Sunday, December 16, 2018

Chicago's first and only Crucifixion happened on March 9, 1945.

On Friday, March 9, 1945 (not Good Friday which was on the 30th of March in 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 last night three men had awakened him in his rented room. The men told Walcher that they were going to 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 had not been 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 that something just didn't smell right. Walcher's friends were interviewed and Walcher was given a lie detector test.
Fred Walcher (center) 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, that they 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 normal 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 ($1385.00 today) for disorderly conduct. Nothing more was heard of American Industrial Democracy.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

5 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
  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."

    ReplyDelete
  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!

    ReplyDelete

The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ is rated PG-13. Please comment accordingly. Comments not on the article's topic will be deleted, along with advertisements.