Todd Warger grew-up in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, in the small community of Shelburne Falls. He graduated from the University of Nevada with a B.A. in history, relocated to Bellingham, Washington to attend Graduate school. He has been on staff at the Whatcom Museum since 1992.
Warger is an Emmy Award nominee for the documentary film The Mountain Runners and a recipient of the Washington State Historical Society’s 2008 David Douglas award for the documentary film Shipyard. Warger is also author of Murder in the Fourth Corner: True Stories of Whatcom County’s Earliest Homicides, and co-author of Images of America: Mount Baker.
As in many communities spanning the globe, the monstrous act of murder has unfortunately become ingrained in our history, and a heinous slice at that. The northwest corner of Washington State has had it’s own lurid past of gruesome slayings. There has been a variety of means to end lives; beheading, shooting, stabbing, poisoning, hanging, strangling and bludgeoning. Turn of the century newspapers colorfully refer to these violent crimes in their large block headlines with expressions such as: brutal, vile, goriest, butchery, murder, slaughter, bloodbath, and carnage, to name a few.
Early journalism was far more dramatic, sensationalized, and morbid than we imagine. One such headline in an April 1905 Bellingham Herald declared: “Killed with Axe After Struggle with Fiend: Nine Gashes in Head, Screw Driver Driven Into the Brain” These striking early banner headlines intrigued me enough to investigate the reported crimes. Entranced, I found myself pulling criminal case files and inmate records to learn more of these killers’ evil doings. Some cases proved baffling, providing no further answers or clues; commonly referred to as cold cases, leaving me to ponder the same dilemmas facing the original investigating authorities—was it murder or suicide? The stories within barely scratch the surface of the heinous happenings of this region.