Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “In the Shadow of Death, to Superintendent Collins, the Assassin Talked”
City of publication: St. Louis, Missouri
Date of publication: 29 October 1901
Volume number: 54
Issue number: 69
|“In the Shadow of Death, to Superintendent Collins, the Assassin Talked.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch 29 Oct. 1901 v54n69: p. 2.|
|Leon Czolgosz (incarceration: Auburn, NY); Leon Czolgosz (interrogation).|
|Cornelius V. Collins; Leon Czolgosz; Waldeck Czolgosz; Emma Goldman; William McKinley; J. Warren Mead.|
|The individual referred to below as “Amy from Chicago” cannot be identified.|
In the Shadow of Death, to Superintendent Collins, the Assassin Talked
He Denied That He Had Accomplices or That His Hand Was Hidden
[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 Buffalo? ”
“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 streets there.”
“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 myself.”
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 work.”
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 it.”
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
“Did you ever ask anybody else for work?”
“Why didn’t you shoot the people who refused you?”
“They weren’t like Mr. McKinley. He could have fixed me.”
“Who helped you tie up your hand in the handkerchief?”
“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 saying:
“If you want to tell me anything, the guards will notify me.”
Czolgosz made no reply, and was taken back to his cell.