ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Was This The Perfect Murder?

Updated on February 5, 2012

It might have been the perfect murder. There again, it might not have been murder at all. Here are the facts: I'll let you decide.

On the morning of October 18, 1911, Allison M. MacFarland, a 35-year-old advertising manager, returned to his home at 346 Park Avenue, Newark, NJ. The previous day he had traveled to Manhattan on business for his employers, Crocker-Wheeler, a manufacturing company in Ampere, close to Newark. MacFarland had taken his six-year-old son, Robert, with him on the trip, and the two spent the night at the St Paul Hotel on Columbus and 69th Street before catching the early morning train back to Newark.

Allison MacFarland
Allison MacFarland

Discovers Body

When MacFarland entered the house all was quiet. He went upstairs and saw his other child, two-year-old Ruth, crawling around in the bathroom. Calling out and getting no answer, he entered the bedroom and found his wife, Evelyn, lying on the bed. She was unconscious. MacFarland immediately summoned the family physician. Dr. George V. Gale tried to revive Evelyn but it was too late. She had been dead for several hours. Gale professed himself puzzled. Apart from frequent headaches and a touch of insomnia, for which Evelyn took bromide, she had been in good health.

"How about heart failure?" said MacFarland. Gale conceded the possibility but was doubtful. No, the only way to clear up this mystery, he said, was by holding an autopsy. This seemed to alarm the newly widowed husband. He fretted over the effect any adverse publicity might have on his two children, but Gale was adamant. He wasn't signing any death certificate without further medical investigation.

Autopsy Results

His caution proved well-founded. Toxicological analysis revealed that MacFarland had died from cyanide poisoning. County Prosecutor Wilbur A. Mott headed-up the investigation and he asked MacFarland, point-blank, if there was any cyanide in the house. MacFarland said sure. On October 7 he had obtained some cyanide from the photographic department where he worked and had brought it home to make into a solution for cleaning jewelry and silverware. He had poured the poison into an empty bromide bottle, put a warning label on the bottle, and placed it on a shelf in the bathroom. All he could think was that his wife, who frequently got up in the middle of the night and went to the bathroom without turning on the light, had inadvertently swallowed a draught of poison, thinking it was bromide.

Mott digested this story with ill-disguised skepticism and ordered that MacFarland be placed under close surveillance. Dr. Gale, too, was concerned. It was his recollection that the label on the bottle taken away for analysis on the evening of October 18 was different to the one he had seen that morning. He suspected that, at some time during the day, MacFarland had switched labels. Mott worked up a murder scenario. Before leaving for New York, MacFarland had cunningly placed a bromide label on the bottle containing cyanide, knowing that his wife would, most likely, take a dose at some time during the night, giving him the perfect alibi of being 15 miles away at the time of her death.

Another Woman?

But where was the motive? On the day of her death, Evelyn wrote to her parents, saying that "Mac" was in New York that day and adding that she and her husband were deeply in love. But it was all a sham. Evelyn knew that her husband had been seeing another woman for two years and, judging from letters that detectives found in MacFarland's desk at work, he was desperate to marry her. This was enough for Mott to arrest MacFarland and charge him with murder.

Florence Bromley - the 'Other Woman'
Florence Bromley - the 'Other Woman'

The 'other woman' was Florence Bromley, a 26-year-old divorcee who lived in Philadelphia. She had tried marriage in 1903, didn't care for it, and left her husband after two weeks. She and MacFarland met when he was based in Philadelphia and he advertised for a stenographer. Florence got the job and a whole lot more besides. There was no doubt about her feelings for MacFarland and she continued to pepper her lover with letters as he languished behind bars, little realizing the importance that these letters would assume. When detectives went to interview Florence she grimaced and said that she would prefer to not testify at the trial. "How 'bout we charge you with being an accomplice to murder, instead?" was the threatening response. Well, if you put like that, said Florence …. Unsurprisingly she agreed to testify.

Mott did his best to poison the atmosphere before the trial began. He made sure that teasing extracts from Florence's love letters were leaked to the press. Newspaper readers could now chortle over the way that MacFarland always called Florence "Bunny," and how she styled herself his "Bunnywife."

