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ber, or a substitute for that article. In perfecting this process he spent much time at this cottage, conducting his labors covertly in the cellar.
On the afternoon in question, Udderzook, who as an associate and brother-in-law of Goss, and also, as an occasional lender of money to him, had an interest in his experiments, accompanied him to the house. On the way they purchased a gallon of coal oil and a pint of whiskey. Stopping at the neighboring house of Engle to borrow an axe, they persuaded Engle to accompany them. On arriving at the cottage, they lighted a fire in the fireplace of one of the rooms. Neither of these two witnesses went into the cellar, but they were in the rooms on the entrance floor. Goss went into the cellar; and about dusk, something being said about lighting a lamp, he came up with a gas-lamp in his hand. It would hold a quart, but was nearly empty, and resisted all efforts to light it, sputtering as if the wick were wet. Goss grew excited.
excited. Udderzook suggested that there might be danger, and that it might be well to borrow another lamp from Engle's house, distant several hundred yards. It came out, under cross-examination, that Goss told them, as the two went out together for this purpose, not to come back for half an hour. He locked the door behind them. At Engle's house, after the lamp was furnished, some one proposed that they should now return, but Udderzook remarked that the half hour had not expired. Shortly afterward he went to the door to throw some water from a tumbler out of which he had been drinking, and saw the house, which they had so recently left, enveloped in flames. Immediately repairing to the fire, apparently with reasonable speed, they found the building a mass of flame, beyond all hope of extinction. The fierceness of the conflagration was surprising. Udderzook stood gazing upon the spectacle for some short time, then remarked that possibly Goss might not have escaped. A neighbor, standing by and hearing these words, asked Udderzook, with some show of indignation, why he had not mentioned earlier his apprehension that a man might have been in the house. He responded that he had no acquaintance in the neighborhood, and did not like to create a disturbance. The chance, thus suggested, that a life had been lost, animated some of the by-standers to fresh exertions. The side of the building was broken in by throwing a plank against it, whereupon something resembling the body of a man was seen, and was drawn out with
an ice-hook. A body it proved indeed to be, or rather the remains of a body, for the lower limbs were destroyed, and the features were burned or charred beyond recognition. But, from the shape of the chest, neck, and head, it did not seem difficult to identify the corpse as that of W. S. Goss. Indeed, who else could any one suspect it to be? Though it afterward came out that some persons had not thought the resemblance quite perfect; and one, from the smallness of the wrist, had at first supposed it to be a woman. The body lay upon the ground with the warm blood yet flowing from it. Some one asked Udderzook if he meant to let it lie there, like a dog. But he turned away, and, burying his face in his handkerchief, uttered sounds as of one weeping bitterly, and appeared to mourn the fate of his friend. Persons present put the body in a box, and carried it to a neighboring barn, where it lay all night. In the morning icicles of the fresh blood were formed upon it. It was taken to the residence of Mr. Goss at No. 314 North Eutaw Street, arriving at six o'clock Saturday evening, and lay there until Monday, and was then removed to the public vault of a cemetery, where it remained for a long time. While it lay at Eutaw Street, the plaintiff, the widow, had no question as to the fact that the remains were those of her husband. She knew the contour of the head, neck, and breast. A number of witnesses, some ten or more, testified to their belief in this saine identity, regarding the recognition of the body as not difficult or doubtful.
Alexander Campbell Goss, brother of the deceased, had found in the ruins of the burneil house a watch, two chains, a bunch of keys, a tape-line case, and a pocket-pistol, all of which were easily proved to have been carried habitually by W. S. Goss.
A little evidence as to the good character of the deceased and of some of the witnesses, and the reading of certain correspondence between the insurance companies and Mrs. Goss, in which she had fully described her husband's person and appearance, and had twice consented to the exhumation and examination of the body after burial, closed the simple case presented by the plaintiff.
Any possible theory which could be adopted by the defendants must inevitably leave it necessary for them to establish to the satisfaction of the jurors that the body found in the ruins of the þurned house was not the body of W. S. Goss. The most simple form which this proof could have taken would have been the
actual production of that person still living, or, at least, irrefragable evidence of his having been seen alive subsequent to the date of the fire. It may be believed that the agents of the corporations were not idle in the quest; but all their efforts were vain, and they were obliged to meet the exigencies of the trial without this conclusive testimony. We are told that the failure of the defendants in this respect militated strongly against them in popular opinion, and doubtless it had not a different effect upon the jury. The means of detection at the command of the companies were regarded as so great that, when they broke down in the attempt to prove that W. S. Goss had been alive since February 2, 1872, it was at once very positively concluded, by people generally, that he had not been thus alive. The counsel for the defendants, however, came up manfully to the more difficult struggle of proving affirmatively that the corpse was that of some other person than the insured.
