I love libraries. Sometimes ‘google’ fails to deliver what I need. Today, Tuesday, I needed the local (Lafayette, Indiana) library to help me with some research. It’s a sleek, modern wonderful library, but a part of me misses the library of my childhood.
I started going to the local library when I was five years old. After my half-day kindergarten class I would walk one block down to the huge library and climb the steps and enter an old high-ceilinged magical, quiet, reverent mind-church. The pointy-faced lady would smile, greet me, check her watch and say, “You have 20 minutes before the bus so hurry along.” (Mom had given them my marching orders). Here’s my old library, big pic is the new one.
I spent two hours and didn’t find what I wanted, but I did stumble across interesting stories I have to write about. That’s another thing “google” can’t do, find unrelated stuff that’s wonderful and unexpected. Here’s one I had heard many years ago, but found the actual documents that make it true. If I had been writing the newspaper headline, I would have said, “Chamber-Maid receives first Moon Shot.”
James Moon had a small farm about 12 miles south of Lafayette. He was a Civil War veteran and his friends considered him to be a genial, happy man. He weighed a good two hundred pounds and on June 10, 1876 he checked into a room at the downtown Lahr Hotel. He asked for a quiet room and needed help with a large heavy trunk. They gave him a third floor room, #41, and the bellhop helped him drag the trunk up the three flights of stairs. Shortly thereafter the manager was getting complaints about hammering and banging going on. He went to Mr. Moon’s room and James Moon assured him he was doing no damage, but if there was he would surely pay for it. He said he had a secret invention he was finishing and would only be a few more noise-filled moments. More hammering and banging brought the manger back with insistence that Mr. Moon need to cease the noise. Mr. Moon assured him there would be no more noise.
Later in the afternoon, Mr. Moon came down to the lobby, freshly shaved, bathed and in a sharp business suit. He enjoyed a leisurely meal in the hotel restaurant and then walked about the downtown area happily visiting with people. He then retired to his room.
In the morning the chamber-maid found him. Mr. Moon had built a guillotine constructed from materials he had brought in the trunk. He had assembled a huge axe, a three part blade, fastened to a hinged device and then suspended with a heavy cord. He had a box with a small rod to keep his chin out of the way and cotton to soak with chloroform. He had also fastened straps to the floor so he would stay in the right position after breathing the chloroform. Mr. Moon had a candle precisely placed so it would burn down and burn through the rope.
The story was picked up nationally, and medical papers were written on suicide. For quite a few years the “invention” was on display in the Lahr Hotel lobby. It drew people from all over to come to see it. After a while the Lahr Hotel gave the contraption to Purdue University, but no one seems to know what happened to it.
Next week, more unbelievable stories from my birth-town.