Podcast Episode 9: “Desperate Housewives”

This week’s episode presents stories of housewives gone quite mad. From a reverend’s wife’s mysterious disappearance, the bizarre family plan of a mentally unstable newlywed, and the twisted plot of murder and deception between a husband and wife.

Mrs. Sheatsley’s Furnace

The newspaper photographs of Addie Sheatsley, her husband and the furnace at the center of the case.

The newspaper photographs of Addie Sheatsley, her husband and the furnace at the center of the case, source.

It’s pretty clear in our first story that Addie Sheatsley did not climb into a tiny furnace to kill herself as her husband continued to claim. But was he covering up a suicide because he felt it was too shameful (with his profession as a reverend and all)…or did something more sinister happen that day? We investigate this puzzling case.

Visit us on Facebook or Instagram to share your theories, we’d love to hear what you think happened, we’re stumped ourselves!


  1. Suicide Worse Than Murder, Is Sheatsley View”, Chicago Daily Tribune, 27 November 1924.
  2. Attorney Sure Mrs. Sheatsley Murder Victim”, The Florence Times (Florence, Al.), 19 November 1924.
  3. Man’s Story of Sheatsley Murder Received Dubiously”, The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, Fl.), 13 February 1925.
  4. Name Woman In Murder Case”, The Urbana Daily Courier (Urbana, Ill.), 25 November 1924.
  5. Minister’s Wife Found Burned To Crisp In Furnace”, The Evening News (Harrisburg, Pa.), 18 November 1924.
  6. Seek Second Person In Furnace Tragedy”, The Indianapolis News, 20 November 1924.

Straw Babies

Hazel McNally newspaper photograph with two large dolls.

Hazel McNally with her dolls, source.

This story is almost too weird to sum up. Did Hazel, above, really pass these dolls off successfully as real children? Was her husband duped that easily? What was the point of it all? We examine Hazel’s time with her “children” before the dolls were discovered and try to unravel the reason behind it all.


  1. Two Say They Saw ‘Twin Dolls’ Alive”, New York Times, 20 October 1922.
  2. Young Mother Accused Of Killing Twin Babies”, The Indianapolis News, 16 October 1922.
  3. Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
  4. Neighbors Found Only Dolls In Bed”, Great Bend Tribune (Great Bend, Kas.), 19 October 1922.
  5. Mrs. McNally’s Mother Mania Is Told In Court”, Sheboygan Press Telegram (Sheboygan, Wisc.), 20 October 1922.
  6. ‘Doll Mother,’ Cleared Of Infanticide, Now Threatens To Retaliate On Accusing Husband By Asking Divorce”, The Washington Times (Washington, D.C.), 19 November 1922.
  7. Mrs. McNally Free; Case Thrown Out of Hammond Court”, The Indianapolis Star, 21 October 1922.
  8. Does the Strange Twin Doll Case Mean a Mania?”, San Antonio Evening News, 8 December 1922.

The Russian Wife

Newspaper photographs of Lydia and of Louis and Helen after they were released from police custody in 1947.

Lydia is on the left. Louis and his new wife Helen after they are released from police custody in 1947. Source.

We’ve covered quite a few stories on this podcast that are strange, unsolved or tragic but “The Russian Wife” takes the cake for the most perplexing one of them all. Lydia was married to Louis and the two lived in Detroit, Michigan where they worked hard at their business. When their marriage began to breakdown Louis found comfort with another woman, Helen. Lydia reacted badly to the split…I believe her words were something like: “I’ll drag you both to hell with me.”

But when Lydia was the one found dead suspicion fell on her husband and his girlfriend. Not everything was as it seems.


  1. Women’s Jealousy Set Police Hunting Mysterious Slayer”, The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY) 29 June 1947.
  2. New Lead In Her Death”, Ironwood Daily Globe (Ironwood, Mich), 6 September 1949.
  3. Police Check on Confession”, Traverse City Record-Eagle, 3 September 1949.
  4. Wealthy Detroit Pair Freed In Lydia Thompson Murder”, The News-Palladium (Benton Harbor, Mich), 15 May 1947.
  5. Pontiac Slayer Still Unknown”, The Escanaba Daily Press (Escanaba, Mich), 16 May 1947.
  6. Quiz Aged Man In New Murder”, The Daily Times, (New Philadelphia, Ohio), 1 November 1945.
  7. Narrow Search To Thrill Killer In Michigan Murder”, The Daily News (Huntingdon, Pa), 16 October 1945.
  8. Torso: The Story of Eliot Ness and the Search for a Psychopathic Killer” by Steven Nickel, John F. Blair Publisher, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, October 2001.

Newspaper Clippings

Housewife Denies $3,000 Robberies

Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy walk toward their arrest in Birmingham, Alabama, April 16, 1963.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy walk toward their arrest in Birmingham, Alabama, April 16, 1963. The period when Mrs. Anderson was arrested was a particular turbulent moment in history. The area was a hotbed of activity, racism, protests and police brutality for many, source.

It’s hard to say why the FBI focused on a woman with two small children and another on the way as a local bank robber in 1958 Texas but they did anyway. This time in Birmingham is famous in history as a particularly turbulent period of the civil right movement but it seems it wasn’t a great time for anybody.

Source: Housewife Denies $3,000 Robberies,” The New York Times, 31 May 1958.


American Pie

Khrushchev with President John F. Kennedy.

Khrushchev with President John F. Kennedy, source.

Mrs. McCleary may have been trying to serve anti-communist pie to the Nikita Khrushchev, the former premier of the Soviet Union, but let’s just say this story shows she wasn’t exactly the smartest cookie.

Source: Housewife in Texas Explains,” The New York Times, 2 October 1960.

Who’s The Real Killer – Housewives or Raw Dough?

A Michigan bakery in 1911.

A bakery (in Michigan) in 1911. This one doesn’t look so bad but then Mr. Schulze did seem like a bit of an over-exaggerator, source.

Paul Schulze, of the National Association of Master Bakers, wanted housewives in 1911 to stop home baking because of the dangers of their cooking if their bread and pies turned out to be under cooked. But his descriptions of the bakeries at the time don’t exactly leave much of an appetite.

Source: The ‘Murdering’ Housewife,” The New York Times, 24 August 1911.

The Bookie Housewife

Police beating a pinball machine with a sledge hammer in the 1940s.

Pinball was illegal in the 1940’s-1970’s (because it was considered “gambling” which was illegal in New York. By the 1950’s it looks like authorities still weren’t keen on undercover gambling, source.

Doris Darwin finds out how dangerous it can be to lend someone your telephone…or maybe she was just good at throwing suspicion elsewhere.


  1. Held for Bookmaking,” The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, Ny.), 6 October 1954.
  2. Housewife Cleared as Bookie,” The New York Times, 19 October 1954.


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