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Examiner
  • Q5 with Giles Fowler

  • Giles Fowler is author of a new book, “Deaths on Pleasant Street: The Ghastly Enigma of Colonel Swope and Dr. Hyde.” (Truman State University Press). In 1909, three members of the wealthy Swope family of Independence mysteriously died, and Dr. Bennett Clark Hyde was tried in connection with the deaths. The story grabbed national media attention.

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  • Giles Fowler is author of a new book, “Deaths on Pleasant Street: The Ghastly Enigma of Colonel Swope and Dr. Hyde.” (Truman State University Press). In 1909, three members of the wealthy Swope family of Independence mysteriously died, and Dr. Bennett Clark Hyde was tried in connection with the deaths. The story grabbed national media attention.
    1 What drew you to this story?
    In 1960, a colleague at The Kansas City Star was doing an article about the demolition of the Swope Mansion and the grim mysteries associated with the place. I found the whole gothic melodrama irresistible and vowed one day to do a book, the first ever written on the subject.
    2 How would Nancy Grace have handled this story today?
    Who knows? I can tell you how the colorful journalists of the time covered it – with a delicious sense of the lurid, the sentimental and the macabre. It leads me to wonder if reporters back then had more fun.
    3 How long did the research take? Where did you start?
    The research took about three and a half years, starting in the archives of the Western Historical Document Collection at UMKC and the Jackson County Historical Society. From there it spread to scores of other primary and secondary sources, including (but by no means restricted to) letters, unpublished memoirs, period newspapers, maps, photographs, forensic medical reports, nurses’ logs ... on and on and on.
    4 Are descendants of the major players around town? Did they have any reaction to the book?
    There are some. The only one I’ve gotten to know well is a granddaughter of the celebrated attorney, Frank Walsh, who defended Doctor Hyde with dazzling brilliance. (She bought four or five copies.) What I really wish is that I could interview all the ghosts. Anybody know of a good medium?
    5 What’s your next book? 
    Wow. Who knows? Will I live long enough and have enough energy to try another one? Ask my internist. Ask God. I can say I’ve had huge fun with this project, and maybe that’s pleasure enough.
     

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