Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder Mystery of Mary Rogers

Deaths and Confessions

Raymond Paul states that Mary's fiancé Daniel Payne had, according to the young man's brother, plunged into a deep grief after his sweetheart's death. The already alcoholic corkcutter drank even more heavily and his brother even feared that Daniel was slowly going insane.

In the weeks following Mary's death, Payne had endured the initial suspicion in her death and had to undergo the trauma of identifying her remains at a second inquest (possibly sparked by the Tattler's repeated assertions that the body taken from the Hudson was not Mary Rogers).  It was also reported that Payne had been visited by Mary's ghost.

On the morning of October 7, 1841, Payne left his New York City lodgings (he had moved from the boarding house run by Mary's mother soon after Mary's death) and proceeded to drink excessively at various bars in his neighborhood, stopping briefly in a store to purchase a small bottle of the poison laudanum.

He caught an afternoon ferry for Hoboken, and his first stop in New Jersey was Loss's tavern.  There he drank brandy and possibly got directions to the infamous thicket where his lost love's clothing had been found.  Sitting next to the thicket, he took out a piece of paper and wrote: "To the World – here I am on the very spot.  May God forgive me for my misspent life."  Putting the note into his pocket, he then quickly consumed the poison and staggered off.

The laudanum took some time to work painfully through Payne's system, leaving the dying man enough time to stop at other taverns for more liquor.  He finally stumbled back to the place where Mary's body had been brought ashore.  He lay down on a bench there and died.

His suicide brought the Mary Rogers tale back to the headlines, although his cryptic note would not be seen as an admission of guilt -- his iron-tight alibi and numerous witnesses for the infamous Sunday remained above questioning -- and he was generally viewed as a love-struck romantic who could not bear life without his Mary.

Mrs. Loss on her deathbed. (Nathan MacDicken)
Mrs. Loss on her deathbed.
(Nathan MacDicken)

Interest waned in the Mary Roger's murder after Payne's suicide until October 1842, when, apparently by accident, innkeeper Frederica Loss was shot by one of her sons.  For more than two weeks she lay on her deathbed, sometimes incoherent and sometimes shouting that the ghost of a young woman floated near her bed (Mary's ghost was also rumored to have visited former employer John Anderson in his final years).  In her last moments, according to various newspapers, Ross confessed that Mary Rogers and a young "dark and tall" doctor arrived at her inn on that fatal Sunday and an abortion was performed, from which Mary died of complications.  Her body was "taken at night by the son of Loss and sunk in the river where it would be found.  Mary's clothes were first ... sunk in a pond on the land of (a neighbor); but it was afterwards thought that they were not safe there, and they were accordingly taken and scattered through the woods as they were found."

Some questioned the genuineness of this alleged deathbed declaration, as it contradicted some of the known facts of the case – particularly the thumb and finger marks the coroner had found around Mary's neck and the same coroner's assertion that Mary had "been a person of chastity" – but the story would become the generally accepted one, partly because of a famous tale by Edgar Allen Poe.

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