Pittsburgh Pirates fans celebrate victory in the World Series, October 1960. George Silk for Life magazine.
Oct. 22, 1934: The death of Pretty Boy Floyd
Ellen Conkle was alone in her isolated farmhouse when she heard a knock at the door. Ellen was a 41-year-old widow who lived in a rural section of Ohio, about 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. She was unaware that a man described as a desperate and dangerous criminal had been spotted in the area.
So Ellen answered the door. Standing before her was a disheveled man, about 30 years old, wearing a blue suit covered in thistles. He wore scuffed black oxfords and needed a shave.
“I’m starving lady,” the young man said. “Can’t you help me out with some food?”
At first, the man said he had been hunting squirrels the night before and had gotten lost, but Ellen knew that was a lie. No one hunted squirrels at night, especially not in a business suit. Then the man admitted he’d been drunk.
Ellen thought the man had a wild look about him. He wasn’t wearing a hat — what kind of man didn’t wear a hat? Still, Ellen felt she couldn’t refuse the man some food.
What would you like? she asked.
Meat, the man replied. All he’d been eating was apples, he said. He had a few in his pockets.
Ellen noticed bulges under the man’s jacket and suspected he might be carrying guns. This made her a bit nervous. She wished her brother Stewart would arrive at the house. In the kitchen, Ellen prepared a meal while the man sat on her porch and read the Sunday newspaper.
Ellen served the man spare ribs, rice, pumpkin pie and coffee.
A meal fit for a king, the man said. He offered to pay but Ellen refused. Then he pulled out a large roll of bills. Ellen accepted a dollar.
The man said he needed a ride to either Youngstown or a bus station. Ellen said she couldn’t take him, but perhaps her brother Stewart could do the favor once he arrived. So the man climbed into Stewart’s Model A Ford, parked in front of the house. There he waited.
Finally Stewart arrived. Ellen was relieved. Stewart agreed to give the man a ride. As the two men prepared to pull out onto the road, two carloads of lawmen arrived.
The man jumped from Stewart’s vehicle and ran.
Inside the farmhouse, Ellen heard gunshots.
Lawmen carried the young man back into Ellen’s house and placed him on a living room couch. The young man’s body was riddled with bullet holes. His clothes were soaked with blood. “Get a doctor, get a doctor,” someone yelled.
But it was too late for Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Public Enemy No. 1. At 4:25, he died.
Floyd is buried in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma. Buildings on the Conkle farm were destroyed by two different fires in the 1950s and 60s.
(Top picture: The body of Pretty Boy Floyd lies on display in a morgue in East Liverpool, Oh. Photo credit: Acme photo)