Research Trip for Detective Geyer Book

Frank Geyer arrested Annie McCraken for larceny on May 19, 1880.
Frank Geyer arrested Annie McCraken for larceny on May 19, 1880.

Early in the month of May, I made another research trip to Philadelphia, Washington DC, and surrounding cities and was honored to meet with Detective Geyer’s amazing family. Unlike troubling claims that Geyer’s wife and daughter were tragically killed in a house fire prior to his assignment to the H. H. Holmes case as told in two popular books (Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City and Harold Schechter’s Depraved), Geyer’s wife and daughter lived on and were never involved in a fire to begin with. In fact, the names of Geyer’s wife and daughter were incorrect in those books as well. It is puzzling to Detective Geyer’s family as to why such statements were ever printed.

Most of my research time was spent at the City of Philadelphia Archives. I can’t say enough about their professional and knowledgeable staff! While there, I poured through old police employment roll books and files, criminal records, Rogue’s Police gallery, rare books, and many other valuable documents.

I set aside time to travel to Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington DC. Parking is few and far between so after driving in circles, I found a parking spot an hour walking distance from LOC (good thing the rain stopped). But it was worth it. I combed through Pinkerton Detective Agency files looking for information on the H. H. Holmes case and Pinkerton’s involvement in the investigation prior to the City of Philadelphia assigning Detective Geyer. Some Internet sites identify Detective Geyer as a Pinkerton Detective, which is not correct. Detective Geyer had a long employment history with the City of Philadelphia. Even so, I checked Pinkerton’s employment cards to verify Geyer was not an employee (which he was not) and came across a rare letter from Pinkerton officials who responded in 1940 to a request for information on their involvement in the H. H. Holmes case. In the letter, they describe reviewing their Pinkerton files and documents and very specifically state Geyer was with the City of Philadelphia.

Pinkerton Involvement in HH Holmes Case
Pinkerton Detective Agency officials review their H. H. Holmes case file in 1940, and respond to a request for information from Mr. Dudley. Page 1 of letter. (Source: Library of Congress, Pinkerton Files)
Pinkerton Involvement in HH Holmes Case, page 2
Page 2 of letter.  (Source: Library of Congress Pinkerton Files)













All in all, it was a much needed research trip. I want to give a special shout out to Detective Geyer’s wonderful family for sharing precious photos and memories with me, and especially Geyer’s great great grandson, who drove over twelve hours one way to be there. I also can’t say enough about the City of Philadelphia Archives staff and the Library of Congress personnel. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Detective in the White City: The Real Story of Frank Geyer

on sale November 14, 2017!


Cover Reveal: Detective in the White City

Excited to reveal my cover for Detective in the White City: The Real Story of Frank Geyer!

Its been a long journey and a year and a half of research, but the wait is well worth it!

Detective in the White City by JD Crighton

The idea for Detective in the White City came to me after I discovered false information about Geyer perpetuated in two popular books. Information, that if true, would have changed the entire history of the Geyer family.

Detective in the White City is the true story of Philadelphia Detective Frank P. Geyer.

A special thank you to my AWESOME cover designer, Kristin N. Spencer.

Detective in the White City: The Real Story of Frank Geyer

on sale November 14, 2017!


Newspaper Ad for Detective Frank Geyer’s 1896 Book

I found an old newspaper ad for Detective Geyer’s book about the H. H. Holmes, Benjamin Pitezel investigation.

The price of the Geyer’s book was inflated to $1.50 due to National sensationalism of the case. H. H. Holmes wrote his own book that sold for 25 cents and was also published in 1896. Holmes’ memoir and confession of twenty-seven murders as well as his unusual burial and story of reincarnation are all featured in Holmes’ Own Story: Confessed 27 Murders, Lied then Died (available here and other retailers listed here).

Geyer’s 1896 book will be available on this website after the September release of Detective in the White City: The Real Story of Frank Geyer.




  1. “Holmes will Hang,” Plain Dealer Cleveland, April 12, 1896
  2. The cost of Holmes’ book was listed on the cover, Library of Congress

H. H. Holmes, the Clodhopper Who Almost Didn’t Graduate

Herman Webster Mudgett, M. D., known as H. H. Holmes, barely squeaked by as a medical graduate of University of Michigan in 1884. Mudgett held a horrific record among University graduates–he was the first ‘arch villain’ executed for murder. Mudgett, a serial killer from the late 1800’s, came close to not graduating because some faculty members voted against it. Ann Arbor Argus reported Mudgett did not distinguish himself as a student and “showed no marks of brilliance or even acuteness.” Along with his lack of acuteness, perhaps faculty remembered an earlier incident where Mudgett got himself into trouble with a hair dresser who insisted he marry her. Medical faculty knew Mudgett was already a married man and as a result, he narrowly escaped expulsion from the school.