Trial Begins

MacFarland went on trial before Chief Judge William S. Gummere in Newark on January 28, 1912. The courtroom was packed each day. Most came to hear the contents of the notorious "Bunnywife" letters and few left disappointed. Those that were read out in court contained steamy exchanges that no newspaper dare print, while Judge Gummere ruled that a few were so graphic that they could not be made public at all. At a later court hearing, shocked justices noted that the letters "denoted the greatest degree of intimacy possible between a man and a woman."

Mott made great capital out of these 58 letters because he needed to. The prosecution case was actually wafer-thin; so thin, in fact, that MacFarland's attorney didn't think it necessary to call his client to the stand. This, apparently, didn't sit well with the jury. They wanted to hear him explain how a bottle of deadly poison – to be used as silver cleaner! – wound up in the bathroom. Judge Gummere's admonition that the defendant's morality had no bearing on whether he was guilty of murder had little impact on the jury. After a trial lasting just three days they found MacFarland guilty. Gummere was reportedly white-faced with shock when the verdict was announced. But the jury had spoken and it was his duty to pronounce sentence of death.

An appeal was duly lodged on grounds that the letters had been improperly introduced by the prosecution to demonstrate motive and on June 20, 1912, by a 9-5 majority, the court overturned the conviction. Mott's gamble had backfired.

In Trouble Again
In Trouble Again

Second Trial

On October 13, the state tried once more. This time MacFarland did take the stand and apart from one sticky moment – a admission that there wasn't actually any silver in the house– he held up well. Judge Gummere, who was once again on the bench, stressed that MacFarland's frankness in admitting that he had placed cyanide in the bathroom actually weighed in his favor. "Poisoners," Gummere told the jury, "do not go around with brass bands; they usually work in secret." One year to the day after Evelyn MacFarland was found dead, her husband was acquitted and discharged.

But his troubles weren't over yet. Ten days after his acquittal – and after being ditched by Florence – MacFarland was arrested on charges of counterfeiting. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in the federal penitentiary at Atlanta. Upon his release whatever breach that had opened up between him and Florence was healed, and on October 1, 1913, the two were married at Niagara Falls. History doesn't record what happened to the loving couple.

Your Opinon

So what do you think? Did Allison MacFarland – as many people reckoned at the time – plan and carry out the perfect murder, or was he the real victim in this tragedy? I'd love to hear from you.

Some suggestions for further reading on related matters:

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      You're most welcome! Comes from being the odd duck that inherited a triple dose of the curiosity gene in a family with many, many secrets and skeletons to rattle. ;D

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      ccbrookes 

      7 years ago

      Wow, JamaGenee, that is some hardcore research you've come up with! Thanks for the extra info.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      A few tidbits about Allison and wives:

      Allison, a Civil Engineer, married Evelyn B. Crockett on 3 Oct 1900 in Maine, where both were born. By the 1910 census, they and son Robert, 4, and daughter *Evlyn* (Evelyn RUTH?), 4 mos, were living in Philadelphia, next door to Mr. and Mrs. John BROMLEY and their 22-yr-old dau Florence. Yep, the same Florence. If she "tried marriage" in 1903, she would've only been 15, so I think parental intervention had something to do with the "marriage" ending.

      After Evelyn's murder, young Robert and Ruth went to live with their Crockett grandparents (per the 1920 census). By 1920, Allison and "Bunny" were living in a suburb of Philadelphia, with *their* 3-yr-old dau Madge (Margaret?). Allison's occupation was "Mechanical Engineer - Shipyard". Can't find them anywhere after 1920. Left the country, maybe?

      The crime that sent Allison to prison for 18 months was counterfeiting *molds*, not money. Industrial crime. But at least it put him behind bars for awhile after the murder charge evaporated, so he didn't get off *totally* scot free. ;D

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Sounds to me like McFarland got away with the perfect murder. Bought cyanide to make a solution to clean silver, but there was no silver in the house? And he put the cyanide in an empty bromide bottle? Why put it in a different container than the one it came in in the first place?

      'Twould be interesting to know what happened to Bunny after she became the second Mrs. MacFarland. Did her off her too? ;D

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      7 years ago

      Sure, it was murder, but in his sociopathic way of thinking it was his wife's fault because she drank the poison.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)