Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Shocking Story of Chicago's first and only Crucifixion.

On Friday, March 9, 1945 (not Good Friday, March 30, 1945), a couple of men were walking on Clybourn Avenue when they heard loud groaning. They followed the sound to the alley, under the 'L' line, behind 1627 North Clybourn Avenue in the Ranch Triangle neighborhood of the Lincoln Park community of Chicago. They just couldn't believe what they saw!

In the shadow of the 'L,' they found a man, later identified by police as 46-year-old Fred Walcher, hanging on a wooden cross by spikes driven through his hands, wearing a crown of thorns and bleeding from his side.

An ambulance was called, and Walcher was taken to the hospital. There, he told police his story.

Fred Walcher was an Austrian who rented a room in the basement of a bar located at 1638 North Halsted Street in Chicago. He was an Optician by trade. Walcher believed in universal brotherhood and was worried about the state of our civilization. His concern had caused him to start a movement for world peace called the "American Industrial Democracy."

In his statements to police, he said that three men had awakened him in his rented room last night. The men told Walcher that they would crucify him but that it wouldn't hurt, so he didn't put up a fight. They led him to the place under the 'L' where a cross of varnished 6-inch planks had been prepared. He was not alarmed until the men took out five metal spikes and a hammer.

Walcher said he had offered no resistance. The men nailed Him to the cross, carefully attaching a rope to his limbs so the weight of his body would not tear his flesh. They then put a crown of thorns on his head and left.

Now, at the hospital, police thought something didn't smell right. Walcher's friends were interviewed, and Walcher was given a lie detector test.
Fred Walcher (center) is being examined.
Walcher's Cross.
One of Walcher's friends, Dr. Emil Bronner of 5652 South Christiana Avenue, had a possible explanation for the event. Bronner told police that Walcher had started acting strangely at American Industrial Democracy meetings and became increasingly agitated with what he thought was lethargy on the part of others in the movement. Bronner said that Walcher considered most people stupid and ignorant and needed something to wake them up. Something like a crucifixion.

"I believe that some men who heard him say these things got so worked up they decided to crucify him," another friend claimed. "I don't mean they were angry with him—they probably didn't understand that he didn't intend to be the victim."

The truth (or the closest thing to it) eventually came out, and it was determined that Walcher had orchestrated the whole crucifixion affair as a publicity stunt. Walcher wanted to spread the word about his idea for a worldwide peace based on a new world order that was run by the middle class and that peace could be gained by a series of "mental attacks."

Of course, immediately following this discovery, a psychological exam was ordered by the courts, and aside from all of the above, the municipal court psychiatrist, Dr. David Rotam, stated that Walcher behaved like any average person would in his preliminary testing.
Walcher at the Police Station.
As the police investigation wrapped up, it was discovered that Walcher was sympathetic to Bund, a U.S. Nazi group. His American Industrial Democracy movement was nothing more than a vague plan to build a Fascist society.

Walcher was fined $100 ($1,450 today) for disorderly conduct. Nothing more was heard of the American Industrial Democracy.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 


  1. What a weird story! I guess it takes all kinds, but I'm surprised he wasn't found mentally ill.

  2. SPECIAL NOTE: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2018 6:00PM. - Laura Calkins Cella from my Living History of Illinois and Chicago® Facebook group comments: "My husband’s father was the policeman that found him. Haunted him for a long time."

  3. Wow, weird that I'm reading this Easter evening!
    I'm ever surprised by humankind and it's fervor for social and political movements. If we could put equal passion into helping others, think of what we could do!


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