Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Eddie Cudahy and Pat Crowe

New Role: Crime Curiosity

Crowe crossed the Missouri River to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for his final pending trial. He arrived as a hero, looking more like a congressman than a criminal, as that citys Nonpareil newspaper put it.

The Omaha Bee added that Crowe entered the cell corridor as jauntily as if being shown to the best room in a hotel.

The streetcar robbery trial was held in May and had the predictable outcome: not guilty.

Finally a free man, Pat Crowe was shepherded to New York by Joseph Pulitzers New York World, which treated him like a crime king in exchange for his exclusive true story about his life as a lawbreaker.

In August 1906, the World published a two-page spread about Crowes exploits - real or not. The folks back in Omaha were not impressed.

The Bee noted, Pat Crowe has transferred his distinguished self from Omaha to New York, but though far from the scenes of his most famous exploits, he is still able to maintain a conspicuous place under the glowing limelight. He seems to have hit upon the novel plan of producing made-to-order confessions for a living. He broke into the New York World last Sunday...He confides to the anxious public in this narrative that he has reformed and will live down the past...Pat seems to have made a dashing success in securing the attention of the effete east to make himself out the most desperate, daring and courageous outlaw who ever terrorized civilization.

Later that year, Crowe and a ghostwriter produced the first of three books about his life of crime. In it he advocated reform for American criminal justice, including a call to end meaningless prison labor in favor of useless work on roads or farms.

The kidnapper was reincarnated as a combination policy wonk/sideshow attraction. He spent time traveling the Vaudeville circuit as a crime curiosity. The audience would gasp when he bragged that he had made $700,000 from crime.

But he was a one-trick pony. And as interest in his lectures waned, Crowe grew increasingly intimate with the bottle. He was arrested for drunkenness and vagrancy in Omaha in 1912 and again in 1917, when he was ordered to leave town for good.

He headed back to New York, where--between boozy jags--he would haul himself into newspaper offices and pitch his idea for 10 good stories with a moral to them. A couple of newspapers bit, but that income dried up, just like the Vaudeville gig.

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