Divers collateral matters to aid the probability of their theory upon this main point were adduced. It was shown that the whole visible resources of Goss were an annual income of not over $1,400, and an interest, of uncertain value, in the estate of his father in Tennessee, yet that he was paying, or had made himself liable to pay, $149.95 in each year, in insurance premiums. He had arranged in one instance to make his payment in merchandise, making at the time sundry disingenuous representations concerning himself and his business position. The circumstances attendant upon the taking out of some of the policies were alleged to have been peculiar. The agent of the Knickerbocker Company professed, somewhat vaguely, to have been so much “struck” by the application that he sent Goss's cheque, so soon as it was received, to be certified by the bank. The agent of the Travellers' Company had been surprised because Goss voluntarily came to him for a policy: it was usually necessary to solicit parties. Such spontaneous action was altogether singular. Immediately before the fire Goss had drawn out his entire balance from the bank where he had been keeping a small deposit account. There was nothing very substantial in all this; nor could an uninitiated public well account for the extreme astonishment and suspicion with which the insurance men now stated that they had seen fit to regard Goss. It was certain that their acute sensibility had not led them to make any unusually care
ful inquiry concerning him, and had not prevented them from taking his money and giving him his policies quite in due course of business. A man may have an unreasonable mania for insuring his life without necessarily being a swindler, and may die a day or two after drawing his cash from his bank without being, therefore, regarded as an impostor in his death.
Evidence was offered that, in his application to the Knickerbocker Company, Goss had falsely stated that his prior applications to other companies had been accepted. This was objected to by the plaintiff's counsel, but admitted by the court upon the ground that it went to show the fraudulent intent of Goss. Upon the same ground the defendants were allowed to show that Goss had stated himself to be temperate in the use of liquor, but that he had been tended by a physician for intemperance upon at least one occasion. The defendants further sought to show that, on the evening of February 2, 1872, A. C. Goss was not at tea at his boarding-house as usual; thåt he had an engagement with his landlady's daughter for that evening, but sent her a note, saying that he must see his brother, and could not meet her; that he came home about nine or half past nine o'clock. A livery stablekeeper testified that about dusk of that afternoon A. C. Goss, giving the name of A. C. Arden of 314 North Eutaw Street, obtained from him a horse and buggy to go to the neighborhood of Greenmount Cemetery. He returned about twenty or thirty minutes after nine o'clock. Witness had been
Witness had been very uneasy about this transaction at the time, regarding it, and every part of it, as “irregular.” Witness did not see A. C. Goss upon his return, but was positive as to his identity. The groom who did then see him, and who received from him a present of a pair of buckskin gloves, could only say that he resembled A. C. Goss. The master asked the man if he came by the gloves “regular," and hearing how they had been given to him concluded that they had been used in handling the dead body at the fire, and that the owner did not care to keep them. It may be noticed that the hirer of the buggy gave the initials A. C., that the name of Arden was that of the mother of Mrs. W. S. Goss, and that the residence given was the boarding house of W. S. Goss. Such little waifs and strays of evidence, suspicion, or whatever other character they may deserve, occur more than once in this story.
A. C. Goss, having testified to finding certain personal effects
of his brother in the embers at the place where the body lay, the defence summoned John C. Smith, resident only a short distance from the burned house, and who assisted in dragging out the body. He testified that he searched carefully for the watch and rings which he had seen Mr. Goss wear, but could find only a few bones. The body lay with the face to the ground, and witness searched just where these articles should have been. He found a glass bottle melted, and thought the fire so hot that it could not have failed to melt a watch chain.
From Martin Quinn, who was present at the recovery of the body, it was gathered that certain boys from a neighboring school had said, before any suggestion was made that a man might have been burned, that they had seen the occupant of the house come out and go down the lane.
Dr. Howard testified that surgeons found no difficulty in getting as many bodies as they wanted for dissection, at the price of fifteen or twenty dollars apiece; and that such were always obtained as fresh as possible.
Several persons at both trials gave most elaborate and careful descriptions of the personnel of the supposed deceased. These were so singularly consonant with each other, as to show him to have been a man of very marked and noticeable form and face. He was said to have been five feet seven or eight inches high ; stout, weighing perhaps 175 or 180 pounds; very erect and straight-backed, having his chest thrown well forward ; with a round full face, good-looking and agreeable in expression ; with dark eyes; dark hair slightly tinged with gray, and inclining to curl, and a heavy moustache ; brow prominent, and forehead slightly receding. His habit had apparently been to wear a beard or whiskers, or both, but after he had occasion to disguise himself he sought assistance by slaving. Especially he was said to have had unusually large fine white teeth. Upon this first trial it was these teeth which formed the defendants' pièce de résistance. Their witnesses stated that they had often noticed them when Goss talked or smiled.
The medical experts who examined the exhumed body were able to say little that could throw light on its identity with W. S. Goss except in this same matter of teeth. The physicians stated that the corpse was that of a white male, of large and muscular frame, between twenty-five and fifty years of age ; but