Herman Webster Mudgett, aka H. H. Holmes, 1884 graduate of University of Michigan Medical School

A fellow graduate went on to sum Mudgett up into one sentence: “He looked and acted like a clodhopper,” said Dr. J. L. Rose of Michigan.

Ann Arbor Argus declared, “It is not a matter of pride to have graduated such a villain, but it is a matter of pride that this is the first arch villain to be found among the many thousand graduates of the university.” They believed Mudgett’s criminal traits were developed after he graduated and concluded, “…The world is better because he has finally left it.”

Sixty-eight years later, in 1952, another infamous doctor graduated from University of Michigan Medical School, Dr. Jacob ‘Jack” Kervorkian, M. D., (nicknamed Dr. Death). Kervorkian was said to be obsessed with death and dying and was a staunch advocate of doctor-assisted suicide. Like Mudgett, he, too, served time in prison but had a much better outcome than Mudgett. Kervorkian was sentenced in 1999 to twenty-five years in prison for second-degree murder and was released in 2007 for good behavior. He promised not to assist in suicides again.


1. “The First One Hung,” The Ann Arbor Argus, Vol. LXII, No. 19, 1.
2. “Jack Kervorkian,” Bio., retrieved on October 7, 2016,
3. University of Michigan Medical School, 1884 graduate photo


Research from Detective in the White City, on Sale in September!

Detective in the White City: The Real Story of Frank Geyer

Research about the Secret Search for Gideon Marsh – June 1892

Gideon Marsh, President of the failed Keystone Bank in Philadelphia. Detective Frank P. Geyer went on an International search to bring the fugitive to justice.

Authorities deemed the mission classified to prevent media from tipping off the fugitive. No one knew the details, not even his wife and daughter. Fourteen days after Frank and Mary’s seventh wedding anniversary, Detective Geyer sailed on the Martha steamship from Brooklyn April 23, 1892. His distraught wife told the Philadelphia Inquirer she did not know her husband left the city until the Philadelphia Detective Bureau told her. He left without so much as a goodbye to her or their four-year-old daughter, Edna.

“My husband left the house one morning with the expectation of returning in time for supper. Tea-time came, but Frank did not appear. I waited some little time for him, as he is very often delayed. Late in the evening someone rang the bell, and thinking that it was he I hurried to the door. Instead of Frank, it was his fellow worker, Mr. Crawford. He told me he had come over to let me know that Frank had been sent upon some mission from the office. Frank’s work, he said, would take some time to complete and he would not report back until it was finished. In the meantime the department would keep me posted about him as far as it could and would send him any letters that I might write.”


  1.  Image: [Gideon Marsh, President of the failed Keystone Bank in Philadelphia] The Illustrated American, Volume VII, No. 71, For the Week Ending June 27, 1891, “The Keystone Bank Wreck,” New York: Illustrated American Publishing Co., Bible House, 1891, 247-250.
  2.  “Long Chase for a Culprit; How Marsh, the Bank Wrecker, Was Hunted: Detective Geyer’s Story,” Washington Times, November 13, 1898, 5.
  3.  Journal of the Common Council of the City of Philadelphia, From April 6, 1891 to September 24, 1891, Vol. I. Philadelphia, PA: George F. Lasher, Printer, 1891, 143.
  4.  “Geyer’s Absence Sill a Mystery; The Well-Known Detective Has Been Gone for Months; Even His Wife Kept in Ignorance of His Whereabouts,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 2.
  5.  “All the Dramas of Real Life Eclipsed By the Return of Gideon Marsh,” New York Herald, November 13, 1898, 1-2.

Holmes’ Own Story: Holmes Confessed 27 Murders – Lied Then Died

Holmes’ Own Story: Confessed 27 Murders – Lied Then Died features eighty-seven (87) restored and sourced rare historical illustrations and photographs.

Holmes' Own Story Book Cover

Holmes’ Own is a fascinating look into the mind of one of America’s first serial killers. Born as Herman Webster Mudgett, H. H. Holmes was a horrific killer featured in Erik Larson’s popular book, The Devil in the White City.

Holmes built a three story ‘Murder Castle’ in Chicago in the late 1800s with death on his mind. A doctor by trade, Holmes lured unsuspecting victims into secret rooms, vaults and gas chambers and made use of a dissection table in his basement. He preyed on travelers that came to Chicago for the World Columbian Exposition in 1893 by advertising rooms for rent and offering employment opportunities.

