November 27, 1888
TWOMBLETY, WHITECHAPEL SUSPECT
A Familiar Figure in This Country and
Europe-What New Yorkers
Know About Him.
NEW YORK, November 27.-Among the scores of men arrested by the London police, suspected of having something to do with the Whitechapel horror, only one is still regarded with suspicion.
He is said to be an American and his name has come over the cables as Kumberty, Twomberty and Tumberty; but the description which accompanies the various names was the same all the time, and it told of a man who, once seen, was not likely to be forgotten.
He is known from one end of the country to the other, but, strange to say, while scores of people can give the most minute particulars as to his dress, carriage and personal appearance, from the color of his scarf to the size of his boot, no one appears to have the least idea of his home life, his business, his associates or his friends.
Men who have known him by sight for thirty years never saw him greet any one as a friend, never saw him in company with any one, and never knew just what his business was. It seems impossible that a man whose appearance is so striking as to attract universal attention on a crowded street should be able to throw about his movements an air of such impenetrable mystery. He has been seen in almost every city of the country from San Francisco to Bangor, Me., yet no one knows where he was born, where he was raised, whether he is married or single, childless or with a family, or a hundred other little details which ordinary man are so fond of talking about. Dr. "Twomblety," for that is the name by which he is known in New York, is a man who evidently has some strong reason for keeping his life buried in profound obscurity. "I have known 'Dr.' Twomblety by sight for thirty years," said William H. Carr, the veteran clerk of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, last night, "and I can tell you absolutely nothing about the man's habits, except what clothes he wore and how he looked. It was along in the fifties when I first saw him. I was then living in Boston, and I believe he lived somewhere in the North End. There was a vague rumor that he had an office somewhere and sold patent medicine, but I never saw anyone who knew where the shop was or what he sold. Every one noticed him in those days, as is the case now, on account of his peculiar dressing. He would appear on the street in the most outlandish garments, fancy colored vests, gorgeous jewelry, and flashy coats and trousers.
"When I came to New York early in the sixties I saw the 'doctor' perambulating Broadway with an enormous greyhound following after him. In those days he used to wear a velvet coat, a blood-red necktie, a flowered vest, white trousers and flashy gloves, and he always carried a riding whip in his hand. He came into the Fifth Avenue Hotel often and would walk through the lobby in pompous style, with his chest thrown out and his shoulders well squared; but I never in my life saw him speak to any one, I never saw him accompanied by a friend, and I never knew him to inquire for any one. I have often speculated about his means of living. I never saw any one who could tell anything about him, though hundreds of people knew his name and had seen him in cities all over the country. I have not seen him for several years, and the last time he came into the Hotel I noticed that he was aging rapidly. He is a singular character."
"Did you ever hear that he had an aversion to women?" Mr. Carr was asked.
"I heard several stories about that," he replied, "and the general impression among those who knew about his habits was that he avoided women. I never heard of his offering them any violence, and, indeed, he was the very last man I would think likely to be guilty of such crimes as those in Whitechapel."
Colonel James L. Sothern, of Chicago, the well known lawyer, was talking to a group of friends in the Hoffman House when some one mentioned Twombelty's cause. "I have met that fellow all over America and Europe," said Colonel Sothern. "The first time I saw him was in London. It was along about 1870, I believe, and he was dressed up in the most startling fashion. I never saw anything quite equal to it. He had an enormous Russian shako on his head, an overcoat, the front of which was covered with decorations; earrings in his ears and by his side a very black negro, fantastically gotten up in a parti-colored dress that appeared to be a blending of the flags of all the nations. A great crowd followed him, but he didn't appear to notice them. I saw him afterwards in San Francisco, and I have seen him a hundred times in Chicago. Once I met him in Cincinnati parading through the Burnet House, and I asked the clerk who he was. He told me the fellow's name was Twomblety, but said he knew nothing about him, except that he didn't live there, and appeared to know no one. He said that he was a kind of patent medicine man, he believed, who sold some off-color medicine."
James Pryor, the detective of the Fifth Avenue Hotel, appeared to know more of the mysterious Twomblety than any one else. "It must have been twenty years ago since I first saw him," said Pryor, "and I can see him now just like he was then. He had an army officer's cap, a big cape, and light colored trousers. He was a dandy then, I tell you. You couldn't find a finer made man in this town. He had a big black mustache, one of the blacking-brush kind, black eyes, a good complexion and a walk like he had just been elected Alderman. He had a kind of a fake medicine shop down on Grand street, where he sold his patent medicine. They chased him away from there and he opened up his place in Jersey City. I don't know how he made his money but he always appeared to have plenty of it.
"Wherever he went he was followed by a thick-set young man, who kept about twenty paces behind him. They never spoke to each other, and when the 'doctor' would come into the hotel his shadow would lounge in after him. They got to telling tough stories about the 'doctor,' and the guests complained about him-the gentlemen, I mean-and said they didn't care to have him so near them, so I determined to bounce him. I remember that day very well, because I fired another fellow just before I did the 'doctor,' and what happened afterwards made me remember that other fellow. The other chap was a wild-faced little fellow, who used to be 'strung up' by the Republican National Committee in the daytime. They would get him to make speeches for them and tell him they were going to give him a consultship. I said to them, 'You had better let that fellow alone. He will hurt somebody some day.' One morning I went into the reading-room, and there he was writing a speech in his bare feet. He had taken his shoes off and thrown them aside. I had a tough time getting him out, because he didn't want to go. The little fellow's name was Guiteau, and three months afterwards he killed President Garfield.
"But I never had that trouble with the 'doctor.' He was very quiet, and as soon as he humbled to the fact that I knew him he went right out. I saw him a year afterwards passing the hotel. He never came in, though. I have spent the best part of twenty years on Broadway and I have seen a great many curious characters, but Twomblety is one of the oddest fish I ever saw. He always had plenty of money, he appeared to dress regardless of expense and paid his bills, but I never could find out where the money came from or where the fellow lived."
"Do you think he is the Whitechapel murderer?"
"I certainly do not," the detective replied emphatically. "If I were to search New York for a man less likely to be guilty than the 'doctor' I wouldn't find him. Why, he hasn't the nerve of a chicken. He just had enough nerve to put some molasses and water together and label it as medicine-the biggest words being in the latin-and sell it."