In the Shadow of Death, to Superintendent Collins,
the Assassin Talked
He Denied That He Had Accomplices or That His Hand
[in] a Handkerchief, and Said He Killed the President
Because He Once Refused Him Work.
AUBURN, N. Y., Oct.
29.—Czolgosz was a carefully secluded prisoner in Auburn penitentiary.
State Superintendent of Prisons Cornelius V. Collins was determined
that the prisoner, despite the enormity of his crime, should gain
no undue notoriety. During his imprisonment the post brought more
than 1500 letters, papers and packages to the prisoner, but none
of these was ever delivered to him. They came from the army of letter-writing
cranks, and were of every character, from harmless to vicious. The
prison officials felt that the delivery of such a quantity of mail
would not only seriously disturb him, but would have given him false
ideas as to his importance and prominence. The other convicts in
the death house were not permitted to talk to him, and the guards,
who kept the death vigil, watched in unbroken silence.
KEPT IN DENSE IGNORANCE.
The seclusion of the
prisoner operated both ways, for if the world went on in comparative
ignorance of the life of the prisoner from day to day, the prisoner
lived in ignorance of what went forward in the world, even as to
the great question affecting him. The rule of silence as to the
prisoner was broken that he might have an opportunity to prepare
himself spiritually for his death.
The rule was also broken in a final
effort to secure a confession from the condemned man. The prison
officials felt that it was their duty to again seek to ascertain
if others plotted with him or abetted him in the murderous plan
that he carried out at Buffalo. Early in October Supt. Collins had
a lengthy interview with him. Night was chosen for the inquiry,
and at 9 o’clock the superintendent called on Czolgosz. The prisoner
was transferred to another part of the prison, where there was no
one to overhear the conversation. For the first few minutes Czolgosz
sat in silence, and the superintendent began to despair of getting
any information. Finally, just as he was about to leave, Czolgosz
answered one of his queries. From that time on he talked freely,
but his utterances contained no enlightenment as to the cause for
his crime or a possible conspiracy. The most important statement
he made was one in which he absolutely denied that he had a handkerchief
tied about his hand or that the pistol was concealed in any other
place than his coat pocket. The superintendent said:
ASSASSIN BEGINS TO TALK.
“Now, Czolgosz, I want
you to talk to me. I’m the only one that can do you any good, and
if you tell me anything I may help you to get out of here.”
“I don’t want to get out of here.
They’d kill me outside,” was the reply.
“Who’d kill you?”
“Why, the people.”
“You mean the men who told you to
kill the President?” asked Mr. Collins.
“No, nobody told me to kill the President.
I mean the people.”
“Who gave you the money to get to
“No one. A man in Chicago wanted to
see me, and I went there from Cleveland.”
“Who was the man?” pursued the superintendent.
“I don’t remember his name.”
“Do you remember where he lived?”
“No. I don’t know the names of the
“How did you get to Buffalo from Chicago?
Did this man pay your fare?”
“No, sir. I had some money I earned
at painting and carpenter work.”
“Didn’t this man in Chicago and some
others tells you to kill the president?” asked Mr. Collins.
“No, they did not. I thought it out
Czolgosz also made another explanation
of his visit to Chicago just before he went to Buffalo, but later
admitted that he had lied. He said that when he reached Chicago
a boy whom he did not know approached him at the depot and handed
him a packet of money. He said the money was for use on the Buffalo
trip but that he never knew who sent it to him or the identity of
the lad who delivered it. He then explained that most of the meetings
of anarchists that he attended at Cleveland were held in saloons
designated by an anarchist newspaper.
Half an hour later, when the superintendent
called in the brother-in-law of the prisoner he brought the subject
up again and said:
“How about that money you got at Chicago?”
“What money?” asked the prisoner.
“Why the money you told me about here
earlier in the evening,” said the superintendent.
“Did I tell you that? I have forgotten
if I did. I did not get any money. If I said so it was not true.”
Another demonstration of the many
falsehoods told by the prisoner was furnished by Waldeck Czolgosz.
He positively assured Warden Mead that his brother Leon could read
and write, in direct contradiction of the oft-repeated claim of
the prisoner that he was illiterate.
“Did you first follow the President
to San Francisco to kill him?”
“That’s a lie,” responded the prisoner.
“I did not. I did not make up my mind till I’d been here a few days.”
“You say you worked for your money?
Your father says you never had any money and that you would not
ABUSE FOR HIS FATHER.
“He’s no good. He married
a woman who made me cook my own food in the house after I had bought
Supt. Collins, at intervals, repeated
the question as to who sent him to kill the President, but to each
query he would respond:
“Nobody. I did it myself.”
“You know Emma Goldman says you are
an idiot and no good, and that you begged a quarter of her.”
“I don’t care what she says. She didn’t
tell me to do this.”
“What did you kill the President for?”
“He wouldn’t give me any work.”
“Did you ever ask him for work?”
ASKED MR. M’KINLEY FOR WORK.
“Yes, at Canton once,
and he turned me down.”
“Did you ever ask anybody else for
“Why didn’t you shoot the people who
“They weren’t like Mr. McKinley. He
could have fixed me.”
“Who helped you tie up your hand in
“Nodody. I never had a handkerchief
on my hand. Anybody that says so lies. I had the pistol in my coat
pocket, and when I got near the President I pulled it out and fired.”
“Why, they found the handkerchief
you had it wrapped in,” said the superintendent.
HIS HAND NOT WRAPPED.
“That ain’t so, sir,”
he earnestly answered. “I didn’t have no handkerchief. I just had
the pistol in my pocket.”
Among the hundreds of letters received
for Czolgosz at the prison was one mentioning a girl named Amy of
Chicago. Mr. Collins, thinking to surprise him, said:
“Your girl, named Amy of Chicago,
is coming to see you.”
The prisoner said, with stolid indifference,
and without the least tremor or surprise: “I don’t know any such
girl. I don’t want to see her.”
“Do you know where you are now?”
“Yes, in prison.”
“Do you know where the prison is?”
“No,” was the reply.
“You know that [you] are going to
die?” asked Mr. Collins.
“Yes, I suppose so. I expected it.”
And he answered the question in the same categorical way that he
had answered all the rest.
Mr. Collins closed the interview by
“If you want to tell me anything,
the guards will notify me.”
Czolgosz made no reply, and was taken
back to his cell.