April 24th 1929 - Vernon
Booher – Canada
After shooting dead his mother and brother and two
farm labourers on their farm in Mannville, Alberta, in July 1928, Vernon
Booher, 22, reported the killings to the police. They called in an
Austrian psychiatrist, Dr. Adolph Langsner, who claimed to be able to
read people’s brainwaves. Reading Booher’s, he deduced that Booher was
the murderer and even elicited where he had hidden the murder weapon – a
.303 rifle stolen from a neighbouring farm.
Told of the psychiatrist’s findings, Booher confessed.
He had killed his mother because she did not like his girl friend, and
he killed the other three because they were witnesses to the murder of
his mother. He was hanged at Fort Saskatchewan Prison on Wednesday,
April 24th, 1929.
1929 - Vernon Booher was executed
at the Fort Saskatchewan Gaol.
Booher, 20, was suspected of murdering his mother,
brother, and two farm hands on the family farm near Mannville, Alberta.
Booher claimed he had discovered the bodies after returning home from
work. The murder weapon could not be found.
The police did discover, however, a spent cartridge
from a .303 rifle at the murder scene. While Booher did not own this
type of weapon, a neighbor had reported that his .303 rifle and a box of
shells had been stolen the day before the murders. The police invited a
renowned Austrian medium and alleged mind reader, Dr. Adolph Maximilien
Langsner, to attend the inquest, posing as a reporter, and report on his
observations. Dr. Langsner was also given an opportunity to sit outside
Booher’s cell for an hour. As a result of these encounters, Langsner
told police he believed Booher was the murderer. Further, by
intercepting the young man’s thought waves as he answered questions at
the inquest, he was certain the murder weapon could be found hidden in a
clump of long grass and brush just west of the farmhouse.
Acting on the psychic’s tip, police found the .303
rifle near the house among long grass and brush. Langsner was able to
provide further information that helped solve the crime. When confronted
with the evidence, Booher confessed telling police he had snuck out of
church the week before and taken the rifle from his neighbor’s home. He
said he was upset with his mother when she refused to support his desire
to marry a local girl.
Booher’s confession was ultimately not allowed as
evidence in his trial. His conviction was later quashed on technical
objections and a new trial ordered. He was convicted again at the second
trial when a further confession was revealed.
Detective Maximilian Langsner and
the Murderer's Mind
About the famous detective Maximilian Langsner and
the case of the Murderer's Mind, history and solution of the crime.
By David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace -
"The People's Almanac" series of books
On the evening of July 8, 1928, the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police received a panicky telephone call from Dr. Harley Heaslip,
who reported a mass murder on a farm some 5 mi. outside of Mannville,
Alberta, where the wealthy Booher family lived, along with their hired
hands. "Half of them have been murdered," Heaslip said.
Olsen went to the scene immediately and found the body of Mrs. Rose
Booher slumped over the dining room table. She had been shot in the back
of the head. In the kitchen lay the body of her elder son, Fred, shot
three times in the face. An inspection of the bunkhouse and barn turned
up two more corpses, hired hands who could conceivably have heard the
first shots and seen the killer. Since Mrs. Booher was killed while
picking stems from a batch of strawberries, she was obviously the first
victim, for she would hardly have gone on hulling strawberries if she
had heard her son being murdered in the next room. Clearly, Fred had
heard a shot and had come to the door to investigate. There the killer
had shot him. Then the killer had marched outside and eliminated the two
hired hands so that they could never tell what, if anything, they had
heard or seen.
Henry Booher and his younger son, Vernon, had spent
the afternoon working separately on different parts of the farm, and the
two daughters in the family had been in town. Neither of the two male
Boohers had paid any attention to the shots because they were common in
the country, especially just then when foxes were on the prowl.
Enter the Detective
The police, under Inspector James Hancock, head of
the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at Edmonton, and Detective Jim
Leslie, arrived the next day to take charge of the case. Nothing had
been stolen, and judging by what Mrs. Booher had been doing at the time
of the crime, it was also clear the murderer was neither a stranger nor
an intruder. Indeed, the fact that the killer had hunted out the men in
the barn and bunkhouse confirmed this.
The murder weapon was not found,
but it was identified as a .303 Lee Enfield rifle, and such a weapon had
been reported stolen from the home of a neighboring farmer, Charles
Stevenson. The killer obviously knew his way about the Stevenson home as
well, since the weapon was always hidden in a closet. Everything pointed
back to the surviving Boohers. But which one? Henry Booher appeared
totally crushed by the tragedy; however, Vernon seemed strangely unmoved.
Police inquiries unearthed the fact that Vernon had recently expressed
hatred for his mother because she had broken up his romance with a local
girl. Although Vernon was taken into custody, he refused to make a
statement, and without the murder weapon the police had no case.
With the investigation still stymied after several
weeks of investigation, Inspector Hancock did a strange thing for a
professional policeman. He risked public ridicule by bringing in a
Vienna-born mind reader who was then demonstrating his art in Vancouver.
Maximilian Langsner had studied psychology with Freud in Vienna and
later had gone to India, where he researched the way yogis attempted to
control the mind. According to Langsner, the human mind, under stress,
produces signals that another trained mind can learn to pick up.
Newspaper accounts of his career told of the aid he had given European
police in solving crimes. For instance, he had assisted the Berlin
police in the recovery of some stolen jewels. To do this, he had sat
facing the suspect for some time, until he got a "signal" telling him
where the jewels were hidden. Following Langsner's instructions, the
police found the loot, and the thief confessed. Remarkably, Langsner had
recently duplicated this feat in a similar case in Vancouver.
Langsner, a dapper little man of 35 who resembled
screen actor Adolphe Menjou, arrived in Edmonton a few days later. After
being briefed, he was taken by the inspector to confront Vernon Booher.
Following a quick, silent meeting with the prisoner, Langsner told
Hancock, "The rifle is unimportant. He is guilty. He admitted it to me."
Hancock reminded Langsner that this was not proof,
and added that if they could locate the Enfield, they would probably get
a confession. Langsner placed a chair outside the suspect's cell and sat
there staring at 21-year-old Vernon Booher. He explained to Hancock that
the prisoner would know he wanted to determine where the rifle was and
so would start thinking of it, thus giving off the proper impulses.
Finally, after a five-hour period during which Booher alternately sat
quietly and screamed at the mentalist, Langsner left the cell block. He
had his information.
Langsner sketched a farmhouse, a number of bushes,
and some trees. Then he sketched more bushes some 500 yd. from the house
and said the rifle was buried there. The building Langsner described was
white with red shutters--the Booher place. When Langsner and the
officers went to the farm, they quickly located the bushes the mind
reader had sketched. Within moments the .303 Enfield was found buried
under the soft sod. Brought to the scene and confronted with the rifle,
Vernon Booher broke down and confessed, as his tearful father and
sisters watched. He had only meant to shoot his mother, but when his
brother Fred rushed into the house, Vernon knew he had to kill him too.
Vernon expressed remorse only for the death of his brother. He shrugged
off the murder of the handymen as merely part of a necessary cover-up.
Vernon Booher--the man who, according to Langsner,
could not "escape his own thoughts"--was hanged for quadruple murder on
Apr. 26, 1929. As for Maximilian Langsner, whose work in the case was
fully reported in the newspapers of the time thanks to a grateful
Inspector Hancock, he left Vancouver shortly thereafter to spend the
next several years conducting psychic research among the Eskimos. The
little Austrian was last heard of in 1939, as he prepared to launch a
tour of the Middle East.