Fighting ignorance since 1973 Its taking longer than we thought
Update on the Fool Killer,
Chicago's mystery submarine
Adam Selzer has posted info from newly found Chicago Examiner articles about the Fool Killer submarine on his Weird Chicago blog. An excerpt:
Rowrrbazzle, via the Straight Dope Chicago Message Board
Cecil Adams replies:
Interesting new information has indeed come to light. But first a word.
When I initially wrote about the Fool Killer, the alleged submarine salvaged from the Chicago River in 1915, I suggested the thing was a hoax. Some people took this the wrong way. In particular, Adam Selzer, the Weird Chicago co-author I consulted before writing my column, subsequently blogged that I'd "all but called [him] an idiot," or words to that effect. (Adam has since amended his post.)
It's time to set the record straight. I acknowledge there's a sizable group of individuals I'm inclined to describe as idiots. (This group has expanded considerably in light of the recent elections.) Adam Selzer isn't on the list. On the contrary, I glimpse in the lad something of my younger self fascinated by arcane lore, but determined to get to the bottom of it come what may. Whether we'll be able to conclusively establish what was up with the Fool Killer I can't say. But by digging up additional information about the sub in the newspaper archives, Adam has materially advanced the cause.
To reprise the story so far: in November 1915 a diver named William Deneau discovered what he claimed was a lost submarine on the bottom of the Chicago River. Hauled out of the water in December, the vessel was put on display on State Street in January 1916, then appeared with a carnival in Iowa that spring. Adam has now found an advertisement in the Chicago Examiner indicating the sub was back in Chicago on exhibit at Riverview in June.
But that's not the most interesting thing, in my opinion. Rather, it's the news story about the Fool Killer that appeared in the Examiner when the sub was discovered. Here's the beginning of the story, which appeared on November 24, 1915:
CHICAGO READY FOR WAR? LOOK!
There's a bit more in this vein. A few comments:
Why all the discrepancies? One possibility is that Deneau so enjoyed feeding reporters a line of baloney that he lost track of the details. The Examiner account strengthens my belief that the episode was a put-on.
We do, of course, have the fact that Deneau hauled something out of the river and put it on display, although no newspaper bothered to describe it in detail which to me is suspicious in itself. What was it? No idea. None of the stories about the origin of the craft checks out. The fact that the thing's last known location was in Chicago makes it remotely possible that some trace may yet show up. Adam Selzer, meanwhile, mentions the possibility of getting in touch with Deneau's descendants, to see if he told them anything. Pending further word, I'm still betting hoax.
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