescue of McMunn, or the murder of Detective Hulligan. There will doubtless be some people who will not hesitate to declare that I died with a falsehood on my tongue, simply because my assertion cannot correspond with their belief and prejudice. To all such, permit me to say: Wait! Time will eventually substantiate my declaration of innocence. Had I succeeded in obtaining another hearing of my case, I would certainly have acquitted myself, as I expect to prove beyond any possible doubt that I was in the city of Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania, at the time of the rescue, and for some time before that event. I would have proved that each and every witness swore before the first grand jury that he did not know who the assaulting party was, and was unable to describe any of the assailants, because of the suddenness of the attack and the entire confusion into which they were all thrown. I would also have proved that Captain Hoehn requested two of the most reliable police officers on the Pittsburg force to please learn for him who the assaulting party were. The officers asked him to describe one or more of the men; and he replied, he could not do so because he was too excited at the moment to notice any particularity about them. The two policement testified substantially to the above at Robinson's trial; and yet Captain Hoehn did not hesitate to anwer that Coughlin, Robinson, and myself were the men. I have read of men being murdered for their money, but I am judicially, or rather injudicially, murdered, for the state's money and to satisfy the clamor for a victim. In conclusion, I repeat, I am innocent of and complicity with the robbery of the furs, or the murder of Detective Hulligan. I write this statement to obviate the necessity of making any verbal remarks from the scaffold, and also to keep reporters of the press from butchering up to suit their own ideas what I desire to say. You shall understand from the foregoing, honored sir, that I shall have nothing to say, save what I have written here.

Very respectfully,


During the evening preceding the execution, Morgan was presented with a boquet by two of the Guards. A lady admirer of the notorious "crook" also sent him a handsome boquet, which he appreciated very highly.

The closing scenes were very quiet and when Morgan had carefully arranged his toilet, there was pinned upon the lapel of his coat a bunch of tea roses, heliotrope and geraniums. The crowd that had anxiously awaited the death march, filed out of the reception room at 1:17, and two by two filed into the guard room adjoininng the Annex. Only those persons designated by the law were allowed to go in, and even those holding tickets were stopped and examined by the Guards. Promptly at 1:18, the door leading to the scaffold suddenly opened, and Morgan, Warden Coffin, Deputies Charrington and Patton stepped upon the platform. Instantly the crowd ceased speaking, and many doffed their hats. The death warrant was then produced, and while it was being read, Morgan looked coolly up and down the execution room. As the Warden finished the reading, Morgan sobbed convulsively several times, but by a mighty effort he controlled his emotions, and save for a tell-tale dimness on his glasses, none would have known but that the doomed man was gazing at a play. As his limbs were being pinioned he stood like a statue, and his wonderful self control was remarkable.

The black-cap was now adjusted, and the officers stepped quickly from the vicinity of the trap. "Good-bye, Nellie," said Morgan as he shot to eternity, and the death rattle in his throat seemed to be but a second effort to call the name of the loved one in Cleveland. The drop fell at exactly 1:20, and the body shot downward, bringing up at the end of the rope with a snap.

The spark of life that had made Charles Morgan a man was suddenly extinguished, and there swung the corpse, soulless and cold, a lesson to the criminal, a forfeit for crime.

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Palace of Death
The Ohio Penitentiary