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The Sixteenth Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist, and the Lindbergh Kidnappingby Adam Schrager
Synopses & Reviews
Before there was CSI and NCIS, there was a mild-mannered forensic scientist whose diligence would help solve the twentieth century's greatest crime. Arthur Koehler was called the Sherlock Holmes of his era for his work tracing the ladder used to kidnap Charles Lindbergh's son to the culprit. The subject of an upcoming Smithsonian Channel show, this is a gripping tale of science and true crime.
When people knocked on wood for good luck, Arthur Koehler actually knew why. He could explain the superstition dating back to ancient times when trees were held to be deities of the forest and simply tapping on them would invoke the aid of those higher powers to ward off evils
Koehler knew every tree in the world was distinct, just like every person. As he liked to say, "A tree never lies."
And so the revelation came.
He began to write to his best contact, his superior at the New Jersey State Police, Capt. J.J. Lamb, the man leading the Lindbergh baby kidnapping investigation. He wanted to remind him of the original report he'd conducted on the ladder a year and a half earlier.
"Plenty of intriguing yet tragic details come to light in this chronicle of the 1932 kidnapping and murder of Charles A. Lindberg Jr., the 20-month-old son of the first aviator to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and the ensuing manhunt for the kidnappers. Schrager, a winner of more than 20 Emmys for his work as a producer and reporter for Wisconsin Public Television, painstakingly profiles the players involved, the surrounding media frenzy (which H.L. Mencken dubbed 'the biggest story since the Resurrection'), the police inquiry, and the forensic science that finally, after a two-year investigation, fingered Bruno Richard Hauptmann as the culprit. In particular, Schrager focuses on Arthur Koehler, a wood technologist with the U.S. Forestry Service and his research in xylology, the study of wood. It was Koehler's crackerjack work with the only piece of evidence at the crime scene — a ladder — that led investigators to the Bronx and to Hauptmann, or — more precisely — his garage, where a cut plank in the attic matched the wood used to build the ladder. Based on the evidence, Hauptmann was found guilty and executed. Casual readers might find Schrager's account overly detailed and repetitive, but for those who have an interest in the Lindbergh kidnapping, this is a comprehensive addition to the literature about the case. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Sherlock Holmes-like forensic scientist helped convict Bruno Hauptmann for the murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr.
About the Author
Adam J. Schrager covers politics for Wisconsin Public Television. In twenty years in the business, he has won numerous broadcast journalism accolades, including more than fifteen Emmy Awards. He has a bachelors degree in history from the University of Michigan and a masters degree in journalism from Northwestern University, where he won the Harrington Award, the Medill School of Journalisms highest honor. Schrager, his wife, and their two children live in Madison, Wisconsin.
For more information, visit www.adamjshrager.com.
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History and Social Science » Crime » General