No doubt about it, Holmes earned despicable nicknames such as Arch Fiend, Butcher, Modern Bluebeard, Swindler, and Moral Degenerate. Holmes was a monster in disguise as a doctor, a perfect ruse to lure his victims. After all, who would not trust a doctor?

Learn what Holmes personality and thought process was like, straight from the mind of a killer. This three-part book includes Holmes’ memoir and his confession of twenty-seven murders. It also includes details about his death, unusual burial, and an odd story Holmes told about his reincarnation.

Available NOW:


Unsolved Mystery: Novelist Georgi Markov Poisoned With Deadly Ricin

News reports of envelopes tainted with the deadly biological agent, Ricin, got me thinking about the 1978 assassination of a Bulgarian dissident, Georgi Markov, who was an acclaimed novelist and playwright.

Georgi Markov Assassinated with Ricin in 1978
Georgi Markov, Acclaimed Novelist and Playwright, Assassinated with Ricin in 1978

Why was Markov murdered? Markov was outspoken of the Bulgarian government and communism and wrote about it in novels, short stories and playwrights. His writings angered the Bulgarian government, causing Markov to defect to Italy in 1969. He migrated to England and received political asylum in 1971.

Following his Bulgarian defection, Markov was accused of being a traitor and tried and convicted in absentia, sentenced to six years, six months in prison.

From 1975 until his death in 1978, he provided critical reports of the Bulgarian government and communist life to the CIA supported Radio Free Europe. Many of his broadcasts were critical of political party leader, Todar Zhivkov.

This prompted Zhivkov and the Bulgarian government to enlist the help of the Soviet KGB to silence him. With the assistance of the KGB, agents of the Bulgarian secret police reportedly made two failed attempts to assassinate Markov, who was receiving death threats.

At a bus stop on the south side of the Waterloo Bridge in London on September 7, 1978, Markov felt a sharp pain similar to a bug bite on the back of his right thigh. When he turned around, he noticed a man who bent down to pick up an umbrella.

Diagram of Possible Ricin Umbrella Weapon (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Diagram of Possible Ricin Umbrella Weapon (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Markov returned to his office at the British Broadcasting Corporation and noticed a red pimple at the site of the sting. He told his co-workers of the incident at the bus stop. The pain did not subside. That evening he developed a fever and was admitted to the hospital. Markov told doctors that he might have been poisoned. His condition worsened and on September 11, 1978, at the age of forty-nine, he died. Markov was survived by his wife, Annabel Dilke and daughter, Alexandra-Raina.

When pathologists performed an autopsy, they discovered a metal pellet the size of a pin-head embedded in Markov’s thigh that contained the deadly biological agent, ricin.

The British newspaper The Times reported the prime suspect was Francesco Gullino, but Scotland Yard has not charged him as of 2016. Today, the Georgi Markov case, which is still open, remains an unsolved mystery of the cold war.

Who do you think murdered Georgi Markov?


What are Bioterrorism Agent Categories?

Bioterrorism, one of the five types of terrorism that come from the acronym CBRNE (see CBRNE article), is the intentional release of a biological agent. There are four types of biological agents: bacteria, viruses, rickettsia and toxins.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever (Category A) Source CDC Frederick Murphy
Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, Category A, (Source: CDC Frederick Murphy)

Bioterrorism agents are classified by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) into three categories, based on how easily they are spread and the severity of the illness or death they cause. Category A consists of the highest risk biological agents and Category C consists of emerging threats for disease such as influenza and H1N1.

An excellent example of the CDC Bioterrorism Agent Classification system is represented in the table below from Baylor College of Medicine. The table shows the three categories, their definitions, and examples of the types of biological agents that fit into each category.

Bioterrorism Category Table Source Baylor College of Medicine
Bioterrorism Agent Category Table (Source: Baylor College of Medicine)

Bioterrorism is especially concerning because biological agents are relatively easy to access, are extremely difficult to detect, and have a potential for rapid spread with a delayed onset of symptoms. Many biological agents such as pneumonic (inhaled) anthrax, first present as flu-like symptoms, making it difficult to detect. Flu symptoms progress to severe respiratory distress. Death may occur within two to three days of symptoms.

Successful early detection and rapid response to bioterrorism is largely dependent on close cooperation and coordination between public health, emergency management, law enforcement, and emergency medical services.

The general public is encouraged to be vigilant and report signs of bioterrorism to authorities. Events that may suggest a bioterrorism attack include an unusual number of sick or dying people or animals. What should you do? First, do NOT panic. Call 911 immediately and stay away from the area. Do NOT try to rescue people or animals as you risk being contaminated as well.

To learn more, the public is encouraged to attend FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training near you, which will teach citizens how to respond to biological agents and other types of emergencies.


What The Heck is CBRNE?

What the heck is CBRNE and what does it stand for? CBRNE is an acronym used to describe types of terrorist weapons, which stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives. CBRNE is often described as Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Throughout our history, CBRNE weapons have been utilized by terrorists to inflict mass casualties as well as cause major disruptions to society. For example, shortly after 9-11, letters tainted with the biological agent, Anthrax (bacillus anthracis) were mailed and subsequently investigated as the Amerithrax case.

Amerithrax Investigation (Source: FBI)
Amerithrax Investigation (Source: FBI)

Of the CBRNE weapons, biological agents pose a serious threat due to their relatively easy access, their potential for rapid spread and delayed onset of symptoms. In order to appropriately prepare for and prevent these types of incidents, emergency personnel and trained citizens should be able to recognize these and other types of CBRNE agents and know how to respond safely.

In future articles, I will define and discuss each element in CBRNE as well as discuss preparedness and response for emergency personnel and citizens.


District Attorney Ray Gricar: Mystery is Still Unsolved

Ray Gricar Missing (Source: FBI)
Missing Person Ray Frank Gricar (source: FBI)
Missing Person Ray Frank Gricar (source: FBI)

Ray Gricar, the Centre County district attorney who failed to prosecute Jerry Sandusky in 1998, is missing and his case is still unsolved. Conflicting theories proliferate the Internet about what happened to Gricar. Some say he intentionally disappeared. Others say he was murdered as a cover-up or that he committed suicide. Whatever the theory, authorities are no closer to discovering what actually happened to Gricar today than they were on April 15, 2005 when Gricar went missing.

The last time the district attorney was seen was when he left his office and drove away in his red Mini Cooper. Around 11:30 a.m. that same day, he called his girlfriend, Patty Fornicola, to say he was on Route 192 and that was the last anyone ever heard of Gricar again.

The next day, Gricar’s Mini Cooper was found in a parking lot near an antique store in Lewisburg, PA with his cellphone inside. Several months later his county-issued laptop was found in the water nearby where his car was found. This was promising, however, the hard drive was missing. Three months after the laptop was found, police found the the hard drive but no data could be recovered due to water damage.

Investigators found Internet searches on his home computer about how to wreck a hard drive, how to fry a hard drive, and water damage to a notebook computer. This was compelling evidence that he or someone with access to his home computer was intentionally trying to destroy his hard drive.

Gricar’s disappearance continues to baffle those who knew him. Ironically, his disappearance came right after he had broken up the county’s biggest drug ring.

On July 25, 2011, the court approved the petition of Gricar’s daughter, Lara Gricar, to have her father declared legally dead. Although Gricar is declared legally dead, he is still considered missing.

According to an FBI flyer, Ray “Frank” Gricar was born on October 9, 1945 and is 6 feet tall. At the time of his disappearance, his hair was brown and graying and he weighted 170 pounds. He has green eyes. Ray may also use the names Ray Lange or Ray Gray. He was last seen wearing a blue fleece jacket, jeans, and tennis shoes. He has ties to Ohio and California.

What do you think happened to Ray Gricar?


Do you think Albert DeSalvo is the Boston Strangler?

Boston authorities announced a break in the Boston Strangler case.

New DNA evidence linking Albert DeSalvo to one of the unsolved Boston Strangler victims, Mary Sullivan, nineteen, is key in exhuming DeSalvo’s body to determine once and for all his link to the victim. Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis announced new evidence that can now be linked with 99.9% certainty to the late Albert DeSalvo.

Albert DeSalvo Source: FBI
Albert DeSalvo After Excaping Bridewater State Hospital in 1967 Source: FBI

Authorities concluded that DNA from semen collected in Mary Sullivan’s rape and murder produced a “familial match” with him. The Boston Police Commissioner said detectives followed relatives of DeSalvo, waiting to grab DNA for comparative purposes. That opportunity presented itself when a relative of DeSalvo discarded a plastic bottle, which was collected and examined for a match.

Albert DeSalvo was an Army veteran and married with children. He confessed to the Boston Strangler murders of thirteen women, but from the moment it was given, there was skepticism and controversy. There was no evidence linking him to the murders until now.

DeSalvo was sentenced to life in prison in 1967 for unrelated armed robberies and sexual assaults. He escaped in February of that same year with two inmates from Bridgewater State Hospital. He later turned himself in and was transferred to Walpole, a maximum security prison. He eventually recanted his Boston Strangler confessions while at Walpole. In 1973, he was was found stabbed to death in the prison infirmary. No one was convicted of his murder.

Boston officials say the evidence in the case has never changed but the ability to use that evidence with today’s DNA technology has surpassed every hope and expectation of investigators assigned to the case.

The Boston Strangler targeted women ages nineteen to eighty-five years old. Without any sign of forced entry, authorities speculated that the strangler either knew his victim or somehow talked his way into their homes.

Do you think Albert DeSalvo is the Boston Strangler?


Bring Michaela Garecht Home – Missing Since 1988

Michaela Joy Garecht (Source: FBI)

On the morning of November 19, 1988, Michaela Joy Garecht was nine years old when she was abducted by an unknown male in the Rainbow Market parking lot in Hayward, California. Michaela was trying to retrieve her friend’s scooter that had been moved near the abductor’s car when she was grabbed and forced into the vehicle.

Michaela Kidnapping Suspect
Michaela Kidnapping Suspect

At the time of the abduction, the suspect was described as being between eighteen and twenty-four years old with a slender build. He was approximately 6’0″ and 180 pounds with dirty blond, shoulder-length hair. He had a pockmarked or pimpled face and was driving an older model, full-sized four-door sedan, possibly gold or tan in color, with damage to the front bumper (source: FBI).

As noted on Sharon Nemeth Murch’s website (Michaela’s mother), an eyewitness noted his eye’s were fox eyes and looked right at the witness but didn’t see them.

This Michaela Garecht Poster from Missing shows an age progressed picture of what Michaela may look like today.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the abductor of Michaela Garecht.

It is touching to read posts from Michaela’s mother who writes to Michaela in a heartfelt Dear Michaela Blog. What would you do if your child went missing?

I pray that Michaela comes home soon.


Character Bio and Backstory Form

Character Bio and Backstory Form by JD Crighton

Seasoned authors as well as new ones know that if you are not careful you can loose track of your characters biographies and backstories when writing a novel.

While there are many different ways to keep track of characters, some common ones are the use of index cards or spreedsheets (I know what you are saying…argh) or a combination of the two.

This morning I was working on my manuscript for my new bio-terrorism thriller novel and I realized there has to be a better way to keep track of characters. Although one of my hobbies is designing databases (I know that’s geeky), I was not willing to take the time out of my project to design one. Who knows, maybe someday I will. If I do, I’ll be sure to share it with you.

I looked at character forms available online. Most were multiple pages which I felt were too in-depth.

Character Bio and Backstory Form by JD
Character Bio and Backstory Form by JD

So I designed a single page Character Bio Backstory Form (MS Word .docx) that can easily be utilized by typing (using a computer or old-fashioned typewriter) or handwriting in the details.

I prefer to type the character details (on my computer) in the same blue color you see in the link above, which is similar to the blue ink I use when handwriting. If I decide to change something about my character or his/her backstory I can easily make the changes on my computer and reprint. I then tape the single pages along each side of the whiteboard I use to keep track of the plot.

You are all welcome to use and abuse it, change it, and copy it to your hearts content as long as you don’t put it on your website and charge others a fee (you never know…someone may think to try this).

It made my life easier and by sharing with you I hope to make your life easier too.


Is Madeleine McCann Still Alive?

The disappearance of Madeleine McCann captured headlines in 2007 when she vanished from the family’s vacation apartment in Praia da Luz on the Algarve coast, nine days before her fourth birthday.

Madeleine McCann Age Progression Image(age 9)
Madeleine McCann Age Progression Image (9 yr)

Numerous sightings of Madeleine were reported over the years. To further investigate the case, Scotland Yard launched Operation Grange in 2011 at the request of the British Home Secretary.

After reviewing over 30,000 documents and making numerous visits to Portugal, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood recently said they continue to believe there is a possibility Madeleine is alive. Their review of the case has identified thirty-eight persons of interest, twelve of whom are British nationals. Madeleine’s parents are not suspects.

Hope still remains that this beautiful blonde-haired girl who has blue-green eyes with a distinctive mark on her right eye, known as a coloboma on the iris, will be found alive. For more information: Madeleine McCann Flyer


Quotes From Famous Authors About Writing

Stephen King (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

To stay motivated and devote time every day to writing, I found some quotes from famous authors. Some are right on the money and others are downright funny.

Stephen King (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Stephen King (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.   – Stephen King

I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished   – James Patterson

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it – Toni Morrison

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!   – Ray Bradbury

You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write   – Saul Bellow

Mark Twain (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
Mark Twain (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be   – Mark Twain

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings   – Stephen King

what are your famous quotes?